When coming to work feels like coming home

When you walk into the Between Friends office you are immediately welcomed into a warmly lit reception area. You see a place to hang your coat and two chairs where you can sit and rest your feet. On the wall is a framed piece of lovingly made art declaring: Here we make happiness between friends.

This declaration speaks not only to the name and purpose of the organization, but it’s also the secret to their success.

Between Friends has a carefully built culture that spans both the member and employee experience. As well as providing a place for members to connect, grow and belong, each staff member takes those key words to heart, reflecting the values behind them to each other every day.

Darcy McKenzie, a newer addition to the Between Friends team, speaks about why she chose to work there: “I did two summers at Camp Bonaventure when I was 18 and 19 years old [as a volunteer], and I loved that environment and the people I worked with. I left Calgary for a few years, and when I came back the first thing I thought was: how can I get back into camp, back into the organization?”. Now that she’s an employee of Between Friends, she sees how the values of the organization are reflected in the daily culture. “The culture is so open, and it’s like coming home every day. Everyone is so kind, and no matter what I have a question about, everyone would do their absolute hardest to help me.”

Part of connecting means fun. Long-time CEO Suzanne Jackett says “[We try] to make sure that we’re bringing fun into our everyday lives.” And for good reason: “We deliver fun, we deliver recreation, and we feel that we need to be able to live that life.”

The organization has formal and informal ways to encourage fun and develop camaraderie among staff. In a place of honour along a busy hallway, there is a bulletin board bursting with colour, words of love and encouragement, and ideas to get staff members connecting. Suzanne tells us that “the fun board was an idea from one of our staff. Every month different staff take the month and decide on activities that we’ll do to create fun. Most of that fun takes place at the lunch hour.”

Fun and support couldn’t happen without good communication. Every staff member completes a communication style assessment and undergoes training which allows them to understand each other better. This fosters efficient and effective communication, creativity and problem solving. The results of the assessments are displayed on every office door – even Suzanne’s.

A team that works well together doesn’t happen by accident. It is built by a leadership team who will walk the talk and hire the right combination of staff who share the core values of the organization. Over its 37 years in operation, Between Friends has created something very special by bringing in people like Darcy, who understand why the culture is so important: “here in the office we want to help each other connect, we want to help each other grow, and we want to help each other belong.”