View From The Top: Agata Zasada, Vice-President, People & Culture, Bananatag
Agata Zasada, Vice-President, People & Culture, Bananatag
bh IN BRIEF
Agata has spent the last 10 years as a people leader at organizations such as Bananatag, Spence Diamonds, Hootsuite and Lululemon. She holds expertise in leadership, employee relations, and strategy development and execution and credits her success to working within organizations focused on growth and evolution.
Currently, Agata leads the people and culture strategy at Bananatag, a fast-growing, Canadian technology company that creates internal communication tools. In 2020, they were named to The Globe and Mail’s Fastest Growing Companies in Canada list.
In what ways has remote working influenced the culture of your organization?
Working remotely has pushed us to put extra emphasis on seeking candidates who are aligned to our values. We've always known that candidates with values that align with those of our business perform well, are more engaged and stay with us longer, but in the current climate of remote working, which lacks physical connection to a space or colleagues, we've put a spotlight on being value-aligned even more.
In terms of maintaining our culture through events like retreats and parties, we're focusing on quality over quantity. We’re doing fewer, but better organized virtual, in-home events. The in-home part is important. We know people need to feel connected, so we're including physical items to help that connection both visually and tactically. For example, we recently did an in-home Halloween party, which included sending employees snacks, pumpkins, carving tools, and painting supplies to get them more engaged in the event. We’ve also sent employees popular items like company mugs, hats, and sweatshirts, and things like an interactive poster to track our annual progress and goals.
Is there anything that your organization has done to foster trust throughout the pandemic?
Trust is an interesting topic at Bananatag. About a year ago, trust was strong, especially towards our founders and leaders. Trust between teams was most at risk, mostly due to misaligned objectives and lack of transparency. Through the pandemic, we've increased the volume of communication, and the variety of topics discussed. We're comfortable with saying “we don't know" and “what do you think?" and we really value hearing the thoughts and concerns of our employees. We’ve also started using some new tools (e.g., Culture Amp, Donut, Slack) which are online programs that enable employees to have virtual conversations that are more casual and mimic the watercooler chats we’d all grown to love.
Inequality across race and gender in the workplace is something that many businesses are working to improve. Do you have any insights to share on how your organization has successfully approached diversity and inclusion? What plans do you have for the future?
This topic has become more near and dear to my personal heart. I feel so proud of the ongoing work Bananatag has done. We took a three phased approach in terms of timing and made some decisive actions on where to start so we didn't get bogged down in the 'perfect' answer.
Immediately: We made an internal statement that we are anti-racist. We asked employees to take three hours to educate themselves on the topic and provided them a list of books, webinars, podcasts and articles. We gifted $25/employee to buy any resources they needed. We further surveyed employees about their level of trust in the company being anti-racist, for their ideas around implementation and to ask who wanted to be involved.
Short-term: The senior leadership team discussed the survey results, reviewed the ideas and picked two that felt were both important and aspirational. The first was to create an employee-driven Diversity, Equity & Inclusion statement, something that the entire organization could stand behind and be proud of. Second, we implemented an initiative to pay for someone from the indigenous community to complete a coding program and provide a 6-month paid internship.
Long-term: Our long-term strategy is to have a taskforce (which is a rotational seat committee) to create projects on what they believe will impact systemic racism within our industry. The sponsors on the committee are senior leaders such as myself, the CEO, and the Director of Product.
What is currently inspiring or energizing you within your organization, or when thinking about the coming year?
Our team is inspired and energized by the product we’ve developed. We are looking forward to the coming year, growing as an organization, bringing new innovations to market and building deeper relationships with our amazing clients! bh