Web development company Boost New Media recently became the first New Zealand firm to be named a certified democratic workplace by global networking organisation WorldBlu. It was one of 48 organisations around the world to make the 2012 Worldblu Most Democratic Workplace list.

What is a democratic workplace and can it apply to any organisation?

At its core, a democratic workplace is one where the staff is enabled to self-govern and determine their own destiny. If you look at the WorldBlu list of certified organisations, you'll see the philosophy can be applied to any size or type of organisation.

What inspired Boost's move to becoming a democratic workplace?


We weren't consciously moving towards becoming a democratic workplace. It's more that we have taken a certain approach to involving the team in the way Boost is run, and when we learned about the democratic workplace movement, we saw it as a framework that matched closely with the organic changes we were making.

Six years ago Boost adopted the principles of Agile and for our project work use Scrum (one of the Agile methodologies).

One of Scrum's core principles is that the team is self-organising and self-managing. As our teams have become more experienced at organising themselves to deliver on the commitments they make to our clients, we've seen them engage more with the business side of Boost.

This has led to the team getting involved with shaping the company's strategic direction.

An Agile coaching colleague suggested we look into WorldBlu, the international organisation that certifies democratic workplaces.

The team were keen to formalise and improve the organic democratic practices at Boost so we undertook the Worldblu certification process, which included a survey of all our employees testing how democratic they found Boost to be.

What are the benefits in terms of your business and your team?

I have always been very interested in what motivates people in their work.


When I read Daniel Pink's book Drive I found his theories about extrinsic and intrinsic motivations reflected the intuitive understanding I had of what helps work enjoyment.

We've found that democratising the workplace provides opportunities for individuals to increase the amount of autonomy, mastery and purpose they experience at work, which directly leads to higher engagement and personal satisfaction.

In turn, Boost benefits from the team's greater engagement and passion for the business.


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