I love that we live in the world of the remix. We borrow ideas and are inspired by each other all the time. This is how we keep our companies and industries fresh, relevant, and moving forward.
Today, good companies can be copied. Good ways of working can be copied. Practices, services, and products can be copied. But, in my mind, what can’t be copied is good people. And when you have your fair share of good people, how do you harness their talent to help you design a workplace where people feel connected, can collaborate, and thrive? This was a question that was particularly relevant to Redvespa and the nature of our business. Over the years, we’ve wrestled with it and built a culture that embraces the complexities. Here, as part of that culture, we share some of the insights and learnings from our journey.
Before we start, we need to give this story meaning. Redvespa embraces with a sense of pride that we are not your typical company, nor are we your typical consultancy. I love our place but one of the things I miss is coming in to the office and connecting with all our talented people, hearing about their weekend adventures, and hanging out with them all week. Don’t get me wrong, I’m surrounded by an awesome bunch of people in our Wharewhero (HQ), that mitigate my separation issues with our wider team. But the nature of our business means our wider team are rarely in the office because they are all out on client sites (which is actually a good thing from our business perspective).
Kicking off our culture journey four years ago, one of our first tasks was to reimagine how we leverage the potential connection against the collaborative energy it creates within our wider team. The fact our people often spend large amounts of their working time hanging out at someone else’s place increased the odds and the impact here. Additionally, making sure we had a strong ‘people first’ focus and that our team felt very much connected – part of our whānau in addition to being connected with our clients, were both equally high on our list.
We landed on a way of working that was broadly inspired by Spotify’s model of Squads, Guilds, and Tribes. We looked at the concept from a collaboration and connection angle, asking how we can bring people together on multiple levels and help them grow beyond the BA craft?
After designing the fundamentals of our model – where we felt we had the balance right between desirable, viable, and feasible – we handed our baby over to the team for their design input. For us, capturing their voice and allowing them to shape the design to make it work for them was way more meaningful than simply doing something cool for them. This said, four years on, we still think our way of working model is pretty rad. So, what does it look like?
Our Squads are designed to enhance delivery and knowledge sharing on day-to-day stuff and our BA craft. The ideal Squad size is 3-7 people because 2 people are not a squad, they are a couple. The Squads are self-selecting and organising. On it’s own this is worth doing because it is highly entertaining.
The preferred style of engaging is a driver to the creation of a Squad. This allows individual personalities to group together in ways they are comfortable with. That could be face-to-face, virtual, structured, or free-flowing. We wanted to give people the opportunity to fulfil their natural desire to contribute to a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.
The Squads provide a nice, informal, way of knowledge sharing and helping our people get to know the talented peeps that surround them. And, just in case you are wondering, we do our Squad self-selection event as a Tribe Gathering where we can get all our team members in to self-selected Squads within 10 minutes … ok, most of the time.
Guilds have an intrapreneur vibe and are ‘online communities of interest’. Guilds are a group of people within Redvespa who want to share knowledge, tools, and practices. These may not necessarily help towards their existing, or any future, assignment with a client. They may not help them with career-specific development. But they are still vital to our people and culture. In our minds, if it grows them beyond the BA craft, even better.
Guild groups are not limited in size and cover a range of topics, from Design for Impact and Our Learning-Obsessed Culture, to Wellness, Making NZ Sustainable, Craft Beer, and Arts & Crafts … I did say we are growing our people beyond the BA craft, right? This allows our people to share interests, books, articles, learnings etc possibly beyond our craft and in the process we hope it helps our people to develop their passion and create friendships beyond Redvespa.
Tribes refer to our geographical locations and the people who work in them: Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch. Our Tribe Gatherings are simply where we all come together to share our learning or connect on a wider scale. Depending on what is of interest to our team, it may be our team members sharing knowledge or we may bring speakers in. We plan these ahead of time to ensure that we’re covering topics that are of interest to our team, relevant to our community, and timely for our business.
Now, at the beginning, I mentioned good people can’t be copied. The reason I feel this way is because an idea isn’t actually worth much. The value is in the execution.
Today, when you go in to a Redvespa office, there is an energy derived from our people engaging in our culture. That culture, which has been very deliberately crafted, celebrates our people and gives them every opportunity to grow and be involved in something greater than themselves. Everyone has a role to play in creating an environment where we can all feel connected and thrive. Because we know our people are good people, we’re confident they’ll contribute to making our place a great place. The value is in the execution.
Redvespa’s Chief Culture Officer, Blair Loveday leads from the heart with a design thinking soul. When he’s not helping people develop and realise their potential, he’s waste-deep in the ocean wrestling with his surfboard.