Listening, Recognition and Fun: How Five Tech Companies Create Attractive Company Culture

Five tech leaders share their tips for fostering culture that attracts top talent.

Written by Dana Cassell
Published on Jan. 16, 2024
Listening, Recognition and Fun: How Five Tech Companies Create Attractive Company Culture
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For Daniel Templeton, vice president of engineering at 1upHealth, fostering an attractive company culture means being all-in on the people.

A big part of creating that culture as a leader is building trust with the organization through listening and transparency,” he said.

Templeton takes this work seriously, and says that there are “a thousand small things we do at 1upHealth to support that kind of culture.” Management at the company practices pay transparency and fair promotion and hiring processes, engages in consistent communication, highlights good work with awards and recognition and takes culture surveys seriously.

Even an event like the recent company-wide hackathon, Templeton says, “is just a structured form of listening.”

At OneView Commerce, Product Manager Madison Messier works to build an attractive company culture with transparent prioritization and a shared positive energy. 

“It’s really important for companies to set clear objectives and accurately align the work being done by team members to these objectives,” she told Built In, noting how discouraging it can be for an employee to work hard on an initiative that never ends up seeing the light of day.

Built In sat down with five tech leaders to hear more about how to build attractive company culture in the tech industry. Their answers include listening and goal transparency, one-on-one connection and the not-to-be-missed secret company culture ingredient: fun.

 

Jack Mossman
Senior Director, Engineering • Restaurant365

Restaurant365 is a smart restaurant management software that combines restaurant modules with an integrated accounting system.

 

What are the key characteristics and/or values of a good team culture, and what are some ways you and your team bring those characteristics or values to life?

Our team culture is defined by empowerment, openness and adaptability, creating an environment that fosters innovation and collaboration. Empowerment is instilled by encouraging our engineers to operate independently and creatively, with support readily available in the face of exceptions or failures. 

Openness is vital for cultivating a collaborative atmosphere where ideas flow freely. Adaptability is a cornerstone, enabling our teams to seamlessly adjust to changing requirements, adopt new processes, and embrace emerging technologies.

To embody these principles, we adhere to several core tenets: leadership through service by example; recognizing that people leave managers, not companies; promoting high collaboration and minimizing ego; encouraging a culture of learning through fast, diverse failures and embracing transparency with a “see something, say something” mindset.

 

How do you ensure members of your team continue to feel challenged, engaged and excited by the work they're doing?

We’ve established an empowering environment where engineers can contribute meaningfully and autonomously to make a significant impact on both customers and technology. This is facilitated by a robust support system, including mentorship, continuous learning opportunities and encouragement for team members to explore domains that align with their passions. Recognizing and celebrating achievements is a key aspect of sustaining engagement.

 

"Recognizing and celebrating achievements is a key aspect of sustaining engagement.”

 

Do you have any unique team celebrations, traditions or rituals to celebrate successes? 

To celebrate successes, we conduct quarterly, department-wide meetings where each team highlights their achievements from the past three months. This collective recognition fosters a sense of unity and accomplishment. 

At a team level, our leaders organize informal virtual gatherings featuring team-building activities like “3 Truths and a Lie.” This not only serves as a fun icebreaker for new team members but also reinforces the bond among existing team members, creating a positive and celebratory atmosphere. 

We reinforce a culture of recognition through our “TIP” program, where “TIP” stands for Truly Incredible People. This initiative is designed to acknowledge and appreciate the exceptional efforts and contributions of individuals within our teams and with other departments. 

These recognitions not only boost morale but also serve as a powerful motivator, emphasizing the value we place on each team member’s unique strengths. By publicly celebrating these Truly Incredible People, we not only create a positive atmosphere but also inspire others to strive for excellence.

 

 

Laura Zheng
Director of Experience Design • HoneyBook

HoneyBook is a business management platform creating tools to help creative entrepreneurs run their businesses on their own terms.

 

What are the key characteristics and/or values of a good team culture, and what are some ways you and your team bring those characteristics or values to life?

My approach is to look at our existing strengths and the natural ways we operate and simply amp those up. The idea is to smooth out edges and processes that don’t expand our culture. 

Fun is number one on our team. The approach and attitude can always be fun, even in the seemingly mundane. At the same time, we respect individual levels of extroversion and introversion, aiming to maintain an inclusive environment for everyone. 

 

"Fun is number one on our team.”

 

Entrepreneurial spirit and the strong collaboration that it requires is also important. The team has unique backgrounds in design systems, ops, branding, and product design, which gives us an edge in forging important cross-functional collaborations. We all operate best when we truly own our work and think strategically about who we can collaborate with.  

Finally, there needs to be a willingness to learn and an openness to new perspectives. We all have differing backgrounds. We make an effort to celebrate them and leverage those differences to strengthen our work. At the same time, we facilitate the sharing of varied experiences in order to lessen bias.

 

How do you ensure members of your team continue to feel challenged, engaged and excited by the work theyre doing?

It comes down to impact, individualized approach and being open and transparent.

I always try to tie the work back to impact and value to the company, so we know what the north star is; the why. It’s something that bears repeating and communicating in various ways to test how it resonates. 

The real key, though, is to know what motivates everyone on the team individually. This means asking the right questions to understand each person’s unique goals, vision and skill set. 

This helps create a perfect synergy between what the company needs and what the team can aim to do. When people are motivated by their own goals and see how they fit within the business strategy, everything just flows better. 

My team has a very optimistic baseline and is open to all sorts of projects and ideas, so motivation comes from within. Still, one thing that helps is setting a good example of openness and vulnerability. Letting people voice their thoughts informed by their unique background always makes the work stronger. It results in us committing to the most important things, not the most urgent.

 

HoneyBook
HoneyBook

 

Do you have any unique team celebrations, traditions or rituals to celebrate successes? 

We try to operate as a little community. We have a standing monthly team night out, which members alternate in leading. This way, everyone has a chance to share an activity they love or try a new one as a group. 

Sometimes, it’s a dinner or trivia night, but we also have some fun and relaxing activities coming up soon, like a ceramics class and weaving. Whenever we gather over dinner or drinks, there are lots of fun opportunities for toasts to recent product launches, initiatives and personal celebrations.

We are a new group here at HoneyBook New York, and just getting the hang of our rituals, so my approach is to do what already seems natural to the group instead of creating something artificial.

 

 

Madison Messier
Product Manager • OneView Commerce

OneView Commerce's retail-as-a-service platform empowers retailers to deliver commerce experiences that matter and build loyalty to their brand.

 

What are the key characteristics and/or values of a good team culture, and what are some ways you and your team bring those characteristics or values to life?

Communication, teamwork, transparent prioritization and a shared positive energy all contribute to fostering a productive and collaborative work environment.

At OneView Commerce, ideas and opinions are shared openly and often. Every employee is aligned to multiple teams within the company. Everyone has a role and teams are formed from shared roles and roles that fall under a similar umbrella. 

Additionally, we have scrum teams, deployment teams, project teams, etc. that include members across different roles. This structure cultivates a strong teamwork mentality and allows employees with any role or title to feel heard and effectively contribute to decision-making processes. 

The company as a whole promotes a “we’re all on the same team” mentality, where there is a shared focus on what needs to be accomplished and everyone plays a part in making that happen. We collectively share successes and opportunities for improvement, which ensures people are not discouraged from participating. 

 

How do you ensure members of your team continue to feel challenged, engaged and excited by the work theyre doing?

OneView Commerce provides opportunities for professional development, fosters a culture of innovation, encourages autonomy and promotes a positive work-life balance.

It’s really important for companies to set clear objectives and accurately align the work being done by team members to these objectives. At OneView Commerce, every single person in the ecosystem has a part to play and contributes to the success of the company. 

 

"It’s really important for companies to set clear objectives and accurately align the work being done by team members to these objectives.”

 

I love the quote, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” It is very disheartening for someone to work hard on something that does not see the light of day. At OneView, we do a good job of pinpointing work that is important, prioritizing initiatives that are proven to provide value and pivoting away from projects that do not.

Overall, we strive to maintain a motivated and enthusiastic team that excels in the work they do by nurturing an environment that values growth, creativity and individual contributions.

 

Do you have any unique team celebrations, traditions or rituals to celebrate successes? 

Bi-weekly scrum retrospectives promote the celebration of team successes by providing a dedicated space for reflection, appreciation, recognition and planning for future milestones. Beginning with an icebreaker plays a crucial role in fostering a positive culture and building stronger connections among team members. 

By acknowledging achievements, fostering collaboration and sharing success stories, retrospectives contribute to supportive and cohesive team culture that celebrates and builds on the team’s successes.

 

 

Daniel Templeton
Vice President of Engineering • 1upHealth

1upHealth is a health-tech company that builds products for the future of healthcare.

 

What are the key characteristics and/or values of a good team culture, and what are some ways you and your team bring those characteristics or values to life?

A good team culture is one where every individual understands the mission, is empowered to act on the mission, is able to connect the mission to their own personal growth, and feels like they're supported to do their best work. A big part of creating that culture as a leader is building trust within the organization through listening and transparency. 

The rest is about communicating constantly, pushing decisions as far down the org chart as they can go, and being all-in on the people. A team with a culture where everyone feels valued, empowered and free to bring their whole selves to work will accomplish more and be more invested in the outcomes than would be possible with top-down management.

There are a thousand small things we do at 1upHealth to support that kind of culture, such as pay transparency, awards and recognition, our on- and off-sites, fair and objective promotion and hiring processes, how leadership communicates with the company and taking culture surveys seriously. 

One big way we support that culture is by leaning into management as a discipline. The managers set the tone, and by empowering them and investing in them, we raise the bar on the employee experience at 1upHealth.

 

How do you ensure members of your team continue to feel challenged, engaged and excited by the work they're doing?

Keeping the team excited and engaged is core to being a successful leader, and empowerment is an important key. We push decisions as far down the org chart as possible, which produces better decisions, helps grow future leaders and allows the team to be connected to the decisions in ways that aren’t possible with top-down decisions.

 

"We push decisions as far down the org chart as possible, which produces better decisions, helps grow future leaders and allows the team to be connected to the decisions in ways that aren’t possible with top-down decisions.”

 

We also encourage innovation from every level. If there’s something we could do better, let’s hear about it and improve it. We held our first open-ended hackathon in October, where we encouraged the team to get creative, which they did. Several of their projects will be developed further and pushed into production. 

A hackathon is just a structured form of listening. Listening to the team, their thoughts and concerns, is the most powerful way to keep people engaged, and it’s crazy effective at actually making things better. Listening also helps with keeping the team feeling challenged. An empowered and supported team will challenge themselves.

Another important way to keep the team engaged is to make them feel seen. Everything from formal awards to public recognition to one-on-one acknowledgement all go a long way. Gratitude is very important.

 

Do you have any unique team celebrations, traditions or rituals to celebrate successes? 

One of our strengths at 1upHealth is that we have a leadership team with deep experience as successful people leaders who can draw on their past successes to guide them.

As a remote-first company, we keep everything virtual. For that reason, we love public recognition at 1upHealth. We use our various all-hands meetings as venues to celebrate our wins at the company or organization level. 

We have a Slack channel dedicated just to calling out people who have gone above and beyond, and it’s always active. Twice a year, we invite nominations for employees who exemplify each of the company’s four core values, and we then hold an awards ceremony to recognize the winners. We are always big on recognizing people for their achievements less formally throughout the year, in front of the team or one-on-one.

Even with all of that, we’re always looking for new ways to celebrate our victories. In 2024, we’ll start recognizing engineers on a quarterly basis for outstanding contributions. We’re also looking into ways to help teams celebrate their everyday wins.

 

 

Jasmine Cortez-Vera
Regional Director, Marketing • monday.com

monday.com is a work OS, where teams create and shape workflow apps, code free - to run any process and project.

 

What are the key characteristics and/or values of a good team culture, and what are some ways you and your team bring those characteristics or values to life?

Transparency, trust and recognition are the core values that I like to ensure my team lives by.

As a team, it’s important that we’re all aligned on the company’s overarching goals and key performance indicators and understand how our efforts ladder up to them. I like to ensure that the full team has visibility on metrics at all times, as well as a strong understanding of what each of us is working on and why. 

I also value two-way feedback, in whatever way is most comfortable for the individuals on my team. This is how we create trust with one another. We encourage constructive feedback with recommended action plans instead of solely mentioning "what’s not working." It is important not only to understand what we do well as a team, but also what our areas for improvement are, where blocks are coming from and how we can support each other to move past them.

 

How do you ensure members of your team continue to feel challenged, engaged and excited by the work theyre doing?

It's easy to get bogged down in our day-to-day work, so something I’m passionate about is having bi-monthly career path meetings with each individual on my team. These conversations help me understand where their passions are, what other aspects of marketing or the business they're intrigued by and what they want to learn more about. 

 

"It’s easy to get bogged down in our day-to-day work, so something I'm passionate about is having bi-monthly career path meetings with each individual on my team.”

 

I take explicit action items for myself to ensure I am helping my direct reports meet their professional goals, whether that means looking for opportunities within the business for them or making introductions to contacts in my network that may be able to inspire and educate them on specific passions.

 

Do you have any unique team celebrations, traditions or rituals to celebrate successes? Please offer a real-life example.

We’re a new team and in the process of creating our rituals together but here are some of the things we’ve started to implement:

Team Culture Calendar: A minimum of once per quarter, we have a team outing for us to enjoy a fun experience together. I’m a huge fan of team bonding and getting to know each other as individuals and not solely as work colleagues.

Weekly Lunch: We’re lucky at monday.com to have catered lunch every day. Once a week, the team has a calendar block for us to sit down and enjoy lunch together. No work agenda, just chit-chat. It’s a small initiative with a big impact.

Ongoing Recognition: Recognition for our hard efforts on a consistent basis is important and validates the work that we’re all doing. Recognition shouldn't only come from the top down. I make sure to always share the kudos I hear from other peers and key stakeholders about my direct reports’ work and ongoing efforts. We also socialize these mentions during our team meetings or over Slack to give us a mini-moment of celebration.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Shutterstock and listed companies.

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