When Amy Vosters joined Lacework in 2017, she was impressed with the camaraderie that came with working for such an early-stage startup. Everyone knew everyone and did everything at the cloud security company. Vosters, a director of global campaigns, even saw executives unload the dishwasher in the San Jose office. A big part of the appeal was the sense that she was getting in “at such a nascent phase,” she recalls. “I really have that pride of, ‘I remember when it was just me and 30 engineers, and we had a barbecue at the CEO’s house.’”
Seven years and over 1,000 employees later, that intimacy is harder to come by. Among other things, 85% of Lacework’s staff were hired during the Covid-19 pandemic and have never stepped foot in the office. But co-CEO David Hatfield says the company has tried to maintain a flat org structure and shared sense of purpose by making sure all new hires give feedback on their employee experience after a month on the job.
“It’s about creating a culture of transparency and openness and teamwork,” Hatfield says. “People have become much more enlightened on [making] sure that what [they’re] doing everyday is with people that [they] respect . . . Creating an environment that celebrates that is really fundamental to attracting people in and certainly to retaining them and enabling them to be really productive.”
Taking these steps propelled Lacework to the No. 6 spot on Forbes’ fourth annual list of America’s Best Startup Employers. In partnership with market research company Statista, the list was compiled by evaluating 2,500 U.S. businesses with at least 50 employees on three criteria: employer reputation, employee satisfaction and growth. Statista considered any company founded between 2012 and 2019 to be a startup. The final list ranks 500 employers.
Lacework NASDAQ announcement
Opportunities to grow and advance quickly are often what attract job seekers to startups over more established firms, says Bradford Frank, a senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s human resource and technology practices. When Vosters joined Lacework, her title was corporate marketing manager, but really, she says, it was “a jack of all trades role.” One moment she’d be developing the company’s online presence, and the next she’d be setting up operating systems.
Prior to the pandemic, applications to work for startups outpaced those for corporations, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. But the tides have changed, with workers now being 20% more likely to want to work for bigger businesses. “Now startups are having to do things to become even more appealing,” says Thomas Vick, regional director at Robert Half.
Amid the Great Resignation, which has seen a record number of workers quit their jobs, listening tours like Lacework’s can be a crucial retention tactic. According to a Korn Ferry survey of 5,000 HR professionals in over 100 countries conducted between December and January, 36% of employers have been stepping up their efforts to include employees in company decisions. “The Great Resignation has driven companies to be more responsive to what their employees are looking for,” Frank says. “They’ve had to be that much more aware and cognitive of how comp is changing, how our work environment is changing.”
Lacework’s rise to the top 10 after ranking No. 98 in 2021 coincides with the rise of the security industry. The number of security startups on the list more than doubled year-over-year to 43, making it the fastest-growing sector. As companies have embraced remote and hybrid work models, security firms have seen their businesses boom. “[Companies are] getting all this benefit during the pandemic of delivering new services quicker and easier without having to manage all of the infrastructure themselves, so that created a lot of demand for companies like ours,” Hatfield says. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, ransomware attacks are expected to cost global companies $265 billion in damages by 2031, with a new attack happening every two seconds.
The technology industry has, unsurprisingly, also grown more prominent, accounting for 6.8% of the list, up from 5.4% in 2021. And its salaries have been on the rise, too. “IT salaries are moving up and are growing quickly as it is, so the candidates see an opportunity to make more money with their knowledge and experience in that particular area,” Vick says. A survey of over 7,000 U.S. job seekers conducted by tech job-search platform Dice found that the average tech salary reached a record $104,566 in 2021.
Databricks’ Company Kickoff event
“We regularly assess the market to make sure we are paying competitively compared to other companies in our space,” says Amy Reichanadter, chief people officer at Databricks, No. 32 on this list. As salaries have risen, she says the San Francisco-based software company has strived to ensure pay parity for all, becoming certified by Fair Pay Workplace, a nonprofit that evaluates employers’ pay scales and systems to identify inequities and create change. “We did it to make a statement to our employees about the fact that this is something that’s non-negotiable for us,” she says.
Reichanadter attributes the company’s low attrition rate—9%, well below the tech industry average of 13.2%, per LinkedIn—to the work it’s done to create a more equitable employee experience. And the fact that Databricks, which features on Forbes’ 2021 AI 50 and Cloud 100 lists, is still a private company certainly hasn’t hurt. “A big part of our attraction relative to other companies is that we’re still private,” she says, “so that opportunity for employees to come in and become a stakeholder before we go public is something that does have a lot of appeal.”
It’s extras like this that Vick says will make the difference in this tight labor market. “If you want to attract and retain talent, you’re going to have to do things that others may not be doing, or more things,” Vick says. “You’re going to have to create more flexibility, be willing to pay a little bit more, be willing to give equity because it’s harder today to compete.”
For the full list of America’s Best Startup Employers, click here.
To determine the list, Statista identified 2,500 American businesses that had been founded between 2012 and 2019 and employ at least 50 people. All companies considered had been started from scratch and not spun out of existing enterprises. Statista evaluated each organization based on three criteria, the first being employer reputation. The firm reviewed articles, blogs and social media posts pertaining to each employer, searching for specific phrases, such as “corporate culture” and “employee engagement.” Statista then assessed employee satisfaction, evaluating online reviews, as well as growth, examining the organizations’ website traffic and headcounts over a two-year period. The final list ranks the 500 employers that boast the best employer reputations, employee satisfaction and growth.