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How Flex-First Makes a People-First Company

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Posted in:  Company, People

Almost three years since the pandemic began, companies are still trying to find the best way to support their employees – and run their business.

During a series of talks we had with David Wortendyke, Highspot’s Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, we explored Highspot’s journey to its now flexible work model. Today, Highspot empowers our people to choose what hybrid or flexible work means to them, which is one of the reasons our company was recently recognized by Fortune Magazine and Great Place to Work® as one of 2022’s Best Workplaces for the third consecutive year, as well honored on PEOPLE’s Companies That Care list. Let’s dive into the conversation.

Between when Highspot was founded in 2012 and the start of the pandemic, did you ever imagine Highspot to be a flex-first company?

Prior to the pandemic, we were already very focused on creating great work environments, but primarily through our office spaces. We saw great value in face-to-face interactions, and felt it fostered a strong sense of belonging to have that human connection. It was a real shift in our thinking when the pandemic hit, because we knew we had created this great space, but there was an urgent call to think differently about what really served the needs of the company and our people.

What were some of leadership’s concerns about supporting employees through flexible work environments, and how have you addressed them?

One concern was – how are we going to make connections, foster belonging, and maintain the perceived value of in-person? That was a big question. Our primary way of doing so has been investing in the best-in-class communication and collaboration tools to help everyone work well together in any environment, or across all environments at once. We also doubled-down on the use of our weekly All-Hands meeting as an opportunity to connect employees to leadership, to each other, and to the company. Our Workplace Strategy team also does a great job of hosting virtual events weekly that allow for those coffee chats or water cooler conversations to happen across different teams – just in new formats.

Another concern was ensuring equity – no matter where you are, you won’t be left out of important conversations. So, now that we have more people back in the office, we are proactive and prescriptive about ensuring remote folks have a seat at the table and have a voice. Everyone is on a Zoom screen, and everyone raises their hand, regardless if they are in a conference room together or not.

Now that we are seeing folks come back to in person and face-to-face interaction, do you think this flex work is a trend, or here to stay?

Flexibility is really important, but there are still things to figure out because there isn’t just one mode of work that works for everyone. For us, we believe both the office and the virtual are here to stay. Now that we know how to do it well, we’ve learned valuable lessons on how to enable a flexible work mode and, for us, that is letting people choose the style of work that works best for them. You can choose to be in the office on what days work for you, or not at all. Above all, our most important principle is to inspire and empower people to do their best work. Our flexible approach empowers the individual to determine what works best for them and recognizes that “what works best” will likely change over time.

What are you hearing is most important for candidates today in comparison to 5 years ago?

We’re seeing a trend where many people are looking specifically for companies who are flexible in their current and future work location. They are saying they will only work at Highspot if we let them stay where they are  – they don’t want to relocate – and our model supports that in most situations. Even people near our hub locations that don’t have designated office spaces tell us they appreciate that in the future they may have the choice to come into an office. Our model supports the flexibility of our employees and their life changes. If something comes up and they need to move to a different location, they can stay with Highspot and we’ll support them.

Final thoughts?

We’ve landed a model that works, but the first months of the pandemic were hard. What we learned is we must always stay mindful of the world around us and be open to change. Today we see the value in a flexible work model and in letting our employees choose what works best for them. This direction wasn’t the easiest path, but we believe our approach is best for our people – and that’s what’s best for Highspot.

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