There's no "I" in empowerment

The way a company's values are phrased can be a revelation. Here are the values of Boston tech firm Yesware:

  • We are brave, ambitious, and resilient.
  • We empower ourselves and our customers.
  • We grow by being genuine.
  • We seek mastery in our profession and our market.
  • We achieve outstanding results.

First off, these are descriptive statements, rather than commands. But there's something else: the word "we." "We grow by being genuine" sounds a lot different from "Grow by being genuine." We're all in this together.

Zoe Silverman, Director of Talent for Yesware, uses words and phrases like "transparent" and "collaborative" when describing company culture. These concepts work together. Silverman says, "We have all really tried to create this positive, supportive, tight-knit environment."

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Cross functioning

Yesware has a cross-functioning environment in which the goals of an individual team's project must be clearly aligned with the goals of the organization. We.

Using the well-known OKR (objectives and key results), framework, Yesware strives for a great cohesion across the firm.

"Everyone has a pretty good awareness within that framework of knowing what other teams are working on and how what you're working on contributes to that and how everything ties together to the company objectives." This transparent, flat, cross-functional approach helps Yeswarers empower one another.

We are Brave, Ambitious, and Resilient

Silverman has been with the company for five-and-a-half years, having seen plenty of ups and downs. "It definitely does take quite a bit of resiliency to be a part of a startup," Silverman says, "especially over the early days". Bravey, ambition, and resilience have all been critical to the team's ability to overcome these challenges to get to a good place.

Resiliency, and the bravery that fuels it, should not go unrewarded, and probably need some care and maintenance along the way. To that end, Yesware is giving one lollapalooza of a five-year anniversary gift to eligible employees: a "paid paid vacation." Five thousand dollars for "treating yourself to something you wouldn't otherwise do for yourself." Recipients of this reward have taken the opportunity to visit the Belize rainforests, Japan, New Orleans. Silverman said the company "wanted to give back," and one has to declare mission accomplished.

We Seek Mastery In Our Profession and Our Market

As a lot of companies do, Yesware encourages and facilitates professional development in the form of opportunities to take courses and attend conferences. Yet Silverman is especially proud of the company's career coaching program, which is open to all employees, whereas, she notes, this service is often open only to top execs. In this way, up-and-coming team members can consult about such things as career growth, and "what do they want to work on? Where do they want to be in two years?"

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Empowering with a Supportive Environment

A people-first culture like the one at Yesware also figures to include support and appreciation. For a company that regularly uses Slack for its communication, Disco fits right in. Says Silverman, "Disco really helps us live out this value of empowering each other." And it also serves as a constant reminder all five of the company values, since they use value-specific icons and call-outs.

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Diversity and Inclusion

One of Silverman's favorite things about Yesware is that it allows one to "pave your own path." She says, "If there's something you think is important or valuable or would contribute to the company in some way, and you think that you can help make that happen, there's a lot of room and kind of openness for people to pursue that." Indeed, Silverman's role changed "kind of organically" over time and she's been able to develop and shape her position.

One key way in which this is the case is her role in increasing the emphasis on diversity and inclusion at Yesware. She and her colleagues have developed a workplace where everyone can "celebrate each other's differences, whatever those may be, and make sure that this is an inclusive environment."

When it comes to inclusiveness, one has to confront the low number of women in tech industries. Yesware isn't just encouraging women to apply for positions or holding job fairs for women or trying in some nebulous way to make women feel "equal" at the company. Rather, they've done something quite remarkable, which is to bring their personnel to an even half-and-half split between men and women. In a blog post heralding that benchmark--rare in tech industries--Silverman writes that to achieve the kind of inclusiveness she strives for, one must acknowledge "the absolutely crucial role that women of color, queer women, immigrant women, and so many others play in the pursuit of real equality." Here's a great post from the team at Yesware that expands on how the company thinks about gender equality and diversity in the workplace.

Silverman acknowledges that there's still a lot of great work to be done on this topic at Yesware, but she's proud of the steps that Yesware's leaders have taken to build a diverse and inclusive work environment. Companies who don't place this sort of premium on truly kind and human relations with their employees will increasingly find they're losing the best talent to Yesware and others like them. We can guarantee it.

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There's no "I" in empowerment
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