Welcome to a series where we share actionable insider tips to make the workplace awesome. Today, we’re talking with WorkTango (formerly Kazoo) Senior People & Culture Specialist Jandee Speegle (they/them) about how WorkTango’s own HR team navigated the early days of the pandemic, what’s important about culture regardless of circumstances, and their company culture ideas for keeping the fully remote WorkTango workforce connected in 2020.
Jandee Speegle — mastermind of WorkTango’s fully remote Pride Month celebration in June 2020 — is a rock star at connecting people. When the WorkTango workforce went fully remote in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they learned these key things about company culture:
How to build company culture while remote
- When the future is uncertain, listen to your people first. Every time.
- Culture is about so much more than just fun prizes and free perks; it’s about belonging, connection, and impacting the world at large.
- If you think outside the box, you can bring your team closer together than ever before — even in a virtual world.
Want to unpack those learnings? Here’s our interview with Jandee.
WorkTango: Let’s put our cards on the table. Due to the pandemic, WorkTango (at the time named Kazoo) was forced to reduce our workforce by about 30%, which was heartbreaking for everyone involved. As a culture leader, how did you navigate the layoffs (and the pandemic in general) to try and keep our company culture intact?
Jandee: You’re right, it was heartbreaking. But we had to figure out how to best care for the team members still with us. Naturally, as HR leaders, we started by surveying our employees. We had to know what was going on in their brains. Since we had a strong culture pre-pandemic, and had built trust, people were open and transparent for the most part. We were able to take in their feedback, really listen, then ultimately drive our culture to a new level.
When you think culture, it’s easy to think about happy hours, cash prizes and holiday parties. But it’s about so much more than that. At its heart, company culture is about connection, about everyone feeling like they belong, about feeling seen and heard. So we started there, but also added lots of fun things into the mix as well.
WorkTango: What are some new things you’ve implemented for our now 100% remote team?
Jandee: When we reviewed our employee survey results, two problems stood out. People were burned out, and felt disconnected from each other. We were shaken up by the layoffs, by COVID; our routines were disrupted, and huge, important cultural movements were happening in the world. So my team stepped in to fill the gap:
Company culture ideas for Pride and Black Lives Matter
Something I’m most proud of is how we took what was happening in the world and made it part of our company culture. We’ve found some powerful ways to encourage allyship, for both the LGBTQ+ and Black communities. For one thing, we made a much bigger deal out of Pride Month and Juneteenth this year than we have in years past.
🌈 For Pride, we held virtual trivia nights, educational movie nights, and hosted what we called a “Quarantini” — a Zoom happy hour which was a safe place to talk about LGBTQ+ issues and ask questions.
✊🏾 For Juneteenth, in addition to naming it a company holiday, we chose some notable organizations and offered to match any employee donation given. We ended up donating over $1,000 total to causes that made a difference.
At WorkTango, we make DE&I a reality — and a point of company pride.
Why We Made Juneteenth a Company Holiday
Company culture ideas for health and routine
🏃♀️ On the lighter side, we started a new fitness challenge. Many of us became motivated to continue taking care of our physical health despite our routines being disrupted by the pandemic! We used Strava to create a WorkTango club. Anyone who joined it could get up and take a walk, do a yoga class, or go for a bike ride to earn points in our reward system.
The challenge lasted for a month, and at the end we awarded the three individuals with the most points with a prize. But it wasn’t really about the prize — we were all winners because we’d invested time into promoting health and connection.
Company culture ideas for online communication
💬 We’ve also created some new Slack channels to try and make up for those “water cooler moments” we all miss. The best part is, a lot of these channels have been created by employees — because like we discussed, even though the HR or People team at your company is tasked with creating culture, it really thrives when it comes from your people.
Since the pandemic started, people have started channels for diversity & belonging, baking and cooking, gardening, home projects, and more. It’s been a fun, easy way to continue sharing our personal lives with each other now that we’re all working remotely.
Company culture in the pandemic? Meet your new playbook.
A Playbook for the 4 Big HR Challenges Facing Today’s Leaders
WorkTango: What are some things you were doing to drive culture before COVID-19 that carried over? And what didn’t carry over as well?
Jandee: One of the best tools our team has to build the company culture at WorkTango is our Culture Committee. It’s made up of people from each department who are passionate about assessing our culture and giving feedback. The committee has been integral to us navigating new waters, because they are so closely linked to everyone else in the company. So it’s not just a few of us siloed together making decisions for everyone else; it’s truly a collaborative effort.
What didn’t carry over? Something we started right before the pandemic began — a salad club. The idea was that people would bring salad ingredients to share for lunch. Obviously we can’t do that in a virtual setting! So some ideas, like that one, we had to let go. Others, we could adapt for the remote setting. And still others work even better in the remote context!
Boost their morale, even while working from home.
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WorkTango: What’s most important to you as a People & Culture leader?
Jandee: Our employees are what make WorkTango. And they’re so talented — showing that off is important to me! If they ever leave, I want them to feel like it was a good experience, maybe just not the one for them at that time. I want to convey to each and every employee that they’re worth getting to know as a whole person, not just a performer. We couldn’t do what we do without our employees being their true unapologetic, authentic selves.
The bottom line? Culture is collective. It’s what we all put into it.
Take culture to the next level
At WorkTango, we’re revolutionizing how the world’s most forward-thinking companies engage and inspire their people. We offer the only holistic Employee Experience Platform built for the modern workplace that enables meaningful recognition and rewards, offers actionable insights through employee surveys, and supports alignment through goal setting and feedback.
WorkTango is built for the workplace we all want to be a part of – where priorities become clear, achievements are celebrated, and employees have a voice. To learn more, check out our platform overview video, or schedule a demo.