When we founded Merit America, we were determined to make it a great place to work. We didn’t want to lead an organization that created good in the world, but felt bad for our staff (or for us!). We didn’t want office politics, we didn’t want unspoken resentment, and we didn’t want Sunday Scaries. So we set out to build something that combined all of the great traits of organizations we worked at, worked with, and admired from afar.
First, we invested in our values and culture. We’re growing so quickly that we essentially have a new organization every 6 months, and our culture is a critical part of our strategy to recruit and retain the best talent. At Merit America, our values drive “how” we do what we do, and serve as the bedrock for our culture. Someone once said that culture is “what you reward and what you allow” – we recognize and celebrate behaviors that demonstrate our values, and we do not tolerate behaviors that go against them.
And our values are not just words written in a document that no one opens, or hashtags painted on a wall (which, since we are fully remote, would be a big commitment from an employee!): we refer to our values daily both when we commend great performance, and when we are looking for the right way forward.
Second, we are focused on building an equitable culture. As an employer, one of the most important things we do is hire based on skills, not pedigree. It’s what we ask of the world, and we put our payroll where our mouth is. Our organization’s vision rests on the belief that talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. At Merit America, we screen and test for skills in our hiring process, don’t require degrees for any position, and use panels to ensure we’re countering bias in the hiring process.
We know that historically marginalized people are less likely to advocate or negotiate on salary, so we set salaries by benchmarking to national averages, post salaries on job descriptions, and don’t negotiate. Everyone at Merit America who does the same job gets paid the same amount, and everyone gets the best-in-class benefits including unlimited vacation, excellent insurance, and retirement contributions.
As an organization, we are results-focused and take our goals seriously. We are strict on results and loose on approach–and measure performance based on quantitative results rather than qualitative feedback. As co-CEOs, we work to model the kind of leadership that we hope everyone in our team will demonstrate: respectful, collaborative, trusting, and generous. We also recognize the power of affinity groups, and participate in them ourselves.
Finally, we are mindful that work is one (important!) component of a full life. You may have seen some people in the news recently bragging about sleeping at work. We just want folks to do their work and get their sleep. Since the pandemic, we have been fully remote and trust that our team will get the work done, no matter where they are. In 2021, we also rolled out a 4-day work week for all employees, and have not looked back. We are so careful with this time and avoid sending emails or Slacks on weekends, to help our team protect their time.
We are so proud that Merit America was recognized as a Great Place to Work. But even more than that, we are thrilled that our team thinks Merit America a great place to work. We have recruited a diverse and talented team, and their experience is the most important thing in the world to us. We know we have a lot of room to continue to improve and grow and look forward to working with our full team to continue the evolution of Merit America, and shape the organization of tomorrow.