As 2019 comes to a close, so does our Culture Collective series. For our last installation of this blog series, we sat down with Stephanie Ryter. A graduate of Loyola University in Chicago, Stephanie has worked to grow and change team cultures for the last four years. She now works as the Creative Culture Leader at Arity. She says her management style is, “Connect first, then lead.” To read more about Stephanie, her role at Arity and their company culture, read more below.
What are three words you would use to describe your workplace culture and why?
Arity’s culture is about being yourself in the office. We have a great community; we recognize who you are as an individual; and how we work effectively as a team. This is all supported by a great office environment. At Arity, we’re very intentional about culture, and we’re lucky to have a team specifically dedicated to culture. We’re not HR. We are Arity’s Creative Culture Team, and we’re focused on making Arity the best place to work by creating great employee experiences.
What is your office superpower?
My superpower is that I can feel the energy of the room and the energy of the people in a room. One of the things I facilitate is Insights Discovery training. The purpose of these is to help people understand themselves better as individuals and leaders. When our employees can truly understand themselves, the potential of business can flourish. These trainings are fun for me! I love seeing people take what they learn in these trainings and apply it to their everyday lives – both in and out of the workplace.
Why is company culture important?
Our president, Gary Hallgren, often refers to culture as the side effects of the place you work. So we often ask ourselves, “If there’s a pill we’re asking our employees to take, would we take it ourselves? Is it a good side effect? Is it a bad side effect?” We want it to be a good side effect.
When anyone walks into our office, yes, we want them to think it looks cool and collaborative, but what we really want is for people to feel that they can be themselves. Whether you’re a customer, an employee, or a future recruit, we want you to feel like it’s your home and that you are a part of something bigger than just yourself – you are empowered to do the right things to help achieve our goals.
What does your team normally do for lunch?
Often we eat our lunch during meetings or at our desks, however, a couple times a month we have something called “Lunch and Learns” in which we provide a catered lunch that is available to the entire office and in return ask employees to stay for a presentation that is educational. Sometimes it’s a team presentation their latest work or it may be an outside speaker teaching the company about a new skill or best practices to achieve personal or professional success.
What are ways your company brings your team together?
Our culture team has a single mandate: give Arity employees the best experience possible. This focus really helps us create a compelling employee experience that lays the foundation for our team to drive business results. Community is at the core of our culture, and a lot of the programs we build focus on that.
The Creative Culture team looks at ourselves as “people product managers.” Our customers are our employees, and the products are the things we create in our community based on the feedback received. We host charity events; we have research groups; we have a group called The Green Team that’s interested in saving our environment; and we have things like MART sports, which is how we bring people together through physical activity. There’s a lot of different ways that we bring people together, but it’s all based on feedback. It’s listening to what our employees need and want and then giving them exactly that.
If you could propose an idea to positively impact any company’s culture, what would it be and why?
I think the biggest thing is to just listen – listen to what employees have to say and then be authentic. I believe that if you can be your true self and are intentional with what you’re trying to do, people will gravitate towards that. They feel heard and validated. We are always actively seeking feedback from our employees. A lot of things we create are based on employee feedback and things they said they wanted to see.
People think culture is about fun benefits, but it’s more than that. Benefits are the standard expectations that other companies need to meet to be competitive, but truly allowing our employees to be heard and be their authentic selves in and out of the workplace — that to me is probably the biggest foundation for culture. No matter what level you are, or skill set you bring to the table, it’s about wanting everybody to be comfortable in the space.