How Silicon Slopes is mastering company culture, and why you should too

09/05/2017 11:50 pm ET Updated Sep 06, 2017

It’s no secret millennials value company culture—so much so that they’d be willing to take a pay cut. In fact, they’d sacrifice $7,600 in pay “if they could improve their career development, find more purposeful work, better work-life balance, or a better company culture,” reported Fidelity.

Considering millennials will make up 46% of the workforce by 2020, it’s worth employer’s time to pay attention to what these young minds value in their day-to-day work environment.

Here in Silicon Slopes, startups are popping up too fast to count, and they’re quickly learning a valuable lesson: establishing a positive company culture makes for better sales, happier employees, and long-term success.

Between the flexibility these new entities have of building a company from the ground up, to the fact that so many of them are created by the up-and-coming generation, Silicon Slopes entrepreneurs are taking company culture seriously. Here’s what a few of these companies are doing to cultivate and benefit from these positive work environments.

Spikeball spikes sales

Fundwise capital uses a trendy outdoor game to help establish a blooming company culture
Fundwise capital uses a trendy outdoor game to help establish a blooming company culture

Ever heard of a little game called Spikeball? If you’ve walked along the beach in California or are an avid Shark Tank fan, you’ve probably seen this new mini volleyball-style tramp game.

One Silicon Slopes startup, Fundwise Capital, has made Spikeball an integral part of its company culture. The financial consulting company helps new and growing businesses access funding without relying on investors. Its employees (the majority being millennials) spend most of their time on the phone working with entrepreneurs and talking with banks to secure funding on the entrepreneurs’ behalf.

“We knew that in order to have the best possible customer experience, our sales team needed to be positive and patient during each phone call,” said Isaac Freckleton, COO. “Additionally, we understood that it’s cheaper in the long run to keep an employee than to train new hires. We implemented a mandatory lunch hour, and our team took to the Spikeball net in no time.” And to end the week on a high note, the company organizes a Spikeball tournament every Friday with cash and gift card prizes.

“Not only have our sales steadily increased by about 12.5 percent since implementing this lunch hour,” said Chief Visionary Officer Mitch Plowman, “but our company morale has also improved.”

Spikeball is one of many initiatives Fundwise put in place to develop a culture conducive to success and to meet the cultural expectations of the millennials they recruit. Between the weekly company-wide meetings and open office layout, the executives at this startup continually look for ways to encourage candid communication and friendship.

“Although the nature of our business presents us with daily challenges,” said Freckleton, “employees feel connected and motivated to meet those challenges head-on. We’re also very clear about how they can grow and move up within the company. A rising tide lifts all boats, and we don’t have the luxury of hiring management outside our company. We need to promote from within the people we trust, so we need our employees to be all-in on the company vision.”

Risks bring rewards

Qualtrics may have 13 acres of WiFi-enabled garden area surrounding its building and a bring-your-dog-to-work policy, but according to Mike Maughan, head of Brand Growth and Global Insights, the company’s culture is less about the perks and more about focusing on making an environment where employees feel safe and valued in a culture of innovation.

“Most people who work here are doing the biggest job of their lives, doing things that scare them and are beyond their present potential and capacity,” said Maughan. “To do that successfully, we need to make an environment where it’s safe to fail and take risks now and again...We hire people who want to bet on us and who are willing to bet on themselves.”

Qualtrics has an established campus featuring basketball, a breakfast cereal bar, and an accessible outdoor WiFi garden
Qualtrics has an established campus featuring basketball, a breakfast cereal bar, and an accessible outdoor WiFi garden

Qualtrics, an experience management company, allows users to collect online data for any area of their businesses, whether it’s for market research, student engagement, social media tracking, internal processes, or business projections. On an annual basis, the company distributes internal employee engagement and pulse studies in order to find what is and isn’t working within the company.

As far as millennials go, Qualtrics’ research shows that the number one thing millennials value in a job is the opportunity for career growth. “It matters more to them than the money they make, title they have—they want a place that believes in them and lets them explore...It’s what every generation has always wanted, they’re just more forceful in saying they want a seat at the table and an opportunity to contribute.” The company gives these young professionals a very real opportunity to earn this seat and thrive in an innovative workplace.

Perks of “work hard and play hard”

Most Silicon Slopes residents have seen the quirky Domo billboards dotting the I-15 freeway. This business cloud software joins the club of companies offering mindful perks:

  • Baby Bucks: A $1,000 baby bonus for each newborn child.
  • Haute Mama: Domo believes pregnancy shouldn’t stretch an employee’s clothes or their budget. Pregnant Domo employees enjoy a $2,000 maternity wardrobe bonus they can use at stores such as Nordstrom, Pea in the Pod, or Asos.
  • Progyny Family Planning: A concierge fertility benefit of up to $40,000 to assist with infertility costs. Progyny is a pathway to surrogacy, general family counseling, and adoption consultation.

The business cloud software company recognizes the needs and desires of its young employees. “Domo’s culture is reinforced by benefits for the things that our employees care about in their “whole lives”—both personal and professional. [It] is why our employees come to work at Domo and why they choose to continue to work at Domo,” said Domo’s VP of Human Resources, Cathy Donahoe.

If appealing to millennials is new territory for your company, take Domo’s perspective on how to create company culture. “A healthy culture is like a healthy body. If you establish a positive culture early on, you feel symptoms pretty quickly if things are misaligned...It’s up to everyone to pay attention and speak up quickly. The goal is to appropriately address underlying issues and get things back to a healthy state as quickly as possible.”

A significant percentage of Domo’s workforce falls under the millennial umbrella. Because of this, its company culture is “modeled after balancing their work lives with their personal responsibilities.” This comes full circle as Domo finds customers as well as employees benefit from this mindset. “A positive culture also makes people better at what they do as designers, engineers, salespeople and leaders...customers will frequently tell us that every employee they meet seems genuinely invested in their success,” said Donahoe.

When better sales, happier employees, and long-term success are on the line, it’s no wonder these young companies are appealing to the company culture needs of their employees. What is your business doing to promote a good work environment for your employees?

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