June 7th, 2017

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I am obsessed with Employee Experience and the potential it has for significant business performance improvement. Having the opportunity to help build amazing workplaces for New Zealand is something I simply can’t get enough of.

Last month I had the opportunity to visit Silicon Valley and San Francisco where I had 11 amazing meetings in the space of 4 short days including meetings with some of the big names in the tech world – Google, Facebook, Uber, LinkedIn, Twitter and IDEO. I was not disappointed.

My passion for helping New Zealand build the best workplaces in the world has been fuelled by what I saw and I thought it would be great to share some insights.

Finding the next Googler, Facebooker or Tweep

Recruiting the right talent is everything. In the tech giants I visited, on average each recruit would go through no less than 2 phone screens and between 5-8 interviews before a decision is made (don’t freak out, the majority of the face-to-face time is done on the same day).

What I loved is that interviewing is often led by peers and sometimes subordinates get involved to ensure candidates are a great fit, with the manager only getting involved in the last stages. From my experience, not many businesses in New Zealand are taking this approach and if they are, it is at the last stage. Why don’t we change the order and get the peers doing the first rounds, saving our managers time too? I loved how obvious it was that attention to quality and wide involvement in selection means the quality of people in these businesses is exceptional.


Giving back

These tech giants understand they have a role to play in giving back to the community. There were obvious programmes and tangible ways employees could get involved in doing good for the surrounding areas.

As an example in 2015 Twitter launched @NeighbourNest, a public space where residence in the low-income areas of San Francisco could build real life skills through a love for learning and technology. Twitter employees are given a real opportunity to give back and pass on their knowledge in the hope of creating new possibilities for the neighbourhood. An introduction and visit to NeighbourNest is an important part of Flight School (on-boarding programme at Twitter).

Most people love knowing they are truly making a difference. I loved the variety of programmes that exist for employees to personally get involved across these firms. Giving back to the community is just one way Silicon Valley is doing their part.


Invest in Retention

Everything I saw was very impressive – however it’s not all there just for fun. These organisations know that investing in the employee experience is good for business.

The on-site hair salon, gyms and multiple cafes are there to enhance the employee experience and remove the stress life-admin can create. It’s all a huge effort to ensure employees bring their best selves to work every day. I loved the nutritionally balanced snacks for both pre and post workout, outside the Google gym – such a great touch.

This approach to the employee experience doesn’t have to be in the form of expensive perks it can be as simple as subsidising gym memberships, having fruit available or allowing flexible working options. A little effort goes a long way. I loved seeing that LinkedIn had replaced soft drink taps with a variety of kombucha flavours – providing healthy options is not only generous but also great for the health and wellbeing of your team members.

In my view, these organisations nail it when it comes to many aspects of the employee experience. I know no business is perfect and these giants are no exception, but lets be honest, any business scaling at this pace is bound to have one or two challenges!


What really matters

Internal trust and transparency is high in all of these firms, the fact anyone can ask any question of the CEO at a regular ‘All Hands’ or ‘Ask Anything’ meetings is something New Zealand businesses could look to consider. Many businesses here are still relatively closed when it comes to more sensitive business information. I would personally love to see organisations sharing more and have personally found this approach to be very effective at Humankind.

When I asked about what keeps these employees in their roles, in a very competitive market, it wasn’t the fact they could bring their dog to work (a Doogler in Google terms), I kept hearing the same answers:

  1. The people I work with – being surrounded by amazing talent (because of a rigorous hiring process)
  2. I know I am making a difference – both having a clear purpose and regularly talking about the positive impact they are having on the world is very important within these firms

Scale and money can certainly help when you are trying to build an amazing workplace but for me the things that stood out the most don’t need either.

Lastly, I am very grateful for all of the amazing people who contributed to making my trip amazing – thank you!

I am looking forward to further improving Humankind as a great place to work and working with our clients to do the same.

#wearehumankind #employeeexperience #lovewhatyoudo