Building a thriving workplace culture benefits everyone, from leadership teams to employees across the company. Binance.US Chief People Officer Carol MacKinlay shares her thoughts on how to build a successful and lasting workplace culture.
To commemorate Women’s History Month, we at Binance.US are proud to bring you voices and perspectives from women leaders and visionaries. On International Women’s Day, our Chief People Officer Carol MacKinlay appeared as a special guest on Unstoppable Domain’s Women of Web3 marathon.
As a veteran of the technology and the HR space, Carol is no stranger to leading companies through the hyper-growth phase. Whether you’re an employee, leader, or HR expert, here are ten tips on how to build an unstoppable workplace culture. You can also listen to a recording of the full conversation here.
10 Ways To Build an Unstoppable Workplace Culture
Note: The following section features an excerpt of Carol’s conversation with Unstoppable Domain, edited for brevity and clarity.
Carol MacKinlay: Workplace culture and Web 3.0 isn't that different from other workplaces. There's just a lot more enthusiasm in this space and a lot more people that really want to do this right and have an extraordinary passion for what we're doing.
It makes the workplace exciting, but my underlying theme in creating a workplace culture can be summed up in two words: calm and also inclusion. And if you get both of those right, you really do create a kind of a family. We all enjoy the sort of safe space that a family provides, where you're not looking over your shoulder, and the politics aren't high. So I use that as my baseline of what we would do to create a good workplace culture.
Here’s my guide on 10 key things I think a company should consider to create an unstoppable culture.
Transparency to me translates into trust. For example, If I trust you and we can tell you what's going on with the company, you trust us as a management team that can actually do things right by you.
If you’re able to establish that the management team and team members are not at odds, people will be more likely to stay — they'll contribute, they'll nurture, they'll bring their network of friends, they’ll work really hard. Trust is a baseline to just make goodness happen all around.
Transparency translates into trust. But it's really easy to lose that trust through poor communication. In my experience, hidden communication in the background is the thing that breaks just about everything. It’s important to maintain an open dialogue, so that people feel like they can not only get on your calendar, but also ask the hard questions.
It really works, but it takes guts for a company to be transparent and so it's something that has to be a conscious choice. At Binance.US, we actually shared our profit-and-loss statement with all the employees the other day, so more than 300 people got to see what's really going on with the company. I haven't experienced that before, and that's a high level of trust, but it’s also just making sure that people can ask pointed questions and that they feel like they're really being heard.
I’ve had a great experience when it comes to hiring a diverse recruiting team and then empowering them to bring candidates from their network that are people that they trust. I find it just brings quality well-rounded candidates. It's a kind of a virtuous cycle, and the same thing goes with the management team. People you know.
Web3, tech, and crypto can be a heavily male industry, but if you remind people that the goal is to be reflective of the demographics of the world, and bring more people in and really include them. I’ve always found that people step up to the plate and they bring the right people and then spend more time bringing in high-quality candidates. Embracing diversity generates more diversity.
When it comes to building an unstoppable workplace culture, when people feel really comfortable and welcome, you can stand back and watch the fireworks.
4. Positive Intent
The next one is positive intent and this phrase actually comes from my last company. In my job, I spend a lot of time dealing with people who are having conflicts, and oftentimes that conflict comes literally from not assuming that the other person is trying to do their best work. Assuming positive intent is the ultimate conflict blocker and my team makes it a living phrase.
Is that person having a bad day? Is their mother in the hospital? Did they not get my email? It just really brings the level of stress down and as I said in the beginning, a lot of my job is to just keep people calm and thinking that people aren't out to get them.
5. Nurture Talent
Looking from within, we have had a great track record of bringing people up internally. When people know that you're going to look to them first when it comes to filling your new jobs, they see a career path, growth, and the income that comes with that. You also get to keep your library of knowledge with you and there's a lot of “school of hard knocks” learning that goes on in the technology space. And if you start to have people exit after a year or a few months, you really do lose knowledge over time.
We always look internally first and see if we can bring somebody through. It's by far the easiest way to recruit. It's easier to recruit kids straight out of school at the bottom of the pyramid than it is to keep bringing people in from above and losing your middle ground folks.
We're actively sourcing people from within and it just makes the workplace a more positive place to be, and it also builds the network hiring effect. When people feel like they're getting a career path, they bring friends and family.
6. “Calming” Pay
Paying above market is a stance that a lot of companies take, but I wonder if it’s often done with thought. In my experience, paying above market makes people calm. It makes you feel like you're valued. It makes you feel like you don't need to run and go have conversations with your supervisor, or go look for another job out in the market.
Higher pay helps make sure that people feel like owners and that they're sharing in the wealth that's being created. With ownership comes responsibility and it makes people feel like they have a voice and a reason to try and improve.
And all those things are good. So we usually intentionally try to have people come in above market. We're taking a pay philosophy here that we don't want people to stress over bonuses, so we are embedding the bonus into the overall base salary and then giving people constructive feedback to improve, but without them thinking that they're going to be at a disadvantage on the compensation side.
7. Spotlight Voices
You want your team to be vocal. You want to encourage them and give them places to converse directly with you. You want to make sure they can talk openly in group settings and feel heard. Sometimes you can have a town hall or an employee meeting, and if the chat is dead, you kind of wonder if people aren't feeling that they're empowered to be able to speak.
We spend a lot of time actually encouraging people to use their voices, bring up questions, and not be worried that they said something that wasn't completely on point. It has to be a family-type situation where you can ask hard questions and tough questions and silly questions.
8. Workplace Flexibility
The pandemic has really proven this next one out. Everyone wants flexibility when it comes to the workplace. I’ve completed four different workplace polls over the last few years and what people are telling me is they want to be able to manage their own time, manage when and where they're doing their job.
They would love to get together with people, but they want to do that on their own time. I think the key going forward for any lasting workplace culture is: empower people to be the professionals that they are, so they can get their job done in the way that they want to get it done.
9. External Empathy
People want to work for a company that has a mission they’re aligned with. They want to know that you're trying to change the world, not just when it comes to what your product is, but also what your company believes in and is trying to do.
Part of my job is to create value systems. We put them on the wall and we speak to them and we hopefully live them. Talking through what you believe in and what you're willing to stand for in the world is really important for people to understand.
10. Being Humble
What I see over time with some management teams is they lose that humility of being able to say, gosh, maybe I screwed this up. They hear themselves talking to the press too much and all of a sudden they might feel like they’re the smartest person on the planet. It's my job to keep that humility going forward because it’s what keeps us all together and keeps the politics low and the hierarchy flat.
This is important so that people feel like they can actually contribute and that they’re not just worker bees. When a company grows quickly, it’s easy for things to spiral out of control, so we need everybody to basically check themselves and ask: am I still being humble and listening and moving forward.
For more information, listen to Carol’s full remarks here.