Epoch Lunch & Learn in San Jose

Epoch Lunch & Learn in San Jose

Epoch held a Workplace Lunch & Learn in San Jose, bringing leaders and innovators in the Workplace & Employee Experience space to learn and network with one another. The event featured a fireside chat where Cynthia Botello, Manager, Global Events & Employee Experience at SurveyMonkey and Patricia Denyer, Employee Amenities, Events & Experience Manager at Nutanix shared about workplace strategies and employee experience.

In case you missed it, here are some key learnings and takeaways from our San Jose Lunch and Learn!

Meet Cynthia and PJ 🎙️🌟

Cynthia has been working at Survey Monkey for five years excelling in her role focusing on events and employee experience. Cynthia oversees approximately 1,200 hybrid employees spanning Canada, the US, and Europe.  She has navigated through changes due to COVID-19. Through these challenges, she has honed her expertise in employee experience and is excited to share her insights with others. 

PJ, the Internal Events and Amenities Manager at Nutanix oversees 1,000 hybrid employees. She has a passion for Employee Experience and strives to create exceptional spaces and experiences for her team, including, the best snack rooms, fitness programs, and internal events.. Working within the legal department gives PJ a unique perspective on employee experience, enriching her approach to creating a fulfilling workplace environment. 

How do you create a strong culture for a hybrid workplace?

Over the last year, PJ has seen an increase of 110% in campus activity by curating experiences beyond typical department events. She focuses on engaging events that fit the culture and interests of her employees, such as a paint night, fitness classes, and an Italian wine tasting. PJ’s strategy focuses on hosting low-cost events that capture a large employee base. PJ also has a Slack channel with Employee Experience (EX) leaders from various Nutanix locations, sending pictures and exchanging ideas across the world. Inspired by a successful initiative from Nutanix’s India location, PJ introduced dancing and entertainment to the San Jose employee events. 

Cynthia faces the challenge of managing a globally dispersed team with diverse cultures and time zones, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity. To address this, her team actively gathers feedback from employees and collaborates with Employee Resource Groups and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion groups. Cynthia conducts bi-monthly open office hours to connect with teams in Ottawa, Amsterdam, Dublin, and other locations, ensuring ongoing communication and understanding of each team’s preferences and needs. Employees who are unable to attend office hours can provide feedback through an anonymous survey, offering insights into areas of strengths, improvements, and an overall star rating. 

Importance of EA buy-in

Cynthia and PJ both recommend staying in close contact with executive assistants (EAs). Executive budget and buy-in are crucial to great events and they know their departments’ interests the best.

What roles comprise your EX team

PJ is in an EX team of six . Alongside another coordinator, she focuses on event planning and catering, ensuring memorable and engaging experiences for her employees. Another team member specializes in event operations, diving into data analytics and expenditure for EX events. PJ emphasizes the significance of this role in leveraging data insights to present to executives. Additionally, two team members manage facilities, ensuring optimal settings for events.

What successful events or programs are you particularly proud of?

There are many different events and programs that can be implemented in your workplace. PJ and Cynthia, for example, have found success in “curiosity days” where employees can learn new skills, such as brushing up their LinkedIn profiles. They’ve also found that no recurring meetings on Fridays, inviting local vendors, and interest-based workshops such as wine tasting and a painting night were highly successful.

Tips and tricks to get executive buy-in

Survey Monkey operates as a data-driven company, reflecting their company as a platform centred around surveys. Before meeting with Executives, Cynthia ensures that all her proposals are backed by solid data. She finds this approach highly effective in persuading execs and driving decisions forward.

PJ’s executives prioritize budgets. To ensure effective spending, PJ analyzes attendance, total costs, and calculates cost per person, crafting a narrative that provides clarity on expenditure. The execs want to ensure that the money spent is directly enhancing employee happiness and engagement. Therefore, PJ strives to maintain reasonable and efficient costs per person in her event planning.

Do you use OKRs and numerical goals?

Cynthia uses OKRs to ensure she is staying on pace to achieve her goals. She emphasizes the need to stay flexible with these goals as things change and plans change. Her OKRs are reviewed and tweaked halfway through the year to re-align with any new factors. Cynthia focuses on increasing her team’s overall star rating given by her employees, aiming to raise it from 4 to 4.5 on a 5-star scale this year.

PJ doesn’t use OKRs but gets together with her team once a year to create goals they aim to achieve. For example, her team wants to leverage technology to make their workflows easier and more efficient, and a strict cost per person to adhere to. When working with a vendor PJ, gives them a scorecard to make sure expectations are on the same page and they are delivering the satisfaction and appropriate service to her employees to achieve her overall goals.

Tips and Tricks for EX

Cynthia shared the value of networking at Epoch events, emphasizing how she has made lasting connections during them. These connections have become important resources for brainstorming and sharing ideas with other Employee Experience leaders. She now integrates themes and concepts from individuals at Epoch Connect and other events into the social events at Survey Monkey, improving her creativity and appeal. 

PJ encouraged the group to prioritize enjoyment and experimentation in event planning. She suggested that if an event doesn’t attract attendees, it might not align with the company culture. However, each event provides valuable insights for improvement. PJ highlighted the importance of building relationships and understanding her employees’ preferences, which can make event planning a lot easier. She also praised the Epoch network for its helpfulness, as she consistently seeks advice such as the best snack vendors and ideas for employee appreciation day from this network. PJ recommended attending Epoch Connect to build relationships like she did within the EX community.

How do you engage your employees virtually?

Cynthia creates a sense of community within her company by creating neighborhoods. She groups individuals who work in close proximity and enables them to host a company-sponsored Happy Hour. This activity encourages a sense of belonging and helps build strong relationships among colleagues, in a virtual workplace.

What spaces attract people when it comes to office layout or programming? 

PJ maximizes using flex desks and lounge areas to encourage collaboration among employees. One of the floors features a LEGO wall alongside comfortable lounge furniture and tables, creating an enjoyable environment for teams to collaborate in.

Cynthia transformed her office space into a versatile event space, which has successfully increased in-office attendance post-COVID. She incorporates lounge areas with soft seating, plants, record players, and game rooms to create an inviting and non-corporate atmosphere. 

How Epoch can help

Use Epoch to plan your employee events and programs, then track analytics on how the events went! Epoch is an employee engagement platform used by people teams at Reddit, Asana, and more. Epoch supports any internal event that needs email, Slack announcements and reminders, calendaring, and reporting. On top of impactful engagement and feedback analytics, Epoch provides a simple way to communicate and promote events to your workforce, helping events reach employees where they prefer to receive messages.

Teams using Epoch have seen positive impacts in event engagement while reducing time spent managing and promoting events by over 70%. Udemy used Epoch to scale its inclusive culture, driving 89% participation, and Modus Create successfully scaled a global events program across 15 time zones.

Increase productivity and connection among employees through company culture with Epoch. Curious to learn more? Book a demo today!

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