Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 12, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Connected Lab Inc. was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2018):
- Connected Lab offers maternity and parental leave top-up payments for its new moms (to 70% of salary for 20 weeks) as well as flexible work hours and a telecommuting option to help balance their work and personal lives
- Connected Lab employees can unwind in the office lounge which features healthy snacks, hammocks, virtual reality headsets, chess, Legos, a dart board, Netflix and a beer fridge -- the company also hosts quarterly offsite company-wide team building events, such as a 3-day camping trip in Algonquin Park
Fun 'disconnects' connect people at Connected Lab
At Toronto software product development firm Connected Lab, regular "disconnects" are integral to the company's DNA.
The signature disconnect event every year is an all-staff, three-day summer excursion to Algonquin Park, the massive wilderness provincial park some 300 km north of Toronto. "We leave our laptops and cellphones behind and recharge our bodies and brains instead," says company CEO and Co-Founder Mike Stern.
Stern explains: "We all need to make time to disconnect from our high-paced tech world. While the Algonquin trip is for fun, the experience also develops self-reliance and teamwork. And we hope people learn something new about themselves."
Indeed, learning is a critical Connected Lab value, in tandem with a desire to teach. There are no silos where people guard their skills and expertise. Knowledge-sharing even affects how the company is organized. Instead of designers and engineers occupying separate divisions, Connected Lab brings them and others together in teams, in a Harry Potter-like house structure, where levels of experience are also mixed.
That willingness to share knowledge is what attracted Software Engineer Yasaman Marcu to Connected Lab some 18 months ago. "I had heard about its open-mindedness, which is very important to me," she says. "At Connected Lab, everyone shares their expertise and is willing to be taught. If someone knows something special, they tell others. Nothing is held back."
For Stern, learning and teaching is key to running a successful high-tech business, especially one that is only four years old and needs to continue growing by attracting the best and the brightest. "We compete with the big tech companies as well as those in our size category," he says. "We need the best people in their field, but that's not enough. We want people who are committed to getting even better.
"So we hire people who are ambitious. They come here to learn and build their skills. That makes for a more meaningful workplace, which in turn helps attract like-minded people."
He adds: "We are all on a joint mission to build better products, and everything we do, from our hiring practices, org structure and training opportunities, is centred on achieving that mission."
Connected Lab also looks to recruit people who are "kind," an elusive quality that nevertheless is a core corporate value. "Kindness, among other things, means being respectful," explains Stern. "One way for managers to show it is by celebrating positive achievement in performance reviews as well as in our weekly and quarterly Values Awards."
For Marcu, kindness is also demonstrated in the company's receptiveness to new ideas. "All feedback is encouraged," she says. "Even after I first joined, I felt my ideas were valued."
Employee referrals play a big part in recruiting people who share Connected Lab values. "Our people know what it takes to fit in here," Stern says. "They are such a valuable hiring resource that we have doubled the referral bonus to $4,000."
The office, as befits a start-up, is open concept with Stern and his executive team in the centre. To relieve the daily stress, there are disconnects such as onsite yoga sessions and "awesome" fresh healthy snacks, according to Marcu. Several times a year, the seven company "houses" compete over consecutive Friday nights to see who puts on the best socials.
The recreation room includes game consoles along with tables for pool and ping-pong. "Playing ping-pong for just 10 minutes is really refreshing," Marcu says. "You go back to your desk with your brain cleared and energized."
She cherishes the disconnects because the work at Connected Lab is highly challenging. "We service major global clients on important stimulating projects," Marcu adds. "We have to be at our best."
While Marcu appreciates the company's concern for work-life balance, she is most motivated by the work, itself. "You really have a chance to grow here," she says. "You learn a lot, you won't get bored. And you have fun!"