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Insentra founder Ronnie Altit on making his SME the ‘8th best place to work’* in Australia

L-R: Itzik Gur (Director, Technology), Ronnie Altit (MD), Steven Boi (Director, Sales)

L-R: Itzik Gur (Director, Technology), Ronnie Altit (MD), Steven Boi (Director, Sales)

Since launching six years ago, Sydney-based IT service provider Insentra has seen its workforce balloon from five to 60 team members across Australia, New Zealand, London and Scotland. According to founder and managing director Ronnie Altit, the SME has earned a reputation among current and former employees for being a company ‘you never want to leave’ and where ‘even the cons are pros’.

Considering Insentra was recently named the 8th best place to work in Australia among companies with under 100 employees *, it’s hard to dispute this somewhat bold statement.

Altit spoke to Dynamic Business about the value of fostering a positive work environment and what makes Insentra such a special place to work for its workforce of technology consultants and support staff:

Treat excellent people excellently

“Culture starts at the top – with me.  My ‘why’ is to have a profound and positive impact on people. In other words, help them be the best versions of themselves. This involves maintaining a work environment where people feel empowered, safe, trusted and like they’re part of a family. By treating excellent people in an excellent manner, we ensure they deliver excellence by default. The flow on effect has been increased profits and the type of talent we are now attracting. People want a role with us and those who already work here don’t want to leave! Anecdotally, this can be seen from these quotes on the jobadvisor website where even the cons are pros!”

Celebrate and reward success

“One of our philosophies is ‘catch someone doing something right’. As such, team members are encouraged to let the whole company know when a peer has gone the extra mile. This is communicated via a company-wide email and later reiterated in the Managing Director’s All Hands Monthly meeting. Celebrating a job well done engenders a sense of pride and achievement among team members.

“Staff are rewarded in many different ways including financially (i.e. base, bonus, payment for identification of new opportunities, profit sharing) and flexibility in working hours and location, plus company-funded R&R trips and dinners for team members and their partners.”

Earn trust, but trust implicitly

“Belief in the leadership and vision of an organisation is fundamental to having a solid culture within a business – in fact it’s paramount. We believe the business must earn the trust of team members but trust them right off the bat to perform their roles. There is no ‘one way’ to foster a culture of trust – it involves a myriad of things including (but not limited to) treating people like adults, open communication, doing what you say you are going to do, being gracious and enabling staff to raise concerns without fear of retribution (mistakes happen…the key is how you deal with them). If the leadership of an organisation TRULY has their people as their primary focus and behaves consistently well, trust builds implicitly.”

Nurture, not churn and burn

“Effective recruitment is the foundation of a solid culture and it’s why Insentra is a special place to work. We are not in the business of ‘churn and burn’, we want people to join us for the long haul. That’s why we hire based on a cultural fit first and technical ability second. We screen out candidates who have ‘tall poppy syndrome’ because we want high performers who take pleasure in the success of their peers, not people who want to profit from others’ weaknesses. “Being the best you can be” is encouraged; trying to outdo others is not tolerated – and we make this clear from the outset.

“When evaluating candidates, we ask open-ended questions to identify what is meaningful to them and whether their personal values align with ours. One of our primary questions is “if you had a white piece of paper and could design your ideal job, what would it look like?” We ask this to a) ensure we provide new hires with a job that’s as close to their ideal as possible and b) determine if we can help them achieve their longer term goals and so achieve longevity of employment. One of our recent hires was passionate about three different areas: marketing, service excellence and executive coaching. She told us she had found it difficult to land a role that enabled her to work across all three areas. As a result, we got her to design her own role doing all the things she loves.

“Critically, we don’t ‘interview’ people, we have a casual chat to relax the candidate and break through any veneer so we can truly get to know them. If a candidate is in sync with us, they’ll be more engaged and successful at work, and this perpetuates a culture of like-driven, yet unique individuals.”

Be consistent and transparent

“The culture at Insentra has been consistent since April 1, 2010 when the business opened. I work very closely with the leadership team to ensure we speak with one voice and provide team members with a consistent experience and messages. This involves a firm commitment to our core values, namely: ‘One Team One Dream’, ‘Honesty, Integrity, Trust’ (HIT) and ‘Accountability, Celebration, Efficiency, Service Excellence’ (ACES).

“I’m incredibly transparent with the team about the state of the business and our future plans, and share information with team members to make them feel part of our progress. This transparency extends to the recruitment process. I make a point of being the last to interview successful job candidates. I make absolutely certain they know what it’s like at Insentra – no surprises day one or thereafter – a ‘warts and all’ precis of the business.”

Forget space-wasting gimmicks

“When we started Insentra, we had a break out area with a couch, bean bags, X-Box and Foosball table. But guess what? These ‘toys’ were barely used – and not because people feared the perception it would create. We have fostered a culture of ‘output not input’ i.e. we measure success based on what is delivered rather than the process of doing so. In our case, these things were a space occupier that added no value other than being an ‘oh, that’s cool’ factor in an interview.”

Be authentic, take an interest

“You can only relate to your team members if you care for them, treat them like adults and are authentic in your interactions.  Simply saying you care is not enough, it needs to be demonstrated consistently. Actions speak way louder than rhetoric. The philosophy we promote is “always seek to understand first before being understood”. We also take an interest in and support what team members are doing outside work. One of our practice managers has a passion for Hard Enduro. He said that one of the ways he gets his best thinking done is on the back of a dirt bike, so we suggested he participate in Hard Enduro during the week.”

Don’t say ‘not my job’ 

“Our workplace is a totally open plan environment with an open-door policy to encourage communication. The executives have desks in and amongst the team, keeping their fingers on the pulse of the business and being accessible at any time to assist in removing roadblocks, thus making it easy for our team to do what they do best and help them to do it better.

“We have a train analogy. In short, Insentra is a steam train that needs coal to operate. I am at the front, driving the train to its next destination, which is determined not just by leadership but also each team member. After all, who wants to be on a train that’s going somewhere you don’t want to head? ‘Not my job’ is a phrase we don’t understand at Insentra, which is why I leave the front of the train to come shovel coal it is necessary – everyone on our train shovels coal.”

* The Best Place to Work study, now in its ninth year, is a list 25 companies with under 100 employees and 25 companies with more than 100 employees, considered the best places to work in Australia. Companies are selected and ranked by research and consulting firm, Great Place to Work, based on employee responses to a 58-statement survey and an evaluation of each company’s policies and procedures across nine specific practice areas. The study was conducted between October 2015 and July 2016. The results represent 51,937 employees from 135 companies. The 2016 winners were announced on 31 August.