Would you be willing to move 1,000 miles to follow a company? That was the question employees at Toastmasters International were faced with in 2018 when the company moved from California to Colorado.
For many, the answer was yes, and they largely attribute their decision to the culture of the company that specializes in public speaking and leadership training. We stopped by the Toastmasters office to get a feel for how a company that’s nearly 100 years old can have such a warm and innovative culture.
WHAT THEY DO: Toastmasters International is an educational nonprofit that offers training in public speaking and leadership skills across the globe.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Headquartered in Englewood. Club locations can be found globally.
PICTURE OF HEALTH: Employees have access to free dance classes, meditation and softball teams to find balance in every aspect of their lives.
STEP-BY-STEP: Regular, company-wide wellness challenges — like its step challenge — encourage employees to implement healthy habits into their lifestyle.
Holly Keily, Senior Research Analyst
Holly is responsible for conducting and analyzing research into various aspects of Toastmasters’ operations. Since research can be applied across the board, she essentially works with every department at Toastmasters.
AT YOUR SERVICE: Holly is very passionate about serving the community, as shown through her volunteering with Special Olympics Colorado. Outside of that, she loves all things snow — both skiing and snowboarding — after growing up in Colorado.
The relationships people have at work play a major role in how they perform. How important is collaboration to Toastmasters International as a value? How do you see it take shape in the company?
The organization is modernizing, moving from having department-centric work to embracing co-work and collaborative inter-departmental teams. Research is fortunate in that we, by nature, are a highly cross-functional team, but I see other groups starting to work together more closely, and that’s awesome.
The company also organized small inter-departmental teams of employees to help come up with solutions for how the organizational culture can further improve. That kind of top-down support for collaboration is encouraging.
I love the idea that the company culture is embracing the new Colorado location.”
How has Toastmasters International built a culture where you’re encouraged to collaborate?
The experience of moving the company from California to Colorado really helped open the organization to embrace cross-team collaboration. We have more virtual meetings and more group chats working together on projects. When the company moved, they also had a number of new hires join the organization, facilitating collaboration because a minority of the workforce had institutional knowledge about what was happening. We needed to work closely together to make sure we all understood what was going on. That type of update-and-advance approach to solving problems hasn’t diminished.
We’ve heard that Toastmasters has a lot of ways for team members to interact with each other — some more nontraditional than others. Which of the many office activities that Toastmasters International offers do you enjoy the most?
The activities committee goes out of its way to engage employees in a bunch of different ways. The hot wing eating contest was fun to watch, and the lunch and learn events are always interesting. I really liked the 5K, and I have consistently had a great time on the softball team. I love the idea that the company culture is embracing the new Colorado location. There are a bunch of other opportunities that I haven’t even participated in, including an organized volunteer day on a weekend in Parker and a meditation group.
Wally Kaczor, Accounting Supervisor
Wally leads the financial reporting team that manages accounts payable, accounts receivable and general ledger. But, ultimately, he hopes to see his team’s skills grow to the point where they can take over his position one day.
LORD OF THE OLYMPIC RINGS: In recent years, Wally has been steadily honing his skills as a gymnast — on the rings, specifically. He’s already surpassing goals he wouldn’t have been able to imagine when he started.
You chose to follow Toastmasters International as it moved its office from California to Colorado. What went into this decision?
As someone who loves hiking and the outdoors, Colorado seemed like a great fit. Once I visited the state, I fell in love with the area and the people. I also love working for the company and love our company culture. I had the support of my friends and family too. This was huge since they are such an important part of my life. There is also a core group of friends I’ve made within the company and many of them decided to move as well, which made the decision even easier. I have really amazing bosses, and I'm very thankful that I report to them. Once I found out they were both going, the decision was a slam dunk.
Tell us about those relationships with co-workers — what are you doing inside and outside of the office?
Traveling for work to our mid-year trainings and conventions has helped me to build lasting relationships with many co-workers I would have never had the opportunity to otherwise. I’ve been able to work with co-workers from many different departments, and we all band together to get the job done. I've also been able to spend time with co-workers outside of work and gotten to know them on a completely different level. Those are some of the best experiences I’ve had — getting to spend time with different co-workers once the work is complete and we get to do our own thing in whatever city we are in.
I've been able to work with co-workers from many different departments, and we all band together to get the job done.”
Toastmasters has been ranked as one of the healthiest companies around by Interactive Health several times. How do you feel Toastmasters International emphasizes employee health and wellness?
Our company is huge on health and wellness. Our human resource department has done an excellent job of creating activities for us to participate in. This includes, but is not limited to, the water works challenge, where you’re required to drink and log six cups of water per day for several weeks. We've also had the company steps challenge, which includes reaching a goal of 40,000 steps a week for six weeks and has been a blast for many years, partially because the finance team always wins or places high when we go department versus department. One year I was the highest-ranking employee with 762,000 steps!
Kate Rynerson-Wingrove, Training and Development Manager
Kate has worked with Toastmasters for a decade and followed the company across state lines despite never having lived more than an hour away from her childhood home. Talk about a commitment!
THE CHRONICLES OF YARNIA: Kate’s hands are always busy. When they’re not busy at work, she’s looking for new yarns or patterns to crochet for her family and friends.
With a decade of experience in mind, how does Toastmasters value internal promotion and development?
I have been granted many opportunities in the last 10 years to pursue my own personal and professional development goals. This has allowed me to transition from an intern with the meeting planning department when I first started to the training and development manager now. I have seen many of my peers granted similar opportunities in their careers as well.
The friendships that we already had grew even stronger and we made new friendships as well...”
You moved with Toastmasters from California to Colorado a year ago. What went into this decision for you?
My boyfriend (now husband) also works for the company, and the two of us sat down and talked about our goals and those of the company and the trajectory that we felt our careers were on. In the end, we decided that it was an amazing opportunity for us. I am so glad that we made the decision to move because, while our careers have grown, we’ve also grown so much closer to our co-workers that decided to make the move. The friendships that we already had grew even stronger and we made new friendships as well, not only with those that relocated, but with the team that joined in Colorado.
What about Toastmasters International’s work makes you the proudest to be a part of the company?
I love, love, love hearing our members’ stories. They are so different and varied, but they are always stories of growth, development and that moment of reflection when you realize that you are so much more confident now than you were when you started your journey. Toastmasters truly helps people to change their lives for the better, and I’m so honored and proud to be a part of that.