In 2010, DreamWorks animation studio jumped from 47 on ‘Fortunes’ Top 100 Companies to Work For’ up to sixth; an impressive accomplishment for a company founded only a decade ago.
At first glance, it seems natural that working at a world-class animation studio like DreamWorks would be a fun and dynamic company to be employed by; after all, it was co-founded by a legend – Steven Spielberg – and is at the forefront of creativity and innovation. Its production staff get to work across blockbuster movie releases like Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon and Shark Tale. Yet behind the glossy facade, there are tough deadlines, a backlog of work, and fast-paced projects at every turn.
“Everyone here knows they have a particular project that needs to be done, has a deadline in place, they have a particular shot or sequence they are working on which have deadlines attached to them,” said Dan Satterthwaite, Head of HR, in an exclusive meeting with MeetTheBoss.tv.
And yet, even in such a high pressured environment, staff are motivated, relaxed, and have a great attitude. “The management and company […] have a genuine desire to create a great place to work. Nice campus, free food, activities, perks. Union provides all benefits including health, which are generally regarded as being very good,” an unnamed animator told AOL.
“I don’t think DreamWorks animation studio is very different to most other animation studios, but what we do in addition is what I think makes us unique: the breaks we let people take, the events that we host on campus for employees, the kind of opportunities to bring an ornithologist in to talk to our character effects artists, those are the kinds of things that make DreamWorks a very unique environment – the balances, the extremely hard work, with some really crazy fun things to do,” Satterthwaite told MeetTheBoss.tv.
Part of DreamWorks’ appeal is turning its back on conventional big corporation methods and maintaining a small-scale mentality, which Satterthwaite sees as a key component to allowing artists and other creative professions to distance themselves from a rigid corporate mentality, and work in a relaxed, positive environment.
“[At DreamWorks we wanted to create a] very fast-moving, very creative, small organisation; almost a start-up within a large corporation. What we decided to do at the time when recruitment was successful [was to] carve away from the cooperation as a completely separate entity. Many of the creative, innovative thinkers, practically in web design, and in online businesses are not attracted to being a large corporation as they [like] being [involved in] a very small, almost start-up feel so we set it up that way. Because of that, we are able to attract some of the best of the best.”
Of course, the best thing about DreamWorks is the studio’s ability to take such a dynamic, collaborative workforce and steer them all in the same direction, creating sustainable and solid business results.