I always want our employees to think of Credit Karma as an extension of their personal lives, rather than something that exists separately. I believe that people are at their best when they are able to work in a way that allows them to express their individual identity while also celebrating a shared one with their coworkers.
In the early days of a startup, it's easy to keep work personal. The team is small, things are moving quickly and everyone knows everyone. When your company grows past 50 people, culture becomes something you have to work on. As CEO, you have to be vocal about it. The work culture at Credit Karma has a positivity and unity that makes it unique. We want to create an open environment where people can laugh with each other. A sense of fun is a big part of our identity. If you took it away, Credit Karma would be a very different company.
A huge part of our success as a company has been in creating a work environment our employees feel personally connected to. It's taught me some important things about the DNA of a happy workplace.
Blurring the line between work and personal lives is a good thing
Credit Karma people are friendly people. We've tried to create a work culture based off mutual respect, stacked with people others are going to want to work around. We want our employees to feel like they can be their real selves at work. Because it's a positive thing when the line starts to blur between people's social circles inside and outside of work. You spend more time with your coworkers than with most of your loved ones, so when you can create a real sense of camaraderie and friendship in the workplace it becomes somewhere you want to be, versus some place you have to go each day, which benefits everyone.
Keeping it casual works
The casualness of the typical startup workplace can feel over the top, with its branded sweatshirts, comfortable couches and unlimited snacks, but I think there's something we can get done here that isn't possible if everyone was in a suit and tie and stuck in a cubicle all day. The Ping-Pong tables, games consoles and music room you'll find at Credit Karma's offices make life fun and actually promote productivity and creativity, rather than undercutting them. And they make life fun. It's no secret why more and more companies are following the tech sector and incorporating elements of play into the workplace. It works.
Foster a culture that prioritizes passion and engagement above working long hours
At Credit Karma, we don't encourage the sort of work culture where having a life outside of work is stigmatized. You shouldn't have to work a 60-hour-plus week to be recognized as a good employee, but when people leave their desks at 5 p.m. everyday it's a sign that they probably don't like their job that much. The key is to foster genuine investment in team and mission and recognize people for their contributions to both. The casual atmosphere promotes a personal connection to the team and transparency about the business helps people connect to the mission. If this is in place people will work to get things done, rather than working long hours just to prove something, or to get their paycheck.
There's no one size fits all formula for the workweek
It's hard to have a personal connection to a work environment that doesn't let you have a personal life. I hear from time to time about business leaders who try to fix this by setting limits on when they can and can't be at work. These sorts of hard and fast boundaries aren't going to hold in a business that's growing rapidly. As CEO, for instance, sometimes my workweek is 60 hours long. Sometimes it's much shorter. For me, the birth of my first child really bought the importance of this into focus: a motivator to examine if I really needed to be working when and as much as I was. Similarly, I want people at Credit Karma to have the flexibility to adapt their own personal priorities into the workweek, rather than always be worried about following a rigid schedule.