How does the chief people officer (CPO) at Revinate shape and sustain culture across hundreds of employees worldwide?
Revinate, a software-as-a-service company, has firmly planted its roots in the hospitality sector. Their specialized guest-to-data platform empowers hotels to cultivate direct relationships with guests, igniting avenues for enhanced revenue.
Standing at over 400 employees (or Revinators as they call themselves), Revinate is remote-first, with headquarters in San Francisco and Bend and offices in Amsterdam and Singapore. In this interview with the CPO of Revinate, Kelly Buchanan, she shares the nuts and bolts behind Revinate’s thriving company culture.
This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.
Revinate Culture is about ‘Community, Fun, and Positive Energy’
Kevin Kruse: How would you describe Revinate’s culture in a few words?
Kelly Buchanan: A strong sense of community, fun, and positive energy. We genuinely believe in and stand by our seven company values. One of my favorites is “One Revinate,” which is about helping others, thinking team-first, and staying united and strong on a single mission. Another is “grounded in gratitude,” which is about being glad to be here and making the most of every day. A third is “expect amazing,” which is about aspiring to and achieving great results together as a team.
Kruse: What else makes your culture unique at Revinate?
Buchanan: We have a CEO, Marc Heyneker, who is a people-first leader. He believes that people are our biggest assets. He's a great communicator, a visionary, and a people person.
A second thing that sets Revinate apart is how much we acknowledge and highlight employees doing great work. We have an annual awards program, and we do rewards and celebrations daily with a program called the “top banana.” Revinators nominate each other as a top banana if someone goes above and beyond.
3 Key Ways Revinate Reinforces Its Culture
Kruse: How do you ensure new people learn about Revinate culture and adopt it?
Buchanan: There are a few key components. One is our monthly company all-hands, where we set a tone of fun and appreciation. We cover the business, give shout-outs to teams, do a sales update, and showcase employees in the field.
We also have Culture Club, where we invite all employees who are passionate about culture to a monthly brainstorming session. We talk about upcoming events, morale, and how people are doing. We cultivate and implement ideas directly from employees.
A third example is our mid-week meetups. Everyone at Revinate is invited for 30 minutes to talk about something not work-related. We pick a topic such as “the best vacation you've ever been on” or “a place you're excited to go.” We get a wonderful cross-section of employees from around the world interested in connecting. It's been really powerful.
Decoding Culture at Revinate: A Continuous Feedback Loop of Quantitative and Qualitative Data
Kruse: How are you getting feedback from team members about culture and engagement?
Buchanan: We do this in several ways. First, we are about to launch our annual employee engagement survey, enabling us to slice, dice, and measure how people feel. We also conducted pulse surveys on demand. Second, we do a new hire onboarding survey after the first week, 60 days, and 90 days. Third, we gather feedback from our managers and HR business partners. Fourth, several major departments do off-sites throughout the year, and we collect a lot of organic input from those meetings. Lastly, we do CEO and COO fireside chats. They drop in with a particular department or region and ask, “What's on your mind, and what are your questions?” The smaller group size helps create the safety to speak up, ask questions, and share feelings.
Revinate Develops Culture by Developing Their First-Line Leaders
Kruse: How are you developing your first-line leaders, so they’re great leaders and great stewards of your culture?
Buchanan: I think once upon a time, manager training used to be: “Go to this 4-day Manager Boot Camp, get certified, and you're good to go.” But managers don’t get to practice in context when they go to a class. When they go back to their jobs and don’t have a situation come up for five months, they forget what they learned.
Kruse: So, how are you emphasizing practice and on-the-job application?
Buchanan: One of the things we do is have a monthly manager meeting that is about 60 minutes. I pick a topic that’s timely in the context of what they’re doing at that moment in time. For example, we discuss compensation 101, interviewing one-on-one, and managing stress.
This fall, we will also pilot a few new resources for leadership development. One is an eight-week manager training course for a couple of hours per week. It’s live classes with an external coach to train ten to fifteen managers in cohorts. We’re also excited to experiment with an AI tool that helps advise managers via Slack. It connects back to a whole stable of content from, for example, Project Oxygen at Google. Or, it will say, “Hey, Kevin? I see you have a one-on-one meeting. Here are some tips on how to have an effective conversation and give good feedback.”
The Book Buchanan Recommends to CPOs: Game Storming
Kruse: What book would you recommend that your colleagues read?
Buchanan: Game Storming. It’s a facilitator handbook for whatever kind of business challenge you try to tackle with a group. It offers tons of examples and exercises. For instance, it has an agenda template, a brainstorming template, and a template for designing a new product. There are sticky note exercises you can use to help a team through whatever change, problem, or task they face.
The One Skill Buchanan Values Most: A Learning Mindset
Kruse: Is there a particular skill or behavior that you hope your team members maximize or do more of?
Buchanan: A learning mindset. When you face a challenge, a difficult person, or a difficult situation, approach it with curiosity rather than judgment (whether it’s self-judgment or judging someone else). This is about stepping back and looking objectively at why something happened. You have to embrace a clinical, objective mind of curiosity.
4 Ideas to Bring to Your Organization
Companies looking to solidify their culture, especially in remote or hybrid work environments, can draw insights from Revinate’s approach:
- Prioritize Openness and Inclusivity: Adopt practices such as midweek meetups and Culture Club, which allow team members from diverse backgrounds to interact, share, and bond over non-work-related topics in a safe environment.
- Create Continuous Feedback Loops: Adopt a multi-pronged approach to collecting feedback—from engagement surveys to smaller, intimate sessions with the C-suite. This approach helps leaders keep a pulse on the ground and signal to employees that their voice matters.
- Revolutionize Leadership Development: The traditional long-duration management courses of old may not be as effective in the fast-paced digital age. Instead, focus on timely topics, hands-on training, and integrating the right technology.
- Champion a Learning Mindset: Buchanan emphasizes that navigating challenges with a curious and objective outlook can lead to better problem-solving and foster positive team relationships. Encourage employees to approach situations with a learner’s mindset, focusing on understanding and growing rather than defaulting to judgment.
For organizations striving to ensure that their culture is robust, adaptive, and growing, Buchanan’s playbook at Revinate offers valuable lessons.