How Hi Marley Empowers Employees and Fosters a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace

Hi Marley was founded with two bold goals: to transform the insurance industry and create the best workplace culture their team members have ever experienced.

Written by Written by Jeff Kirshman
Published on Jul. 20, 2022
How Hi Marley Empowers Employees and Fosters a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace
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At Hi Marley, inclusion means creating a culture where everyone feels comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. Just ask Hi Marley’s Chief People Officer, Stefanie Bishop, Principal Product Strategist, Hugh Allen, and Senior DEI and People Partner, Wanny Muñoz, three teammates with very different life experiences and job descriptions but one unified goal: to foster a collective sense of purpose on the path to reimagining the insurance industry. The first step? Relationship-building.

As a first-generation American citizen and in her role at Hi Marley, Muñoz understands firsthand the importance of developing and encouraging deep, meaningful relationships. 

“The more we humanize one another, the easier it is to check our biases, practice empathy, and remain open to experiences and opinions different from our own,” Muñoz said. That’s why she’s currently embarking on a “listening tour,” where she spends time gathering interpretations and assessments from key stakeholders from every department and level to better understand the DEI-related challenges and opportunities for the business.

This exercise illustrates just one way Hi Marley is living into its culture of humility and inclusivity, said Bishop.

“We encourage everyone to approach situations with empathy and curiosity first, seeking to understand,” Bishop added. “Our people are open to learning from anyone, anywhere, and continually look for ways to better ourselves so we can maximize our strengths and work together to achieve our goals.”

“Making insurance lovable and transforming requires collaboration,” said Allen. “What drew me to Hi Marley is that the company believes that ideas can come from anywhere and encourages trying new things and taking measured risks — removing hierarchy drives innovation.” 

To that end, the Boston-area startup also provides employees with a program dubbed “Marley & MEE,” which promotes a culture of continuous learning by recruiting team members to lead events on the topics that matter most to them through a collection of six employee engagement groups. Whether focused on social justice, holistic wellness or innovation, each committee reflects how Hi Marley values the ideas and feedback of its employees and the meaningful steps it has taken to foster a culture of belonging and empowerment. 

 

Marley & MEE Committees

  • DEI & Womxn Across Marley
  • Hub of Clubs
  • Marley Entertainment
  • Marley IO
  • Volunteering
  • Wellness

 

Built In Boston spoke with Bishop, Allen and Muñoz to learn more about Hi Marley’s approach to company culture, fostering a sense of belonging in the workplace and how investing in employee happiness and empowerment translates into an improved customer experience.

 

Hi Marley logo on glass doors in the office
Hi Marley

 

WHAT IS HI MARLEY?

Hi Marley is the intelligent communication platform purpose-built for the insurance industry. Built by people who know and love insurance, the platform enables hassle-free texting across the entire ecosystem, empowering insurance professionals and policyholders alike. Hi Marley’s analytics deliver novel insights that fuel continuous improvement. The solution is built for the enterprise: fast to deploy, easy to use and seamlessly integrates with other core systems. Hi Marley empowers leading insurance carriers to reinvent the customer and employee experience.  

 

What does a positive workplace culture look like to your company?

Chief People Officer Stefanie Bishop: From the get-go, our founders had two bold goals in mind: They wanted to make this the best place anybody has ever worked, and they wanted to change the insurance industry. These goals are always top of mind when we bring in talent and think about the culture of the company. 

Senior DEI & People Partner Wanny Muñoz: I’m a firm believer that culture is built by the employees — that we co-create culture. That’s a principle we instill on our team. How do we collectively make this a place that works for everyone? How are we going to empower employees to take ownership of what it feels like and looks like to work here? 

 

I AM BECAUSE WE ARE

Included alongside Hi Marley’s core values of “Max Courage” and “Be Humble” is “Ubuntu,” a Nguni Bantu term that translates to “I am because we are.” Hi Marley believes true success is being part of something much bigger than any single individual or company. Only by aligning their goals behind a shared purpose can employees achieve their fullest potential — together.

 

What is your favorite element of your company’s culture?

Muñoz: At Hi Marley, we genuinely know that our co-workers are good human beings. While we might not always see eye to eye, and things can be challenging at times, there’s an intention to want to engage with others in respectful and meaningful ways. I’ve been entrusted with a great responsibility to initiate, encourage and facilitate all kinds of conversations, and I think that speaks to the leadership here. I’m grateful to Hi Marley for creating a space where I’m empowered to do what’s needed to ensure our culture is continually growing, evolving and being a place people want to show up to every day.

Bishop: Everyone here is truly passionate about what we’re doing, our mission and working together. When we align our vectors and have our superpowers going in the same direction, there’s no end to what we can achieve. There’s a magic to that.

 

 

How does your company demonstrate a true commitment to its culture?

Bishop: We are intentional about it and committed to the work it takes. It doesn’t just come together on its own overnight. You don’t just pick some core values, snap your fingers and it happens. It’s about actively making sure everyone understands their unique impact on the business, whether it’s the culture, product, or the go-to-market strategy.

Now more than ever, people are re-evaluating their priorities; they want purpose in their careers. Hi Marley’s culture is special; it was built on three core values: being humble, maximizing courage, and living by Ubuntu. We’re dedicated to retaining that culture as we scale and being sure the people we hire have values that align with Hi Marley’s. Whether it’s professional development, mentorship or different opportunities, we want to make sure we give our employees what they need to be engaged and fulfilled in their roles. We want our employees to stay at Hi Marley and continue to grow with us.

Muñoz: We didn’t just create core values. We identified the behaviors that align with those core values. When we do our performance reviews, those discussions involve how employees demonstrate being humble, having max courage and working together. It’s about being clear to our teams on what we’re looking for and holding each other accountable. 

Principal Product Strategist Hugh Allen: That’s one of the things I love about Hi Marley: It’s not just a peer-to-peer thing. It can be peer-to-leader. When everyone feels comfortable having honest conversations — this is how I feel, this is how this is being perceived — we can work together toward ensuring our behaviors align with the core values we see up on the wall of our office. 

 

Related Reading:22 Boston Startups to Watch in 2022

 

Hi Marley group photo outside at a team event
Hi Marley

 

What differentiates your team’s culture from other places you have worked?

Bishop: I have 20-plus years of experience working at larger corporate companies, yet the amount that I have grown professionally and personally in the last four-and-a-half years while at Hi Marley is immeasurable. To be with a mission-driven, purpose-driven startup with such strong core values, and to work alongside people who are passionate and growth-minded is unique; I am very grateful.

“Be humble” is one of our core values, and I’ve seen more and more evidence of humility as we continue our journey from startup to scale-up. This value comes to life in the way we promote a culture of gratitude and recognition, with things like a Slack channel devoted to sharing appreciation for the different ways colleagues made an impact every week. Or, during our biweekly all-hands meetings, where different employees share accomplishments they’re proud of and lessons learned from mistakes.

Allen: In one sense, I’ve been super lucky. I worked in insurance for 20 years prior to Hi Marley, and while I always had great leadership, I was also working in an industry where things often felt punitive in terms of what we sold. It was tough having a conversation at the bar with my friends and talking about my job. It can appear to be not a very sexy or innovative industry. 

The difference here is this powerhouse team of people who allow the positive experience we have as employees to permeate into our product. Hi Marley is revolutionary for a number of reasons, the first of which is that we’re able to surprise and delight our carriers in such a way that we’re not only consultants to our product, but consultants within the industry. 

 

What is your leadership approach to ensure a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment? 

Muñoz: My lived experience as a woman of color, particularly in this country, has definitely shaped the type of leader that I am in this work. At startups like Hi Marley, the idea of being nimble and adaptable are often celebrated, and I think that’s where my skill set really comes in. With maturity and time, you learn to have empathy for people who don’t know that they’re supporting a system that is inequitable, and that it takes a lot of education around ideas like, “What does this mean for me? What does this mean for you? How can we make this work for us so that we all feel like we have a little piece of the pie?” Because there’s enough pie for everybody. 

 

High-Five Program  

Every week, Hi Marley employees have the opportunity to formally recognize teammates by sharing the impact they had on them. Employees use hashtags to align their actions with company values. The high-fives then populate in a Slack feed where everyone can see and share in the appreciation. Why? Because the power of peer appreciation shouldn’t be underestimated.

 

How does a strong team culture set you up for success in your role?

Allen: When you feel the level of conviction and authority we have at Hi Marley, you can really extend yourself and the team. Being on the product team in particular means falling in love with our customer’s problems, and then prioritizing solutions for our customers. 

Bishop: Thinking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (psychological safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization), you need to satisfy the first four levels of needs to transcend and self-actualize. We’re trying to approach things that way, where we’re creating an environment of safety and belonging so that we have the ability to level-up and achieve more than we ever could alone. 

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Hi Marley.

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