Five years ago, we set out to make amazing immersive VR training experiences for our clients, but we knew even back then that we had to first create a place designed to foster that greatness – where talented individuals were empowered to do their best work with very little standing in their way. We’re proud of the Timmy Award for Best Tech Work Culture in Atlanta we just won and what it says about our company. We’re even prouder of our team members and what we collectively accomplish each and every day on behalf of our clients.
Those achievements are proof enough of the difference a well-considered company culture makes. But how did we get there? We believe there are five keys to creating an award-winning culture in any organization.
Make deliberate decisions. Culture is one of the most important elements of our company, if not the most important. When we were just four people working together, we were the culture of Foundry 45. But as a company grows, you can either create the culture you want, or others will create it for you – and you might not like the result. Being mindful of the type of culture you want to build, and then making decisions and taking action to develop it, is key.
Keep it simple. Our culture has largely been built on three words: Use Good Judgment. Foundry 45 is a very flat, egalitarian organization. If someone works hard and makes good decisions, we’ll give them as much responsibility as they’ve proven they can handle. We also believe that the team is greater than any individual and our client partners are more important than our company. We want everyone to be fulfilled and meet their personal goals, but at the same time our collective professional goals need the same support. And we wouldn’t be where we are today without our client partners. We want to build great relationships with them and have them keep coming back for more.
Other than that, we have eight basic principles that govern the way we manage the company: excellence, individual initiative, candor, believe, hate to lose, protect the team, create fun and love the challenge.
Reinforce and reward what is valuable to the company. An organization has to put its principles into action for them to have meaning and impact. If you say you’re interested in excellence, you need to promote learning and you need to measure performance to determine how people are rewarded and how fast they can grow. Our team has an amazing range of knowledge and experience, and we provide the kind of workplace where everyone can learn from each other to become better programmers, artists, managers, and marketers. It’s impossible to develop a company culture if your words and actions aren’t aligned.
Our employee handbook is a good reflection of our culture, particularly the “create fun” part of it. It’s professional, but we’ve embraced humor and made it playful. The video we created for the Timmy Awards is another example of how we approach our work. We talk about embracing our inner geek – we lean into that rather than trying to be super-corporate. We really do believe that people perform their best when they’re having fun.
Focus on people – both inside and outside your organization. Everyone says that a company is only as good as the people who work there, but like many clichés, they say it because it’s true. We believe that success begins with satisfied employees. We’re very mindful of our hiring process, and we want those who work for us to stay and to grow. We look for the best and the brightest, and talented people are more attracted to a company with a great culture.
For today’s employees, an important part of a great culture is giving back to others. We don’t just want our employees and our company to advance; we’re passionate about helping to bring other people up, too. Our focus is on non-profit organizations that promote education and empower today’s youth through technology. One of the Atlanta-area groups we contribute to is Next Generation Men & Women, which helps students attending Title I schools gain exposure to career pathways, professionals, work environments and mentors. Connecting with and mentoring young people makes us feel good, and it’s good for our business, too.
Always be open to discussion and change. This is another instance when it’s important to walk the talk. If you say one of your values is candor, you need to give employees the chance to speak up and provide feedback. Our workforce skews towards the younger side, and we try to stay in touch with people and ask them what’s important, both formally and informally. We did an employee survey about a year ago, and what we found out was very valuable. One of the things people wanted were regular opportunities for feedback about their performance – periodic check-ins and one-on-ones, not just yearly or semiannual reviews – so we started those.
We also try to be sensitive to the current environment and change how we do things when necessary. Like many other workplaces, we’re mostly working offsite due to the coronavirus. For team safety, we sent people home before other companies did and before we were mandated to do so. As a matter of fact, we’ve turned into a remote-first company based on employee feedback, and we’re implementing policies to continue to make that experience better for the team. Because quarantine and isolation can be hard on people, we talk about mental health all the time now, and that’s a subject that has long been off-limits at many companies. We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on those conversations. People appreciate it.
Foundry 45 is one of the busiest immersive VR technology groups in the country, and we’re expecting to get even busier. An enjoyable workplace – one where everyone finds support, laughter, learning and camaraderie – is critical to that growth. That’s why company culture will always be of the utmost importance to us.