top 10 coolest companies to work for based in the bay area
By o.c. tanner
Culture | March 19, 2015
As one of the most innovative business hubs in the U.S., the Bay Area provides an oasis to startups as well as Fortune 500 companies. Encompassed by San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, the Bay Area is home to a diverse workforce with dedicated, engaged employees. From unique employee appreciation to giving back to communities, businesses in the Bay Area know that happy employees create cultures where great work thrives.
Below are the 10 coolest companies to work for based in the Bay Area, which we selected with our research partners at Great Rated!™, the workplace review site from Great Place to Work®.
Headquartered in Palo Alto, Cooley is spread across the U.S. with additional offices in China and Europe. The law firm provides legal services to startups as well as Facebook, eBay, and Google. The warm and friendly environment stems from great communication among employees and managers. For instance, one employee mentions that, “Cooley has a very open and approachable culture…Managers are open to feedback and welcome the opportunity to understand how people feel.”
Employee appreciation is also part of the culture at Cooley and can be seen through programs such as “way to go” forms, tuition reimbursement, a women’s initiative as well as dinners and weekend getaways. A lot of these appreciation programs are peer run, making the appreciation feel more valuable.
In addition to appreciating their employees, Cooley is also dedicated to giving back to the Bay Area community. The firm gives employees paid time to volunteer, holds fundraisers, and has donated more than $20 million (including pro bono work) to charities. Although, work at the firm can be challenging Cooley breaks the mold of traditional law firm environments with silly dance and karaoke competitions. Overall, they want their employees to enjoy the work they’re involved in.
Gainsight is a software company that helps subscription businesses drive success for their customers, all while nailing the ‘work hard, play hard’ environment. They have a vibrant culture with an open office layout, a coloring station, and a large stuffed pink elephant—giving it that “childlike joy” vibe. One employee describes the fun environment saying, “We have spent time doing some really silly things that probably wouldn’t be tolerated at a different company. For example, I barricaded the CEO in a little cardboard-box fort for fun. At Gainsight, it’s appropriate and they really push for that kind of behavior.”
Aside from the occasional Nerf gun wars, employees at Gainsight help each other through a mentor program, with the end goal of developing new perspectives and growing within the industry. Other employee appreciation tactics include MVP of the month and free food in the office. Perks can range from unlimited vacation time to no emails on Saturdays and treating the organization like an open book, where employees are informed about what’s going on with upper management. Gainsight values the ‘golden rule’ and ‘successful for all’ making sure employees at work enjoy what they do and the people they work with.
Headquartered in San Francisco, Kimpton has 65 boutique hotels and 73 restaurants, lounges, and bars in 30 U.S. cities. No matter the location, employees are empowered to uncork their ingenuity and spirit. According to one employee, “Kimpton is the most democratic environment I have ever worked in and it is genuine in its dedication to cultural diversity and inclusiveness, as well as being passionate about our corporate social responsibility efforts.”
Speaking of social responsibility, the hotel and restaurant company designates November as Kimpton Cares month where each hotel and restaurant gives back to a local nonprofit. Year long, Kimpton community service includes charity races, community benefits, food donations, and auctions.
Benefits for employees include backup care for a child or elder, tuition reimbursement, pet bereavement leave, and children of employees who make their schools honor roll receive a gift card and a note from the CEO, Mike DeFrino, congratulating them on their achievement. Other employee appreciation includes Kimpton moments chips, which are earned when employees extend to guests or each other heartfelt care. Employees can keep the chips as symbols of recognition, or they can redeem them for prizes such as trips, TVs, iPods and more.
This San Francisco-based company focuses on providing Internet security through a global cloud network that protects any device, anywhere. And while security is their business, the company’s culture is an open book with weekly meetings over lunch or dinner where everyone is kept in the loop. Positive employee relations is important at OpenDNS as one employee explains saying, “A lot of effort goes into making sure new hires will fit in with the team personally, and not just on a technical level.”
This can be seen in “The OpenDNS Art Experience” where employees collaborate across departments to create multimedia creations ranging from music to art on canvas or colored paper. The company encourages employee-led initiatives such dance classes and a company band. In addition to a little fun, the company is dedicated to employee growth and holds a monthly learning and development-training program where topics vary from negotiations, to financial planning, to public speaking.
As for employee appreciation, OpenDNS hosts spontaneous lunchtime celebrations, an annual company trip to Lake Tahoe, and a 10-day, all-inclusive vacation anywhere in the world for an employee’s five-year anniversary. All and all, the employees that best fit at OpenDNS are those who not only fit the company’s profile of “unconventional greatness” but also “thrive in a fast-paced startup environment and love their work.”
Located in Mountain View, Polyvore is a fashion, beauty, and home decor social commerce website—a shopping resource for many. Company culture is focused on having an environment where employees can thrive. As one employee states, “People who work here are all genuinely kind and caring people which means there is never any drama. Your coworkers and manager will always have your back. Even in the sales department, there isn’t a competitive environment, which is refreshing.”
Employee appreciation can be found in biweekly happy hour events, and department events such as go-karting and glass blowing. Each month, Polyvore awards an outstanding employee or team with $500 to spend on company merchandise and keeps the tradition going, with the winner picking who will receive the award the following month.
In terms of career growth, leaders focus on fulfilling an employee’s potential through problem solving, setting goals, and identifying individual talents. Plus, management listens through a Q&A session during monthly all-hands meetings and twice-yearly employee surveys. According to Great Rated!’s review, 98% of employees say “they often or almost always enjoy their colleagues and find their workplace to be fun and cooperative.”
Located in Palo Alto, Stellar Solutions provides technical expertise and problem-solving skills to significant national and international aerospace programs. Projects can range from robotic and human space exploration to climate and weather satellites. Although these projects can mean employees are geographically dispersed, Stellar Solutions works hard to keep every employee connected to each other. As one employee explains, “Corporate continues to communicate effectively across the teams via different mediums (email, text, phone calls, company share point site) and always asks for innovative ways to improve in this area.”
In additional to creating a unified culture, Stellar Solutions also focuses on employee growth offering at least 40 hours of paid time per year for employees to attend training sessions. The company shows it’s appreciation by rewarding employees for their great work with a $200 gift certificate to a restaurant of their choice, many of which are awarded peer-to-peer. Other benefits include profit sharing, bonuses, and an annual business-planning meeting where significant others are included and join the company in a variety of fun activities. Finally, through the Stellar Solutions foundation, all employees select a non-profit company of their choice to donate to each year.
Twitter allows users to create and share ideas and information instantly in 140 characters or less. Because Twitter values development, there are a variety of formal learning opportunities like team and management development, improv classes, presentation skills, executive coaching, and technical training. Employees can express creativity through programs such as Hack Week, where they build things that are separate from their normal day-to-day jobs and then present them to the company on Fridays. This innovative culture not only allows for development, but also fosters employee relationships across teams.
Besides their innovative culture, employees enjoy on-site perks such as cafes, fitness programs, and dry cleaning and massage services. The company also offers a no-accrual time off policy.
Unlike many other tech giants, Twitter proudly resides in the heart of San Francisco, allowing many of its employees to work and live in the city as well as get involved in the community. Daily opportunities range from teaching computer skills to providing pro bono legal assistance to residents facing eviction. On #FridayforGood, Twitter’s biannual company-wide day of service, employees spend the day helping local nonprofits and community organizations around the world.
Workday, headquartered in Pleasanton, is a leader in enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources. Employees or “Workmates” are encouraged to be themselves, have fun, and share in the company’s success. Management is given high marks for honesty and transparency, as they help Workmates achieve business and personal success.
In addition, Workmates are also encouraged to expand their horizons. To support employee development, Workday promotes a “fill a need and fill it” culture where employees try different roles, opening their eyes to other career opportunities.
Community involvement—often through unique team-building activities—is another top priority at Workday. One such activity is the “cangineering” challenge, where teams around the world purchase canned goods and compete to see who can use them to build the best sculpture, from famous landmarks to actual working roller coasters. The money raised and the canned goods are then donated to local food banks. Other perks include an arcade, pool tournaments, and an annual Halloween event with trick or treating for employees’ children.
Providing incentive compensation and sales performance management software, Xactly focuses not only on motivating their clients, but their employees as well. Their culture of a friendly and strong work/life balance makes employees comfortable and confident in the work that they do. In addition, employees or “Xactlians” love a good celebration, from an employee birthday to a good sales month. At the close of every quarter, the executive staff hosts a fully catered lunch, as well as organized barbecues.
The company has an out-of-the box approach when it comes to employee development with a dual-track career progression plan where employees can grow as independent contributors if management roles are less appealing. Transparency between Xactly ad Xactilians is encouraged with all hands meetings to keep employees aware of company news.
XactlyOne is the company’s philanthropic organization and more than 20% of Xactlians serve on the committee and even more help in its regular events. As one employee puts it, “This is truly a fun place to work. I enjoy coming to work and feel that the company provides every opportunity to succeed along with making sure you balance work and life.”
Headquartered in San Francisco, Yelp helps consumers discover, connect with, and review local business, which includes everything from restaurants to doctors and dog groomers in cities around the U.S. and 29 countries. Company culture is based on creating an energetic work environment with a collegial atmosphere. Yelp employees widely appreciate this fun and friendly atmosphere as well as the open management style. As one employee states, “My manager listens to me and responds to issues within reason. The sense of ownership of what we are doing is tremendous, and I’m proud to say I work here. I feel valued and wake up excited to go to work.”
Yelp also encourages employee development by providing formal leadership development programs, onsite training, weekly one-on-one meetings, and quarterly conversations with managers. In addition, employee perks include an onsite barista, stocked kitchens, a nap room, game rooms, and colorful event celebrations. Each quarter, managers plan off site outings with their team to build camaraderie and take their mind off of work.
Community service is encouraged through the Yelp Foundation, created to support community and small business growth by making grants to local nonprofits that are actively engaged in those initiatives. At the end of the day, Yelp strives to be a company that people are excited to work for and where employees are truly passionate about local businesses.
As you can see, company culture, community service, employee engagement, and recognition can be shown in many different ways. And we think you’ll agree – each company’s unique approach to these aspects does in fact make them pretty cool.
Created in 2013, the Coolest Companies to Work For award establishes public recognition of companies that provide exceptional work environments. To select this year’s winners in the Bay Area, O.C. Tanner, a 2015 FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® company, partnered with Great Rated! to survey almost 20,000 employees in order to identify the10 companies where employees’ leaders are most trustworthy, their colleagues are exceptional, and people do work they are proud of.