cool culture

5 Factors That Make Identity a Cool Place to Work

By: Elizabeth Strzalka

Anyone who makes decisions at a business or organization understands a simple truth: culture doesn’t just happen. You can’t just wave your hands and wish it into existence. A strong and supportive culture, especially one befitting an award like Crain’s Detroit Business Cool Places to Work, takes time. It takes effort. And it takes a sustained and sincere commitment to doing what’s best for your team—not always your bottom line.

For an agency like ours that is enormously—and, I think, justifiably—proud of our culture and our community, the kind of recognition associated with the Cool Places to Work list is among the highest of professional honors. The near-unanimity from our team in responding to questions about the support they receive from leadership on everything from the way we support and facilitate their professional growth to the way we have responded to the COVID pandemic (reaching 100% agreement on several different topics) was particularly gratifying.

Being a Cool Place to Work requires the full commitment of a leadership team where everyone is deeply invested in creating a great environment for every employee. We work hard at the leadership level here at Identity to stay in tune with sentiment across the agency. We’re always reaching out to our team and actively soliciting feedback. But no matter how much you think you have your finger on the pulse, it’s still incredibly affirming and rewarding to see the concrete results and confirm that our team recognizes and appreciates the hard work we do to find the right benefits, programs, perks and professional priorities.

Here are five ways we cultivate gamelovers and keep our team motivated, inspired, fulfilled and supported:

Go Beyond Perks

On the surface, part of determining whether a company is a Cool Place to Work is low-hanging fruit—employee gatherings at the M1 Concourse and other social events. These events are fun and important, but for us, it runs much deeper.

Without naming names, there are some big tech companies out there that get a lot of publicity for the incredible list of “extras” they offer employees: on-site food and recreation options, nap rooms, that kind of thing. Beyond headlines, some of those companies are also well known for putting employees under an incredible amount of pressure. 

We don’t consider standard extras to be enough. We are actively seeking programs, perks and extras that don’t just sound good on paper but are genuinely impactful and appreciated.

Think Big

I love that we’re able to think differently and offer experiential moments for our team. A perfect example is the personal shopping experience at Nordstrom with the funds to pick out a dream Power Outfit with the help of a fashion consultant. We wanted to make everyone feel confident about their professional attire. 

When it comes to programs like that, our modest size is an asset. We have the independence and flexibility to offer creative extras that might not be feasible at bigger corporations. That said, we are always aspirational when it comes to designing employee benefits and evaluating potential perks. We look to much larger companies to inspire us. We might not have their resources, but we can often apply those ideas or modify those programs in ways that work for us.

Work Holistically

We also make a sincere effort to look at the employee experience holistically—and find ways to make a positive impact on every part of that experience. 

We focus very strongly on the benefits we offer. We don’t just want to offer “good” health insurance; we want to offer the top-tier options available. We want our employees and their families to be able to see the doctors they want to see and get the care they need. And when big life events happen (having a baby, for example), we want them to have the best possible experience. Not just the best medical care, but comprehensive support in terms of schedules, workloads and time off. 

It’s the same with marriages and other life milestones. We want people to have the freedom to take the time off they want and need to immerse themselves in those experiences and savor those milestone moments. That holistic, 360-degree view of what the full employee experience is like means that we reevaluate and reconsider our benefits package to make sure we are offering our employees what they need as their lives progress and priorities evolve. 

Make it Personal

We want our employees to develop to their fullest potential. Not just professionally, but personally. The old-school advice to “leave your personal life at the door” is outdated. We try to see our people as whole people. They won’t be truly happy—and we won’t get the best out of them—if we can’t find ways to let them be their whole selves by encouraging them to grow and develop personally. 

When talking with each employee about their successes over the past year, we specifically ask about personal successes as well as professional ones. Events and influences both good and bad happen all the time. It’s our responsibility to adapt and continue to support our team, helping them persevere and grow in whatever capacity they need to navigate those ups and downs.

Evolve and Adapt

When it comes to the employee experience, we know what’s right today might not be the best fit for our team tomorrow. We are continually evaluating and implementing new processes, programs, policies and perks. People change—and companies need to change, too. 

If nothing else, the past year and a half has reminded all of us of the value—and the necessity—of being flexible. What didn’t make sense for us a year-plus ago is now critical to how we do business and support our team. 

In other words, being a Cool Place to Work means never settling. Staying curious. Staying in touch. Staying open to new ideas and making sure that what you’re doing works for your people now and in the future. Those are the ideals we try to live up to. And the fact that it seems to be working for us? Well…it’s pretty cool.