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Building an “Exceptional Workplace”

By: Chuck Hayes, Vice President, HR, Strategic Purchasing and Legal

Mar. 9, 2016

Today, our parent company, Saint-Gobain, announced that it has received the Top Employers Institute’s Top Employer Global Certification for its exceptional benefits and employee offerings. Saint-Gobain is just one of eight global companies to receive this prestigious certification. While we are very pleased that our parent company has received this honor, this is also a validation of the “workplace experiment” we have been implementing at SageGlass.

Building an “exceptional workplace” does not happen by chance; it is a deliberate, reiterative process of shaping the culture, values and working experience for our colleagues. While there are dozens, if not hundreds of little details that go into building a healthy work environment, let me comment on just a couple of our key values:

  • A Culture of Collaboration
  • A Culture of Respect
  • Compelling Work

Culture of Collaboration

When I joined SageGlass in June of 2002 as employee number 18, we began with a clean sheet of paper to brainstorm ways to define the culture of our start-up technology firm.  One of the early key components of our cultural design was collaboration.  If you want to get the best out of your colleagues, you have to avoid building barriers. We avoided formal organization charts until we reached a size where structure was necessary. We worked to foster collaboration through how we shared knowledge and information within the company.

In many companies, knowledge is power. It is often used to further one’s own career or interests as opposed to being used to promote the interests of the company, or one’s colleagues.  At SageGlass, knowledge is not power, but rather, responsibility.  Not only does an employee with a new piece of information have the responsibility to share it, but if they don’t know who needs the information, they have the responsibility to find out.  It turns the old power game into a flywheel for speed, adaptability and sharing. 

Culture of Respect

How much do you spend on “Human Capital” – your people – the talent that will drive and differentiate your business?  The people closest to the product, closest to the customer, closest to the process – these people hold the key to making your business better, faster and smarter. In many companies, people are put in their place, and words and actions are used to keep them there. At SageGlass, respect is core to our everyday working environment.  It starts with hiring people who will support our culture of respect.  It’s about responding to each situation of disrespect in the workplace, and ensuring not only that the issue is addressed, but that we learn from it. We’re not perfect, but we have set the bar exceptionally high. 

Compelling Work

At SageGlass, we work with dynamic glass, a technology that improves the human experience in buildings and homes by removing the glare and discomfort from sunlight, while maintaining that valuable connection with the outdoors.  It’s a green technology that dramatically reduces energy consumption. It creates jobs. It helps people feel more comfortable and be more productive. It even helps hospital patients heal faster. Few people get the privilege to work on technology that helps people around the globe.  Meaningful work, and colleagues passionate to contributing to its acceleration, make for a great work environment.

There are many other aspects of an exceptional workplace we could discuss.  For example, we provide a clean, bright, well-lit environment, so that working spaces are attractive and inviting.  Even our factory is clean and comfortable. I like to remind people that this is not a dress rehearsal – it is your life, you should be living it to the fullest – however you define that.  Since many of us have to work, why should our workplaces be anything but exceptional?