On the 18th of July at 1:50 pm, our founder reminded us of the location of our meeting.
“In ten minutes sharp, we will meet on the side of the canal opposite the office!”.
We were about to go on a boat ride. 

Our employees enjoyed a picnic on the boat while crisscrossing through numerous Amsterdam canals – final destination: Amstel park. 

We did not know what to expect for this year’s Summer Party; we just knew we were going to have a great time. 

Other than the beauty of the park, that we cheerfully admired during a mini-train ride, we enjoyed a few hours of mini-golf, split into teams. But the most important part was just before that: the Starred Values Awards. 

First of all, what are our values? If you’re familiar with us, you already know we have a set of 5 core values that we strongly identify with. They represent every single thing that is great about us, and everything we need to be able to grow and develop our performance, both singularly, and as a team. 

Starred’s Values Wall

Our key goals are the following: 

  1. Work Smarter, which means that we like to automate repetitive tasks, we focus on being highly productive, we feel a great sense of urgency, we respect our time and our colleagues’ too, and since the company is very flexible towards us, we like to reciprocate. 
  2. Building Together: we align our tasks with the team’s goals, share our work early and often, work with others on great ideas, seek what’s best for the company and truly feel like we’re part of a team.  
  3. Embrace and Drive Change, because we embrace new opportunities, we try and be fast, in our work, and as a company – we’re brave enough to change things when there are better options, we’re optimistic and always eager to learn.  
  4. Start with the Human, which means being caring, and being honest, both in our intention, actions, and words – we always try to be kind and take care of our workspace.
  5. Take Ownership: we own the job and take action when we see problems, we try and unburden our colleagues, we assemble teams when needed, and we always come with positive intent.

We are so proud of these values that we dedicated a whole wall to them. And underneath them, a Polaroid for each employee, taken on their first Friday at the company, during the small celebration we throw for them. 

Whenever someone does something impressive and reflecting the values, we leave a post-it note underneath their picture, either signed or anonymous. 

It’s very encouraging to feel recognized for one’s hard work, and it’s heart-warming to read the sometimes unexpected congratulations a colleague left there for us. 

We have our own of value-inspired custom-emojis for our group chat messages – when we do something representing the value, we’re recognized for it even on Slack. 

“But what if we could do more?”, thought our founder Lars Van Wieren.  

He’d predicted that with our growth, a deepening of the values would follow. And so, twice a year, we gather and spend a day altogether: Dutch and British team. 

We do some fun activities that allow us to bond, refresh us, and reminds us of the wonderful people we work with. But we also recognize each others’ value more, and in an official way. 

Since our previous Christmas Party, Lars Van Wieren organized the Starred Values Awards. It made the employees so happy, that it became a new tradition, and we repeated it during our Summer Party, too. This one will stick!

“It’s a great occasion for our employees to remember our values and how we live them,” said Lars Van Wieren, “and showcase great examples of how their colleagues embodied them throughout the previous 6 months. It also focuses on inclusion, which I think is crucial.”

“It’s fundamental for everyone who did a great work to be seen, and we tried to make this fun.”

The process works like this: before the party, our founder and an employee gather the complimenting post-its from the Values Wall, divided by name. The most relevant comments are then gathered – that is, those best-reflecting the Starred values.

Usually, two or three people get selected for each value, and they become candidates. 

“We try and make it so that there isn’t one person that is recognized for many awards so that each overachiever is awarded once. We do this because we think we should shine a light on every person that performed extraordinarily well.”

Then the ceremony proceeds like so: the founder gathers all the employees around, and our Business Analyst Phil stands next to him with his Applause-o-meter

The way we came up with it was easy – Lars V.W. thought it would only be fair that the winning candidates would be selected on the basis of the amount of noise the employees would make through clapping and cheering for them. We wanted the vote to be democratic, and fizzy too. 

The Applause-o-meter is simply a very precise Decibel meter. It allows us to measure noise the best we can. 

“When we awarded our employees for the first time”, says Lars V.W. with a smile on his face, “everyone was making so much noise through clapping and cheering on, that some colleagues from 3 floors below asked us to kindly be quieter!”. 

We also introduced a prize for Best Newcomer – in the last semester, we hired 3 people and wanted them to feel recognized for their great on-boarding. 

The winners for this Summer Party’s edition were:

Work SmarterDimitriy Remerov “for saving the day for our Customer Happiness Management (CHM) employees by creating a query that let them find the information they needed way faster.” 

Building TogetherRomina Gomez and Berta Anna Kormany “for creating our integrations pages at a very fast pace, for the smooth on-boarding of Berta and for seamlessly working side-by-side on the design takeover.”

Embrace & Drive ChangeGijs van Lammeren “for taking the lead in our platform transformation and helping us migrate to serverless.”

Start With the Human Niels van der Veen “for being the empathic and cool bridge between the Tech Department and CHM.”

Take OwnershipElena Galli “for taking over content and social media management quickly and with great results.” 

Best Newcomer Marcella Pama “for being such an A-Player since their very beginning at the company.”

To conclude, a couple of quotes from two of the winners. 

Marcella Pama: “It was so flattering to be nominated. The ceremony had nothing to do with winning, we’re not in competition against each other, but I definitely saw how everyone supported their colleagues, and it was really nice! I can see how it was a bonding experience. And if you win, you get to keep your award on your desk for a semester – which will for sure encourage you to work well.”

Romina Gomez: “The Summer Party was a very clear example of how our C-level management really cares about the culture, and about their employees. I was there for the Christmas Party too, so this was the second Starred Value Awards event. I must say, it’s so good to see how it motivates my colleagues and me, but it’s more about the ride than the destination. The prize is… just a prize, but it makes you remember the values, and no-one ever gets upset if they don’t win this round. But they’ll do their best to make it 6 months later!”

It was indeed a really good experience, on which we will build upon. Happy employees are engaged employees

And about the golfing, these are a few moments we do not want to forget.

Some of us realized we made a right career choice by not pursuing professional golf.

Some of us found creative ways to bring good scores home.

And some others found solace in alternative activities.

Cheers!

The Starred Team