Viacom Again Lands on Indeed.com’s List of Best Fortune 500 Companies to Work for

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Over the past several years, Viacom’s towering Times Square headquarters has undergone a series of significant renovations. In the lobby, enormous screens now hang alongside the elevator banks, a cavernous event space and a new cafe host an endless procession of parties and meetings, and a sequence of bold installations has invigorated the entrance areas with the energy of a high-end art gallery. Up on the seventh floor, the Wellness Studio offers heavily discounted memberships on a regimen of fitness classes, while employees can get their pictures album-ready for free at a printing studio. The 31st floor has been transformed into a massive convention center, while several other floors have been renovated in a style that elegantly meshes function and design.

As the company headquarters slowly sheds its old skin for the wide-open interiors of the 21st century media workplace, Viacom has been investing furiously in new, renovated and expanded buildings all over its footprint: earlier this year, the company united eight of its brands in a soaring space in the heart of Hollywood and vastly expanded its Burbank studio.

This invigorating workspace overhaul is just one of many perks to having a job at Viacom, and it likely contributes to the company landing on the upper half of Indeed.com’s list of  Best Fortune 500 Companies to work for for the second consecutive year.

What makes Indeed’s list unique is that their rankings are based entirely on data extracted from employee-submitted reviews. And the reviews are strong.

“I have worked at Viacom in Hollywood for over a year and love it,” went one typical comment. “Super fun and collaborative culture, cool brands and a nice work/life balance.”

Commenters praised the company’s perks (like free soda and coffee machines in many locations), employee events (like a conversation with LL Cool J), paid time off, benefits, and career development and advancement opportunities.

“Smart companies know that if they make their workers feel comfortable and happy, they will work harder and longer,” another commenter wrote. “Happiness pays for itself with higher productivity.”

The company has spent decades building a deep talent pool – signed plaques commemorating 10-or-more-year anniversaries are ubiquitous on desks around the office – and this shows in the deep respect that many commenters had for their peers. “My co-workers were some of the smartest professionals I’ve ever worked with,” wrote one person, who identified themselves as a former vice president in Ad Sales. Another expressed a similar sentiment: “At Viacom I learned how to be a better engineer, you are around GREAT and strong engineers and as our lead architect would say, ‘Stay with us, we will make you better.’”

And while all of these things are, in my experience, true, and having cool workspaces infuses day-to-day tasks with a certain energy, there is something far more important that Indeed identified as a common thread running through all of the top 50 companies. “A recurring theme across the employee reviews for these firms is the importance of a strong company culture and clear values,” a post on the site announcing the list explained.

Indeed, a strong community conscience has always been vital to Viacom’s self-image, and many employees praised  the many volunteer opportunities, an inclusive culture that values diversity, and the unexpected benefits that transcend the typical menu of health insurance policies, such as adoption assistance.

Viacom employees help clean up Central Park at Viacommunity Day 2017, the company’s annual day of community service.

While a constellation of factors influence how people feel about their jobs every day, there is a pervasive pride, throughout the comments on Indeed, of working for a company that is so vital to the modern media and entertainment landscape, and one that is adapting so well to it, with advanced data capabilities and audience measurement tools. As one commenter wrote, “The industry is going through a major restructure and this company is ahead.”

This recognition from Indeed is the latest in a long line of acknowledgements that the company has received for creating a supportive and attractive work environment. Last year, Fast Company named Viacom a top destination for work-life balance, Fatherly named us to its Great Workplaces for New Dads list, and Working Mother put the company on its 100 Best Companies list for the sixth consecutive year.

Get Schooled Scores a Spot on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in Gaming List

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The lighting-thumbed gamer diehards will nod in knowing agreement as they glance at Fast Company’s roll call of the 10 most innovative companies in gaming – streamer Twitch, gamemakers 2K and Activision Blizzard, founding father of modern gaming Nintendo. But the name at number nine might teach even the most seasoned gamer something brand new: Get Schooled, the non-profit organization whose primary mission is inspiring students to finish high school and succeed in college.

How exactly does an organization founded via a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom crash a who’s who of modern gaming giants? By adopting the fearless attitude and experimental dynamic of a Silicon Valley start-up driven to solve an complex problem.

“Get Schooled has a track record of success in part because we have adopted the principles of a high performing tech start up: we value partnerships, use data to continuously improve and have learned how to fail fast,” said Marie Groark, Executive Director of Get Schooled.

Those improvements have hinged upon a bold and vast adventure into gamification, a realm that many high school students know well and require no primer to engage with. The pivot began just two years after Get Schooled launched in 2010, transforming www.getschooled.com into an immersive gamified universe, where competition, point scoring and rules have engaged millions of young people, who can cash out their points for stuff like autographed gear from NBA and NFL stars, calculators or backpacks in a rewards store sponsored by the organization.

Students can also earn scholarships, or celebrity appearances by the likes of DJ Khaled, Nicki Minaj, James Harden, KeKe Palmer, Nick Cannon, Ne-Yo, Chance the Rapper and Ludacris. Check out Kendrick Lamar’s visit to Bethel High School in Alaska, a former “drop-out factory” that earned the visit by winning one of Get Schooled’s national points-based competitions:

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Younger Inspires Creativity at the Fast Company Innovation Festival

by Chanel Cathey, Viacom
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10:  (L-R) Darren Star, Patricia Field, Debi Mazar, Hilary Duff and Nicole LaPorte speak onstage during "Inside TV Land's Hit Show "Younger" With TV Icon Darren Star, Patricia Field And Debi Mazar" at The Fast Company Innovation Festival on November 10, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company)

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 10: (L-R) Darren Star, Patricia Field, Debi Mazar, Hilary Duff and Nicole LaPorte speak onstage during “Inside TV Land’s Hit Show “Younger” With TV Icon Darren Star, Patricia Field And Debi Mazar” at The Fast Company Innovation Festival on November 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company)

Fast Company launched its first-ever Innovation Festival in New York City this fall with speakers that included Serena Williams, Gwyneth Paltrow, Steve Aoki, Neil Blumenthal, Ava Duvernay and more. The event brought together trailblazers and extraordinary personalities for talks to spark conversation and inspire creativity.

A festival highlight was a keynote session with the creator and cast of the hit TV Land series, Younger. Hundreds lined up outside of NYU to take in the conversation. TV icon and Younger creator Darren Star took the stage with legendary costume designer Pat Field and actresses Hilary Duff and Debi Mazar to share a behind-the-scenes look at how the show is created and reveal the secrets behind the scene-stealing fashion.

Fast Company’s Nicole Laporte moderated this conversation, highlighting how Younger tackles the realities of pursuing your dream job, trying to make it, dating, ageism, feminism and more. The comedy has been lauded by critics and the show uniquely addresses the generational divide in the workplace with humor and fun. Set in New York and Brooklyn, Younger, with its fresh take on real issues, has multi-dimensional appeal and is swiftly winning over fans of all ages.

Creator Darren Star – who is no stranger to hit shows and has brought Sex and the City, 90210 and Melrose Place to TV –explained his creative process. “I start with the character and an idea” said Star. “Especially for a TV series, I want it to thematically say something about the time that we’re in and talk about the world.”

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10:  Producer Darren Star (L) and fashion designer Patricia Field speak onstage during "Inside TV Land's Hit Show "Younger" With TV Icon Darren Star, Patricia Field And Debi Mazar" at The Fast Company Innovation Festival on November 10, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company)

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 10: Producer Darren Star (L) and fashion designer Patricia Field speak onstage during “Inside TV Land’s Hit Show “Younger” With TV Icon Darren Star, Patricia Field And Debi Mazar” at The Fast Company Innovation Festival on November 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company)

Younger follows 40-year-old Liza Miller (Sutton Foster), a recently divorced mother that pretends to be in her 20s to re-enter the workplace. “I love this concept of a women who has to lie about her age to get back into the workforce,” said Star. “I know women who have been out of work for a while, raising their kids, and they go back to work and it’s not so easy.”

Star pours these real experiences into his characters, and it’s addictive to watch the charming and witty plot unfold. He admits that casting and chemistry are everything for a show, because the actors bring depth to the characters and make it believable.

“Darren’s a pro at many things like casting,” said Field. “When I read this script and here’s a 40-year- old woman and she’s going to be 25 and I’m like how am I going to do this? I’m a costume designer, I’m not a magician. Then I met Sutton Foster and thought this is perfect casting – she has an energy all her own that’s wide-eyed, a youthful energy inside of her.”

The show is a creative force from start to finish; from the smart script to the incredible cast to the amazing outfits Field imagines – fans can’t get enough.

“This is fun for me, people are watching for the clothes,” Star shared with a laugh. “The audience gets so much enjoyment from watching the actors and what they’re wearing. It’s another way to watch the show.”

On the panel, even Hillary Duff couldn’t hide her anticipation at discovering the upcoming plot twists. “I want to know what we’re doing next season,” she exclaimed.  If you feel the same way, here’s a sneak peak of the next season, which debuts with a one-hour premiere on Tuesday, Jan. 13 on TV Land.

In addition to the Younger panel, attendees were treated to spots featuring creators and talent in the Viacom family discussing key themes like innovation, collaboration and driving culture throughout the weeklong festival. This video series, like the all-star Younger panel, will hopefully inspire the next generation of groundbreaking show-runners, writers and actors to tap into their own creativity, pursue their passions and innovate often.

Fast Company Viacom Collaboration from Viacom on Vimeo.

Comedy Central’s Michele Ganeless, ‘The Woman Behind the Funniest Shows on TV’

by Daina Amorosano, Viacom

 

michele-ganelessFor the past decade, Comedy Central President Michele Ganeless has overseen a network that has assembled a stellar slate with a mix of established and emerging favorites — from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and South Park to Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele and ­@­midnight. It’s also drawn in a deeply devoted, engaged community of fans.

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Scratch Reveals Banking’s Increasing Irrelevance Among Millennials

by Chanel Cathey, Viacom

PiggyBank

Viacom’s Scratch embarked on a three-year study, aptly titled the Millennial Disruption Index (MDI), to decode the industries most ripe for disruption at the hands of millennials . The results are in and it’s clear that the financial services industry is struggling to engage and inspire millennials – as consumers and as employees — foretelling what could be the beginning of significant change in this sector. Fast Company signaled this imminent disruption when it unveiled Scratch’s study in Sorry Banks, Millennials Hate You. In fact, millennials don’t hate banks; far worse, traditional banks are becoming irrelevant, as the largest generational cohort in history looks elsewhere to meet their needs.

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