An analysis of the successful employee culture at WE Charity and ME to WE social enterprise, featuring candid feedback from present and former employees, as well as independent third-party assessment by leading human resources and legal professionals. Why WE Works
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Executive Summary We strive to foster a positive, collaborative culture where our teams feel inspired and valued.
Our People Operations and Culture team today possesses more than 50 years of collective experience in human resource management , with accreditations including Certified Human Resource Professional, Certified Human Resource Leader and Global Professional in Human Resources. They ensure that WE is not only in full compliance with labour laws and industry standards for compensation and benefits, but also strives every day to exceed those standards to provide a rewarding working environment for our incredible team of change-makers.
WE is a 1,000-person strong organization with offices in Canada, the United States and the U.K., as well as staff overseeing our operations in Kenya, Ecuador and India.
Thanks to our incredible team, WE has thrice been recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People. This annual program highlights organizations that are leaders in attracting and retaining younger employees. In addition, WE has twice been named one of Canada's 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures. Founded by Waterstone Human Capital, this program recognizes best-in-class Canadian organizations for having cultures that enhance performance and sustain a competitive advantage. In receiving these awards, along with many others, the organization has undergone a variety of culture, HR, financial and management evaluations in a rigorous, independent and non-biased manner. As people managers, we strive for continuous learning and improvement. One of our objectives is to support our teams in their goals for personal and professional development. We gauge our progress by undertaking anonymous third-party Employee Engagement Surveys of WE staff each year. Our most recent survey found that: • 87 percent of WE staff are personally engaged by the work they do; • 98 percent believe they are making a positive change in the world because of their work; • 80 percent of our team members say they see themselves staying with WE for the foreseeable future.
Like many non-profits, we started out as a purely volunteer organization. But in order to grow and scale, just like any other organization or company, a non-profit has to invest in its people and its infrastructure. “The aim was, and is, to create and institute best-in-class people processes,” says our Chief People Officer, Victoria MacDonald. Human resources can be a challenging area for charities and social enterprises because they are inherently under- resourced, often powered by employee dedication and modest budgets. With social impact organizations in particular, there is a need to keep administrative costs low to maximize the amount of funding that goes directly to the mission. This can make it difficult to properly invest in needed operational infrastructure and staff. This is a sector-wide issue and we have committed to continuously improving our own employment experience. We have sought to invest resources in key areas identified by our staff as their top priorities, in addition to working with partners to provide in- kind resources and pro bono services to staff.
A Message from Our Chief People Officer “Since joining WE in 2017, I’ve been focused on continuously building a best-in-class HR team and processes, drawing on more than two decades of experience. I’m proud to say that our People Operations and Culture team possesses more than 50 years of collective experience in human resource management. We ensure that WE is not only in full compliance with labour laws and industry standards for compensation and benefits, but also strives every day to exceed those standards to provide a rewarding working environment for our incredible team of change-makers.
“It’s meaningful that, in their independent review, workplace advocates Singh Lamarche LLP stated that WE’s policies are the ‘gold standard’ in promoting accessibility, transparency and protecting employees from discrimination and harassment. I’m proud to say that our policies provide for employees’ ability to raise concerns about health and safety, or any issue, by reporting to their manager, to another manager, to me directly or anonymously through our secure online WE Connect internal communications platform.”
We are proud to foster diversity in our workforce, and believe diversity is a business priority fundamental to our success. For example, we are incredibly proud to say that 77 percent of our leadership team are women. WE is compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which serves to “develop, implement and enforce standards for accessibility related to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation and buildings.” Our WE Global Learning Center headquarters is a fully accessible facility, and it includes a prayer room in recognition of the many faiths that are practised among our staff. The Center has been recognized with Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification TM .
Victoria MacDonald, Chief People Officer
You can read the story of our journey as people managers in our full-length HR case study or the summary.
+ Click here to read more from Chief People Officer Victoria MacDonald.
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What do current staff say about working at WE?
What do alumni staff say about working at WE? We are proud to have worked with more than 2,200 staff in the 20-plus years since our founding in 1995—and even prouder of what they are saying about their time with WE:
We measure the efficacy of our staff programs by listening to our key stakeholders: our employees. We conduct regular pulse surveys to check in with our employees, partnering with TemboStatus, an external organization that provides us with aggregated results and ensures that all the data is anonymous. Based on years of organizational survey research, the surveys capture how well we do in terms of employee engagement. We can proudly state that the results of our latest 2018 survey were very strong when compared to other workplaces, whether for-profit or not-for-profit.
“As a former HR executive, I was impressed with the organization’s ‘promote and grow from within’ policy and supporting programs. In my many years of working, I’ve never experienced an organization where, without exception, all employees were bonded by a common purpose and working tirelessly toward a greater good.” — John Grange former Director, WE
“In addition to the work, the people at WE are some of the most brilliant and compassionate individuals, who were amazing colleagues, friends and family. I am proud of helping to develop and grow our marketing discipline.” — Angelique De Montbrun former Director, Brand and IntegratedMarketing “WE is an inclusive charity—meaning if a youth approached us but they wanted to fundraise for a different charity or cause, we still supported them and provided themwith ourWE Schools resources for free. We often talk about creating community and uniting the world—here isWE, doing that within the charitable community itself; creating connections instead of differentiations between charities.” — Kajal Singla former ProgramAssistant, Western Canada Office “Working as a video storyteller, the best part of my job was sharing our work with the communitymembers whose stories we told. Watching them see their plight in a heroic light for the first time never failed to reinforce how deeplymeaningful and life-altering WE’s work is—and how incredibly lucky I was to be a part of it. It’s easy to be cynical. But working forWE on the front lines has taught me that you can actually change the world when you truly care.” — Ken Galloway former FilmDirector, Agile Video Team
• 98 percent of WE employees believe they are making a positive change in the world because of their work
• 96 percent believe we are making a difference in the world
• 91 percent of staff say they are personally connected to our organization’s mission • 78 percent of WE team members say they love their job. • 80 percent of WE team members see themselves staying with WE for the foreseeable future
“The surprising benefit of working at WE is how much skill development is available, and how many internal opportunities there are to work with very experienced individuals. WE fosters people’s skill sets and moves them into a space where they can make the best impact.” — Katie Yigitoz | Hired: 2012 Director, School and Corporate Engagement, ME to WE
“In my career with WE, I’ve learned so much and gained so many opportunities in various roles. The reason I’m in HR now is I’m interested in learning how have we grown and become so successful. The answer for me is the people: their values, their skills and the attitudes they bring to their work.” — Alex Meers | Hired: 2008 Head, Performance and Organizational Development, People Operations and Culture
“Being able to work on so many different projects with so many different people and teams at WE helped me learn what my talents are and what energizes me—where I can create the most impact and feel I’m getting the most value out of my work.” — Leah Meers former Leadership Facilitator & Speaker, and former WE Day Head
Traditionally, youth have double the national unemployment rate. WE is proud to be a first-time employer for many young people, providing training, opportunities and skills that will serve them in their careers. Many go on to graduate studies or have successful careers in many sectors including non-profits, community service, business and education. “In my experience, many charities struggle to attract the best talent and secure the resources to support that talent and to create a culture of excellence,” notes Dr. Jason Saul, CEO of Mission Measurement, a leading research firm that measures and evaluates social impact. “[WE Charity…] has been able to attract young, top talent and to retain that talent by establishing a high-performance culture and at the same time providing a stable and nurturing environment for staff to thrive.”
+ Click here to read what 100+ staff alumni say about their time at WE.
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Taking care of our people: the engine of our organization
Focus on: Wellness • Employee Assistance Program that offers mental health, wellness and work-life balance services. • Extended health benefits, including prescription drug coverage and dental care, at no cost to employees. • Flex-time and the opportunity to work remotely. • Sustainable High Performance training workshops, as well as engagement with leading experts and regular sessions on self-care and mindfulness. • Onsite yoga, aerobics, wellness and meditation classes, and a fully stocked gym at the WE headquarters. • A physiotherapy room with a certified physiotherapist free for staff. • Onsite bike parking, with lockers and shower facilities available in the office. • Free fitness memberships with Goodlife Fitness in Canada, Energie Cardio in Quebec and 24 Hour Fitness in the U.S. • Healthy snacks during busy seasons. • Part-time barista and free coffee bar, along with free coffee stations and kitchen areas for meal preparation and socializing. • Bonus holidays, including your birthday off, and an extended holiday shutdown between Christmas and New Year’s Day (which does not count toward allocated vacation days). Focus on: Professional development and communication • Onboarding program ensures new hires get a solid start. • Each full-time staff member follows an individualized Growth and Success Plan they have developed with their direct manager. People managers receive mandatory training on how to give effective feedback, assess performance and have tough but important conversations with staff. Aligned on what their work priorities are, staff have the tools to be successful. • Managers’ bootcamp and ongoing training for new people managers. • TIGNUM high performance workshops offered for free. • Professional Development fund, for which all staff can apply after one year of employment, offers $500 toward outside training. • Biennial Staff Trips offer global travel experience for all employees (and a guest) from all departments the chance to visit ME to WE immersive travel destinations in Kenya, India and Ecuador (a $5,000 value per participant). While enjoying unique global travel, staff get to see up close the impact WE has made in developing communities.
We’ve adopted a People First strategy, because we know that we create zero impact without our people. People are our engine. It doesn’t matter how much fuel you add in the form of dedication to cause if the engine isn’t being taken care of. To help ensure our hardworking staff are cared for, we offer a unique suite of benefits focused on employee wellness. And, understanding that great employees are looking for a career path, not just a job, we have developed professional development programs and processes to ensure each team member receives the training, support and encouragement they need. The lists to the right represent just a few of the purposeful perks we offer our teams:
Workplace conditions are a huge part of the employment experience, andwe are proud to offer employees at our Toronto headquarters an extraordinary space to collaboratewith colleagues, hostmeetingswith stakeholders, learn fromguest speakers and outside experts, and undergo personal and professional growth. TheWEGlobal LearningCenter has beennamedToronto’s nicest newoffice space byBlogTO, andhas also been featured in theGlobe andMail andHELLO! Canada. The facility is fully accessible andmindfully designedwith 32microclimates for optimal comfort and energy efficiency; and environmentally conscious fittings including filteredwater dispensers on every floor, and carpetingmanufactured fromreclaimed fishing nets, andhas been recognized for its accessibility by theRickHansenFoundation.
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Independent third-party reviews of WE
Every organization can always strive for further improvement—and, proud as we are of our achievements, WE is no exception. That’s why we’ve sought out independent assessments, working exhaustively with leading experts in human resources management, to provide us with research, feedback and recommendations.
• TemboStatus uses an independent third-party survey system for employees to provide candid feedback measuring engagement, employment culture and experience. The 2018 results include these key findings: 90 percent of staff say they are personally connected to our organization’s mission , 96 percent believe we are making a difference in the world and 78 percent of WE team members say they love their job. Moreover, in analyzing survey results since 2015, we have seen a 2.85 x improvement in the area of work-life balance, 5.33 x improvement in providing adequate compensation, 1.22 x improvement in overall employee recognition and 1.73 x improvement in the effectiveness of our internal employee communications efforts.
• Singh Lamarche LLP , a law firm specializing in employment law and workplace investigations, found that the specific WE policies they reviewed —promoting accessibility and protecting employees from discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and violence— represent the “gold standard” in employment policies . • Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge , a leading HR management firm, reported in their 2018 review of Human Resources culture: “Employees appreciate that WE’s organizational norms and cultural attributes are collaborative, and describe a culture of generally high appreciation of employees…. WE has a vibrant, purpose-driven culture that continues to attract top talent…. The initiatives laid out in (WE’s) People Plan demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement in the employee experience.” • Organizational psychologist Dr. David Baum noted in his 2018 case study reviewing WE’s HR strategy, policies and employee experience: “I believe that WE has become one of the best and most effective organizations in its sector, with a robust HR infrastructure.” • In an independently conducted third-party study by Mission Measurement , an international consultancy that specializes in measuring and improving social impact, they found that WE teammembers overwhelmingly agreed that working at WE had improved their communication skills (90%), ability to work effectively with a team (86%), ability to multitask (85%), problem-solving skills (85%) and relationship-building and networking skills (84%) . • Jason Saul, CEO of Mission Measurement , a leading research firm that measures and evaluates social impact, notes: “In my experience, many charities struggle to attract the best talent and secure the resources to support that talent and to create a culture of excellence. [WE Charity...] has been able to attract young, top talent and to retain that talent by establishing a high-performance culture and at the same time providing a stable and nurturing environment for staff to thrive. ”
• Our WE Global Learning Center headquarters has been lauded for its part in community revitalization and enrichment by blogTO: “The WE Global Learning Centre has taken residence in a re-purposed century-old building that now functions as a state of the art office complete with an ‘empatheatre’ that seats 200, full broadcast studio, and an open concept/ interactive design featuring Canadian-made furniture throughout the space…. It’s looking to integrate its new headquarters with the Corktown community by offering programming and outreach projects and has asked the city to become a partner in the Stronger Neighbourhoods Strategy 2020 and work with the local council to provide services for Regent Park residents…. “There will be hundreds of people coming in and out of this office everyday now. That, in addition to the outreach initiatives that are planned, will give a welcome boost to the neighbourhood’s economy and help to establish the WE headquarters as a vital community hub. ”
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WE is humbled and proud to be recognized as the recipient of a number of national and international awards and honours, recognizing our world-class development model and social enterprise, and the accomplishments of our team. Recognition and Awards
Frequently Asked Questions about WE
What is the composition ofWE’s leadership team? WE’s dedication to learning and development has informed our management structure and our organizational leadership. Our senior leaders—the “Heads” section—all have at least 10 years’ experience in their fields. Many come to WE after forging successful careers in non-profit, media, business development, product development, marketing and technology, and they reflect WE’s commitment to diversity in hiring; for instance, 77 percent of our senior managers are women. All members of our leadership teams serve as mentors, providing training and guidance to our directors and junior managers. People managers receive mandatory training on how to give effective feedback, assess performance and have tough but important conversations with staff, ensuring they have the tools and direction they need to be successful and to grow, both within their existing roles, and along their career paths within the broader organization. In a 2018 report onWE, consultant and coach Dr. David Baum, who holds a Ph.D. in organizational development, commented: “WE’s executive leaders’ willingness to always learn and to do better cannot be understated—they strive for improvement, constantly.… They undertake hundreds of hours of personal coaching, leadership training and working with mentors to try to constantly improve as leaders and people.” What is the level of compensation atWE? WE prioritizes setting all staff salaries, from entry level to executive leadership, at levels competitive within its sector of non- profit and social enterprise. We benchmark our salaries using industry-leading salary surveys like Toronto Board of Trade. In addition, we have partnered with compensation consultants like KCI to continuously assess our salary levels. For example, coordinators received a 28 percent pay increase over three years, starting in 2015. Some people want to knowwhat a starting salary is. In the last two years, overall starting salaries have been raised by more than 18 percent. For front-line staff—typically recent college or university graduates with no formal work experience – WE commits to providing one to two years of practical work experience that will enable them to obtain future full-time employment in the profession reflected in their earned degree or diploma. These front-line staff can expect a total rewards package worth $40,000 annually—a base salary of $35,000, plus $5,000 worth of benefits. Our co-founders, Craig and Marc Kielburger, are volunteers for WE Charity and, as such, do not receive any remuneration fromWE Charity. They do each earn a salary fromME to WE Social Enterprises, and their salaries are reviewed by KCI, an independent third party aligned with standards for Canadian charities and social enterprises. For more information, please click here. How doesWE ensure it remains in compliance with employment standards? Across the board, WE is committed to a culture of safety. As such, our People Operations and Culture team ensures that WE is not only in compliance with labour laws and industry standards for compensation and benefits, but also strives every day to exceed those standards and to provide a rewarding work environment for our incredible team of change-makers. WE has a zero tolerance policy for all forms of harassment, misconduct or discrimination in the workplace. We have a formal employee handbook, protocol and systems that clearly outline the expectations for all employees on: the code of conduct, workplace harassment and discrimination, dealing with employee misconduct, and the investigation process. It is clear to all employees the standard of conduct WE expects. Our policies provide for employees’ ability to raise concerns about health and safety, or any issue, without fear of reprisal, by reporting it to theirmanager, to anothermanager, to the Chief People Officer or anonymously through our secure onlineWE Connect internal communications platform. Conscious of the needs of our growing movement, we strive to recruit the best talent and, to that end, work to ensure that salaries for managers, directors and other senior staff, are competitive within our industry.
— Good Housekeeping Humanitarian Seal 2017
— MoneySense 2017 “The Charity 100” 2017
— Interbrand Iconic Canadian Brands 2017
— Canada’s Most Admired CEO 2015
— B Corp Certification 2015
— Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures 2016
— Notable – Canada’s Top 5 Charities Run by Young Professionals 2013
— Canada’s Top Employers for Young People 2013
— Canada’s Top Employers for Young People 2012
— Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures 2013
— Canada’s Top Employers for Young People 2011
— Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year, 2008
— World Economic Form, 2008
— Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, 2007
— Roosevelt Freedom Medal, 1998
— State of the World Forum Award, 1997
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What is the typical staff tenure at WE? WE is a first-time employer for hundreds of young people. Given that young workers (under 25) have double the national unemployment rate, we are proud to create a culture that embraces first-time employees with opportunities to develop their workplace skills, build their resumes and grow into their long-term employment ambitions with WE or another organization. WE has modelled its programs for young people on other well-established and widely praised models like Teach for America, City Year and the Peace Corps. The average tenure of “new grads” at WE is 25 months working with the organization, and the average tenure of new hires is 2.4 years. Studies show that, in comparison with the staff tenure of first-time employees in the non-profit, education and government sectors, WE Charity and ME to WE staff remain with our organization longer than the norm for these sectors. Many former staff—particularly those from the “new grads” track—continue to advance their careers in notable ways upon leaving their roles with WE Charity or ME to WE, or return to further their education. We seek to retain the best of our younger staff and provide them with learning and development opportunities and career opportunities. Among those on the “career track,” tenure at WE of three, five or 10 years is very common. More than 100 staff have been with the organization for eight or more years, and a significant number of our senior staff have been with the organization for 10+ years.
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