Employee Experience Happy Hour in New York City Recap

Employee Experience Happy Hour in New York City Recap

Epoch hosted a Happy Hour for leaders and innovators in the Employee Experience space to mix and mingle in New York City. The event featured a fireside chat where Jade Choy, Epoch's co-founder and CEO, 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 Samantha Eisner, Senior Manager of Employee Experience at Braze, and Sofia Montgomery, Global Engagement Manager at Figma!  View the full recording here. Scroll on for notes! 👇

Where Braze and Figma are as companies

Braze currently operates in a hybrid capacity. The extent to which people work in person is dependent on their department. They have offices in New York, Austin, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Singapore, Tokyo, Berlin, and Paris. They grew a lot during the pandemic. 

Figma has about 1,200 employees globally. They have offices in New York, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo, Singapore, and Seattle. Figma is also operating in a hybrid capacity. 

Both Samantha and Sofia fall under the people operations umbrella at their respective companies.

What Employee Engagement looks like at Braze and Figma

Braze is big on building community. All of their events tie back to their mission, vision, and values. They want employees to have a connection to their brand. Everything that they do represents their values in some way. The Braze mission is to forge human connection and we lean on that internally as well.

Figma’s mission is to make design accessible to all. This and their values are woven through everything. They build community within locations, and through hybrid and remote events. They have quarterly offsites for teams that bring everyone together to share ideas and better Figma. They also host “Maker Week” which is a Hackathon for everyone. Everyone from sales to finance can join and come up with a project that makes Figma better. It could be a product but it could also be something like an office mural. That week they pause normal work and all their biggest products come from that week while they build community.

Braze has a similar program to Maker Week. They have a Braze Kickoff where everyone goes to their local hub and align and cross collaborate in February. Additionally, each year they have a volunteer week where they give employees time off to be able to volunteer within the community. They also like to share employees' passions. There’s a form employees can fill out that allows them to teach a lesson about their passion such as astrology, beatboxing, etc.

Figma also encourages people to share their talents outside of work. People will be more likely to show up to your events if a co-worker hosts it rather than a paid professional.

How employees get involved with these initiatives

At Figma, everyone puts a ticket into the Workplace team. They have Employee Resource Groups and Social Impact Groups. Anyone can put on an event but it’s supported and made easier by the workplace team.

Braze knows that when employees are involved in events, more people will show up. When the workplace/employee experience teams are the only ones sending out event reminders, it gets tiring. When your co-workers and friends from the office message you, you’re more inclined to attend.

How Sofia and Sam stay on top of everything

At Figma, Workplace is tied into everything and consistently visits everyone to see if there’s anything they can do to support their initiatives. Sometimes Sofia will join ERG meetings to see how she can support them. Figma also has a Community Engagement Manager to support ERGs.

At Braze, Employee Experience is a specific event at onboarding. If you want to be a part of an ERG then you can be looped in at the beginning. They’re also in every ERG and office Slack channel. They want to get in front of things and help people so they eventually come to them automatically.

Challenges in programming

It’s really difficult to manually track attendance on things. Figma has implemented a quarterly pulse check. It’s important to keep track of program success when the leadership changes hands. It’s also important to get internal communications involved early to ensure higher visibility and attendance for programs.

How people find out about events

Sam shares that Braze uses Confluence as an internal Wiki and also shares events in Slack to let people know about all the events that are happening. The events are always on their Calendar way ahead of time but the communications help with attendance especially when sending a message through multiple channels. Utilizing Slack is a game changer. Sam recommends utilizing Slack channel permissions to choose who can send messages to specific channels.

Sofia shares they’ve been experimenting with different Slack channels. They now have an all-hands channel that’s the rundown of what you’ve missed at all hands so nothing gets missed.

Stance on return to office

Braze is hybrid but they are committed to increasing office utilization this year. This is because they want to drive community. They’re doing a lot of testing on what kind of events work. Does food and drink work, or are there other ways to get people in the office? They want to build a community for the office and the remote first section. The reaction is it’s fine as long as they give meaningful reasons to come to the office. They encourage employees to come together and make their own Slack channels for their region and Braze allows them to expense a certain amount for socials together on a quarterly basis. Other guidelines include sharing photos with other locations and sharing ideas!

The same goes for Figma. There’s no mandate to come to the office. Their goal is to make the office space employees want to be in. They don’t want to have an unused office. Their New York office has over 50% because more employees in New York tend to live closer to the office and have smaller apartments than in other cities.In New York, they’re building another floor because there are more employees coming in than desks! In addition, every quarter, if there are more than 5 people in a remote location  they can get together with a budget from Figma.

It’s about accepting employees' preferences while encouraging them to build connections in person.

How to measure the success of programs

It’s all about experimenting. At Braze they can track office utilization with badge swipes. If they have an event one day and the attendance spikes it could be because of that. They were once really heavy on happy hours but saw it die down after Covid. Not everyone drinks and people don’t want to stay after 5. They are trying to figure out what activities to implement during the day and it’s been more successful. People’s social batteries are drained at the end of the day so it’s easier to avoid small talk when doing an activity during the day (like planting a succulent). They’re also moving away from calling them Happy Hours and now refer to them as Social Hours.

Figma has similar findings. Happy hours are more popular if there are activities and equally appetizing mocktails. Food always goes over well, so Figma does breakfast and lunch every Monday-Thursday. Executives in the office drive attendance so when an executive is in town, they may host a breakfast or a fireside chat with the executive. They drive attendance with communications about that beforehand. People need to know about these things ahead of time.

How Braze and Figma manage offsites

Both teams try to get teams to plan their offsites. But, if it’s global the workplace team has a hand in it. At Figma, they use Notion as a guide and have the teams submit a workplace ticket while allowing them to plan it themselves. Braze also likes enabling their employees to do it themselves.

How do you think about leadership buy-in?

Sam shares that the Braze executives really care about culture. They show up to events and programs themselves. The more you loop in your executives into the program management, the more they understand the importance and help promote them. Each ERG has an executive sponsor to encourage more people to show up.

Sofia shares that Figma’s founder really cares about office activities and swag. Figma also has an office attendance tracker to keep track of things. When there’s a work experience person tracking, leadership understands that it’s important teams are supported. It’s also important to implement the advice of others to drive culture. If they know you listen, that will build trust.

What Sam and Sofia are excited about in the space

Sofia is excited about global growth for Figma and excited to get settled into the new wave of work because of all of the changes happening since Covid.

Sam is excited about the ever changing future. Once they’re settled, something will happen and they’ll have to adapt but it’s fun! They’re crafting their own journey.

Want to be a part of future events?

Sign up for Epoch’s newsletter to be in the know for our next Fireside Chat and other Employee Experience events!

Related content