Powderkeg Tech Culture Awards Spotlight

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INDIANAPOLIS -

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:

ADVISA (Carmel) - Heather Haas, President

Why is culture important to your company? 

Culture is unique, like an organizational fingerprint, and it’s powerful like an invisible force. Our people were attracted to our culture when they decided to join the company, and it’s what people would say is the best part of working at ADVISA. Our culture is what causes people to love coming to work and put forth the discretionary effort. It’s also what motivates people to do the right thing even when that’s the hardest thing. It’s what inspires commitment and heroic efforts during times of change and adversity.

What is your most creative culture initiative?

The core values of our business are the pillars of our culture.  We hire for culture fit as much as we hire for cognitive, behavioral, and skill fit to the job. We also spotlight positive examples of our core values in our monthly all-company meetings and give a Team Player Award that is voted upon by employees. We hold employees accountable for exemplifying our core values in performance reviews and development planning conversations. Finally, leadership understands the role they play as “culture carriers.” That is, along with day-to-day demands, our leaders hold firm to living out our core values as an organization. We’re not perfect - but we’re clear about what’s important to us, we take personal accountability for our mistakes, and we demonstrate the leadership courage it takes to coach others along and up, or out of the organization when that is what’s best in the long run. 

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

Culture is a competitive advantage in this tight labor market. Smart, caring, hardworking people have lots of choices these days, and big companies have deeper recruiting pockets than we do. As a small, boutique consulting firm with big goals and aspirations, we need our culture to be magnetic – attracting people who will thrive in our environment and repelling those that won’t.  

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Atlas World Group (Evansville) - Joab Schultheis, VP and Chief Information Officer - Atlas Van Lines Inc.

Why is culture important to your company?

As an international company with Midwestern values, Atlas’ culture is centered around exceeding industry standards, providing a safe and pleasant work environment, and keeping its customers happy with exceptional quality and innovative technology tools. In addition, we remain focused on creating job stability in Evansville while consistently giving back to the community. Atlas is a global company that serves as a champion for its local community.

What is your most creative culture initiative?

Atlas has implemented paid volunteer time off (VTO) to support activities that enhance and serve the community in which we operate while also enriching the lives of our employees. All of our full-time employees are eligible for up to 16 hours of paid VTO per calendar year with any 501(c)(3) not-for-profit or other approved agency.

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

Atlas is committed to investing in the development and retention of the industry’s next generation. The widespread truck driver shortage is an obstacle the industry is currently facing, and where our culture is shining.

We recently implemented the largest and most extensive pay increase for our independent contractor owner operators in the truckload freight division, while also significantly increasing earnings for those in the special commodities division. In addition, we revisited owner operator expenses and implemented numerous policy changes to provide drivers thousands of dollars in cost savings. Together, these changes will save our owner operators nearly $10,000 annually.

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BlackInk IT (Indianapolis) - Doug Allgood, President and CEO

Why is culture important to your company? 

BlackInk IT recognizes that the cornerstone of our business is our people. In an IT service business, it is our culture that helps us achieve our goals of keeping our clients safe and productive. We have focused on building the BlackInk IT culture on a core set of values; taking ownership for results, showing ingenuity in solving complex problems, delivering excellence in all we do, being respectful by appreciating the value of diverse opinions and recognition that we work with people not objects, and having integrity in all aspects of our business.

Our clients often share with our management team that they so appreciate our people. They comment that our people show they genuinely care about them and their business.  Culture is what makes us valuable and differentiates the BlackInk IT managed services.

What is your most creative culture initiative?

We begin all our company meetings with what we call the “BlackInk IT Bravos” Bravos is a shout out to encourage and recognize an achievement for another employee. We recognize that we all need encouragement as it is easy to lose sight of what we achieved or accomplished. Spending time to recognize others with a “Bravo” is how we can show appreciation for each other and the team. Our Bravos have been designed with our BlackInk IT Octopus on the front and is a subtle reminder for how it takes many smart hands to achieve the work.

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

A few years ago we would on-board a new employee and within the first 60 to 120 days begin to ask who is this person. What we thought we saw in the interview is not the same person and we did not see them open to the BlackInk Way of service or their demonstration of caring for the client in the way they talk and respond to service requests. We recognized we had to change our process and methods for how we recruit talent. We begin to focus on “culture fit first” as we decided we can teach people skills, but we could not teach how to respond and act respectfully towards others. We changed our entire interview and recruitment effort to focuses on the person and their culture fit prior to seeking an understanding of their technical skills and competencies. We continue to take advantage of continuous improvement, but the change in focus on the person has yielded us being able to hire great people. It is much more fun to work alongside people who seek the same values and it makes for a place to work that can be rewarding. We can then work to continually train our people and give them opportunities for growth that we hope will enable us to keep our talent as part of the BlackInk IT team!

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Sigstr (Indianapolis) - Emily Wolfington, Director of Talent

Why is culture important to your company?

Culture, for us, is the living out of our core values at every level of our team. And our values and culture act as our compass in how we make business decisions for our company. How we respect our customers and employees, both prospective and current, is driven by the culture we have built and are building. It's the heartbeat of what we do and how we treat others. 

What is your most creative culture initiative?

Focus on the feels. Sigstr tries to stay in tune with how the team is feeling and cater initiatives to what is happening. To do check-ins with the team we do "Tough Cookie" conversations, we have a comment box, Q&A's at all company meetings, we utilize Slack, and our leadership works together to do consistent touch bases for personal and professional development. Based on what we learn and what topics surface, we do a variety of things to help cultivate culture.  Be it a team or department outing (for socializing, volunteering, team building) to encourage group discussions, having a Lunch & Learn on a topic to address a concern, organizing coffee chats between departments to build relationships, celebrating a national day, dogs in the office, city scavenger hunts, etc. to make sure we are being cognizant of morale and the feel in our office. 

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

Want to be clear that someone's background, or culture they come from, is not a factor in our recruitment process.  What is a part of our process is assessing how this potential hire will add to the environment, align to our core values, and help build our positive, inclusive culture for our company. We weave it into the questions we ask throughout the interview stages, and we encourage interview candidates to learn more about us to assess if it is the right fit for them through a more relaxed peer interview. From a retention standpoint, how we reward and recognize employees is also a piece of our core values (Celebrate Success, Stay Authentic, Signature Rule, and Believe Big).

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Woven (Indianapolis) - Wes Winham, Founder and CEO

Why is culture important to your company? 

In the market for software engineers, talent and potential are evenly distributed, but right now, opportunity isn't. Our team is on a mission to fix that, and our culture is the multiplier that allows us to make it happen. If we are going to change the hiring processes that have bred largely homogeneous engineering teams, we have to lead the way with best-in-class hiring processes and a best-in-class culture. Our team chooses difficult honesty over comforting fiction, and trusts one another to act in good faith to the best of their abilities, even if the outcome isn't what we want.

What is your most creative culture initiative?

The two most important aspects of our culture are trust and honest communication, and these principles are the bedrock of our three most attention-grabbing benefits: 100% remote work, 38 days of PTO, and eight weeks of paid parental leave.

In an industry where many early-stage startups survive due to late nights, long hours, and sacrificing a personal life, we've made the difficult decision to build our company differently. Studies have shown that, in order to achieve optimal performance, we need to unplug for at least two weeks at a time, which is why among our generous PTO policy, we have a strong recommendation that every employee takes one two-week long vacation every year. In 2018, one of our co-founders took eight weeks of paternity leave. In 2019, another one of our co-founders was able to spend a month in Vietnam on his honeymoon. Far too often, early-stage startups decide to push their teams too hard, too early, and they end up burning out the talented, passionate team members that took a shot on them in the early days. Bucking this trend is the hard decision, because it requires occasional short-term sacrifices, but it's the right decision for us. Once you start making decisions based on unsustainable management practices, you'll never find an excuse to stop. The easiest time to be the company you want to be is now.

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

When we're recruiting for our team, we focus on value-alignment instead of "cultural fit." The concept of cultural fit can sometimes be a shorthand for "looks like us." Our company is on a mission to reduce bias in software hiring, which makes that concept especially dangerous. We believe that culture should always be adapting and changing, but our values should remain consistent. That's why we send everyone who applies for a role on our team a list of our values. From there, we ask everyone the same set of behavioral interview questions related to those values in our interviews.

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