On a chilly Playa Vista morning last spring, a vibrant party was in full-swing in the heart of Silicon Beach. Upbeat music, the billowing smoke of food and joyous conversation cascaded from the headquarters of Core Digital Media to envelop its neighbors in shared communion. Dance classes and massage sessions added to the vivacity of the occasion.
CDM was celebrating its Team Member Appreciation Day — the first in-person event the company has held since the pandemic. At first glance, the party might have seemed like a display of corporate camaraderie like any other. But a closer look reveals a throughline of locality intentionally-threaded among the festivities.
Every vendor that catered the party came from the Los Angeles community, including the taco stand and pupusa stall proprietors drumming up alluring bites; the DJ whose beats ensconce the energized crowd; and the bartender, whipping up magic in her first corporate gig.
“It was a representation of people who work at CDM, in one way, shape or form,” added Michael Piña, Core Digital Media’s people program manager. “We went into the community, found each vendor, helped them get their insurance and brought them to our event.”
What does Core Digital Media do?
CDM’s mission revolves around helping consumers achieve better economic well-being through an array of content-based tools and information sources. The company’s subsidiary sites, such as ItsHome.com and LowerMyBills, simplify ways for consumers to navigate financial decisions such as refinancing or choosing lenders.
The rooftop celebration signaled more underneath at work. Internally, the workplace culture makes CDM’s priorities clear.
Two of CDM’s most important employee resource groups, enCORE and Representing Our Culture, handle everything from community and team events to employee well-being.
Becca Mazzaferro, a senior performance marketing manager, is co-president of ROC. “We bring together people from across the organization to represent what each department would need or like to see within the organization,” she explained.
The attentiveness to general sentiment within the company didn’t just appear; it was intentionally carved out through safe spaces. Members of ROC act as liaisons for employee voices, carrying them to senior leaders that can effect change.
“It was a representation of people that work at CDM, in one way, shape or form.”
On the other side of that coin, enCORE produces events to promote employee engagement in both the community and within teams. Tech workers want to make a difference; with enCORE, they can.
The group helps foster tight-knit communities internally while putting its core value of making a difference to actionable work. Much like the team appreciation event, intentional consideration backs every decision made.
“Whatever enCORE thinks of events or activities, we take into consideration what in-person team members can do and what virtual ones are limited to,” explained Kevin Mailangkay, associate accounting manager and president of enCORE. “That’s an important part of the process for determining what kind of fundraisers or events are going to work.”
Of course, this thinking isn’t limited to a specific ERG. It’s a policy championed by every level, from leadership down to new employees. The key to people-first culture and a sense of community lies in the details, and at CDM, there’s just as much importance placed on a vendor from the local community as there is on the employee transitioning to hybrid work for the first time. Employees don’t need to take the core values at their word — they live it every day.
A Core Part of the Community
One memorable community event for Mailangkay is the SantaCAN, an annual Christmas toy drive that enCORE organizes with the Children’s Action Network. Every year, CAN puts together a wish list of presents for the foster youth in Los Angeles, and the Core team works with them to acquire the gifts.
“For the past few years, we set a goal for ourselves,” said Mailangkay. “And we’ve consistently gone past that goal.”
For its most recent event, Mailangkay recalls clearly the moment CAN came to him with stunning news: the company purchased 85 gifts for the kids. But as much as the results struck Mailangkay as memorable, it was the company-wide sentiment leading up to it that made the biggest impact.
“Close to the end, I could tell people were invested,” said Mailangkay. “There were concerns whether we would reach the goal that year — a sense of involvement and eagerness.”
For employees, many of these team-building experiences have gone on to define what it means to work at CDM. More than just a perk, the team champions acts of community service as a cause for aspiration and celebration.
“These events help our team members get a sense of how the company commits to serving its communities,” said Mazzaferro.
Amplified Voices, Individual Power
Piña clearly remembers his first impression of Core’s people-centered culture.
“My supervisor told me that his expectation was for me to always fully be myself,” he recounted. “That is why I was hired.”
That single line valuing individual differences would go on to shape Core’s DEI presence, inspiring Piña to develop programming that emphasized greater visibility for underrepresented groups. Those simple words of affirmation also served to unearth ERGs from their respective siloes and integrate them within the company at large. Team member resource groups, as they’re called today, would not exist without Core’s dedication to empowering individual action.
A Toast to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Letting people thrive in how they work best led to the company’s first cultural Sip N’ Share last June, where a drag queen came in to speak about their experience as a drag queen of color on national television. The event was a hit for employees, and a crowning example of the safe spaces that Core’s team member resource groups aim to create.
To back up their commitments, Core puts its leadership style where its values are: The senior team always has a direct line of communication to the company’s resource groups. This was most evident during a recent shift to hybrid work, despite Covid-19’s continued presence. The ROC group collected questions about the shift from team members, which led to a two-hour town hall meeting with the entire leadership team to address relevant concerns.
“We’re not only providing a space for being and belonging with our employee groups,” Piña said. “Our senior team is listening very closely.”
Fostering Internal Pride for Core Values
Outside of cultural events and company team-building, ROC makes sure that employees are also adequately highlighted for their work.
In her previous job, Mazzaferro worked on organic social media for brands. She wanted to leverage that knowledge to put a creative spin on her current role running paid ads for Core. Not only was she given immediate permission, her success enabled her new full-time role and a team built out to support the project.
“It’s an incredible feeling that Core supports people’s more outlandish ideas,” she said. “It helps you break the status quo.”
Through culture-building, employees come away with pride not just in their work, but where they create it. After all, there are plenty of opportunities for such feelings to surface: a local-themed rooftop party, an annual toy drive or even just seeing leadership take tangible action taken to address employee feedback.
“In the short term, we create events that foster the culture,” said Mazzaferro of the people-based mission. “Over the long term, those values are preserved and maintained for employees to come.”