[Webinar] Hospitality-Inspired Workplace Experiences: Best Practices with Rachel and Emily

[Webinar] Hospitality-Inspired Workplace Experiences: Best Practices with Rachel and Emily

We are back with our Webinar Series – Experts on Employee Experience! 🎉 It is a monthly webinar series where Jade Choy, Epoch's CEO, has 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 webinar featuring Rachel Pytlak, Director of Culinary and Culture at Zynga, and Emily Day, Head of Real Estate and Workplace Experiences at HashiCorp. View the full recording here. Scroll on for notes! 👇

Meet Emily and Rachel 🤗

Emily graduated from school thinking that she would be in the finance field. However, she pivoted her career once she realized that true fulfillment came from cooking, baking, and throwing parties. After asking herself how she could turn her passions into a career, Emily found herself opening a restaurant, having fallen in love with the industry 14 years prior. After starting a family, Emily moved into the Employee Experience space so she could apply all of her hospitality-based skills while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Rachel began her journey in the restaurant industry at the age of 15, working as a hostess and server. She learned various skills that prepared her for her current role at Zynga, including customer service, thriving in a fast-paced environment, and multitasking. Rachel pursued a bachelor's degree in hospitality and event management, and her passion for food and culinary knowledge led her to enroll in culinary school. During her time in school, Rachel was presented with an opportunity to cook for Zynga employees. Rachel fell in love with this career path and has been with Zynga ever since.

How the hospitality industry has influenced creating an exceptional employee experience

Rachel has played a significant role in establishing a workplace that employees eagerly anticipate returning to by implementing the "surprise and delight" strategy. She recognizes the potential of surprise and delight moments in fostering meaningful connections among individuals, and she believes that food is an exceptional catalyst for achieving this. Rachel believes that food is the hub of connections and has created welcoming environments where employees are excited to gather. She knows that creating memorable moments is crucial to turning offices into more exciting spaces for employees to connect with each other. To achieve this, Rachel asks herself what the "Instagram moment" would be during events that employees can share and remember. 

Emily believes that creating a strong sense of community and building relationships with people is essential for any business to thrive. She emphasizes the importance of engaging with employees and customers alike, even with limited resources and being able to tell a compelling story that resonates with them. In the restaurant industry, she understands the significance of creating a memorable experience for customers, from the moment they step foot inside to the time they leave and beyond. Emily applies the same principles to the employee experience by ensuring that every touchpoint is unique, memorable and leaves a positive impression. She believes in creating a workplace that feels like home, where employees feel valued and excited to be a part of the team.

Team structures at HashiCorp and Zynga

HashiCorp has adopted a hybrid work model, with a portion of its employees working remotely from home while others go into the office several times a week. Zynga has implemented a "Connected Workplace" model, granting employees the flexibility to work on-site or remotely for 2-3 days a week. Both organizations understand the importance of creating a positive workplace environment that values employee satisfaction and community building. At HashiCorp, the workplace team falls under finance, which allows for collaboration with cross-functional partners. Meanwhile, at Zynga, the workplace team was previously under finance and is now under HR.

Useful tools and platforms for enhancing employee experiences

Zynga had already embraced the use of Zoom and Slack prior to the pandemic. However during the pandemic, Zynga saw an influx in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) which demanded the need for an event management platform to diminish the noise. Zynga implemented Epoch which has been essential in reaching out to targeted audiences and cross-promoting events. With the help of Epoch’s technology, companies have found ways to make these groups more organized and effective. 

At HashiCorp, the workplace team places a high value on maintaining a polished appearance and presenting a consistent narrative. Emily enjoys Epoch because it facilitates the organized and comprehensive management of events. Emily and her team also use Canva because it is an efficient way to keep a consistent story with brand kits. Emily emphasizes the importance of having a coherent brand and strategy 

Where exceptional workplace experience directly contributed to improved employee performance and business outcomes

For Emily, the primary mission of the Workplace Team is to foster connection. She understands that f or employees to feel connected to their workplace, they must also feel a sense of belonging to a larger community. To foster this sense of community, the People Team updated the onboarding program last year, and the Workplace Team collaborated with them to introduce new hires to the internal community even before their first day. This approach helps employees understand that they are not just joining a company, but are becoming a part of a vibrant community. In addition to this, Hashicorp has created eight different Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to further enhance the sense of community and belonging. All of these initiatives are designed to help employees feel connected to Hashicorp and carry that sense of community with them throughout their journey.

Rachel believes that Zynga's Employee Resource Groups, or zERGs, are what make the company special. With 12-13 different zERGs, employees are able to feel like part of a community from the start. In employee surveys, the zERGs are a big reason why employees choose to stay at Zynga. Rachel leads the Women zERG and each zERG has its own Slack channel to allow for a safe space for folks to share and feel more connected. The events team collaborates with all the zERGs to organize various events, such as the Juneteenth Cooking Class, promoting inclusivity and celebrating different cultures. Moreover, all zERGs welcome allies, which encourages the formation of alliances in meetings and teams, ultimately benefiting the company as a whole.

Specific initiatives that have had a significant impact on employee engagement

Emily revealed that due to a limited budget, HashiCorp organizes free events as part of their mission to foster connections among people. The company highlights its employees' interests and passions outside of work in events like the Micro-Conversation Series. This casual gathering invites the entire company to participate and listen as a fellow employee shares about their unique hobbies or experiences, such as having a pet pig or being a digital nomad. These events help bring the company together and create a sense of connection despite being a global company. 

Additionally, the Virtual Coffee House is another way to connect people and share talents. These events help humanize the company in a remote world and bring employees together across the world and on different teams.

During the pandemic, Rachel found a remarkable method to connect with her team by organizing virtual events that genuinely captured their interest. She discovered that virtual cooking classes were particularly effective in engaging employees. To enhance the experience, Rachel sent ingredient kits to employees, adding an exciting element as they could participate with their families or friends. This not only created a more intimate event but also fostered stronger connections within the team. After the virtual cooking classes, participants would share photos of themselves enjoying the food and exchange stories about their culinary experiences.

Now that the team is transitioning back to the office, Rachel intends to continue organizing in-person events to preserve the company culture that they developed during the pandemic.

Hacks/tips for starting up or enhancing an employee program or event

For Emily, the Workplace Insider Program holds great significance as one of the workplace initiatives introduced by HashiCorp. The program aims to gain a deeper understanding of what different teams require from central locations. It involves selecting an outgoing representative from each team who collaborates closely with the Workplace Team to provide instant feedback and share information with their respective teams.

The program was developed through organic means, with the organization engaging in conversations with individuals they regularly collaborate with, as well as trusted HRBPs and other key stakeholders. To facilitate communication and gather input, the program utilizes a dedicated Slack channel, effectively creating a connected community of individuals within the organization.

Rachel's experience with change management in the San Mateo head office underscores the importance of effective communication and collaboration during the implementation of organizational changes. By identifying a group of ambassadors from each team and regularly updating them on progress, leadership was able to gather feedback and disseminate information to all employees in a timely manner. Rachel continues to prioritize communication and feedback by working closely with teams like EAs (Executive Assistants) and incorporating their insights into decision-making processes. This approach not only fosters a culture of transparency and inclusivity but also helps ensure the success of future organizational changes.

Considerations when scaling globally for culture and engagement: 

  • Tools and Resources: Find tools and resources to take existing grassroots initiatives and present them systematically
  • Measurements: Use measurements such as attendance and feedback for events, and include survey questions in the people's team survey that centers around community and engagement
  • Personalization: Personalize messages to new hires via email to make them feel connected to the organization and the workplace team 
  • Promote Company Culture: Create an online swag store to promote the company culture 
  • Virtual events: Open up virtual events across the globe

Connect with us!

Connect with Rachel and Emily on LinkedIn if you want to chat with them directly. Sign up for Epoch’s newsletter to be in the know for our next Experts in Employee Experience webinar and other Employee Experience events!

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