Sweet Fish Is a Great Place to Work (Really, We Can Prove It)

Emily Kingland
August 31, 2021
Sweet Fish Is a Great Place to Work (Really, We Can Prove It)

It’s always nice to get a little third-party validation.

Back in May of this year, Sweet Fish was certified as a Great Place to Work by . . . well, Great Place to Work.

It doesn’t mean we don’t have problems (we do) or that everyone’s experience is universally amazing (it’s not), but it does mean that overall, we’re doing a lot of things right.

One of the things I love about the certification process is that you receive interesting data about where your company culture is strongest and weakest.

Here’s a brief summary of where Sweet Fish team members rated the company highest (and lowest).

Sweet Fish’s Cultural Strengths💪

One hundred percent of our team members replied “often true” or “almost always true” to the following statements.

This is a physically safe place to work.

As a fully remote company, something would be very wrong if we didn’t ace this one.

People here are treated fairly regardless of their race.

Boy, that sure was nice to see. We shared a Diversity & Inclusion blueprint with our team early last year, and I hope this means we put our money where our mouth is.

When you join the company, you are made to feel welcome.

Starting at Sweet Fish is a big deal, and we do a lot to celebrate people. Before your first day, you receive a few goodies in the mail. On your first day, you join a Kickoff Call with your manager where you talk through how you like to receive feedback, what makes you feel appreciated at work, any concerns you have about your new role, and more.

Then we have you record a video introducing yourself to your new teammates, and your manager shares it with the whole company on Slack. We celebrate new arrivals loudly. 🎉

People care about each other here.

I know this can’t possibly mean that every single person cares deeply about every single one of their teammates, but I was happy to learn that in general, our first core value (Love People Well) comes through.

People here are treated fairly regardless of age.

We are a millennial-heavy team (and that’s an understatement). At one point this year, we were made up of 93% millennials (the U.S. average is 22%). A few recent hires have lowered that number a bit, and we’re actively recruiting a more generationally diverse team since we uncovered that data earlier this year.

With all that said, we do have non-millennials on the team, and the data shows they have been treated fairly thus far. From my vantage, we have an environment that is ready to handle more generational diversity.

Sweet Fish Culture Weaknesses 💩

The following statements are the ones we scored most poorly on. The percentages shown beside the statements refer to how many people responded with “often true” or “almost always true” to the statement.

I feel I receive a fair share of the profits made by this organization. (52%)

After we got the results back, our Leadership Team settled on two theories for why we scored so low on this one:

  1. Lack of financial transparency.
  2. Lack of financial incentives.

In response, we’ve started sharing quarterly financial updates on our Company All Hands calls, where our COO shares our revenue, profits, and performance-to-budget for the quarter. It sounds simple, but it’s something we just didn’t do before. Some of us worried it would bore people, but the reality is, our best people care about the company’s financial performance and also want to know how their compensation lines up to overall company numbers.

We are also working on a profit-sharing plan, which will distribute our profits more evenly across the team next year.

I feel good about the ways we contribute to the community. (64%)

This one wasn’t too surprising. Although plenty of individual team members donate and volunteer with nonprofits, we’ve rarely done much of this as an organization.

In response, our CEO, James Carbary, came up with the idea of Purpose Partnerships, in which we produce a podcast at no cost for a nonprofit doing a lot of good. For the time being, we’re partnering with organizations that support foster care families, so if you know any great nonprofits, we’d love to hear about them!

People here are paid fairly for the work they do. (72%)

Seventy-two percent isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either. I attribute part of this to the lack of financial visibility I mentioned above, but I also think there are a handful of roles in our company whose salaries don’t compare well to the market. Salary-setting at a startup is hard, and it’s taken us a few years to get a better idea of which positions deserve what pay.

Some of our salary ranges will be updated in 2022, with an eye toward making our compensation more competitive in the market.

Management does a good job of assigning and coordinating people. (76%)

I can personally own this one. We’ve been around for six years, and we are finally this quarter rolling out our first formal manager training program across the company.

We have great managers who, until now, haven’t gotten the training they needed from People Ops.

We have special and unique benefits here. (76%)

We have Unlimited PTO, which is pretty cool. I’m guessing that accounts for the 76%.

Beyond that, we have good, but not necessarily “unique” benefits: health/vision/dental insurance, paid family leave, that sort of thing.

In addition to the profit-sharing plan, we have a few other new editions in the works for Benefits 2022.

Let’s See How We Do

The plan is to check back this time next year to see if some of the ways we’re addressing our weaknesses actually work.

In the meantime, we’re still pretty proud that 92% of our team members say this is a great place to work (compared to 59% at a typical U.S. company).

There’s also a neat little word cloud on our Great Place to Work public page that came from qualitative responses on our employee survey.

The biggest word, right in the middle of the cloud, is “Culture.”

Which just makes my little heart so merry.

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