Trico Homes Models Workplace Fairness and Fosters Engagement

Employees of Trico Homes are engaged, recognized, committed, and passionate about the work they do.  

Organizations can learn a lot from the way Trico manages fairness and employee relationships.  Michelle Phaneuf and I sat down recently with Maaike Ezinga to learn more specifically about what Trico does to foster working relationships and employee retention.  We were curious to know how the principles of Workplace Fairness were cultivated at an award-winning organization.

Employees are engaged at Trico Homes

Trico has won “Canada’s Best Workplaces” for five consecutive years.

Workplace Fairness is focused on seven desired organization culture outcomes, including such things as productive working relationships, diversity and inclusion, employee engagement and organizational reputation.  Trico is a leader in fostering Workplace Fairness, with tangible strategies which promote these outcomes. Here are some examples from our recent conversation with Ezinga.

Employee Engagement at Trico Homes.  It is easy to talk about engagement, but as we all know, talk and action are often separated by a chasm, and we don’t always know specifically what steps to take, even when we recognize a problem.  Ask the leadership of Trico Homes – they know how to engage and retain employees, and they have a well-earned shelf of rewards in the lobby recognizing their successes.  Knowing the boss on a personal level and understanding what he cares about goes a long way to serving workers’ sense of purpose and engagement.  When people understand that the boss cares, they care.

Ezinga, the current HR Director at Trico Homes has been there less than a year, but already she speaks passionately about what drives her commitment to this privately owned Calgary business. “Wayne and Eleanor Chiu have a personal investment.  For them, their relationship with employees is personal, and it is demonstrated with everything they do.”  Work gets done because the staff know the Chius care about them, and this is demonstrated in myriad ways through flexibility and openness.

The Trico Group was established in 1989 from humble beginnings by Wayne Chiu, a mechanical engineer educated in Winnipeg and Hong Kong.  Eleanor Chiu has been the Chief Financial Officer since 1998. In 2008 the Trico Charitable Foundation emerged to support the Chiu’s vision to create an impactful legacy within the non-profit sector. This is a natural outgrowth of the Trico Group’s long history of corporate social responsibility, which involves extensive financial and organizational commitment to numerous charitable and community causes.

Fostering organizational reputation.  In addition to chairing the Trico Foundation, Wayne Chiu is a director for the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, a national non-profit which supports young entrepreneurs with mentoring and business resources.  Eleanor Chiu has served on the board of Bow Valley College, and Trico has generously supported this organization financially.  Their influence in the community runs deep and wide, with a presence which attracts long-term employees and talented newcomers with a shared sense of values.

The Charitable Foundation builds and supports another pillar of positive culture outcomes in Workplace Fairness: Positive Organizational Reputation.

The value of diversity and inclusion.  The Trico community is a vibrant one in its diversity.  Ezinga herself is Dutch, and understands the challenges of working and living in a second language.  As she described her work environment, and how comfortable it feels to be able to say – “I’m sorry, I don’t understand you” I realized she was talking about safety.  There is willingness and an acceptance here to participate in the difficult conversations without judgment.  This may start with the advantage of having a boss from Hong Kong who understands what it means to work in an adopted culture, but it doesn’t stop there because of the openness that has developed.  The Trico environment is a clear example of the positive cultural outcome of Diversity and Inclusion.  Positive diversity fosters a safe environment, benefits all workers and is a tenet of Workplace Fairness.

Productive working relationships.  At Trico resources are directed and allocated to celebrate events which are meaningful to all workers and to the business.  The very active social committee, composed of both frontline and management employees, is supported financially by the company and organizes regular, inclusive events.  Appreciation events are held in new show homes and employees are presented with the opportunity to share pride in the work they do and be recognized on the team for their contribution.  Communication and collaboration are strengthened on an ongoing basis as teams are brought together in celebration.  We know from Dan Pink and others that people are more engaged when they understand how their work contributes to the whole and are acknowledged for making a contribution.

Productive working relationships are also built through the mentoring and job-shadowing program which is inter-departmental.  The strong culture of working together benefits the succession plan as well as contributes to Workplace Fairness.

Our conversation with Ezinga also touched on the silos that inevitably develop between differing working groups.  Collaboration does not just happen between different groups.  As she said it, “people need to be forced together.”  Social events are one way of doing that, but it is not enough.  The social events will help build personal relationships and deliberate business processes can help as well.  It takes commitment on all sides, and it is critical to ensuring long-term productive working relationships throughout an organization.

So from recruiting to succession planning, from good conversation through bad, the folks at Trico Homes have fostered a culture of flexibility, trust, responsiveness, safety and recognition which attracts and retains quality employees.  And the mere fact that we are sitting in the office of the HR Director of a firm with 120 full-time employees tells me something as well – all too often, the budget for the HR director is way down the list of priorities.  It speaks to a commitment to the people.

About Trico. Trico Homes is a Calgary based builder of both single and multi-family homes and was established in 1993 by Wayne Chiu, a mechanical engineer educated in Winnipeg and Hong Kong.  Currently ranked as one of Calgary’s top residential builders, Trico has built an enviable reputation for integrity, innovative design, quality workmanship and customer service.  Trico has won Canada’s Best Workplacesfor five consecutive years.  

About Workplace Fairness. The Workplace Fairness Institute is a Canadian organization founded in Toronto by Blaine Donais, a labour lawyer and expert in both the practice and theory of assisted labour/management negotiation, mediation, arbitration and facilitation. Marjorie and Michelle have brought the concept of Workplace Fairness to Alberta to support leaders and champions to develop workplaces which treat employees with equality of concern and respect through collaboration, communication and a proactive approach.   Workplace Fairness focuses on seven main culture outcomes to enable businesses to create an organizational culture that ensures success; Employee Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion, Health & Wellness, Productive Working Relationships, Managing Change, Efficiency & Innovation & Organizational Reputation.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about increasing Employee Engagement in your organization.