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What makes a Top Employer? Interview with Natacha Brind’Amour

By Sandrine Tessier,
Content Strategist
January 31st, 2019

On January 31st, 2018, district was ranked as one of Montreal’s Top Employers, a recognition which falls under the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project. We took the opportunity to speak with Natacha Brind’Amour, our Director People.

In this interview, we talked about how perks for employees need to go beyond free snacks, about the importance of company values, and Natacha tells us if she believes Montreal might become the next North American tech hub.

Why did district m win this award?

It’s simple – we ask our employees to be 110% awesome, so it’s natural that district m is the same. In addition to offering amazing perks, a comprehensive benefits and compensation plan, we offer a dynamic workplace where everyone can be themselves. We encourage districters to bring their individual uniqueness and use their strengths everyday to achieve our collective goals as one strong team.

In other words it is true team effort that helped district m win Top Employer in Montreal.

Our prime concern is to ensure that existing employees are happy in their jobs, that they feel professionally fulfilled and that they are given every opportunity to succeed.

What is district m doing differently to resonate with its staff?

Management executives usually have a solid understanding of their companies, but what about employees’ perceptions? Employees live and breathe corporate values day-in-day-out, and thus should be involved in shaping company values. Imposing values from the top down that do not accurately reflect employees’ realities often leads to inauthentic “poster values” instead of authentic ones that live throughout the organization.

With this in mind, district m involved nearly half of its employees from all levels in a brainstorm about “What makes a true ‘districter’?”. Following this session, we were able to distill and define our five core values to solidify our corporate value platform, from which all activities and decisions spring. These values are as follows:

  1. stronger together – More than ever, we believe all players of the online advertising ecosystem need to work together, share ideas and build a common vision to create a transparent, collaborative and honest industry. At district m, we want to create relationships amongst our employees, but also with our clients and partners that cater to that mission. Our doors are always open so that we can benefit from one another’s knowledge to come up with the best solutions, whether that be for a client or for the industry at large.

  2. be fearless – The programmatic industry is not short of challenges and because of the strong bond we aim at creating among all players, we can face those challenges with open arms. A challenge means change, and in our industry, change is always a good thing. That’s why we encourage all of our employees to take risks. When you work in a business where the next best thing is always around the corner, you have to question yourself, challenge your vision, give your best shot and deliver the greatest work possible. And if we fail, we get back up and start again. That’s how we become experts that will never settle for less than excellence.

  3. drive innovation – Working together and being fearless is what helps us dare to imagine what tomorrow’s advertising landscape will be made of and ensure that we are the ones to drive it. That cannot happen without constantly listening to the echoes of the industry, identifying game-changing technologies and keeping the flexibility to follow our instincts when the time is right. With the knowledge and awareness that we have, we give ourselves the freedom to drive innovation and shape the future of this industry.

  4. 110% awesome – Some would call it overachieving, we prefer to believe that we are just 110% awesome. By empowering our employees to drive their own ideas to reality and holding them accountable for their projects, we know that “Good enough” will never be part of their vocabulary.

  5. be you – Come as you are. At district m, we like ‘weirdness’, eccentricity, unconventional thinking. Above all, we want to create an environment where our employees and partners are free to bring any idea to the table, as crazy as it may be. The reason we choose our employees is not just to do a job, it’s to build a company that each and everyone can be proud of.

Could Montreal become the next Silicon Valley for tech talent?

Montreal has an amazingly entrepreneurial culture that embraces creativity and organizations that create new tech, dare to think outside the box and innovate, regardless of the field.

The investment climate is such that both investors and governments are willing to nurture and support the growth of tech companies

Given surrounding universities and strong educational programs, Montreal is privy to an amazing pool of talent. The X-1 Accelerator program at McGill, for example, offers a 10-week summer program aimed at readying early-stage McGill startups for investment and launch.

Add to that the cultural vibrance and affordability of the city, and Montreal has all the right ingredients to become North America’s next technology hub.

In the future, what will be the biggest challenges in terms of recruitment and retention?

Recruitment and employee retention are both critical. Our prime concern is to ensure that existing employees are happy in their jobs, that they feel professionally fulfilled and that they are given every opportunity to succeed.

Historically, competitive salaries and benefits were considered the primary incentives to join or remain with an organization. The world, and especially Montreal, has moved so far beyond that notion. With an average employee age of around 30, district m sees employees not only coming to work for their salary but because they know that every day, they will have the opportunity to do what they love and push the envelope.

Employees increasingly want transparency and consistent communications to fully understand how a business operates and how decisions are made and most importantly, the impact of their contributions.

Development programs and investments in education will also be a part of the organization’s strategy to attract young talent. By investing in the education of younger generations who have a passion for learning, you help to foster that curiosity, show employees you care and ultimately, benefit the company.

All these elements combined will help your company not only train employees, but to develop ambassadors for your organization.


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