When you think of tech companies with great cultures, your mind probably jumps to the usual suspects — Google, Facebook, or some swanky new Silicon Valley startup. It’s easy to see why (whether it’s a mini-city of a campus or a small, tight-knit group looking to change the world together) these companies have a lot that makes them unique and appealing. But Atomic has a great culture too.
Keeping such a strong, awesome culture at a consultancy can be a challenge, though. Most Atoms are working on different projects for different client companies. On top of that, each company we work with is (to some degree) asserting its culture onto its associated Atoms. This is great in many ways, because it gives us perspective into different ways of doing things and can give us an influx of new ideas. But the challenging part is keeping our culture unified when we are all subjected to such a diverse range of environments.
So what do we do as Atoms to keep our identity and strong culture alive with each other? The answer is a lot of things.
Working at the Office
Atoms work from one of our three offices whenever possible. By working in the same space, even if we are with unrelated clients and projects, we enable our culture to exist and grow. I think this is the primary thing that separates us from butts-in-seats staff augmentation type consultants. By having our own space, we have the ability to form relationships, traditions, inside jokes, and everything else that comes with an office culture.
We make a conscious effort to do some group activities, both during and after hours. Every day, each of our offices does a group stand-up meeting. While this is a bit more formal, it’s a good way for everyone to stay connected to each other and share status updates.
Informal groups often congregate around the snack counter, and in the Detroit office we gather and play hacky sack a couple times a week. These light-hearted, more informal gatherings during the day help us bond and blow off stress.
We also do spin-downs in each of our offices once a month and quarterly meetings/dinners 4 times a year. These more relaxed, after-hours events bond all of us together outside of a work setting and help us bond and grow as friends.
Carl Erickson dreamed up Pair Lunches specifically to strengthen bonds between individuals in the company who might not otherwise have opportunities to spend time with each other. Pair lunches are great for becoming closer with a particular individual at the company. They also serve as a low-stress forum to discuss Atomic’s culture with another Atom. Indeed, some of the best ideas about ways to grow and evolve our culture at Atomic have come out of pair lunches, where two Atoms can easily brainstorm ways to make Atomic better.
Strong Cultures Grow from Strong Bonds
A common theme for all things we do to keep our culture strong is forming interpersonal bonds with each other. Bonds between people strike me as the key to having great culture. People with strong bonds have a vested interest in each other and are not afraid to ask tough questions or make hard changes when needed.
If everyone feels connected and vested in the goals and wellbeing of their coworkers, you create a company focused on improving itself and looking out for its employees — in short, a great place to work.
What does your company do to keep your culture strong and healthy?