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Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement
Customer Experience in 2021Customer Experience in 2021

How far have customer experience (CX) digitization efforts come in 2021?

How are you approaching meeting across different time zones, especially within your team?

Top Answer: Samsara is unique in that for our revenue size, we are not globally distributed like a lot of other companies. We're primarily based in the Bay Area and the UK, with a smattering of leadership throughout Western Europe. We have a small concentration of folks in Atlanta and a lot of people have relocated for cost of living purposes and other COVID-related reasons. But everybody is attuned to Pacific time, so our business hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST. We've recently hired a lot of folks on the east coast and we have not acclimated to them at all. They're working late into their evening to cover up to a 6 p.m. time slot, and I'm not hearing a lot of conversation around that. Now that we've started to expand into other time zones and other geographies from a workforce perspective, it'll be interesting to see how the company starts to acclimate. Even before COVID, it was a very office-centric environment, so it took a large cultural shift to move to remote working. To layer in competing time zones as you're building up those teams adds complexity. And it's not as if you have one person in every major region that helps to cover that overlap between the two. If you just have one person in California and one person in Asia, what do you do with that? That's going to be an interesting problem for us to solve.

What are some key concerns as you transition to working either in a hybrid model, or in-office full time?

Top Answer: One thing that’s top of mind around returning to work is figuring out how to adapt to having to dress for the office again. We've been working from home for so long, where everyone's only seeing the top half of you. I joke with some folks that I could be 10 feet tall and they would never know. How do you make that transition in a way that's not such a shock to the system? What is the proper cadence? Is it three or four days a week? How will seating be done? As the return to work becomes more of a reality, especially in Northern California, all of those pieces need to be considered.

Do new technologies increase staff engagement?

Top Answer: I was in a company that sold electronic components when it launched an e-commerce platform for the first time. We saw some competitors starting to set up these online platforms to execute transactions, so we decided to set up a work team. We sent them to a different site about 15 miles away from the corporate headquarters and told them, “You don't have to follow any of the rules. We've never done this before, so figure out what you want to do. You're not bound by anything that's going on here.” For team morale, they had a huge fish tank at this site and they would take turns feeding the fish. When it was time to come back to corporate headquarters, they wanted to bring the tank back with them. The facilities people said, “No way are we putting a fish tank in here. You can tell them no right now.” It became a cultural jousting match, but we didn't end up moving the tank and the team was pissed. It had become the symbol of their freedom and we were taking them back into the corporate fold. This e-commerce project wasn’t an IT-inspired idea. It was a competitive requirement and we recruited people from the IT group to support it. But the IT people that we put on that team had the greatest sense of job satisfaction that they’d ever experienced in their careers. Every morning they would have a scrum meeting where the marketing people would show them where sales were made on the e-commerce site the day before. The IT folks would then make coding changes to the site. They felt so viscerally engaged in the business process of selling the components, whereas the rest of the IT teams were three steps away from those transactions. The rest of the IT group was just in the background, helping the people that help the people that sell these products.

Employee Engagement happens through:

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How do you improve your communication with your team?

Top Answer: I did a book club for my team on Leadership is Language, by David Marquet. The book proves that even though we tell people things like, "Speak up if you see something wrong,” and, “You should feel empowered," we don't follow through in every other way. He uses the written transcripts from big disasters — like ships sinking, space shuttles blowing up and oil rigs catching on fire — which document where things went wrong to prove how our language is a big part of the issue. To give you an example, "Are we ready to launch?" is the wrong question to ask. What I should ask is, "How do we know we're ready to launch?" Asking, "Do you have any concerns," will give you a binary answer. It’s better to ask your team, "What concerns do you have?" The question alone forces the dialogue to be open. Whereas asking for a binary answer forces the listener into fight-or-flight mode, and they think, "I have to answer yes or no — is it yes or no?" They're trying to compile all this information, but if you open it up, they can just share what they're thinking about instead of trying to answer your question within a defined box.

Employee Enablement is:

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Why is burnout common in cybersecurity?

Top Answer: A lot of people don't recognize that you can’t constantly wear the cape and expect to keep the status quo. It's unattainable. Having a military background, I recognized a long time ago that there are only so many people I can save. I can do my best and it might still not be good enough, which is a fact of life. But you try to sweat in peace so you don't bleed in war. In cybersecurity, we're not permitting people to sweat right now because of the load that is placed on that individual the second they sign up for the job. I was privileged to do the remediation for a very large nation-state-level attack in Montreal in 2016. The CISO was handed his hat immediately because they were such a high-profile organization and the effect was global in dynamic. No matter how much money had been invested in their cybersecurity, both in terms of technology and resources, it still didn't matter. The CISO did as much as he could but was still left hanging in the wind. The team was left to pick up the pieces and carry on. Another CISO was dropped in and they ran things the same way their predecessor had done, as if nothing ever happened.  I’m coaching a number of CISOs in a group where we can share candidly, and I often hear from a lot of my female peers that there is an institutional bias thrust on them right away. At the same time, the pressure is gender-neutral in the sense that wherever you come from, there is this onus on you to put on the cape and go save the world. And you can't take a day off, so it sucks for everyone in a lot of ways. We have had powerful technology at hand, but I also know that I can't save the world and I'm not here to do that. There are certain pieces of the puzzle that you just cannot fix, so why put in the effort to try? Just mitigate as much as you can, until you get to a place where you know that you’ve done all you could. If you've done your best, you’ve reduced the liability as much as possible because you are trying to do the right thing. When something does happen, and it will, you are better prepared than you were 8 months ago when you initially took on the role, which is often the case.

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How does your organization use volunteering initiatives to attract or retain talent?

Top Answer: We've run a number of experiments with our folks to create the life-work balance they all look for. We believe in using citizen philanthropy to attract people by helping them become part of something bigger. We've published our 2030 goals, which are all around environmental sustainability, growth and corporate social responsibility. That's helping us attract much more talent because they feel that they are a part of something meaningful. I'm lucky that VMware has invested in those things for a number of years. There is attrition, but it ebbs and flows. It hasn't been that high for us.

How do you communicate the importance of embracing failure?

Top Answer: As I went up through the ranks, I found the inability to tolerate failure so interesting. We all fail every day, at every single step. We wouldn't be where we are now if we had not failed almost every day. Rather than embracing that failure, you suddenly have this artificial, stoic personality at higher levels. People start to think, "Failure is not an option, you have to be 100% up all the time," which are limiting beliefs. You should embrace failure because that's the only way you learn and grow. I talk about it in depth in my book, Leading with Empathy.

What's your preferred style of leadership?

Top Answer: Difficult to say that one style applies. Have you heard of Situational Leadership? A leader needs to align with the expectations of his team. A new joiner needs a directive style, while a seasoned professional will be extremely annoyed with a directive style. Similarly, a new joiner might be lost with a coaching style. So the mark of a good leader is the one who can anticipate the needs of his people and practice adaptive and situational leadership. I have a team of experts, so I do have a great opportunity to expand them and eventually kill my own job. Therefore I practice “coaching style” i.e. supportive leadership.