Please tell us about your work environment for digital practitioners and how it’s contributed to positive outcomes, and help us understand what makes your example noteworthy or exceptional.: 

Groove, a Baltimore-based digital agency, was founded in 2007 by Ethan Giffin with the goal to be a unique, full service agency that focuses on driving real business results. Ethan understood that in order to operate in this way, he needed a team behind him that believed in this mission as well. He also understood that top creative talent would only be attracted to an agency that offered top creative culture. Groove puts our team first, which is evident in the thought put behind our benefit packages, as well as our new headquarters. We have a very high retention rate in a cutthroat creative talent war. It is because Groove-rs enjoy where they work, what they do, and the team they get to do it with. When it was time to relocate Groove’s headquarters in 2013, Ethan chose to renovate an old Baltimore building in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Harbor East, with waterfront parks, great restaurants, and shopping within walking distance. Inspired by Steelecase, Groove set out to establish its world headquarters with the theory, “the desk is the least important element in the office.” Outfitted primarily in Turnstone furniture, Groove’s 10,000-square-foot office space encourages collaboration but also provides space to spread out and work independently. For more than a year, sound thought and research was put into designing an office that would bring out the best in Groove’s creative team. The new space cements our culture, helps to attract top talent and drives business development. Within the office, our employees get to enjoy: * Large café with a “beverage” bar, soda fountain, coffee bar, stocked kitchen, TVs & 190-inch drop down screen for trainings (and the Super Bowl).

  •  A variety of breakout rooms that suit their specific work styles, with high-top tables, sofa and lounge, or traditional presentation style.
  • A den with a working fireplace, comfortable sofas and chairs is available for quieter brainstorm sessions.
  • State-of-the-art technology like a Bluetooth whiteboard, a LCD touchscreen display, Wi-Fi iPad schedulers, and their own MacBook Pro.
  • A photo booth and officewide Sonos Music System

 Free parking As CEO, Ethan knows it is important to offer 100% paid benefits. His motto: take care of your employees and they will take care of you. And he knows that creating an environment for digital practitioners to thrive in goes beyond tangible benefits. Groove is also committed to our employees’ personal and professional growth, as well as helping them to find the right career path within the organization. Each Friday, we host “Free Friday Lunches.” This time allows the employees one-on-one time with Ethan and we can cut loose socially. Ethan pushes his employees to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. His background isn’t typical, so he stresses that the company doesn’t always look for the typical background in Groove employees. Life is a about the journey and not necessarily the test score – so Groove will sometimes recruit folks that have interesting experiences that can enhance our clients’ businesses. Digital practitioners want to work with elite software programs and working at Groove allows them to do so. We have forged partnerships with some of the world’s leading software programs like Magento, HubSpot, Shopify, and
While Groove is known to play hard occasionally, it is because we are celebrating being recognized for working hard. Groove is an award-winning agency, honored as:

  • One of 2013’s fast growing private companies on the Inc. 5,000 list
  • A 2013 Agency Post “Agency 100” * One of the nation’s 15 “Best Young Companies to Work for,” presented by turnstone
  • A three-time recipient of Baltimore SmartCEO Magazine’s “Future 50” award
  •  A 2013 Baltimore Business Journal “40 Under 40” honoree While Groove is a company, we are people first. Ethan encourages his team to do what we can to pay it forward in our community, both as a company and individually. Groove-rs support organizations like the Baltimore Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Special Olympics Baltimore County, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Overall, building and maintaining a positive work environment and creative culture for other companies to emulate has benefited Groove. The Baltimore agency is on track to double its current workforce in order to meet its growing business development needs.
What can other companies learn from the way you’ve designed and maintained your work environment?: 

It seems simple but it is probably one of the most difficult concepts for a growing company to understand about designing its work environment: know your team and the individuals that make up that team. What brings out their best work? What motivates them? What type of environment encourages creative freedom? Groove’s culture and work environment are unique. We take great pride in catering to our employees’ needs, from our physical workspace and social events to our benefits and professional development. When we set out to build our new headquarters, we spent nearly 13 months taking our talented team of creatives and technologists into consideration. For example, more often than not developers are on the reserved side. Walking into a formal conference room where everyone is already seated can be overwhelming and leave a developer mute throughout the meeting. Therefore, we designed several variations of breakout rooms to include high-top tables, sofa and lounge, and traditional presentation style. This less formal atmosphere helps individuals on our team to feel comfortable to lend their creative input. Following the theory that “the desk is the least important element of the office,” we focused on creating areas for collaboration and areas for independent work. Our team can sit quietly in the den by a fire or rock out to our employee-controlled Sonos Music System in the “pit.” Small details in a workspace are also important. We installed a soda fountain machine with our teams’ favorite beverages, including their top choice - Diet Dr. Pepper. We have an indoor bike rack and lockers, as well as a digital photo booth. Our large café with a “beverage” bar has video games, TVs and a 190-inch drop down screen for trainings, events, and movie nights (Our first movie night aired  Star Wars 4 , of course. May the Groove be with you.). The team also works with state-of-the-art technology like a Bluetooth whiteboard, a LCD touchscreen display, Wi-Fi iPad schedulers, and their own MacBook Pro. As far as benefits go, Groove offers 100% paid benefits. Groove employees have enough to worry about, like if their Ravens will make it the Super Bowl again. They shouldn’t have to worry about healthcare costs too.