HCMA Architecture + Design is a firm that has been recognized nationally and internationally for service and design excellence. The studio environment is intentionally open to foster dialogue and problem solving and supports our collaborative approach. HCMA has worked on a broad range of building types including education, civic, cultural, recreation and health-care. HCMA continually strives to develop architecture that integrates environmental, social and economic considerations.
HOW HAVE THE EMPLOYEES RESPONDED TO THE JUST PROGRAM AND THE WILLINGNESS OF THE FIRM TO DEMONSTRATE TRANSPARENCY ON THESE SENSITIVE ISSUES? HAS THIS PROCESS AND JOURNEY HELPED ELEVATE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT LEVELS?
Employees of our firm, if anything, expected nothing less of us! Overall, the JUST program has been well received. As our employee engagement scores have been very high for the last few years, we’re not certain how the JUST Program will elevate our employee engagement levels. However, JUST is helpful in that it reinforces what employees believe to be true.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST VALUABLE BENEFITS TO ANY ORGANIZATION PURSUING THE JUST LABEL?
The ability to hold ourselves to account against a third party social equity framework is incredibly beneficial to our decision-making process. We believe we’ve always done this internally but having an impartial program to ensure we’re on track is a very useful tool. JUST also serves as a fantastic platform for us to advocate for others in our industry to push for higher standards of equity in the work place.
LEVERAGING THE LABEL
IN WHAT WAYS ARE YOU LEVERAGING THE JUST LABEL? ARE YOU USING JUST IN YOUR SUSTAINABILITY REPORTING, BLOG ARTICLES, SOCIAL MEDIA OR CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS?
We’ve blogged about our achievement as the first design firm in British Columbia to earn the JUST label. We’ve published the JUST label on our website. We’ve used our social media platform to publicize JUST. We’ve discussed the importance of adopting JUST in external presentations and within proposals. We see it as something that will often be part of our branding, marketing and narrative going forward.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTS
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE PROSPECTIVE JUST ORGANIZATIONS?
- Jump straight in
Start with filling in as much as you can with the knowledge you already have. You may be surprised with how much of the application can be completed in short order.
- Break it down into steps, and allocate them to experts in the firm
It will be important to recruit others to help with the various tasks. By breaking down the work into manageable chunks and distributing these tasks around the firm, we were able to complete the application more swiftly.
- Fill in the application form as you go along
Use the JUST application webforms to capture data as it is being researched and generated. Use a spreadsheet or other tracking tool to identify what documents or data are still to be gathered.
- Don’t get too hung up on ‘policies’
We weren’t enamoured by the idea of fixed, forever set-in-stone policies for each and every indicator. Instead, we created guidelines, and some clarity, about our positions on each issue.
- Don’t beat yourself up for less than optimal scores
The idea behind the JUST label is to be transparent about a firm’s social equity standing as a snapshot in time. Take the leap and publish the label as you are and use it as a platform to improve.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION AS A RESULT OF THE JUST APPLICATION PROCESS?
That high standards are worth having. That pretty great can always be better. That organizational self-reflection is incredibly valuable.
CHANGES IN POLICY
CAN YOU DESCRIBE SOME OF THE MOST CONSEQUENTIAL CHANGES TO ORGANIZATIONAL POLICIES AND PRACTICES AS A RESULT OF JUST?
We’re not a firm who is comfortable being stuck to a set of rigid policies. The requirement for JUST made us collate our thoughts to ensure guidance and clarity throughout the firm, without restrictive rules. It was a great exercise for us to go through.
WHAT WORKED WELL
ARE THERE SPECIFIC POLICY CHANGES THAT HAVE BEEN PARTICULARLY WELL RECEIVED? PLEASE DESCRIBE.
We had a pretty substantial Charitable Giving policy and the JUST program provoked us to review whether we could be doing more or operating differently. We have changed our wording in our Volunteering policy to ensure people are aware that they can have time off work to volunteer for their favourite cause. It’s also reminded us to encourage our staff to use these options at their disposal to engage with and assist our community.
PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THE FIRM INTENDS TO USE JUST AS A MANAGEMENT TOOL AND FRAMEWORK MOVING FORWARD.
We intend to operationalize the JUST program as a live document throughout the years to help ensure we maintain and improve how ‘socially good’ we are as firm for our staff, our environment, and our community.