How Leadership Development Can Make Culture Thrive in Times of Rapid Growth w/ 1Password’s CPO

The Culture Code

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Gallup research indicates that 70% of engagement can be traced to an employee’s manager. For this reason, leadership development stands as one of the best strategies for a rapidly growing company to foster its culture.

To learn about this strategy in action, I met with the Chief People Officer of 1Password, Katya Laviolette. Despite being a relatively small company of 1,000 employees, 1Password demonstrates leadership development that is as robust (or better) than many significantly larger companies. For example, 1Password has a custom in-house leadership development program, a data analytics program entirely devoted to the employee experience, and six employee resource groups.

1Password is a password manager, digital vault, form filler, and secure digital wallet. A Toronto-based, bootstrapped company that started 18 years ago, 1Password just hired its 1,000th Bit (or employee).

Codifying the Culture at 1Password as It Doubles in Size 

As companies grow, the need to define company culture poses a challenge. Companies must establish their culture in an authentic and useful way without making it feel overly formalized or bureaucratic.

Laviolette described how she achieved this goal at 1Password as they doubled in size from 500 employees to 1,000 employees in just over a year. Laviolette and her team joined cross-functional, diverse groups of individuals with the founders and asked them to put the culture on paper. “It was actually quite funny,” Laviolette recalled, “our first miss actually describes our culture. One of the founders said, ‘This is very corporate speak.’ So we went back and came up with just three very clear values: Keep it simple, lead with honesty, and put people first.”

Since then, Laviolette and her team have been as she described it, “putting meat on the bones” of those values by delving into the specific behaviors that drive each value.

DEIB Initiative Sustains 1Password’s Culture 

One common thread among great company cultures is that they create unique and inventive rituals. At 1Password, one of these initiatives encompasses diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). 

1Password’s grassroots-led DEIB program focuses on a “deep look to make sure we have good diversity throughout our pipeline.” Laviolette said that the company began with programs centered on sensitivity and expanded its efforts toward their pipeline and hiring over time. Driven by a data scientist devoted to people development, 1Password now has an entire work council and six employee resource groups (ERGs).

Finding the Story Behind Employee Engagement 

Every chief people officer (CPO) that I have spoken with has a robust plan for measurement that is centered on employee engagement. Laviolette is no exception. What sets her apart from other CPOs when it comes to employee engagement is how she not only collects data but also finds the story behind it.

Laviolette described her approach: “I come from an environment prior to tech, where we were pulse surveying every week. At 1Password, we actually decreased the frequency but increased the depth. What I found is that it's really good to blend your data and let it tell you a story. You have to interpret it, and then you do have to use some type of gut feeling for what you want to do.”

1Password Develops Culture by Investing in Its Leaders 

Since research correlates 70% of employee engagement to the manager, the way a company develops its leaders can be incredibly telling of its culture. 

Despite being a relatively small company, 1Password boasts leadership development that is as robust as that of many large companies. Here are some of the highlights:

Each month, all 90+ managers across the company participate in a joint meeting.

  • Coaching at scale: Senior directors and above receive regular access to coaching.
  • Laviolette and her team are currently building out a custom, in-house leadership development program.
  • The company has six employee resource groups (ERGs).
  • The company hired a data analyst devoted to employee experience.

Laviolette’s Most-valued Skill at 1Password: Connecting the Dots 

Culture is ultimately a collection of behaviors. The behaviors that you set out to change dictate your culture. The behavior that Laviolette most wants her employees to develop is the ability to view things holistically. She said, “I speak a lot about the importance of connecting the dots. When you work on something, think in a cross-collaborative, holistic way. As you begin to think this way, you may find there are some things you completely take off the table and other things you double down on.”

Laviolette’s Book Recommendation for HR Professionals: Shoe Dog 

Of the 100+ chief people officers I have interviewed, all are voracious readers and learners. Asked what book she would recommend for HR professionals, Laviolette endorsed Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. “I'm a runner who started running about 6 years ago,” she said. “It's my form of meditation. Shoe Dog is about grit, entrepreneurship, and never giving up. You can learn anything from it both personally and professionally, and you don't have to be a runner to read it.”

What Excites Laviolette Most About the Future of 1Password? 

Moving forward, Laviolette is excited about how 1Password will fundamentally change the way they use passwords. She said, “We're leading the charge in the shift to passwordless. We have innovative products. We work actively with the developer community to build these products for both consumers and businesses. We want to protect the lives of people and make an impact on the future.”

CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE demo of the LEADx platform at