Episode 240: Eric Lindroos on Cultivating an Inclusive Workplace Through Enablement

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Eric Lindroos from Culture Amp join us. Eric, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Eric Lindroos: Absolutely, thank you so much for having me, I am so excited to be on the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. My name is Eric Lindroos, and a little bit about me is that I love traveling, I am a proud uncle, I am a wine enthusiast, and I just moved to Portland, Oregon after living in Ireland for the last year. I am also on an active surrogacy journey to fatherhood, so fingers crossed, I should also be a new papa by the end of the year.

I love all things enablement, of course. Recently, I joined Culture Amp as their revenue enablement partner with a focus on building out our go-to-market outbound sales motion. If you’re not familiar with Culture Amp, we are the leading employee experience platform driving engagement, development, performance, and retention for over 6,000 organizations. Prior to Culture Amp, I was the 24th employee at Gong, I spent almost 4.5 years with the company and held roles that ranged from sales to recruiting from the SDR enablement manager to the go-to-market global enablement onboarding manager as well, so that’s a little bit about me and again, I’m so excited to be spending my time with you.

SS: Eric, we’re so excited to have you on the podcast today, so thank you so much for joining us and bringing this energy. I want to start by talking about maximizing sales productivity because that’s top of mind for a lot of companies, especially given the current economic climate. With your experience building global learning programs that scale onboarding, training, and coaching, how can enablement help to drive productivity?

EL: Great question. Right now, onboarding and training are definitely top of mind for everyone given the current economic environment, especially if your employees are still remote, or I think if you’re one of the lucky companies that are still hiring. I think having a strong onboarding program is crucial when facilitating an impactful new hire experience. I think a strong onboarding program ensures that new hires feel connected, have cross-functional exposure, have access to leaders, mentors, and buddies, and are given the resources and content that they need to hit the ground running.

I also firmly believe that a strong program is key when driving a new higher engagement and productivity. Sorry to say this, but if you’re bored, your new hires are also bored and that’s a ton of time, information, and enablement resources that are just going in one ear and out the other. I think that when properly engaged and when there are a variety of learning styles incorporated into the programs that you’re running, you’re going to see that engagement and the adoption results that you’re looking for. Those desired results, of course, are going to lead to a decrease in your ramp time of new hires and just employee retention long term. When it comes to new hire onboarding specifically, I see onboarding really as the initial foundation that training programs and reinforcement programs should be built on to ensure a deep understanding and skill set of one’s new role.

SS: That is fantastic advice. Now, because you have that global experience, what are some of the unique challenges that come along with designing global programs that really kind of address regional markets?

EL: Oh my gosh, that question is a trigger. The first thing that comes to mind is time zones. Definitely, time zones are going to be a challenge, but I think how you overcome that challenge to the best of your ability is to try to overlap as many live sessions as you can. If I have US and EMEA onboarding or training, I know that I have an EMEA until like 6 PM their time, which means I’m going to get as much out by 8 to 10 a.m. PST as I can because I want to ensure that teams feel really connected and not siloed from a global perspective and because I want to drive engagement and performance. I also want to guarantee a space for global mindshare and just bonding.

When it comes to sessions and trainings that might fall outside of those overlapped hours, I am going to make sure that I record every single one of those sessions and then I’m going to build global library folders of that content to ensure that I drive foundational consistency across the teams. Also, I want to make sure I’m tracking against the completion of any of those self-led programs and trainings to ensure and measure the adoption as well from a global lens.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I also think tech is definitely something that can be a challenge if you don’t have the right tech resources in place. In my opinion, if you’re not recording and analyzing the impact of your global sessions, you’re never going to scale or have the organizational and go-to-market consistency in the way that you want. I also think that it’s really important for you to utilize your learning management system, have a knowledge-based platform for collaboration, and invest in an e-learning solution. I think with all of that, you’re also going to help drive reinforcement and development across your teams. Over here at Culture Amp, I am lucky enough to have all of those resources, and from a global lens, I do not know what I would do without them, specifically because we have teams over in APAC, EMEA, and over here in North America.

SS: I’d love to actually drill into that because it sounds like you have teams all around the world and obviously there are a lot of differences in background and cultures if you’re scaling global programs. How do you build a program that makes sense for different geography?

EL: I think first you have to seek to understand. Be slow to build and fast to listen is my mantra, which is why we have two ears and one mouth. From a foundational level, I think that there should be a program baseline that reflects the company first. When we’re thinking about this, your company values, your value proposition, your buyer personas, your customer use cases, and your leadership should all be accessible and the same regardless of geography. Build that foundation and then scale it because that’s how employees feel engaged and brought into a mission.

For example, our mission at Culture Amp is to improve the lives of 100 million people with our platform and I guarantee you that even in the short amount of time I’ve been here, you can feel that that is our mission that everybody is fighting for every single day, regardless of location because it was a part of our global onboarding experience. I say, double down on that baseline and then build programs that reflect the nuances of diverse teams and regions. My grandmother always taught us growing up, never to be the smartest one in the room. She said, if you’re the smartest one in the room, get out of that room because you’re not learning, you’re not growing, you’re not being challenged. Do not try to be the smartest one in the room if it’s not your culture. Don’t build your programs around your own preconceived ideas of what should work. I highly encourage you to seek out employees or consultants in those regions and let them be the smartest ones in the room.

I think a huge challenge that I’ve also experienced while building out global programs is not understanding that there are global market differences and thinking that what worked for you in one place is going to guarantee success in another. I have seen this time and time again, leaders saying ‘well that’s what we do in the US so that’s what we’re doing in EMEA. Let’s cut and copy that for other regions.’ I think that this approach is literally the deathbed for so many organizations trying to expand globally or scale programs and training efforts. Every single region is different and taking a very thorough and intentional approach to understanding those differences is imperative to see success. When it comes to global programs, talk tracks are received differently, the competitive landscape is different, and company brand awareness is never apples to apples, in my experience. Marketing and lead gen efforts need to be adjusted accordingly and global programs have to reflect those incongruences in order to be successful as well.

Let’s also make note that work-life balance looks very different across continents. That has to be factored into global programs and just the conversation. The live-to-work mentality in North America is alive and well compared to the work-to-live mindset that you see with a lot of organizations in Europe. I think that’s a huge challenge that one should be aware of when building out these global programs. Just have that sort of top of mind to have a conversation around with your leadership team and your enablement team as well.

SS: Your grandmother sounds like a very smart woman, I have to say. I love that advice. Now, in addition to your experience with the global programs, you’re also really passionate about DE&I, in the workplace. What are some of your best practices for creating an open and inclusive environment for learning?

EL: What a question, I feel like I could talk about this for hours. I say first be your authentic self and be unapologetic about it. This obviously looks different for everyone and that’s completely okay, as long as you always feel comfortable. When it comes to feeling comfortable bring up your partners, children, or your weekend activities in your work conversations. Obviously, as long as it’s professional, don’t make a career-limiting move, that is not what I’m proposing here, but show up as your authentic self. Join an employee resource group or otherwise known as an ERG and if there isn’t one, start one. At Gong, I created Proud Gongsters with the help of my CMO, which was an LGBTQ+ Gongster community. The workplace here at Culture Amp already had incredible resources and ERGs in place, so on my first day I was added to camp out and was immediately a part of a community where I felt accepted and supported.

I’m also a huge fan of building a DEI or ERG session into your onboarding so that new hires understand the DNA of your company and are encouraged to show up as their true and authentic self from week one or day one. At Culture Amp, we are very heavy on using our pronouns in our Slack and Zoom profiles, which creates a safe space for others to just show up. It also tells them that we support them for whoever they are. I would also say to be intentional about training on unconscious biases so that you can educate your talent teams, you’re hiring managers, and your employees. Fight to have a diverse workplace and diversity in your leadership team so that people see themselves in all aspects of the organization. As you can tell, I think there’s a lot that you can do, but I do guarantee if you do any of the things I just mentioned, you are going to create a space that promotes open and inclusive environments and people are just going to learn organically because they feel comfortable. Last but not least, if your company doesn’t want to support what I mentioned to you or you feel like you have to hide, find a company and a leader that does support you for you.

SS: I couldn’t agree more with that statement, Eric. You just touched on this just a second ago, but I’d love to drill into this a little bit more and that’s around leadership’s role in this. What advice do you have for leaders of global teams to help them create a more inclusive team culture?

EL: My first piece of advice is to listen to this podcast and follow Sales Enablement PRO. No plug intended, and I know you don’t make me say that, but jokes aside, educate yourself about DEI Initiatives and other cultural norms so that you can be a leader who educates others. Create a space where diversity is not just tolerated, but it’s absolutely celebrated. Demand for an atmosphere that promotes psychological safety for absolutely everyone on your team. Just be curious about others and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that you might not know the answer to. I feel like a lot of times we are so scared to look silly or stupid or ask the wrong thing when it comes to something that we don’t know, but in my experience, I promise you that your teams are going to welcome this dialogue because it shows that you care and that you want to grow and become more aware of something that maybe you don’t understand.

I’d say provide anonymous feedback surveys as well and be open, not defensive about the results and data. If you’re not collecting employee engagement data around these conversations, I firmly believe that you should be, especially if you have global teams because everybody is different and everybody needs something different. No plug intended, but I do know a platform, Culture Amp, that can help you if you want to talk to me about that further. Those are just a few things that a leader can do to really drive a more inclusive culture within their teams.

SS: Well, absolutely, and I will outright plug it because I have used Culture Amp before at past companies and I have to say, I absolutely love it. It does exactly what it is intended to do, particularly around DEI&B, which is near and dear to me. I’m all about the plug for this one.

EL: I love that, thank you.

SS: Thank you, Eric, closing question for you. This goes back to the environment that we’re in today, at least particularly in the tech sector. How can teams balance a healthy culture with what a lot of companies are feeling about the need to maximize productivity?

EL: Oh my gosh, trigger again, for me as somebody who has experienced burnout professionally, this one definitely hits home. I think it’s really important to find a healthy balance of people first and I think that once you do that, productivity and business will seamlessly overlap. There’s actually just a quote I recently heard from Brad Bird who’s an academy award-winning director and he said ‘If you have low morale, for every dollar you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every dollar you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay more attention to morale.” I totally agree. Find what that people’s first balance looks like and everything else I think is going to come to place.

I also think it’s really important right now more than ever in a remote environment if you do have remote teams or global teams to have really clear expectations around KPIs. What does that look like for you and for your team? I have now been a part of two different companies where we’ve had company-wide recharge days, and I think that that’s an incredible way to create a healthy culture of balance as well. It also shows your employees that you value them and you care and when you demonstrate that to your team, and to your employees and that’s a part of your DNA, again to that quote I mentioned, you’re going to see the return because people are going to want to work harder for you and for your mission.

Also, I actually encourage people to take time off to recharge. This is something I haven’t always been good at myself, especially over the last few years, and now in this remote environment where we a lot have found ourselves, the burnout is so real. I’ve worked for companies in the past where there’s unlimited PTO, but no one actually takes it because it’s a bait and switch. Every tech company says unlimited PTO, but really that means nothing. I’ve also worked for companies where there were 20 paid business days that were on a use-it or loose-type model. Do you think I took my 20 days off? Yes, I took my 20 days and I was actually able to disconnect. Every company is different, every team is different. You have to find what works for you to establish that healthy culture with balance while also maximizing productivity. Those are some of the things that I’ve seen work for myself and the teams that I’ve been a part of.

SS: I love that. Eric, thank you so much for joining us today. It has been an energizing discussion, so thank you so much.

EL: Thank you. The pleasure’s all mine.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there is something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know we’d love to hear from you.

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