Use Philanthropy to Transform Workplace Culture

It can be easy to get lost in the details of digital technology and forget the importance of caring about your people. Some companies understand that their employees must be supported, trained, and empowered in order to be successful. New Horizons, a leading independent IT training company in the world, has more than 300 centers across 70 countries. The New Horizons team offers a wide range technical, business, and application skills courses to all 100 companies on Fortune’s list. This is in addition to hundreds of other clients. Their Southern California branch was named one of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies and has been voted one of the Best Places To Work in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego for five consecutive years. What makes New Horizons so great to work for and such a reliable service provider? We had a chat with Kevin Landry (President & CEO of New Horizons SoCal) to learn more about what makes them stand out. Co.tribute. You have been named one of the Best Workplaces in Southern California for five consecutive years. What do you think the reason is? Kevin Landry: It has been a long journey to create a great company culture. But it hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t always been on our minds. We were primarily focused on making payroll and keeping the lights on for most of the start. We began to believe in core values, developed a mission statement and worked out new core values. Every month, we do something called “Living The Values”. Each month, employees nominate another employee who embodies one of the company’s five values. We also take the compliments of clients and transform them into something that can be presented as a gift to that employee. Each value shirt is unique and can be worn around the office to show appreciation for someone who has won a value. Our values are: Gratitude. Respect. Accountability. Simplicity. People First.Co.tribute. How do you manage corporate giving and philanthropy at New Horizons. KL: We got tired of the requests to sponsor every kid’s soccer team. It’s not that we don’t support it, but it can get tedious when you have 100+ employees. We decided to create a corporate philanthropy program that would allow us to do charity work for two days each year. We tell them on day 1 that they can do whatever they like. They can do whatever is most important to them. They must take five photos and write a brief description. We ask that they spend their second day working for one of our charity-supported charities. We have chosen two charities to support: Wounded Warriors, and the Special Olympics Program. We’ve found that people are passionate about this work and will do more than two days of charity work for no pay. We don’t judge employees on the charity they choose, but we are proud of the way they contribute to the world. Co.tribute: What is the best way to keep track of your team’s progress and take their pulse? KL: Every office has a monthly meeting where we review the previous month’s activities. We discuss financial performance, sales performance and delivery performance. We celebrate successes, address concerns, and identify areas for improvement. We are open and transparent so everyone can ask questions and weigh-in. We also conduct a monthly survey with all employees. We simply ask them “How do you like working here?” and they rate it from 1 to 5. If you rate it below 3 please let us know. We give them the option to be anonymous or to name us. We get so many great ideas because they are closer to the day-to-day operations than me. We also ask that people not take it personally and don’t criticize another employee. And I am proud to say that none of these comments have been submitted in the two years we’ve been doing it. Every month, we share every comment with the company. This allows for great roundtable discussions and there is no filtering. Co.tribute – Do you involve clients in your giving initiatives KL: We have one client who is a large casino. One of our executives is friends with one of the owners. They were discussing an annual event they host with the Wounded Warriors softball team at a get-together. It’s basically a weekend gala at the casino. We supported them with our employees serving as servers and helpers. Sometimes we sponsor events for clients. Employees who work with the client will be there to support that charity event. It wasn’t intentional. It just happened organically over the years and has worked out well. Co.tribute – How has the giving program affected your employees’ morale, motivation, and energy? KL: It gives people the chance to talk about the event they helped with, and it really allows us to get to know our employees and discover their passions. People are more likely to share their passions when they talk about something they love. We have uncovered what motivates people and it has given us the insight we need to help others.