What We’ve Learned About Culture at Workday

How do you put culture first at a fast growing company? Workday was thrilled to rise to #7 on the “FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work for in 2018.” Yet we've also hit some bumps along the way. Workday Chief People Officer Ashley Goldsmith shares three things we've learned and some new things we're doing—which may be useful for other companies navigating culture ups and downs.

Maintaining a great place to work when your global workforce is doubling in size every couple of years is no easy feat. So when we learned we’ve climbed to #7 on the recently released “FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work for in 2018,” we were both humbled and thrilled.

It’s encouraging to know that a large part of the ranking is determined by the results of anonymous employee surveys. Yet like any fast-growing company, we’ve hit some bumps along the way—a few years ago we were getting some feedback that not all employees were having great experiences.

We took a number of steps to help ensure our culture stays on track, and we’ve been pleased with the results we’re seeing. I want to share three important learnings I think can apply to nearly every company when it comes to navigating the inevitable culture ups and downs:

1. Make Culture a Priority

That seems obvious, right? But even with the best intentions, culture can start to slip into the shadows behind an organization’s most pressing business priorities. To avoid that terrible moment when you realize your culture is slipping, your leadership team can work together to make culture a priority each and every day—which will set up your organization to more quickly seize growth opportunities and better deal with the inevitable challenges that come your way.

As your company grows bigger, it doesn’t have to lose what makes people want to work there.

For example, at Workday we decided to invest in programs for our people leaders, since they have the greatest cultural impact on our employees’ day-to-day experiences. To start, we brought every single one of our people leaders from around the world together for two days to meet with Workday’s co-founders and our senior leadership team, to learn why we need to nurture our culture and how to create positive experiences for employees. This is now an annual program we call the People Leadership Summit, designed for every new people manager.

2. Listen to Your Workforce, and Take Action

One of the best ways you can make culture a priority is to really listen to employees and understand areas where culture may be strained. At Workday we partner with Great Place to Work, applying our own Workday survey technology to engage employees through two questions we send out weekly that they can answer in a few seconds from their phone, tablet, or laptop. Aggregated insights from these questions are shared with our people leaders through dashboards, helping them understand the experiences they’re creating for their teams. Based on those insights, we’ve started delivering targeted coaching content to people leaders through our Workday Learning application that suggests how they can better support their teams. We can also compare our survey results to the broader database of Great Place to Work, helping us to consistently measure the health of our culture.

Last year we recognized 143 people leaders whose teams reported having the highest level of employee experience. We celebrate these people leaders and keep working to help all people leaders achieve similar levels of recognition.

3. Create Meaningful Employee Experiences

Everyone appreciates great workplace perks, but creating meaningful employee experiences goes beyond that. At Workday, we’ve been honing our focus on moments that matter. So whether it’s helping our people leaders and employees find a mentor, explore peer learning, build desired skills, or connect with other colleagues (and they can leverage features in Workday that support these and other career growth and learning goals), our mission is to empower our team and enable their growth.

Our continued rise in Fortune’s ranking has been humbling. And our journey over the past few years has taught us something important: As your company grows bigger, it doesn’t have to lose what makes people want to work there. With continued commitment and investments, you can maintain and even further develop a great place to work. We know culture is a journey that has no end, and we’re excited to keep innovating and exploring together.

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