The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

Ep 27: The Art of Creating an Inclusive Remote Work Environment feat Denise Lubaway

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Ep 27: The Art of Creating an Inclusive Remote Work Environment feat Denise Lubaway

Hello and welcome to the revenue collective podcast. My name is Casey. Let Gordon and I'm your host. Today I have the opportunity to sit down with Denise Love Away, the VP of growth and partnerships at ultra knots in early stage, mission driven firm focused on software and data quality engineering solutions. The firm is unique is that in that it is an impact company focused on bringing neuro diversity to the workplace. With 75% of the team being on the autism spectrum, Denise and I will talk about this as well as how from the foundation they have built a remote, inclusive and diverse workforce that has become a shining example here in covert times. This'll catalyst for this conversation was actually that ultra Knots was written up in The New York Times as an example of how a company has been doing this for the past seven years. And what companies today facing co vid and really seeking to build remote, remote, diverse, inclusive and equitable workforces can learn from to give some context into Denise our guests. She's a sales leader in a mentor with more than 20 years of wisdom and experience in creating scalable and effective sales organizations. Passion for integrating talent, data and technology to drive revenue has helped companies achieve rapid, sustainable growth. Her expertise is in B two B, with an emphasis on professional services and technology. Prior to ultra noughts, Denise worked with a number of start ups and large corporate on main management as an individual contributor and in consulting capacities to advise on sales, strategy, execution and enablement. Denise has been with the company about a year and shares her experience in coming in to a new work environment and also how they've become exemplary. Today's episode is brought to you by Quota Path Commission tracking software built by sales people for sales people. If you ever wake up in a cold sweat, dreading the commission's process quota path ISS for you, quote a path provides commission transparency for everyone involved while motivating reps to sell more. Plus, it's so easy to on board it'll be running before your next commission cycle. Ditch spreadsheets and formulas simplify commission calculation at quota path dot com. With that, let's jump in Hello and welcome to the revenue collective podcast. My name is Casey. Let Gordon and I'm your host. I'm so excited to be able to sit down with my guest today. Denise Love away. She's the VP of growth and partnerships that ultra knots and early stage. Siri's a mission driven firm. Denise a lot. Now I will dig in a bit thio What is ultra nuts and what is her role specifically around growth and partnerships. But what I'm most excited about is that earlier this year in our revenue collective slack channel. For those of you that that are in the community or those of you who aren't, we have an ongoing community there. And Denise had shared that her organization, Ultra Noughts, was actually recognized by The New York Times for having a remote but inclusive work environment...

...way before covert ever started and that now, given that we're all in this moment in time, that their organization has actually been able Thio be a model for how other companies adapt. And so as soon as I saw that pop up on the slack channels, I reached out to Denise and said, Please, please join us for a show on our podcast. Ultra Knots will also be doing a webinar for our revenue collective community to really talk about this topic because I am hearing from so many sales and marketing leaders revenue leaders that one of the biggest challenges they're still having, you know, some eight months later is how do you build a inclusive and remote culture, especially in an environment you know, sales specifically where we are road warriors, where we're used to being in front of people and getting that energy and invents. So how are we doing that? And I think, Thea other pieces, many people are going into hiring here at the back half of the year, going in 2021. And they're wondering, How do I bring in team members? How do I on board and how Doe I establish this culture that still thrives in the face of a remote workforce. So with that, I welcome Udinese. Thank you for being on the show. Thank you. That was a great introduction. Yeah, Ultra Knots is pretty amazing company. I'm very excited to be a part of it for a little over a year now. The company was started seven years ago by to M I T. Graduates who basically came up with the idea that neuro diversity could be a competitive advantage in business. So they essentially set out to build. Or, I should say, reimagine the way that a work environment could be set up to accommodate people that had many different thinking, styles, ways of processing information, communication preferences and and so on and so fast forward to today they've built a great organization that provides services around data quality, engineering and software. Q A And so you know, I was brought into the organization to build the sales and marketing function on, but it's been amazing journey. I am still a team of one, as we have really kind of retrenched and try to think about market share in the best way Thio message to our clients. And so, as we've been on that journey, it's also been, you know, Cove it has has come. We've been living in this pandemic times. We've been working with a lot of organizations that are curious to understand. You know how we've built ah, workplace that empowers people, brings out the best of their talents and is inclusive so that there is that sense of community and belonging, even though everyone is, you know, miles apart from one another. I I think it's fascinating that the concept behind the organization and so talk to me a bit about you know, you're a team of one and God love you because that's that's a lot within itself. It sounds like,...

...you know, this is a fascinating company, but a big mandate. And so what is your company comprised of at Ultra Noughts? Um, and you know how larger you all if you could mention revenue. I'm just trying to help our audience really situate themselves in. What is the company makeup? Yep. Absolutely. And you know, as we are, services firm, like our products is our people. So right now, we've got just about 100 employees in 25 states throughout the U. S. So you know very much a just despair it group if you will, um, people everywhere and we put ah, lot of, I guess, tools and processes in place. Anything from we have ah, baht eso. One of the main tools that we use in our company is slack. So I know many companies use slack these Microsoft teams, which operate very similarly um and you know, we like other companies have all sorts of channels set up there, everything from, you know, business function. But other things such as, you know, the random channel or we've got a cafeteria are, you know, coffee or pets, right? So all the various channels that people can share, But we've also built a bott that actually checks in with our team each day in the morning, and we'll ask employees to questions. What is their energy level that day? On a scale of 1 to 10? And what is their desire for being interactive on that day? And so that is tied into each person within slap? You can if you're going to reach out to that person in a given moment time. You can see what they're feeling like today. Are they high energy? Are they feeling very, uh, interactive? You know, if you're gonna try toe work on a big project with, um, maybe it's let's talk about the project. But since you're feeling low energy today, you know you could have that ability to navigate with them on when a timeframe might be best to complete That project, you know, might not be in an hour. It might be tomorrow morning. So we've got bots like that in place toe help with certain types of communication because working remote, you lose a lot of the verbal cues. And with all the zoom fatigues that's going on, you know, more and more people either are not turning their videos on. Or maybe they're opting for a phone call. So a lot of the visual verbal cues that you would get from interacting with someone in person you miss out on. So the purpose of the boat that I just explained is to help, you know, gauge gauge, maybe how a person is feeling on a particular day. Yes, that's fascinating. And so I'm curious. You said you joined a little over a year ago. Was this something new to you? I mean, this This feels new to me, so, but maybe it's something that that, you know, is is more common. I'm just curious. So I've definitely worked in remote situations. Previously, I've built sales teams that were 100% remote. Yeah, and that said many of the tools that we have in place it alternates...

I've not seen before, either. It's really quite interesting to me. Another example is we had an employee a few years back, basically because we do project work. And oftentimes our employees are on, you know, one team for a particular project in the next project. They might be working with others. Basically, they said to our CEO, I wish that each person came with an instruction manual, whereas, you know, for each person like, how do they operate? You know what is the best way to reach out out to them? Do they like email? Did they prefer slack? Would they like me to call them on their phone if I don't get a response from someone? What is an acceptable response time? Typically, are you someone that responds an hour? Should I wait until the afternoon? You know, if I don't hear from you and I'm going to nudge you, how do I do that? You know, if I sent you an email first, maybe you want a phone call now. So things things of that nature, there's about 20 questions that each employee it alternates. We call this tool. It's called a bio decks, and each person fills out their own biotechs profile where, you know, again you can when you go into slack on their that person's name, you could, you know, kind of hover over, and you can get all the biotechs information. You know, things like, What time zone are they in or you know what hours do they work, right? Sometimes you have people that have flex hours or, you know, maybe they Onley working Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. So these are all things that you can quickly see you know, through the biotechs. That's for anybody listening. I think that's such an easy thing to implement in your company or your team to say, you know, are there a handful of things that every employee is going toe have and almost sets the person that's seeking to communicate with them up for success? You know, we're in this community specifically where all sales and marketers you know, it's so much more successful when you know that much more about your customer or your target audience. And so thinking about, you know, just taking that moment that paused to say, How do you wanna be communicated with beyond just in Time Zone and those kind of things? But that more nuanced piece that lets people really feel seen, I think is, is pretty neat. And it speaks to how you all are maintaining being a human organization despite maybe not being in person. So I think that's pretty fascinating question for you. Prior to Cove, it was this a a value prop or a product or service that you were bringing out into the market of Hey, we can help you. We can demonstrate different ways of working or since Cove it has started, has this now pivoted as an area of opportunity. So our core services do remain. You know, the data quality engineering in the Software Q Way. But, you know, since since co vid it's a combination of since Cove it and the drive towards diversity and inclusion within organizations, given that our team is nor diverse, 75% of our team members are on the autism spectrum. So the combination of from Day one having been...

...a completely remote workforce and then also that we, you know, really focus on diversity and inclusion from the standpoint of the university and the way that we go about with some of our sourcing and hiring techniques, right again, we have re imagined our workplace everything from you know, how we go about recruiting for candidates through You know what it feels like day to day to work in our company and then that ongoing career path in and up Skilling Thio allow our employees Thio continue to grow with us rather than having to grow out of us. Eso you know, with respect to through through, you know, hiring. Ah, lot of what we've done is we've tried to make the whole process more objective so that when you you know, have candidates that we want to screen, it's not only just a matter of looking at their resume as a predictor for success, because that's on Lee, you know, part of the picture. But a lot of it even has to do with, you know, we do things like tests, if you will for our candidates to really test for the skills that they'll be involved with our for that job, the skills that they would be required now. When I hired into the company, I had to do a test as ahead of, you know, growth. I had ah whole exercise I had to go through to demonstrate that I indeed had the ability Thio to prospect. Thio, you know, put together a proposal to do a presentation. Thio really demonstrate that I was a the sales leader they were looking for, and in my experience, I was up against, you know, one other candidate that was put in the same same test. So you know, not only does our company used the same set of interview questions from one candidate to the to the next right, so that it's not that kind of subjective interviewing, but you're doing more of an objective approach of each candidate is being asked the same set of questions. You know, there's a rubric in place Thio measure against. You know the answers to those questions so that there's a more fair scoring process to try to take. You know, some of that bias out. You know, if you're going into an interview with savings, that's a question for every candidate. And, you know, looking at it from that perspective, them before you even get to know that candidate and build rapport and really either fall in love with them or don't you've got this foundation of you know how how to keep everything on a a level playing field, if you will. I think that's such a another key. Take away of what you just said is in, you know, thinking about my own hiring experiences were all subjected, um, subject Thio our own biases. And so being able tohave almost that biotechs, like you said of of your interview questions, what is the place that we're going to start for every candidate and then be able to develop a unique, you know, interview or process or or testing? But to be able to have a...

...starting place I think is really important. I want to talk about being recognized by The New York Times. There's no small feat like that is that is amazing that you all are doing work so great that that, you know, a publication like that is is calling you out for how you're working. I'm curious. You know, what was the narrative there, and how did you originally either get approached or surface this to the times and get that coverage? You know, we've been very fortunate because of our mission and a lot of the great work that we're doing within organizations, you know, it's it's helped us to get some recognition and awareness. For example, we've been doing work with Bank of New York Mellon and the CEO recently, a couple months back on her, linked in feed, she actually posted about the partnership that bien y and alternates have and that the work that we are doing for them, not only from the standpoint of the great work that we're doing, but that it was powered by a neuro diverse team. And you know how excited she waas in that partnership, you know? So it's it's been just a combination off referrals and people in our network that are just really amazed at the, you know, high caliber of work that we provide and that we have figured out a way to tap into an extraordinarily talented pool of people and build an environment that empowers each and every one of us, you know, at the company to really excel and work on our best level. The other thing that's really interesting about our organization and something that I would hope to use as I build out teams of salespeople is a nice idea of a judgment free zone, and what I mean by that is because alternates has an appreciation that people digest information differently. No one takes for granted that if I make a statement about something, if there's a question to what I said and somebody asked the question to clarify, there's absolutely no judgment of like we should have known that or, um, you know, that that was just not That was a dumb question. There's never anything to that degree that happens within our organization and for me, working in a situation where most of my teammates are neurodevelopmental and I'm no typical meaning they all think a lot differently than I dio. At first it was intimidating, you know, to walk into the organization. And there are all of these just incredibly, you know, complex conversations about topics that I have barely, you know, any idea And, you know, we talk about the depths of data and you know how you're going toe. Look at data. You know, I would be in conversations that would be intimidated to ask a question which a za reflect back over my corporate career. There's...

...been lots of other situations, you know, companies that I've been at where I have been, you know, nervous to speak up either share a thought that might have been different than the rest of the group. Or to ask a question that, you know, maybe I was feeling uncomfortable asking because it seemed like I didn't want to ask a dumb question, and that's that's not present in what alternates has built. It goes back to what I was saying of a judgment free zone of, you know, speak your mind. Um, you know, as long as it's in the spirit of collaboration or trying to be positive, you know, like speak your mind, asked the question. Come up with those ideas and it's its's. It's refreshing to be part of that type of mentality. I think there's something there that that any of our listeners can take away in the sense that, especially in a remote workforce, in your case, you know, a a neuro diverse workforce which hopefully we'll see more of. I think that's you know that you guys air, also leading by example in showing the quality of work that comes in building diverse teams, and so I think that in a remote world, communication has to be over because we don't have the nuance of being in person, seeing body language, reading the room and by giving permission or setting ground rules as an organization and as a team that we're gonna as long as intentions are there. Positive intentions were good intentions that were open toe ask challenge and collaborate openly. I think is is really powerful. And I think that one of the things that I've observed, you know, in building remote teams is you have to as a leader, lead by example. You can't wait for, you know, the employees. To do that, you need Thio demonstrate that yourself to show that it's not only okay, but that it's actually welcome that it can be applauded and appreciated. And so I think that any of our leaders listening or even employees, you know, if this is something that you're looking to bring into your organization, it's figure out. How do we not just set that as a ground rule and talk about it? But how do we demonstrated actively so that others know how Thio imitate or follow it? That behavior, Yeah, and you know, I have to say I think that part of that comes a T least in my organization from, ah, high level of transparency that we have, starting with the executive management team, you know, all the way on down the line in that, like a Zen executive management team. We meet once a week and discuss, you know, critical aspects of you know how we're going to be running the company. We share that with our team, you know, in our kind of general slack channel each week, a zoo, you know, recap, I guess, of our executive management meetings. We provide information on what was discussed in that meeting, that the whole company, no matter what your job title is, can can see. And it's it's not some exhaustive, you know, right up. I mean, it's it's summarized. It's, um, you know, people can feel free to...

...comment on it again in the spirit of collaboration and positive positive. You know, it's criticism or are but positive. Another thing that we do is our dashboard, if you will. That we run the company by is 100% public to everyone, um, in the organization. So you know, no matter again, what your title is, you can see our revenue. You could see you know maybe what our const receivable are. You know, all the different metrics that we have there, they're fully transparent and out there. And so that also provides a degree of, you know, going back to that concept of just having a very open environment where there's, you know, not things hiding in the corners or in the closet where just everything is out in the open. It makes it a whole lot easier toe have just very open, nonjudgmental conversations. Has there been any instances of backfiring with that? I mean, I I think that from an employee perspective, it's refreshing to hear that. But I'm sure there's also times that that could be challenging to lead with so much transparency. And I'm just curious if there's any any negative aspects that you've you know, witnessed or had to bear through. Well, interestingly, um, this whole concept that I talked about of us kind of sharing this information is fairly new to our organization, I would say in the last maybe six months, one of the other things that we do. I talked earlier about the the box that we have each morning that asked people how energetic they're feeling or their level of interaction. We also have a survey that we do with our employees. There's two surveys, but one is again. It's a daily, but that comes out at the end of the day, and it's ah, revolving list of about 10 questions. And one of the questions has to do with I feel that I understand what the company's management is doing in the direction that we're headed, you know, as an organization. That's one of the questions, and it's a simple yes or no. What we saw was a trend, and this this actually was before coded. So as I think back on it, maybe this is more like around nine months ago. We saw a trend in the preceding few months that people were answering that question more so to the negative that they were feeling less aware and more isolated. Another thing that we measure is our employees loneliness. It's a loneliness score, if you will and how, how lonely that that they're feeling. And we saw a direct correlation between our employees feeling more lonely at work and less lesser feeling of belonging or community. We saw that those correlated together and So as a management team, one of the remedies to fix that was, you know, being more transparent with the things that I just mentioned on earlier. That's fascinating. I I'm curious if you this is your observation, Justin,...

...what you've shared, it feels like ultra noughts is so attuned to some of the soft metrics that that organization, sometimes, you know, it becomes only an afterthought after it. Maybe talent retention is a challenge, or you bring in a consultant or, you know, big enough to have an HR function. But it feels like this is this is ingrained as your your hard metrics are most people soft metrics. And I'm curious from a business perspective. You know, I for any of the skeptics listening, What is the business value that you all are seeing come out of this? Well, our retention rate for one. I mean, we've got a 94% retention rate, and I don't just mean this year I mean, in the history of company of the company, the seven years that we've been around as we've brought people on, we see very few of them leave. So you know, in and of itself that is a great track record for that. We're doing something right. I think in addition to that, you know, we're very cognizant of talking with our employees and understanding where they want to go with their career. When we hire, we hire, you know, as I mentioned before, a combination between someone's resume or work experience, but also just their raw aptitude and skill set. So, you know, we may be hiring people that have college degrees that don't have college degrees, some that have extensive experience in the workplace and others that may not have. You know, a lot of experience in the workplace and and we bring them into the organization and we invest up front a lot of time in up skilling them to the role that they were hired for. So whatever those gaps are, you know, if they demonstrate that they've got the raw talent, you know, we fill in those gaps and get them to that, I guess state where we know that they're going to be high performers. And so we're setting them up just for success before they even start their role, if you will, they're they're not necessarily coming in and It's like, okay, Day three, get at it. You know, to start the job that you were hired for. So we're doing a little bit of assessing up front of a person to make sure that they're armed with all the tools they need before they actually even start doing the work. And as I said, we see that as an absolute investment on our part to, you know, having quality employees that are gonna have a great experience, whether with us and, you know, getting that level of high retention. So they stay for the long haul, and then we continue thio work with them to up skill. And even in the time that I've been with the company, we have, I guess, pivoted our services or expanded our services. And with that for those employees that wanted Thio, you know, go on that journey, you know, we've invested in them again as far as getting them at a point where they can, um, pivot with us. That's fascinating. Um, I'm curious if if anybody is listening and saying, um, like I shared one of the biggest topics of conversation is how do I build a sustained culture remote culture that still feels connected, it feels, feels...

...human, feels authentic to our organization. Are there any tips, tricks, maybe tangible pieces that you can share with organizations who aren't traditionally remote? That that haven't been doing this for seven years? And, you know, especially as those that are opening up hiring here in the back half of the year. And maybe they haven't been able to do that through covitz. So this is, you know, this is not only did they just get their their existing culture in place or a team, but now they're potentially bringing in new members. So I'm curious. Are there any tangible pieces we can offer our listeners? Yeah. I mean, if I put my manager hat on right and I think about having Thio get a remote team productive and and how doe I do that, you know, one of my my biggest. I think takeaways, in my experience with alternates, is really taking that concept. You know, for the longest time being in sales and you're always surrounded by people and it's, you know, different personalities are, you know, there are all these ways of grading a person and what type they are there more touchy feely? Are they more analytical and looking at what a person is and how you might approach them to close the deal? Managing employees It's It's almost taking that concept like to a much deeper level, right? And it's appreciating that I, as a manager, you know, have a team of people that are all very talented, right? They were, they were hired. And it's how doe I tap into the potential of each person. And I think oftentimes companies use thes, you know, broad brush approach is to managing teams and oftentimes don't take the time to understand the nuances of each of the people on their team. And what is going to resonate with that particular employee to make them the most effective? And that's not necessarily that you're trying to reinvent the wheel for each employee. I think it's a Z a manager. Whether you're managing up or managing down, being being cognizant of how that particular person is is communicating, processing information, you know when they ask questions. There's a lot of insight into those types of things. If they're asking questions that are, you know, like very analytical, then you understand that they're going to need a whole lot more detail if they're constantly asking for clarification. Maybe they're not connecting with the way that you communicate right the way that you're providing information. Maybe they're more of someone that would do better reading information, being able to digest it and then come back to you with questions versus having, you know, face to face conversation where you're just doing a brain dump on them. So there's a lot of, you know, aspect of just understanding the unique makeup of each person, and that's part of what makes them great. But if that isn't recognized and cultivated, then those same aspects, if they don't fit exactly with your...

...management style, would be the things that maybe turn that employees who has a potential for greatness be someone that's kind of a B player, and it could be just something as simple as you know, their specific we need. I think that one of the things that I've observed both in being a manager and then just speaking with several of them here on this podcast is the job is always complex because you're dealing with people, people are complex and there's ah, transition of being an individual contributor to then being a manager of people, and you need to know the subject matter. But at the end of the day, you're responsible for the team and how they're collectively performing. And I have found that in the face of a remote work environment, co vid layers another piece on it. I've, you know, just in the fact that we all have a lot of pressures on us. But in a remote environment, there is a intentionality and a speed factor. It feels like you have to slow down a bit. You have to really spend the time almost building out this persona of who your team is and what are. You know, the ways that they want to communicate, what makes them feel connected. You know, you may be doing a happy hour, but that may not be the thing that makes people feel connected. It maybe instead celebrating winds or updates or client calls, Who knows? And so the thing I have found is that as a manager, it's not just up to you to define what creates a connected and inclusive culture. Instead, it's facilitating the conversation with the team members, both individually and together, to say, How do you all want Thio almost self govern or self manage? And I'll hold us accountable to that. I'll facilitate that. And I think that sometimes as managers, we unnecessarily take the burden that we have to have all the answers. And that leads to a lot of assumptions and, you know, and then probably some some flaws along the way. Whereas what I'm hearing you say is really it's about what you all have recognized in a remote workforce is by just asking those questions, explicitly getting the answers and then building building teams off of that. Yes, it's like a like reverse engineering. I like what you said about just making assumptions, and I think that there is a general mindset of, you know, Okay, I've I'm gonna go back to sales because that's what I know best. But I've got a bunch of sales people that I'm managing, and, you know, this is what they're supposed to do in their job on dso again. You just sometimes might make broad brush assumptions and they don't work, you know, you get and I also think the nature in general with sales is that they're there. If you have a team, they're competitive against themselves against each other. And you know you have to be able Thio, take the healthy aspects of that competition and realize how to harness Harness that, but also realize that people are...

...competitive in their own way, right? So where someone might be all into leaderboards and, you know, they really get a charge out of that? Another person may have their own personal marathon that they're running in their own head of, you know, when they hit these milestones, that's what they consider success. So again, it's it's not making those assumptions that were all built the same. Just because we're all doing the same job is, for example, a sales person doesn't mean that the motivation is the same for each the motivation. Or, you know, there, there, the processor, if you will their internal processor for for getting there. I think that is such a key piece for us. Thio end on Today as we're talking about you know, your experiences that ultra noughts and for those of you that haven't Google Ultra Knots, New York Times, there's a great piece there and Denise, you're on the revenue collective slack channel. So anybody that's that's wanting to learn more. I think that's also a great place to start. Denise, thank you for being on the show today. Thank you for sharing your experience of what it is to have a remote workforce, euro, diverse workforce. And how do we How do we actually create the systems and processes so that this is a moment in time in which we all learn how to adapt rather than suffer through and then just go back to the way things have always been? Yes, this has been great. And I guess I'll leave with one last, I guess, mantra that we have within our organization, which is embrace the differences on that SSM thing that we really aspire to is appreciate everybody for who they are completely. And for those of you that are listening coming up in one of our episodes, I believe it's the episode after Denise. We actually talk about creating healthy friction based on those differences, and I I think that's such an awesome way toe sign out of today is that you tune in next week and you'll hear more about that. All right, Denise. Love away. Casey. Let Gordon thistles the revenue collective podcast and we'll see you next time. Thank you, Denise. And thank you to our listeners. Today's episode was brought to you by quota path. Quota path is the first radically transparent and to end compensation solution from sales reps to finance. Get started for free at quote a path dot com. And your next commission cycle could be totally automated. This is Casey. Let Gordon your host, and I'll see you next time on the revenue collective podcast.

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