[Webinar] Joey at Stack Overflow ✨

[Webinar] Joey at Stack Overflow ✨

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  Joey Randazzo, Employee Engagement Specialist at Stack Overflow. View the full recording here. Scroll on for notes! 👇

Meet Joey 😊

Joey (she/her) is the Employee Engagement Specialist at Stack Overflow. She’s been in her role just over a year and loves helping contribute to their culture.

Webinar Topics 🎙️

How Joey thinks about Employee Engagement

To Joey, Employee Engagement is hard to define. It’s difficult to put a finger on what exactly makes you feel engaged at work. Everyone’s worked at a workplace where they enjoy their work and co-workers but the vibe is still off. Employee engagement is about improving the company vibe and connecting employees and their work.

What Employee Engagement looks like at Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow is growing tremendously as a company. Joey’s DEIB role falls under their larger HR structure. When people come into the organization they’re able to meet the HR and DEIB team. For new hires, they have a finding your place event to highlight all of their company ERGs. The more people feel connected, the better they can enjoy their space. The people team is there to support the larger organization. Stack Overflow is remote first. It’s hard for a remote company to have a vibe. It’s not like where you start a new job in person and build relationships by walking around the office. It’s harder to make those connections and get to know people remotely. Their ERGs focus on their personhood and how they understand themselves. This can be invisible or visible. Their BERGs are focused on interests such as running clubs, book clubs, etc. You can still connect with people based on your interests and who you are. 

Stack Overflow’s Find Your Place Program

Stack Overflow has its regular new hire orientation. The Find Your Place orientation is also a regular part of orientation. Many Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) exist at Stack Overflow, such as AAPI, BNB, LGBTQ+, their MIND for mental illness and neurodiversity, and more! Leaders from each ERG discuss member highlights, initiatives they’re doing, the ERG mission, and more to learn about what’s being offered at Stack Overflow. It’s a great way to get connected and know everyone as soon as you’re in the door!

Business resource groups and employee resource groups at Stack Overflow

All of Stack Overflow’s BRGs & ERGs have a budget and they make sure each group's mission is tied back to the company's larger goals. People come into the organization with different views, experiences, and challenges. There are so many things that impact how you see the world. When you join an ERG you find a community who have a similar experience or connection with you that allows you to have a community within Stack Overflow.  Stack Overflow was surveying their developers. They had the MIND ERG look at the survey to make sure the language in the survey was clear to approve before it was released. That’s an example of how they took a company-wide initiative, leveled up the ERG to support that, and were able to present the company with a better survey as a result. The ERGs get funding because they’re contributing to the larger goals of the organization. They try to not just be the planning or fun committee but that they are truly a business need. The budget depends on what each group needs or wants. Stack Overflow tries to accommodate accordingly.

How Stack Overflow ERGs are created and sustained

ERGs are more about need. If someone wants to start an ERG, there are core requirements. There must be 10 members to start and at least 5 of those need to be a part of the leadership team. There is a process of creating the charter for what you plan on doing with the ERG and how that connects to organizational goals. There’s an application process where you go through plans and events they’d like to run and the support they’d like to give the community. All these parameters help start ERGs. The larger ERGs can have sub-ERGs that are lighter lifts as well. The moment the ERG gets more people and can drive more engagement it can become a full ERG. They also have the same thing with Caregivers and Parents ERG. Originally it was just an ERG for solo parents but more weren’t solo parents so they created it as a subset of the Caregiver and Parents ERG. 

Who do people approach to start ERGs?

They like to start other ERGs off slowly and small with an annex. As momentum builds they’re able to formalize it and transform the annex into the ERG. For example, if someone wants to start an ERG or BRG, they approach Joey and Joey forwards them documentation to set expectations and see if they’re able to meet all the commitments. It’s important to follow the same ERG process as everyone else.

How would you advise someone on the people team that’s tasked to start an ERG initiative within their company?

It’s important to know who is leading ERGs, the requirements, the rules, the documentation, and more. Can the ERG stand with nobody holding it up? Then go for it! 

What role do the chair and leadership play within ERGs?

The ERG chair is the one creating all the programs. Stack Overflow just had their yearly election for all ERG chair leads. They’re now being led through finding something in the corporate goals to work towards for the year. They create the landscape for the group moving forward. Last year a lot of chairs focused on knowledge sharing, membership participation, and events. 

The leadership team are the people who spread the word outside of the ERG, promoting events, and putting things in the Slack channel to hype up events. They help reach the goals that the chair and co-chair set!

The ERG election process at Stack Overflow

The ERG election process started because there were some ERG leaders that were tired of being leaders. They were exhausted after leading them since their inception. It’s usually a 3-4 week process where they send out a survey for people to get nominations for the various positions. At that point, they reach out to those individuals to see if they’re interested in taking on the role. Joey encourages employees to accept the nomination and they run elections for a week. After the elections, they tell the winners about the new leadership layout and catch everyone up on past initiatives and what to try to accomplish this year. Joey walks them through setting up goals, working with a budget, and more.

Best practices for starting ERGs

  1. Have the numbers. You want to make sure it can sustain itself. It won’t work with 2 people, so build interest.
  2. When launching, they do an AMA to help people learn more about the ERG and how it supports members of that community. When you have those conversations people feel more relaxed and safe.
  3. Have documentation and rules to follow. It helps people understand what’s supposed to happen and how they’re supposed to happen.

The structure Joey uses to start ERGs

Joey’s entire goal is to leverage ERGs to speak directly to organizational goals. This is broken down into 3 parts.

  1. What’s in it for me (WIFM): Identifying ourselves, our own goals, and how we view the world. It’s about understanding how you can bring your view of the world to support the organization.
  2. What’s in it for us (WIFU): How we can take everyone’s identity and create a space that is comforting and safe regardless of differences.
  3. What’s in it for the organization (WIFO): How we can use that community and understanding to speak directly to the organization's goals. How the organization can leverage the knowledge, experience, and understanding of ERGs to make their marks, keep top talent and attract new talent.

What drives Employee Engagement?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that drives employee engagement. Simply giving vacation time isn’t going to cut it in this new landscape. You need to know what’s important to your people and highlight those things. You can’t learn that without surveys. From a community survey, Joey and her team found out that employees wanted more Learning & Development opportunities. They created Learn Share Grow Days which are 4 hours each month focused on L&D. 4 hours for personal development, departmental development, and company-wide development. 

What excites and energizes Joey in the space

The most important thing for Joey is enjoying her job. She’s motivated to learn more about what other organizations are doing and how she can take inspiration from them to improve the community at Stack Overflow.

How Joey stays positive

Joey says she’s happy and energetic naturally. She’s not sure if she could act like that all the time if she was forcing it. One time when Joey worked a retail job, she just told everyone on the first floor to call out and go to 6 Flags on Thursday and everyone showed up! 

Joey’s parting words

Have fun with what you’re doing. It’s supposed to be fun and engaging. If it’s pulling teeth and you hate every minute of it, maybe it’s not for you. It’s okay to walk away from things. There’s nothing wrong with saying this isn’t working and let’s try something new. Sometimes you just need to put things down.

Connect with us!

Connect with Joey on LinkedIn if you want to chat with her 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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