Original Article By Brex From Culture Amp
Ten weeks ago, Brex implemented a work from home strategy in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Two weeks later, we rolled out a Culture Amp pulse survey to ask the team how they were doing. The results exposed extreme variance in how people were experiencing the situation, prompting us to conduct an internal audit and reassess our strategy. We looked at our collaboration tools, our approach to sustainable work-life balance, and new ideas for how our company could continue to grow. To assist with finding our new normal, we enlisted the help of our partners at Culture Amp, Gong, Slack, and Zoom—companies whose tools Brex uses internally—to share their remote work tools and best practices. The following are eight tactical takeaways:
Don’t just grin and bear it; this time is a learning opportunity. Absorb, adapt, develop, and create. Maintain communication, and prioritize employee and customer well being. Demonstrate leadership in decision-making and daily interactions.
On a company level, rather than selling through the hard times, focus instead on support and retention. Become a concierge, and help customers solve their problems, whether or not it’s with your product. Reconfirm that your offering is still aligned with your stakeholders’ evolving priorities, and proactively communicate with customers to ensure you’re addressing their needs.
Decide which communication channels will serve different company needs. Email, Slack, Threads, and Gong are all viable options, but some serve a specific purpose better than others. Consider urgency, posterity, and discoverability when making this decision. Foster camaraderie by sharing your life. Culture Amp CEO Didier Elzinga regularly shares videos with his team, introducing them to his puppy and his kids. Help your teams resist ‘binging’ on crisis news by distilling relevant information into high-quality sound bites with context for what it means for the business. Good leaders act as a filter that keeps people focused on what they can control. To offer clarity, allow space for creativity and individuality. Assign meetings themes, and schedule time outside of work for people to connect.
Maximize time with video conferencing tools like Zoom. Enable video to maximize nonverbal communication and maintain human connection, use breakout rooms to manage large audiences, and provide time to decompress between calls. Communicate beforehand whether participants are expected to enable video or can take the meeting as a call, and use video-less calls to exercise or stretch. Foster a sense of community through chat platforms like Slack. Integrate company tools, and recreate the water cooler with channels focused on common interests, support groups, and employee resources. Provide training, insight, and company analytics in real time using recording tools like Gong. Brex uses the Slack integration to share daily customer feedback and best practices in its NPS and Voice of the Customer channels. Recorded interactions keep a regular pulse on customer health, provide immediate insight into which value props are resonating, and allow for rapid company pivots as needed.
Empower teams to set and enforce boundaries. Brex recently implemented ‘One Simple Thing,’ encouraging employees to carve out time for one non-work activity or goal every day. Adopt flexible WFH schedules, and motivate employees to drink plenty of water, maintain a nutritious diet, exercise, replace daily commutes with new mindfulness rituals and routines, silence chat notifications after work hours, and block out—and defend—personal time in their calendars. Offer creative ways of setting and maintaining goals and boundaries, like integrating Google Calendar with your Slack account and stretching or exercising during non-video calls. Brex also uses the Calm app to remain grounded during the work day. Invest in nurturing employees’ best selves, and that is what they will bring to the table.
Promotions are often largely determined by informal networks—a fact that is no longer possible in the new reality. Fully remote work evens the playing field. Employees who relied on extroverted personalities and informal power networks to advance their careers suddenly have to put time on people’s calendars, just like everyone else. It’s too early to tell, but this structural change might lead to more egalitarian promotions. In the meantime, focus on rewarding performance, and aim for more meritocratic advancement.
Schedule remote team events. Cook or order in, and share a meal over Zoom. Play games virtually, and keep a running leaderboard to encourage continued engagement. Now, more than ever, culture should be at the forefront of every company’s mind. The rules have changed, but the culture game is no less important. Make culture-building in the new remote landscape one of the year’s top priorities, and come out of the WFH experience more connected than when you went in.
Schedule calls and check-ins with customers. Lead round tables, and share the learnings with the entire company. 73% of employees find their jobs more meaningful when they have this connection. Record and analyze customer calls. Gong shares customer calls with its teams on a daily basis to help them pivot more quickly, using the analytics to power its content and marketing strategy and product design. Identify your customers’ needs, and then build a product that delivers.
A successful measurement framework includes clear metrics optimized for automated data access, and the ability to seamlessly cascade from leadership to individual contributors across teams. Everyone should know what they’re measured against, and those metrics should roll up to the company’s top objectives. Develop a North Star Metric to establish a consistent metric against which to measure company performance, and integrate it into the company culture. Be abundantly clear in your expectations. Do shifts affect OKRs? By how much? Tell everyone. Twice.
In the coming months, and possibly years, businesses will be making tough decisions about returning to the office, partially opening, or remaining remote. Implementing policies to support those decisions will require thoughtful strategy regarding employee well-being, communication, new norms, and customer service. And in the midst of an economic downturn, considerations must also reflect stringent financial planning. It’s unclear how long the present conditions will last, or what the ultimate implications will look like, but with the help of its partners, Brex is committed now, more than ever, to helping growing companies reach their full potential.