Podcast | Growing Your Team From 30 To 100 People – Kevin and Laure of Livestorm

April 21, 2021
June 26, 2023

If you’ve had to onboard remotely or shift your culture with everyone working from home, you’ll know the challenges. Now imagine you’re doing all of that while growing your team from 30 to 100 people? That’s the journey Kevin Valencia (Head of People) and Laure Saintpierre (Employee Experience/Happiness Officer) of Livestorm have been on over the past year.

If you’re asking yourself questions like this then it’s absolutely the episode for you!

  • How can you tweak your culture so that remote employees can work flexibly, effectively and still disconnect?
  • What would your approach be to finding the right people fast and onboarding them at scale?
  • And how would you manage time zones, learning and all your remote socials?

Laure also told us about her role as Happiness Officer and what that means for their employees, Kevin discussed how you can create an employer brand that stands out and we spoke about a whole lot more.

Watch the episode

Listen to the episode

Running order

0:00 > Introduction
1:51 > Growing from a team of 30 to 100 in a year.
3:00 > How to recruit good people fast.
4:20 > How Livestorm define their culture and hire people who fit it.
6:50 > Creating awareness of and tackling unconscious bias.
8:18 > What onboarding looks like when you’re growing at speed.
12:12 > What did and didn’t work in terms of remote onboarding.
13:57 > How do you work across time zones and adjust to being remote?
17:04 > What challenges have you faced moving to asynchronous learning?
20:55 > Benefits of asynchronous learning.
24:45 > What does a Happiness Officer do?
29:04 > Can you still build a culture remotely?
33:35 > How did you come up with your values?
36:48 > How did you create an employer brand that stands out?
41:12 > Quickfire questions.

Episode summary: six key takeaways you should know

Growing from a team of 30 to a team of 100 in a year: where do you start?

Livestorm started with the business needs and the tech features the company required, sitting with leaders and managers to ask them what they would need to be successful in their teams and projects.

They also had to ensure people a cultural fit and, for the time being, that means their CEO has a quick five or 10 minute call with every hire. Understandably, that will have to stop at some point, but they’re training other experienced people in the company to understand what they want or need. Part of that is training hiring managers to be good recruiters, to know what questions to ask and to be unbiased in certain areas.

Defining culture and hiring for it

As a fast-paced company, they look for people who love a challenge, who can keep it simple are who aren’t afraid to share feedback. While experience in the tech world is a bonus, it’s the vibe that’s most important.

Kevin described it perfectly when he said they’re not trying to hire clones, otherwise, it would be boring. That often means hiring for the future, when they can see that someone might not have the qualification or skill right now, they might have other qualities that will help them be successful in the long term.

How to onboard people fast and manage the process at scale

One big change for Livestorm is that they’re no longer just recruiting people in reach of Paris. So, they need an approach that gives all new hires the same experience, wherever they’re based. Something that has been helped by their move to an asynchronous approach, where their manager records videos to watch on-demand and eliminate any time zone worries.

They also ensure there’s dedicated time to meet with each other and lots of Q&As, preventing employees from feeling isolated or like they’re missing out. And to ensure nothing important gets missed from the process, they’ve created welcome pages with all the steps an onboarder needs to follow.

Managing remote working and the company culture

Something that’s important to Kevin and Laure has been to ensure people know that it’s okay not to be connected 24/7. When people are working across timezones, they shouldn’t feel guilty about not replying to messages or emails right away and it’s important that they understand the importance of disconnecting from work.

Flexibility is part of that, especially now they’re working around the globe. They’re more open to when people are working and understand it’s not just about the nine to five approach. If their people have to do something personal during that time it’s ok, what matters is whether you’re progressing or finishing the projects they’re working on.

Laure also spoke about the importance of taking inspiration from a wide range of places, especially when it comes to things like remote socials. She recommended trying an idea, seeing if it fits your company’s culture and refining it over time – if you don’t try, then you’ll never know.  For example, they started a live coffee room where if someone joins then everyone else gets a notification and can pop in as well as board game sessions every Wednesday afternoon.

What does a Happiness Officer do?

Providing your employee with a great experience at work is important, but it’s deeper than that, you have to provide a great environment, the right equipment and listen to their needs/feedback. Having the right onboarding process, activities and moments to be together (virtually or in-person) is a big part of that too. It’s essential that your employees feel well at work and a Happiness Officer takes care of the ways that can happen.

Listening to people is a big part of understanding whether the actions they’re taking are working, so they run surveys, anonymous feedback on what people do and don’t like, monthly talking times around what they should add or change and have coffee so they can speak to people personally. All of those moments guide them on where their focus should be!

How did you create an employer brand that stands out?

It sounds simple, but often are you checking Glassdoor and similar sites to monitor the public perception of your company? That’s a great place to start, as is ensuring your LinkedIn profiles are updated, making the values are clear and ensuring people feel comfortable to apply.

You have to be on Glassdoor and great place to work, LinkedIn’s updated etc. Comfortable to apply, know the values etc.

How to connect

Find Livestorm on LinkedIn, Twitter or their website.

Find Kevin and Laure on LinkedIn.

Find Nelson on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Find HowNow on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram.

Where to subscribe

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[00:00:00] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:00:00] Work is changing. The question is, are you welcome to 99 Problems But Work Ain’t One, the new podcast series from HowNow that will help you prepare for the fast changing world of work. I’m your host Nelson Sivalingam, and I’ll be talking to disruptive startups, contrarian thinkers, global leaders, and real game changes and asking them the burning questions about the challenges we face at work from scaling cultures and adopting technology.

[00:00:28] To improving wellbeing and building fast learning organisations that are prepared for the future of work. We get the insights, tactics, and actionable nuggets of knowledge to put, to work. What happens when your company grows from 30 people to more than hundred within a year, a year, like no other in living memory?

[00:00:49] Well, Kevin Valencia, the Head of People and Laure Saintpierre, the Employee Experience Coordinator, or otherwise known as the Happiness Officer of Livestorm join me to answer [00:01:00] that exact question from finding the right talent fast and onboarding them remotely to building a remote culture where people feel both connected.

[00:01:08] And able to disconnect. It was great to hear about their challenges, learnings, and winning tactics that you can apply in your organisation today. So here it is,my fascinating conversation with Kevin and Laure. Welcome to the show. Thanks for coming on.

[00:01:26] Kevin Valencia: [00:01:26] Thank you. Thank you.

[00:01:30] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:01:30] I want to dive straight in because firstly, congratulations.

[00:01:33] It sounds like, and in a very, very tough year, you’ve managed to do incredibly well. We talk about at it HowNow and we call it survivor guilt. It’s where times are tough but you’ve managed to pull out and do really well. And so congratulations, you went from. A team of 30 to a team of a hundred.

[00:01:56] Maybe you’ve added a few more since we had this. [00:02:00] But that’s incredible. So I want to start with. Where do you start? Right? Where do you start when you’re going from 30 to a hundred? Um, how do you approach that? How do you hire so quickly? Just take me to the starting point. How do you go from 30 to a hundred?

[00:02:18] Kevin Valencia: [00:02:18] Yeah. First of all, it’s not easy to scale that quickly. Uh, you need to make sure that you have the right tools in place that you have the right person, in which team, et cetera, et cetera. So. Basically, we just start with the business needs and what new tech features the company needs, uh, what kind of new territories sales need.

[00:02:38] So what we do in the HR team, we just sit down with all of the head of and managers and ask them, what do you need to be successful in your projects, in your goals for the next year? So it’s just a mix of, um, planning and talent calibration. Uh, basically based on our tech assessment.

[00:03:00] [00:03:00] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:03:00] And you guys did this all within, less than a year.

[00:03:04] And so, you know, once you’ve had that conversation, just hiring good people is hard enough, but hiring good people fast is, is really a monumental challenge. So how do you tackle that?

[00:03:16] Kevin Valencia: [00:03:16] Well, we have to bring new recruiters to the mix. Uh, what we do, what’s something that’s super important for us.

[00:03:25] It’s a cultural  fit. So when we recruit new candidates and we make sure that our CEO kind of checks in with them, uh, at the end of the recruitment process, just like a five, 10 minute call, just to make sure that we are on point with the cultural fit.

[00:03:42] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:03:42] And your CEO would speak to every single person you hire.

[00:03:45] And how long do you think that would go for? You know, what number do you think that stops?

[00:03:51] Kevin Valencia: [00:03:51] We’ve been trying to do it so far, but I think we would have to stop at some point because I mean, When you have like 100 [00:04:00] candidates per quarter. Uh, I mean, it takes a lot for that phone call with them.

[00:04:05] So I think we’re going to have to stop, but the more we have senior people in the company, the more we are okay with them checking the cultural fit. So it’s just like training people internally to make sure that they know what we need and they know what we want.

[00:04:20] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:04:20] That I find is such a hard part, right?

[00:04:22] Like a culture fit is sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on it. And, and often companies try to kind of codify it. Right. So in the same way you said other managers also know what they’re looking for and

[00:04:35] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:04:35] what does that process look like? How have you guys managed to kind of codify this culture and what have you learned in that process?

[00:04:43] Kevin Valencia: [00:04:43] Well, uh, you cannot be 100% right, that’s for sure. Sometimes you have to be okay to make some mistakes in the recruitment process and that’s okay. Uh, we tend to tell our people, okay, you can make mistakes. That’s fine. As long as you learn from them. Um, so what we do, we just train our hiring [00:05:00] managers to just be good recruiters because it’s a real job to be a good recruiter.

[00:05:04] And if you have a good tech manager to hire for his team. Maybe it’s going to be the first time that they will have to hire for other teams. So we just put them through, um, training on how to ask questions and how to not be biased by some stuff. So it’s a long process at the beginning. So we are sure that the recruiting process is smooth and we can find the right candidates for the position.

[00:05:30] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:05:30] And so Kevin, how would you define the culture, when you say culture fit? Give me a few points to say, Hey, this is what we’re looking for. And if someone shows us this, then, then they’re a good cultural fit.

[00:05:43] Kevin Valencia: [00:05:43] Well, we need some people that just love to work. Um, In a very fast paced company. Of course, uh, we are on a scale-up stage, so we need to work fast, but also people that love challenges, uh, people who kind of keep it [00:06:00] simple.

[00:06:00] Um, that’s also very important to us, someone who is not afraid to share feedback, we are trying to be as open as possible and as transparent as a company. Uh, so it’s, it’s a mix of everything. Ideally, that person has some experience in the tech world. That’s amazing. Uh, But it’s not what we are looking for.

[00:06:18] Exactly. It’s really like a vibe that we are getting from the candidates.

[00:06:23] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:06:23] Yeah. And often at this size, when you’re trying to find that culture fit. And we have this, we talk about this challenge internally. You know, I almost find we’ve got our longest member of our team who is a great representation of our culture.

[00:06:39] And I always think if I got that person to speak to them and they came back to me and said they’re a culture fit it’s probably a good indication, but there are inherent problems with that approach. Right. Which is. The big one we’re looking at is kind of unconscious bias is just attracting people who, or only hiring people who are similar to us.

[00:06:59] How do you get [00:07:00] around the kind of unconscious bias? Um, and also sometimes at this kind of scale-up phase, you might have a management team who are managers for the first time, right. So they’re probably hiring for the first time. So how do you also make sure they are trained to be aware of unconscious bias? How do you tackle that?

[00:07:18] Kevin Valencia: [00:07:18] That’s that’s a very good question. Uh, what we do, we talk to our hiring manager on a daily basis on any kind of challenges they can have, uh, I try to push my teams to go outside and talk to the hiring managers and the managers overall, just to explain to them that we are not trying to hire clones, otherwise it’s going to be boring.

[00:07:39] We are on the ScaleUp situation. So we need to hire fast, but sometimes you also have to hire for the future. So if you don’t have the perfect candidate that you think will be like super autonomous at the beginning, that’s fine. Try to think for the future. Maybe that person doesn’t have like the right.

[00:07:57] I dunno, diploma from this specific school [00:08:00] or never worked on that specific project, but that’s fine. Maybe that candidate has other beautiful qualities that can be super successful for us in the long term. So sometimes you have to bet on this type of candidates. And that’s something that I’m trying to tell our team to share to our managers.

[00:08:17] Right. And I guess that

[00:08:19] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:08:19] recruitment is just to start, right? Once you’ve hired your you’re onboarding this many people.

[00:08:26] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:08:26] And so, what did onboarding look like? I imagine at 30, um, there was probably no kind of workflows and processes. It’s probably quite hacky in terms of the way you’re doing onboarding, but you can’t, I’m assuming do the same when you’re growing to a hundred and beyond.

[00:08:42] So what does that onboarding process look like?

[00:08:45] Kevin Valencia: [00:08:45] Well, uh, it’s been a big, big project project for Laure and I for the past six months since I’ve joined. So basically, uh, we have been, uh, redesigning the onboarding process. Uh, we couldn’t keep the same format, of [00:09:00] course. Um, we had, when we had only people based.

[00:09:04] Close to Paris or in France, we could just travel to the office and have the face-to-face onboarding. So we decided to shift out of our process and basically say, okay, we want all of our employees, whether you are based in France, based in the U S based in, I don’t know, Mexico to have the same experience as a new hire.

[00:09:24] So we are trying to work with an asynchronous type of thing. Uh, so we ask our, um, manager that has been doing the onboarding to record videos. And so people can watch them when they want, we don’t have to be worried about times and et cetera, et cetera. And then we also have time dedicated

[00:09:50] for the new hires so they can meet with each other. They can ask questions. We have a lot of Q&A sessions planned. But it’s tough. Uh, we had to [00:10:00] change everything. We didn’t want to be too like, um, European centric. Uh, we didn’t want for our other employees. To feel like they are missing out because they are like nine hours ahead of us or nine hours behind us in terms of timezone.

[00:10:14] So we changed everything. Um, so yeah, and we are launching our new onboarding, uh, in a couple of weeks. So hopefully it’s going to be a success. But I think, I mean, from the feedback that we received from our current employees, it was time that we change.

[00:10:29] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:10:29] Right. And that sounds like a lot of change, right. And Laure,

[00:10:31] Maybe you can tell me a bit more about this. To go from a team that’s all from a certain radius of, of the office to now you’re, you’re kind of hiring across time zones. How do you make sure when they’re onboarding, they still feel a part of, of the team, right? That they, that they are still getting the experience that you would get.

[00:10:55] If I walked into the office on the first day and I met my team, I’d go for a coffee. [00:11:00] Right? How do you recreate that?

[00:11:04] Laure Saintpierre: [00:11:04] We try to do it as much as we can with the teams and we have lots of small activities and everything. Um, also what we did, uh, from the beginning is that at, uh, for every new Stormy (Stormies are the people working in Livestorm), um, We meet every new person, joining the company at the end of his or her first month, just to be sure that everything is going on, that there is no adjustments needed.

[00:11:38] Um, also to get feedback about the first month and to get their ideas, a lot of people are coming with ideas of what they did before other companies and they bring it to Livestorm. And this is how we also evolved, [00:12:00] uh, the onboarding process. So for example, we added a live training of the Lifestorm product, for the new Stormies, which was something that was an idea brought by, uh, people during that meeting.

[00:12:14] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:12:14] Right. And so I guess, you know, you’ve onboarded 70 new people in a short period of time. I imagine you’ve tried and tested different things, some things at work, some things haven’t worked. So kind of looking back on that experience now, what are the things you think have worked and you would recommend to someone else, if they’re looking at kind of remote onboarding and what are the things that didn’t work for you and why didn’t they work for you?

[00:12:42] Laure Saintpierre: [00:12:42] One thing that is really important, that we have to say is that people need to have all the equipment for their first day. So we have to send it. And this is something that, uh, new, uh, people joining are sometimes surprised [00:13:00] that this is something that is really important and one thing we didn’t really have, uh, at the beginning, that we created, because it was something they needed is that we created a welcome page with all the steps, the new onboarder has to follow.

[00:13:19] Um, it was, it was really something missing at the beginning because we were used to having people at the office, uh, meeting people for real. When you start, uh, remotely, it’s not always easy to know what to do at, at, uh, on your first day to know, uh, will you have to meet to know what, what will be your schedule?

[00:13:44] So this is something we created. Uh, we created the onboarding page with all the steps people have to follow. So they arrive and they know what they have to do, and know the organisation of their first week and everything.

[00:14:00] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:14:00] And how do you manage with the time zones? Right. If there’s no restriction and you could be across different time zones, how do you make sure, you know, I get, you’re saying you’re moving towards more kind of asynchronous way of working, but a lot of the time that they’re kind of, I guess the socializing happens synchronously.

[00:14:15] Right. And so how do you line that up? How do you make that happen?

[00:14:16] Kevin Valencia: [00:14:16] Well, we try to make sure that all of our employees have the same experience. So if we have to record a video, it will be for everyone it is. It’s not just for people outside of France. Um, but what we do and what Laure is great at is just creating new ways to find new inspirations.

[00:14:37] I don’t know how she does it, but she’s very creative in the way of like making people come together. Um, and they feel connected. So we have coffee time. We have, um, the buddy program. So basically when you are a new hire, You will have a, uh, someone that has been in the company for quite some time.

[00:14:55] And that person will be your point of contact for any questions, [00:15:00] not questions that should be for your managers or HR, but like the question that sometimes you feel like you cannot ask because you’re the new guy in the company and you feel like maybe it’s going to be like a stupid question. So we have that buddy program and it works really well.

[00:15:14] Uh, so it’s also a way for people to bond together, especially the buddies, not from the same team. And we try to ask our managers, please get from someone from another team. So if you’re in tech, you will have someone in sales. If you are in sales, we can have someone from HR, et cetera, et cetera. So it’s a way for all of us to create a connection between teams, even though we are not seated together in the same office.

[00:15:37] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:15:37] And, and the people who were there originally,  the kind of original 30, right. Um, how were they feeling? Because obviously you’ve shifted from, they were used to the office life and a certain way of working. Um, and now you’re, um, moving towards an asynchronous remote kind of, uh, workforce. How have they found it?

[00:15:59] And, and, [00:16:00] you know, when they, because they’ve got something to compare against, right. What’s the kind of feedback you’ve been getting from, from that group of people.

[00:16:09] Laure Saintpierre: [00:16:09] It’s not something that is totally new for Livestorm, because even, um, before, uh, the first live down on the COVID crisis, we had people who are working remotely.

[00:16:23] Uh full-time. So we were used to this organisation. We had, um, a third of the company working remotely. So we had the tools and we were used to communicating this way and we were used to, um, remote moments together. So this is not something that was not something totally new and that we discovered with the crisis of, yeah, we grew a lot, but our organisation.

[00:16:58] Didn’t change [00:17:00] that much.

[00:17:03] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:17:03] That makes sense. And just to kind of dive into the kind of asynchronous working, right. Because this is right now, a lot of people are thinking about it, there’s a lot of debate and a lot of, kind of commentary around this idea of going back to the office, carrying on a remote hybrid workforce.

[00:17:22] And, and I often find. It’s less about where you’re working and more about how you’re working and a big part of that is are you working synchronously or asynchronously? And if you’re working synchronously, then do you work through, you know, virtual channels like this? Or do you go into an office? And so. A lot of organisations weren’t really prepared for asynchronous working.

[00:17:46] So talk to me a bit about what are the challenges you faced by shifting to asynchronous work and what are the benefits you found as a result of shifting to asynchronous working?

[00:17:58] Kevin Valencia: [00:17:58] That’s that’s a very good question. Uh, I think the main challenge is to, um, Let people know that it’s okay to not be connected 24-7, because that’s the risk when you have people from all over the world on different timezones.

[00:18:13] And we say that you can work all day long because it never stops. You would see people like online on Slack. So you have to train your people that they do their working hours  and that’s fine. If they received a message on Slack or an email, that’s fine. The email or the message can wait for the following day.

[00:18:30] So it’s just to make sure that people didn’t feel like that guilt of not answering right away. So we are trying to make sure that it’s clear and we want people to kind of disconnect from, from work, especially working from home. Um, it’s really hard sometimes just to divide your personal life and your working life.

[00:18:50] So we are pushing a message on, on Slack and during meetings, please disconnect. Wait until tomorrow, if you need to reply to [00:19:00] someone, but. Looking now we do have great tools. We have Slack, we have Notion. Um, a lot of things, even, even Laure created some different times so people can jump in if they want to work together on a project.

[00:19:15] But if it’s not working, they can work on another time, then it’s no stress. So it’s just being okay with the fact that not everyone can work together at the same time. You have to be okay with the idea.  

[00:19:30] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:19:30] And Kevin, do you still have like core working hours for everyone or is it quite flexible in that, in the sense that just get the work done when you do it is up to you, how do you manage that?

[00:19:42] Kevin Valencia: [00:19:42]

[00:19:43] Yeah, we are trying to switch that situation actually. Uh, because in the past, uh, Livestorm was really proud and saying: Okay. Uh, we are only doing 34-35 hours per week. That’s, that’s the, that’s the legal amount of working hours, uh, in France, uh, which is really hard to do [00:20:00] because 35 hours is not that much, especially in our tech world.

[00:20:03] Um, but yes we have now that we are everywhere in the world, we have to be more flexible, meaning that. You don’t have to be connected from nine to five. Uh, if you have to do something personal during that time, that’s okay. As long as you finish working on your project. So we actually know also to be more flexible on that, but we will try also to not get people to.

[00:20:28] Work too many hours as well, because I don’t think it’s, it’s great that people work too many hours. Uh, I think it’s actually the opposite of what you’re trying to access. Uh, you need to make sure that your people work just enough time and they’re all doing great on their projects. So it’s a fine balance between being flexible, but also making sure that people don’t like to overdo stuff.

[00:20:55] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:20:55] Just kind of going back to the asynchronous thing. What, what are the benefits right now? Like what, why do you [00:21:00] think if someone else’s is kind of out there listening to this thinking, do we go down this asynchronous route? Um, what are the benefits? What would you say?

[00:21:10] Kevin Valencia: [00:21:10] I mean, I would say, just look at your unexperience when you were on lockdown and you have to take care of your kids and probably your partner was also working from home.

[00:21:19] Maybe you need time in the day just to log off and go for, I dunno, like for a walk outside of your home or be in your garden and not work, maybe from 10 to 11, you need your own time for mental health. So I think that’s that, I mean, COVID forces us to change the way we’re working now. Uh, and that’s okay to disconnect during working hours.

[00:21:41] Um, I mean, if you have to do it, just do it and then you can log back in and carry on your duties. But yes, I think that’s something also that that was kind of. The silver lining of COVID is if you have to learn to let go from work during, during the working hours, that’s [00:22:00] fine. Do it. What is super important is your mental health.

[00:22:03] So you can be super successful in a role. You have to also be in a great peace of mind. So, yeah, uh, something else also, um, that, that was great. Being asynchronous is that we were able to hire people that we wouldn’t normally be hiring basically because they were located, I dunno, somewhere else in another country with another culture.

[00:22:23] So we were able to bring different culture and different, different visions to our teams, which is, which is amazing.

[00:22:31] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:22:31] Yeah. That’s a great way of looking at it. Right. And I get the idea that remote working is actually quite conducive for building a diverse and inclusive team, because you are now opening up the pool of people beyond just your local area.

[00:22:44] Right. And, and yeah, that’s, that’s an incredible way of looking at it.

[00:22:46] Kevin Valencia: [00:22:46] Yeah, we are a small country. So I mean, schools are, I mean, tech schools are basically all the same, business schools are all the same, so we don’t want to have clones in our company. And if you want to be like, and we are trying [00:23:00] to penetrate the market.

[00:23:01] So you have to also bring in cultures that understand this market. So it’s also very important to be open, to hire people from other backgrounds.

[00:23:09] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:23:09] It probably requires a change of management style and approach. Right? Because I was speaking to a friend of mine recently who used to work in a consultancy and he was telling me about a work culture where if the partner was in the open floor office, you would stay in the office until the partner left.

[00:23:28] Right. Even if you didn’t have any work to do, you’d stick around because you wanted the partner to know you’re working long hours. Right. And it was just kind of old world of. You were working hard if you’re there for long hours and it wasn’t necessary as much as we spoke about deliverables and outcomes, because they didn’t necessarily have a framework for effectively measuring those outcomes.

[00:23:49] Actually, the outcome they’re looking at was, was hours. Right? And so this is quite a change in approach for, for managers. How do you equip your managers [00:24:00] for, from essentially leading and managing remote teams?  

[00:24:05] Kevin Valencia: [00:24:05] What I say to them is, okay, you don’t have to work long, you just have to work smart. So if you do something in two hours instead of four, amazing, then you can focus on something else or you can log off and enjoy the rest of your day.

[00:24:16] So you’re happy at work. And that also, helps retain people. If they feel like they have a great work-life balance, they will stay with us. I think. Yeah. So yeah, just making sure that people understand that as long as the projects are done, that’s, that’s fine. I mean, being connected, uh, 10, 11, 12 hours on Slack.

[00:24:37] I mean, it doesn’t mean anything. It can be like watching TV, but still have your Slack on. So I mean, working long hours doesn’t mean anything in my opinion.

[00:24:49] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:24:49]  Yeah. And, and Luare, I’ve got to say, you’ve got probably one of the coolest job titles I’ve come across in, in a very long time. And this is not the first time you’ve had this title anyway, but the kind of general gist is [00:25:00] you’re, you’re the Happiness Officer.

[00:25:01] Right. Everyone wants to be happy. And, and so surely every company should have a Laure in their company. Right. Um, so to give us an idea of what does that mean? What do you do?

[00:25:15] Laure Saintpierre: [00:25:15] um, Some, sometimes people understand the happiness position, like something really funny, which it could be that I think it’s really more than that.

[00:25:29] It’s really that. Providing your employee a great experience at work is really important and it’s not, it goes with activities and events and everything, but it’s deeper than that. You have to provide them the great environment you have to give them the right equipment. You have to listen to the needs.

[00:25:51] You have to get that feedback. You have to give them the right onboarding process and you have to give them [00:26:00] activities and events and moments to be together. But I think this is, this is something essential. It’s a key that your employee feels well in your company. It goes with a lot of things. And not only just the funny part, it goes with a lot of things.

[00:26:21] Like, for example, uh, we developed a partnership for them with mental health everything, and there are lots of projects – as many projects are there companies, so you also have to listen for your employees’ needs. It will be different from a company to another one.

[00:26:47] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:26:47] It sounds amazing. And I completely agree. Right. I can see the need for why every company would need to invest in this, but it seems like such a big job, right. Because, um, it’s like [00:27:00] you said, there’s so many facets to what keeps someone happy at work. Um, and so how do you know what to focus on and when to focus on it?

[00:27:10] Right. So how do you try to understand, again, these are the problems I need to address, then how do you prioritise those problems then? How do you figure out what projects to put your time into? What’s the process there?

[00:27:23] Laure Saintpierre: [00:27:23] Mostly, I would say that we listen to the people. Uh, there are lots of different times that could help us on that.

[00:27:33] We are doing, uh, surveys to get feedback, anonymous feedbacks from people to, uh, know what they like and dislike in the company. So to know what we have to change, we have, um, monthly talking times to, to discuss about our organisation and what we should change or add, uh, what we shouldn’t change at all.

[00:27:58] So, and we [00:28:00] also, I’m trying to have coffee with people to get that feedback and, um, just discuss things, it’s helped us to check the pulse of the company like Kevin likes to say, and thanks to all of those moments. We can know what to focus on because this is what our people need us to focus on.

[00:28:26] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:28:26] How do you know if it’s working?

[00:28:29] Laure Saintpierre: [00:28:29] Also we are asking for feedback. Um, so this is really, I think, a huge strength of Livestorm is that we listen to people and we listened to their needs and we are listening to their feedback on what we did for their needs. So I think it’s the only way to know if you do something, the only way to know if it’s work is.

[00:28:55] Well, something, you can see it, for example, for an event, you can see people are coming on that, [00:29:00] but for others, the only ways to ask them if they like it or not.

[00:29:05] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:29:05] Yeah. And I feel like, you know, one of the challenges a lot of people have been talking about kind of working remotely is this idea of, is it possible to still build a culture that where you want to work remotely.

[00:29:17] Right. And I think it’s been challenging. And one of the aspects of it is. Kind of socials and team activities. And yet how many quizzes can you possibly do on zoom? Um, I’m sure everyone’s general knowledge is, is really get off the 12 months of quizzes.

[00:29:35] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:29:35] That must be challenging in itself.

[00:29:36] Right? So how do you bring a bit of variety? How do you make sure people are getting that social time and alone time? Um, especially remotely, give us some ideas for someone who’s listening now. What are some of the things you do?

[00:29:50] Laure Saintpierre: [00:29:50] It’s really difficult. Uh, you have to challenge yourself. You have to look for ideas.

[00:29:57] You have to discuss with other people from other [00:30:00] companies also, too, to get ideas. Yeah. And mostly you have to try it. If you find an idea, you have to try if it works for your team or not. For example, we did the coffee breaks and we adjusted our organisation about that because it was a little bit difficult to manage and we decided to create a Livestorm room dedicated to this purpose so people can join.

[00:30:25] It will send a notification to the whole company and someone else can join if it’s available. So you have to, you have to try. For example, we do board games every Wednesday, uh, remote and online board games and it’s something that’s really appreciated. It’s mostly like drawing and everything. So that’s really nice.

[00:30:50] We also send small challenges on Slack, like for example, last year we had the emoji challenge which, uh, [00:31:00] people had to guess, um, movies and music, titles and images, uh, we sent pictures of the stormies as a baby, and we have to find who it is. You have to try, you have to look for ideas again and again, and try, and if it works, it’s great.

[00:31:21] And if it doesn’t, it’s fine. You just have to try something else. So you have to look for ideas. I’m trying.

[00:31:28] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:31:28] And again, how do you accommodate the time zones? Right? Are you running like the same thing twice for people on the other side of the world and how are you managing? Are you just trying to find a common time that works for everyone.

[00:31:41] Laure Saintpierre: [00:31:41] Yeah. Yeah. Um, it depends, uh, for the small challenges on Slack, anybody can do it when you want, we send it and you have one week to answer. So it doesn’t really matter. Um, the time zones for that and for the. [00:32:00] Live, um, moments there are two possibilities, uh, the first one is, yeah, we’d try to find common moments to, to share, uh, time together.

[00:32:10] And also people are just, uh, creating also moments on their own times. And so, yeah.

[00:32:18] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:32:18] Yeah. And do you think just on your role Laure, like, do you see more companies should have this, or, I don’t know, Kevin, what was your kind of take around? Um, you know, do you think this is something more companies should have and you don’t understand why more companies don’t have this?

[00:32:35] Like do you see this as a trend that will grow?

[00:32:38] Kevin Valencia: [00:32:38] Yeah. Yeah, definitely. But also you need to listen to your employees. Uh, some, I think companies need it, some others don’t, uh, but just listen, get the pulse from your employees, uh, and listen to them. Try to be as transparent just to let them know that you are open to any suggestions and you will try to make them work.

[00:32:58] Um, [00:33:00] also let your employees know that it’s okay to make mistakes. We can try it. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen. Okay. Nobody showed up to the event. That’s fine then, we won’t do it again, but just, um, just try to engage people as much as possible. Uh, and if they don’t want to do it, then that’s fine.

[00:33:17] Also, you don’t have to force people to join, um, like a game or something else. It’s okay. To not want it to be part of it.

[00:33:28] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:33:28] I can carry on asking you about this. This is a fascinating topic and there’s so many different variables, but I just want to go onto, um, a couple of your values that really kind of stood out to us.

[00:33:41] Obviously we’re a learning company. And so we talk about learning and upskilling a lot here at HowNow, but, um, it seems like you guys do a lot of learning too, because one of the values you have as kind of remaining humble and to keep learning. And a kind of extension of that was going to be transparent, sharing knowledge, [00:34:00] learning feedback, uh, mistakes, and really all kind of support that growth mindset of.

[00:34:06] You developing yourself and improving yourself and where it is. I guess more broadly speaking, how did you guys come up with your values in general? Right. But what was the process for that? Was it just kind of you guys sitting there and coming up with the values or was the rest of the team, a part of that.

[00:34:22] So I’d be really curious to understand what the process of coming up with the values were and then this particular value. What does it mean to you guys and how do you see it in practice? Right? Like how are people working and living this value at Livestorm?

[00:34:38] Kevin Valencia: [00:34:38] Yeah. So the values, uh, started before we joined. I think it’s from the, really from the DNA, from, from the focal founders, uh, they really try to create a space that is friendly to all, not competitive, as open as possible and very humble.

[00:34:57] So that’s also something that made me want to join the [00:35:00] company, uh, because. I was like, well, that’s some great, great, great values. And I remember when I was interviewing, I asked Laure because she was not independent. And I said, are those values really placed the company because I mean, they can be just words on their LinkedIn page.

[00:35:15] So can you tell me if that’s the truth? They became, I’m doing like a reference check on the company and she was like, no, I’ve been there for like, I think for like nine months already. No, no, no, they are true. I’m always surprised that even to this day, the values are still in the company and, and that’s amazing.

[00:35:35] So that’s also the reason why I decided to join the company. So yes, we are in a very, very competitive market. Um, so we need our employees to be adaptable. Of course, uh, it really helps, uh, keeping your employees motivated when you give them the ability to learn. I think the worst thing that can happen is you are at your job and doing the same thing over and over.

[00:35:58] And there is no room [00:36:00] for improvement, no room for new projects. And that’s where you get bored basically. And that’s how you lose people because they will leave the company, find something more exciting. So it’s super important that companies invest on learning that that’s. I think it should be one of the top priority for the company.

[00:36:19] So we are getting there. Uh, we are building stuff. We are creating trainings for, um, for Stormies. We are looking for partners like maybe an LMS platform. So maybe we can, talk about it offline, but yeah, that’s something that we want to invest in because it’s. It’s really, really important, especially when you’re in a remote company, uh, where you can not learn from a coworker who sits just besides you.

[00:36:45] So yes, we need something else to help people just improve themselves.

[00:36:51] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:36:51] One more off schedule question. Before I go on to the quickfire questions, what are the kind of other challenges, I mean, building a startup and scaling a [00:37:00] startup they’re full of challenges we know. Um, but is when you’re going from a kind of small startup and you’re hiring so many people.

[00:37:08] Often startups haven’t really spent much time building their employer brand. Right. You don’t really have an employer brand at that size. And so, like you said, you’re in a competitive space, not just competitive space in your own space, but like in generally you’re trying to hire talented people. So is every company out there.

[00:37:27] Um, and you’re, you’re fighting against these big brands, big logos and, and so. I guess, what did you guys do to create an employer brand that stands out, cuts through the noise and attracts good people to join Livestorm or what what’s been the thinking and approach around it.

[00:37:45] Kevin Valencia: [00:37:45] That’s that’s a good question.

[00:37:47] Uh, that’s actually part of our, um, first half of the year OKRs. Getting to have the best employer branding for Livestorm. Um, there is stuff that you [00:38:00] need to do because all of the other ones are doing it and that’s where candidates will look for example, Glassdoor, that’s something that you need to spend time doing/

[00:38:07] Um, so that’s something that we’ve been working on for Q1. Uh, we are working with great place to work for Q2. Uh, so we are, we have just started, uh, this week actually. So we received a survey from them and our employees will do it. So yes, there are big names, like less door and, and, and great place to work that you have to do because that’s where.

[00:38:27] Candidates will look for to get information about your company. You also need to make sure that your LinkedIn page is, um, you take the time to update everything. So yes, it takes time to build an employer brand, but you have to do it. It’s the only way that people external of your company will know about it.

[00:38:45] Uh, for example, I didn’t know anything about Livestorm when I joined. So I was like, okay. Um, okay, that’s fine. I’ll Jump. I’ll take the risk. But I want people to be comfortable enough to apply to our [00:39:00] jobs. So they know that, I mean, we have values, we have a good employer brand, so that’s something that we really need to focus on.

[00:39:09] And it’s part of our big, big project for, for H1.

[00:39:12] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:39:12] Right. And I have to ask one more question because you’ve mentioned it, Kevin, so I, OKRs, right? This is, um, I speak to a lot of people leaders thinking about bringing in OKRs or they have just bought in OKRs and it is quite a shift for a company, right?

[00:39:29] If they’ve never worked on that kind of objective basis? It’s, it’s quite a cultural shift or mindset shift at least, um, What’s that process been like, were you guys, even before your time, where you, um, were you using OKRs or did you bring it in and what were the challenges when you were bringing it in and kind of, how did you guys overcome and really to start using OKR?

[00:39:53] Kevin Valencia: [00:39:53] We are very lucky that our CEO is really. Like interested and on point with everything HR [00:40:00] and people broadly. Uh, so we were lucky enough to have, OKRs when we started already, we didn’t have to explain the whole process to the employees, which is great because sometimes it can be like, Oh, what is it again?

[00:40:11] Some HR projects. So. I mean, it’s coming from the C Staff. So it’s always easier to just implement stuff when, when, when you are the supervisor. Uh, but yes, we do have, OKRs. That’s something we are very, very proud of. Uh, we are trained to be accountable for our OKRs and again, If you don’t succeed in your OKR, that’s fine.

[00:40:35] You tried, maybe you failed because we didn’t have enough time or maybe you are trying to fill big shoes. Uh, so if you need two quarters to validate them, that’s fine. You can just like move from Q1 to Q2. So we are trying to put OKRs because that’s the good way to make people accountable for projects they are working on and to be successful.

[00:40:59] Uh, [00:41:00] but it’s also okay to fail if you fail. So yeah, it’s a balance between, um, motivating your employees and so they can try new stuff, but also not being like too pushy, pushy on the outcome.

[00:41:15] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:41:15] Now it’s time to move into our quick fire questions guys. It’s the last part of the show?

[00:41:19] It’s my favorite part. When I fire questions do you, and you’re gonna fire back answers. You ready? All right. Cool. The first one is what’s the most important skill you think you need to work in the people function or people teams what’s the most important skill.?

[00:41:39] Kevin Valencia: [00:41:39] Yeah, that’s, that’s a good quickfire question because that’s something we talked about in the past, uh, with my team, uh, I think emotional intelligence is one of the

[00:41:53] Most important skills for people, especially in the people team you have to be self-aware, you have to have self-regulation because [00:42:00] sometimes you will work on issues that are nerve wracking or annoying. So you have to have that good stuff, regulation, uh, motivation. Of course you have to love the challenge.

[00:42:11] That’s very important. Uh, I would say also of course, empathy. Uh, put yourself in other people’s shoes. Uh, so you can understand better when they are coming from and social skills.

[00:42:26] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:42:26] And what about you Laure? Anything to add, or is that covering most of them,

[00:42:31] Laure Saintpierre: [00:42:31] I maybe would add that you have to love challenges and, um, look for new ideas all the time.

[00:42:41] Kevin Valencia: [00:42:41] Yeah, yeah. Be creative basically. Yeah.

[00:42:46] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:42:46] What do you both know today that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

[00:42:55] Kevin Valencia: [00:42:55] Um, good question. I think not to rush [00:43:00] things, um, and maybe get more feedback at the beginning before launching your project. Uh, I think earlier in my career, I was like, yes, I’m going to do this and that and this, and I was like doing it like super quickly, super fast.

[00:43:12] And then people were like, Yeah, but are you sure I’m not feeling it? It’s more like, okay. You have an idea and you fish for feedback. Um, feedback is a big thing at Livestorm. We did a training for managers around feedback and how to get them. And what’s the purpose of getting feedback?

[00:43:30] Is that something that I use on my, on my daily job for everything and new projects?

[00:43:40] Laure Saintpierre: [00:43:40] Yeah, that’s totally true. And maybe also accept that things could not always work and that it’s not always, uh, your fault, like just sometimes things didn’t work and you have to find your solution and that’s totally fine.

[00:43:57] Maybe it’s this one.

[00:43:59] Kevin Valencia: [00:43:59] Yeah. [00:44:00] Um,

[00:44:01] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:44:01] One thing companies, you know someone listening to this right now, one thing they can go and apply at their workplace for a better remote culture. One thing they can do today to improve their remote working culture.

[00:44:19] Kevin Valencia: [00:44:19] Again, I think it’s to be okay with not working on the same timezone and at the same time. Be okay with that. With the fact that the company works when you’re, when you are asleep.

[00:44:30] Laure Saintpierre: [00:44:30] Yeah. And involve employees in your culture construction asking them. All the ways, uh, feedback and ideas on everything.

[00:44:42] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:44:42] This is a common complaint I hear sometimes with HR, right? Or even other teams where you work in a silo, you get things done. You put it out there just to find out noone wanted this. So no one needed this. Um, I definitely see that. You do these monthly talking times and that’s something you offer up in a job description.

[00:45:06] What does that entail? And what have you seen is the benefit of this? That’s not really a quickfire question, but we’ll allow it.

[00:45:17] Laure Saintpierre: [00:45:17] Yeah. Um, we did for a long time, we dedicate one hour, uh, per month  to talk with, uh, people who register to, to discuss a specific subject that concerns Livestorm. For example, we talked about, uh, diversity onboarding process, like keeping the link between people or how to be more green at work.

[00:45:48] And it could be any subject that could fit with Livestorm’s evolution. And, um, this, um, talking time has two main [00:46:00] goals, one is to get feedback about what we are doing. So to know if we are going in the right direction. And the second one is to get all the ideas people could have. It doesn’t mean that we will bring all the ideas to the company, but it means that we will study every idea that is given.

[00:46:21] So it’s really, really important because we created a lot of things, uh, following us monthly talking time and following the ideas people gave us. So I think this is a nice idea too. Another way to get feedbacks from people and to make them, uh, be really a part of the company’s evolution.

[00:46:46] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:46:46] And what’s the best bit of advice someone’s given you about how to do your job?

[00:46:56] Laure Saintpierre: [00:46:56] Well, it’s difficult because we are learning every day, uh, with [00:47:00] everyone, uh, in a professional way, for example, tools, but on more, uh, soft skill ways. We’re learning from everybody, uh, everyday, uh, working with people in the people team, it’s really helpful for improving our internal soft skills.

[00:47:22] But I think mostly the, the thing I’ve learned the most for the past year is that you have to try and not everything will work for you and  your team, but you have to try, you have to accept that it might not work and you have to try again something else and find the best option for you,

[00:47:44] Kevin Valencia: [00:47:44] Yeah, I think the best piece of advice I received years ago was keep things beautiful, simple.

[00:47:52] Uh, if you have to explain over and over and over an idea, maybe it’s not the right idea. So keep it simple, [00:48:00] make it work. ,

[00:48:02] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:48:02] Alright. I’ll finish with one last quick fire question, which is off schedule. And I think it’s a bit of a tricky one, but I’ll throw it out there anyway.

[00:48:11] Is if there is only one metric you can measure to know whether you are doing your job well or not, what would that one metric be?

[00:48:23] Kevin Valencia: [00:48:23] Ooh, excellent question. Um,

[00:48:29] Maybe it would be a metric around diversity, I think. Yeah. I think if you are at a level where diversity is one of your main focus in the company, that means that you are rigid. Like you have a great  basis in your, in your company. Um, and also means that the people that you’re hiring, the mentality of the company, the culture of the company is great.

[00:48:55] So I think that’s something that’s. I think that’s, to me that’s [00:49:00] one of the most important metrics.

[00:49:05] Laure Saintpierre: [00:49:05] That’s difficult. Um, we, I think we have a question in our quarterly survey, which is, do you still see yourself working for Livestorm in two yours? And I think the answer to this question is really showing how people are feeling in the company.

[00:49:24] So I think I will keep this one.

[00:49:26] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:49:26] That’s a really good question. I’m going to include that in our survey. That’s really, really good guys. Thank you so much for, for taking the time out. And as you can probably tell, I could probably go on for hours asking you guys questions, but you know what I’ll save that for the next episode.

[00:49:44] When, when you guys are at a thousand employees, I’m pulling you back in and going. How did you go from a hundred to a thousand in a month? Tell me what did you guys, and so I’ll save that for that episode, but thank you. Thank you very much. And look forward to catching up again. Thanks guys.

[00:50:01] [00:50:00] Kevin Valencia: [00:50:01] Thank you

[00:50:01] Laure Saintpierre: [00:50:01] Thank you very much.

[00:50:02] Bye.

[00:50:04] Nelson Sivalingam: [00:50:04] And that’s it for this week. As always, you can find out where to connect with Kevin, Laure or myself in the show notes, or just head over to get gethownowstage.wpengine.com/podcast for everything you need to know about every episode of the show. If you enjoyed this episode, please do think about subscribing, sharing, leaving us a review or telling a friend.

[00:50:24] It goes a long way in helping the show grow. Thanks and see you next time.