Dirt Bags Help Build a Great Workplace

Last week I had a chance to sit down with a couple of real dirt bags and tour the office of the construction company DIRTT Environmental Solutions, based in Calgary, Alberta. DIRTT has been recognized as one of the top-50 managed companies in Canada, and yes, employees are affectionately known as “DIRTTbags”. The energy in their fun and funky office is infectious – this was not your typical Dilbertesque office space or typical workplace culture. A clue to their self-deprecating style and inspiring culture can be found on their website’s company description: 

Pieing for Charity

DIRTTbags pieing for charity

Any company who admits to being “often goofy” gets my vote as a great place to work. Here are a couple ways DIRTT has built an exceptional culture:

1. They hire for culture, making sure that candidates understand the environment they’ll be working in: an open office space where people work extremely hard, but don’t take themselves too seriously. An environment where employees debate ideas passionately, and where yes, at times, being in the construction biz, the humor can be a tad, shall we say, “colorful”?

2. They’ve built an insanely vibrant and welcoming office environment, including inspiring quotes on the walls, welcoming meeting spaces, an awesome cafeteria, games room, and more.

3. Their inspiring culture starts at the top. CEO Mogens Smed champions a culture that is driven, passionate and fun. (You gotta love a company whose CEO has been pied in the face by employees and whose President, Scott Jenkins, has been pied by the board of directors!)

4. No job titles, no policy manual, and very little corporate structure or hierarchy encourages an environment of innovation and empowerment.

5. Fun traditions and celebrations foster a dynamic team environment: charity work,”lounge nights” every Thursday in their office lounge, paper airplane contests, a swear jar to raise money for charity, pumpkin-carving contests, a tradition of every employee belting out “Happy Birthday” to fellow employees, family events and more, help strengthen DIRTT’s culture and encourages an environment of trust and appreciation.

The result: a less than 1% office employee turnover rate, a thriving business, and a culture that continues to receive accolades and recognition. Not too shabby for a bunch of DIRTTbags!

Michael Kerr is a funny motivational speaker and award-winning international business speaker who speaks on workplace culture and humor in the workplace. His next book is called, “The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank”  

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