Ciarán O’Brien, Lionel Real de Azúa and Lucas Che Tizard founded their architecture and design practice, Red Deer, in 2013 as three friends who had learned their trade together whilst at a medium-sized firm.
For their own practice, they wanted to take a more personal approach to design, and create an environment within the company that focused on working in a flexible and adaptable way so that they could take on commercial work as well as continue making art installations, teaching, and travelling. By early 2017, Red Deer was a team of 6 people with enough demand for their work to grow their team, but the founders were concerned about diluting the culture they had nurtured in this small tight-knit group.
“We also wanted to avoid ingraining bad habits at an early stage of the business,” says Lionel. “We’ve always wanted Red Deer to be a place where people want to work.”
“For us, qualifications are secondary to someone’s approach,” says Ciarán. “We’ve always looked for ‘our kind of person’, but we have not been able to define that very clearly. Sometimes it worked out and sometimes it didn’t.”
The firm used Workio to survey their team (including the three founders) in April 2017, to understand and define the workplace environment and culture in place at the time. The Workio candidate survey was used as part of their recruitment process to compare the team results with applicants for roles. Throughout the next six months the practice doubled in size to a team of 12 people. “The recent additions have been very culturally aligned,” says Lionel. “The nature of hiring is long term, so we have to be careful with who we bring in.”
“Workio helps us work out where our flaws are and what our employees need from us”
In November 2017, Red Deer’s team took the Workio employee survey again. The results saw a slight increase in the overall fit between workers and the workplace environment and culture, even after doubling in size. However, there were some significant differences from the April 2017 results in specific areas of the survey such as progression and desired management approaches.
Ciarán says “We found the results surprising. Workio helps us work out where our flaws are and what our employees need from us. It’s also important that our employees see that the company is open to input from them and that we will act on it.”
To reinforce this, Red Deer shared the anonymized Workio results with the entire staff at an all-hands meeting. They highlighted the areas that the company is working to improve, such as clarity of purpose and mission, and the opportunities for individuals to learn and grow while working for Red Deer.
Lionel says “We’re a relatively horizontal workplace, and using Workio has helped us to function as a business, as the team gels with each other on a personal level. We see a lot of long term value in continuing to use Workio at Red Deer – we want to be successful in the long term and that depends on the right people working together in the right way.”