"I love working at Katapult." That's a sentence I have said over and over since I started on May 8th, 2017. After years of college and months of searching, I was starting my career. I didn't know much about the team, except that everyone was pretty laid back and survived mostly on pizza, Mountain Dew, and an insane game (it's actually a bit more of a fight to the death) called Jungle Pong. We got paid to take pictures of poles and then to click on them a bunch. The Code Team shared an office in the far corner of the building and worked their magic, silently, in the darkness. Nearly two and a half years later, a lot has changed—and not just because the Coders put sensors on the bathroom doors so that we can see which bathrooms are available using a web app.
Our staff has grown by about 30%, and we've added new teams that align with our long-term goals regarding flexible housing and disaster relief. Each team works toward independent goals that have an impact on the company as a whole. Instead of ice cream, chips, and Swedish Fish, we snack from a salad bar stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts. We're renovating a house next door to our makerspace and building a tiny house in the garage bay that will be partially funded (and owned) by Katapult employees. Our internship program is providing us a pipeline of enormously talented young men and women, and our software is supporting more and more clients and markets across North America.
The one thing that hasn't changed, however, is the focus on culture and purpose beyond profit. From my first day at Katapult HQ, it was clear that culture is more than just a few core values hung on a poster in the conference room or some mandatory ethics survey to win a corporate award.
If you're reading this on LinkedIn, you probably will notice a dozen other articles or comments every day about the importance of culture and how well this or that company promotes "work-life balance," or let employees work from home. These stories are certainly uplifting, and employers in the US know now more than ever how important it is to treat their employees right and how to use culture and flexible benefits as a competitive advantage. My concern, however, is that some companies use "culture" for PR or as a talking point. In the same rooms where "core values" hang on the walls, ethics are regularly ignored, and the workplace atmosphere is toxic.
Though it can be tough to determine just how serious a company is about their culture and values, here are a few basic topics and questions to get started:
Transparency - Is management open and honest about the direction of the company and the plan to meet objectives? Are you and your coworkers treated respectfully when you ask questions or admit you don't understand?
Pushback - Are employees encouraged to push back against decisions that don't align with company values? Does management rebuke behavior that is damaging to culture? Does HR hire based on culture and core values?
Celebration - Does management celebrate the things that make your team unique? Are core values honored in day-to-day operations? Are employees encouraged for going above and beyond? Is there an incentive to make culture and value-aligned decisions? The consequences of unhealthy company culture are numerous and very serious; productivity isn't the only thing that suffers in an unhealthy work environment—most employees will become stressed and unhappy outside of work, too. Wellness (and a lack thereof) has a compounding and relational effect, which means that unhappy employees can lead to unhappy clients, communities, and shareholders. While anyone can say their company has a great culture, it takes uncommonly compassionate and motivated leaders to actually create healthy culture.
If there are two things for certain, the first is that things are going to continue to change here at Katapult Engineering. The second is that no matter what happens, a healthy culture will continue to be a top priority and one of our biggest competitive advantages. Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.