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 December Webinar featuring PJ Calzadilla Ortiz, Program Manager - Engagement, Diversity & Belonging at Yelp! View the full recording here. Scroll on for notes! 👇
PJ (she/they) is a change management and DI&B professional skilled in program management, training & facilitation, proactive consulting, research, and data interpretation. PJ is from Puerto Rico and is currently based in Chicago. Passionate about navigating organizational transitions with an inclusive foundation, and fostering an inclusive, equitable employee experience with opportunities for folks to thrive. In this webinar, we will learn about their experiences, advice, and thoughts on employee experience and how to keep employees more connected.
PJ joined Yelp in 2015 and began in sales. They got involved in different employee resource groups (ERGs) and quickly realized that culture and employee experience is something they really liked. They realized their passion lay in why people want to work at Yelp and what makes them happy to work there, as well as promote equality and inclusivity at Yelp.
It's a holistic approach to a person’s journey in the workplace. The employee experience is a lot of moving pieces that come together to create value for all employees to ensure they want to stay where they’re at and thrive where they’re at. Yelp wants to make sure the entire human is addressed, from the events that are held, the speakers that are brought in, the conversations that are being had, the trainings being built, the benefits that are offered. They understand that not everyone can be pleased, but try to meet the needs of all the communities that need to be served.
PJ has a hand in all the events that come out of the culture team. The team decides on events through identity and value-based initiatives to make sure everyone can be themselves and join in. Thinking through what can be done to amplify the voices in those communities and celebrations like Black History Month, Pride, and others. It’s also important to have a pulse on current events and folks’ needs, and check-in on what kind of conversations people want to have, and provide different opportunities for employees to engage and learn from one another. Some things may be more interactive than others, there are a lot of nuances. Not every event will be perfect but they want events to apply to the majority, if not everybody.
They are one of the first things PJ got involved in at Yelp, and a crucial element to creating community and a sense of belonging for a lot of different types of lived experiences in the organization, but aren’t responsible for solving systemic issues. Leaders like Chief Diversity Officers and others are in place to lead the way toward carrying out initiatives in an equitable way.
ERGs are important to PJ because it was the first time they felt that being who they are, as they are, could be successful and accepted. ERGs uplift the needs of different communities and intersectional experiences and help to celebrate communities in the workplace.
Yelp did a lot of due diligence and research on ERGs inside and outside of the organization. They held focus groups and asked ERG leaders what they needed to be successful. The goal is to ensure ERGs are meeting the mission they set out to achieve when they were created, and put in place processes and resources to empower ERG leaders. The culture team created communications to provide more clarity, transparency and guidance for ERG leaders. So that group leaders will know it’s not a big, scary undertaking. Yelp is allowing groups more flexibility and lower barriers to entry for ERGs.
The culture team strategizes with the company-wide internal comms. Promoting how to get involved in ERGs is included in company-wide newsletters, and in an annual recap will promote events and ERGs. There is also an opportunity for ERG leaders to speak with new hires about programming and how to get involved.
The Yelp Summit is an opportunity for ERG leaders to meet and collaborate with each other. There were coworking sessions where group leaders were mixed to create intersectional campaigns. They also had panels with ERG leaders from other companies like Github, Meta, Glassdoor. It was a great opportunity to learn and share with others but also helps ERG leaders know they’re not alone. It’s really powerful to meet others with the same passion for their groups. They ended with a positivity workshop and an announcement of what’s to come in the new year.
This originated from a company-wide survey where employees preferred a remote first way of working but wanted to connect with others in their area. Virtual spaces were created for the top 25 metros where our employees live. These are opt-in opportunities that allow folks to connect with others in their area.
It’s not as structured as ERGs, it’s been very self-powered. It’s a delicate balance of ensuring employees feel included but also not pressuring people to feel like they need to attend events. It’s a space for employees to find each other.
They can join the one closest to them or can make their own community with people they know who are in their area.
The Juneteenth event was a huge success. It was the first year it was being observed as a company-wide holiday, and the education piece was really important. They invited an academic to lead an interactive educational session with trivia and prizes. About 700 attendees showed up!
Some smaller successful events involved bringing in therapists to speak. Mental health is a really important topic. Topics included tools to handle the pandemic as well as the election.
Another recurring, popular event is Yelp Summer School, where employees can volunteer to upskill other employees with sessions in various business tools like Excel, public speaking, written communication, and more.
Events that resonate with PJ are ones where folks have honest, tough conversations, like one event around having a conversation about colorism in Latin America. Having a culture where folks feel safe enough to have those conversations speaks for itself.
How do you identify great fits for events?
Having a pulse on what’s going on in the organization makes it easier to find folks who have expertise or passion in a certain area. Reaching out to different people in your network, hearing from others about people who would be a good fit. It comes down to not being scared to start conversations with people who could share valuable experiences and being passionate enough to meet the needs of employees.
It’s great because it provides a lot of flexibility and trust. Employees are able to do their jobs well and also make space for their life. It comes with a lot of responsibility because it’s important that all employees feel supported - parents, people with disabilities, all groups that make up the company.
Crucial to the success of asynchronous work is to over communicate. Write everything down to make sure people don’t feel like they’re missing out. An example is to include in your email signature that my work hours may not be the same as yours. Nobody should feel like they’re missing out, and the tools and systems in place to ensure that, like recording meetings.
Take advantage of remote work in order to have others get the benefits of it as well. Acknowledge that you’re not limitless in energy, the sooner you recognize this it is easier to sustain passion. It’s important to listen to your body and manage boundaries to continue your high quality of work. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help but it’s important to talk about things, and be honest with yourself and your team.
We’re not alone in this, as we all want better workplaces. Connect with PJ on Linkedin if you want to chat about building an inclusive and equitable workplace.
Key learnings and takeaways from our May webinar featuring Tet Salva from PagerDuty where she discusses how to power up the new hire experience
Key learnings and takeaways from our April webinar featuring Christopher Vanisi from Bluevine where he discusses amplifying Learning & Development.