Company Culture And Employee Experience Is Important, Says Tara Seney From Brandwatch
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Having worked at digital consumer intelligence platform Brandwatch for six years, Tara Seney has been Global Workplace Planning Manager for the past 20 months. Her time in the role has coincided with the pandemic, and as such, a lot of her work has focused on the company’s transition to remote work.
In this interview, Tara talks about how Brandwatch has maintained a sense of community within the context of hybrid working and how they’ve evolved their diversity and inclusion initiatives in this new reality.
Hey Tara, can you tell us a bit more about what you do for Brandwatch?
The core of my work is managing office operations, office strategy, and the global footprint of our nine offices. A significant component of my role is company culture and employee experience. One of my biggest challenges and responsibilities this year has been managing the re-entry process to our global offices after remote working for so long.
How did you and your colleagues react to the transition to remote work when COVID started?
Brandwatch, like many other companies, were forced to close their doors last March. During the transition to full remote work, it was a priority to continuously check in with our employees and understand their thoughts on remote working and whether they felt it was successful or not.
It was hard adjusting to having my work and personal life in one place, rather than having that separation of being able to leave work at the office. But, we realized that people had these challenges, especially with different living situations.
As soon as we could safely and legally open the offices, we wanted to provide that alternative solution for our employees. It was never mandated or required to go back, but it was an option to allow people to get out of their homes if they wanted to.
How has your work shifted since the pandemic?
We gauged that most of our workforce wanted to continue working remotely at least one day a week. So we knew we had to adapt the business moving forward to what was best for our staff.
So we’ve shifted to a hybrid work style, which is new for us. We’ve improved our policies and systems with remote workers in mind, instead of remote work being the exception. And we’re redesigning our offices to introduce a desk-booking system and increase the number of collaboration spaces. For those who still want to be in the office full-time, they’re offered a permanent desk.
Having the option of going back to the office and seeing colleagues again like the old normal has improved the sense of community within the organization.
So how do you foster that sense of belonging and community within a hybrid working structure?
Being remote, it was definitely a challenge to continue to create a community that was previously mostly built on in-person interaction.
One thing that helped connect everyone globally was creating monthly initiatives based on different themes, which I’ve absolutely loved. Often these have been related to nutrition or health, as this goes hand in hand with productivity and how people work. We’ve done challenges like getting people to send in a photo of them being active – even if it’s just walking the dog – with the best pictures winning a $25 gift card.
By being creative with involving our employees around the world, we’ve continued to create this sense of community even in a remote setting.
Regarding inclusion and diversity within a hybrid working structure, how do you mitigate the problem of employees feeling like they’re being neglected in terms of promotion and inclusion, especially when it comes to people of color?
In a remote working structure, there’s the added challenge that you can’t just make small talk over a cup of coffee with someone who shares your experience. Being seen for your work or for who you are isn’t as simple. We’re making efforts to support our newly hybrid workforce and diminish any room for neglect by continuously adapting to their needs and actively putting in the work to be more diverse and inclusive.
When you first join Brandwatch you’re set up with a buddy, someone who’s a bit of a veteran at the company. You have someone checking in on you and guiding you so you don’t feel neglected. It’s a way for new employees to start building work relationships and get immersed in the company culture and environment.
We have a diversity inclusion committee, where we welcome everyone – not just POC – who wants to have a voice in creating a community of belonging and inclusivity. That’s a big component of ensuring that no one feels neglected. It also makes it more appealing for other POC to join our company in the long run.
We want to ensure there are consistent resources and support across all our office regions so our employees can work remotely and feel efficient in their roles. One initiative we’ve launched is an employee mentorship program that offers support, guidance, assistance with development, and encouragement for individuals looking to evolve in the company.
In general, we have a very open-door dynamic that encourages communication with managers. I think these are great examples of why Brandwatch is an awesome place to work and elevate your career and that’s why people have been here for so long.
Finally, on a personal level, what do you like most about working for Brandwatch?
Personally, what I like about Brandwatch is the internal community that’s been cultivated to provide safe spaces and opportunities to get involved, and the people that represent the company.
I was given the opportunity to curate an external speaking series called #AmplifyBlackVoices which recognizes influential Black leaders who have made a lasting impact in their communities. This opportunity allowed me to provide a platform for other POC to express their expertise, lived experiences, and perspectives.
This was an opportunity to dive deeper into the effects of Black History Month and the history behind the celebration of Juneteenth. As an extension of this series, we’ve also hosted a prominent writer who featured his short documentary film in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander month.
Also, in May, for Mental Health Awareness Month, we were educated on women’s health and equitable access to care by a community health activist and educator. I felt it wasn’t only important to diversify our workforce but also to provide a multitude of external speakers that represent the POC within the organization.