When the queue is full of callers, emails are piling up and the Slack channel is eerily silent, FluentStream’s leaders are likely to take action to support their agents. Leaders could fire off platitudes or share lighthearted gifs in an effort to rally the troops, but that wouldn’t be in keeping with the company’s people-first culture. Instead, Skills Coach Des Souva said they’re more likely to step in to support.
“It’s common to see our support leadership team working alongside support agents,” said Souva. “This is done to help ease their workload and shows agents they are valued.
“Their stress levels are important to the leadership team,” she added.
Leaders stepping in to help their teams during times of need is just one of the many ways FluentStream’s people-first culture makes itself apparent. Of course, the walk isn’t just walked when the road gets rough.
From company get-togethers to career development, FluentStream’s people-first culture makes a tangible impact on all aspects of the employee experience — which is just as intended, according to Souva.
“FluentStream’s culture was built deliberately,” she said. “Leadership has put much thought and effort into making sure that people come first, whether it’s employees or customers.”
The Stream Team
FluentStream provides small and mid-size companies with communications software, including cloud calling and SMS solutions and analytics tools. The company was founded in 2010 and is currently in a growth sprint, appearing on the Inc. 5000 list the past six years. Although headquartered in Denver, its more than 85 employees — or Streamers — work remotely.
Leading by Example
A strong company culture is not something that just happens. It needs to be deliberately developed — and modeled by leadership.
At FluentStream it starts at the top with CEO Cass Gilmore. Julian Aguirre, a technical product owner, noted Gilmore’s virtual door is always open and that he’s more than willing to answer questions about the business — or roll up his sleeves and help employees solve tough problems. This people-first mindset is pervasive among leadership and has led to some sterling examples of selflessness.
It has also helped make the day-to-day more manageable for Kaitlin Nellans, an implementation project manager.
“My manager always says we are people-first — he makes it known that we have grace.”
Of course, it’s up to employees to put it all into practice. For Aguirre, the way people step in to help one another almost automatically is proof that his teammates are fully buying into what leadership is creating. In Souva’s case, it’s the fact that people treat her the same no matter how often they work with her.
“Without a people-first focus, it’d be harder to connect with the folks I don’t work with on a daily basis,” said Souva. “Knowing that the people I work with also embody our culture makes it easier to reach out for guidance and suggestions on what will benefit the company as a whole.”
Fully Remote, Completely Connected
As a remote-first company, virtual events are incredibly important to FluentStream. Not only do they bring the team together, but they also provide an opportunity to foster culture outside of workplace interactions. People operations takes responsibility for these gatherings, and if Aguirre’s list of events is any indication, they fully understand the value of their work and what it contributes to the company’s culture.
“From ‘ask me anythings’ to trivia and happy hours, we find activities that allow folks from different departments and with different titles and backgrounds to come together and have fun,” said Aguirre. “One standout thing we do is weekly virtual get-togethers where we share personal milestones, chat about recent vacations or current events, and just hang out.”
Along with these events, Souva added that the people ops team hosts monthly spotlight meetings showcasing individual employees. She called these “an essential part of our people-first culture” because they provide the opportunity for the company to better get to know a team member on a personal level, someone who they may not regularly work or interact with.
Outside of events, the people operations team has also instituted Cooleaf, an employee engagement platform where team members shout each other out for being cultural stewards and living the company’s values.
The Big Five
FluentStream has five company values, which it refers to as “Streamer Values.” These are:
- Customers are the center of our universe.
- We’re all in this together.
- Continuous improvement isn’t optional.
- Evolution happens. We embrace it.
- Hard work is fun.
These shoutouts are shared on Slack and in company meetings, and while recognition is nice, Nellans mentioned that there’s an additional benefit to being recognized for a job well done.
“Cooleaf is great because we accrue points that can be redeemed for gift cards or company swag,” said Nellans. “It’s an awesome incentive for the team.”
The Business of Culture
FluentStream’s investment in culture has started to attract attention. It recently won a Stevie Award for Great Employers and this past summer it captured the 2023 Tech Culture Award for Workplace Excellence from communications and tech industry news site TMCnet. Per TMCnet, the award goes to companies that “excel in all areas of employee experience/satisfaction, recruitment, retention and recognition.”
Souva provides a prime example of how FluentStream’s people-first culture impacts its retention efforts. She joined the company in 2018 as a customer support rep, and contrary to previous career experiences, leadership took an active interest in her career growth.
“Many managers only cared that I did the job as was expected,” said Souva. “By contrast, FluentStream works hard to make individuals feel valued, and many leaders invested their time in my career growth. It is because of the people-first culture that I have remained at FluentStream for five years.”
“It is because of the people-first culture that I have remained at FluentStream for five years.”
Companies that retain and develop talent tend to find success, and FluentStream is no exception. In the past two years, its customer base has grown by 78 percent and headcount has jumped 20 percent. Aguirre broke down just how investing in a people-first culture has been such a smart business move.
“A people-first focus is pivotal to the work I do because, at the end of the day, tech can only take us so far,” said Aguirre. “It’s the human connections and understanding that drive innovation, problem solving and success.”