On this week’s Culture Collective, we’re talking with Senior Manager of Employee Engagement Yesenia Paredes about the workplace culture at Justworks. Yesenia heads internal company events and appreciation initiatives and works cross-functionally on projects that affect the employee experiences. She is also heavily involved in diversity & inclusion at Justworks as a co-lead of Cultura, a Latin/Hispanic employee resource group and a member of many other ERG’s at the company. A native New Yorker, Yesenia is a mom, runner, and has a passion for all things food & wine. Read more.
What are three words you would use to describe your workplace culture and why?
I would say we are vibrant, inspiring and diverse. Vibrant because there’s always something going on around here. There’s amazing energy. If you are into quietness, then we have a certain area in the office for that. If you’re into more background noise and stuff like that, we’ve got areas in the office for that. We have about 100,000 square feet of office space and we’re all on one floor. So, walking through the office, you really feel this amazing energy. It might be people who are working to put out a fire or people working to collaborate on a new idea or trying to get payroll out on time. On the sales floor, there might be new customers that we’re trying to engage or in the customer service area we’re helping people solve everyday problems. That, for me, is what describes the vibrancy of the office. We’re also a dog-friendly office and I must say, it is one of the biggest things I love about working here. When you’re having a moment, or even if your day is going well, being able to pop by a dog or take a minute to go hang out and stay with one really breaks up your day nicely.
The next word is inspiring. I’m super inspired by my colleagues every day — from people who are working diligently to get payroll out on time to people who are putting out fires to all the creativity that’s in this office. What is inspiring is the way that people here work hard and how they actually love what they do. That helps me keep going on good days and on days where I’m trying to push through.
The last word is diverse and when I say diverse I don’t just mean your usual we’ve got this percentage of this ethnicity and whatnot. I mean people here come from literally all over the world. There are people here who are lawyers and worked at a law firm before. There are people who work in the medical field. There are teachers and there are people who are have helped build other companies. And then we also have the diversity of different interests. There’s a group of people here running the New York City marathon this upcoming November. We have people who are meeting up to go golfing on the weekends and things like that. It’s really inspiring and interesting how so many people come from different walks of life and how they come here to work and altogether we create this amazing environment.
What is your office super power? (ex. most organized)
Our main office super power is that we are innovative. I think that, as a company, we took a product in an industry where the major players in the game are more senior companies. Being able to modernize the kind of technology that we’re working on and, not only modernize it but humanize it, I think that’s actually amazing. Being someone who has run payroll before for many different companies and using different platforms, one of the main reasons why I joined Justworks and why I’m still here is because I believe in the product.
Why is company culture important?
There’s a lot of different ways that people can interpret good company culture or what culture is, but I think here at Justworks, our culture is our people. And our people are what I come to work here every day for. Part of the culture and why it’s important is that everybody here is able to find a sense of belonging in some way or another. It might be through our DNI program or through our gaming room where they find other people who have similar interests as them. It’s just creating a space where people can feel like they belong and then that makes you feel more at ease. You can do your best work when you feel comfortable.
What does your team normally do for lunch?
You can find a few different things happening here. One is that there is a lot of catering. You’ll find different teams in different areas of the office enjoying a catered meal together. It might be as a thank you for the team or it might be that there is food put out and you come and get it whenever you can. We want to take one less thing away from your day that you have to go and do or use brain power for. Another thing is that people will bring in their lunch — they either bring it from home or they got it from somewhere else and they come together in different areas in our office and will just eat lunch together and having social time. We also have what we call random lunch. Every month, you’re paired up with a random group of 5-6 people from across the organization and you get a small budget to go have lunch somewhere in the neighborhood — or you order lunch in. Whatever works for you, but you do it with the group you’ve been paired up with. We send that list out at the beginning of every month and then the person at the top of the list is responsible for organizing the lunch. It’s where I’ve met people that I would’ve never spoken to. I’ve met people I’ve known for a year or so, but never really got to know or see. And sometimes it’s people that I do know and I learn new things about them in that context.
What are ways your company brings your team together?
One way we bring our company together is through events. We did have an event this week at our new office space and that was pretty amazing. We got to check out an area of the new office and even had office tours throughout the event. Another way is that each team has a monthly budget to go and do something with their team. Whether it be an escape room or bowling or a wine tasting, everybody gets an opportunity to plan on the team. So, it’s very diverse in what we wind up doing together, but that’s probably one of my favorite ways in getting to bond with people on my team.
If you could propose an idea to positively impact any company’s culture, what would it be and why?
Give your people a voice. Make sure that your employee base feels heard. I think you can do that in many different ways. Depending on the size of your company, you can do that at a company all hands and give people a space to ask questions, not just in person, but via whatever messaging you have for your company — whether it be slack or G-chat or even email. Have somebody share their phone number and have people ask questions that way at a company all hands. You can also create an engagement survey — no less than once a year, but not too many times a year. Ask employees, “What do you like? What can we do better? Where are we doing great? What would you like to see more of?” Give them a voice. Listen to the people. They’re the ones that are coming to work everyday. They’re the ones that impact company culture.
Every single thing at your company impacts the culture. Think about what are your company’s initiatives and how can you fit in the feedback. You will be able to see areas of improvement and get buy-in from people all the way across the company. If your company doesn’t already have set values, make sure that you work with your leadership to create them, put them up somewhere in the office and make sure that all the decisions that you’re making, you’re cross-referencing to make sure they align with your company values.