HR Be Nimble, HR Be Quick
BY: COURTNEY BRANSON
MARCH 16, 2018
Growing up, one of my biggest concerns in life was making sure all of my teddy bears felt loved. My mom, the nurturer of our clan of six, totally got it. My dad on the other hand was a bit more concerned with my STEM skills. As an engineer, he kept my childhood full of experimentation, so much so that I even competed in and won science fairs across Texas. While I’ve forever gravitated to non-technical roles, the idea of trying and failing stuck with me. (Thanks, Dad!)
For the past 8 years, I’ve parlayed that love of science and my nurturing spirit into running culture for two technology companies, first at Match.com and now at Square Root. At both companies, I learned how different the needs and experiences are depending on location, size, and team makeup. The one thing that has stayed true for me is falling back on my love of experimentation to figure out what will work in crafting the best employee experience.
People are a smidge more complicated than science fair experiments. In 5th grade, I created an environment (with power tools!) and exposed plants to one variable: light. Exposing my team to one variable in a controlled environment is likely impossible. And ethically, I have some qualms about opening up experiences to a small group and prohibiting another.
So taking a cue from my techie team, I like to pilot the smallest piece of a program I can, which means sometimes I start with just an idea and use feedback to iterate or scrap. This collaborative relationship allows me to invest my time well and adapt + it invites the team into the process of creating their own Radical experience.
That Radical experience evolves over the years with our team. Our Kudos program has full-cycled back to its original version. Parental leave now ranks as one of our top programs, whereas four years ago it wasn’t even a thing. But probably my favorite example is the unfolding of our Learn Anything program.
We love our feedback ‘round here. You could say that our software and culture are both products of “user” feedback.
We love our feedback ‘round here. You could say that our software and culture are both products of “user” feedback. On one particular culture survey, we learned the team didn’t feel supported to grow personally and professionally. Our Thrive value encourages individuals to embrace learning in a way that’s interesting and authentic to them. This was one of those “be nimble, be quick” moments. We weren’t embodying a value, so we swiftly launched an idea—the Training Budget. Each Radical would get $3,000 a year to learn anything they wanted, personally or professionally. Great, right?
Wrong. Not only was it not widely used, but it seemed to be causing more consternation than before. Through 1-on-1 feedback sessions, I found myself hearing a similar tune: “I’d love to learn Spanish, but I’m not sure how that makes sense with my job.” Yikes! We had budget for just those moments—no need to tie it back to one’s role—but it wasn’t clicking with our team or even our managers. There were a lot of next steps we could have taken, but I’m a big believer in not overcomplicating things. So, as a first pass at improving the program (and a second pass at addressing the feedback!), we renamed it “Learn Anything Budget.”
Participation hit 100% by the end of that quarter. The experience reminded me of this quote from Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame: “Many decisions are reversible, two-way doors. Those decisions can use a light-weight process. For those, so what if you’re wrong?” Renaming the program was a hunch based on feedback, but it was also a low-risk thing to try. It didn’t take much effort or cost. And it worked. If it had failed, I would have tried something else or scrapped the program.
The “light-weight process” allows me to be nimble and quick. By embodying those attributes, I’m working in the same way our technical teams work, which builds trust, respect, and hopefully street cred.
That’s how I try to approach all the little pieces of Culture + Experience. What’s the smallest thing I can try to see if it sticks? And if it does, how can I build upon that? The “light-weight process” allows me to be nimble and quick. By embodying those attributes, I’m working in the same way our technical teams work, which builds trust, respect, and hopefully street cred.
Part of being nimble is collecting, listening to, and acting on employee feedback. In doing so, we’ve co-created a culture with the company that makes the experience and programs we offer truly inspired.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Courtney brings her creativity to everything she does and Square Root is no exception. She handles a little bit of everything but is especially good at employee relations and HR. Mom to a little girl, Courtney’s compassion and patience keep our team grounded and thriving. Prior to joining Square Root, she spent years in HR for large companies, focusing on culture and employee morale. She knows just what it takes to pull the best out of people and has a knack for inspiring and connecting the right folks. Courtney has a degree in English with minors in philosophy and history from Texas A&M University. When she’s not busy building our award-winning culture, you’ll find Courtney reading, blogging, hula hooping, or spending time with her husband, daughter, two dogs, and cat.