An unexpected sign of a thriving company culture is when the culture and product go hand in hand. Here are a few examples:
- At Headspace, a mindfulness and wellness app, company culture is fostered with guided meditations, “MINDays” devoted to letting employees unplug, and peer-to-peer gratitude.
- At Collectors, a collectible authentication company, employees are recognized with custom collectible cards that display their information, pictures, and stories.
- At Twilio, a platform for developers, employees receive custom track jackets for coding an app on their platform.
When I met with Chief People Officer (CPO) of NerdWallet Lynee Luque, I was pleased to have found another brilliant example. NerdWallet culture revolves around the very things that the platform is built for: “transparency, accuracy, and responsibility.”
NerdWallet is a platform that provides financial guidance and information to consumers as well as small and medium businesses. The company's mission is to provide clarity for all of life's financial decisions. With approximately 750 employees (or “Nerds”), NerdWallet is a remote-first company.
At NerdWallet, Culture and Product Are Intertwined
Luque described how NerdWallet’s culture is tied to its product: “When I think about what we provide to consumers, I'm not surprised that it mirrors how I describe our internal culture. To help our consumers make sense of opaque and overwhelming financial information, we have to be extraordinarily transparent, accurate, and responsible. Those attributes permeate our culture.”
Values Underpin NerdWallet’s Culture
Nothing is worse than a company culture that revolves around a poster on the wall. At NerdWallet, Luque thoughtfully embeds values into everything she can. “I really consider us a values-driven company, which underpins how we behave (whether people are watching or not), how we build programs and processes, and how we interact,” Luque explained.
Luque and her team examined the end-to-end employee lifecycle and infused the company values into:
- performance reviews, and
- development curriculum.
Additionally, Luque and her team host an event twice per year that’s devoted to the recognition of company values. The event is named “What Good Looks Like.” Employees nominate each other for living the company values, and then winners are assigned at the team level as well as one ultimate winner at the company level. “It's not just a celebration,” Luque remarked, “we describe exactly what they did to live our values, and we showcase that behavior as an example.”
A Creative Approach to Feedback: Live Slack AMAs With Executives
In addition to twice-yearly engagement surveys and town halls, Luque and her team take a creative approach to feedback collection and transparency: “Once a quarter, we do an open Ask Me Anything. We dedicate an hour when all the executives are on Slack, and we encourage, solicit, and ask employees to ask us anything. Then, we answer the questions in real-time. We're sitting there giving responses, regardless of the questions. They range from super simple questions to really complex questions about difficult decisions that we're making.”
A Clever, Low-Budget Approach to Development for First-Line Managers
At 750 employees, scaling leadership development to first-line managers can present a challenge—typically, because of budget. To overcome this challenge, Luque and her team take a feedback-centered, timely, hands-on approach.
“We want to ensure that our managers receive the feedback they need,” Luque said, “so twice per year we conduct an engagement survey that's anonymous and confidential.” What makes her approach so clever is that Luque and her team deliver timely manager training twice per year following the evaluation period. In this way, leaders know exactly which skills and behaviors they’d like to work on during the training. “It's homegrown,” Luque emphasized. “We're conducting it ourselves and setting the topics based on the feedback from the evaluation period and feedback from our managers.”
The timeliness of the sessions ensures interest and adds distinct value for leaders. “Our facilitated sessions align exactly with what's going on right now. If we're asking you to collect feedback, here's a feedback module. If we're asking you to take these NerdVoice results and action plan, we're going to offer a module on how to develop an action plan and set appropriate goals.”
Luque’s Top Priority in 2024: Manager Development
Looking forward to 2024, Luque’s top priority is to continue to bolster NerdWallet’s manager development. “We're going to keep our foot on the gas around manager development,” Luque said. “We have a new organizational structure, and I'll give the headline: local decision-making. In contrast to cascading a single communication, we are pushing more toward teaching managers to understand what's going on and then make a local decision. After all, managers are the best equipped to make that decision. They are the closest to the problem or to the opportunity.” That local decision-making power is going be the primary lens for managers in 2024 as Luque equips them with the tools and information they need to thrive.