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Practice management software makers Smokeball awarded 4th best place to work in Australia
Australasia News

Smokeball logoSmokeball, the innovative Australian legal practice management software, has been awarded fourth place in the WRK+ Best Places to Work benchmarking study ahead of more than 150 other companies.

The list recognises the Australian companies pioneering best-practice in employee engagement through strong people and culture strategies. 

“We are delighted to be nominated for such an honour,” says Hunter Steele, CEO, Smokeball. “Our team culture at Smokeball is the most important factor driving our success. We want our staff to feel empowered, supported and rewarded for bringing their whole selves to work and working in a values-based way. The Best Place to Work honour is very special because it is based on a survey of all staff as well as analysis of our policies and processes so it’s a very accurate reflection on whether we are the best place to work.”

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Smokeball has 70 employees in Australia based in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Since COVID all employees have been given the option to work from home with the company providing ergonomic furniture and hardware to help with the transition as well as supporting non-traditional hours for better flexibility. This extends to leadership, where many leaders have part-time roles. 

The company’s culture is open and progressive, and based on team contribution. The success of the company comes from the empowerment of staff to ask questions and provide feedback to all colleagues, which forms part of Smokeball’s core values and behaviours such as ‘Be Frank’, ‘Speak up early, ‘Ask for help’, 'Address issues directly with people', and 'Have the hard conversations'. 

“Our six core values govern the ways we address and resolve conflict and undesirable situations,” explains Hunter. “We encourage people to speak up, and say how they are feeling, rather than it being taboo in the workplace. With COVID we made our working policies flexible to accommodate work from home on a permanent basis. We also adjusted our workspace to a hot desk environment, allowing senior leaders to sit within different teams and be exposed firsthand to how a team or individual functions. This fosters an environment of open and honest communication that allows staff to reach out to any senior leader and raise any issues they may have.”

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There are many established systems and opportunities to share information on strategic plans and organisational change that are led by employees, rather than management, in both individual and company wide events. 

Big and small wins are celebrated through the all-employee Slack channels, 'Product Love' and 'People Love’ that share client success stories and testimonials, so everyone can see the positive impact the company is making in the legal community and 'shout outs' to peers, connecting colleagues’ achievements to the core values. 

Employees are actively encouraged to bring new ideas and make decisions on process, product, service, and culture improvements in both team settings and through annual hackathons and events that share the passions and interests of staff with others. 

Every development tribe has an ‘Innovation crew’ and developers will go on a 2-month rotation into the crew. This focus on innovation across all Smokeball products allows the crew to remove the noise of the day-to-day business and behave like a mini start-up, being agile, trying new ideas, taking risks, and coming up with innovative technology that changes the legal practice management industry. 

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Each staff member has an individual career development plan to help map out exactly where they want to grow, and to identify the skills they need to develop that are supported by a check-in framework to re-evaluate at regular times. Paths to leadership are clearly set out and supported with several different activities.

The Smokeball Bonus Program (SBP) rewards efforts with a regular thirdly bonus, so as Smokeball succeeds, employees share in the success. Living the core values and behaviours are so important, they form part of the thirdly bonus criteria.

All staff have a well-being allowance of $1000 per year, to claim on anything health or wellbeing related, this also includes some well-being apps which was bought into place last year when lockdowns started and digital well-being became even more important. 

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Instead of Exit interviews, Smokeball conducts ‘Stay Interviews’ to find out why their employees choose to ‘stay’ with Smokeball and what would cause them to leave, to enable better decisions about the workplace and culture including what EAP services to provide and in-office benefits to offer. 

Smokeball’s core value ‘Caring is not optional’ also extends to its clients and the wider legal community.  This year the company launched its ‘Community Hero Award’ to acknowledge the important work that small law firms do in our communities from pro-bono work, to sponsoring events and volunteer activities. 

The company also celebrates and promotes ‘Secretary’s Day’ by hosting a competition, where legal professionals nominate their peers as the best legal secretary, recognising their hard work and effort. 

 

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