Gone are the “us versus them” days that are so typical for many manufacturing plants, where segregated dynamics between production and office staff are the norm.
Part of our 2018 building expansion project was based around the idea that we wanted common areas for all of our employees that directly aligned with our culture. Our objective was to create spaces that reflected our commitment to inclusion, to providing inviting and comfortable spaces for work and rest, and to cultivate a unified Rhino community.
Our Director of People and Culture, Caitlin Goss, says the old building, “did its job”, but it was your typical manufacturing building and wasn’t inspiring anybody. “We wanted a place that everyone was really proud of, where the employee experience was at the center.”
Collecting ideas and opinions was central to our process with this renovation – we wanted to empower our employees to impact changes they wanted to see. From there, we worked to marry beautiful spaces with the type of experience our people wanted to have and the results have been phenomenal.
For example, after a company-wide naming contest, our not just a break room break room was dubbed The Crash Cafe (“crash” is the term for a group of rhinos) and is the centralized spot for meals and breaks for all employees. In addition to tripling the size of the space, our Crash Cafe upgrades include a full kitchen with plenty of prep space, new appliances, composting and recycling facilities, colorful dishes and a variety of seating choices.
We added a giant flat-screen TV in the cafe that continuously scrolls weekly announcements and has really improved company-wide communication. We also upgraded our vending machines and added better-for-you options that the company subsidizes. And on sunny days, employees can sit outside on our patio overlooking the flowerbeds – it’s a space loved by all.
When you have an inviting place to go with beautiful decor, warm colors, and plenty of natural light, it becomes more of an enjoyable and social experience. Jennifer Gamache, a Rhino batter-maker, appreciates the changes and says, “It’s actually really nice having all the office, production, and sanitation people all get together and sit in there and visit.”
Not only did we improve the space, the actual experience is an upgrade. With the cafe being used by three shifts, keeping the space clean and the dishwasher running is critical. We partnered with the Howard Center, an organization that helps folks with disabilities get into the workforce. Together, we brought on three “Cafe Coordinators” to help run a clean and inviting space.
And we didn’t forget the locker rooms. In the design process, our Rhinos told us that they needed to be bigger — people needed more space to put their boots and personal items so we expanded those as well.
Beyond the cafe and locker rooms, our renovation and expansion of the offices helped create a better connection throughout the most utilized employee spaces. The location of the People & Culture department and the Resource Room — used for prayer, physical therapy and meeting with our Resource Coordinator — was intentionally placed right off the main employee hallway for easy access.
Our office workstation clusters were laid out in a number of patterns to support different work styles and interspersed with a variety of meeting spaces. The intentional placement of departments that collaborate close together supports more organic communication. With the use of light-colored wood, glass walls, and a unified color pallet, the atmosphere is welcoming and bright. We also decreased the number of private offices to invite more collaboration and face time.
One of the bigger changes we made to promote belonging and community was to create one main building entrance for all employees. As employees enter the bright, wide hallway they’re met by our Wall of Fame where, each year, five new employee-chosen winners’ plaques are installed with the winner’s photo and a write-up of how they are living the Rhino purpose, principles and vision.
On the other side of the hallway, our Rhino Family photos are on display, featuring the names and faces of every employee – it really makes an impact. Jennifer believes that the new front entry helps all employees feel a part of the Rhino Family, “Because the production people actually get to see the office people – it’s nice to have the wall with all the photos, because you’re like, ‘Oh, okay, I see that person, but I don’t know their name.’ So you just look on the board and find their picture and then you know who they are.”
So far, our renovation has been a smashing success and we’re excited to keep finding ways to make our vision of inclusion and community a reality.