About Optimizely’s Outstanding Company Culture and How They Did It


Employees want to work for companies that care.  According to the 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study, 58% of employees consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.  

Leading companies know that creating a great company culture should include a top-notch employee giving and volunteering program.  For an example, let’s look at Optimizely, which has a strong culture of caring about its community and employees.  This is one reason that the company has been recognized by the San Francisco Business Times as one of the best places to work in the Bay Area from 2014 through 2016.

Causecast client Optimizely has outstanding employee participation in their giving and volunteering programs, which is a part of their culture. While employee volunteering and giving rates typically average in the 25% to 40% range, Optimizely recently achieved 51% employee giving and 85% participation in volunteer programs.

Optimizely’s Company Culture

Optimizely describes itself as the world’s leading experimentation platform, enabling businesses to deliver continuous experimentation and personalization across websites, mobile apps and connected devices. The company is a mid-stage start-up, founded in 2009, and has a strong culture of giving back. 

Senior Program Manager John Leonard explains why the company feels a particular responsibility to give back even at a relatively early stage in the company’s development. “As a technology company in San Francisco,” he notes, “we’re really at the center of an unprecedented concentration of wealth, knowledge, innovation and talent. And we’re also in a place where there is a huge homeless problem. There are big, real challenges in education, the environment, and other issues that are all around us.” 

How Cultures Grow

There are so many reasons that a culture of giving back benefits the corporate “giver” as much as the recipient charities. Top employees - especially Millennials - are increasingly drawn to workplaces that foster a greater sense of purpose. It’s become a non-negotiable component of the modern employee’s job search.

Optimizely’s Social Impact Program

Over time, Optimizely created three different campaigns, each one building upon the next. Leonard knew that the Optimizely employees were extremely busy - but the Causecast platform made it easy for employees to volunteer and give back.

The results were impressive. Optimizely tripled the average contribution to its annual giving campaign over the prior year, and total funds raised increased sevenfold. Half of all donors chose payroll deduction and 25% made recurring contributions.

Leonard ensured that the platform offered something for everyone, with international organizations and local nonprofits alike. As a result, the campaign served as a great tool for connecting far-flung offices together for a common cause. The company more than doubled employee participation over the prior year (21% to 51%) and accomplished this with no company match. All this with 83% of Optimizely’s employees being Millennials who are relatively new to philanthropy.

Social Engagement and Employee Engagement 

As Optimizely offered carefully planned events, more employees participated in each event. 

“When they see so many of their peers volunteering and talking about it, when senior executives are volunteering and endorsing the experience, it feeds on itself,” says Leonard. “The more people volunteer, the more it becomes second nature, “ Leonard notes. “It becomes an expectation.”

As giving back has become more of a norm for Optimizely, the company has seen this reflected in the feedback it receives from employees. A survey that the company organized last December yielded a surprising number of responses around the social impact focus of the company, with 70% of employees saying that these efforts made them feel more proud of their company. One employee commented: “I’m so proud of Optimizely's commitment to helping others. So much so, it's the first thing I talk about when friends and family ask ‘How's the job?’"

Leonard believes that Optimizely’s burgeoning culture of social impact helps attract the best employees and also the ones that will fit into its desired culture. “We want to attract employees who have a passion for a lot of different things,” he notes. A new employee recently told Leonard that he had multiple job offers, but joined Optimizely specifically because of the opportunities to give back to the community. “We think that this culture helps retain employees, too.”

Ryan Scott