We’re celebrating another win as a Best Places to Work in Nashville, awarded by the Nashville Business Journal. It’s our 13th time to be recognized, and it’s an award that we care about deeply. Our workplace culture is something we talk about a lot at Rustici. It’s a big part of how we operate every day and how we interact with each other and the customers and community we serve. In many ways, 2021 was more disruptive than 2020, so winning this year is even more meaningful. We shifted to a hybrid office and have more remote employees. We’ve welcomed many new faces and haven’t been immune to losing people. With the new additions to the team and being more distributed geographically, it’s easy for culture to get forgotten among all of the distractions or for it to take an unintentional turn.
For us, being a great place to work means being awesome to others, giving space to play and, most importantly, encouraging people to be themselves. With so many new people joining our team and navigating a hybrid office, we wondered what impact this would have on our culture and if it was sustainable. Would the way we’ve always done things resonate with our new environment and teammates? Would a hybrid office put these things at risk? So the big question is, how do you protect your culture and keep your core tenets intact amid all of the noise?
The importance of origin stories and having narrators to tell them
Almost every company has a handbook or some type of document that tells you ‘how we do it here’. The more interesting part is—why we do it this way. Thankfully, Rustici has many guides that can provide the backstory. More than half of our team has been at Rustici for 4 years or more, with 7 of us being here for a decade or longer. So you can imagine we have a few stories to tell. We are able to pass along to newer folks some insight into how certain traditions came to be, that might sound small but can make a big difference on working together. Lovingly referred to as the ‘knowledge of the ancients’ (tenure, not age!), sharing Rustici lore with our newer hires is what helps us retain the culture that makes people want to work here.
Joe will share why being awesome means never leaving an empty toilet paper roll. It’s not a coincidence that Joe’s 14th anniversary happens to coincide with our 13th win. Jim will show why being awesome means taking out the trash so stinky banana peels aren’t the first thing you encounter tomorrow. Chris will tell you all about his bird sightings that we have mapped out, not just to win at avian trivia but to help you see that we want you to share your passions and interests with us. Tim will school you on all of the Slack channels and explain the overly complicated yet beautiful burrito train rules. Brian Miller will help you understand that we celebrate pedantry and why that matters in all things, particularly when it comes to the standards we work with daily. Tara will encourage you to play with us—whether it’s joining our game nights or hitting the office trivia Slack channel. And Liz will introduce you to more stories through her most recent stroke of onboarding brilliance—Rustici bingo.
Make room for new stories
While our long standing employees are a big part of what makes our culture sustainable, it’s also one that it’s been really fun watching the newer people jump right in to embrace what we hold dear and contribute in their own ways. Matt’s first order of business when he arrives at the office is to cook all of the coffee to make sure the next person has a cup waiting for them. Alicia has jumped right in and has taught us about medieval fighting and tornado chasing. Lara has become our inhouse video expert, capturing all of our office silliness. Michael not only taught me how to play Crokinole but treated us all to a chocolate lasagne and spent months making paper snowflakes to prank the office. Peter wins the award for embracing our love of precision by rigging his Rustici background sign to his stand up desk so it’s always in just the right place for video calls whether he’s standing or sitting. Brilliant!
It’s important to realize the positive impact that tenure has on perpetuating culture and be willing to make space for adaptation and new stories. In our case, cooking the coffee is the new changing the toilet paper roll. Having the “knowledge of the ancients” helps us protect our workplace culture and what we value most, and welcoming new ideas and approaches is what makes it sustainable.