The first creature to greet a visitor to the Chicago-based digital marketing agency Be Found Online on a recent fall day was Addison, a docile black-and-white boxer named for one of the streets that borders nearby Wrigley Field. Speaking of Wrigley, the Cubs are pretty important to this agency, too. Executives at the 40-person shop have season tickets and they give two seats for each game to any employee who reserves them via a Google calendar—a pretty good perk this year during the Cubs' championship run.
Just as the Cubs have created a culture of winning, so too has Be Found Online. It starts with transparency. Though privately held, the agency embraces the so-called open-book management style, which involves sharing almost all financial information with every employee so that everyone feels like they have a stake in the game. The numbers are shared at a weekly meeting, including how close the agency is to hitting revenue goals related to bonuses. "There is a sense of empowerment that people have when they can see what the finances are and what they need to do to get there," said President Dan Golden, who co-founded the shop in 2009 with CEO Steve Krull.
The agency's services include search engine optimization, programmatic buying, lead generation and analytics. Clients include Motorola Solutions and StubHub. It can be hard work. But the agency goes out of its way to create a flexible environment, allowing people to work from home whenever they want, as long as it's communicated. "We have a lot of folks who live in the suburbs and commuting is a pain in the ass," Mr. Golden said. So he'd rather "have someone relaxed and happy and working an extra two hours a day instead of commuting." Roughly 25% of the agency's workforce works remotely, from as far away as Spokane, Wash. Last winter, the agency even let its three-person marketing team work from Buenos Aires just because they wanted to escape the harsh Chicago weather. The agency also gives people Election Day off and allows workers to take three paid days off to volunteer for a cause of their choosing.
The agency encourages peer-to-peer feedback via a system with which employees can recognize each other for living out the company's values, like speaking up when issues arise. Every month, employees can award up to five "golden tickets" to other employees via a website. Whoever wins the most golden tickets at the end of the month gets to spin a wheel for prizes that include airplane tickets or $1,000 cash. But what really makes the agency tick is a culture in which "people are so at peace being themselves," said Noah Weiner, the agency's VP-client strategy. "It's such a welcoming space for the right kinds of people that people can be a little nutty," he added. "It's a very vibrant, human place." Dogs like it, too.
Nobody at Redscout is "too cool for school," according to Jonah Disend, who founded the shop in 2000 and sold it to MDC nine years ago. In fact, he said the culture of the agency is "super geeky" in the best way possible. "It's a place where people wear their geekiness on their sleeve and they're very proud of it and they're never ashamed of being too enthusiastic about anything," he added.
Staffers, who work on brands such as Google, A&E Networks and PepsiCo, are encouraged to "scout things out" and fuel their curiosity with adventures to help drive new ideas and ways of thinking, said Mr. Disend. For example, as part of Redscout's "Ministry of Culture," or MOC, employees can attend activities or events that are interesting to consumers or big in pop culture, such as the Daybreakers morning rave parties. The experiences—aside from being fun—help the agency learn and keep up with trends.
Redscout also promotes the importance of trying new things outside the office with its $500 annual professional development stipend. The fund has been used by staffers on things like a six-week ceramics intensive, scuba certification, perfume making and salsa dancing. "I believe the biggest reason people stay at a job is because they're growing and learning, and we're focused on challenging people," said Mr. Disend. The agency lets junior team members present to CEOs and travel to escape their comfort zone.
One way Mr. Disend, who has a background in theater, gets his staffers to think outside the box about pitches is by having them do an acting class of sorts. He pairs people up, helps direct them, then has every duo read the same scene in front of the office to show how each one is radically different from the next. "We get so hung up on the presentation, but you can make it come to life in so many different ways," he said. "I'm trying to have them think of every presentation as a performance."
Mr. Disend said he really believes in retention, which is why Redscout celebrates tenure and reevaluates salaries to match market value so people don't feel they need to go somewhere else to make more money. The agency also has anniversary awards, such as a $2,500 bonus at two years, five extra paid-time-off days at five years, one month paid sabbatical at seven years and a 10-year anniversary party. Some other fun perks include being able to work from anywhere on Fridays and earning days off in return for working on weekends or holidays. And to keep promoting stress relief past the summer, Redscout has winter Fridays with hot chocolate bars, grilled cheese-and-tomato soup days and early office closings.
Next year, Redscout will look to ramp up its West Coast offering by adding more staffers in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The New York office will have a new home in the city come spring, and Mr. Disend is welcoming layout ideas and thematic concepts for the space from the team.
Need some time off? Not a problem at Path Interactive. The New York search and digital media agency offers unlimited paid vacation (within reason). It's one of the reasons employees love the place.
"It really embodies the trust we have in the employees," said CEO and co-founder Michael Coppola. And the policy helps motivate employees more interested in flexibility and time off than financial rewards or public recognition, he said.
Some employees take as many as four or five weeks of vacation a year. But on average, employees probably take four or five more days than they would without the policy, Mr. Coppola said. While the time is theoretically unlimited, it's not without strings attached. Employees need to schedule vacations in advance, get approval from their supervisors and have solid work plans to deal with their workloads.
It's part of a system Path uses to compete with bigger players who can offer seemingly more generous benefits. Another big part of that is no-deductible healthcare.
Actually, it's built around a high-deductible policy. At its size—under 50 employees—Path otherwise would have trouble competing with bigger players on health benefits.
So it combines the high-deductible plan with an Internal Revenue Service-approved, Path-funded health reimbursement account. Employees get a credit card to cover their health deductibles.
"We've got a young workforce," Mr. Coppola said. "If it's not their first job, it's their second or third. So they don't realize what's changed in healthcare. With a plan like this, it's extremely simple."
It's also potentially expensive, even for an employer with a young workforce. That makes employee wellness even more important, and Path has found some fun ways to keep staff fit. The Path Fit program includes weekly outings that include spin classes, cycling, sunrise yoga, boxing and more. And to help manage stress, there's the quarterly Path Wellness program that includes on-site chair massages.
"We've always had really good parties centered around food, alcohol and socialization," Mr. Coppola said. "We wanted to make sure we balanced it."
Part of the plan is encouraging teamwork and bonding beyond the festivities by having people encourage each other to meet fitness goals, he said. "Maybe you're not in really good shape, but you've got a teammate willing to pick you up and motivate you. I think it helps us all get a little more healthy. I know I've dropped 15 pounds by the program, maybe actually 20."
But it's not all great benefits and fitness. There are also the parties. These include movie nights with themed cocktails. For example, the film"Office Space" was paired with drinks like That'd Be Grape and the Red Swingline, and "Purple Rain" with When Doves Rye.
Lest it seem entirely like fun and games, there's also essentially a profit-sharing plan rolled up with a recognition program that's, well, somewhat gamified. Based on formalized presentations and peer votes, Path awards bonuses and special recognition such as dinners to teams that exceed revenue goals.
PwC Digital Services Experience Center's pitch to employees includes an appreciation week, all-office movie nights, Waffle Wednesdays and a Kitchen Angel who gives hugs along with coffee and snacks. There's also a student loan payback program and monetary awards for those who go above and beyond. Volunteering is encouraged, with grants of up to $1,500 per employee for charities to which they devote time. In addition, employees receive extended holiday breaks, culminating in an end-of-year shutdown between Christmas and New Year's.
At just six years old, PMG has grown into a full-service digital agency working for large brands including Apple, J.Crew, OpenTable, Sephora and Travelocity. Its 90% employee retention rate is driven by the many benefits that keep employees happy. Perks include flexible scheduling, parental leave and a holiday party that's a two-day getaway at a resort. PMG has free yoga on-site, everyone gets a free gym membership and managers have dedicated reward budgets for their teams.
Fluent, a digital marketing company serving over 500 consumer brands and direct marketers, puts its employees first by rewarding long-serving staff members with special awards drawn from the Wheel of Tenure. Benefits range from catered breakfasts and lunches to monthly outings and yoga classes.
Ervin & Smith prioritizes personal and professional development opportunities for employees. Staffers don't have a set number of vacation or sick days—as long as they're meeting goals, they can take time as needed. The company offers happy hours, special social events and travel vouchers to help pay for vacations. Employees can also take part in one-on-one sessions with a credentialed coach to discuss career goals.
Elicit prides itself on its innovative work culture. Although it's 100% virtual, the company offers an unofficial "office" and collaboration space, along with monthly events that include adventurous activities both indoors and out. Elicit encourages employees to keep their work-related travel benefits (miles, points, etc.) for personal use. For career development, the firm offers personality testing and coaching from a renowned expert.
Rooftop yoga, still-life drawing classes and kayak trips are just a few perks of the employee-focused culture at the Ramey Agency. Employees can benefit from a series of activities including paddleboard lessons, wine tastings and culinary events. The company has a grant program to help staff "get outside of their comfort zones" through new experiences. Workers can also give back through 40 paid hours of community service time.
Unlimited paid sick and vacation time, generous benefits and flexible scheduling are just a few ways this New York-based marketing agency looks after its employees. The firm promotes physical and mental health through monthly gym membership contributions, early closing on summer Fridays and a yearly stipend for classes, books or other educational endeavors.
Celebrating pseudo-holidays, like National Doughnut Day or Employee Appreciation Day (with a mimosa bar), is just one way Publicis Health Media keeps its staff smiling. Officewide events are also key, such as an ugly sweater holiday bar crawl and a flag football Turkey Bowl with the shop's sibling agencies. PHM provides good work-life balance policies as well as support for various community service initiatives that are important to staff, 80% of whom are millennials.
UberMedia, a mobile-first agency serving the retail, automotive and entertainment sectors, emphasizes its employee-friendly credentials with unlimited time off, subsidized lunches and snack offerings. A rewards program recognizes the company's top performers, while a game room, company-sponsored volunteer days and off-site parties help employees have fun. What's more, staffers can recharge in the office with a trip to the nap room or a chair massage every other Friday.
Career development and work-life balance are what put this interactive analytics company among this year's top places to work. The company runs a work-at-home Wednesday and family leave program that offers staffers the ability to balance personal commitments. Employees enjoy daily catered lunches, support for career development and an annual "hackathon" that allows them to work on any project of their choice for fun and prizes. Oh, and every Friday the company sponsors happy hour.
An open workspace, flat structure and positive work-life balance are key priorities at this marketing and analytics technology company. Employees have flexible time off and can work from home. A women's leadership training program builds the company's next generation of female managers, while men are offered paid paternity leave. Unified encourages staff to recognize the contributions of their co-workers through a peer awards program. To promote team spirit, the company offers intramural sports and yoga, as well as dinners and happy hours.
Founded in 1983, Young & Laramore helps employees get around downtown Indianapolis while staying active and healthy by offering them company bikes to ride. The shop's pingpong and foosball tables and virtual reality gaming area help attract talent, as well as the annual badminton tournament in the office. Beer Thursdays (or "whatever day works," said one staffer) to review recent work and drink suds with co-workers don't hurt either.
Cogent Entertainment Marketing offers unlimited vacation days and curated benefit packages designed to suit each employee's needs (e.g., meal pass, class pass, vacation support, etc.). To build team spirit, the firm holds after-work events on the company's outdoor rooftop and surprise Chick-fil-A and Shake Shack catered lunches. Rewards include new-hire referral bonuses and new-business commissions.
Sterling-Rice Group, which describes its clients as "living well" brands, or "those that make people's lives happier and healthier," reflects its business mindset in its internal culture. SRGThrive supports health holistically—from physical and financial to mental and community well-being—with resources for staff that include yoga, financial literacy and home-buying classes. The shop also encourages employee participation in athletic and charity events and even pays for registration fees. And let's not forget company ski day.
The collegial environment of Cossette Chicago and generous benefits make this agency among the top employers this year. Employees receive unlimited vacation, creative grants, new-parent leave and training opportunities. Company celebrations mark birthdays and employee achievements. To promote teamwork, Cossette organizes lunches, baseball outings and family Thanksgiving dinners. Beer and wine are available at the office for post-work special occasions, and staff members can burn off steam through the company Xbox.
Amnet Group emphasizes employee growth and development through a culture of recognition. The company uses a rewards platform that allows staff to award colleagues points for a job well done. The points can be used for merchandise, travel or gift cards. To ensure work-life balance, Amnet employees can work from home and participate in regular team-bonding events. Tuition reimbursements and paid time off for volunteer efforts encourage growth and development.
When your agency is based in Florida, you can't help but enjoy the sunshine. For 15 minutes every afternoon, the 24 staffers of Clark/Nikdel/Powell play Frisbee in the park. Games go on indoors as well: Darts, cards, board games and Nerf-ball battles are regular activities at the 25-year-old firm. CNP says such events, along with monthly birthday celebrations, help relieve stress for employees, who are also encouraged to bring their pets to the office.
Red Door Interactive may be small—it has 69 employees—but its heart is certainly big. Should any employee need a book, its purchase is often approved with company funds. Red Door encourages staff to take long breaks at the midpoint of the day and explore the company's surrounding area and events. The full-service digital marketing company specializes in search, content development and cross channel marketing, among other things.
Little-known fact about JW Player: YouTube used a version of JW's video player for two years before Google came along. The company has been in the online video space since almost the start, and it's still fostering that startup culture. The "kegerator" is about to be installed, and every two months a masseuse comes to the Manhattan office during a day of well-being and nutrition, including smoothies. JW also has yearly outings to places like the Poconos for white-water rafting, and plans to go to West Virginia. The company has flexible vacation schedules, with unlimited time off.
There's one honor that everyone at Foursquare's New York office covets—choosing lunch. The location-technology company is filled with foodies, so the winners of the Core Value awards also get to help decide what restaurant caters lunch twice a week. New York faves like Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Dos Toros are often on the menu. And the company has a Foursquare band and an a capella group—mainstays at the talent show, which might also feature co-founder Dennis Crowley showing off his archery skills.
When the going gets tough at VS/Brooks, the tough get coloring. All 26 employees at the Miami-based agency take a 15-minute break each day to color together as a group. Whether de-stressing with crayons or yoga, taking a turn in the office massage chair or partaking in monthly lunches, the 20-year-old agency, which has worked with clients such as Humana, CarePlus and Med-Lab, treats its employees like a family.
This Silicon Valley startup recently sold to Chinese backers at a cool $1.4 billion valuation, so there's reason to celebrate, which the company knows how to do. Yearly trips to Las Vegas are one of the perks. There also are free lunches, free laundry service and access to a megasuite at Golden State Warriors games. And the company also gives employees a $10,000 budget to load up their workspace with high-tech gear.
Between company gift matching toward charitable donations and unlimited paid time off, performance marketing firm Acceleration Partners makes team activities to relieve stress a big part of its work culture. It also has daily peer-to-peer cheers celebrating co-workers, weekly core value shout-outs and monetary spot awards for exceptional service.
One benefit of working life outside a metropolis is room to sprawl. Revcontent takes full advantage of its base in Sarasota, Fla., with a 200,000-square-foot campus. That's about the size of supersize Walmart, which explains why staff gets around by scooter or hoverboard. And to go from the second floor to the first, there's a slide that lands in a ball pit. Expansive space allows also benefits the annual Nerf gun competition. The point is, they're having fun.
Unruly, the video marketing and technology startup, is one of those companies that loves to use its name to invent new words. It has an annual team-building summit called Unrulyfest, and new employees are taken through Unrulyduction to learn the ropes. Last year's Unrulyfest took the New York staff to the London headquarters, where they partied at the top of the Shard building. Back in New York, workers get access to a wood-paneled Zen room for quiet time, and there's a game room for never-ending "Mario Kart" competitions.
Employees at pay-per-click ad agency Hanapin Marketing love the half-day off each Friday, flexible scheduling, remote work options and management that listens to feedback via TinyPulse surveys and coffees. Cheers for Peers thank-you notes also boost morale. And employees get quarterly rejuvenation days, 8 to 16 volunteer hours per year and two company service days annually. Ultimate Frisbee and a fall picnic are regular activities. Clients include the Weather Channel, Burpee and Shoe Carnival.
The theft of digital ad dollars is expected to cost more than $7 billion this year. Integral Ad Science plays a key role in the fight against ad fraud. To keep its troops fresh, Integral closes shop at 1 p.m. each Friday in the summer as a way to promote work-life balance. Lunch is provided every Friday (Thursday during summer), and the company celebrates its employees by having birthday cake each month.
In case being treated to an annual companywide trip to Disney with their families isn't enough for Connelly Partners employees, the shop has a masseuse come into the office a few times a month for 15-minute chair massages. The Boston-based agency, which has a bar built into its loft space, also offers a student loan pay-down program called Gradifi. A different staffer is chosen each day to be the designated office DJ.
Opportunities for employees to bring their significant others and families to company events is just one of the many community-building opportunities at Hitchcock Fleming & Associates. The company offers flexible schedules, including 1 p.m. departures before select holidays, a festive dinner party at a country club and a catered picnic. Recreation includes an agency-sponsored volleyball team, along with a basketball hoop on-site for impromptu games.
Employees at Business Online, a business-to-business digital agency, love the chair massages they get each Friday, but also community involvement that includes a quarterly program to make lunch bags for 60 homeless people. Quarterly meetings have the usual reflection on the past quarter and projections for next, but are followed by all-day play events. The agency has a Zen/yoga room for stretching. And everyone gets a Fitbit, and encouragement to meet goals.
With principles that include "be curious" and "find the magic," the Via Agency offers staff spontaneous agency-wide events, or Go Do's, to inspire creativity, such as dance parties, snow sculpture contests or exotic food tastings. The shop also selects employees at random to go on off-site adventures and report back about their experiences. Free chair massages, a meditation room, yoga classes, nutrition workshops and unlimited vacation help keep staffers healthy and happy.
Prolific Interactive caters to high-growth lifestyle brands and its work culture emphasizes balance. Employees enjoy flexible vacation time, a winter break and monthly team outings such as sunset cruises, outdoor volleyball and beach trips. A dog-friendly office and a lounge help relieve stress. Team members are encouraged to be honest at staff meetings, with opportunities to "'fine' or 'credit' their teammates for good or not-so-great things."
Chacka Marketing encourages employees to be happy and healthy through its free health insurance program and open vacation and sick day policy. At the office "family room," staff can relax, watch movies and play games. Catered lunches and early shutdowns on Fridays build camaraderie. To boot, the company goes all out for its holiday party; it has previously flown each employee and a guest to a resort destination for the event.
McKee Wallwork, which won Ad Age's 2015 Small Agency of the Year award for the Southwest region, offers employees the convenience to meet family and other personal commitments through flexible scheduling. Food and snacks are provided regularly at staff meetings, and employees are recognized for their years of service. The office includes an innovation hub that acts as a thinking space to stimulate creativity.
Native advertising continues to grow in popularity with both publishers and marketers. TripleLift, an ad tech company that provides "native programmatic," might be equally as popular with its employees. The company provides staff with massages, drinks and snacks. Meditation is also available.
Ever heard of a happy hour after a staff meeting? Guac o'clock at the office? These are a couple of the creature comforts that this New York-based agency offers. Accordant Media's summer outing helps employees get to know each other, and employee-of-the-month awards recognize those who innovate and produce groundbreaking ideas that move the company forward.
Driven by content creators, McBeard has a "#remotefirst" work culture, as all employees work from home. The company keeps in touch through software like the Slack messaging app, but also gets together every three months for development, workshops and team bonding. In the summer, McBeard holds a friendly competition to see who can create the best food truck or cocktail.
Employees at New York-based digital agency Ready Set Rocket might be spotted walking into work with their dogs by their side, playing a game of pingpong, attending a holiday party or retreating to the chalkboard room to doodle for some inspiration. When they need breaks, they can catch up on naps in the office's sleeping loft. And when it's time for longer rejuvenation stretches, the company offers paid sabbaticals.
Not only are Figliulo & Partners staffers allowed to bring their dogs to the office, the 3-year-old shop provides obedience training on-site. Some other perks include reimbursements of up to $1,500 for health-related expenses, uncapped paid time off, service awards, birthday parties, weekly cocktail Thursdays and breakfast Tuesdays. To encourage healthy lifestyles, the independent business hosts an annual "biggest loser" wellness challenge, and to keep festive, F&P holds holiday events such as a Thanksgiving potluck.
Mekanism attributes its success largely to the uniqueness and diversity of its 100-plus staffers, dubbed "Mekanistas." When team members reach their 10-year anniversary, not only do they get their own holiday (this year, the shop celebrated "Dicky Day" for one senior art director), starting in 2016, they also receive a $10,000 paid sabbatical. The entire agency also travels to Mexico each year for a summit to look back on its accomplishments and set goals for the coming year.
With its top-notch benefits, Intermarkets invests in taking care of its people. Employees and their families are eligible for 100% employer-paid benefits for medical, dental and vision care. Staff members are offered eight weeks of paid maternity leave and two weeks of paid paternity and adoption leave, as well as free parking and snacks. Team-bonding events including river cruises, sporting events and winery trips offer fun diversions from the day-to-day work of the agency.
Unity, boldness, humble confidence, craftsmanship and integrity are some of the characteristics LaneTerralever champions in employees. The company offers flexible schedules along with a fully stocked kitchen and "speakeasy" with a keg. Companywide happy hours and celebrations encourage team building, and pets are welcome. The company hosts an employee appreciation day, along with "random appreciation days" with food trucks, breakfast, ice cream and other goodies.
Contently, which was founded in 2010, is all about making content marketing easy. It counts big brands like Google, Walmart and Marriott as clients. In addition to providing a platform to use, Contently helps marketers find the right talent to actually do the work. For the company's employees in the U.S., there are plenty of perks, including unlimited vacation, free lunch on Fridays, weekly happy hours and quarterly outings.
Music is part of the culture at Pandora. There are regular in-office concerts and conference rooms with names like Bach, Santana and Dolly Parton. The digital music service is also a big proponent of diversity, with events for Diwali, Black History Month and Cinco de Mayo, and offers 40 hours of "volunteer time off" for each employee to spend.
Not only do staffers at Venables Bell & Partners get to work across big-name clients such as Audi, Reebok and PlayStation, they have the chance to win $15,000 for being "fearless" as part the shop's Fearless Project. "Random Thank Yous" allow each department to reward those going above and beyond with a certain amount. Employees are also recognized with awards like employee or rookie of the year, and everyone gets to attend Keg Thursdays and Pizza Fridays.
Monthly organized happy hours and birthday celebrations during the workday keep staffers at this digital media innovation shop relaxed and cheerful. And if that's not enough to put employees in a good mood, Beeby Clark & Meyler allows dogs in the office and participates in Uber Puppies, in which Uber brings puppies over to play with. Cool perks around the holidays include an "excellent" three-part annual party and "awesome tech gadgets" for gifts such as Apple Watches and Beats headphones.
Kepler Group, which provides digital and database services to Fortune 500 brands, reverses the standard Take Your Children to Work day. Instead, employees are encouraged to bring their parents to the office to get an inside look at their kids' day-to-day lives. Other perks include unlimited days off, weekly cocktail hours and paid cellphone bills.