How We Think About Hybrid Culture

Johanna Penry | Mar. 24 2022

As the People Experience Manager, I find myself thinking about culture quite a bit. In the past year alone, The Many has almost doubled in size. With each new hire that comes through our virtual doors, it’s a combination of the work and our culture that will help our people thrive. This begs the question: what does it mean to build a successful hybrid culture, and how can it evolve as we do?
Buckle up – this is the part where we take the main topic, and add in the Merriam-Webster definition for context:
cul·​ture | \ ˈkəl-chər  \: (noun)

So how do we, The Many, think, behave, and work? For that nuanced (and potentially loaded) question, I enlisted the help of a few friends.
How we think
Let’s start with our mission, because it frames how we think and shapes everything we do. “We have a culture that at its core is about challenging comfortable,” says Davis Jones, Managing Director, People. “This means that if we set the right context for people to explore their interests, curiosities and perceived limitations in a safe way and empower them to stretch into those places, make mistakes and learn, we unlock a whole other level of growth potential. This is deep work, grounded in authenticity with each other and ourselves. It’s simple, not easy.”  
As this concept relates to our culture, it means looking at everything with fresh eyes. Every meeting, every presentation, every chance we have to gather or bond as a team is a chance to “challenge comfortable” and do things in an intentional way that is unique to The Many. 
When we think about doing things differently, and intentionally, our approach to diversity and inclusion immediately comes to mind. From launching employee resource groups that provide support and community, to celebrating and learning about each other’s cultures, to hiring diverse talent, we believe diversity is what makes us better. 
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion is at the heart of our culture and it’s not fostered by just one person or team, it’s up to each individual at The Many to consciously opt in,”voices Ash Ramirez, DEI Lead. “The work isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight, but as long as we strive for progress over perfection we’ll get to where we want to be.”  
You know what else we think? We think our employees should have incredible benefits that are functional and easy to use. We know that there isn’t a one-size-fits all approach to wellness, so we offer a monthly mental & physical wellness stipend designed to be both flexible and inclusive of all options to prioritize your wellbeing. Meditation, therapy, in-person and virtual fitness, massages, PT, home gym equipment and more are all part of our benefit offering.
Sometimes, recharging takes more than a yoga class or massage. “Our PTO policy is unlimited because we recognize that everyone needs time away in order to fully recharge and that not everyone’s work is done and over in the traditional 9 to 5 world,” remarks Tim Cyrol, Director of Human Resources. “We also believe in taking personal responsibility for managing our own time and workloads, so we let our employees have a say in how much time they need away from work. Whether it’s a couple days tacked on to a weekend or a couple weeks to go explore the world, it’s completely up to them to decide how they’d like to use their unlimited PTO.” . 
We also think you deserve Labor Week instead of Labor Day, and while we’re at it, you also deserve additional time off between 12/24 and 1/1. We believe that when you have the time to live your best life or need support to deal with life, you can show up as your best self and create inspired work.
How we behave
How we interact with one another is arguably the most important part of who we are as a company. On a daily basis, the best way to describe our vibe is that we stay close and have a ridiculous amount of fun. Some of these moments are structured, while some are more ad hoc. 
One of those pieces of structure is what we call The Gathering. “To kickoff and close the week, we pause all that needs to get done on our to-do lists, take the pressure off and come together to connect in a way only The Many can!” says Maggie Cadigan, Managing Director, Growth. “We celebrate all that each team has recently accomplished or aims to achieve, get open and curious about new innovations or work in the world, and challenge our comfort through DE&I and personal growth trainings to advance, strengthen and build a stronger community’” . The Gathering is like family dinner, except it’s every Monday and Friday at 9am PST/12pm EST– it’s blocked off, squad only.

The ad hoc moments in our culture are like finding little nuggets of buried treasure, except you're finding them often and on Slack. Take the channel #photoshopbattle, for example: "Many would look at the name and think that it's a challenge to show off Photoshop chops (there is that element) but mostly it's a place where people can make jokes and commentary about our workplace and the world regardless of skills. It is a cultivating ground of culture in this weird from home era we are in," John Paul Brantly, Senior Designer.

Step 1. post a pic 
Step 2. everyone photoshops the pic 
Step 3. whatever photoshop gets the most trophy emojis basks in divine and eternal glory
You never know when the bell will ding, or what the png image will be, but you’re guaranteed to chuckle. And yes, even John Paul Brantly himself has been lovingly trolled– no one is safe.
We also have a ghost. Stay with us now. Thelma Todd was a famous actress in the 1930’s, who also happened to run a restaurant in what is now our Los Angeles office hub on the Pacific Coast Highway. Thelma was unfortunately and mysteriously murdered in a garage just above the office, and now we fondly refer to her as the office ghost. So there’s that. 
We consistently find ways to integrate and pay tribute to Thelma, as a thank you for letting us use her old stomping grounds without haunting us in a way that would actually scare people off. “I started making custom slack Thelmojis™ to help us all precisely communicate what we mean in full 1930’s attitude on the daily. Recently, she’s actually popped up on slack with an account all her own, delivering good news, troubleshooting, and even advice here and there. I don’t believe in ghosts though, so somebody has to be running her account….. right??” remarks Frank Garguilo, Associate Creative Director. Here’s a sample of Frank’s most recent Themoji pack: 

How we work
One of the first things you’ll notice about how we work together is that no one is too far out of reach. “Everyone at The Many has a seat at the table. Our culture is a direct nod to our name, The Many; we welcome everyone’s diverse perspectives because fresh ideas are what make us better and listening to the talented people we’ve hired remains key to our growth and success,” Courtney Burns, Director of Talent + Culture. Our organization is intentionally flat, emphasizing organizational structure over power. In fact, one of our core values is Passion Without Ego. 
In terms of our daily operations, we won’t tell you where you have to dial in from, or when to start or stop working. “Everybody has different needs, different rhythms. We have an opportunity to embrace this. We are aiming to empower our teams to decide the exact hours they work best, and how they can best use office space as a place of intentional connection and collaboration. We continue to push on this, and to question conventional wisdom. Everything we are trying is learning and progress,” Todd Lombardo, Managing Director, Excellence. Read: no micromanaging. We trust our employees.
Transparency is also central to how we roll. “Every other Tuesday is Big Tuesday, agency leadership spends the day assessing the business and formulating plans for continued improvement. Each member of the leadership team will then send a recap of the discussion to the entire agency. There is a standing invitation to the entire agency to present any ideas to the leadership team. Twice a year we hold a special event called State of the Many. This is a deep dive into all goings-on in the agency. We’ll look back on where we’ve been and provide a roadmap for where we’re headed. We celebrate our people, our progress, and our work. Most importantly, we take time to kick it as a collective and reflect on where we are and where we’re going. Perhaps most important of all, we encourage people to just reach out if they have a question or something on their mind. Everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn,” Melissa Cabral, Head of Strategy. 
This is just the highlight reel of our culture. It’s not often you work at a place that employees frequently describe as “special.” At The Many, we let our values and creativity pour into everything we do – and that makes magic.