The Washington Post published a list of top places to work in the DC area, and we’re honored that Burness is on it! We sat down with Vanessa Bigelow, Principal and Director of Human Resources and Community Engagement, to get her take on what makes Burness great.

What makes Burness a great place to work?

Two main things: the work and the people.

The work we do—improving people’s lives through communication—is fascinating and challenging, and it makes us feel good to be contributing to the world in a positive way. That sense of mission permeates our culture.

There’s a thing about the people here—they have generous, open hearts. They’re good folks who want to do good, universally, not just in their work but in their relationships with each other.

Now don’t get me wrong. Like everywhere else, people here are different from each other in all sorts of ways. That’s a good thing! But the common denominator is that they have genuine hearts of gold. There’s a real sense of family here.

How do you build that kind of culture?

Well, we do have great benefits that make people feel appreciated—and of course we have company outings, retreats, parties, and the like.

But none of that matters if you don’t hire the right people. The people make the culture.

So how do you find the right people? What do you look for when hiring new employees?

To land here, you have to have humility, passion for a better world, and a great work ethic. Andy Burness really stresses all three. Related to that is the ability to listen. Listening is a skill that’s lacking in society today. To do our work well, and to fit in with Burness’ culture, you have to be able to listen.

Of course we expect any candidate to be informed about Burness and the issues we work on. And we want them to have some basic skills that indicate they’ll do well and enjoy their work.

Burness is a mission-driven company. What does that mean?

Our mission is to improve the human condition through communication, and we work only with nonprofits that share our mission. We also give back to our own community, like through our initiative to reduce hunger in Montgomery County, Maryland, where we’re based.

Another key part of being mission-driven is this: we believe that improving the world starts here, at our own company.

Our leadership team believes in treating people the way we want to be treated. We’ve all been through stages in life—we’ve started jobs, we’ve been mid-level managers, we’ve had kids, we’ve taken care of sick family members. We know that life is not all about work.

So we try to make our own people feel cared for.

Why prioritize that?

Practically, taking care of your people leads to loyalty, and when you have loyalty, you’re going to get better work. The happy employee is going to go the extra mile when the job requires it.

But fundamentally, we prioritize taking care of our people because we truly care about them! People are at the heart of Burness—whether that’s in the day-to-day work that we do, improving people’s lives through communication, or whether that’s in the HR department.

We’ve been around long enough to know that organizations go through ups and downs. Every place has its stuff. But if you keep people at the heart of what you’re doing, it will all work out.

You look at the clients we work with, the work that we do, and the people we work with—who wouldn’t want to work here?

Thanks to the Washington Post for naming Burness one of the top places to work in the DC area. Check out the full list.