Caring it Forward at Work: The Employee-Driven Heart of BigSteelBox


By Peter Tonkin

Thinking back over my time in HR, there are many stories that come to mind about colleagues coming together to help each other in times of need. Working where I do, as HR manager at BigSteelBox, I don’t have to look back any further than last spring—but the roots of that story reach deeper.

Turning a Terrible Day Around
Last spring was when Richard, an employee of BigSteelBox, woke to find his truck missing from his driveway; it was shortly thereafter found by the police burned to the ground in a ditch outside town. Richard was distraught, but reported to work and recounted the events to his manager— along with his most immediate concerns. He had no idea what he was going to do; he not only relied on his car to come in to work every day, he needed it to meet his family obligations, such as driving his kids to school and other “dad” related tasks. He also needed to replace his son’s car seat and several other items as a result of the incident.

The story so far is bleak, but that’s when the real value of where I work surged to the forefront.

BigSteelBox is built from the ground up with employees committed to turning those types of stories around via a unique, employee-driven, leadership-backed initiative: the Care Forward Program. After learning of Richard’s story, his colleagues felt that he would be a perfect recipient of the program and submitted a request for assistance to the Care Forward Committee.

Caring it Forward (When it Matters Most)
Bear in mind that this is not part of our employee benefit plan, but a direct example of BigSteelBox’s values in action—one of which is, “We love our family.” As such, the Care Forward Program serves as a tool to facilitate staff members’ desire to help and support one another.

It’s a benevolent fund that was created as a way to help one another in times of need—which came directly from an employee in 2015 who came across the idea in a book on company culture. While the team at BigSteelBox had always been passionate about helping each other through hard times, a formal process was developed and the Care Forward program was created to address two scenarios in particular:

To temporarily help people pay necessary expenses that, due to financial constraints or circumstances beyond their control, they are unable to pay. This includes things like rent, bills, car insurance, or children’s items; and

To help people pay for expenses that have come about suddenly or unexpectedly, and are very costly and beyond the employee’s means. This includes costs that arise after the death of a family member or costs associated with unforeseen health issues.

Compassionate Core to Company Culture
The way it works is simple—with employees opting to contribute a small portion from their monthly pay to the program and BigSteelBox matching each donation—but the impact is far-reaching. So far, $16,700 has been distributed to employees in need, and while employees can speak to the committee privately, it’s often their peers who are responsible for nominating them to receive the funds and contributing to their colleagues’ well-being and happiness.

For Richard, this amounted to being presented with a $1,500 cheque at the end of his terrible day to put towards the cost of purchasing a new vehicle. Richard still talks about what an honour it was to receive such a kind act of compassion when he was in need. He always says that working for a company that genuinely cares about him makes all the difference when it comes to putting in a hard day’s work.

Employee-Driven Ethos in Action
For an HR manager, Richard’s story is one that continues to inspire because it speaks to an ethos that imbues the entire company. Every workplace has the potential to be more than a place where employees clock in and clock out; case in point, BigSteelBox really is a family at heart.

What makes our employees want to go the extra mile is that they know we are here for them in the times that matter most—and the knowledge that they made that a reality. So, while some companies opt for fancy outings or ping-pong tables in the break room, we have found supporting an employee-driven benevolent fund like the Care Forward Program to be much more beneficial because it helps employees in a deeper and more meaningful way.

BigSteelBox is more than a company that deals in moving and storage. We are a family—and families help each other out in times of need.

Peter Tonkin is HR manager at BigSteelBox.

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