Alignment and Rowing in the Same Direction

December 30th, 2015   /     /   company news

I was a coxswain for my rowing team in college. My job was to shout commands at my teammates so that we could steer and maximize the efficiency and speed of the boat. I was, as I’ve always been, the loudest person in the boat. Fast forward to now… I’m the VP of HR for a technology company, and today I want to talk about culture.

Culture is one of the main buzzwords in Silicon Valley, and is becoming a much more important facet to sustaining a business advantage in this uber-competitive talent market. One of the greatest things about working in a ‘young, startup company’ is that you get to shape, define and maintain culture.

Using my life experiences, plus my experiences here at OneLogin, I’ll discuss 3 tenets that I think make up OneLogin’s healthy, fun and efficient work culture.

1. Transparency - Every meaningful conversation (whether with your friends, family or work colleagues) requires both honesty and context. If I say “I am disappointed in your performance”, you might be confused, especially if this is the first time we’re having this conversation. Instead, if I say, “You did not deliver the report to me by 3pm. This is the second time that you’ve promised to do something and you didn’t deliver, and I’m disappointed in your performance,” you will understand why I am disappointed in you. Managers today need to be much more generous with their dialogue and spend time with employees.

At OneLogin, in order to give managers the tools to have open dialogues, we’ve rolled out a series of in-house management training sessions to coach them through work scenarios. We want to train our managers for different and difficult types of conversations, so they may become more effective communicators and leaders.

2. Collaboration - Executive teams must lead by example in order to cascade the behaviors they want to see in others. If you work in a fast-paced, highly collaborative workplace like OneLogin, then you’ll most likely see a lot of technology in your environment. For instance, we have no physical phones. Our laptops are our phones, equipped with 3 different types of calling systems. You’ll see us using Google Docs instead of any legacy office apps, simply because we are a company that is centered around the cloud. For us, collaboration also means employees having access to Skype, Slack, hipchat, jira and asana. We believe that employees find comfort in many different mediums to work with one another. Providing an array of tools that appeal to different types of employees is the easiest way to build bridges between our global workforce. Plus, we’re a technology company, so we’re constantly trying new technologies.

3. Empowerment - The stories you hear about Silicon Valley are true. We promote folks faster and give high profile and revenue-generating projects to people who thrive in challenging situations. With a very young workforce averaging 31 years of age, we have to give our employees opportunities to learn and succeed. And in order to do that, we have to allow them to take on projects that they’ve never experienced, enabling them to develop skills they never knew they had. I’ve even coached one of my own HR team members to run pivot tables as an exercise in understanding which projects consume most of her time, allowing her to learn for herself how to manage her time more efficiently.

While all of these cultural components are a part of how we behave with each other at work, it can still be difficult to rapidly introduce new employees each week the way we do. When it comes to the fear of diluting your company’s culture with all this new talent (70% of our employees have less than 1 year of tenure), it’s important to keep the final tenet of our unique culture at the forefront.

The final, and possibly most important tenet of OneLogin’s culture is our collective desire to own this company. Every employee who joins OneLogin is granted an equity stake. In order to make this business successful, we need everyone acting as an owner and taking on risks to develop themselves and our company as part of one collective group effort.

And when you have everyone rowing in the same direction embodying our culture—then you have a very efficient, fast and reliable machine.

About the Author

Mai Ton, VP of HR for OneLogin, is leading the charge to scale OneLogin’s growth with a focus on culture and long-term employee development. She sets the people strategy and delivers the support to make it a great place to work.

View all posts by Mai Ton