Hippo’s experienced record growth lately. With that growth have come several new hires. Maintaining company culture during growth spurts and across continents can be a challenge, but having just returned from a trip to the States, I’m happy to say that the workplace atmosphere and attitude we value so much in Amsterdam is just as strong in Boston.
Creating a culture of sharing
Here at Hippo, openness and sharing go beyond our development methodology. They’re in our DNA, and are fundamental to how we conduct our business, how we interact with one another, and the environment we promote within our company. When Jeroen, Arjé and I founded this company, there were many things we didn’t yet expect or know. But one thing we knew for certain was that we wanted to foster a company atmosphere where everyone on the team was happy to come into the office. We tried to achieve this by making openness and sharing central to how Hippo is run, right down to the little things: from how we always respectfully communicate with each other, how we encourage employees to profile themselves on topics of their interest, to how we serve lunch. In the 15 years since its founding, I’m glad to see Hippo having grown into a company where the smart, dynamic and international people we employ feel a stake in maintaining a safe and respectful workplace with an open and direct culture.
The Space to Pursue our Values
The merit-based philosophy of open source has impacted our management style: we believe in a relatively flat company structure—no doors to management offices, accessibility and the space to have every employee’s voices heard. Company initiatives—on everything ranging from charitable gifts to eco-conscious initiatives—have all been initiated internally. This bottom-up approach is important to us: we don’t want to impose initiatives on the team. We prefer instead to have them develop organically, and truly reflect the whole company’s values. Below are some of the initiatives we’ve taken on. I believe each of them provides a little bit of insight into who we are as a company.
From Amsterdam to Boston, Hippo employees have made eco-conscious commuting a priority. We support their efforts by subsidizing their use of public transport, providing employees with company-funded lease bicycles , and leasing environmentally friendly vehicles.
Eco-friendly data centers
We’re passionate about the web, but also care deeply about the environmental impact of our digital activity. In an effort to lower our carbon footprint, Hippo works with datacenters Schuberg Philis and EvoSwitch, both of which have been recognized for their energy efficiency .
Beyond recycling our trash, we make sure that our depreciated hardware gets as much use as possible after we’ve worked with it. We’ve donated older laptops to open source projects in India as well schools in India and the Netherlands- when this was not possible, we’ve made sure that the hardware is recycled.
Supporting charities we care about
As part of our bottom-up approach to company giving, we let our employees set our charitable agenda. Alongside charitable holiday gifts, Hippo’s have supported organizations including Kiva.org, Hart Stichting, Nierstichting, Hospice Amersfoort, Roze Filmdagen, and Young Africa.
We believe that the greatest creativity happens when our team is healthy and free from stress. We keep our office stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, sponsor two Amsterdam runs (the Dam tot Dam race as well as a New Year’s run) and organize several yearly outings. We have regular company ski trips, as well as cycling outings, sailing trips and have even kite surfed. Each Hippo employee is also given a biweekly massage.
The open source culture that Hippo is rooted is strongly tied to the belief that creativity and innovation are collective endeavors. In other words, two heads (or six, or eighty) are better than one. And the more diverse the ideas bounced off on another in a group, the better. We know that the best ideas result from stepping out of our comfort zones, and challenges to our perspectives. We love the diversity in our team: currently we’ve got nineteen nationalities and four continents represented at Hippo. Furthermore, we’re proud to say that in an industry where women are still underrepresented, we’ve got women in almost every department: marketing, sales, development, support and our management teams.
At Hippo, we’re major believers in
organizational learning for continuous innovation. As a way to create designated space for pursuing ideas we find interesting, and to facilitate knowledge sharing across departments and disciplines, we’ve instituted a monthly Hippo Friday. Colleagues, clients, partners and external professionals run workshops, projects or hackathons they’ve pitched, and all employees are free to join in. Anything goes at Hippo Friday, as long as it brings value to Hippo, Hippo’s clients, or
Prioritizing Employee Feedback
Transparency, sharing and open contribution are key to the way Hippo is managed—our MT prioritizes employee feedback, and creates space for employees to voice concerns and make suggestions. Hippo conducts an annual Employee Satisfaction Survey, the findings of which are communicated to all staff. Action plans to address areas of concern are formulated and presented to the entire team. As a result
Hippo was ranked within the top 20 Best Employers of 2013, and ranked within the top 10 Most Satisfied Employees, based on research by Dutch daily paper NRC.