Mantel Group: Using Technology to Drive Positive User Experiences

About: Mantel Group is a group of companies focused on building capability and solutions that are relevant to customers. Their brands include: CMD Solutions, Kasna, DigIO and Eliiiza.

Location: Sydney, Melbourne

Company culture interview with Caroline Henshaw (centre), Head of People and Culture at Mantel Group,

Mantel Group company culture

Mantel Group’s business is to solve client problems through innovative and emerging technologies. We have a house of brands strategy which means we have 4 different brands that specialise in different technologies:

  • DigIO – Digital transformation solutions and services
  • Eliza – Data science and artificial intelligence solutions
  • CMD Solutions – AWS Premier Partner
  • Kasna – Google Premier Partner

Each of our brands has a cap on team size at 150 people. (150 is the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain meaningful relationships according to anthropologist, Robin Dunbar).

This is so each of our people can feel connected to everyone, including their CEO, and maintain access and a relationship to their leaders, as Mantel Group continues its fast paced growth. So each brand has a slightly different culture, led by their CEO, which is consistent with our broader Mantel Group culture.

We are trying to create a genuinely different company culture. One that is positive and meaningful, fun and supportive, friendly and genuine, where we take our work seriously but not ourselves.

All the good things about previous places we have all worked. Our data shows that that is the culture we have created. Our results from the recent Great Place To WorkⓇ 2020 survey show that over 95% of our team describe Mantel as a psychologically safe, fun, friendly, trusted and trusting place to work.

Every team member has been engaged in creating the way we work together and what is important to us; our company culture in essence together. We have all of the things you would expect in a fast paced technology start up; people that genuinely enjoy each other’s company, their work and bringing a sense of fun to the workplace.

Social events such as regular breakfasts, team lunches, movie nights, game nights, running club, stretching sessions and book clubs which have continued remotely, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We closed our offices for the safety of our team during the pandemic and when they reopen they will be a little different in the short-term but eventually we expect everyone to be able to use the ping pong tables, big kitchens, meet up areas with fresh fruits, healthy snacks, drinks and heaps of space and opportunities to catch-up with colleagues.

As important as the social side is, our focus is on learning and new tech. The vast majority of our people are inspired by technology and learning and we have created a culture of freedom to access and play with new technologies, to go to the conferences they want, and spend time on their own passion projects.

In 2019, our people spent a total of 42,337 hours on passion projects and learning and development, with an investment cost from us of $3.95 million, an illustration of our culture of learning.

Mantel Group is unique in that we are a principle-based organisation. For us, that means we have five principles which guide our decision making: Make Good Choices, Communicate Directly, Love what you do and be awesome at it, Make Things Better and In It Together, replacing the need for rules and policies.

All our brands live by our principles and they are non-negotiable. Being genuinely principle-based means everyone knows our principles, they agree to them in their employment contract and they can be trusted to make the right decisions based on them.

Simply, we have a culture of trust and treating our team as adults. For example, Make Good Choices, as a principle we adhere to, replaces a need for an expense policy. We trust our people – they are expected to make a good choice in both the interests of themselves and our company. In it Together and Communicate Directly were hugely helpful principles to guide us through the recent challenges of the pandemic.

As a company guided by principles, we have an underlying ethical and fair approach to our people. We try to Make Things Better not just for our people and clients but for our community.

One of Mantel Group’s proudest initiatives is our collaboration with Code Like A Girl, a social enterprise providing girls and women with the confidence, tools, knowledge and support needed to enter and flourish in the world of coding.

We’ve been working with them since Mantel Group was founded and provided their team with free office space within our premises to make use of our facilities, financial and operational support and presence on their Board. Our team members teach at code camps for young girls in schools, and sponsor under-priviledged participants to attend.

Mantel Group has also invested significant infrastructure to enable a Meetup space for communities, social enterprise, industry groups and forums in both our Sydney and Melbourne offices.

We deliberately established our company without traditional bonuses or incentives, which are generally based on the premise “if you do X, we will give you Y”. They can be dangerous in creating the wrong behaviours, a culture of entitlement and often only reward certain team members such as sales people.

Our culture dictates that everyone has an equally important role to play in our company, and we don’t believe in a culture where extra incentives are needed to do a job well and contribute to the business. Instead we have a culture of recognition and of gratitude.

We regularly call out our colleagues with acknowledgements and awards and as a company we provide meaningful thank you gifts to our people after they have done something great, which is more meaningful because they don’t expect it.

Finally, our culture is a result of the attributes of our people: honesty with empathy (tells the truth, with compassion, and hears it when it is told back), influential leadership (Never passes the buck – takes accountability for business decisions), resilience and grit (Persists and bounces back when faced with challenges and setbacks) and judgement (Makes good decisions)

Work-life balance at Mantel Group

We strongly believe work is an important part of life and we want to do everything we can to make sure it fits successfully into our team members’ lives. But it isn’t the most important part – health and loved ones are and should be our team’s priorities. 95% of our people said they are encouraged to balance their work and personal life and to take time off when they need to, according to the recent Great Place To Work 2020 survey.

Ensuring every person can balance their personal and professional lives is a fundamental part of Mantel Group. Our concept called My Deal is how we achieve this. The program ensures every team member can tailor their work to their life and their needs.

We recognise that team member needs and preferences change all the time depending on their life situation, and therefore re-evaluate each person’s My Deal annually. We think it is a pretty unique approach and takes significant work and time to negotiate individual Deals with our team of 300 people.

However, it is a worthwhile investment and we have established a process and discipline around it so it can scale no matter how many people work for us.

Every year on their work anniversary, each person meets with their CEO and the Head of People & Culture to discuss:

* Two-way feedback. The team member will already have received and given regular feedback, but it is important to carve out time and ask for any feedback from the CEO and Head of P&C.

* Remuneration review

* How the intersection between professional and personal life is going – how it is working for them

* What they want their deal to be for the next year. We ask how we can make their life better, what we can do to support them with their personal or professional growth. If they can’t think of anything we have a list of suggestions – from an extra three days annual leave, to new technology like an iPhone or laptop. Or they create their own deal – shadowing team members to consider a career change, working remotely from a tropical island (yes, that is one of them), developing their own product.

In addition to their legal leave entitlements, we provide our people with extra paid leave for times when things go wrong, when they have significant life events and when their family are sick or need support. We call this Health Leave.

Mantel Group Company Values

We do have company values. We call them principles. They are the foundations of our companies, they guide our decisions making and clearly communicate who we are.

When we started Mantel Group we were very clear about what we didn’t want – policies, rules, politics, annual performance reviews, “brilliant jerks” to steal a concept from Netflix. And so we established our five principles which clearly articulate who we are, our underlying value and belief system as an organisation, and a yardstick for our people and clients to measure us against.

Make Good Choices, Communicate Directly, Love what you do and be awesome at it, Make Things Better and In It Together are our principles. There is a lot of detail under each principle – what they mean to us. They have cute little pictures for each one, their own emojis which are used by the team in regular communications on Slack, office rooms named after them and so on, but they are so much more than that.

They drive Mantel Group’s decision-making and they replace the need for rules or policies. They are instrumental in guiding us through our recruitment and selection process, in setting expectations of our team, of communicating to our clients who we are and in helping us make the right decisions for Mantel Group through tough times.

As a young business with a huge amount of success, our principles hadn’t been tested by tough times until the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Referring back to our principles for every decision we had to make during that time, particularly In It Together and Communicate Directly meant that we made the right decision for our culture and for Mantel Group and we can honestly say that the business has come out stronger, having demonstrated to our people that we do live by our principles.

If you’d like to showcase your unique company culture on Balance the Grind, get in touch with us today!

Every company approaches culture and work-life balance in their own unique way. Company Cultures is a project by Balance the Grind to showcase different workplaces and cultures from around the world.