First Onsite: Fostering a Purpose-Driven Corporate Culture

When First Onsite rebranded in early 2021, the new brand was introduced with a tagline that succinctly captures the company’s mission, aiding organizations in restoring, rebuilding and rising in the aftermath of disaster.

The “Restore. Rebuild. Rise.” purpose statement not only reflects First Onsite’s core business as a full-service disaster recovery and property restoration company, but also the company’s commitment to community involvement, positively impacting people’s lives and sustainably engaging with the world around us.

A key component of shaping the newly established brand’s corporate culture involved defining its distinctive purpose. During this critical phase, the leadership team actively involved their members, inquiring about their perceptions of “restore, rebuild, and rise,” and delving into the causes or issues that resonate, inspire, and spark passion among them.

Team R.I.S.E (Rally. Integrate. Support. Engage.) launched in the company’s early rebranding stage as a way to help team members feel engaged, connected and informed as one organization. In 2023, Team R.I.S.E. was re-imagined to encapsulate the brand’s unique Social Purpose and now includes pillars tied to its people, the community and our planet.

“The three pillars of FirstService’s Social Purpose aligned nicely with the direction we wanted to go, and provided a natural framework for us to follow,” said Jenny Vandehey, SVP Culture & Experience.

Team R.I.S.E. is led by Community Engagement Manager, Laura McBride, who has expertise in DEI and organizational development having recently achieved certification from the Equity, Inclusion, Diversity & Accessibility Center. Each pillar is championed by a dedicated group of team members who hold a deep passion for the cause or issue at hand. While each group focuses on a different area, they are united by a significant theme – creating a sense of belonging around shared passions.

Creating the framework for the company’s Social Purpose began with launching small groups initially, allowing members to define their strategy, purpose, and mission. Plans are in place to expand these groups over time. Regular group meetings occur monthly, and updates on progress and initiatives are communicated through internal newsletters.

Throughout the Summer of Service initiative, each group initiated its unique program:

People Group: The People team encouraged all team members to engage in the Summer of Service Random Acts of Kindness Bingo challenge. Participants were invited to submit their completed cards for a chance to win enticing raffle prizes.

Community Group: The Community division organized a blood drive aimed at inspiring all team members to donate blood within their local communities.

Planet Group: The Planet team, led by Lisa McCollough, spearheaded a recycling campaign titled “Bags, Bottles & Batteries,” which extended across their offices and included valuable educational information on why recycling these materials is so important.

In addition to the three main pillars, First Onsite has introduced Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups whose goals are to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organization’s purpose, values and goals. Most ERGs are formed around a shared characteristic or background that connects members, whether they identify with that characteristic or wish to learn and support their colleagues as allies. They exist to empower, support and create a safe space where members can be themselves, share ideas, educate, and learn in a judgement free zone. First Onsite sponsors these groups to support their impact and reach by providing an Executive Sponsor, DE&I training and support from corporate communications to amplify their messages and initiatives, helping to reach the company’s 2,800 employees throughout North America.

The first two ERGs at First Onsite are Phoenix Collective, which is a forum for supporting women in the restoration industry, and Rise With Pride, which welcomes members of the LGBT+ community and allies. Each of these ERGs are open to anyone who wishes to join, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation or identity.

“An interesting learning for us is how we went into these ERGs with certain assumptions of what they will achieve and then we hear incredible outcomes we never expected. For example, a member of Rise with Pride joined not because she is a member of the LGBTQ+ community but because her teenager is. She has found this group to be an incredible forum with extremely supportive team members who are happy to support her as she navigates this as a parent,” said Jenny Vandehey, SVP Culture & Experience.

ERGs are found in 90% of Fortune 500 companies because of the powerful benefits they bring to both individuals and organizations. For team members, ERGs offer a sense of belonging, chances for professional growth, and a platform to share their views. They also build connections among diverse employees, boosting engagement, job satisfaction, and career advancement. For organizations, ERGs drive diversity, equity, and inclusion, resulting in a more innovative and creative workforce. They improve employee retention, attract diverse talent, and help the company better grasp and meet its workforce’s needs.

An important component of the culture shaping initiatives at First Onsite is mandatory DE&I training for all group TEAM R.I.S.E. and ERG members. This ensures they are cultivating a psychologically safe, inclusive environment where all group members feel secure and are able to comfortably share their thoughts and perspectives.

The team continues to explore opportunities to educate and inspire team members, which includes bringing in experts and thought leaders to deliver workshops and trainings on topics including “Taking Up Space,” which addresses gender dynamics in the workplace and raises awareness about unconscious biases.

First Onsite’s leadership team is taking a very thoughtful and multi-facteted approach to shaping a strong corporate culture. In addition to the activities described above, the company also leverages Gallup surveys to gauge employee engagement. These surveys not only aid leadership in recognizing practices worth continuing, but also pinpoint areas with potential for enriching the overall employee experience.

This strategy underscores First Onsite’s dedication to nurturing a purpose-driven culture that not only supports its business and team members, but also contributes positively to society at large.