People teams everywhere might be overthinking things.
Or at least that’s how it seems when team members from Simply Business talk about how they have avoided the wave of employee burnout sweeping the tech industry. Instead of panicking about retention and buy-in, Learning and Development Program Manager Liza Gottsegen said that the company has continued to quietly focus on what it always has: building connections between employees, teams and customers.
“We are intentional about how we build connections; the communications we put out and even the policies we enact,” Gottsegen said. “We consider how each of those elements is going to make our people feel and what it will make them do as a result.”
While leadership is careful to do its part to nourish connections through thoughtful benefits, staffing choices and a comprehensive onboarding program, Vice President of Commercial Strategy Scott Aiello explained that individual teams often operate within the framework of Simply Business’s people-first culture to carve out unique ways of bonding.
“Our culture isn’t some prescriptive order coming from the top, it’s truly driven by our people,” Aiello said. “And what works for one team might not work for another. We let teams lean into their personalities, while also having companywide events that everyone enjoys.”
Take Simply Business’s Customer Service Appreciation Week, a companywide celebration of agents on the frontlines with small businesses. According to Customer Solutions Center Supervisor Deidra Harris, this week not only highlights the importance of the team working together, but also highlights how each agent builds meaningful connections with the customer.
“It is the most fantastic week I’ve ever experienced in any workplace,” Harris said. “We shared so much love with our agents individually, and really made sure to thank them all. It’s just so incredible to work somewhere where you’re actually valued, and your opinions matter.”
To fully unpack how Simply Business forms connections — starting before a new hire even joins the company — Built In connected with Gottsegen, Aiello and Harris. They spoke to why building real camaraderie is important, how these relationships have furthered the company’s success, and how some of these bonds have even turned into life-long friendships.
A “better normal”
How does Simply Business build social capital? What does that look like in a hybrid work environment?
Customer Solutions Center Supervisor Deidra Harris: For my team, we pride ourselves on bonding, building and linking together as a team. We want to be comfortable with joking with each other, talking about our families or what we’re making for dinner. We’re building relationships within our team because if we can do that, we can definitely build relationships with our customers. Every single person has a different background, and by linking together, we can ensure everyone is able to work in a positive atmosphere where they’re going to be set up for success.
Vice President of Commercial Strategy Scott Aiello: Even before Covid-19 hit, many companies tried to figure out how to connect people, and oftentimes their solutions revolved around drinking activities. At Simply Business, we’ve always focused on other ways to connect with each other outside of traditional happy hours. That has continued through the pandemic; in fact, we had a 30-minute trivia challenge this morning. Our relationship-building events not only foster connections between our employees, they also support our customer base as we partner with them and incentivize small business gift cards as prizes.
Before the pandemic, we went on companywide trips together, like to New Orleans and Lisbon, Portugal. We’ve always been focused on fostering connections with each other. I’ve been at the company for years, and I’ve had the pleasure of forming new friendships that I wouldn’t have otherwise made. Some of them have actually become my closest friends.
What does building connections with new hires look like? Why is that important to your team?
Learning and Development Program Manager Liza Gottsegen: It is so important that new hires are able to build connections on day one — or even before day one. As soon as our offer is accepted, we want that new hire to know how excited we are to have them.
Across the company, we have an onboarding program called Week 0. During this first week of onboarding, we stress to our new hires that it’s OK that they are not going to be delivering within their first two weeks. We want to dedicate time to ensure that they’re set up for success. That means attending facilitated sessions around key business areas, as well as bonding with tenured employees and their new hire cohort.
Those cohorts are truly special. I love seeing people join the call on their first day. Everyone’s nervous, but then by day five everyone is talking and laughing. It’s so great to see that progression of connection over the first few days and weeks.
Harris: As the newbie of this group, I remember my first few weeks really well. Everyone was so welcoming and thoughtful — I even received a welcome package in the mail. I think of how that made me feel, and I make sure that everyone who onboards after me has that same great experience. We’ve onboarded 80 new agents since I’ve started, and we reach out to them on their first day to introduce ourselves. I also like to hold mixers on Friday evenings, where we can welcome our new team members and share some laughs and make them feel welcome.
Aiello: From a management perspective, it makes everything so much easier when new hires have a structured and comprehensive curriculum to go through. They come out of that first week having a lay of the land and a common framework for understanding our customers and our internal processes. Even since I started, that philosophy has remained the same.
I was at my previous employer for 20 years, so you can imagine how exhausting it was to start a new job. But at Simply Business, you’re allowed to take time to get to know what you’re delivering while having realistic expectations placed on you during that time.
How do teams connect cross-functionally?
Harris: One thing that I’ve noticed is that SB is very passionate about making sure everyone has a voice. Leadership wants to know what working here looks like for you, and how they can make your job better, easier and more efficient.
We’re now executing cross-team trainings so that not only are people learning who everyone is at the company — remember, we onboarded 80 new people recently — but tenured employees can share their knowledge. We’re always looking to update resources and help our people do their jobs. Every single employee is different, and we have to be chameleons in order to serve them.
Gottsegen: We do a good job of sharing information between teams and throughout the company. There’s a lot of communication that gets distributed through our bi-weekly newsletters, monthly update meetings, and catch-ups with leadership. We also have team meetings and employees have weekly one-on-ones with their managers. There are many forums in place for sharing the latest, which helps us collaborate with each other more effectively.
How does this internal focus on connection extend outside the business? What kind of connections are you able to build with customers and insurance carriers?
Aiello: My team often connects with both partners and insurance carriers as we build relationships to work together. We are expanding with our carriers at a relatively rapid pace, increasing our business with them year over year. It’s necessary that we have their trust, since we’re digitally putting their products on our shelves. It’s important that they understand that our agents are representing them fairly.