Building a Great Place to Work in Ireland

Because we were just honored to receive Ireland’s best large workplace 2019 accolade, I thought that now might be a good time to share my thoughts on bringing company core values to life and creating an award-winning culture.

After all, how do you know, year-round, if your business has a healthy workplace culture? For me, it starts with trust and commitment from the business, from our leaders, and from our employees. Having a set of core values, a common language, brings clarity and balance. Having leaders who are trusted and trusting sets the stage for success.

Workday started with a set of six core values from the very beginning, and they continue to guide us to this day. Other companies are also seeing the value of this approach. According to research by Deloitte, an overwhelming 94 percent of executives and 88 percent of employees now believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.

In part, this is due to changes in the way we work. Where once an employee’s experience was shaped by the people in their office or within their department, now most of us belong to globally distributed teams. Having a culture based on a set of common values sets the direction for the business, draws people together, and acts as a sort of contract between employees, so everyone understands what they can expect from one another. And, the best way to build trust with your customers is by proving you really are who you say you are.

This year, Workday’s commitment to culture was recognized by Great Place to Work. We were named as the best large workplace in Ireland and listed among the best workplaces for women. It wasn’t the first time we’ve been featured. In fact, we’ve been in one of the top four positions in our category for the last four years. In the U.S., we were also recently ranked number four in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

We engage all employees through regular “pulse surveys,” consisting of two questions sent out weekly that they can answer in a matter of seconds.

Our commitment to workplace culture in Dublin has done more than win awards. It’s improved our business. By making culture a priority every day we’ve reaped numerous benefits: it’s improved our ability to attract and retain talent, growing from around 250 employees to more than 1,000 in the last four years; it’s helped us to build a diverse workforce of over 60 nationalities that helps keep us innovative; and it’s changed our understanding of how best to organize people, so they reach their full potential.

Even though a great workplace culture is an ongoing project, and I don’t claim to have all the answers, I do want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way that have been especially important to me:

Managers Aren’t the Only Leaders

A person’s perspective of the overall business tends to be shaped mostly by their manager. In the past few years, we’ve made this a focus area, spending a lot of time on management training covering everything from how to conduct one-to-one meetings, managing for performance, and having career conversations.

But we’ve also recognized that you don’t have to be a manager to positively influence the people you work with every day. We’re launching a new program in Dublin for senior technical staff who are not in people leadership roles but who are extremely influential people in the organization.

By broadening our definition of leadership, we hope to connect people who are eager to learn, with people who are able to educate. As well as creating more connections across our business, the approach makes clear that career development isn’t the sole responsibility of managers, but is something that everyone can get involved in.

Listen First, Act Second

At Workday, we engage all employees through regular “pulse surveys,” consisting of two questions sent out weekly that they can answer in a matter of 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 and where they can improve.

Dublin continues to be at the forefront of some of Workday’s most innovative technologies.

Although surveys will help measure the health of your workplace culture and course correct, if that’s where you’re getting all of your feedback from, you’re in trouble. Nothing builds trust like face-to-face communication where workers feel trusted and heard. I constantly ask people what they like, what’s puzzling them, and what they think is broken. Some of the best ideas come from these conversations.

Let People Be People

Competition for talent in Dublin is strong, so I often ask our employees here why they chose Workday. The answer I hear most often is, “At Workday, I can be myself.”

We hire great people; and if they bring their authentic selves to work, that’s a win for all of us. So, how can I make sure that workers are able to stay true to who they are? For one, and this goes back to face-to-face communication, you have to make sure you don’t have two systems in one office: What you think is happening and what is really happening, especially as you scale. I’m alert to the problems of employee inhibition or managers who have a “manage up, talk down” approach.

Problems like this can deter development. For example, if people see other Workday jobs they want to apply for, it’s important that there are clear processes in place for internal mobility and that we as a company make it clear at all levels that we encourage it. In fact, I had someone who worked for me for five years and did a fantastic job. She told me she wanted to move to another part of the business, and I was happy to help her develop her career—not because I wanted to lose her, but because I wanted her to stay at Workday. And now, she’s thriving in her new role.

Always Be Authentic

Dublin continues to be at the forefront of some of Workday’s most innovative technologies, which gives us an incredible sense of purpose.

We recently opened a customer center in Dublin, so our employees can better understand what our customers need us to build and deliver. Having direct access between customers and our developers helps create a greater sense of purpose for everyone—customers are a huge part of our process and developers get to see the impact they make on the working lives of other people.

When it comes to workplace culture, there is no single right answer. But successful cultures are based on a clear set of company values. When leaders commit to those values, as they do at Workday, it benefits the entire business. Our customers take confidence from the fact that who we say we are matches what they see. And, we get to be the company we truly want to be.