Powderkeg Tech Culture Awards Spotlight

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(photo courtesy of Nathan Lucas/Cusp Photography) (photo courtesy of Nathan Lucas/Cusp Photography)

Indianapolis-based tech networking platform Powderkeg will present the inaugural Indiana Breakout Tech Culture Awards in September. In June, 50 Hoosier tech companies were named finalists for the awards, which include categories such as Overall Culture, Emerging Culture and Social Impact. This week, we spotlight five more finalists who talk about what culture means to their companies.

We asked representatives from each tech company a series of questions about company culture:

Boardable (Indianapolis) - Jeb Banner, CEO

Why is culture important to your company? 

Culture is half of our "why" for why people work here. The other half is our mission to help nonprofits build better board experiences. Our culture informs how the team feels when they get up in the morning and get ready to come to work- are they energized and excited or dreading another day? Fostering and protecting our culture is one of my most important jobs as the CEO. Culture informs everything we do- how we build our product, how we market, sell and deliver services, etc. Our culture brings energy and life to all areas of the company. But at the same time it isn't something that can be really captured or defined as much as felt and experienced. It's ephemeral and fragile- a mosaic of everyone involved in the business, past, and present. Fostering a healthy culture is as much art as science. 

What is your most creative culture initiative?

As a young company we don't have a lot of cultural "initiatives" at this point. We are focused on growth and winning. At my previous business, SmallBox, we had so many cultural initiatives that we lost track of winning. In my opinion, the most important ingredient for a healthy culture is winning. A team winning team is, generally, a healthy team. It's a bit chicken and egg but with our focus on hitting numbers and growth we haven't taken a lot of time for initiatives but I see them beginning to build organically as we go- celebratory lunches and parties for instance. As we mature I'm sure this is an area that will come along as well. 

But if we dip into benefits I would say that our Work From Home Tuesdays and our Freedom Policy (unlimited time off, not PTO tracking) is fairly creative if increasingly standard at tech companies. I look to hire adults and treat them as such. I don't want to micromanage their hours or calendars. So if someone isn't ready for that level of freedom then they aren't a good fit for us.  

How does culture fit into your talent recruitment and retention efforts?

The benefits I mentioned above are certainly attractive. But I think the reason people want to work at Boardable is that they like the team and they love the mission. So for people that are very ambitious but don't want a corporate job with all the hangups, while doing seriously good work for nonprofits around the world, then we are an attractive option. And we are fairly laid-back, fun loving group of competitive over-achievers.


PERQ (Indianapolis) - Andy Medley, co-founder and CEO

Why is culture important to your company? 

A great culture is a huge asset for accomplishing your mission. At PERQ, we have a culture of healthy competition where we’re working together to achieve our goals. When we’re at the top of our game, we’re celebrating our success and when we’re falling behind, we know how to inspire and motivate each other to get back in the game. 

What is your most creative culture initiative?

We have a few, but for this question let’s focus on The Game of PERQ! It was an employee built game to foster engagement, competition and recognition all tied to our core values. Employees earn spaces on the game board by being a community volunteer, meeting a professional goal or a team goal, getting nominated by a co-worker, receiving a glowing email from a client and more. Employees who complete the game earn an extra day off and get entered into a grand prize drawing at the end of the year.

How does culture fit into your talent recruitment and retention efforts?

We are always striving to hire smart, talented people who embody our core values and help grow our culture. One easy way we are able to do this is through our building. It was designed to embody our culture. During a tour, potential candidates can get a ‘feel’ for who we are in a unique way.Secondly, we include a ‘culture round’ in hiring where individuals who would be working with the candidate vet for culture fit. This also gives the candidate an opportunity to meet who they would be sitting next to. It’s beneficial for both sides. 


Element Three (Indianapolis) - Tiffany Sauder, President

Why is culture important to your company? 

Culture is the word we use for internal brand. It's the norms, behaviors and beliefs that guide us to show up in a way where we can perform and align inside the objectives we're focused on as a business. It provides a guide for how we behave and what we expect from one another. The best cultures are modeled by leadership and inspire the people who are running with them.  

What is your most creative culture initiative?

We take on-boarding people to our company very seriously - and we make it fun. On your first day, you're welcomed with a big box on your desk that says 'Welcome to the Herd'. We quickly download you on inside jokes, places to eat and who your new colleagues are. We give you new adventures to go on each week, help you understand the history of our company and the significance of our mascot - the Elephant. While it's very fun, we've designed the process to help people quickly assimilate and make sure we shorten the window of 'awkward' for our new colleagues. 

How does culture fit into your talent recruitment and retention efforts?

We have a clear list of defined "Permission to Play" values that we take into our interview process. This list serves as a way to help us define the 'bar' people have to demonstrate to even make it into the selection set for us. Having this defined allows us to make this empirical across all roles and not specific to the hiring manager's preference.


enVista (Carmel) - Stephanie Newell, Human Capital Director

(photo courtesy of Nathan Lucas/Cusp Photography)

Why is culture important to your company? 

Our culture was born from 10 Guiding Principle statements written by our founders upon inception.  We believe that when our associates execute their commitments and build relationships, in the manner described in our Guiding Principles, it improves our organization’s performance and provides a strategic advantage that has fueled our organization’s growth. 

What is your most creative culture initiative?

Sabbatical at 7 years of service.    We work at a fast pace at enVista and are fully aware that to perform sustainably at peak levels, we need to encourage ample recovery time for our associates.  With that in mind, we created a Sabbatical program that invites associates to take a 3-week long paid break from work upon completion of 7 years of service. This program is in addition to our generous paid time off, which allows associates to take as much time off as they want as long as they are meeting deadlines and commitments for the business.  In exchange for the Sabbatical benefit, we ask that associates share how they elected to spend their time away, what they learned and what advice they have for others preparing for their own Sabbatical. By highlighting others’ Sabbaticals, we communicate that this benefit is an important part of the way we approach our work.   

How does culture fit into your talent recruitment and retention efforts?

We prioritize cultural fit over skills or experiences in our recruitment process, because we know we can train right-fit associates on the latter, but we can’t instill passion for results and drive to make an impact.  We train our interviewers to look for a pattern of overcoming obstacles, rising to the challenge, and achieving more than their peers.


PactSafe (Indianapolis) - Brian Powers, CEO

Why is culture important to your company?

A core pillar of our culture is trust - it permeates ever aspect of our company.   A team member who carries the trust of the team can be empowered very early on with a high level of discretion and flexibility on how and when they perform.  That flexibility and discretion is what's allowed us to move fast, innovate, and create a entirely new business category. It is also reflected in the trust we've earned from our customers, very few of whom ever leave.

What is your most creative culture initiative?

We have an initiative called "Work Someplace Awesome" that encourages people to work remotely someplace that is actually awesome.  We reimburse their travel expenses, and people have used it to work remotely and extend vacations from places like Seattle, Denver, Paraguay and Costa Rica. That's our way of saying "we trust you to work flexibly, on your terms...now go do it someplace awesome."

How does culture fit into your talent recruitment and retention efforts?

Culture works both ways...we are looking for candidates that are cultural fits. That means they look for people who can start day 1 with a presumption of trust, and as additional trust is built, opportunities for advancement and growth are there.

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