S04 E02: Uncovering the Link on How an Intentionally Crafted Employee Experience Boosts Retention

In the second episode of this season of CultureClub X powered by CultureMonkey, we have with us Vanesa Cotlar, VP of People and Culture at PolicyMe,  who discusses how a great employee experience can help reduce attrition and improve workplace engagement.

About Vanesa –

Vanesa Coltar is an ambitious, people-first leader who is the VP of People & Culture at PolicyMe.

She believes and is very passionate about building flexible workplaces and advocates for work-from-anywhere practices as well as transparency and ongoing feedback from employees to increase attraction, retention, and satisfaction.

Previously, Vanesa worked as the Director of People Operations at iQmetrix and Management Consultant at Monitor Deloitte Canada, and she also helped build Winnipeg’s talent ecosystem while at Economic Development Winnipeg.

She has worked in over 15 countries and has a unique understanding of how markets operate around the globe and how people have found success in them.

Vanesa is a graduate of Smith School of Business at Queen’s University’s Master of Business Administration.

Here’s a gist of what Vanesa speaks about in this video:

  • The significance of leaders building trust and autonomy with their direct reportees and how it can improve their productivity and engagement.
  • The need for continuous feedback and how it is one of the primary components that help to keep reducing employee attrition rates.
  • How reducing some friction components can help organizations adjust and lower drop-offs among Gen-Z, as their journey is new and different from other generations.
  • Why optimizing the pre-joining and onboarding experience for a candidate is necessary to lead a better employee branding, reduce employee drop-offs, and attract top talents.

Catch all this and more with Vanesa Coltar in S04 E02 of CultureClub X.

Transcript –

Diana – Hello everyone and welcome to the latest episode of CultureClub X Powered by CultureMonkey. I’m your host Diana Blass. CultureMonkey is a complete employee engagement platform that helps people leaders listen to their employees and enhance workplace cultures.

In this second episode of our latest season of CultureClub X, I’m joined by Vanesa Cotlar, VP of People and Culture at PolicyMe.

Welcome, Vanesa, it’s a pleasure to host you today!

Vanesa – Thank you so much for having me.

Diana – Well, I’m so excited to have you on today. I’m just going to share a little bit more about your backgrounds, it’s pretty impressive, with our viewers before we get started.

Vanesa Cotlar is an ambitious people first leader, who spends her days as a VP of People and Culture at PolicyMe. She is passionate about building flexible workplaces and advocates for work-from-anywhere practices as well as transparency and ongoing feedback from employees to increase attraction, retention and satisfaction.

Previously she worked as a Director of People Operations at iQmetrix, where she spearheaded people initiatives, including innovative skill mapping, retention and recruitment strategies. Vanesa has worked as a Management Consultant at Monitor Deloitte, Canada, where she provided strategic guidance is some of the world’s largest companies and helped build Winnipeg’s talent ecosystem while at Economic Development Winnipeg.

Vanesa has worked in over 15 countries and has a unique understanding of how different markets operate and how people have found success in them. Prior to returning to Canada in 2019, Vanesa was a co-founder and CEO of Octagon Careers, a German-based HR Tech start-up, focused on understanding the skills and aptitudes of success in certain roles, assessing and hiring based on those attributes, without the need for a resume.

She made the shortlist for the Business Leader of the Year – Women in IT Awards, Berlin 2019, for her work with her start-up and won several pitch competitions. In her spare time, Vanesa can be found exploring a new part of the world, contributing to people and culture conversations and offering her time to start-ups that need help structuring their people practices.

Vanesa is also an Ambassador and Speaker for Manitoba Women in Technology and holds an MBA from Queen’s University. Vanesa, it’s great to have you with us today!

Welcome again, to CultureClub X’s videocast on “Uncovering the Link: How Employee Experience Impacts Retention.”

Before we begin, please tell us more about yourself and your organization.

Vanesa – Yes, Diana, happy to share. So at PolicyMe, we are a digital-first life insurance company and what that means is we’re looking to provide a simple and affordable insurance for Canadian families.

So basically the traditional process for getting insurance tends to be a little bit complex, you have to go in person, you have to go to a broker and there’s a lot of components that go from the moment you’re trying to get that insurance, the moment you actually have a fully enforced policy.

So we save a lot of time in that experience and we have some of those competitive pricing in Canada with our rates at approximately 10 to 20 percent lower than our competitors. And what’s really interesting is that on the people’s side of things, since 2020, we have more than tripled our head count for 48 now and will be growing into next year.

So there will be lots of hiring going on as well, and in my role as VP of People and Culture, what I do is, I oversee everything on the people side of things, so that includes, both the talent attraction, so the recruitment component and the more traditional people at the culture side of things.

So, everything from onboarding, employee engagement, career pathing that essentially helps manage the day-to-day, so that we can have a great place to work.

Diana – Great! Well, that makes you really the perfect person to chat with us today about our latest videocast on “Uncovering the Link: How Employee Experience Impacts Employee Retention.”

So the first idea to kick-start our questions today, building trust and being valued is the bedrock of a good culture. How can leaders build trust with their direct reports?

Vanesa – I love that question. I think it’s a great opener. So, when we think about trust, I think there’s a few different things that leaders can do. So, first of all the most important thing in my opinion, is leaders are starting out with that trust building exercise it is giving real ownership to their direct reports and ensuring that they’re not really micromanaging and we’ve all had that experience where you know, you’re told very specific things and you’re just hitting those tasks but that’s not really motivating.

That doesn’t give someone the ownership to take something from beginning to end, to really be able to work with it. And when leaders give that ownership, they’re essentially saying to their direct reports, I trust you, you can take this, you can run with it, you’re going to do a good job and I think beyond that, beyond the work component itself.

There’s so much that leaders can do to essentially create a space where employees feel comfortable experimenting, and I think experimentation is huge for innovation. But for that to happen, there needs to be comfort with failure. There needs to be a space where people feel comfortable just asking the questions and where they feel comfortable, being wrong, honestly.

I think that when those safe spaces are there and when employees feel that it’s okay to try, it’s okay if it doesn’t work and when they’re given that ownership, anyways, that’s one of the best ways that leaders can build trust. And maybe one more thing that I would add is going beyond just the work component.

So, if we’re thinking about how you build that trust, it’s about looking at the entire person. So, what is this human really care about? What are their interest beyond work? What are they looking to get out of their job?

I think, when leaders take that time to really sit down with their direct reports and invest in those critical conversations around their careers and around their entire life journey so that work can really become a fulfilling part of it.

It’s such, essentially, a strong building block when it comes to that trust component because you’re really coming at it from both of those sides, right? It’s the work and it’s the person so that you’re able to really come together to build that relationship.

Diana – Yeah, definitely. And I was reading about so many things that you’ve helped to implement at PolicyMe and I love the idea of really creating a path for that employee once they enter into the organization to know, you know, be very transparent about the steps you need to get to your goals and to know that it’s achievable.

And that your company trusts in you to achieve those goals. You know, tell us a little bit about that. I think that’s so fascinating as a tip that others could take home with them.

Vanesa – Yeah, of course and Diana, when you say that transparency component, I think that is so important. So when we’re thinking about transparency, essentially that’s where career pathing can have such a positive impact.

And what it is, it’s essentially creating paths that help people have the clarity of, if I’m joining an organization say as a Junior Designer, but I aspire to be here for years or I want my career to grow. What does that look like? And of course, not every organization can have clarity for every journey is going to look like, but you normally can have a sense of what you see, you know, the next 12 to 24 months, especially in a start-up looking like, or potentially for those roles.

So, what we did is we built out the journeys from, how do you get from Junior Designer to Head of Design? And how does that change in terms of the actual requirements of the role versus the autonomy in your work? The leadership that you need to be showcasing, and all of these skills and competencies that are required at each stage and one of the things that we find super beneficial about that is, when it comes time to do a self reflection and to think about how you’ve progressed, I say, there’s two really good things to do.

One, is look at your goals and see how far you’ve come, see what you’ve achieved. But two, is take a look at those career paths and be objective and think about where am I at? What am I heading? What am I still working on? And it gives everyone a much more equitable framework and place to look at to really understand their place in the journey and where they are looking to go.

Diana – What potential employee experience weaknesses are leaders failing to address that are leading to attrition? How can these be remedied?

Vanesa – I think it’s a really good follow-up. You know, because when we think about building trust, if that trust is not there, the employee experience just isn’t going to be as good. But they’re, you know, there’s a lot of research out there around why people leave their jobs?

And when it comes to the experience component, I really think it comes down to three main things, and I do really believe trust is that first one. I think that if you’re not trusted in your day-to-day, your experience is just going to be poor. Because every time that you’re doing something, you’re going to be second-guessing yourself and you’re going to be questioning, is this what they want me to do? Is this correct? Or someone going to tell me that what I did was wrong?

And that’s not really a positive mindset in which to live your day to day or experiments we were talking about before. The other two that I would add though, there are lack of trust and lack of continuous feedback or recognition for good work, are also two really big components that could lead to that attrition if they’re not present and it’s really because flexibility is just one of the top things that keeps coming up in the research of what employees are looking for in their roles, but also growth.

And I think, you know, when we think about our jobs, they take up so much of our days, right? And it’s a big investment and it’s a big part of our lives. So feeling like someone tells us when we’ve done something really well, or someone is supporting us, in ways we can improve to be better, becomes really fulfilling as part of that employee experience.

I will say, maybe one small thing to add. This isn’t quite the experience component, but there is something to be said as well around just, fair paying and compensation which, kind of ties to that performance review components and how you feel, you’re progressing within the organization, I do see the biggest reason, people still leave their jobs today usually is compensation, so it’s just worth keeping in mind.

But you also asked, you know, how can this be remedied. And one of the things that I always say is, figure out what’s going on in your organization, you know the things that you and I are talking about Diana, are themes, right? But it’s super important to figure out what are the specifics that are going on for you and there’s a couple ways to do that.

At PolicyMe, we do quarterly engagement surveys, so we can get a good sense of where people are at across a number of issues. We have Town Halls where there’s opportunities to ask anything, anonymously, or with your name, depending on what you feel more comfortable with.

And we asked for a lot of feedback during one-on-one conversations between managers and direct reports. And I also meet with almost everyone across the company every once in a while. So that creates space that people can and share what’s going on. And then when you see what those bigger themes are that bubble up, pick one thing you’re going to focus on first.

I always say that the best way to ensure that your employees feel like you’re actually addressing the issue is by picking up one thing and that’s because that makes it memorable to understand like, what are we centering around? What are we looking to address? And it’s meaningful change that you can see when something has actually been done to address that bigger issue.

Diana – Definitely! That’s interesting to think about how the pandemic really put a spotlight on these issues because I think your manager had to go an extra mile, your leaders had to go that extra mile to really, to make sure that they were hearing their employees’ concerns and it really put a spotlight on micromanagement for sure. When it comes to Teams or Slack constantly buzzing on your phone.

Vanesa – Yes, 100%.

Diana – Yeah. So it’s interesting thing, how you can connect with your employees in a remote way, but not in a way that’s, you know, overwhelming at the same time, so those are all really great tips there.

How is the candidate journey for Gen Z different from other generations? How can organizations rethink their processes to reduce offer drop-off within Gen Z applicants?

Vanesa – I think it’s an excellent question to move us in a direction to essentially talk about how journeys can differ, not only across generations, but just individuals from different backgrounds, or that search for information in different ways and I think, Diana, I don’t know about you, but one of the, one of the things that was funny to me, was when the kids that I used to babysit started venturing into work and hearing from them about, you know, how they search for jobs?

Where they look for information around? What is it the reliable company? What is a place that I want to be starting out my career in? And there definitely are some shifts that are happening there in terms of what’s considered, you know, a good job or where essentially, Gen Zs are looking to get those first experiences. I think when we think though about the top of the funnel and how they’re listening or getting access to that information about companies, there are some nuances that are a little different.

So for example, looking for that information on TikTok and hearing from influencers about what is a good organization to work at? Or what should I be looking for in my first job? And I think something to think about is that potentially, the way we used to market, it’s not the same way we market to get those conversations started.

But beyond that, it really isn’t just a generation thing, but it’s about listening and it’s about taking that time to understand. Where are those differences? What are they looking for? How can we communicate in a way that makes sense to them?

But that also feels authentic, because you want to ensure that you’re getting that information to candidates in a way that they feel is a reliable source, but also just helping build that trust that we were talking about at the beginning from the onset.

So, I think that when we split too much into it, like, what is this generation thing versus that generation sometimes we create, some generalizations that may not always be applicable, but I do think what’s really interesting in terms of the offer drop-off rates, or you know, reducing some of those friction components, it’s just being really mindful of essentially, once someone gets that offer, what does that look like to keep them engaged in that journey?

So there’s so much more that can be done to leverage resources, you know, send the little videos, send something to someone’s home, take that extra step to ensure that the person feels essentially really welcomed from the beginning. And I think, especially for Gen Zs, since they’re entering the workforce, and going into their first jobs knowing that so many more roles are now remote.

And they are not necessarily going to be building relationships from the beginning in offices, as many of us did when we started our careers, it’s everything that you can do to help them feel like they’re going to be a part of something.

Diana – Yeah, it’s interesting. I love what you said there about how it’s maybe not necessarily the generations that are that different from one another. I mean, maybe it’s the arrival of new technology like TikTok that you mentioned.

I remember scrolling on TikTok and seeing, different people talking about their salaries, very openly on their, urging others to share, the quiet quitting that was taking over, and talking about different ways they were leaving their jobs, but I mean, especially on the compensation side of it, New York just passed a law that now requires those hiring here to post a pay range and, you know, so is that because the current generations are demanding it or just because it’s become easier to share that information anyway.

And you know, you might be, you should be more transparent as a result of that, which goes back to, you know, what we were talking about transparency earlier. So, yeah, it’s interesting to think about that shift. Is it generational or is it just, you know, a result of our larger culture today in our society.

How can modern people leaders rely on technology to provide an optimum employee experience from onboarding onwards to ensure higher retention rates?

Vanesa – I think, Diana, what you were getting at just before the question as well is super interesting, I think there is so much happening just around the dissemination of information, right?

And that is largely due to technology, largely due to the fact that we can go on LinkedIn, that we can Google, that we can do all these things now much more effectively, and that there are all these tools that further support that research.

Like, you can go on salary.com or you can go on Levels FYI. And you can get so much of that information of individuals, just self-reporting as well, of how much were they making into this job? What was their offer like? Because people are just starting to essentially be more open about some of those data points so that others can look at them too.

I think when we think about technology though and how people leaders can rely on it, one of the things that I’ve noticed, especially in the last like, five or ten years is, there is so much HR-Tech out there and I say that as someone that tried to co-found a start-up in the HR Tech space, there is so much HR Techs, so much HR Tech out there in the space and what this means is that, you know, as an organization, need to be really intentional around the where and the why of technology and how it’s going to add to that experience, as opposed to just complicate it.

And what I mean by that is, you know, if you have five different systems that your people are going into, you know, one for recognition, another for their performance reviews, another for engagement surveys, another for how they communicate day-to-day, another for their video conferencing.

When there are so many things that are not integrated, it’s just not a really great way for employees to be living their day-to-day.

However, there are so many small things that you can do that are technology enabled that I think can have a really big impact. So, a couple that we’ve tried or I’ve tried in previous roles as well is, in a remote setting if you find that you have a larger company or an organization where people don’t know each other as well. And if you’ve heard of The Donut app, but it’s an integration in Slack.

Basically it matches people up randomly for coffee chat and it’s a really great way, especially when you have a new group of people or you want people to meet. For those first few meetings, it definitely can get tiring if you’re doing it every week, but initially, to have conversations is such a helpful way for people to be paired up.

And another thing that is more in the day-to-day, is one of the greatest things about being remote as well, is thinking through, how you can work better, right? We’re not going to be in the same space, we’re not going to be able to walk to each other’s desks and ask the question. And one of the things that we’ve found to be super helpful is another tool called Hyper Context, which integrates into your Google Calendar, and you can use to create dynamic meeting agendas.

So ahead of the meeting, I can set my items, you can set your items. We can look ahead of showing up as to what we each want to talk about and we can be prepared for that conversation and what’s greatest. It’s pretty automated, so after the meeting, it sends out the meeting notes on its own.

And you know we discussed, you can write out next steps, you can write out description so, I think when we think about that employee experience, once someone has been onboarded into the business, how to keep employees engaged, it’s thinking about those places where technology can have a really positive impact.

But also remembering where it’s important to just use the human element, right? I don’t think just a Slack automated, how’s your week going? Answer between 1 to 4, is as good as your manager asking you, “Hey, Diana! How’s your week going? How are things on your end?” And just being able to have that conversation.

So, being able to really understand where those right components are incorporated.

Diana – Yeah, it’s super interesting. I can’t tell you how many people I met, during the pandemic, now who have switched jobs during this time and never met their colleagues. So, it’s interesting to think about how technology can humanize somebody, you know, obviously video chats help, but any additional services really help, help you to just create that relationship that you hopefully could have gained in person.

One solution I know, if you work with people internationally, it’ll automatically put subtitles as they speak. And I think that’s so comforting too, especially even if you both speak the same language, people are concerned about accents and things like that.

So it’s definitely interesting to think about the advancements that have been made. And I agree, hopefully, they become more interoperable and they can all work together because it can be overwhelming if you’re not a techie, that’s for sure.

Vanesa – And maybe Diana, one more thing that I want to add there. Just on what you were getting at. I think one of the things that’s amazing about technology is, it has enabled us to work from home, right?

If we had gone on through the pandemic, maybe 20 years ago, we didn’t already have laptops at home, it wasn’t as easy as, okay, we’re just going to try this, we have the ability, right? So I think, what’s important to remember is we’re in a point in time, in where technology is at where we can work in the way that we’re working, but to your point, there’s some things that being in-person, I do still think can’t replace.

So, one of the things that we do is, we are remote first, but we bring everyone together in our company for in-person get togethers, three times a year. And those really are the only times that we’re like. Now we do really want you here, highly, highly encouraging you to show up to the office, for the three Fridays a year where we do these things, you know what I mean.

But what that creates is a way for people to actually meet each other, build those relationships, have those connections, have a shared experience in-person, that they can then take to their day-to-day afterwards and just have that memory of what it was actually like to be together because to your point, I also was one of those people that started and hadn’t met my colleagues and I think when you do meet, it helps that relationship building but you don’t need to see each other every day for that relationship to continue afterwards.

I think it’s just hard if you never ever meet, but as long as you meet a few times, I think it helps create that basic build off of.

Diana – Definitely. And real quick, what are some of the things you do during those meet ups? So I think sometimes companies, they try and do all these team bonding exercises, and I’m wondering what ones you found to actually be beneficial compared to just playing games and things.

Vanesa – Yeah, a really good question. So we do, we’ve done them a couple ways but we found works best and I’ll kind of walk you through it, is we do a lunch at our office in Downtown Toronto and then it’s some type of afternoon experiential activity.

And what I mean by that is something that is like outside of the norm that you wouldn’t get a chance to do if you were just thinking about doing it yourself. So the last two that we did for the one in June and then the one in September.

In June, we did an amazing race through Downtown Toronto. So, someone on our team helped organize, we were split up into teams and it was like a scavenger hunt. Like, you need to go to all these different places and do all these different tasks and we gave each team a budget, so that they could, like actually go have all these experiences together.

So it was a really different way to spend an afternoon and then the one we did in September was Treetop Trekking. So, we went a little bit outside of the city and then we were climbing through the trees, doing zip lines, for those that were a little more afraid of heights, they could also do a nice walk throughout the park as well and it was just like a totally different experience, right?

To like be in the harnesses together, to be cheering each other on, to have some people work through some fears of heights. So, it’s just thinking through, what can you create that it’s going to be an exciting and different way for the team to bond. And after that afternoon activity, we always do an evening portion and that is more like a dinner.

Either, we’ve done it at our Founder’s house in, in the past, or we’ve done it at a big restaurant, where we booked outer space and then we do different things. Like, at the summer, we had like a signature policy, we blue cocktail for the evening event, which was really fun.

And what we try to do, is create events in a modular capacity. So, one of the things to remember is people have different home lives as well. So, sometimes a person cannot stay with a group from their work until 9 p.m. on a Friday, right? Which is totally fair.

So that’s why we chunk it out so that, you know, during the work day, is the lunch and afternoon activity, that wraps up around, you know, 4 or 5. And if that’s your moment, where you need to go home, go home. That’s totally okay. Like, we don’t want you to feel like there’s any pressure to stay for the evening component.

But for those individuals that love an evening component, there is an evening component with the dinner and then sometimes we’ll go do karaoke. So, I think it’s just about listening to your employees and what they need and structuring in a way that makes it accessible for everyone.

Diana – Yeah, it sounds really fun and I would bet people would want that more than three times a year.

Vanesa – Yeah, I mean, I think what’s interesting is, I think we talked about potentially more frequency but then it becomes like, “Oh, I have to go in again!” versus “I can’t wait for the next one,” so we try to keep that excitement of like, you know, three or four months between events to get that momentum.

Diana – A good candidate experience would help organizations with better employer branding, reduce offer drop-off and attracting top talent. How can organizations optimize candidate experience in the pre-joining and the onboarding stages to reduce drop-off rates?

Vanesa – I think also another really great question. What happens a lot is you really invest in that interview process and to get someone to sign and then there’s this radio silence between the moment when they sign and when they’re actually starting at an organization. So, from that, like, I’ve signed, I know I’m joining you, that pre joining face to the actual day that you start.

One of the things that we found was, it’s super important to think through the roles and responsibilities of each person internally for the experience of that candidate that it’s about to start.

So, what we do at PolicyMe is we actually have a checklist called “Offer to First Day” and it’s specific to those couple of weeks and for some people, you know, it’s two weeks that they get at their job for some people it’s longer maybe they’re going on vacation and they are, they need to give more time, of how we’re going to create that experience for that person.

So, they really feel like they’re already part of the team and that they’re excited to join. So, basically it’s really about that clarity and transparency so that they understand what’s going to happen at the touch points. And what we do is we include everyone in that process.

So it’s me as the VP of People just reaching out, saying congrats again, sending an email in the time frame. It’s their managers saying how excited they are for them to join and send them a couple resources. If they want to read anything in advance, we do find, we don’t make, of course, anyone do anything in advance and starting but we have a lot of people that ask like, there’s any information I can start reading.

So we’ve put something together just because that’s a pretty common question. And then one of the things that we do there, I think has made a really big impact and it’s super simple to implement is we have PolicyMe Pals, so we call them PM pals and to basically, once you sign, we assign someone outside of your team, to be your pal, at PolicyMe, and it’s kind of like a buddy program.

So, that person is there for you as a resource for you to grab potentially like a virtual coffee chat ahead of starting and ask any questions or even just sending you that email on how excited we are to have you on the team.

And I think it just thinking about that experience, as its own experience, so you are looking at the recruitment process, you’re looking at onboarding when someone starts, but like the chunk in the middle, is its own piece of the journey and creating for that intentionally, I think can really have a huge impact in reducing those drop-off rates.

Diana – Yeah definitely, I mean, it you think that the employee, that new employee starting on this set hire date, but in reality as you mentioned, there are so many weeks in between where so many questions arise and there’s nothing worse than not knowing, what time should I get there? Where’s my desk going to be? Where’s lunch? So many things that are, you know, you feel like you’re back in high school in a way and so anything that can alleviate that it was definitely nice.

I remember my job when I moved into the corporate world. I have a background in news and my first day that I remember the HR asked me my favorite type of candy. And I love that because I’m not a huge candy eater, but it just made me think that they are taking time to learn what I like and trying to make my first day special and encouraged everybody then in the office to come stop by my desk to get candy.

Vanesa –  That’s so nice. And so, you know what, I think it’s really interesting that you say that, so for the onboarding component, one of the things that we do, is we do have a fun survey for new hires, as well. When, where we asked them to answer three questions from a list and I always introduce new hires at Town Hall, either virtually or in person and everyone cheers, everyone gets really excited about them and says hello.

And it’s just a way for people to learn some fun things about them, and to see shared experiences, some people answer about like, where do you want to go next in terms of travel destinations, favorite movies, you know, random skills that you have that people don’t know about or TV shows or movies and it’s just it’s a fun way for people to connect with one another.

So certainly, I think to your point where people are onboarding already and they’re starting to join the company, doing things that are simple but maybe a little bit quirkier can help with those initial conversations and relationship-building.

Diana – Yeah, definitely!

Do you agree that company culture has a direct impact on a good candidate experience? How does this impact retention rates, employer branding, and help in building brand advocates?

Vanesa – I think it’s a really good question as well. And I think that culture really is at the center of it all. And when we think about culture and the candidate experience component, one of the things I always say is, you know, some companies, say, your employees are your biggest advocates and I definitely agree with that, but I think what doesn’t work as well is when companies are trying to force their employees to be their biggest advocates and it’s one of those things where what you want is to create a culture that’s authentic, but ideally also coded if possible, so that when new people join it’s easy to understand how do you operate? What’s valued? What is this place really going to be like?

And one of the exercises that we did recently, was recodify of our values and present them in a way that is visually appealing, easy-to-understand, with examples, so that we feel that as we are now, moving into hire more people next year that, it will be clear to them. Like, what is our culture? What do we value? What is this organization look like in its day-to-day?

So when you’re thinking about the candidate experience, one of the best things you can do is be really transparent as to what it actually like to work at in that organization. So, at the end of anyone that interviews with us, that, you know, we’re almost all good to go.

I do one final, it’s not really an interview but it’s more like a back-and-forth Q&A that, I said to answer any questions the person has, but also sense check that they’ve gotten a good understanding of what it’s actually going to be like to work with us? What our culture is like? What our environment is like?

And that if I don’t sense that they are clear on that I’m able to share more with them, to ensure that they’re actually really excited about the culture they’re getting themselves into because it makes a huge difference, right? Not everyone likes to work in a same way. Not everyone likes to work in the same type of environment and of course we have people with different preferences but all in all, there’s a really strong alignment around their values and what those mean and what those look like.

So, I think that just creating that space to be intentional and ensuring that candidates know what you’re looking for, know what they’re getting into, makes a really, really huge difference. Since I think that secondary part where you were talking about, employer branding and building those brand advocates.

I have a funny example from the other day, actually. We sent to all of our employees, uh, little swag boxes, to their homes, for the holiday season, just to say thank you for the year and, you know, we had a PolicyMe shirt, we had a mug, we had a notebook, we had like a couple things in there and a funny thing happened which was totally unplanned and it started happening over the weekend, which is, everyone started taking pictures of what they got in their box and posting it on Slack and just saying, thank you.

And it was interesting because if you think about it, the contents of all the boxes were the same. So it’s not like people were taking pictures of like all these different things. Everyone got a similar box, but there was just so much excitement because it had been a while since we’ve done something like this, and people just really like getting things in the home that everyone just started to share and I love that because I think that’s such a great example of the brand building components, but in a way that happened organically and like internal to us.

But then we’ve been talking about because everyone actually was excited about this thing that we did and we didn’t do it so people would take pictures and talk about it, that was just the outcome because everyone just like enjoyed what they got and because they were like genuinely excited about this thing that arrived in their home but it was never like that, so please take a picture and post it once you, you know what I mean?

So, I think it’s just important to build good strategies, do things that are going to make your employees, love where they work, and then those brand advocate components will come as a result of creating that good experience, but I think it’s important to focus on the experience, not to just try to get people to advocate for the organization.

Diana – Right, yeah, I mean everybody today has a personal brand, right? And I think it’s important to think about how that personal brand fits into your corporate brand. And you know, are you naturally going to want to share these updates on your social media? Is it a natural fit and it’s maybe things we didn’t have to think about before.

I love that example that you shared about the gifts and I bet it was fascinating to see the different things that stuck out to people. What they were sharing, because you think that everybody enjoyed that gift.

But you look at how they each enjoy different elements of it. And then, I mean, it makes sense then that you have such an interesting team as a result, everybody thinks about things differently, but you’re united by similar likes and interests, which is probably an interesting thing to look out for.

Vanesa – Yeah, it definitely was.

Diana – Well, that was really a fascinating take on a topic that’s gaining limelight in the HR space. Undoubtedly, the employer brand is at stake with negative employee experiences, as a consequence, leaders need to showcase culture and strong employee experiences to stay afloat.

CultureMonkey offers a data-driven platform to listen to talent and solve workplace problems around culture and employee experience. It helps people leaders holistically build and showcase better cultures while enhancing their acquisition and retention scores.

So, visit culturemonkey.io to see how you can improve your workplace culture today. With that, we conclude this episode of CultureClub X.

Thank you, Vanesa, it was truly a delightful conversation. And we learned so much from you today.

Please let our viewers know how they can connect with you, if they want to have a quick chat or share their thoughts.

Vanesa – Thank you so much for having me. It’s been so nice getting to know you and having this conversation, and I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. So, I believe I’m the only person with my name. So, Vanesa with one “S” tends to be pretty easy to find, but I’m always posting more on there about different things that I’m seeing within our organization, within the broader space.

So feel free, feel free to connect on LinkedIn. Always happy to share more insights there. And feel free to ask question if there’s anything else you’d like to know more about.

Diana – Well, that’s all we have for you in this episode of CultureClub X – powered by CultureMonkey.

Until next time, this is your host, Diana Blass, signing off.