LAZ Parking is one of the largest parking operators in the United States. Founded in 1981 as a stand-alone valet stand, today LAZ operates more than 1,800 parking facilities and supports more than 7,300 employees in 239 cities.
In an industry as competitive as parking, what has allowed LAZ to grow while others have floundered?
Ask co-founders Alan Lazowski, Jeff Karp and Michael Harth, and they’ll tell you it’s “The LAZ Way”, the unique “people first” principles that have underscored the company’s values since day one.
Among the most important principles of “The LAZ Way”, “create opportunities for our employees and value for our clients”.
It was in furtherance of this mission that sent Andi Campbell, Vice President of Human Resources and Director of Learning and Development, searching for a new employee communications platform in 2012.
“Above and beyond everything else, what makes LAZ great is the people and the company culture. We truly have the best people in the world working here. My role as Vice President of HR is to support those people and instill in them our company culture. Give them opportunities to grow and thrive, and help them understand what makes LAZ unique,” explained Andi.
“My need was two-fold. I needed a communication platform to support our management training program, as well as a platform to help connect our employees around the country to each other, as well as to the LAZ culture. While we have an incredibly strong company culture, our workforce is distributed across the country. Many of our employees work in relatively solitary environments, such as parking booths, and managers are often hundreds of miles away from their closest peers.
I had previously looked at a few options such as Jive or Yammer, but they just didn’t fill my need. I wanted a platform that wasn’t just about project management, but that really enabled sharing, collaboration, and real conversations among our distributed workforce. Something that would bring people together. I found Tribe Social and knew immediately that it was a good fit,” said Andi.
Tribe Social is a cloud-based communication tool that allows teams to chat, share and collaborate online. It allows teams to work faster, communicate across borders, drive learning and innovation, and better connect to one another.
LAZ Parking would use the platform for two purposes.
First, Andi would create a Tribe as a discussion forum for the company’s management training program. Here managers would discuss their training, learn about LAZ resources, and have a forum in which to share best-practices and expertise.
Second, Andi would create LAZ Nation, a Tribe for the company’s entire workforce. This Tribe would serve as an employee engagement tool where the employees could connect with one another to discuss problems, share ideas, as well as simply connect with the LAZ family at large.
Andi predicted the Tribes would improve moral, increase productivity, support social learning and reduce turn-over.
While Andi could see the benefits of the platform, her peers in HR and legal were slower to jump on board.
“The Tribe platform allows LAZ employees to post without receiving administrative approval. This raised some concerns with our executives and legal team. ‘What if employees post inappropriate content?’ they asked.
My response was simple, if we don’t trust our employees, we have a much larger issue at hand here. I also explained that employees could send inappropriate content by email and we would never know.”
“The engagement we’re seeing on Tribe is far greater than I ever expected. In the management training Tribe, participation was initially mandated; however, it has grown well beyond any required engagement. The Tribe has become a virtual water cooler, training lounge and sanctuary. Since the management Tribe is accessible only by those who are currently in the training program, managers feel safe to truly engage with one another. What you see is a real, genuine exchange of learning. It allows the LAZ culture to truly take root, and helps managers connect to tribal knowledge in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. The LAZ Nation Tribe has become a centerpiece of our company culture. Employees post pictures, share stories, share learning. At LAZ, we say it’s ‘family first’. The LAZ Nation Tribe allows our employees to connect to other LAZers in a way they simply wouldn’t be able to otherwise. As a cashier, sitting alone in a parking structure, you still feel connected,” said Andi.
“Tribe has become a lynchpin of our company culture. It’s the fabric that connects us all to each other, despite geographic and organizational barriers. Employees are more engaged, and learning proliferates in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
Executives can connect directly to front-line employees; front-line employees can share ideas with executives. In fact, our executives are on Tribe all the time. They feel like they have a direct window into the daily operations of our company that they never had before. Not to mention, it’s also a lot of fun to use.” explained Andi.