Tech companies are constantly talking culture. Whether it’s keeping a keg of microbrewed beer at the ready or raising organic vegetables in rooftop gardens, an engaging environmentis a key factor in recruitment. In this year’s Top Places to Work survey, a thriving workplace culture propelled many companies to the head of the list. Four local tech executives — Raj Aggarwal, chief executive of Boston mobile marketing start-up Localytics; Jim Kizielewicz, chief marketing officer at Chelmsford’s Kronos, a maker of workforce management software; Leslie Brunner, senior vice president of people and process at Watertown’s health care software firm athenahealth; and Jim Gemmell, chief human resources officer for Akamai Technologies, an Internet infrastructure company in Kendall Square — recently gathered at the Cambridge Innovation Center’s Venture Cafe to talk culture and recruitment in Boston with Globe reporter Michael Farrell.
GLOBE How do you define your workplace culture?
BRUNNER The culture we had when we were nine people started from our cofounders, Jonathan Bush and Todd Park. They said we care about being transparent, being flexible, and being part of a team. We have held on to that. We want you to bring your whole self to work — your damaged self, your excited self, your inspired self. There’s no work-life balance. You have one life and you’ve just got to figure out how to get it done.
KIZIELEWICZ The CEO generally sets the tone. We want to create one where people want to come to work. And I think that’s just about being transparent and having clear goals.
GLOBE Do any of you offer unlimited vacation time?
BRUNNER We used to offer that, and then we hired a CFO. Last year I rolled out a sabbatical program. So, after eight years at athenahealth, every person gets a [one-time] six extra weeks of vacation — and you can do whatever you want. But you have to come back and tell people what you did. If you sat on the couch and watched talk shows, that’s fine, but you have to tell it to the entire leadership group.
KIZIELEWICZ We don’t have a program like that, but there’s a lot of flexibility as far as work hours. It’s an adult environment where we say, “Sure, go home early, do what you’ve got to do.”
GLOBE How important are these perks when it comes to competing for talent?
GEMMELL Perks are one element, but they’re not the thing people are going to join or leave a company for. People like to be on a winning team. They want to have a good career opportunity. And they want to work with good, smart people.
AGGARWAL I don’t even think things like the unlimited vacation policies and flexible work hours are perks — it shouldn’t be any other way. It’s just part of the culture. If you’re smart and responsible, you’ll work all night if you need to — and you’ll take the next day off and no one is going to judge you. Things like beer in the fridge all the time, that’s just being responsible adults. We know our people aren’t going to sit there getting drunk in the afternoon.
GLOBE But you have an advantage because of the small size of Localytics.
AGGARWAL There are other software companies in the Silicon Valley and here that, as they have grown, they’ve been able to maintain that flexibility. We’re going to try to figure out how to make that happen.
GLOBE So, what’s your favorite perk that other companies don’t offer?
BRUNNER We have a lot of free stuff: food, beer, swag. People love it. Everybody loves stuff, and we have a lot of it. It makes people smile.
KIZIELEWICZ We have a real focus on improving the health of the employees. We had these crappy basketball nets outside in the parking lot. Guys would go out there and play, and they said, “These things stink.” So, boom, now we have NBA-quality glass backboards. We’ve tripled the number of people who play basketball out there.
GEMMELL We do some fun things locally. Right out in the middle of Kendall, we’ll have a barbecue. It’s just a great way for people to come together.
AGGARWAL A real focus on great craft beers. There’s a rotating supply, they go pretty quickly, but we’ve got a few really passionate beer guys in the company. They’re selecting, they’re doing polls, and everyone is looking forward to what it will be. We’ve got two taps, and so there’s always something a little lighter and something a little darker.
GLOBE What is the toughest type of person to find right now?
KIZIELEWICZ It’s in the engineering disciplines. We have a big push on transforming the user experience of [Kronos] products — so finding people who can really do that well. You have to be a little bit of an artist and a little of a technologist.Continued...