Change Was a Major Theme for Foursquare Last Year. These Initiatives Helped Team Members Navigate It.
The number of adjustments professionals needed to make in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is lengthy: Getting used to remote work, setting work boundaries— the list could go on and on.
For team members at Foursquare, though, it wasn’t simply the pandemic that brought about significant change in 2020. In April of last year, the New York City-headquartered company announced its merger with location data-focused company Factual.
“The merger happened after we started working from home due to COVID-19. From an interpersonal perspective, nobody got to meet their new co-workers in person,” Director of Engineering Kyler Fowler said.
“We had two great teams that came together. There were adjustments as a result of the pandemic, but we’ve been able to grow together and figure it all out. It’s like one united front,” Corporate Counsel Ally Hopper added.
Months later, in November, it was announced that Gary Little would take over David Shim’s role as CEO at the start of 2021. And earlier this year, in May, Foursquare bolstered its offerings by acquiring analytics company Unfolded.
“It’s really a blending together of many different companies and therefore cultures. Having to do it all in a remote environment adds an additional challenge,” Senior Director of Human Resources Dana Hersh said. “We’ve gotten through a lot of it, but I think there’s more work to do — taking the best of all the various cultures, redefining our values and making sure our mission and vision still makes sense for the organization.”
That’s why, for Hersh and her team, initiatives around employee engagement, work-life balance, culture-building and more are of particular importance: In a pre-pandemic world, the aforementioned timeline is still a lot of newness to introduce to employees.
But toss in a globe-altering event like the pandemic and the difficulty can skyrocket. The introduction of summer Fridays; “reduced meetings Wednesdays” for most teams; and a no-questions-asked policy when teammates opt to not use video in meetings are just some ways Foursquare has responded.
What has that meant for team members? Below, Hersh, Fowler and Hopper shared how the company’s measures — whether entirely new or pre-existing — have been a helpful in keeping employees at both an individual and team-level feeling supported.
Can you talk about some of the wellness, culture-focused or work-life balance initiatives introduced as a result of the pandemic?
Hersh: Summer Fridays have been really successful. We’ve been doing every other Friday completely off. We piloted this idea in April. It was a success with no real drop in productivity. Giving people that extra day is really a big help.
Additionally, we’re going through the renewal period for our health insurance, and we’re really focusing on providing more mental health benefits to our employees, in addition to what exists for our wellness reimbursement.
What do you think has resonated with team members?
Hersh: We do regular engagement surveys to see what would be helpful for employees. We’re trying to empower our managers to work directly with their employees and figure out what works best for them. One thing we have been doing throughout the pandemic is providing virtual social events to give people the chance to build relationships outside of work. Over the summer, when more offices were open, we did events on a voluntary basis to give people the opportunity to meet their teammates.
Fowler: To me, the biggest thing that's been lost working remotely is engagement with people outside of your team. Foursquare has done a good job encouraging that cross-functional engagement. I think super-simple things that have been effective are things like our monthly themed photography challenge: Everybody submits pictures to Slack and it generates interesting perspectives around the company that broadens engagement, not just within your own team.
ERGs at Foursquare
Personally, is there a particular culture, wellness or work-life balance-related initiative that’s impactful for you?
Hopper: Summer Fridays have been really great. Having that extra day to refresh has meant a lot to me. It’s not something that I expected when I joined. Also, we’re really encouraged to use our unlimited PTO. My manager actively encourages our team to do so to make sure that we’re refreshed. That’s really impactful.
Fowler: The flexibility of our work culture is great. People can put blocks on the calendar to take care of their life and nobody asks questions. There’s an atmosphere of trust that everyone is doing their work. For my mental wellness, being able to engage with my family whenever I need to has been a big benefit of the last year-and-a-half on top of all the other negatives.
Hersh: I totally agree with that. I’m taking time off soon and my team is so supportive of me being able to actually do that, asking what they can take on when I’m out. They want me to have that time without constant interruptions. Enjoying the time off as opposed to always feeling like you have to constantly check in goes a long way.
For my mental wellness, being able to engage with my family whenever I need to has been a big benefit of the last year-and-a-half on top of all the other negatives.”
How have teams been able to stay connected with each other?
Fowler: One example is Foursquare’s annual big corporate event, which is our talent show that usually happens at the end of the year. Typically we fly everybody to New York for it. We’ve done it for as long as I’ve been here. This year, we took it virtual. Our operations team did an incredible job producing it. The way they enabled everybody to show their talent at home was great.
How do efforts to support your morale, well-being and engagement benefit you in your day-to-day role?
Hersh: It’s central to my day-to-day. Our people are our most important asset. We try to come up with ways to support them in a way that makes sense for them, because it doesn’t look the same for every person. Giving people different avenues to talk to you and share feedback is really important.
Hopper: It’s really nice having the ability to do things on your own time, if that means I stay up later because I need to take a break in the middle of the day. I’m able to take that time and there’s a natural respect. Having that makes it much easier to do your job because you can do it in a manner that works best for you — as opposed to a culture of now, now, now, which we don’t have here.
Fowler: As a manager of around 30 people, retention and hiring is my main goal. Everything that Dana's team and the company does to increase employee wellness makes my job easier. My employees are more content in their work. They’re building a deeper connection with the company.