Opening Bell

‘Quietly Awesome’

Pillar Properties employees do their jobs without fanfare. That’s just the company way

By Rob Smith September 3, 2023

Fearey employees often get together to socialize, but are not required to be in an office

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

Pillar Properties employees are humble, not cocky. They’re service- and solutions-oriented. And they’re “Quietly Awesome.”

The Seattle-based multifamily developer’s internal mantra began as a commitment to customers. It now guides daily decisions and is included in every job description, interview, and performance review.

“It’s going above and beyond without recognition. It’s doing the right thing when nobody’s looking,” says Senior Vice President Diana Norbury. “It’s challenging the status quo.”

Pillar Properties, which was founded in 1890, has appeared on Seattle Business magazine’s Best Companies To Work For list six of the past seven years. The 90-employee business operates more than 1,800 units in several marquee complexes, including The Nolo, The Wave, Stadium Place, and The Century in Seattle, as well as The 101 in Kirkland.

The “Quietly Awesome” philosophy recently manifested itself when a long-time resident at a property praised the maintenance staff for looking out for his family while he traveled for work. “

He said he could live in a nice house, but he chooses to live in our community because he knows his wife and child are taken care of when he’s not around,” Norbury says. “He said it feels like an extension of his family.”

Pillar’s cultural touchpoints focus on both employees and the surrounding community. One program, called “Localicious,” supports nearby businesses with open tabs for employees at coffee shops, restaurants, and dry cleaners. The effort seeks to create “deeper connections” in neighborhoods where the company operates properties.

Pillar operates a “Kudos” channel, or a live stream available for employees to recognize one another. Shout-outs happen all day long.

In addition to quarterly events — where Pillar recognizes “Quietly Awesome” employees — the recognition committee regularly surprises team members. On National Popcorn Lover’s Day, the committee “popped” by every property with a variety of popcorn treats. Managers and supervisors have a monthly budget for team member lunches, and employees only work half days on Fridays during summer months.

The company’s charitable program, “Pillar Passions,” partners with a different nonprofit organization each quarter. Employees who win “Quietly Awesome” recognition can select a charity of choice for the entire team. Norbury says philanthropy comes up in both job interviews and day-to-day work.

She knows it sounds trite, but she emphasizes the importance of Pillar’s “people-first” culture.

“We strongly believe that the best ideas can come from anywhere in the company,” she says. “We regularly ask our team members to challenge leadership in the way we’re doing things. We’re small, we’re nimble, and we can change.”

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