Ownership, Performance, and Employee Motivation

With Allison Rutledge-Parisi, Barbra Gago, Courtney Leimkuhler, Roxanne Petraeus, and Tylee Holden

This panel about company culture has key insights for any founder looking to build an engaging workplace experience. Courtney Leimkuhler, founding partner of Springbank Collective, led panelists through a conversation about employer branding and employee experience with a panel of experts: Allison Rutledge-Parisi, SVP of people, Justworks; Barbra Gago, founder and CEO, Pando; Roxanne Petraeus, co-founder and CEO, Ethena; and Tylee Holden, head of strategic growth, Atomic Machines.

Building a culture that inspires

Company culture continues to be top of mind when employers think about employee experience. For executive leaders, company culture is something they can shape and impact, no matter their department. Consistency is key here—employees should always know their company’s mission and values amid shifting priorities.

The people that are inside your company, who interact with your customers, they should all be able to feel and exude your [company] values in how they make decisions.
Barbra Gago
Founder and CEO, Pando

This is especially important as many companies are moving to a remote-first environment, but also as a company scales to multiple locations. Having small rituals can go a long way in reinforcing your company’s culture. “Birthdays, anniversaries, how you celebrate your customers’ successes,” Barbra said. “Small things that help make people feel like they’re part of the culture and that they contribute to it.”

Empowering employee growth

How do you scale a company without losing authenticity and intimacy with your customers, but also your employees? “Does your culture reflect grit, optimism, risk tolerance, agility?” Tylee said. “How do you reinforce that culture throughout the employee experience and recruiting process?”

It all comes down to the people at your company. Employees are excited to come to work when their contributions are valued, they find alignment with the company in how they make decisions, and they feel empowered to grow. “You won’t grow if taking risks isn’t made okay,” Allison said. “As you scale, the table stakes can be serious. But you need to keep the mindset of when you make mistakes, you either win or you learn.”

Maintaining high morale during uncertain times

With the question of a recession looming, these leaders are searching for ways to lessen uncertainty and keep morale high.

“If you have to do layoffs, how you do it is going to make or break your culture,” Allison said as the conversation turned toward recent layoffs in the tech space. “And you need to do it out of respect for the people who are impacted, but even more so for those who remain—because they are watching.”

Being transparent about the decisions being made, and the goals and outcomes you’re expecting, is key to providing a sense of security to your employees. While it can seem logical to tighten the career development budget and cut resources, it’s actually time to truly invest in your employees. “Doubling down on employee career pathing, growth, and development is crucial,” Barbra said. “If you’ve done layoffs, everyone who’s left standing is like, ‘What’s going to happen to me? Do I still have a path here? Do I really even want to be here, if all these great people left?’ It’s really a time to swiftly focus and articulate how people will grow.”

Defining those expectations and showcasing there’s a clear path to success is critical for employee retention.

It’s really about sitting down with all of your direct reports and figuring out where they are today within your leveling system and your org structure. Where do they think they are, and where do they want to be?
Tylee Holden
Head of strategic growth, Atomic Machines

Understanding the role of DEI

Employees are most engaged when they’re able to bring their full selves to work, and the enduring vein throughout this panel’s conversations was the subject of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

The values your company emanates should reflect your own employees, but the people that are interacting with your company. “Our customers are small businesses, a lot of them are women in minority-owned businesses. They employ diverse populations ,” Allison said. “We have to understand that lens really carefully from a business, as well as talent, perspective.”

Create more owners
In 2018, the #ANGELS hypothesized that the equity gap was worse than the salary gap. Carta has the data to help track and analyze what they called #TheGapTable. Together, we created the first ever report on equity distribution by gender and have continued to create it every year since. Equity is the largest lever for wealth creation in Silicon Valley and beyond; we believe it should be distributed equitably.