A quick glance at our website will reveal that SERA is committed to a greater level of employee engagement and engagement than is usual in an architectural firm. If you're the guy who says, "Okay, that sounds interesting, but can you give me an example?" Then this blog is for you.
Many moons ago it was mumbled that it is a transparency label for social justice that is well known JUST began to rumble in meetings of the SERA Committee on Sustainable Actions. The participants of the group realized that the core principles of the JUST label – diversity, equity, accountability, health and employee benefits, and purchasing – reflect the strength of our personality and work at SERA.
Why should we do that?
Dealing with these issues could be a bit scary, right?
Although our employee ownership structure (ESOP) is a fundamental part of our DNA, we have realized that it only goes so far. Many felt that JUST could be a way to bring the individual passions of SERA employees together in a coherent, enterprise-wide strategy. This would help us prioritize our values and organize, discuss and track our progress on issues that are most important to us. In addition, JUST has a broader assessment of issues beyond our ESOP and could help us structure discussions on a wider range of social justice issues.
Aside from the consistency with our values, we have realized that tracking the JUST sign would provide us with a benchmark against which to evaluate ourselves and reflect on our practices. As a company that has grown significantly in the past five years – including an expansion into Oakland – the time was right to take the lead, where the idea was unanimously adopted.
"The process is more important than the score" became our mantra.
What did we learn through this process?
We do a lot of great things and still have a lot to do. In the past, we have focused on equity and employee benefits. This is evident from our JUST scorecard.
As a wholly-owned, employee-owned company, equity is an integral part of our self-image. In recent years, our HR team has worked diligently to clarify salary scales and performance expectations to ensure that employees are fairly paid. In examining cross-gender equal pay, we found that all wage levels are within 6% of the same pay and most within 2.5%. It was also interesting to see that in some grades men are paid more and in other women. SERA's commitment to clarifying our compensation framework has meant that SERA employees are paid more gender-equal than most other organizations.
Year after year, our company has committed to providing a solid performance package that ranks among the best in the industry. Not only does SERA pay 100% of employees' healthcare premiums, it also offers solid employee growth training programs. Corporate profits are shared across our company through our ESOP.
ONLY also revealed the areas in which we still need to work.
SERA has long been aware of the importance of diversity in our business, and the transparency of JUST supports ongoing work. We have begun to target universities outside of our usual circle in order to benefit from a wider pool of applicants and to diversify the staff. For many years, our employees have been committed to Architects in schools and the ACE Mentor ProgramInspires and supports the next generation of designers, many of whom come from a variety of ethnic, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. And we continue to offer a paid summer internship program that has attracted young design students in the past.
All of these strategies have helped us go beyond the usual recruiting efforts to ensure we form a broad network in the search for new talent.
The Just process has also shown that our charitable and voluntary efforts are widespread, but without a formal policy and strategic effort. Our giving also tends to fade with individual passions and fixed finances. This is another area we are focusing on for future clarification and implementation.
What do we do now?
SERA has grown rapidly in recent years. As we continue to grow, the JUST label provides a framework for formalizing efforts that we know to be important to our corporate culture. This has helped us to prioritize areas for improvement and to ensure that the guidelines are transferred across borders to our growing office in Oakland. Outside our walls, it helps us tell the story of what it feels like working at SERA and has set the stage for shaping that story in the years to come.
We have learned that self-reflection is essential for growth and that JUST offers a special opportunity in this regard. We would certainly encourage other companies on the verge of JUST to choose.
If we can give some advice, it would be to repeat the mantra: "The process is more important than the score."
Many thanks to Rebecca Grace, Beth Lavelle, Becky Epstein, Suzanne Blair, and Walter Currin for collaborating on this piece.
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