Crossing 100 Employees While Keeping Your Culture Intact with Liveramp and Periscope Data (Video + Transcript)

How do you create a collaborative, cohesive workplace that scales from your first employees to multiple offices in different locations? How can you ensure the heart of your company’s culture holds strong, and also embracing a spirit of reinvention? This panel of three industry leaders will discuss how to lay the groundwork for the culture you want, the challenges you need to anticipate as you grow, and the importance of culture as a marker of your team’s success.

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Anneka Gupta | President @ LiveRamp

Melanie Tantingco | VP of People Operations @ Periscope Data

Caitlin Bartley | CEO @ cred

FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW

Please welcome Anneka Gupta, LiveRamp President, Melanie Tantingco, Periscope Data Vice President, People Operations, and Caitlin Bartley, Cred CEO.

Caitlin Bartley: All right. I’m on. Welcome, guys. Good lunch? Yes? Good energy? Hopefully you got a little bit more fuel for today for our session. So, welcome. Thank you so much for being here. We’re excited to be here, particularly passionate topic of mine personally and I know something that we struggle with and I’m sure one of the reasons why you’re here is because you are too.

Caitlin Bartley: My name’s Caitlin, I’m the CEO of Cred, and I’d to welcome these ladies to the stage. Anneka is the President and Head of Products and Platforms at LiveRamp, and Melanie is VP of People Operations for Periscope Data.

Caitlin Bartley: One of the things we’re talking about today is obviously crossing 100 while keeping your culture intact, but it doesn’t matter if you have 100 employees, 20 employees or 1000 employees, just keeping the culture consistent is something that we can all relate to, and I think it’s something that’s really important. So, want to dive into it, want to give these ladies an opportunity to introduce themselves, and I thought it would be interesting for us to learn when they started at their companies, how many employees they had at that point, and then how many they have today.

Caitlin Bartley: So, Anneka.

Anneka Gupta: Sure. I started at LiveRamp about eight and a half years ago, and we were about 25 people, a couple million dollars in revenue. Now, eight years later, we’re close to 8,000 people, about 250 million in revenue run rate. In that time we went through an acquisition, and recently we spun off as a public company. And so it’s been a really exciting journey, and the topic of culture is really near and dear to my heart, because it’s something that we struggle with every day, because we’re scaling so quickly both in terms of our customers and a number of people we have in the company, the number of locations. And so it’s something I spent a lot of time thinking about as we consider how to build an incredible company as we get bigger.

Melanie T.: I joined Periscope about two and a half years ago, and I was employee 49 there. Today we’re about 160 employees, and we’re all based in San Francisco.

Melanie T.: The Periscope culture is a genuinely mine to mess up. It’s a fantastic place to be, and I spend a lot of time thinking about it.

Caitlin Bartley: That’s amazing. So, we met before this to prep on topics, because we can obviously go on a lot of different directions with this one. We’ve broken it down into four key areas. We’re going to dive into that. We’re going to touch on hiring first, then we’re then going to talk about people, we’re going to talk about churn, and then we’re going to talk about some tools and processes in terms of measuring culture.

Caitlin Bartley: So, diving into it … I guess, before we even dive into it, actually, how would you guys define culture? So what would you say if we had to say what even does culture to both you and the company?

Melanie T.: The way that I view culture is that it’s everyone’s responsibility. It’s a living and breathing organism. And everything that we do represents who we are as an organization. From the recruitment process and how we think about marketing to candidates, and also every single time we bring in someone for an interview, we have to protect the culture and also be very mindful that we should scale it accordingly, and be very inclusive. And so every single person at the company knows that they can contribute to the culture either through the formation of an ERG, or the way that we communicate and things like that.

Caitlin Bartley: Awesome. Anneka, what would you say?

Anneka Gupta: I would say that culture can feel a very amorphous thing, but when I think about culture, it really starts with us and is rooted in our values. So what are the values by which we decide how we want to be acting every day, how we want to show up, how we want our employees to act, how we want to be treating our customers, and that’s the foundation. But then it is what we do that reinforces that, and how we act that reinforces that. And I think that’s how I think about culture. And when I think about reinforcing it and building it and growing it, it really comes down to how do we live by our values every day, and how do we put those into action.

Caitlin Bartley: Awesome. And one thing you mentioned the other day when we chatted is just about how culture is about the people, right? So it’s not necessarily about the perks or the benefits, which we can talk about all day too, but it is each and every individual of those almost 1000 employees that makes up for it.

Caitlin Bartley: So, touching on hiring, Melanie, what are some ways that you guys have incorporated culture into your hiring process or your recruitment process?

Melanie T.: We have dedicated swim lanes for each position that we’re recruiting for. And culture is an integral part of how we vet a candidate. And so, the person who’s in charge of vetting for cultures specifically asks questions around how people embody our values, so going along with what Anneka said, and they have to give very specific examples as to how they are kind and inclusive and positive, and we have eight total values, and so they can pick one, whatever their favorite is, and tell us a story about how they could potentially contribute to our company.

Caitlin Bartley: I’m just curious, is that then something that your employees have to reflect back on when they’re considering that potential candidate? Do they comment on or is that in your debrief?

Melanie T.: Yeah. It’s part of the evaluation process when we’re looking at candidates, and it’s also carried through in the performance evaluation process. Every employee also has to give examples of how they embody all of our eight values within a six month period. So it’s really top of mind for everyone.

Anneka Gupta: Just to add to that, one thing that we found, is that when we were a 25-person company and even when we were a 50-person company, we could have our CEO or other senior leaders interview every single candidate that came through the door. And over time, that’s just not scalable. You end up spending 50% of your time or more interviewing, and you need to do other things with your time too. And so what we’ve found is over the years as we just are bringing in more and more people, we’ve had to tweak the way that we think about interviewing for culture and who are those people that are going to be those ambassadors for our culture.

Anneka Gupta: So, we’ve put in place what we call our talent ambassador program, where we had different people from different teams in charge of interviewing for culture. But even that process broke down last year, because we were bringing in so many new people, and those individuals on the team ended up being bottlenecks in recruiting. And so we’ve had to go back and reevaluate again, how do we just get each person in an interview panel interviewing for one element of culture, so that we’re able to scale the hiring practices and still look for those critical elements of culture without creating blockers and creating a slow interview process for the candidate.

Caitlin Bartley: So, sorry, just backing up there, what exactly did you do? You had one person that was responsible for hiring or interviewing for culture. Was that person a recruiter, or what was their background? [crosstalk 00:07:07]-

Anneka Gupta: These people were people that had been on the team for a long time, who, as a leadership team, we felt they were able to interview well for culture, because they were great cultural icons within the company. And so it was a group of six or seven people. And the way we did it is after an onsite interview, we would do another phone call with the town ambassador if we were going to make a hire. And that person, they could say yes or no. If they said no, it was still the hiring manager’s decision whether to make the hire or not, but they had to carefully consider what the talent ambassador had said in their interview score cards.

Melanie T.: We take a slightly different view on the culture ambassador at Periscope, because, again, everyone contributes to the culture, everyone should be able to evaluate against it. And so it helps us scale, from an interview scheduling process, which we all know is really hard to do, and my recruiting coordinators can literally pick anyone in the company and have them do the interview.

Speaker 1: That’s awesome.

Melanie T.: Yeah. That’s really awesome.

Speaker 1: What did you guys do to change that bottleneck about a year ago?

Anneka Gupta: Now what we do is something similar to what Melanie is talking about, which is everyone in the company needs to be able to interview for culture, and we ensure that through structured interviewing, we actually have specific questions and specific elements of our culture that we have in the onsite interviews we have individual interviewers interview for.

Speaker 1: Can you guys maybe think of, for a second, just a mistake you’ve made with hiring, and off that, have you ever come across or can you tell us maybe about an example where someone who is a perfect fit for the job from technical skills, but maybe they don’t fit into your culture and what that conversation look like, imagining if you’re not the hiring manager, they’re probably pushing for something, but if they don’t fit the culture, do you guys have a specific example that you could share for that?

Anneka Gupta: Sure. Making hiring mistakes, it happens all the time, right? Interview processes are imperfect and you’re never going to know whether someone actually is going to perform in the role until they’re in it. and we’ve certainly had challenges over the years where we’ve brought in people that have an amazing background, but aren’t necessarily a great cultural fit. And this is, I think, the struggle we felt, was in the times where we were trying to bring in someone really experienced for a specific role or a specific function, and we wanted them to come in and take over from maybe someone who had grown internally in the company and was running that function, but was maybe hitting their own capacity for what they could do.

Anneka Gupta: And I think some of the challenges we had where there was in particular someone that I brought onto my team, onto the product team, that didn’t end up being a good fit, and I think one of the good things is that you can tell if someone’s not going to be a cultural fit on their team if they’re just not able to perform. If you’re not a cultural fit, if you’re not able to gain the respect of your colleagues, if you’re not able to really get things done within the organization, if you’re constantly falling behind on your email and you have a culture of people are going to be responsive, all of these things end up impacting the performance. The person just doesn’t end up performing in the role, and it may be because they’re not a cultural fit, it may be because of something else, but they’re inherently entwined.

Anneka Gupta: And if they’re not, then probably the way that you’re defining your culture is not actually what is leading to success within your company.

Melanie T.: I can tell a quick story about a time when a candidate made a mistake. This was a candidate, was a salesperson, they were like $1 million over their quota, they had tons and tons of stories about how they’ve been super influential on the way they’ve changed enablement, et cetera. We didn’t hire this person, because he was rude to our receptionist, and also incredibly difficult to work with from a recruiting coordinator perspective of flying them in, wanted five star hotels, et cetera. I didn’t find out about this until after the person came in. And once I did, I just said we probably shouldn’t hire this person, and we made the recommendation to the hiring manager to not.

Caitlin Bartley: That’s awesome. And Anneka mentioned something earlier, just about time is not scalable, so CEOs, I think it’s really important for every CEO to get a buy-in from a candidate until a certain point. So, at what point does your CEO stop interviewing people?

Melanie T.: He still interviews people, but it’s very strategic. Oftentimes it’s to help close or to help with equity explanations or to talk about the strategic vision or roadmap of the organization, and then he typically will want to be involved in director level positions and above, because these folks will have a lot more influence within his layer.

Caitlin Bartley: Was there a point though that he got kicked out of the normal process?

Melanie T.: Oh yeah.

Caitlin Bartley: What size of the company were you?

Melanie T.: Well, I was employee 49. I think he stopped interviewing everyone at like 53.

Caitlin Bartley: Okay.

Anneka Gupta: We kept that process too long. We probably should have stopped at 53.

Caitlin Bartley: What about you?

Anneka Gupta: I think we stopped at probably 200, but yeah, that point, it’s like then you’re spending 60% of your time interviewing.

Caitlin Bartley: Oren and Travis obviously made that a priority too, which is great.

Caitlin Bartley: Okay. On from hiring natural progression into people. Something I’m always fascinated by, culture is not something that you can write on your to-do list, but we’ve clearly talked about and you’re all here because it’s super important. And there’s definitely no coding behind it. So, how do you ensure that culture stays top of mind for both yourself, but also for the company? Can you put a sticky note somewhere? Do you have a reminder in your calendar? What are some of the reminders that you’ve done to make sure that it stays top of your mind for day-to-day, Anneka?

Anneka Gupta: I don’t think I need sticky notes to remind myself of this just because it’s so inherent in is my team performing well? Are people motivated? Am I ensuring that I’m creating an environment for the company where people feel like they can be successful and they can help the company move forward? And so I feel that’s just the part of the fabric of what I do. But it’s certainly, when you’re thinking about, oh, you’re culture is on some trajectory, and you need to be an active player in defining what that trajectory is, otherwise it can go in a direction that potentially you’re not excited about or you don’t think it’s good for the company.

Anneka Gupta: One of the specific things that we do is when our leadership team meets, and we do an offsite meeting, say once a quarter, we always have some topic around culture. And two weeks ago, we had an offsite, and what we did to talk about culture, especially now that we’re quite large, is we solicited a list of things from the different leaders in the company that they felt like were not working well. And we actually had them tie the things that were broken to the values that we state for the company.

Anneka Gupta: And so we collected all that feedback, and then we looked through it and said, “Okay, there are four or five themes here of issues that are causing problems in the company today, because clearly a lot of people are commenting on this.” For example, one of them was escalations. In our offsite, we actually broke people down into small groups and had different leaders look at these different areas, and I was in the group of escalations, and we talked about, okay, what is actual problem here? Why did everyone talk about escalations as an issue?

Anneka Gupta: And so we talked about, okay, this is the problem, we talked about what are the things that we can do to help solve this at a great scale and what do we need from our employees to do that? And from that, actually the next step is now going through each of these, we had a discussion about them with the whole group, and taking from that, we have a bunch of action items that we’re going to take away and put in place so that we can fix some of these issues. Because a lot of these broken areas end up being the things that erode your culture and take it in the direction that you don’t want it to go in.

Caitlin Bartley: Awesome. Yeah. You mentioned you just recently workshopped your values, so tell us about some of the things that you have done to instill that in your culture so they’re friendly reminders but not something that has to be written down or has to be really forced.

Melanie T.: We’re still pretty small, about 150 employees, 160 employees. Every Friday we have a celebration. We celebrate the wins of the week together because everyone’s still in San Francisco. And an employee will get up in front of the entire company and talk about one of our values and how we embody them, whether it’s the speed of our recruitment process, or how they were empowered to create an ERG within their first week of working at the company. They can pick any topic that they want across our eight different values and they can talk about it in front of the entire company. And we try to cherry pick across the different org so it’s not just the same department representing all the time.

Caitlin Bartley: Awesome. Any other things that you’ve done to make sure that they’re top of mind for people?

Melanie T.: We do other things, like we have tons and tons of dashboards and screens all over the office, and we measure our diversity metrics, things that, because one of our values is inclusivity. Another thing that we do is we have them actually rotating, our actual values are rotating in our interview rooms as screensavers. So that way, when candidates are waiting for their next interview where they can see that we are kind and we are positive, we are inclusive, we are transparent, et cetera. And then it helps feed into the culture interview, which is, “Can you tell me about an example where you embody one of our values that have been rotating on the screens in front of you?”

Caitlin Bartley: Awesome. And do either of you have any interesting or unique things to maintain your culture? I’m thinking of celebrating anniversaries, or you mentioned it with standing up. We do something at Cred that’s MVC, we call it, so Most Valuable Credian, but it’s the value of the week so people can submit people and we have a trophy and they get a gift card. So, is there any fun, unique things that you guys do that you think creates your culture, or some of the things that make?

Anneka Gupta: Yeah. Ever since I’ve been with the company, we’ve done an annual company camping trip. And when we were 20 people was literally going to a campsite, we had tents, we cooked food together. Now we go to this big, it’s an old boy scout camp and now it’s an event venue up near Mendocino, and we bring almost the entire company out there, and we spend a couple days together, and we play board games, and we do crafts, we do different relay and sporting activities together as well. And it’s a really great way to connect with each other, especially for us now. I’m really jealous, Melanie says that her entire team is in San Francisco, we’re now spread across 16 offices globally.

Anneka Gupta: And so it’s really hard to sometimes stay connected to all the people, especially when we have so many new people starting in every location. And so getting every one together in person and really being able to spend that time together, we’ve found that it really helps teams work better together, because now you can put a face to a name, you have a relationship with someone, if you need something, when you go ask them, you’re not just this nameless, faceless person that they don’t know, but they’re actually willing to help you.

Caitlin Bartley: Awesome. Do you guys have any?

Melanie T.: Yeah. I think that one of the unique things that we do is, again, I mentioned this earlier, but we actually have employees and their managers evaluate each person on the values. So they have to give a very specific example of how they’ve embodied the values, and then their manager can collect 360 feedback, or in their own observation, they can create that example as well. What’s really interesting is seeing the juxtaposition against what someone believes is kind versus what their manager thinks is kind. And then we have really interesting conversations there.

Caitlin Bartley: Around how to define it? Can you maybe give us an example of a kind [crosstalk 00:19:30]-

Melanie T.: Yeah. I’ve seen something as simple as, I held the door open for our security guard when he was delivering boxes. That is an example of being kind. It’s not something you think of every single day, but it meant something to that employee to think to themselves, “Oh, I am embodying the values.”

Caitlin Bartley: Yeah. And they were obviously hired for being nice.

Caitlin Bartley: Anneka, some people have been at LiveRamp since day one, which is crazy to think about. Why do you think they’ve stayed? You’re one of those people.

Anneka Gupta: Yeah. I’ve been there for a long time, and that’s unusual, especially in San Francisco. I think a couple of things. I think we have created a company where people are really excited to come to work every day. They know that they have a lot of growth opportunities. We really show by our actions that we’re willing to put people into stretch roles and allow them to grow into those roles while balancing that out by hiring experienced people that can mentor others on the team. And, we’ve been really fortunate that our business has gone through a huge amount of growth. And so that’s created tons of opportunities for people, and they see the value that we’re providing to our customers, they see that we’re building something great together. And I think that gets them really excited.

Anneka Gupta: But, I will say that it’s not always good, you don’t always want the people that were there in day one staying with the company forever, because people that are really good for a company when there are 20 people may not be the people that are really good for the company when you’re 1000 people. And that’s the reality and that’s sometimes a tough position that you’re in, is trying to figure out who do you want to keep in the company, and who are you okay with churning out?

Anneka Gupta: Churn is actually a good thing. You do want people leaving the company if they’re no longer a good fit for the company. But if you’re good about your culture, you’re good about setting the vision, good about saying what’s expected of people, then you can be in control of the people that are churning out and the people that you’re bringing in, and ensure that that culture remains vibrant and ensure that you’re setting up your teams for success.

Caitlin Bartley: That’s amazing. We were originally talking about this topic, actually two or three weeks ago, the topic was scaling our company with zero churn. And it was not a heavy debate because we all agreed, but a certain amount of churn is a healthy thing, right? One question I had is how you account for churn … it’s a healthy thing, but it’s not necessarily something that’s positive when you’re thinking about employees leaving the company, especially if you don’t have that many.

Caitlin Bartley: So, Melanie, employees leaving, obviously we’re arguing in this case that some churn is a good thing, how do you plan for this? Especially in your role, looking at reporting and forecasting, what are some ways that you can plan for churn when you’re looking quarter over quarter, year over year?

Melanie T.: Any team that has more than 10 people, I typically will forecast 20% attrit. So I’ll put a backfill forecast into that, and so I can staff my team accordingly. You never want to be caught in October having to fill 40 positions, because a bunch of people have left. So, if you’re forecasting for it, and I typically will do, again 20%, it’s typically a best in class metric, but if I know, for example, through an engagement survey, the manager isn’t doing very well, I might tick that up a little bit more, or a tick it down if a manager’s doing really well.

Caitlin Bartley: Okay. Is 20% your ideal or is that just an average based on your past history?

Melanie T.: It’s just an average based on my past history.

Caitlin Bartley: One question while we’re talking about churn is I feel like obviously we’re in this little bubble in terms of location, so maybe more for you, Anneka, when you have different locations, not even around the country but around the world, what does that look in terms of accounting for churn, and somewhere like the Silicon Valley where it’s super, super competitive and there might be a lot more churn, versus elsewhere. Do you actually account for things that when you’re looking at different offices?

Anneka Gupta: Yeah, because we’re large enough now, we apply basic heuristics like the 20% to our teams in general and just assume that that’s going to be the attrition rate. However, it’s very true that depending on the location that you’re in, you’re going to get very, very different attrition rates, even within the US. We have a team in Philadelphia, they’re an amazing team, we have zero attrition on that team. And obviously San Francisco is a different story, and then we have teams in China and in London and Paris. So we have teams all over the place. And it’s definitely true that the attrition rates are different.

Anneka Gupta: What’s also different is the time it takes to hire someone. In Paris, for instance, the labor laws are in such a way that you know it’s going to take three to six months, once you open a role, to actually put someone in that role. So, all of these metrics we are gonna have to balance knowing what the labor markets are like in different areas.

Caitlin Bartley: And then when someone leaves, what does that process look like for both of your companies? I’m talking about in terms of the way you guys communicate it to your team. How do you make sure that your employees that are staying still feel valued? And sometimes that can be a hard hitting thing. Sometimes it’s for the better, but not always. How do you guys communicate it currently or your companies, and what does that process look like?

Melanie T.: This has evolved over time for us. We’ve done a lot of mistakes here. First, we didn’t announce departures at all and then employees gave us feedback that they didn’t like that their friends were all of a sudden missing. We also tried to do it via Slack. That was really interesting, because then you’d see all these little emojis pop up at the bottom of it, and then there’d be a happy announcement, and then a sad announcement. That was interesting as well.

Melanie T.: Now what we do is we put together really thoughtful emails, which are sent to the entire company, it talks about what a backfill plan looks like, it has a link to the job description to communicate clearly what we’re looking for. We remind people that we’re looking for referrals. And then we also just open it up and say, “If you have any questions, please come see me or see Melanie directly. And she’s happy to give you color, within the legal boundaries of what I can talk about.” We don’t put that in the email, but that’s the normal MO.

Anneka Gupta: We, for a very long time now, have sent out emails similar to what Melanie is saying, announcing people’s departure. One thing that we really do is we try to celebrate people when they leave. And so we celebrate them in the email we send. We thank them for their contributions. Often their team will organize a happy hour or a dinner or lunch or something to celebrate the contributions of that person. We do exit interviews as well, to understand, hey, what could we be doing better? And also to understand would this person actually like come back and work at LiveRamp again, and we’ve actually had people leave and come back. And I think if you treat people really well when they’re leaving the company, that pays off in the long run, because maybe they’ll come back or maybe they’ll refer their friends.

Anneka Gupta: And we get a lot of referrals from people that have left the company over the years. And so I think what’s really, really important is that whatever you do, you’re treating people really, really well.

Caitlin Bartley: Yeah, it’s funny, I feel people always get so nervous to announce a departure and they don’t know how people are going to take it. And the tactic that you guys used to take of, all right, it’s done and move on, it’s surprising to me, but in some ways it’s not, of how employees that are staying actually want to know when they actually want to support that person that’s leaving.

Caitlin Bartley: And, Anneka, to your point, we were talking backstage about the boomerang effect. When somebody leaves, you don’t know where they’re going necessarily and you never know when they’re going to come back. So, that could be coming back as a new employee. It could be coming back as a client, it could be coming back as a partner, it could be referring their friends, and so just making sure that that experience or that exit process is really positive for that person is super, super important.

Caitlin Bartley: And I’ve also had feedback too of, people are afraid to tell me that they’re going to leave, and you want to make sure that they feel confident enough and supported enough that they can do so. So, that’s great.

Caitlin Bartley: Moving on, I guess, that’s all covering churn. I want to really focus on tools and processes for measuring culture. We’ve talked about, it’s not really a numbers thing, maybe it is a numbers thing, Melanie you have referenced some dashboards of how you guys, not even just measure culture, but probably some numbers or tactics of how you can really just keep a gauge or a check on culture. Can you tell us a little bit more about what that looks and how you guys have actually built it yourself?

Melanie T.: Yeah. Sure. I’m really lucky, because I have a team of data analysts that help me out, and I can measure anything in the company. I have dashboards that tell me are we promoting women or men faster within the organization, and what the average time to get a promotion is within our company by manager, by department. I get to look at our gender splits over time. And one of the fun things that I just saw this morning when I was prepping for today is across individual contributors, our management layer, and our executive team, it’s all the same split for gender, 44% female, 56% male. And that was really cool to be able to say all the hard work that my team has put together and all of the interviewer panels, it’s been fun to watch that progress over time and see that split change.

Caitlin Bartley: Do you have one metric that’s your favorite, or that’s really top of mind for you to track?

Melanie T.: For me, yeah. I think my favorite metric is are we promoting men or women faster? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s just good to have a pulse on who we’re promoting, are we promoting the right people, are we making sure that we’re mindful of gender splits and things that? Because if we don’t mirror what is available outside, then it’s not going to create the inclusive culture, which is such a strong part of our values.

Caitlin Bartley: And that’s a dashboard that you guys have built yourself.

Melanie T.: Correct.

Caitlin Bartley: What about, another culture measurement or tool or platform that you guys have used to help measure but also just to keep employees engaged?

Melanie T.: We also do engagement surveys every six months, and I look at it as benchmarks for are my people happier than any other employer in the Valley? I also look at all of the colorful commentary that people provide. I usually hide in a room for a couple of days and read all the bad comments and then come out with a cocktail in my hand or something.

Melanie T.: And then, the third thing that I look for is just when I do different cuts of data, I’ll look at it by floors in our office, or by managers or by age demographics or recently promoted. I’ll look for glaring red boxes to see if there’s a specific group that we’re just not privy to that feels less engaged, and what can we do as a leadership team, and a management team to go fix that.

Caitlin Bartley: So what do you do? You notice a glaring red box. What happens from there? You come out of the room, you’ve got your cocktail, how do you communicate that back to employees to let them know, a, we flagged this and we’ve heard it, but also be here’s what we’re doing to change that?

Melanie T.: Every time I launch an engagement survey, I re-review all of the promises I made as action items, and I remind all of the employees that based on their last engagement survey feedback, these are all of the 10 items that we committed to as a team, and I give them status reports so that way they feel their voices are heard and they know that action has been taken.

Melanie T.: So, examples of this were, or an example of this, rather, we had an employee who is really passionate about having a women’s ERG. And she asked me in a session, “How come we don’t have a women’s group here?” And my response to that was, “Because you haven’t started one.”

Melanie T.: And so, through that public display of empowerment, and showing her that she can do that, that not only exemplified our culture, but it also created our very first women’s group at the company.

Caitlin Bartley: Awesome. Dashboards, numbers, curious to know where you guys have set up and then also just can you talk about the breakdown between, do you look at engagement per location or per office location, and how does that all come together?

Melanie T.: We have a similar engagement survey tool that Melanie was talking about. We use a company called Glint, and we also run the survey every six months. And I think the single metric that I find most valuable is that basically they aggregate two or three of the questions that we ask, and put that into an overall engagement score. So can see, and you can slice and dice so many different ways, definitely looking for us by location, is really, really important to know where, especially in locations where we don’t have a really senior leader onsite, how is that location doing? Looking at the comments specific for that location.

Melanie T.: What’s really interesting is that for every question, it’s scored from a one to five. And so you can see the four and five people are going to be the people that are really engaged or are answering positively to the question you asked. The threes are, okay, the people, we see those as the people we can influence, because they’re the people that haven’t made up their mind. And then the ones and twos are the people that are the detractors or feel really negatively about that, and it’s going to be harder to change our minds. You still need to do something for them, but often when we focus on the actions, we’re focusing on, hey, who are these people are really persuadable in the middle that we can make a very positive change for them?

Caitlin Bartley: And then would you say you spend the rest of those six months actually working on those things, and then every six months is another pulse check? is there anything that people can do between that time to measure or to check on culture?

Anneka Gupta: Yeah. In between that time is, basically we say that it’s the responsibility of every leader in the and our HR business partners partner with the various leaders to do this, to come up with an action plan based on the results that they got in their survey. So taking that feedback and then communicating to the team, “This is what I heard from you. This is what we’re going to do about it,” than providing status updates, especially once we launch the next survey to remind people, “Hey, here’s why we’re doing this survey. This is what we did because of your feedback, and this is why your feedback is so valuable to us.”

Anneka Gupta: And so we repeat that process. Last time, that was the first time running the survey. We actually launched a set of internal employee committees and we had them focus on a few of the big areas of improvement, because some of the feedback we were getting was so broad that we really wanted people on the teams to own figuring out, hey, this is what the solution should be, or this is what the set of solutions should be for this issue.

Anneka Gupta: And that was received really positively, and then they came back and presented to the leadership, and out to the company what their recommendations were. And we followed up on those recommendations.

Caitlin Bartley: And at what point would you suggest to people that they start to look at a platform like this?

Melanie T.: We ran our first engagement survey when we were about 75 employees.

Caitlin Bartley: And what did you use before that?

Melanie T.: Nothing, it was literally just me hanging out with the employees and getting feedback from them. So, I knew it was really important, we had used it at my previous company before, but I wanted to wait for a critical mass to have enough survey responses to be able to actually do something.

Caitlin Bartley: That’s something that I feel like, it’s just the simplest thing is just communicating to employees of on the executive team or people in upper management, they probably actually spend so much time thinking through these things, but they don’t think to communicate that back to employees. So do you guys have a cadence that you do that, or do you have a weekly CEO email … how does it break down from different departments to your companywide or your entire organization? Thinking purely in terms of communication, and this doesn’t have to just fall back on culture, it can fall back on transparency of numbers or processes or major changes that are happening, critical updates. So, what are some ways that you’re communicating that to make sure all employees feel involved and engaged?

Anneka Gupta: We definitely think transparency is really key to keeping people engaged. So there are a lot of different ways in which we’re trying to communicate information out. And one of the challenges that we face now that we’re a lot bigger is that there’s so much information that you could communicate, you can’t communicate all of it, because you’ll inundate people with stuff that they just isn’t relevant to them, and they’ll stop reading. But, on a weekly basis, our leadership team has a spreadsheet that we fill out that’s the positive outcomes from the previous week, negative outcomes, and objectives for the following week. And we all fill it out every week, and then we actually take that information and we put it into an email that goes out to all the employees. So people can actually see, hey, here’s how the leaders on your team are spending their time.

Anneka Gupta: That’s something that we do on a weekly basis, and then we do monthly all hands meetings where we have a bunch of content that we’ll go over and it’ll vary from month to month, depending on what’s top of mind and what’s important to communicate out. Each sub team on our team has their own team meetings, and there’s information conveyed there, we have Slack, we have a lot of different tools, and then we try to be really thoughtful about what it is that we’re communicating out and what’s the best forum for communicating a particular piece of information, so that some forums are better because you can engage with people and get them to ask questions, whereas others you just want to push information out.

Anneka Gupta: And so it’s a constant work in progress, and as we continue to scale, we constantly have to be evolving the ways in which we could communicate to our employees.

Caitlin Bartley: All right. Melanie, we’re getting close to time. So, three things that people can put in their dashboard to scale culture. You’ve already mentioned gender or … yeah, I guess just gender. I don’t want to put words in your mouth. What are three other things that people can measure and put on their dashboard?

Melanie T.: I would probably say, take a look at just the traditional EEO cuts of what your employee demographic looks like, because you can’t improve if you don’t know where you are. So, look at parental status. When I joined the company, there was one parent in the entire organization, and now we have 13. That’s great for us. Because of that, we’ve had to redo our entire benefits program, because we didn’t really cover dependents at the time that I joined. So, things like that.

Melanie T.: So parental status is one. Another dashboard that would probably be useful is where is the bulk of your employees coming from, either by company or by location, because that’ll help inform where you target your recruitment efforts and things like that.

Caitlin Bartley: Okay. Last minute, we’re going to do something that I like to call a rapid fire. I’ve got a couple of questions, they are going to list off the first thing that comes to their head or just a five second answer. Some of them are easy. Don’t worry, guys.

Caitlin Bartley: All right. Anneka, favorite or latest book you read about culture.

Anneka Gupta: Book about culture …

Caitlin Bartley: You can go if you don’t have [crosstalk 00:39:09]-

Anneka Gupta: Sorry.

Melanie T.: I’m going to say Powerful by Patty McCord.

Caitlin Bartley: Okay. One thing that keeps you up at night.

Anneka Gupta: Retaining-

Caitlin Bartley: Besides work.

Anneka Gupta: … retaining employees.

Caitlin Bartley: Yup. Do you have one?

Melanie T.: Same.

Caitlin Bartley: The percentage of your role or time that is dedicated to culture? If you had to just throw out a number.

Anneka Gupta: 20%.

Melanie T.: 183%.

Caitlin Bartley: And then, last, what would you do differently if you could do it again? You came up with this question.

Melanie T.: There’s so many things.

Anneka Gupta: I would hire people for the scale that we think we need in the future versus hiring people for the scale of the company that we are now.

Caitlin Bartley: Awesome.

Melanie T.: I would’ve probably implemented managerial training a lot earlier. I spend a lot of my time unwinding bad behaviors at the managerial level, and so implementing that earlier would probably be my one.

Caitlin Bartley: Cool. Well, thank you both. This was great.

Melanie T.: Thank you.

Caitlin Bartley: I hope you guys found that helpful. Thank you.

Published on September 17, 2019

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