Companies that infuse flexibility, empathy will win on hiring, retaining talent: Eimear Marrinan, HubSpot
READ the August 2021 issue of our magazine: The Rise of Work Tech
A strategic executor & innovator with more than 15 years of experience working in both multinational & EMEA based companies, Eimear Marrinan loves solving problems, and impacting positive change to help people do their best work. Currently, Director of Culture at HubSpot, Eimear is passionate about strategic planning & execution, project & change management and building great relationships all while influencing a positive workplace culture and making a difference.
As work itself changes at a rapid pace, creating an organisational culture by leveraging technology to support individuals and teams to thrive and stay connected has today become top priority for Eimear. In an interview with us Eimear shares how technology is helping in bridging the communication and collaboration gaps to meet talent wherever they are and also talks about the areas of workflows and talent lifecycle that are still renounced and need more focus.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
Good working relationships are necessary for employees to build engagement and be productive at work. With more organisations switching to hybrid mode, how can they empower their talent to build close working relationships?
One of the biggest mistakes most companies make when it comes to fostering connections is trying to copy and paste the office environment into a remote or hybrid world.
What we’ve seen work best is having options, and leaning into intentionality, creativity, and honestly, a little bit of trial and error.
In the pandemic, there were a lot of Zoom-style happy hours, which frankly fall short of the real thing, particularly after a long day of video meetings. So instead of trying to replicate things we used to do, we’ve had much better luck taking people to places we likely couldn’t make possible in person. We did a family sing-along with Irish musician Rainbow Phil complete with Baby Shark. We recently celebrated our company-wide values week with a talk with Netflix CMO Bozoma Saint John, and it was one of the most high-energy and inspiring sessions I’ve ever attended at work. We have also relaunched our HubSpot Mixer program which aims to mix and connect employees globally, allowing them the opportunity to meet with HubSpotters around the world.
We also encourage our employees to be intentional in how they connect with their peers and colleagues in work. Simple shifts like making time at the beginning of a 1:1 to check in on a more personal level, utilising Slack to share fun updates and pictures with their team and of course joining one of our HubSpot Employee Resource Groups or Interest Groups as a really effective way to meet and connect with others.
How far has technology helped in bridging these communication and collaboration gaps to meet talent wherever they are? What areas of workflows and talent lifecycle do you feel are still renounced and need more focus now?
Working remotely over the past year has made it clearer than ever that access to career growth, mentorship, and senior leadership opportunities is about the person, not the place. If we truly want a more diverse, equitable workforce, job opportunities cannot be predicated on the city or town you live in. And thanks to technology, true remote options can increase the diversity of your workforce.
As HubSpot continues to grow as a hybrid company, we’ll need to ensure that our communication and collaboration stack grows with us. Something that I’d love to see is more technologies that help enable true serendipitous socialising.
Today, you can have a Zoom screen in the cafeteria and remote workers can decide to join, but that's not only awkward, it tends to also be office-centric. We've even experimented with robots that “zoom around” the office with cameras to recreate the experience of bumping into co-workers in the office for remote workers. There’s a lot of opportunity here, and I don’t believe we’ve nailed it yet. So I’d love to see more innovative technologies in this space and HubSpot adopting some of them.
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How do you ensure excellent employee experience especially for new joinees and create a sense of belonging while also helping them adopt your organisational culture?
At HubSpot, our culture is not tied to locations, it’s rooted in our values, our amazing people, and our mission of helping millions of organisations grow better. No one should need to come into an office to experience or enjoy HubSpot’s culture, because culture does not need four walls to thrive.
Our learning and development (L&D) team kept our new hire NPS even higher during the pandemic than it was the year before, which is pretty remarkable. As we prepare to enter a world where the new hire experience will be truly hybrid (some folks in person, some remote), we’ll be investing in a few key areas.
First, more resources to educate new hires not just on our tech stack but also on our communications stack. When you are new, it’s incredibly hard to figure out what to use when, so our L&D, IT, and Internal Comms teams are joining forces to help people understand exactly when and how to use Slack, email, Zoom, our internal Wiki, and more, thoughtfully and inclusively.
Second is increasing the percentage of work that can be done asynchronously during onboarding, so new hires can work through material at their own time during open windows versus always having to be in the classroom together.
Third is an element of inclusion and compassion — the new hire training team is doing a lot more in small groups with more facilitators from across our team so everyone feels heard, welcome, and has plenty of time to ask questions and build human connections.
And then finally, enabling our managers to effectively onboard and integrate new hires into our hybrid workforce. This is a critical step, so that once our new hires leave onboarding they feel really set up for success and have a great plan to ramp and integrate into their team and the company.
With staff working in the office fewer days per week, organisations must reconsider how they treat their office space. How are you making your hybrid model more effective?
The one-size-fits-all workplace is a thing of the past. At HubSpot, we want to build a company where people can do their best work. For some, that’s in an office, others it’s a home office or a mix of the two. That’s why last August we announced that we’re betting on “hybrid” as our future of work and giving employees the flexibility to choose where they work best - @home, @flex, or @office.
True remote inclusion doesn’t mean making it possible for everyone to have the same experiences at the exact same time. It’s about creating new traditions and norms.
As we continue along this journey and transition to a fully hybrid workforce once our offices reopen, we need to re-pivot and consider sustainable practice and cultural norms for maintaining a remarkable culture in a hybrid world.
What unexpected challenges have you faced with the hybrid model so far and how did you tackle them?
I have two big learnings: one is never to assume. We had built-in hypotheses about our regional breakdowns for work preferences, and they were all incorrect, so I’m very glad we asked people explicitly versus making assumptions.
The second is to over communicate everything. When you’re navigating multiple time zones, work preferences and styles, and different team operating systems, it’s so easy for messages to get lost along the way, so we’ve invested more time and energy in internal communications and really getting that right at scale.
For leaders, I think being visible and being human is more important than ever, so we’ve invested in more Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions (including regional ones) and more video messages via Loom (so people see and hear from leaders directly), and I suspect those are trends we’ll continue over time.
As Australia still faces lockdown in some parts of the country and continues to grapple with uncertainty regarding the future, how do you think it will impact the overall business ecosystem and talent market?
One of the hardest things for our employees over the past few weeks has absolutely been the level of uncertainty and change we have seen in places like Australia as restrictions have tightened once again. It is now more important than ever to lean into empathy and compassion with employees so that we can support them as and when they need it and also adapt our approach to account for these local restrictions and nuances.
As we look towards the future knowing that a level of uncertainty remains, we believe that companies who will win on hiring and retaining talent are ones who continue to infuse flexibility, empathy and remove friction from doing great work. So giving our employees the choice to work where they work best, be that at home or in the office. And then spending time really thinking through how we work together as a hybrid team so that our processes and practices also shift to account for this new normal.