While the value of company culture is sometimes hard to demonstrate, (it probably won’t pop-up on your annual report or appear on an ROI spreadsheet) it’s crucial to a company’s long-term sustainability. At FLIRT, we are proud to call Chicago our hometown, where deep-dish, jazz and now amazing company culture have become integral parts of what makes our city great.

imgresBeing in the business of corporate communication means pushing ourselves and our clients everyday to put the spreadsheets aside every once in a while and take a look at the people behind the brand. And thankfully, companies all over are adapting to the mantra that “culture is what creates a company”. Gone are the days of the cookie-cutter interview, where companies focus solely on past accomplishments and resume keywords, foregoing questions involving personal interests. And when we say culture, we don’t (only) mean a fully stocked beer fridge and ping-pong table privileges, we mean an environment of open, honest communication and a workforce of empowered, respected individuals. In our opinion that’s incredibly good news for employees and employers alike.

Each year Crain’s Chicago Magazine celebrates Chicago companies who have the best environment according to anonymous survey results direct from employees in their “Best Places to Work” article. After reading this years list, I decided to dig a little deeper and go straight to the source, asking a few of the winners a series of questions via Twinterviews (aka interviews over Twitter – catchy, right?)

Continue reading for an inside look at how these companies maintain their culture and keep employees motivated to come to work each day.

SWC Technology Partners is an award-winning provider of IT solutions to midsize organizations. For 35 years, SWC has excelled at delivering technology solutions that optimize productivity, strengthen customer relationships, enhance data sharing and drive profitability. SWC has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in 2012, 2013 and 2014, one of Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work for 6 years running and made the Inc. 500|5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S for the last 3 years. Clearly they’re doing something right.

SWC prides itself on the people in their work place. After asking a representative of the company what employees would say is the best part about their office they responded with “the people”; plain and simple. Hiring employees for them isn’t just about finding the best and brightest candidate but it is also about finding someone that truly exemplifies their corporate culture.  Their success is built on the fact that their employees are truly committed to the power of teamwork and the success of their clients, their company and each other. I am sure it can be a challenge at times to keep a large group of employees on the same page, but SWC makes it look easy. They take the time to elevate their culture to its highest standard. SWC sponsors elaborate company events, weekly happy hours, community service initiatives, wellness activities and mentorship programs.  But it is not just the happy hours that keep employees around; it is their challenging projects that change from day to day that help keep employees motivated in the office.

When asked to describe the company culture in 3 words, SWC chose: Passionate, Fun and Team-work. They are extremely passionate about what they do, they embrace the motto “work hard, play hard” and the people of the office love the team dynamic, enough so that most are friends outside of the office! You don’t believe me? Check out their celebration party for making Crain’s Top 10 List here.

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Sprout Social is a social media management platform designed to help businesses extract real value out of social. They believe the world is a better place when people and businesses communicate freely. To get the business started, back in 2010, their four co-founders set out to build a tool that gets out of the way and enables those conversations to happen. Five years and 150 employees later, they are truly proud of the product and company they have become.

“Culture wasn’t created through forced fun or an executive meeting – thereby making it truly authentic and strong.”

Organic. Tight-knit and scrappy. Sprout Social has a firm belief in their organic growth of culture. They seem to have put a different spin on the idea of culture and it works perfectly for them. The people in their office genuinely enjoy hanging out with one another which ultimately makes them a tight-knit group and the mentality breeds a culture and team willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish their company goals – making them scrappy. These are words that I may not have thought of immediately when describing a company, but Sprout has described an inspiring workplace; no wonder they are one of the best!

I’m sure you are also curious as to what kind of culture building activities they engage in, besides their organic growth, but they don’t have to do much to keep culture alive! “The free food, games and media room are all great but if we didn’t have amazing people working toward a common goal, it wouldn’t be near as fulfilling.” However, the team loves to get together every day during lunch and enjoy the company of one another. They take what they coined as, “Sproutings”, which are simply ad hoc outings and All-Hands meetings where they have the opportunity to come together, discuss the business and celebrate successes! Read more about Sprout Social and their organic culture on their website found here.

Smart, Innovative and Fun are the three words DMC Inc. used to describe their company. Their employees are bright, they take steps toward greater innovation each day, and well they do whatever it takes to increase employee engagement, of course that’s fun! DMC Inc. specializes in designing and implementing custom software and hardware solutions for industries locally and nationwide. From expertise in manufacturing automation and test and measurement automation to guidance in Microsoft Office applications, their engineers and consultants have a knack for visualizing and delivering quality resolutions for even the most unique problems.

How do they balance the genius work that they do with keeping employees happy? It is actually one of their main goals as a company. Their recruiting standards are set pretty high, in terms of hiring the most qualified candidates and then DMC Inc. does their best to make sure each and every employee feels welcome and like part of the team right from the start. They have implemented a mentor program that places a senior employee with a brand new hire so that the new employee always feels like they have someone that they can go to.

“Giving our employees the autonomy to feel empowered to act on their own judgment is also a key component to our office structure. We are always learning from one another and helping one another, but we also want every employee to feel entitled to make decisions right off the bat.”

DMC, Inc. takes their office experience to a new level. Employees are focused on engaging with each other and the pool and ping pong tables that are open for them to use at any time, make it pretty simple. Another motivator is their activity fund that they can use on welcome lunches, sports clubs, happy hours, fully stocked kitchens, bike rides and ski trips…yes ski trips. Everyone at DMC is extremely diligent and dedicated to their work, so they have the time to spend time with each other, have fun and keep the innovation running! Let’s be real, if “have fun” is on part of your company’s core values, you have found a pretty solid place to work. Check out the rest of their values on their website here.

These companies have made it apparent that culture has a wide range of meanings when it comes to the work place. Sure, photohaving weekly outings with co-workers brings you closer as a team, but also, sharing the same values and goals for the company is how you truly emulate a strong company culture and therefore, thrive as a business. Here at FLIRT, we have the same values; our team makes us who were are! But having fro-yo delivered to the office every Friday isn’t totally terrible either…