[Webinar] Pooja Desai at Stripe 🌟

[Webinar] Pooja Desai at Stripe 🌟

Welcome back to our NEW 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 May Webinar featuring Pooja Desai, who works in Onboarding and New Hire Experience at Stripe! View the full recording here. Scroll on for notes! 👇

Meet Pooja! 👋

Pooja Desai is a people person with experience working in the technology and healthcare industries. She is also in charge of Onboarding and New Hire Experience at Stripe! Stripe is a financial infrastructure platform for businesses.

Pooja currently co-owns end to end onboarding operations for AMER new hires at Stripe. ✨ In this Webinar, we will get an insight of her shared experiences, tips, and insights on how to make Onboarding and Employee Experience a successful journey!

Pooja is based in Hayward, California and uses she/her pronouns.💙

Webinar Topics 🎙

Share more about how your onboarding playlist got together and the thinking behind it.

Pooja started an onboarding music playlist when she was thinking about humanizing the onboarding experience from early on. In the beginning, she noticed that as everyone was joining and settling in their seats, there was an awkward silence in the beginning of some meetings.

To solve this, Pooja decided that playing nostalgic and popular hits would help energize her audience. She also had the intent of playing music where the lyrics would match the theme of each meeting. This was a fun activity for Pooja during her Onboarding and All Hands Events!

What does employee experience mean to you?

Pooja believes that the meaning of Employee Experience has changed a lot over the past 10 years, which was very interesting for her to witness firsthand. To Pooja, Employee Experience defines the relationship between a company and its employees. She was able to see the transition from providing great company 'swag' and snacks, to companies really caring about employee well-being, flexibility in time management and locations, cultivating connection opportunities, making sure employees feel a sense of belonging, and productivity in the workplace.

Pooja also learned from her previous position at Heroku, that having a design element is important and can convey the aforementioned feelings. 

She also outlines that empathizing and understanding employees’ unique needs, fostering community, culture and connections, and creating an organization that values inclusion, belonging, equity is part of the Employee Experience bucket. Making sure employees feel energized through deep connections and intrinsic motivations, and recognizing them for their work also falls under this Employee Experience umbrella.

What are some successful mental health programs you have experienced?

At previous companies, Pooja noticed that mental wellness programs were effective so having a dedicated person to manage employee well-being is important. Some wellness program ideas that Pooja has experienced and suggested are:

  • Invite Meditation Teachers to facilitate midday meditations
  • Organize an end of day Yoga class
  • Having a healthy and environmentally conscious food programs to promote a healthy mind and planet

On a deeper level, Pooja shares that having workshops and spaces for employees to be vulnerable is really good and that creating some sort of community and safe space promotes connection and empathy; allowing people to bring their authentic selves.

At Stripe, Pooja appreciates that they provide Wellness stipends and benefits for Therapy, showcasing that awareness of mental health doesn't have to stop with formal programming; giving resources to leaders is a great way to promote healthy and productive work environments.

How did you kick start these programs and keep them up?

Pooja looked up to her Manager at Heroku and learned a lot from their strong and passionate values towards Health and Wellness. She explains that Health and Wellness was extremely embedded into everything done at Heroku.

In terms of ideating programs, Stripe, who are very data-driven, looks carefully at the feedback they receive from their annual employee satisfaction surveys and monthly pulse checks for a subset of people, and bases their event planning through this. An example of this can be sending out surveys after every Onboarding class and analyzing the different root causes and trends taking place to start brainstorming event ideas.

In terms of getting stakeholder leadership buy-in, what have you seen work and are there any challenges you’ve faced?

Stripe has a very heavy writing culture and documents everything in a memo or project brief. Pooja loves completing these tasks as she sees it as a way for one to prove a theorem by showcasing everything they are able to outline. These outlines include problem statements, milestones, challenges, anticipated risks, budget, cost benefit analysis, timeline, etc.

Stripe also has a very heavy feedback culture. Pooja describes that employees are part of a company’s success and that it is important to acknowledge that they really want something meaningful in return. To ensure this, make sure programming hits all the targets that the employees have given feedback for.

In terms of leadership buy-in, it is important to see what the leader is interested in, their vision and values for employee experience, and what aspects they are focused on. She is a firm believer that culture can be top down, and if a leader really cares about a topic, it will probably become a company ritual.

Because you lead a lot of onboarding, you’re super intentional about doing user interviews with employees. Can you talk about that, especially at high scale and high growth companies?

Stripe had recently revamped their Onboarding program and created net new content. In order for Pooja to complete this, she facilitated focus groups through analyzing the data from their higher recognitions and looked at people nominated for stripe wide company awards, in which these awards embodies the company values and outstanding work at the company.

She also looked at Employee Resource Group (ERG) leaders and site leaders; which are different leaders for the hubs of Stripe in different offices. This totalled around 150 people in her focus groups which Pooja found awesome!

One thing that Pooja really enjoyed from these focus groups were the surveys she received. In her opinion, Pooja likes to have these surveys not anonymous and transparent because she would like to have the chance to grab a deeper dive of the feedback by speaking to the person about their comments. In some cases, Pooja examines that some feedback can come out of participants airing out all their grievances and not really express deeply about the experiences they genuinely have at the company.

Overall, as a company like Stripe with around 8,000 employees, survey data is crucial! Even at a smaller level too, it is important to collect a subset of people to conduct these focus groups.

What questions have you found to be successful for surveys and focus groups?

At Stripe, they would send out bi-annual surveys to understand the different motivations and if people were learning and growing. An example she had was sending out a survey question of “on a scale of 1-10, Stripe motivates me to go beyond what I would do in a similar role elsewhere”. The goal is to provide people learning opportunities in their current role, regardless of their tenure and however many years of experience they carry. 

Another example would be sending out the survey question of “I feel empowered to take thoughtful risks”. This is important for Pooja to know as she believes that risks are important for company growth and that ensuring employees are able to feel empowered and well educated in the company’s values, and all of the above, to make these thoughtful risks.

A different question that Pooja really loved was asking if employees feel like they have enough opportunities at work to learn and grow, regarding good career experiences. This helps show Pooja if they are helping other employees grow in their field and if they feel as if Stripe is different from previous companies they have worked for.

In terms of questions for Onboarding; Stripe keeps it basic to ensure that new hires are leaving with the fundamentals such as asking employees to describe a product or two that they carry. This way, Pooja can understand if they are doing their work well.  

Regarding questions for focus groups; depending on the topic, Pooja loves to throw in “Spicy” questions. First she ensures that she starts off with reminding participants that it is a safe space, to not say anyone’s names if discussing a topic mentioned earlier in the focus group, and establishing a code of conduct. She then ask questions that might not always have a positive outcome; questions that have the hard, challenging feedback where she can get the most opportunities from. 

What are your thoughts on learning, onboarding, and how they tie in together? Or the trends that you’re seeing in terms of what employers are interested and engaged in? 

Pooja shares that she is really passionate about Learning and Development (L&D). She believes that onboarding definitely sets the tone for employee experience as it sets expectations of what employees will learn and what they will be exposed to in the workplace; it’s essentially the beginning stages of a L&D space for an employee.

Ensuring employees are learning & growing is essential to their engagement and career development. To start off, Pooja states that it is important to set up employees on their first day and beyond; the smoother the onboarding, the better the overall experience. Pooja also refers to this analogous to life: if you’re not learning and doing things that are making you uncomfortable and pushing your boundaries, you might not feel as fulfilled and reach your full potential!

In terms of L&D experiences, manager enablement and coaching is important. Looking at how managers are effectively learning and communicating to make sure their team feels psychologically safe through enablement tools is something people have been requesting for.

How do you deliver content; what have you seen to be successful and what are some challenges? 

Personally, the way Pooja has delivered this at Stripe was dedicating a day for their company culture. This includes having a variety of series such as having:

  • An Operating Principles Workshop; where new members showcase their operating principles, and how others can relate to what is provided.
  • The Stripe Experience; an overall employee experience series which highlights how they operate in terms of the type of documentation and the tone of writing styles they carry.
  • Life at Stripe; shows you the full employee life cycle which includes their mascot, operating principles and communities for their ERG’s
  • Sessions of hiring people that match the culture as well as people with different points of views that can help them edit the company; such as manager offsite, manager trainings, full weeks of learning, surveys to gather what people want to learn and applying that to finding subject matter experts to deliver content.

As the face at onboarding, how do you navigate being super positive and hyping everyone up on the days when you are tired? 

Pooja stresses how important it is to set boundaries for yourself. Being on the onboarding team, leadership also encourages boundary setting for everyone. It's also important to find what works for you; some people are more fluid with boundaries and are comfortable with looking over work materials while having dinner or with their kids; some need solid boundaries.

Personally, Pooja meditates every day to get herself grounded and it helps her navigate her internal experience. Spending time with herself allows her to understand herself, her emotions, and her energy. She also takes longer walks or longer meditation at least once a week after work to spend time with herself, which understandably can be harder for those who are parents or caretakers.

Being strategic about your time is also an important part. Schedule draining conversations around the best times for you and schedule buffers and breaks to manage your energy.

What are your thoughts on humanizing the employee experience? 

Pooja understands that it can be scary to shed your title and executive presence to get vulnerable in the workplace during a workshop. However, the deeper and more vulnerable people get with one another, the more it promotes connection and empathy. Additionally, if someone doesn’t have the same views as you on a situation, it would be a more productive conversation over a combative one.

Do you have any final thoughts or advice to everyone here about employee experience? 

Pooja hopes everyone in this space feels encouraged to try and fail because those moments can be taken as a learning opportunity! 💙

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