What is a culture of belonging? And, what is its benefit? In this episode, Tim Reitsma and Amy Spurling—Founder and CEO at Compt—take a deep dive into how to create a culture belonging.
- Amy is the Founder and CEO at Compt. [1:43]
- Amy describes two kinds of leaders: the peace time leaders and the wartime leaders. [3:48]
“For me, being a leader is figuring out how you bring a sense of calm to the team when you’re dealing with so much uncertainty.Amy Spurling
- For Amy, building a better world of work is having a much more empathetic workplace where people are treated like adults, supported like adults, and not treated like children. [7:28]
- Amy shares an example of their empathetic approach at Compt. [8:50]
- Not everyone communicates in the same way. So, creating space where different communication styles can work is really important, and making sure that all those voices are heard so that you get the best ideas. [13:51]
“Best ideas are not just the loudest ideas. They can come from all kinds of places.Amy Spurling
- At Compt, they don’t have a structure for how they track their tasks. People process things in different ways. What’s logical to one is not logical to another. So, they’re allowing flexibility and things like that. [18:02]
- At Compt, they’re giving more importance on their hiring process and they make sure that they don’t hire for behaviors that are counter to their culture. [19:14]
- The non-negotiables for Amy as she’s building out her company are really thinking about how they create that inclusive environment. That environment where people do feel like they belong. [20:52]
- One of the tortures of leadership is making sure that you are taking care of the whole organization, but you’re also respecting all the individuals individually as well. [25:17]
- Amy shares how she creates that sense of belonging in all different environments. [26:18]
- At Compt, they do a quarterly temperature check, where there’s 10 different factors of how are they doing across culture, team, fun, etc. And people can rank it from 1 to 10. [34:14]
Meet Our Guest
Amy Spurling is the Founder and CEO of Compt, HR software that enables companies to offer truly personalized employee perks that adapt to remote and hybrid employee needs while being fully tax compliant and inclusive for global teams. Amy’s experience as CFO and COO managing HR and Finance at early and growth-stage companies prior to Compt drives her belief that companies and employees can achieve so much more together when employees are fully supported.
Named Boston’s “CFO of the Year” by the Boston Business Journal in 2016, she is a seasoned executive with nearly 20 years of experience in leadership roles at venture-backed companies ranging from early start-up phase through high growth and ultimately exit.
Over her career, she has closed over ten rounds of financing totaling more than $200M and managed two acquisitions to close. Amy received her Master of Business Administration from the Simmons School of Management and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rochester.
Belonging, to me, means that not only do you have a lot of different types of voices on the team, but you’re creating space for them to share their thoughts and opinions and perspectives.Amy Spurling
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- Company Culture: Why It Matters And How To Improve Your Own
Read The Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Belonging to me means that not only do you have a lot of different types of voices on the team, but you’re creating space for them to share their thoughts and opinions and perspectives. Not everyone communicates in the same way. So some people are great on the spot, want to jump in, share their opinion. Creating space where different communication styles can work is really a big piece of that.
Welcome to the People Managing People podcast. We’re on a mission to build a better world of work and to help you build happy, healthy, and productive workplaces. I’m your host, Tim Reitsma. And today on the show, I have the pleasure of talking with Amy Spurling, CEO and Founder of Compt, an HR software that enables companies to truly personalize employee perks.
Amy has a vast experience being a CFO who has closed more than 10 rounds of financing, a COO and founder. Being part of many different workplace cultures, creating a sense of balance of belonging was top of mind for her while building the team at Compt.
In this episode, we get into the how to create a culture belonging. And while it’s not necessarily straightforward, the key is intentionality. So, stay tuned!
Welcome to the People Managing People podcast Amy! It’s a pleasure to have you on this episode. And I think it’s a timely episode as we dive into a culture of balance and belonging.
But before we get into that, thanks for coming on and spending some time with us.
No, thank you! It’s a pleasure to be here.
Yeah. And before we get into it, why don’t you just take a few minutes and tell our audience a little bit about who you are and what’s top of mind for you these days?
So, my name is Amy. I’m the Founder and CEO here at Compt. I know there’s a lot of things going on right now that impacts this conversation of balance and belonging, obviously.
Things that are top of mind for me are really thinking about the impact that the growing, the kind of dynamic nature of our financial markets right now are gonna have on companies. There’s a lot of companies looking at how they’re gonna tighten their belt, how they’re gonna be managing their team in a different way.
And so having done this in 2008 as a CFO and having a little bit of PTSD right now, kind of remember going through that, but that’s got a lot of like, there’s a lot of learnings that came out of that for a lot of folks that I think are gonna get to be applied now. So that is very top of mind for me right now.
Yeah. And I can imagine as, you know, the CEO and Founder of a company as well and what were those learnings in 2008 as a CFO and how do they apply to your company. And, but also how to navigate the future going forward and still kinda creating just a, a cohesive team and a cohesive organization, and a resilient organization. Cause there’s, there’s so much turmoil going on right now.
Before we get into that conversation. Oh, sorry. Go ahead.
I was gonna say we support HR leaders. And so even when our company’s doing well and in a good spot, we know that a lot of our customers are sitting in different positions. And so it’s the empathy and supporting that happens downstream, that’s a big piece of it as well.
Yeah, it’s not just, you’re just not in the market just to try and sell something. Obviously, it’s to, you know, create a livelihood for your business and your employees but also there to support others who are looking to, to do what you’re doing.
And so I, I applaud you for that, especially in these turmoil times and tumultuous times and this crazy world we’re living through right now. It’s hard to believe sometimes.
But before we get into that conversation and I think it’s gonna play nicely into the conversation is like kind of my two, two standard questions I ask every guest is, the first one is, in your eyes, Amy, what does it mean to be a leader?
I think it’s different at different points in time. You know, there’s the leaders that are really good with kind of the peace time leaders versus the wartime leaders. So the ones that lead through kind of chaos and kind of dynamic environments. And then there’s the ones that are better at okay, things are going well, how do we grow?
For me, I’ve spent much more of my time as a leader in the wartime version of it. And I think it’s the nature of being an early stage startups you’ve always got some sort of a crisis you’re managing or trying to figure out and things like that.
So for me being a leader is figuring out how you bring a sense of calm to the team when there’s, you’re dealing with so much uncertainty. So whether it’s just your early stage and you’re trying to figure out, is this product something people want? How do we navigate that? How do we build a real business around it? That can bring, I mean, you have to be pretty Agile and there can be a lot of things going on.
So that can be very stressful for folks. As a leader, it’s bringing much more of a sense of calm to that environment is important.
Yeah, I love that. To be honest, I haven’t heard that yet. And I’ve asked, I don’t know, like 30 people about that. So, but I that’s, this is one of my one, one of my favorites definitions, ’cause it truly is. There’s so much, so much chaos, so many things and areas of the business our team can be putting their focus on, but bringing that sense of calm.
And you know, not necessarily just bringing everybody into a virtual room or a physical room and say, okay, we’re just gonna breathe through this, but, but that sense yeah, it’s all, it’s good. You know, we’re all okay. I love that.
Well, and if you’re hiring the right people, they’re gonna be doing the right things and you’re gonna be going the right direction.
You do obviously need as a leader to provide a sense of direction and things like that. But if you’ve got those high performing individuals, they’re all internally motivated and pushing themselves probably too hard. So as a leader, I view it as my, like I need to keep my people from burning out, goes back to balance.
And making sure that we are in it for the long haul and that we don’t burn ourselves out.
Yeah, because if it’s a leader who’s just pushing, you know, a 100%, 110%, trying to, trying to push that envelope, cause five days, maybe even sometimes seven days a week for a long period of time. Yeah, that sense of burnout.
And we’re hearing it, we’re hearing it across all functions. I was just on a call recently with a number of HR leaders who are just all sitting on the call going, We are tired. We are exhausted. It was, we need to move hybrid. We need to move remote. We’re acquiring companies.
Oh no, now we’re laying off everybody and it’s just this continuous, stressful cycle, so.
It’s been very stressful for HR leaders in particular. And it’s about to get worse again, like the CFOs are gonna get more involved now, because now it’s gonna go into more of a financial management mode. And so, HRs had a seat at the table and been driving things for a couple years, which has been great. A lot of pressure on them, but it’s been great to have them at the table.
Now, finance, I think, is going to be stepping in to curb costs and it’s going to be just as much work on HR, but now they’re not gonna have as much of a say on how things are gonna be done. So I think it’s, I mean, it’s gonna be a really tough period of time, I think for HR leaders.
And I think that’s an accurate prediction, an unfortunate prediction, but it will, it will be hard and it’s gonna continue to be hard.
And I think a nice lead into the next question. Our purpose here at People Managing People is to help build a better world of work.
So when you hear that phrase, build a better world of work, what comes to mind? Knowing that we’re in this tumultuous time, there’s a lot of chaos coming up and continuing to be in our organization.
So when you hear that, what comes to mind?
Things that come to mind for me are things like having a much more empathetic workplace and a workplace where people are treated like adults and are given a lot more, like a lot of organizations, a lot of companies look at it as a “Us vs. Them” situation. Company needs X, how do we make employees do Y?
I think that is very upside down. I think when organizations really thrive and when we do have better work environments, you respect the work that employees are bringing in and value that and treat them like adults and support them like adults and stop treating them like children.
And I think that creates a much healthier dynamic within a company instead of it being this push and pull, you’re collaborative, and you’re all working together as a team to push something forward. And I think that’s just a much healthier environment and I think it builds better companies and better world to work.
Yeah. Just to, instead of treating it as, you know, employees are just a number in that financial model or in that financial sheet, but there’s that empathy. I mean, may have to shrink that employee base, or maybe it’s an expand that employee base, but treating, living and actually living that.
And so I’m curious at Compt, like what’s an example? Do you have an example about that? About how, I mean, this ties in with balance and belonging, but really that empathetic approach and that approach to your style of leading your team.
So some of it is recognizing where you don’t have experience.
So for instance, I don’t have children, I’m not having children. It’s a choice I made, but a lot of people on our team do. And we’re gonna have lots of babies this year on the team, which I’m very excited about. Lots of pregnant people and I’m very thrilled about this. But part of that is like thinking about parental leave.
Now, I’ve never gone through that, personally. I’ve got lots of brothers and sisters, but it’s very different, obviously, when you’re going through this as an individual. So rather than my dictating what a parental leave policy looks like, for us, it’s looking at, like, I obviously need to take the financial side of it into account.
What can we afford to do for people? And we do it for either birth parent. It’s not just for the person giving birth. It’s for the other parent as well, because it should be co-parenting, in my opinion. You know, this is not a woman’s problem. This is parents that need to help with children.
But looking at it from a, okay fine, what we can afford is we can afford 12 weeks. How that happens? I don’t actually have an opinion and I don’t need to have an opinion about that. So if you’re not the birth parent, you may wanna be out solid for a couple of weeks and then come back to work and then take full time out when the birth parent is actually going back to work so that you can do the second set of leave.
Or maybe it’s more of a part-time situation, or maybe it’s full-time for a piece and then part-time for another. Cause every family is different. Sometimes you have family involved. Sometimes you don’t have family there to help out. So allowing parents and families to really craft something that matters for them at that moment in time, to me is really important. And recognizing that I don’t know what the situation needs to look like.
So giving enough of a guidance so that people can make decisions for themselves, but then really giving the employees the, empowering them to make the right choices for their own family, I think is really important.
Oh, I love that. It even ties in with the build a better world of work, is treating, you know, we’re adults. We’re able to make decisions, but having those guidelines kind of know those posts, those goal posts, if you will, of like, yeah, maybe it’s 12 weeks. How you use it? It’s up to you. And I’m not gonna say, okay, you need to use 12 weeks now or 12 weeks later.
Well, and you just, you don’t necessarily know. Right? You don’t know how that child’s going to be. Hey, one of the women who was on our team really early, she had her first child and she was like, it was very, my mother was a midwife. I’ve been around lots of babies growing up. And I’m one of seven kids, so lots of children, but she was like, well, I’m gonna work through maternity.
I was like, but you’re not. Like, that’s not happening. One, you’re out. It’s fine. We got you covered, go be with your baby. And she’s like, well, He’s just gonna sleep the whole time. I was like, you haven’t met your baby yet. You don’t know that. He may scream for three straight months or decide that he only wants to sleep in the 20 minutes you wanna take a shower.
And so you just don’t know. And, you know, in situations where parents have, I mean, what if you have complicated pregnancy? And you need to be in a hospital with your child or something, like that is not a time for a company to be like, Hey, let’s talk about your parental leave.
And it’s time to come back when they’re in the middle of chaos, like giving them the ability to manage their own situation and not have to worry about this is really important.
Well, it just plays into that balance and belonging. Like, as you said, like you’re not a parent, that’s a choice that you’ve made, but we know that there’s a lot of people in the company that aspire to be parents.
So, you belong here. Otherwise it’s gonna be, right, cause it could be the complete opposite, which then creates that turmoil and imbalance of, look, I don’t know if I fit in here. Or there’s that underlying stress. Yeah.
Right. Well, and it works both ways, too. Right? Because we have people who aren’t having children. And that’s where I felt like I haven’t belonged in plenty of organizations where it’s like, oh, there’s all these benefits for people who have children and there’s this extra health insurance and there’s this extra.
And it wasn’t that I faulted those people for getting those benefits, but you’re sitting there going, but I’m doing the same work. Why is my compensation less? Because I’ve chosen not to have children. And so trying to find that balance and make sure that we do that is really important. So even the way we structure our health insurance here. We pay for 80% of an individual.
It doesn’t scale up right now to family. You still get 80% of individual, because if you choose to have a family, that’s your choice. Also, if you choose to go on your partner’s health insurance, we’re still gonna give you a stipend for that amount. So the cost of an employee is the same, regardless of what your family and life situation is. Just the same as if you decide to go buy a $5 million house, but you make a $100,000 a year.
This is not, you don’t get a raise because of that. That’s your choice. Not my choice.
That’s your choice. The world of work, work like that, I don’t know if we’d have many companies surviving, if that’s the case.
Yeah. And so just even to back it up a little bit, just that the idea of that, the culture of belonging. Let’s, maybe for our listeners, let’s define that.
What does that mean to you?
Belonging to me means that not only do you have a lot of different types of voices on the team, but you’re creating space for them to share their thoughts and opinions and perspectives. Not everyone communicates in the same way. So some people are great on the spot, want to jump in, share their opinion.
You know, in team meetings, some people are gonna be more reserved. Want to sit back, be more, think about things and then share later. Creating space where different communication styles can work is really a big piece of that. And making sure that all those voices are heard so that you do get the
best ideas are not just the loudest ideas. They can come from all kinds of places, but creating a team that collectively recognizes that, so that we are creating that space. So it’s not just, okay, everybody communicate whatever way you want. And then I’m gonna go around in the back and try and herd cats and get everybody’s opinions. That’s not gonna work either.
It’s having a collective understanding across the team that, okay, this person over here likes to be more quiet and thoughtful. And so when we get through a meeting and we haven’t heard from them, somebody will be like, Hey, they haven’t heard from you yet. Like create some space for them to have a moment and not feel like they have to assert themselves and jump in.
But having that be, not just me forcing that type of thing where it’s more of a team dynamic around that is really important.
I love that example and that idea, that creating space. I’ve worked in an organization where, you know, sitting at the leadership table, if you didn’t say anything, you would almost be penalized, because you needed to have a voice.
And I’m, I’m a little bit more introspective. I’ll sit and I’ll listen. And, but I had to, I trained myself just to say things, even if it was just nonsense, but I had to have a voice. So coming into organization and a new organization, and just like having to unlearn that behavior to feel like you belong otherwise, yeah, it’s just saying things for the sake of saying things, just to get your voice out there, voice heard, which is not that culture of belonging.
It’s not and it’s not like I’ve seen situations in other companies where we found that all of us were communicating in one particular way where we’re all very analytical in this organization I have in mind.
So we all, that’s the way our brains worked. And we were very methodical and structured. And we brought in artistic person in who worked from completely other side of the brain. And I watched where they failed. Not because they weren’t talented, they were incredibly talented, but that their perspective withered and died in an organization that was so kind of finite instruction.
I was like, okay, but we need both to be able to build a good company here. So that’s a problem. And so in thinking about that when we were building Compt, it was like, we need to create more space for communication styles that I may not even be comfortable with. I am very data-driven and very structured, and I start on time and I end on time and that can drive some of my more artistic people a little bit bananas. But, you need to be able to have space for both.
Yeah. And to create that, create that space, otherwise, how do you then adapt your style of saying, okay, I know this is what we need, but we gotta start on time and on time, I’m, you know, I’m the CEO, I’m the leader of this company. You’re, this is how we’re gonna run things.
This is how it’s gonna be. So how do you then, even as a leader, adapt to your team? Or do you adapt?
Some, I do. Some, I don’t. I wouldn’t say I’m like the best at it. And you also do need to still have some structure. If you let everything kind of happen organically, you’re not going to have any structure.
And it’s really hard to run a business that way. So, there are certain things that we do. So we’ve gotta be able to get work done. If meetings don’t start and end on time, it backs everything else up. So that’s one that I don’t really give on. My team also knows, you don’t book me for a lunchtime meeting, ’cause if I don’t eat it’s not a, it’s not a pretty picture.
So, you know, there’s a little bit, I keep my own structure and boundaries. But then it’s within those, within that sandbox and that framework, making sure you do create space for different ways that people wanna process information. Making sure that when we are trying to do brainstorming sessions, and things that are encouraging other types of mental processes that we allow for different types of communication.
So we don’t have a structure for how you have to track your tasks, for instance. People process things in different ways. What’s logical to one is not logical to another. So allowing for flexibility and things like that.
Yeah. I just had this image you know, a leader coming into the room saying, yes, here’s the boundaries that we’re gonna play in, but you know, so, and so wants to do brainstorming and then just rolls their eyes. And it’s like, oh, alright, I guess we’re gonna do brainstorming.
That is not a definition of a culture of belonging. But I know it happens. And so, you know, what gets in that? What gets in the way of creating that sense of belong, that culture of belonging? You’re building a company right now.
It might be easy to say, okay, we’re gonna go from point A to point B and here’s the parameters. But could get in the way?
I mean, it gets harder as you scale. You know, as you start adding more and more people. And, like up until now, I’ve managed everyone on the team. So it’s really easy to instill kind of your perspective when you’re managing everyone.
That’s not going to happen as we continue to scale, obviously. So making sure that we have consistency across and that tone is being set from the top down is important. But it’s also in how we’re hiring as well and making sure that we don’t hire for behaviors that are counter to our culture.
So in a lot of organizations, it’s usually, you know, the classic example is, Hey, we’ve got this person on the sales team who is a pretty big jerk, but you know what, they bring in money. So we just let it slide. That’s not gonna fly in this organization, because it’s just gonna derail so many things. Just because someone can close a lot of money does not mean that they should be in an organization. So it’s gonna be part of, of hiring and vetting and making sure that someone adds to our culture.
We look more for culture add than culture fit. Culture fit means you get a whole lot of the same. We want a lot of different types of people and perspectives and viewpoints. And let’s make a big pot of soup here together instead of being like just kind of one note. So it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be making sure that we’re hiring and vetting and really clearly communicating those values, as we continue. Otherwise, I mean, that’s the risk. As you grow, you can lose your culture.
I think you said something that’s really critical there, is the behaviors and the values, and that’s so critical all aspects of the organization. That is effectively your framework and at Compt, maybe I’ll, hope it’s okay to put you on the spot a little bit. But I’m curious about the values and the behaviors.
What is something that is just a non-negotiable for you as you’re building out this company? So again you mentioned the example of that, salesperson that’s a jerk, but they could bring a lot of money. So we’re gonna forego a lot of money. But because this person doesn’t fit in the culture.
So I’m curious, like what are those non-negotiables for you?
For me personally, we don’t, have never hired that person at this company, to be fair. So we’ve had, I mean, we’ve got amazing people on our sales team. The non-negotiables for me are really thinking about how we create that inclusive environment.
And that environment where people do feel like they belong. So we’ve had one example where I had brought in somebody that they were coming in as a consultant. And I had met with them and they seemed really talented and, you know, skilled in the area they were gonna be helping us with and they could have translated into potentially a longer term role.
When I brought him in, I could see, like I saw a physical, like the person they were meeting with take like a step back, like the, it was just, the person was very aggressive and coming over the top and felt very commanding. And it wasn’t, it wasn’t at all collaborative. And I could see where like the physical, like physical aversion this person was having by working with this person.
And then I saw it happen a couple of times and we’re like, this is just not going to work because we can’t have somebody who’s bullying in our environment. Even if that’s not their intent, their communication style just is absolutely not gonna work here. We need to create an environment where people can be heard and people can’t be heard with this person.
And so I cut it short with that consultant, like making sure that people have the space and are not like, you’ve got to, you can be a forceful person and have strong opinions here, but you need to also create that space for others. So that to me is really important. Like we’re not looking for bulldozers because again, loudest voice doesn’t mean that you have the right opinion.
That’s great. Thanks for sharing that. And I know I, I put you on the spot on that one, but it’s such a good example. Because I think, and I’ve heard of friends who are in exec positions who brought up these questions. Even recently of going, okay, this person is a performer, but nobody likes them and they’re alienating the entire team, but they’re getting stuff done.
And so I like to flip that and say, well, at what cost? So you’ve got one person, but how do you know if the three or four or five or whatever other number of people on the team are just being stifled and they’re not being able to perform their best? And so being able to say, Is this creating that culture belonging?
No. Then it’s, as a leader, actually doing something about it and being courageous to do something about it and calling it out.
Right. Well, because what you’re doing in that situation is valuing the one person over the five. And that’s literally what you’re doing. You’re saying, this behavior is okay.
So I’m going to allow that, even though it’s counter to what the rest of the team is trying to achieve here. And there could be times where, again, if you’re going to be an inclusive environment, you need to create space for a totally new type of person. There’s, you gotta work through that so it’s not making that call too early. Make sure your environment is not getting too echo chambery. You may need to create some space for this person, but you got to talk to them and like make them aware of at least of how others are feeling.
And if they can adjust a little bit to create that space, then you’ve added something amazing to the team. And if they can’t, then you need to make that call.
They need to make that call. And I had another conversation this week about something similar to this, about feedback and how people within their organization.
And this is an organization of well over a thousand employees and how leaders are just afraid to give feedback. And so that’s a whole other conversation and we could spend an hour on that conversation, but you know, just what you said about, you need to have a conversation with that person, let them know what’s, you know, what their behavior, the impact of their behavior is having on the organization.
And see if there’s opportunity for adjustment or change or open the change, or you might need to move them out of the organization. I can imagine somebody listening to this is squirming in their seat or going, Nope, that’s just too uncomfortable. And, but.
Oh, it’s uncomfortable for me. Let me be clear. This is not the fun part of my job. I am super conflict avoidant. I do not enjoy those conversations in the slightest. It, those are the ones that I wake up in the middle of the night, playing them out in my head for days before I do them. Because it is, because I value that person.
We brought them in for a reason, even if they’re not working out. And so how do you do that with respect and valuing that person? Just because they’re not right in your organization doesn’t mean they’re not incredible somewhere else. So doing them that respect as well. And so it’s, I mean, it’s one of the tortures of leadership is making sure that you are taking care of the whole organization, but you’re also respecting all the individuals individually as well.
Yeah, it’s definitely, I’ve a conversation that you play over in your mind, you know, the night, the week that dreading that conversation, looking for any reason, potentially not to have it, but I love what you said, right? It’s that respect. It’s that mutual respect and being able to have that, that conversation is, might unlock somebody’s career, right?
Unlock their learning potential. So by not having it also isn’t respectful, but I kinda wanna flip this a little bit, especially when we are moving in and we are in this world of remote and hybrid. I spend a lot of my days at home, but I’m part of a larger team and some days I go to the office.
So we’re in this hybrid workplace. A lot of companies are going remote or are remote. How can you create that sense of belonging in all these different environments? Like, yeah I’m curious to get your perspective on this.
It’s an interesting transition. You know, when I started this company, I had a conversation with a woman who started with me.
We had talked about, is this gonna be remote first or are we gonna be in person? ‘Cause she was thinking she might wanna move to Austin, Texas. And I was like, I don’t want a remote company. It’s really hard to build a company remote when you don’t know each other that well, and you’re trying to build an environment and all of that.
So from day one, we were hybrid, basically, ’cause Monday and Friday, commuting into Boston is the worst. So that didn’t make sense just logically, but three days a week, we were together. With the pandemic, the whole company moved remote and we have decided to stay fully remote. So I think the beauty of what happened is that every company had to go through this at the exact same moment in time, like March 17th of 2020.
Okay, we’re all now fully remote. So we all had to learn at the same time and figure this out and a lot of tools came out that made that possible. Our team is thriving fully remote, and it’s so much better. I’ve talked to them about, Hey, do we wanna put an office in? But then we look at what commute times would be for people, like that’s just such a waste of your life.
Like why would we do that? Things that we’ve done as a fully remote team are to, I mean, we want make sure that people continue to feel connected. All but one person on this team has been hired now after the pandemic. So hasn’t worked in an office together. So most of us have not worked physically in person together.
And so it’s how do you create those bonds across people when the vast majority of their time together is on Zoom? So we create space for things that are not work related. Our team, mostly not drinkers. There’s a lot of children, so late nights, happy hours, that’s gonna be a complete miss with our team.
So it’s carving out time during the day at different points during the week so that anybody who wants to join can, but it, where there it’s catching up on what you did for the weekend. We have like a half hour, whoa, we’ll play a virtual game on Wednesdays. But just giving those touchpoint where we can connect.
And then Slack is very active where people share pictures of kids and pets and, plants and whatever’s going on and kind of create some bonds, that way. Slack is a pretty amazing tool for that for you to be able to share some personality, even digitally.
I love that you’ve intentionally carved out space. But I also like that you went through that transition of, Nope, we’re not gonna be remote. Oh, shoot. March 17th, we have no choice, but to be remote.
And now it’s, no, actually we don’t need an office. This is good. And, and as you’ve been building the team, how do you see that creating that intentionality, that space, does it continue to play a role or be important? Or is that kind of virtual water cooler of time or hang out time? Will it get lost?
It’s active conversation right now. I don’t want it to get lost, but you also don’t wanna Zoom with 40 people. That’s not fun at all. Where it’s like 40 people saying what they did for the weekend. Okay, here’s your 20 seconds, go. That feels very forced and awful, quite frankly. So we have to figure out how we translate some of those things.
So taking the core of what we like about our culture, but then figuring out how it translates to larger groups. And we’ve done that along the way, like we’ve had lots of iterations. It’s important to keep our core mission and values kind of as our north star, but making sure that we translate it along the way.
So not getting too married to an application or a delivery of a certain approach. It’s constant experimentation, like we want this feeling to happen. How do we get there? And we have to keep changing as we continue to grow.
And taking a note of that, like what you said about, we want this feeling to happen. So how do we get there? Versus the other approach is, hey, we need to find 20 minutes for a water cooler because, a virtual water cooler, because that’s just what we need to do, but we want this feeling.
And so how to create, like, if that feeling of belonging is at the forefront, we want people to feel belonged or feel that sense of belonging.
Let’s define it. What does that actually mean? Then programs and ideas will emerge out of that. And as you continue to scale and grow, you know, 2030, a hundred, two hundred people, yeah, there, there will be these little micro groups that, that form or within teams, but carving out that time is so, so important.
Yeah. And I’m curious, so, you know, somebody who’s listening today and somebody who is in that space of, hey, we know we need to work on this cultural belonging.
Where do you start? It’s you know, whether it’s an in person office, a hybrid or remote, is there one place to start? One thing that you have seen work within your team or at other organizations that if we do this now, we know we’re gonna create that feeling of belonging.
Unfortunately, no. There’s not one thing. I, and even things that I’ve done in prior companies, I tried here and they were epic failures. It just didn’t work for this group of people. So I think it is a lot of experimentation. It’s going back to that feeling of what are you trying to achieve? What’s the outcome you’re trying to achieve for people? And then start practicing and experimenting with different approaches.
So in some companies I’ve done things like office hours where, people have access, they can book a certain block of time on my calendar. We can talk about anything. It’s their agenda. Doesn’t have to be somebody. I normally have a one-on-one with. That worked really well. In one organization, it was a disaster.
Like it, it did not work at all here. People are like I don’t need like a special block of time. I can book you if I need to book you. So it’s adjusting even within like your own organization, there’s gonna be different groups that need to do different things. So things like that, there it’s meeting with people for coffees.
It’s, we do like, a virtual beverage. Wait, it used to be like a coffee, but then I realize not everybody drinks coffee. And so it’s everybody gets or assigned a random person that you probably wouldn’t normally spend time with. So it’s not completely random, cause I’m pairing you up. But then, you know, you’ve got somebody from sales, spending time with somebody from engineering to get to know each other and having some more empathy for what that person’s day to day is like.
So things like that where you can just cross pollinate are really important, but every organization is different. Sometimes that’ll feel super forced and be awful. And in some places that feels really organic and like something that’s gonna be a good fit.
Yeah, the key is that experimentation. Kind of goes right back to your values, the behaviors you’re aiming for out of your organization.
And then what do you want, what do you wanna achieve? Like this culture of balance, is it like, okay, well, work 40 hours and we just shut down our email server. And so is that create that balance? Well, maybe not because maybe, you know, especially in this remote world, a nine to five doesn’t work anymore.
Maybe a, you know, a seven to 10 works and then I’ve, you know, maybe you gotta run to an appointment, but I’ll be back online, that’s two to whatever, 8pm or whatever that looks like. So it’s whatever works for that organization, but experiment and try and play. I think that is the key message for people listening talk to your people. Listen to…
It’s literally, yeah, talk to your people.
Yeah. It’s learned that sentiment, don’t just send out another survey to try and gather something. You know, one thing our CEO is doing is skip level meetings. Our company has ballooned in size in the last year, and he’s like people I used to sit aside, you know, when we’re a five person company, I knew exactly what was going on in their life.
Now I don’t. And so, he has made it his mission to have skip level meetings and he’s doing it and people are loving it and he’s gathering great insights. It’s like, Hey, we don’t do any team events in our main office anymore because we’re hybrid, but we’ve actually killing the culture now. So we gotta do something and yeah, you gotta get out there.
Yep. You do, ’cause it’s never gonna come through on a survey. People are either gonna be nervous about sharing it in the writing, or if they’re, you might hear about it if they’re really unhappy or if they’re really happy, but there’s a whole lot that’s in the middle where you could really improve on things.
We do a quarterly, what I call is a temperature check, where there’s like 10 different factors of, you know, how are we doing across like culture and, you know, team out, like team and fun and like all these things and people can rank in its, you know, one to 10, whatever. And we kind of see where we’re floating and it’s much more of there’s numbers to it, but it’s much more of a feeling of where you feel we are right now.
So we can see where we start dipping down and then dive into that area and say, okay, so what’s going on? What can we do to address this? So that you can’t fix everything every month or every quarter, but seeing where things are trending over time helps. Just to get, again, that temperature check of like, okay, this might be an area where people are feeling like, okay, there’s not enough communication here.
How do we make that better?
Yep. Listening and putting action plans. And that’s, even just asking a simple question. Do you get a sense of balance here? Yes or no? And if it’s a no, then tell me more. Do you feel that sense of belonging? Yes or no. And if it’s a no, tell me more. And gather those insights and learn and adapt, so.
Amy, thank you so much for sharing your insights at what you’re doing at Compt. I remember in the pre-call with your team and thinking, wow, this is a phenomenal organization, and you’re a phenomenal leader from what I’ve heard about you and based on this conversation. So, thank you so much for coming on and sharing today.
Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
And for those who are listening, again, we always love your feedback. Please send me an email to email@example.com if you have any thoughts or comments about this episode or ideas for new episodes. And please, as always, like and subscribe our podcast.
So, with that, again, Amy, thanks for coming on.
And for those who are listening, I hope you’re able to grab some actionable insights to take in your workplace today.