Ludmila Chambó, Chief Happiness Officer at Patagonian, spoke to us about their People department and the efforts they’ve made to build a company culture that enchants their people, focused on their satisfaction and development.
As told by Ludmila, “Patagonian is a business founded by 2 techies working in the USA who missed their home, so they decided to move back and create Patagonian. We are 150 employees distributed across 7 countries, and we provide tech services to more than 15 countries. Our mission is to attract ideas from our clients and help them create the products they’re passionate about”.
The People & Culture department at Patagonian has a clear mission: “We want to enchant talent so they choose us and our clients. Because it’s not just us they will be working with, we can attract people with our clients as well”.
A company culture made up of good people
Patagonian believes in a company culture made up of good people willing to help each other. “Businesses make money, yes, but they also have the capability to help people. We needed to send this message to all our employees, and we did it. I can confirm 0% of our people have left because of our company culture. They might leave for a different offer or bigger salaries, but our culture has never been the reason.”
When speaking about employee retention, Ludmila rejected this concept: “We don’t want to retain people, we want to enchant them so they stay with us happily.”
They reinforce their company culture by showing their people how much they care, so much so that they even go out of their way to help them in their personal lives. “Our CEO and CTO are 100% human and the base of our company culture. We are all in touch and, as soon as someone needs our help, we are there. Does someone need help with getting furniture for their home? We get them a gift. A loan? We can do that for them. Just recently we helped one of our colleagues bring his family back from Venezuela: they were stuck without passports, so we helped them with the process. It was very emotional.”
Patagonian’s initiatives to improve employee satisfaction
Patagonian measures employee satisfaction with Patagonian Experience, a series of surveys and open-ended questions where employees can give feedback and suggestions to the team. However, their main source of feedback are the people themselves, not just their surveys.
The People department is very open and welcomes everyone to bring suggestions and ideas to them directly: “We invite them to be proactive, and the initiatives we work on are naturally born from their ideas. It’s important to listen to what they need, instead of what we think they need. That way we can get more innovative ideas.”
Their close contact with their colleagues and initiatives have truly become their differential value. “We know how difficult employee retention is, and we understand our limits. So we want to show the value we can offer: being there for our employees and creating initiatives to make them happy.”
Patagonian’s culture is centered around caring for their people, as well as their surroundings. After all, the founders’ home, Patagonia, is exactly what inspired the creation of this company. “We’re really focused on caring for the environment. Living in Patagonia, it comes naturally to us. We are taught to care for our surroundings since we are very young.”
“PatagonianCulture” is an initiative inspired by some of their employees in Colombia, who proposed a trip to Patagonia. They were inspired by their environmental passion and wished to see where their company was created and live the experience for themselves. Patagonian funded their trip and accommodation to allow them to experience their culture.
Right now, Patagonian are focused on listening to their people and developing their talents, helping them become better people. “Our people are very curious, and that’s another value they add. They WOW their clients, with their work, their demos, their weekly updates… they impress us, their clients and their colleagues.”
Since Patagonian works with multiple clients in the industry of technology, some of their employees wanted to hear more about their work. This curiosity inspired Patagonian’s Tech Talks: “If there is a project going on and everyone is interested, we invite the collaborators to speak about it and its technology. This fascinates our employees, and the talks have been very successful. We had some last year, and literally everyone in the company joined.”
Patagonian’s passion for employee development is what inspired their Learning programme: “We bring people who are passionate about IT but haven’t had access to studies. Then, we work with them for 6 months and teach them everything they need to know. After that, if they’re a good cultural fit, they can choose to stay working with us. We’ve had one graduate so far, and it’s amazing to see their progress.”
Patagonian’s challenge: Growing their People department
Being present in 7 countries brings a lot of positives to Patagonian, but also challenges, especially in an ever-growing environment.
1. Recruitment: They are currently recruiting in all 7 countries, with the consequential task of dealing with international proceedings.
“Remote recruiting involves a lot of things: materials, currencies, payment methods, contracts… It’s all a challenge, especially considering our competitors are doing so as well.”
2. Staff growth: Recruiting more employees implies an increase in the workforce. Patagonian’s challenge is managing all their staff effectively, along with adapting processes and communication while keeping an incredibly positive remote company culture.
3. Diversity: When hiring people from different countries and areas, it’s essential to embrace the diversity they bring. Patagonian is determined to respect and celebrate their employees’ differences and diversity.
“We have to take language into account when it comes to Diversity. What if we get a new English speaking employee? We’ll translate everything into English. We need to adapt to the new people we bring in.” (Part of their development initiatives is teaching their current employees to speak English!).
It’s clear these challenges come from Patagonian’s current nature: an ever-growing start-up that’s still establishing itself. However, they’ve already made some advancements!
During the pandemic, Ludmila and her team opened a new office in Colombia. “We opened a new office in Colombia without understanding the country or their laws. Although we speak the same language, many of our legal concepts differ. We spent many hours dealing with lawyers, reading about proceedings… But we made sure our new Colombian hires were comfortable while still setting up everything. It was a challenge, but we’re very proud because we now have 30 employees in our Colombia office.”
3 lessons to enhance your company culture
Patagonian’s dedication to their people and company culture should be an example for future companies. Going all out may not be possible for all organizations, but focusing on employee satisfaction is a good start. So, what have we learned from Patagonian?
- Company culture comes first: Creating a culture where your employees can grow and thrive is essential for any business. “Patagonian allows us to grow professionally, which is all you can ask for. Finding a place where you can be, do great things, and balance your personal and professional lives is vital.”
- Listen to your people: It doesn’t matter if you use software or sit with your employees to chat. Listen to what they need and provide it for them. All the initiatives in the world won’t help if they’re not what your employees need. Hear them out and work from there!
- Show you care: Show them that you care about how they do outside of your organization. Are they struggling with their mental health? Can’t keep a work-life balance? Sit with them and support them so they can be their best self, both in and out of the workplace.
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