Epoch hosted a Happy Hour for leaders and innovators in the Employee Experience space to mix and mingle in Boston. The event also featured a fireside chat where Jade Choy, Epoch's CEO and co-founder, had conversations with leaders and innovators in the employee experience and engagement space.
In case you missed it, here are some key learnings and takeaways from our Fireside Chat featuring Alexa Hassaram, Senior Manager, Head of Global Employee Experience at New Relic, and Katherine Berman, Senior Manager, Onsite Amenities and Experiences at Toast. Scroll on for notes! 👇
Katherine represents the Workplace Experience & Real Estate team at Toast, a restaurant-focused platform connecting employees, operations, and guests. Toast started in Boston and expanded its operations to India, Dublin, Taipei, and Toronto. Their approach to Employee Experience centers on creating meaningful moments, aligning events with Toast's values, and fostering organic connections among employees, including remote workers.
Alexa works for Employee Experience at New Relic, an observability platform to help engineers monitor, debug, and improve their entire IT stack. She is situated within the broader People team under the Talent & Organizational Development department and collaborates across multiple teams including Real Estate & Workplace. New Relic's approach focuses on enabling employees to thrive in a Flex First environment so that the business also thrives.
Katherine shares that their success in fostering a positive employee experience is rooted in the principle of meeting employees where they are, and recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach does not suffice. They have closely observed the different teams at Toast to identify their specific needs and preferences. Emphasizing a global perspective with local implementation, they assess the cultural nuances of different countries to determine the relevance of specific events.
They also measure the success of these initiatives using various criteria, acknowledging that it's not solely about the number of attendees. For example, intimate events can yield meaningful outcomes. Their approach centers on creating an equitable, inclusive environment that fosters a sense of belonging.
Alexa draws parallels with Customer Experience (CX) practices and human-centered design principles, highlighting the importance of tailoring the employee experience journey to address different employee wants and needs. She mentions the concept of "body-doubling," particularly for individuals with ADHD, designed to increase productivity when they work alongside someone. To increase awareness during October’s ADHD Awareness Month, Alexa is collaborating with New Relic’s Access ERG to pilot virtual body-doubling sessions over Zoom to support virtual coworking initiatives.
Working closely with DEI initiatives, Katherine emphasizes the importance of expanding DEI efforts beyond the United States. In August, they introduced "Toast Tech Month," an initiative that aims to bridge the knowledge gap between technical and non-technical employees. Here, they leverage the expertise of the technical team, who share their insights.
She also highlights events like "Women in Tech," which bring Toasters from around the world together to promote the company's mission. She expresses her dedication to connecting with various teams within the organization, enabling employees to independently run programs and events that showcase their contributions. Katherine stresses the value of flexibility and collaboration, noting that events, regardless of their size, hold significant meaning for employees.
As for Alexa, she discusses exploring the formation of regional clusters, a cost-effective strategy that brings employees closer together in areas where there are critical masses of remote employees. She highlights initiatives like the People team’s "Skillstoberfest," (inspired by Gloat) which promotes career growth and impact. By encouraging everyone to share 1-2 skills they excel in and their development goals, they empower individuals to grow both professionally and personally.
Alexa mentions that her team is shifting towards exploring opportunities to share budgets with other teams and build upon existing initiatives. When discussing their travel & entertainment philosophy including in-person meetings, there's a focus on redesigning and enhancing them so that their outputs are differentiated from virtual interactions.
On the other hand, Katherine discusses various aspects related to in-person meetings and workplace standards. She emphasizes the importance of establishing baseline standards for workplaces and identifying key components that define a Toast office worldwide. She also highlights the need to effectively communicate the significance of allocating budget for events and how to bring together employees in locations with 10 or fewer employees. Katherine raises the idea of expanding the radius for employees near an office location and encouraging remote workers in close proximity to participate in in-person experiences, regardless of their office status.
Toast’s Internal Communications team plays a huge role in ensuring alignment. They employ a dual approach, combining high-level, broader communications with more localized messages tailored for specific events and programs. A key takeaway is the emphasis on explaining the "why" behind events and programs, recognizing that understanding the purpose entices greater participation.
Encouraging event hosts to weave a compelling narrative, spreading the word within the organization and teams, and leveraging tools like Epoch in Slack channels for event promotion are common practices. Furthermore, Katherine encourages individuals to champion their initiatives passionately, becoming their own "hype person."
Alexa underscores the importance of communicating through broader channels and then tailoring messages to teams and departments for a more personalized approach. She advocates for collaboration with Employee Resource Groups and involving others, including leadership, in sharing messages. An interesting approach suggested by Alexa involves fostering friendly competition within the C-suite, motivating them to recognize and support employees, thereby further enhancing the employee experience.
For Katherine, it’s important to meet employees where they are, tailoring programming to their specific needs. She stresses the importance of being in sync with the team's pulse, infusing joy and enthusiasm into the workplace. Katherine expresses her passion for enhancing employee experiences and encourages a fearless approach, advocating for trying new and unconventional ideas, embracing risks, and even finding humor in the process.
Alexa highlights that employee experience extends beyond events and includes intentional collaboration with various teams. She underlines the value of maintaining a positive attitude, recognizing that meaningful changes take time and require a willingness to adapt and learn. Alexa encourages the notion of failing faster to ultimately succeed sooner, emphasizing the importance of perseverance and continuous improvement in shaping a thriving employee experience.
In ensuring a seamless global experience at Toast, Katherine adopts a thoughtful approach by designing initiatives to be timezone-friendly. Adding to this, she has Workplace Experience Managers based in various locations who possess a deep understanding of local cultures and workplace norms. This localization strategy extends to tapping into local habits and customs, recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't suffice. Instead, individuals are empowered to infuse their unique cultural elements into events and locations, fostering a sense of inclusivity and belonging across time zones.
At New Relic, Alexa highlights the significance of acknowledging distinct engagement patterns in different geographical areas. For example in places like Europe, in August and December, employees typically have limited availability. To address this, the company proactively aligns their engagement strategies with local practices and preferences.
Alexa explains their approach to office space, which involves reducing real estate while maintaining hot desking. They utilize co-working spaces when additional space is required, reflecting a flexible and cost-effective approach to office management.
Katherine highlights the unique situation at Toast, as they are in the process of relocating their Boston office. This transition prompts a reconsideration of office setups, moving beyond mere desks to foster collaborative environments. Recognizing that different roles and teams have diverse workspace needs, Katherine emphasizes the importance of tailoring the office space to accommodate specific requirements. To facilitate this, they are actively engaging teams in discussions to understand their needs when choosing to work from the office, ultimately striving to create a workspace that aligns with each team's unique preferences and objectives.
It’s important to prioritize clarity in the services being offered at the office, focusing on streamlined communication and best practices for in-office employees. Also, recognizing the Workplace team's role as a go-to resource for offsite activities. This approach aligns with the company's culture, where employees naturally turn to the Workplace team first for assistance. Effective communication includes directing employees to the appropriate contacts, simplifying the process, and enhancing the overall office experience for everyone involved.
At New Relic, fostering diversity and inclusion involves a collaborative effort. Alexa revealed that they have a dedicated member of the DEI team who oversees and supports ERGs. Her close collaboration with the DEI team enables them to collaborate effectively, cross-promoting programs and initiatives that contribute to a more inclusive workplace.
Meanwhile, at Toast, Katherine also works closely with the DEI team, supporting initiatives and empowering ERGs to take the lead. Katherine recommended having a representative from the relevant background within the ERG to guide their efforts. Leveraging resources on platforms like LinkedIn, they actively seek intersectional opportunities, which enhances the sense of belonging for employees who can resonate with these ERGs. This collaborative approach contributes significantly to fostering an inclusive environment at both companies.
To ensure global employee engagement, it's vital to schedule meetings at convenient times for international staff and facilitate asynchronous or synchronous collaboration. Consider offering stretch opportunities for employees in offices without dedicated staff, recognizing their efforts with non-monetary rewards like leadership acknowledgment. This approach highlights their talents, fosters career growth, and proactively tailors messages to resonate with diverse cultural contexts.
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Key learnings from our Epoch & Talk half day conference in New York.