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Employees connecting during a team-building event at Calgary-based Mawer Investment Management.Provided

Nikki Barczewska came to Canada on a one-year visa. When it was expiring, her manager and others at Mawer Investment Management Ltd. did everything they could to help her stay in the country and with the company.

“It would have been easier for them to just say, ‘OK, thank you, goodbye.’ But I was valued and appreciated. I never felt that more than I did then,” says Barczewska, research department manager. “I wasn’t disposable. I was seen as an important part of the team, even though I hadn’t even been here for a year.”

Chairman Craig Senyk says it is precisely this atmosphere that has kept him at the privately owned, independent investment firm for 25 years. “We’re a values-based organization. And it’s more than just saying we need to do the right thing,” he says.

For example, Mawer holds firm-wide training on culture, which covers topics such as keeping agreements, being open, being held accountable, and being curious. Every new hire must complete a 20-step training that covers the aspects of the firm’s culture.

Mawer, which has its head office in Calgary, also creates a culture where everyone’s opinion matters. “It doesn’t matter if you are a summer student or have been here for one year or many years, everyone is encouraged to ask questions and share feedback,” Barczewska says. The current and former presidents also open times in their calendars to have discussions with employees from all levels of the organization.

Senyk says the firm encourages certain positive behaviours among high-performing teams, including candour, curiosity, accountability and appreciation. An example of encouraging curiosity is through a $5,000 learning stipend, which each employee can spend on any learning activity without the need for organizational approval. The firm also has an internal mentoring program and access to external coaches.

Mawer has a “take what you need” vacation policy – the company does not mandate a maximum number of vacation days. “We trust people to take the time they need,” Senyk says.

The firm matches up to $3,000 per employee to give to charity. If an employee prefers to volunteer, the company matches the time spent with a monetary donation. Mawer also provides up to $250 for an employee to support a local business.

To support candour, Mawer has an open-office concept, where leaders sit amongst team members. “If there’s a communication breakdown between a leader and a team member, the team member is encouraged to talk to any other leader in the organization, certainly to our president or myself,” Senyk says. “We are nonhierarchical in terms of our communication. So any employee, no matter how long they’ve been with our organization, is encouraged to be candid with any member of the organization.”

Senyk says Mawer strives to help each employee find their “area of genius.” “This is the intersection of three things – doing something they love, something they are good at, and something that adds value to the organization.

“If you get an employee to that point, it’s no surprise that turnover levels are so low. It also allows us to attract and retain the best people.”

Barczewska says Mawer’s culture helps employees succeed. “When you care about the people you work with, you’re more willing to help them and more likely to want to perform better. I care about my colleagues and I care about my contribution to the team and that feels reciprocated.

“When everyone is striving for excellence and caring about their team, it leads to teamwork and shared excellence, which leads to great results for the firm and for our clients.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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