Habanero: Workplace Culture Lives ‘Beyond the Walls’ (2)

Habanero: Workplace Culture Lives ‘Beyond the Walls’ (2)

Since their early days, Habanero has fostered a workplace that encourages people to bring their “whole selves” to work. They recognize that employees are people first – with families and outside interests – and they can be most productive when they are supported to get their work done at the time and place that suits them best. Their 57 employees enjoy a great deal of flexibility, with the ability to work anytime, anywhere. According to Pablo Romero, Director of Employee Experience, one of the biggest challenges for Habanero is how to keep people informed, engaged and collaborative, regardless of where they are working geographically, or what hours they keep.


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Habanero has been powering exceptional workplace experiences for more than 20 years. They help humanize the world of work and lead digital transformations, providing strategy, design, implementation, and support evolution services to organizations that are committed to deepening employee engagement.

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By focusing on people, technology, and transparency, Habanero has fostered a high-trust, performance-based culture that lives ‘beyond the walls’.


Habanero’s mission is to humanize the world of work, so it only makes sense that they focus on people first to keep their own culture intact.

Unified culture

Each time they open a new Habanero office, it is staffed with existing Habanero employees who have a desire to relocate for the short or long term. While each office has its own mini culture, having people move around has really helped create one larger unified culture. The goal is to create one, cohesive culture that’s spread across multiple locations rather than a federation of local, independent offices.

Remote teams

Habanero builds their team with the best available people regardless of location. For example, the team that built had a Business Analyst in Calgary, a design team in Vancouver, and developers in Toronto. They’ve seen a shift in client expectations from needing people on the ground locally to assigning the most appropriate resources to get the job done.

Supporting the employee journey

Habanero’s Employee Journey Team is made up of employees who are passionate about coaching and mentoring peers. As employee journey guides, they are responsible for supporting and evolving the employee journey at Habanero. Every employee is paired with an employee journey guide when they join the organization. Many of these relationships are cross regional and work great for keeping people informed and engaged.


Every 18 months, employees come together to participate in a day-long conference and everyone leaves aligned around the next leg of Habanero’s journey. Partners/spouses are also invited to share in the roll out and festivities that follow.


As technology consultants, Habanero sees technology as a tool to help build exceptional workplaces. When used right, technology can connect people and be a powerful tool for collaboration, employee engagement and sharing information.


Habanero uses Yammer as their internal social network, but warns that this tool only works if people participate At the beginning, a few evangelists were responsible for ensuring everyone, especially the leadership team, was posting and sharing. A few years later, Yammer is their go-to cultural platform for recognition (#kudos), innovation (crowd sourcing), thought leadership, and fun.

The planning team has even used Yammer during its strategy meetings to share discussions and get feedback from people. Leaders converse about company issues in real time during planning intensives with employees and then feed that information back into the strategy discussions. This helps to foster a culture of trust between the leadership team and the rest of the company and keeps people informed on the strategic direction.


That’s not a typo. H is Habanero’s employee portal/intranet, the place people go to collaborate, ideate, get caught up, laugh, and more importantly, get their work done. The driving principles behind the employee portal are communication, storytelling, and information sharing across the organization. It is built on Habanero’s own Go intranet accelerator platform, so it’s also a great opportunity to gain insight into client experience.


At Habanero, they use video a lot. Video conferencing technology exists in most meeting rooms, and can even be accessed from desktops, laptops, and even mobile devices. The entire team is now comfortable ensuring cameras are on as often as possible to get as close as possible to the face-to-face experience. It's become part of their citizenry and makes a huge difference in terms of engagement when connecting this way. Some teams even use video conferencing when some members are in the same building to give everyone an equal speaking platform.

On a more social note, they have created a wormhole, which is a constant video connection between all 3 office kitchens where employees can wave to or start a casual conversation with folks in another office while grabbing a snack.


A big part Habanero’s culture is openness and transparency. They have several regular communications that they use to stay connected and engaged.

Balanced Scorecard Sessions

They host and record monthly Balanced Scorecard Review sessions where the performance of each key area of the business is presented to the whole company (contractors and even some clients have attended). These sessions are recorded and include updates on financials, operations, marketing and sales, client satisfaction, and people news (new hires, significant life events, recognition, etc.). The sessions are transparent and enable employees to see both the bigger picture as well as how each individual’s effort is leading to the company’s overall accomplishments. Recognition (kudos), accountability, focus areas – they show it all, even when it's uncomfortable.

Town Halls

They also host and record monthly Town Halls, which are opportunities for different employees to share new and innovative projects they're working on. One particularly popular feature is a monthly design showcase, where their designers present some of the latest and most innovative work.

Employee experience surveys

Habanero conducts an employee experience survey every 4 months followed by a company-wide session to share and discuss the results. Results are shared in full, as well as emerging themes. Results are posted online so anyone can review them alongside previous survey results. Having themes with clear owners and plans to improve or continue that result from the employee survey enables employees to continually give feedback on issues that affect and see how their feedback helps Habanero move forward.


By leveraging the power of people, technology, and transparency, Habanero has worked hard to create a high-trust and performance-based culture, where information is openly shared and engagement is always top of mind. Their vision it to be globally recognized for powering great workplace experiences, and this applies to Habanero as well as the organizations they serve. As Habanero President, Steven Fitzgerald said in the last Spark event “it's less about the destination and more about the journey we embark on to get closer to our vision”.

o what's the evidence that this approach works? Just ask Habanero employees! While the company is currently going through a big transformation, recent employee experience survey results still show that:

  • 93% of respondents feel ‘they have access to the things they need to do their job well – e.g. office setting, hardware, software, templates, processes’ (5% responded neutral).
  • 76% of participants ‘would recommend Habanero as a great place to work’ (19% responded neutral).
  • 95% feel ‘they have enough autonomy to perform their jobs effectively’ (5% responded neutral).
  • 74% feel ‘Habanero motivates them to go beyond what they would in a similar role elsewhere’ (26% responded neutral).

Anecdotally, the stories people share inside and outside of Habanero demonstrate a pride in their work and willingness to give extra to get the job done. Above all, Habanero employees are able to harmonize work and life with energy left to make valuable contributions at home and in the wider community. This shows that creating exceptional workplaces really does have social value.

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