Orange at Work: Building corporate culture by helping communities

As I glided up Toronto’s Don Valley Parkway under the guide of the warm March sun, Jay-Z bumpin’ on the sounds system, I couldn’t help but laugh at what had just happened at the Starbucks five minutes earlier.

The guy in front of me was yammering away on his mobile phone while trying to balance his caramel macchiato in the other hand. He was yelling directions to the person on the other end of the line. Suddenly he stopped, turned the barista, and began to complain about the amount of syrup in his drink.

This was a perfect example of a first world problem a.k.a. #FirstWorldProblems for those of you on Twitter.

It only got better from there.

The next girl in line had a Venti something-or-other that was soy based, yet piled high with whipped cream and caramel sauce. It took the barista at least ten seconds to call out the drink. Sunglasses on inside, the girl grabbed her drink, flipped her hair, and stomped out of the store.

All this and it was barely past 7:30 am on a Wednesday morning.

“8 million stories, out there in it naked. City, it’s a pity, half of y’all won’t make it…” blurts Jay-Z.

My mind drifts back to the present as I exit the DVP onto Highway 7. I can’t help but think about how much more rewarding my day is about to become – especially compared to the Starbucks incident.

Wednesday marked Day 3 of my five-day ING DIRECT Canada orientation program. Some insiders refer to it as the on-boarding process. Whatever you want to call it, I’m sure there are very few companies in Canada that require all full-time employees take part in a five-day orientation. Let alone send 28 new employees to Markham for a day of painting and refreshing the properties of a local charitable organization.

Jacquie, ING’s community superstar, has organized the day where we get to help out Pathways for Children, Youth and Families of York Region.

I pull up into the parking lot adjacent to the house that we will be working on. A few teammates are already sitting on the curb in their bright orange t-shirts, soaking up the sun.

More teammates begin to arrive at the worksite, toting blue sustainable ING water bottles.

We huddle around the main room of the house as if we are about to take part in a challenge on The Apprentice. A member of the Pathways team greets us and explains that Pathways has been a leader in the delivery of innovative support services for over 20 years. One of its goals is to improve the lives of homeless and at-risk youth and families in York Region.

One of the services Pathways provides is safe housing options to keep youth off the streets. We will be helping to paint and provide general clean up for their new property in Markham and another set of transitional apartments nearby.

I join a group of six others who will be working on the apartments, which are situated just off a busy stretch of the 401 highway.

We are split into two groups – the boys will paint the boy’s side of the apartment in a light green while the girls will paint the girl’s side of the apartment in a sandy beige.

Some members of the group have never painted before, but we are fortunate to have our orientation leader Hussain with us. He is a master painter and takes no time to get the whole group painting properly.

Some of us tape. Others paint. A couple of people take turns removing plug plates with a flathead screwdriver.

The hours go by quickly thanks to the old school rap that reverberates out from the iPod dock.

We enjoy a pizza lunch with some of the curious tenants of the apartments who have joined us to chat and even help where needed.

One of our helpers talks about how his family came to Canada from Uzbekistan via Israel. He likes Latin dancing. When I tell him I can’t dance, he emphatically informs me that everyone can dance. His goal is to become a manager one day. He also wants to become a DJ, but he’s not sure he understands what mainstream people like to listen to.

We return to our tasks in the afternoon, frantically trying to finishing painting the two apartments before the day runs out. We manage to accomplish the task thanks to some great teamwork from everyone involved.

I step out onto the balcony and stare across the vast landmass that is York Region. Toronto is way off in the distance. I think about my wife and my son and how lucky I am.

When I joined ING, people told me they couldn’t believe that I went to work for a bank. If I have learned anything these past three days, ING is more than a bank.

ING exists to help Canadians live better lives. Be it through providing advice on how to better manage ones finances to pitching in to make a difference in the community. There is so much more to ING than money.

We reunited with the rest of our teammates back at the original house. They had turned a rundown home into a bright, fresh place to hang out. It is amazing what a few people and the right attitude can do in an eight hour work day.

Some people may feel that the goal of a corporation or a company is to make money. That’s fine. That just means that ING is not for you. And ING feels the same way. If, at any point during orientation you don’t feel like the culture is right for you, ING is willing to pay you $1,000 to leave. No strings attached.

Building a culture is hard to do. It takes leadership, time and effort. But it only takes a couple of bad apples to destroy a culture. And that is a risk ING is not willing to take.

About Jaime Stein

Jaime is the Senior Manager, Social Media at Hootsuite. He is a digital marketer with expertise in social media and content marketing. His experience stems from leading the social media strategy for two national brands. Jaime holds an MBA with a focus in Marketing and Strategy from the Rotman School of Management where he was selected valedictorian by the students of the Morning MBA Class of 2011. He is the former radio voice of the Toronto Argonauts and currently lives in Vancouver with his wife and two sons.
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