HR Superstars
HR Superstars

Episode 17 · 1 year ago

HR Superstars Live: Building A Sense Of Community In A Remote Workforce


How do leaders create a sense of belonging and camaraderie with their still shell-shocked remote team?

They start with clear communication, vulnerability and inclusivity, and a safe space to share ideas.

This episode was taken from a segment of the HR Superstars Summit. In it, Santi Jaramillo, CEO and Co-Founder of Emplify, and Milena Berry, CEO and Co-Founder of PowerToFly, discuss ways to lead with empathy and increase remote staff engagement.

We also talked about:

-The importance of authentic leadership and clear communication.

-How CEOs can practice transparency and cultivate compassionate leadership.

-Ways to foster recognition and a sense of achievement to increase team engagement.

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:



Agile Engagement (book by Santi)

For the entire interview, subscribe to HR Superstars on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher. Or tune in on our website.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for HR Superstars in your favorite podcast player.

I think a best practice from mulch first companies used to have a cadence of in person interactions. More team building activities would probably be helpful into scenario. You're listening to HR superstars, a podcast from fifteen five that highlights stories from the front lines of HR and people ops. Each episode will showcase fascinating conversations with leaders offering their unique experiences and advice for building an extraordinary company and culture. Let's get into the show so that what we just both talked about is that combination of hr sort of centralized programs or recurring, you know, meeting. That happens, but it doesn't work if it doesn't start from the top, even though the you do a really nice job of leading with vulnerability and I think if the leader doesn't, if leaders at the top of the organization don't lead by example with vulnerability and authenticity, it's going to not create an environment where you can have all of the amazing HR programs, the very best questions every Friday, where every Monday and in people will look around and just kind of say, I don't know, is this do we do? Do we really get real here? And if they can see the leadership get real. It can really create a really wonderful invitation for others to take steps toward sharing more of their full selfto work, not just the small part that many times is welcomed by the the professional world. For us, I love that all right. Well, transitioning, we've got another another topic here. It's the topic around Camaraderie and belonging. Is the question from Wesley and it's how to create a sense of belonging and build bonds and a team that is experienced many changes as a result of restructuring. Curious, Molina, if you have some thoughts on that. So back to kind of as being a remote first company. I think a best practice for remote first companies is to have a cadence of in person interactions, right, and so back in my of Oz days we would do a retreat two times in the ear where, again, the agenda was really just employee development and team building. We would drop any kind of operational work for two weeks of the year and in part of life. Frankly, we haven't really executed on that model, but we tend to free covid and who knows when in the future, but bring in smaller parts right like. So maybe just the sales team, the leadership team, to talent team, whatever we can to to really provide this kind of in person cohesion. I tend to think that, again, more team building activities would probably be helpful in this scenario. I think it's very important for people who are going through some sort of more traumatic change where it's a lot of restructuring. Perhaps there were layoffs or furloughs involved, who knows, right, I don't really know the situation, but it's very important for people to feel safe, that for them to know that the guillotine isn't coming for them next right. And so I think having when leadership communicates a plan of change, of radical change like this, it's important to say what is going to be the...

...path forward. I think not knowing, in uncertainty, is what really disturbs people and makes them unsettled. And so how can you really make sure that the team is clear about what's coming and that they feel a sense of security and trust? And I think just communicating a plan, making a hundred day plan, and then regular communicating, you know, a hundred day plan. For those of you who kind of are not so operationally focuses, you can do it on anything. Right, you can do it on a company, you can do in an apartment and you can do it on a project or a product or a team that you're launching, and you kind of go people, process, product and you know, using that framework, you can kind of create a plan for what's going to happen to these three groups in a cutter days, which is roughly a quarter right, and so I really recommend that you communicate what's the plan then kind of create regular cadence of figuring out how we on track with that plan or not, so that people again get the sense of stability and if you again, if you can put more team building in that process so that again people can get to know each other, would be great. And then, lastly, in very disruptive situations and when you're like, Oh, you know, we had to shed half of the team, but I really want to keep the out half of the team, I have seen that bonus is on the spot sometimes work. So put it in a little bit of financial incid if maybe you don't have the money, you can give a little bit of equity, whatever it is that you can give to the people who is staying and who you want to invest in. I think that goes a long way to just hear from you that they're safe and and they're getting rewarded and needs. That's really great. Yeah, I think the I think the safety piece is so important and I think with in some of someone has said. We heard someone say that in the absence of information people go negative. An alternative is that, you know, in the absolute information people make up stories. So if you can clarify this is what's happening, allows people to just psychologically rest in. Okay, I have there's there's you reduce that fear of the unknown right and there's the fear of the uncertainty. One of the things we've I've seen is that over the years we've brought our teams together either either in small groups for retreats like our leadership team retreat or individual team retreats, or even the whole company together once a year, and those very intense spend a lot of time together. You know, rent a house together, you know go on a retreat and do a strategic planning week or something like that. Really fuse the relationships in a way that's that's different if you're just on zoom all the time or even if you're in an office together and I think getting people together for more of an intensive period of time, I think is a great way to kind of fuse that sense of Camaraderie and belonging. And one of my cofounder Shane, often talks about how, you know, relationships are fused through a combination of challenge and novelty. So you know, something that's new, out of you know, out of the norm, and maybe there's something we're have to overcome or work on together. Can also create that experience. The other thing I want to say about retreats, because I know I raised the topic first, but definitely there's... element of make sure you inclusive when you playing their retreat right. So, for example, we have a lot of brand new mothers. They might not be I mean, especially now with Covid I think you have to be very careful for in person and reason make sure people really feel comfortable and not feel like they can lose their job or be negatively impacting their job if they decide not to travel. So covie decide, though, you know again that that concept of like, I don't know, I had a senior team member. She'd want to come to a retreat and I still don't know why? But you know, maybe she's afraid of flying right and and maybe somebody has a new baby and you know they live in a country where it's not accepted to leave you baby to an any you know, how can you accommodate for that without putting pressure, without making it like if you don't come to this retreat and you're not going to have a path forward in this job? Right? I think that's and and that's just two examples. Of course there's a lot about examples of inclusivity that I can think of and how a retreat can affect on the represented population, but just wanted to put the word out of there to really be just be careful about about the personal circumstances while you're planning this. I'm so glad you brought that up because it is such an important thing and to understand, and I think a lot of these things is really under standing empathy for other people's situation. You know, when we did a leadership train retreat one year and our VP of design had recently had a new baby and she lives in the Netherlands, so we all flew there to the Netherlands and she had childcare and she didn't come and stay in the house, but should we stayed right near where she lived and she would bike over and, you know, just just to really oriented around her situation. And then also, I mean you mentioned how your experience of having your four kids transformed your view of of that. You know, you know. I think. I think that there's actually just curious as a as a quick aside, to get your perspective of you know, how do you have nonparents have an understanding and empathy for the flexibility that parents require? I know that after I had my son and saw what his mother had gone through, I think the first thing I did was come back to the company and say we've got to change our maternity policy, and we did, but I didn't have that perspective beforehand. I such an interesting question. I talked to a founder earlier on independemic and there were two female call founders. I don't know, maybe both of them are praying out a while of them was, but there was a lot of small children in the picture of both of them as call founders and I find you and there was struggling with kind of asking their employees to give them the flexibility that they needed to deal with a pandemic in their personal situation. And and what I said at a I'm is like, listen, I definitely, first of all, would over indexed on transparency, right, because you got to be transparent what's going on so that, again, if something needs to suddenly shift in you you can't join on a call, people know why, because I think you're trying to come and cover it up. The reason why that's that's way worse, right. And number to think about those colleagues...

...who might not have children, did dealing with they're equally affected by the pandemic in a very different way. People are going crazy lost the out of loneliness, out of like just being alone in their place and not seeing others. Mean that was way worse actually than having four children are around in the home in many ways. And so just understanding that, again, everybody has a different circumstance and and your job as a manager is to always adjust for that and then optimized sort of course, the company can keep performing with everything, you know, with your pavval going on whatever personal level that's happening, but that would be kind of my understanding and and frankly, I don't know. I it reminds me of the story David, that my cofounder wrote about as we started, part of fly which is that as a young manager, you know, in her s, she had no empathy for working mothers and then she had a child of her own and then she realized that asking people out for drinks at five PM is really not the most inclusive way to do culture and team bonding and s switched to doing launches instead. Right, like things like that. I think part of it is just life and we're going to have to, you know, go through it to earn that empathy for others, but also understand that they have their things to deal with and you know, some people are really into their pets or their parents or support that they're in, whatever it is. They have to make room for that in their life as well feel fulfilled and and balanced. Yeah, yeah, it's a really great point. All right, you just said, Milena, with just how that's a manager's job to continually be sensing the uniqueness of their team members and their teams and continually adapting to that. There's like a emergent directionality to it, kind of like a GPS that's like it's got one or two of the next turns. It doesn't know exactly where you're going to end up, but it's at least got the next because it's always sensing and you just keep returning to that just the importance of. Yes, top down policy absolutely matters. Yes, leadership leading from the top, putting real budget to it, creating real roles with real responsibilities and authority matters, and it's also critically important have amazing managers that can deal with these nuances that are so hard to federally and top down mandate exactly what should be done in every edge case, but have managers that can make the right decisions and absence of direction from from leadership on different areas and just intuitively make the right empathetic decision for their team members. And I just love what you said. They're Malinga about the importance of not only structurally at the top down organization, but locally at the manager are laughing excellent managers that are really well enabled by human resources and by executives to make the right decisions for those nuances and edge cases that just invariably come up all the time. Yeah, and I keep coming back to empathy as the key skill that's really needed because you know, there's so many different divergent experiences that people have. And No, no, no one of us is going to have direct experience of all of these different cases. And so your ability... put someone up in put yourself in someone's in shoes and understand that you know there they have different life circumstances, they have different challenges, they have different experiences in that and to understand how that impacts the flexibility they need and how they show up and what their individual needs are. I think is is I think it's just a very important skill that we figure out a way to teach more. Fifteen five is the only evidence based people and performance platform for highly engaged and high performing organizations. Strategic HR leaders in all industries use the platform to win by improving communication, up leveling their managers and increasing company wide engagement. Learn more at fifteen fivecom well, to thank the perspective I wanted to offers. I also want employees to remember that managers are humans to right. So this empathy concept, I think, also goes both ways, because I have certainly been in situation in the past and even currently am in situation where my job is stretching me every single day. I don't have all the answers right and I will make errors and I will learn from them and I will own them. And and I think especially in fast growing organizations when people get promoted very fast, you often left with a management layer that frankly doesn't know everything that they're doing. And so just that ability to to identified at a little bit, also from an employee perspective, and and be able to say wait, I think I need a little bit more support here, you know, and to figure out how to how to adjust for that perhaps lack of management experience from because a lot of people put in menagement positions before they're ready and of course they're excited to grow, but just then needs to be a feedback loop there as well. That is like the most beautiful thing about about the engagement journey that we've been on for four years now, commentating in this new chapter as part of fifteen five, but that honest conversation of an employee having a safe place to say, Hey, here's with my answers to these questions, here are some areas that we could work on, and then the leader then seeing that data and way the protects the individual but at a team level in the that individual. Going back to a team and saying thank you so much for your input in your feedback. Here's what I learned. We're doing great in these areas where we're struggling in these areas and I'm committed to being better. Please join me and helping. What can we do about this year? Some ideas, but what are your ideas of how we could rectify the situation? And the team is like, well, here's some ideas, and then they're co creating the solution versus the leader, kind of implementing some top down actions that will sort of magically, you know, create more engagement. That's what relationships are about, right, is listening to the other person, responding and inviting the other person to be in real dialog and Co creating a new a New Vision for the relationship and for the team moving forward and at its best, it can be that in that to happen in a... setting, I think is just so special and rare. And then, as culture slowly then become, you know, just open up over time and invite more of people's humanity and their full self, and then the team, the humans thrive and businesses were it's really good. I also really liked the concept of the mini CEO right, and I think right, like if you have a team and you're managing a team, a good way to kind of start growing leadership with in your team used to identify. All right, I'll just give an example of, say, managing a sales team. That's top of mind, right, like a sales leader needs to deal with hiring, on boarding, sales operations, fixing up dexts, you know, comp reporting, Adend of the month, all these things, and in you can identify, even from individual contributors, mini CEOS of each one of these areas so that they can then start growing their skills over over time. It's something I really kind of highly recommend, again, especially in a fast growing organizations where you don't want to bringing all of the the managers from the outside right. I deeply believe in in growing people internally and I have found this is a great tactic. Yeah, I love I love that concept, Lena. I operate with a very similar mindset to and thinking about, you know, at the senior leadership level. You know, each of the senior leaders really being trust to Yo very and I think there's a there's a dynamic leadership follower ship thing. I think that some people think all on the leader. I'm supposed to always lead, but I don't think that's always the case. I think there's you know, there are times where I, as the CEO, should be following other leaders in my organization when they're the expertise and they're, you know, they're closer to the problem of the customer, etc. So we should transition. We have time for one more question and this one is from Mackenzie. It's how do you maintain a positive work culture in this virtual and remote world? Curious if either of you have some some good tips. What again, I'm very I'm very biased because I have worked remotely since to thought six. So for me this is nothing new and I'm actually just proud of our retention rate in our culture and what we've been able to build. Again, I would I would go back to my two key words, transparency and vulnerability, or my two key words right, vulnerability, deability for to be real with each other, to share what's going on we do personally, to share the areas just struggling with professionally. So did you can get help, ride with you know. And then transparency, very key for the remote team. How can you take initiative and less if you don't know transparently what's happening in it out of part of the ORG. So investing this transparency across the ORG and into this culture of being able to share. We to Sah Otter what's going on. For me that's very key to building that positive amount culture. HMM, I'll share a couple of things that have worked over here as well. So I love, I'm in transparency, vulnerability or so, so, so important. We used to have an earlier core value at fifteen five was grant trust and be transparent and and then also encouraging people to, you know, to be vulnerable where there was weird safety. And one of the...

...things that we have done historically for a number of years and we built into our product is is practice of high fives. So making sure that we encourage people to celebrate the winds and acknowledge each other. We built it into the products of people are reminded to do that because, you know, more often than not it's the problems that come up that have us reach out and say what's wrong, but we're not always so generous with the praise even when we notice it. So, you know, how can you create a culture of appreciation and then also creating a cadence. We do a lot of a lot of all hands meetings. I think, Santi, when you join you're like, Oh man, this is a lot, I don't know about this. And every Monday morning we're meeting and we're sharing about wins and new hires and promotions and how the business is tracking in the numbers and and and then in slack, having a space for people to celebrate, you know, wins that are happening in successes. So those are some of the things that we do. Curious on see what else you might add. Something I really noticed starting my own employee experience at fifteen five recently this year was the high five. So we used to do that. Implied we did a great it was wonderful, but but there is more structure. There's more structure with the high fives. That really just creates a fly wheel work which just know what to do. US, like you. There's a high five, you tag someone, there's like instructions to do it. We came up with like custom slack emojis for different core values to recognize stuff. It was just kind of a little bit more emergent and we're smaller company, so we just we're on the journey and but that that intentionality of the structure of having an actual tool to foster recognition. I think the the per employee like recognition metrics of fifteen five or just just use like like hundreds like per week. I mean it's like it's amazing to see the amount of celebration of people just strategically celebrating awesome winds. But one of the things that come to mind is I think it was angerin and Christie. Give them credit for this, but they would do a monthly like no, they noticed that with remote, those little interactions of the first three minutes of a meeting where you would just be human and be like the weather today, or did you see the Yank keys or whatever, like we're gone, like you started zoom meeting and you just kind of feel awkward and so you just jump into the objectives in the agenda and those like moments of like bonding and human rapport kind of don't seem to happen as naturally when you just shift from full sort mostly in person to there. And they this said one of the things we're going to start doing is we're going to have a monthly like at least thirty minute meeting and it can't be about anything work related. We're just going to you know, and it was really cool. And so some companies now have borrowed it and now they basically mandate managers that at least once a month you have to do something with your team that isn't about achieving your goals and objectives and key results and it's about building community and getting to know each other and seeing each other as humans and within some managers like, but how do we do it? So then h our teams actually send...

...them. Here's ten of them that you can just start using, and that way managers can choose, they can come up but their own, but they know that they're expected to be intentional about how they build community to belonging in a remote context, and I think that that mandate, with some tools, can be a really great way to really encourage managers and give them permission to do it, because many times it would be like, I don't know, we're re allowed to do that. The doesn't every single meeting have to have like a decision made, you know, and and it's like yeah, we should have great meeting hygiene and not have too many meetings, but also it is our jobs to also build community and belonging, and so taking time to do that is okay and it's actually encouraged and and supported by it leadership and an HR. Let's great, Melena Santi. Thank you. That's all the time we have for today. I want to thank everyone for participating. I also want to call out MILENA. You guys in power to fly. Have a summit coming up on June eighth to eleven. Correct. Yes, thank you for mentioning that, David. It's actually going to be our pride edition. So we're featuring leaders from the LGBTQI plus space for a week long summit. SIGN UP AT summit. took part of flcom. Fantastic lineup of speakers and it's free, so enjoy while would last. Fifteen five is the only evidence based people and performance platform for highly engaged and high performing organizations. Strategic HR leaders in all industries use the platform to win by improving communication, up leveling their managers and increasing company wide engagement. Learn more at Fifteen Fivecom you've been listening to HR superstars stories from the front lines of HR and people ops. Be Sure you never miss an episode by subscribing on your favorite podcast player. If you're listening on Apple PODCASTS, you'd love for you to leave a thoughtful review or give a quick rating by tapping the stars. Thank you so much for listening, until next time,.

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