What is the Key to Attracting Top Talent? 5 Local Leaders Weigh In

Leaders discuss how prioritizing innovation and empowerment boosts employees’ engagement and growth.

Written by Olivia McClure
Published on Jan. 25, 2023
What is the Key to Attracting Top Talent? 5 Local Leaders Weigh In
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Finding ways to attract top talent isn’t confined to the recruitment process. After all, the goal is bigger than just a signed employment contract; for new hires to feel empowered to do their best work, they need to believe they made the right decision in joining long after their first day — and that’s where culture comes in. 

Peer-to-peer recognition is a key element of a strong work environment, yet it doesn’t have to just involve sharing shoutouts during all-hands meetings. For instance, at NINJIO, team members have the chance to be acknowledged and reap the financial rewards of their hard work. 

COO Matt Lindley said the company’s employees can issue their teammate a “random cash bonus” as a way to commend their exceptional, values-driven accomplishments. Incentives such as these keep talented team members engaged and excited by the work they’re doing. 

And that’s a good thing, Lindley said, considering the organization offers employees plenty of chances to transform the organization — and themselves. “As a fast-growing company, we’re never lacking in challenges and opportunities,” he said. 

Yet creating an industry-leading workplace goes beyond giving employees space to accomplish cutting-edge work. That’s why the team at Credit Repair Cloud prioritizes authenticity and togetherness, which is something that Operations Manager Robert Cunningham cherishes about the company. 

“We utilize every opportunity to celebrate diversity and inclusion,” he said. “As a member of the LGBTQ community, it makes a big difference to not just feel tolerated or included but to actually be celebrated in the workplace.”

With a combination of strategy, innovation and empowerment, these companies and others across Los Angeles are cultivating cultures designed to catch the eye of the industry’s top talent. Built In LA caught up with Lindley, Cunningham and three other local leaders to learn how each organization encourages growth and community among employees. 

 

Steve Huber
Senior Product Manager I • MobilityWare

MobilityWare is the studio behind mobile gaming’s most popular Solitaire game, among others. With over 450 million downloads across its product portfolio, the Orange County-based publisher is dedicated to its mission of bringing joy to others, one game at a time. 

 

What are the key characteristics of a good team culture, and what are some ways you and your teammates bring those values to life?

A shared vision across the company is central to our culture. MobilityWare's mission is to “Bring joy to others one game at a time.” By starting with this as a North Star, it ties all of the different disciplines together to achieve joy for the players. Being able to all start from that shared understanding helps to guide the plan and move meetings along.

A major part of any team is the respect we have for each other's craft. Understanding who the members of the team are as people allows us to thrive and create cool stuff while not needing to crunch. Everyone has a different playstyle and perspective and respecting where people are coming from allows us to arrive at better ideas during the development process. Without a culture of mutual respect, it would be much harder to have open communication about both failures and successes that we’ve seen as we bring our vision to players.

Open communication and transparency ensure that the respect we've established becomes engrained in our company culture. Being open and honest about what we are seeing from our players (and the market) has led to amazing conversations about what we've done well and where there is room for improvement.

 

3 CULTURE-BUILDING TRADITIONS

Huber explained that MobilityWare celebrates success and builds camaraderie through these three traditions:

1. Yearly plaques: “After the launch of new games or ports, we create and give out pins and plaques to commemorate the various platform launches for everyone who worked on the title. It’s a really cool reminder of the work we’ve done.”

2. Team-building events: “We’ve had several team-building events that have ranged from a few people playing games together on zoom (Jackbox has been awesome over the pandemic), to virtual escape rooms and even Pecha Kucha-style presentations where we learn a lot about what other team members like to do outside of work.

I’ve really enjoyed some of the larger trivia events we’ve done where we get 35-plus team members playing for over an hour. I’m a big trivia buff so creating and customizing multiple rounds of trivia that can be done both virtually and in person has been a blast. I’m always looking to ideate fun trivia questions that will challenge my fellow team members."

3. Annual company trip: “This past year, we were able to resume our annual tradition of a company trip where every team member and a plus one is treated to an all-expenses-paid vacation. This year’s trip to Cabo was amazing as we got to enjoy some fun in the sun as a team.”

 

How do you ensure members of your team continue to feel challenged, engaged and excited by the work they're doing?

A lot of the communication around our upcoming plans definitely focuses on how they align with what people really enjoy working on — be it a new interesting piece of technology they’ve been wanting to play with, a cool new feature that will be seen by millions of our players or providing more team leadership experience on a project. Being able to align the team’s plans with each individual member’s skillset and what drives them helps us not just maintain a high level of engagement, but also tends to result in better and faster execution.

As everything changes (both plans and people), keeping a frequent dialogue going with everyone is really important to ensure that things constantly align. We do this through various one-on-one conversations, retrospective meetings, planning sessions and kickoffs as things arise.

 

 

Matt Lindley
COO • NINJIO

NINJIO helps individuals and organizations defend themselves against cyber criminals through the use of informative micro-learning videos.  

 

What are the key characteristics of a good team culture, and what are some ways you and your teammates bring those values to life?

Company culture will happen no matter what; it’s either ushered in with intentional outcomes or just happens organically. NINJIO has been successful in building a company culture consistent with transparency, integrity, trust, collaboration and challenging growth opportunities for employees. 

Our hiring process enables all team members — including those from within the hiring department and others on cross-functional teams — to participate in the interview and decision-making process for final-stage candidates. This allows for a comprehensive assessment across multiple perspectives to ultimately make the best choice. This also has intrinsic collaboration and trust-building value and provides a better onboarding experience for new team members. 

 

BONUS!

Lindley said team members can issue their peers a “random cash bonus” during the company’s all-hands recognition ceremonies. These financial rewards are intended for those whose work is considered above and beyond and ties back to the company’s values. 

 

How do you ensure members of your team continue to feel challenged, engaged and excited by the work they’re doing?

Each phase of our growth brings on new challenges and an opportunity for employees to step up and evolve both personally and professionally. I’m proud to say that a large portion of our leadership team has risen through the ranks through internal promotions. This shows that we’ve succeeded with our hiring process and have provided an environment filled with challenging yet rewarding opportunities. We also have a very low voluntary attrition rate among employees, suggesting the formula works well to keep staff engaged and excited.

 

 

Ariyan Kabir
CEO and Co-Founder • GrayMatter Robotics

GrayMatter Robotics develops AI-powered industrial robots in an effort to help companies easily and rapidly deploy automation for complex manufacturing operations. 

 

What are the key characteristics of a good team culture, and what are some ways you and your teammates bring those values to life?

Every company has a unique mission, and we believe an organization’s culture needs to create the best environment to empower the team to achieve that mission. At GrayMatter Robotics, people are at the core of what we do, from our customers to our team members. Our mission is to empower people and improve the quality of their lives. We focus on alleviating the tedious and challenging jobs for manufacturing workers with advanced technology. Our solutions enhance manufacturing workers' quality of life, increase productivity and help manufacturers gain a competitive edge. We’re solving deep technology problems in robotics and AI.

To achieve our mission, we embody a culture of customer obsession and a first-principle approach to problem-solving while embracing audacious goals. By putting our customers’ needs first and working backward to address specific problems, our team can feel confident knowing their work results in real-world, usable solutions with lasting impact.

 

NAVIGATE UNCHARTED TERRITORY

According to Kabir, the caliber of innovation taking place at the company is what keeps employees challenged and engaged. The company’s AI robotic solutions enable team members to directly interact with customers and provide them with a unique perspective on their issues. “The challenging technical problems we’re solving for our customers are exciting and attractive for anyone with a passion for people and a knack for navigating uncharted territory,” Kabir said. 

 

Does your team have any unique traditions to celebrate successes?

We believe in holding immediate celebrations for small and big wins, including individual contributions and team efforts. Our team members frequently go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure we’re accomplishing our targets and milestones. We celebrate remote employees’ wins through Slack and during our stand-up meetings. Also, one of our traditions is to celebrate the identification and fixing of complex bugs in our code, which we acknowledge with a picture of the line of code that resolved the issue.

 

 

Robert Cunningham
Operations Manager • Credit Repair Cloud

Credit Repair Cloud’s software is designed to help its users launch, maintain and scale their own credit repair businesses. 

 

What are the key characteristics of a good team culture, and what are some ways you and your teammates bring those values to life?

We let every team member know that we value transparency. After all, it’s one of our values,  and there are a few ways we reinforce this principle. For instance, we create concrete action plans around items that crop up during our quarterly employer net promoter score surveys. We also welcome open debates during our weekly, monthly and quarterly department meetings and encourage our leadership team to embrace candid feedback for improvement.

Besides that, we have systems for capturing incoming ideas from every level of the organization. Without guardrails, it’s easy for organizations to fall into a cycle of constant ideation lacking action. That’s why we developed a system to capture ideas as they come in and consider them for implementation only as we go into a new planning cycle each quarter. That process has helped us strike an effective balance that allows us to reinforce ideation with action.

 

ENCOURAGING AUTHENTICITY

Cunningham said it’s important for team members to feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work each day, which is why the team refuses to enforce a dress code and asks employees to share their pets on camera to acknowledge “Pet Tuesdays.” Cunningham added that team members can also join the company’s “break room” Slack channel, which allows them to discuss hobbies and life updates and engage in weekly prompts to share more about themselves. 

 

How do you ensure members of your team continue to feel challenged, engaged and excited by the work they’re doing?

In a word: measurement. We’ve established very clear objectives and key results for each role, which help us measure the level of challenge. If someone is consistently outperforming their results, we know we need to amp up the challenge level. 

We measure engagement in various ways. For example, we use the Kona app as a Slack integration to ensure we have a measurable daily pulse on how employees are doing. We also have weekly check-ins using 15Five to measure how people are feeling and use standard quarterly eNPS surveys, which allow us to gauge overall sentiment about our workplace. 

All tools aside, there’s no substitute for human connection and staying in step with each team member, which we accomplish through weekly one-on-one meetings. 

 

Does your team have any unique traditions to celebrate successes?

We love to celebrate our wins and each other. In addition to performance bonuses, we have a few other traditions, such as “Wins Wednesdays,” which encourage team members to share personal and professional wins. Additionally, we host a shared gratitude session every Thursday  in order to celebrate ways team members helped each other or areas where we had superior performance. We’re also big fans of the “high five” feature on 15Five, which helps us measure and track team members’ peer-to-peer recognition. 

 

 

Vic Tirta
Head of Engineering • Hoag

Hoag operates a healthcare system across Orange County that covers a wide range of wellness areas, including women’s health, orthopedics and cancer treatment. 

 

What are the key characteristics of a good team culture?

Good team cultures foster lean experimentation, promote honesty and transparency and encourage failing fast while learning from those experiences. Within these types of cultures, technology and process is driven by team members rather than being forced upon them, and individuals are trusted and empowered to do their best work.

 

BUILDING A BETTER WORKPLACE

Tirta offered several ways to keeping team members challenged, engaged and excited: 

1. Get buy-in on the “why”

2. Align business goals and opportunities with individual professional growth opportunities

3. Recognize and reward team members’ efforts

4. Promote creativity

5. Encourage individuals to take chances and calculated risks

6. Give people the opportunity to spearhead change

7. Make room for learning

 

What are some of your team’s favorite ways to celebrate successes?

We enjoy hosting celebration lunches and dinners, happy hours, in-office events during holidays, team offsites and team-building activities. 

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images courtesy of listed companies and Shutterstock.

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Artificial Intelligence • Cloud • Internet of Things • Machine Learning • Analytics • Industrial