Tech company culture varies across organizations, and can range from fast-paced and highly competitive to team-based and highly collaborative. However, at its best, culture is based on the values that allow an organization to deliver results and the organizational habits that put those values to work. Company culture cannot exist in a vacuum; it has to be constructed based on the way your employees currently work, while also inspiring them to continue to build on their success and improve their processes. This post provides actionable advice through the lens of company culture at Sentient Digital, Inc., a technology solutions company serving government, military, and private sector clients, including insights from key stakeholders.
Background on Company Culture
The term “company culture” comes up a lot, but what does it really mean? Company culture can be defined as the combined attitudes, ideals, and attributes of an organization. Understanding company culture as a concept is one thing, but creating it is another.
Constructing Company Culture: Assess, Plan, Implement, Reinforce
You can take a deliberate approach to creating an effective company culture with four steps: Assess, Plan, Implement, and Reinforce. Creating the ideal tech company culture starts with assessing your current company culture. You can do this through a combination of data sources, including interviews with team leaders, employee surveys, and customer reviews. This data should show you where your company culture is and where stakeholders at different levels want it to be. You can then refine it into a plan to bridge that gap to reach your goals. Write this plan as a statement of who you are, rather than something to which employees should aspire. Next, implement this plan by presenting the statement of your culture, providing training specific to everyone’s role to ensure that they understand how company culture impacts their daily operations, and soliciting feedback during and after the implementation process. Truly listening to this feedback is critical to maintaining an effective framework for your organizational culture. Finally, continually reinforce your culture through recognizing when employees embody its values.
The Hedgehog Approach To Culture
Author Jim Collins’ hedgehog concept holds that for an organization to reach greatness, it must avoid spreading itself too thin and, instead, focus on “one big thing.” This singular focus should be an area in which a company can realistically become the best, as distinct from areas in which it cannot. For Sentient Digital, our “one big thing” is the delivery of excellent technology solutions that fit our clients’ needs. Therefore, we have worked to create our culture to support that focus.
According to Collins, many leaders “spend nowhere near enough time trying to align their organizations with the values and visions already in place,” so we made sure to carefully articulate our values and ensure that our organizational habits aligned with them to create our culture. We also ensure that we regularly evaluate our processes and procedures to maintain this alignment. A case study may help to illustrate how to build an effective company culture using this method.
Tech Company Culture Case Study: Sentient Digital Inc.
As a case study to help you learn about building company culture, consider that Sentient Digital’s company culture reflects our organizational values. We have expressed these values as our C.R.E.E.D.: Caring for each other, Resilient in our work, Eagerness to learn, Energetic in our approach, and Dedication in all that we do. Our values start with “Caring for each other” because we put people first. Next, there is the value of “Resilient in our work,” which means that when we encounter obstacles, we don’t give up; when we face challenges, we overcome them by devising innovative solutions. “Eagerness to learn” guides everything that we do, because the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in our field change rapidly. This value also encompasses that we analyze the results of our efforts and look for ways to continue to optimize our processes. Finally, “Dedication in all that we do” means that this is much more than a job to us; we are passionate professionals giving our best at all times.
After assessing Sentient Digital’s values and articulating them as our C.R.E.E.D., we turned to our organizational habits. Our relevant organizational habits are: Excellence in delivery, Think beyond the box, Promote team building, Question to ensure understanding, and Transparency in communications. To clarify, these habits mean that we place delivering excellence at the top of our list of objectives. We create innovative technology solutions by thinking not just outside of the box, but beyond it. We promote team building by soliciting feedback from employees, showing that the needs of stakeholders at all levels of the company are valued, as well as having team leaders who get into the weeds and do what needs to be done to support their team. When we question to ensure understanding, that means that we make sure we truly understand the needs of our clients and all of the details of their expectations. The value of transparency in communications manifests in both our internal and external communications. The transparency in our internal communications ensures that everyone working on a project stays on the same page and that when changes are made at the organizational level, everyone understands why and feels that their voice has been heard. In our external communications, our transparency allows our clients and third party partners to understand how we work, the status of the project, and how we are meeting their needs.
Once we had articulated our values and put our organizational habits into words, the next step was to combine our values with our organizational habits to put our culture into action. The combination resulted in a culture that is rewarding, demonstrates our commitment to quality, embodies the entrepreneurial spirit, values innovation, and keeps us inspired on a daily basis. This commitment to quality can also be seen in our quality culture, the manner in which we deliver results for our clients.
What Sentient Digital’s People Have to Say About Our Company Culture
Tech company culture is only as valuable as it is to the employees who live it every day at work. In order to help our employees embody our culture and also help to shape it, Sentient Digital makes sure to solicit frequent feedback from its employees in different roles. Kathy Hinkle, Sentient Digital’s Talent Acquisition Manager, had this to say about Sentient Digital’s culture:
“In order to retain employees, prioritizing company culture is at the top of the list. Employees are relying on technology in the workplace more than ever. Therefore, it is important to help employees stay connected. Sentient Digital continually evaluates where we are and what opportunities we have for growth in this area. Town hall meetings, weekly team meetings, one-on-ones, lunches, happy hours, a strong intranet, acknowledgement of birthdays, work anniversaries, and so on all make for a more positive work environment.”
Multiple lines of communication characterize our company culture, as Hinkle points out. We not only ask for employee feedback, but we have meetings where we discuss company initiatives and let employees see the impact of their input. Culture at SDi also involves celebrating our employees’ successes such as work anniversaries and birthdays, showing that we care about our employees as people.
Hinkle’s statement also emphasizes the critical role that company culture plays in employee retention. One study indicated that components of your culture involving support and achievement may have a positive impact on employee retention. Sentient Digital’s company culture embodies these two aspects as we focus on helping our employees develop to advance their careers and provide the best results for our clients.
Sentient Digital’s culture carries through to its sonar systems engineering and digital signal processing-focused subsidiary, RDA. According to RDA’s General Manager and Director of Mission Software Solutions, Jon E. Dionne, “Sentient Digital’s culture is enumerated in its CREED: Caring, Resiliency, Eager, Energy, and Dedication. Each of these is critical, but it begins by caring…caring about each other, our customers, and our company. At Sentient Digital, we care, and the rest follows.” Dionne also emphasized the importance of employees in organizational culture, noting that, “Talented people and strong culture create a sustainable competitive advantage.” This is a major reason that when Sentient Digital reviews job candidates, qualities that fit with our culture, such as passion and being a team player, are highly valued.
Be a Part of Embodying and Shaping Tech Company Culture at Its Best at Sentient Digital
Sentient Digital’s organizational culture is built on a combination of our values and our organizational habits. These values and habits have been developed over time and the ongoing input of stakeholders at multiple levels, in support of our singular focus on excellence in technology solutions. If this culture sounds like the right fit for you, consider applying to work with us. View our open positions to see if we have a position that may fit your qualifications. You can learn more about working at Sentient Digital here.