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 and liberal workforce with dedicated employees. From unique employee appreciation to giving back to communities, businesses in the Bay Area know that the happier the employees are, the better their company culture is and the better their bottom line.
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, the law firm is spread across the U.S. with additional offices in China and Europe. Cooley provides legal services to startups as well as Facebook, eBay, and Google. The warm and friendly environment the firm encompasses is due to 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 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. Work is challenging and important, but employees aren’t afraid to get a little silly with dance and karaoke competitions.
Cooley is also dedicated to giving back to the Bay Area community. The firm gives employees paid time to volunteer, holds fundraisers, and they donated more than $20 million (including pro bono work) to charities. Cooley breaks the mold of traditional law firm environments and wants 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. Inside their doors is an open office environment, along with a coloring station and a large stuffed pink elephant—giving it that “childlike joy” culture vibe. Other values Gainsight stays true to are the ‘golden rule’ and ‘success for all.’ As one employee described, “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 makes sure employees at work enjoy what they do and the people they work with.
Headquartered in San Francisco, the hotel and restaurant company has 65 boutique hotels and 73 restaurants, lounges, and bars in 30 U.S. cities. Kimpton’s employees are empowered to uncork their ingenuity and spirit and be who they truly are. 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.
Some 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.
As for community service, Kimpton designates November as Kimpton Cares month where each hotel and restaurant gives back a local nonprofit. Year long, Kimpton community service includes charity races, community benefits, food donations, and auctions. As one employee puts it, “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.”
The San Francisco-based company focuses on providing Internet security through a global cloud network that protects any device, anywhere. OpenDNS makes sure employee relationships mesh well among teams. One employee explains, “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 employees to develop all aspects of their interests and talents, creating employee-led initiatives ranging from dance classes to a company band.
In addition, OpenDNS is dedicated to employee growth and holds a monthly learning and development training for employees. Topics vary from negotiations, financial planning, public speaking and introduction to Excel. 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. The company’s culture is an open book, with weekly meetings over lunch or dinner where everyone is kept in the loop. All and all, the employees that best fit at OpenDNS are those that “thrive in a fast-paced startup environment and love their work” and fit the company’s profile of “unconventional greatness.”
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, managers 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. Stellar Solutions provides at least 40 hours of paid time per year for employees to attend training sessions. In addition, the company recognizes employees for their 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 Stellar employees select a non-profit company of their choice to donate to each year.
Stellar Solutions works hard to keep every employee connected to each other. For instance, one employee explained, “Employees are geographically dispersed but corporate continues to communicate effectively across the teams via different mediums (email, text, phone calls, company share point site, etc.) and always ask for innovative ways to improve in this area.” Keeping employees in touch helps Stellar Solutions create a unified culture.
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. Employees enjoy perks such as on-site cafes, fitness programs, a no accrual time off policy, and other on-site benefits like dry cleaning and massages.
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 and enjoy the vibrant culture. Employees are also involved in their local communities each day, whether it’s teaching computer skills or 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. Their superior products and unique culture make them a leader in the informational technology industry. The company takes pride in having a culture where employees or “Workmates” can be themselves, have fun and share in the company’s success. Management is given high marks for honesty and transparency, as they work with Workmates to help 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” workplace. This encourages Workmates to try different roles, opening their eyes to more career opportunities. Additionally, Workday provides Workmates with opportunities to get involved in the communities where they live and work — often through unique team-building activities. 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. Workday also makes fun and family a cornerstone of their culture. The company hosts Halloween events with trick or treating for employee’s kids, arcade and pool tournaments and more. At the end of the day, Workday hopes that employees can continue to contribute to the fun and friendly culture.
Providing incentive compensation and sales performance management software, Xactly focuses not only in motivating their clients, but their employees as well. Xactly does this through a friendly and strong work/life balance culture that makes employees comfortable and confident in the work that they do. In addition, employees or “Xactlians” find any way to celebrate, 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. Other motivating office factors include employee development such as project management and dual-track career progression plan where employees can grow as independent contributors if management roles are less appealing. All hands meetings keeps employees aware of company news and allows for transparency between the employee and organization.
Xactly is also heavily involved in community service, with XactlyOne, the company’s philanthropic organization. More than 20 percent of Xactlians serve on the committee and 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; everything from restaurants to doctors and dog groomers in cities around the U.S. and in 29 countries. Company culture is based on creating an energetic work environment with a collegial atmosphere. Yelp employees widely appreciate the fun and friendly atmosphere that their leaders encourage as well as their open management style. As one employee described, "There's nothing like the sense of camaraderie and teamwork within our team. I wake up excited to go to work. I feel valued, and 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."
Yelp also encourages employee development by providing onsite training, weekly one-on-one meetings, and quarterly conversations with managers to ensure employee career growth, as well as formal leadership development programs.
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 of these companies are 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, OC Tanner partnered with Great Rated! to survey almost 20,000 employees in order to identify the 10 companies where employees’ leaders are most trustworthy, their colleagues are exceptional and people do work they are proud of. Learn more about corporate culture and workplace reviews.