In the early days of a startup, workplace culture takes care of itself. You have a small team, things are moving quickly and everyone knows everyone and is involved in everything that's happening. It's often intense, but that level of involvement breeds its own excitement and contentment.
When your company grows past a certain point, creating a happy workplace takes a lot of consideration. A happy company is a productive company. You want to attract and retain employees who care about their jobs and the company mission.
It's not a situation that creates itself. I see five key components at the core of every happy company.
I want new employees to believe in our mission to bring more transparency and simplicity to credit and personal finance--not only because it's a genuinely worthwhile cause, but also because people will be more content in their jobs when they feel like they're working toward something meaningful. The tricky part is that as we cross the 300-employee mark, each new person at Credit Karma is one step further removed from our founding vision in 2007. I can't expect them to embrace our mission automatically. We work from day one to engage them in this vision. All new hires go through an extensive first-day onboarding, where they meet the full executive team and are given a work "buddy." Day-to-day in the company, this sense of engagement is underscored by open communication. We believe all employees should know about all pieces of our business. I have a strict open-door policy, hold monthly town halls where anyone at the company can ask me anything and we have regular all-hands meetings where I present our board-of-directors report.
Happy employees don't just understand and respect what a company does, they enjoy being in the office. For us, this starts with creating an environment built around a sense of mutual respect. People should go home each day feeling heard. We make an active effort to hire people that others are going to enjoy working with. We'll choose the team player over the difficult genius, every time. Additionally, a sense of camaraderie and friendship is a huge influencer on workplace happiness. To help people come together outside of work, we try and encourage people to find their common connection. Employee-run clubs are a big part of life at Credit Karma, helping people come together organically and build culture.
Your employees need to know you have their back. Sometimes it can be hard for a founder to let go, but you have to give people the space to fail and succeed on their own terms. We put a lot of effort into hiring people who are great at what they do and eager to succeed. You need to implicitly trust the people that you bring in to advance your vision. For starters, the freedom to try and fail is a huge part of maintaining a sense of innovation. When people feel like they have the freedom to try new things, they're more keyed-in and stimulated in their work. Not everything will succeed, but we'll always learn and keep improving through the process. Credit Karma employees have suggested many product improvements and new programs. We want every person at Credit Karma to feel like they are guardians of our product and culture, but for this to work, people need to know that if they speak up, someone is listening.
Overlooking the mental and physical wellbeing of your employees will have negative consequences, in the long-term. It's shortsighted to think that working people into the ground is a good idea. There are many sides to this equation. It's important for employees to have the time and freedom to nurture their personal lives. When people have a good work-life balance, they naturally become a lot more productive. We recognize people for their investment in the company and mission, well beyond how many hours they log during the week. It's important to take care of your employees' physical health too. It's damaging to morale when people are at work sick, so we offer our employees unlimited sick leave. We offer an onsite nutritionist, personalized wellness coaching, and hold yoga and meditation sessions as well as exercise classes.
Naturally, people need to make a living. You can't put respect and consideration in the bank. It's important that employees feel properly compensated for the work they put in. No matter how welcoming and interesting a workplace is, if you're shortchanging your workers, they're not going to stick around and you could face rising resentment internally. In my experience, competitive salaries, benefits and stock options aren't just about giving people their due. They have a powerful run-on effect, helping our employees to feel like they're sharing in our success.