Culture curators: How 3 Colorado companies make sure every voice matters

July 31, 2018

Organizations are fond of saying that employees at every level can make an impact. But what does this look like when put in action?

In Colorado, companies are making sure every employee has a hand in shaping company culture. From engaged culture committees to tossing out traditional job descriptions, local tech companies are taking an active approach to ensure that their employees voices are heard.

Here’s how:

 

Sovrn team
photo via sovrn

Sovrn understands the significance of great storytelling. The adtech company partners with independent publishers and connects them with the tools and analytics they need to help drive revenue and grow their audiences. Teri Keller, Sovrn’s vice president of people, told us about how employees have a role in defining the company values.

 

How do employees, at all levels, shape the company culture?

Culture is built one person at a time. Regardless of level or position, each employee adds a dynamic that shifts behaviors and habits within the team they are joining and this ultimately impacts the company. Here at Sovrn, we start early with a thorough onboarding process for new employees. On day one, employees begin to learn how they can be successful at Sovrn and the values we used to build our company. As employees get integrated into their role, they begin putting their own definition against these values. We all shape Sovrn.

 

When employees understand how their work directly impacts company goals, you have a community willing to do what it takes to move the company forward.”

What is the biggest factor separating the cultures of great companies from the rest?

When employees understand how their work directly impacts company goals, you have a community willing to do what it takes to move the company forward. This community has to be built on honest conversations with continuous feedback. Having the ability to address tough issues proactively allows cultures to learn from mistakes sooner and course correct. As long as employees are aligned with company goals, these small corrections bring cohesion to teams and allows for open communication. These two factors are what separates good leaders from others, and the same is true for an organization.

 

Salt Lending team
photo via salt lending

At Salt Lending, credit score isn’t everything. The company’s platform allows cryptocurrency owners to secure blockchain-backed loans by leveraging their crypto-assets. Salt Lending’s program content manager, Jeremiah Mora, filled us in on how actively working to break down invisible silos and has contributed to creating an environment where all opinions are heard.

 

How do employees, at all levels, shape the company culture?


At SALT we understand culture should be grown organically and not enforced. You cannot build culture; it’s who you are. SALT’s culture is driven by the employees who empower the organization through their own diverse interests and passions. We have created a culture committee to support the goal to break down invisible silos and build stronger teams. It’s comprised of nominated employees from various positions to represent the entire company. They have helped enable an environment where all opinions are welcomed, and mistakes are embraced in order to learn and grow from them as a team.

 

Great companies have a culture that fosters passionate people who complement and support one another to forge the pathway to success.”



What is the biggest factor separating the cultures of great companies from the rest?


Culture cannot be measured, but it will always be felt. Great companies have a culture that fosters passionate people who complement and support one another to forge the pathway to success. They dedicate resources to support their team’s amazing culture from inception. Too many companies stop at face value of what their team members bring to the table instead of looking deeper to find what truly drives them. Great companies build cohesive teams to solve challenging problems. They have leadership that will empower their team to let ideas flow freely and embrace diversity, both of people as well as ideas. They will encourage their employees to recognize that diversity and inclusion is part of their foundation, as opposed to other companies that retroactively acknowledge these qualities that create a thriving culture, community and company.

 

Maxwell team
photo via Maxwell

Maxwell wants to shake up the residential mortgage industry with a platform that connects homebuyers and real estate agents. Maxwell CEO John Paasonen explained how new team members keep the company culture evolving.


How do employees, at all levels, shape the company culture?

A company is like a living, breathing organism that evolves with each new team member. At Maxwell, it's not about hiring employees who “match” our culture; it's about finding new additions who amplify and extend our culture towards its next evolution. We believe that the first 20 to 30 employees in our organization set the tone for the culture, so careful candidate screening is critical. With that foundation in place, our culture is primed to evolve healthily as we focus more on nurturing our employees in heart, mind, body and spirit. Everything we do — from our “Gratitudes” Slack channel to our paid volunteer PTO days to our weekly “Wins/Gratitudes/In the Ditch” meetings — is designed to empower and appreciate our employees as we grow the company together.

 

At Maxwell, it’s not about hiring employees who match our culture; it’s about finding new additions who amplify and extend our culture towards its next evolution.”

What is the biggest factor separating the cultures of great companies from the rest?

The biggest common denominator that I've noticed in great companies is a commitment to empowering employees by giving them the freedom to determine their success. It's about rejecting a more traditional view of how a command-and-control workplace should function and trusting your employees to own their results. For example, at Maxwell, we don't have job descriptions. Each employee builds their own accountabilities sheet with their manager that notes the results they are accountable to deliver. It’s actually really difficult to do and the employee has to ask, “If I do my job well, what are the outcomes of my work?” This becomes the basis to evaluate their own performance. By allowing each individual to define what success means for them and for Maxwell, their personal fulfillment is more firmly tied to the success of the company and the drive to win on both fronts is intensified.

 

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