How Muck Rack Drives Engagement, Performance, and Development With Lattice

A conversation with:

Erica Raphael
VP of People
I would give up every single HR tool that I have before I would give up Lattice...
Erica Raphael
VP of People

Three years ago, Erica Raphael joined the public relations management software company Muck Rack as its vice president of people. At that time, the company had about 75 employees. Today, Muck Rack has over 250 employees. In just a few years, Erica and her team of five have helped the company grow to become fully distributed and global. Muck Rack’s Public Relations Management platform enabled thousands of organizations to build trust, tell their stories and prove the value of earned media through its media database and monitoring and reporting features. Journalists use its free tools to showcase their portfolios, analyze news and measure their impact.

While Erica’s team is continuing to help Muck Rack scale, their primary focus is setting employees up for success. “We help set people up to be successful at Muck Rack from day one — and that encompasses a lot of different things,” explains Erica. “It means giving them access to the right tools and resources, making sure they know where to go for information, giving them opportunities to build relationships and connections, and setting them up to work comfortably and effectively from home. We support them through the entire employee journey.”

When Erica first joined Muck Rack in 2020, she was asked to build the organization’s people practices from the ground up. While ad hoc initiatives and department-specific policies worked to a point, those methods wouldn’t be sustainable as headcount continued to grow. The company needed standardized, equitable, and scalable HR practices. The path forward was clear to Erica: Introduce engagement surveys and formalize performance and talent management.

“Back then, promotions and compensation adjustments were handled ad hoc throughout the year and by department. Employees weren’t getting consistent feedback from their managers and peers, and we weren’t receiving regular feedback from our employees,” admits Erica. “We needed a way to standardize how we were doing things, improve communication, and make it easier to gather information from the team. We had a true greenfield opportunity and I knew I needed to find the tech stack that would work for Muck Rack.”

While most companies Muck Rack’s size might reach for an HRIS at this stage, Erica knew they needed a top-of-the-line solution to boost employee adoption and create lasting change for the organization. That’s when she found Lattice. With its engagement surveys, performance reviews, and employee development features, Lattice checked all the boxes and immediately rose to the top of Erica’s list.

“I really liked that Lattice has a holistic approach to performance management. I didn’t want to have one tool for surveys, one tool for performance management, one for feedback, and one for goals,” Erica explains. “That’s too many different places for people to look for and input information into. Having a one-stop shop all-in-one solution like Lattice was really important to me.”

Using Lattice at Muck Rack

Since implementing Lattice, Muck Rack’s people team has launched a bi-annual performance review cycle complete with calibration, as well as an annual engagement survey. The team also has plans to introduce regular pulse surveys in order to track changes in employee sentiment more easily. The newfound visibility from engagement surveys has also helped Erica’s team make meaningful, targeted improvements to the employee experience.

“I don’t think there’s anything worse than gathering data and not having the resources to do anything with it. Before Lattice, we didn’t have the resources to run surveys more often and do something meaningful with the data,” shares Erica. “Now, with Lattice we have the ability to look at our engagement survey results and understand where there are opportunities to increase our scores or to get more intel. We want to make sure that we’re asking the right questions more regularly so that we can track progress and changes.”

This year, the Muck Rack team also plans to double down on their usage of Lattice Grow. Today, Muck Rack has company-wide competency matrices for both individual contributors and managers built out in the tool — with plans to add department-level growth plans shortly.

“We have multiple levels currently built that outline expectations for ownership, execution and contribution, transparency and communication, cross-functional collaboration, cross-company influence and impact, [and] Muck Rack citizenship. A lot of this was built out of our core values,” Erica explains.

Having this competency matrix has helped Muck Rack’s employees and their managers. Managers appreciate having a way to understand expectations for employees at each level, and even Erica admits she references the tool frequently, especially come performance review season.

“When I’m writing reviews for my team members, I often find myself toggling back to our company-wide matrix to make sure that I’m measuring them correctly based on the competencies that are expected at their level,” Erica says.

While Erica and her team have only formally rolled out Lattice Engagement, OKRs & Goals, Reviews, and Grow to the Muck Rack team, employees have begun to organically adopt other features of the platform on their own — specifically Updates. “As a people leader, I often look at Lattice to check that people are actually using the tool. I want to make sure one-on-ones are happening, goals are being put in the system, etc.,” shares Erica. “While I didn’t formally roll out the use of Updates for the company, I was surprised because some teams just adopted it themselves and found their own use case for the tool. It was really interesting to see that adoption through the report.”

Impact of Lattice

Since the company’s very first engagement survey with Lattice, Erica has been amazed by the platform’s ease of use, as well as the incredible insights she and her team have been able to pull from their surveys. In just a few short months, the company went from not having a reliable way to quantify employee sentiment and collect feedback to administering its first survey and acting on their findings.

“I was really proud to take our most recent engagement survey results and present a 2023 action plan to our entire team. We were able to be transparent and share what we learned about in terms of what we’re doing really well, where our biggest areas of opportunity are, and what we’re planning to work on,” Erica notes.

One key survey insight revealed that employees wanted more ways to build connections with colleagues. Erica and her team used this data to help inform their strategy around how to continue to foster a sense of community for Muck Rack’s fully distributed team. Now, the company is hosting an all-company offsite, hiring a manager of workplace culture & community to build more connection opportunities both virtually and in person, and introducing department travel budgets so teams can get together in person. “We want to make sure that people have the opportunity to form connections, friendships, and meaningful work relationships,” shares Erica. “Everyone knows that strong relationships lead to higher engagement and better business outcomes.”

For Erica, one added bonus of switching to Lattice has been its quick adoption by employees because the platform seamlessly integrates with the company’s instant messaging software, Slack. “Lattice’s Slack integration was a pull for me…We’re a very Slack-heavy company,” she says. Lattice can automatically push updates to the company’s Slack whenever a user receives praise, updates a public goal, is prompted to complete a stage in a review, or posts a public update — making it even easier for employees to use and benefit from the Lattice platform.

One example of this stellar user adoption is Muck Rack’s 100% performance review completion rate. “We have a 100% review completion rate because we’ve built it into our culture, but it’s still helpful that Lattice gives me the ability to see what different teams are doing on a more granular level. This helps me problem-solve. Lattice is the one place I can go to see what’s actually happening at the team level,” states Erica.

Still, user adoption hasn’t been the biggest win for Erica. She says that’s been finally bringing predictability, fairness, and standardization to Muck Rack’s performance review process. “Lattice has helped us create a system that’s predictable not only for our people team but also for our employees. They know what to expect, when to expect it, and what tools they’re going to use to do it. That’s also helped us create a sense of fairness around performance reviews that didn’t exist before when they were just happening based on manager preferences,” she adds.

While the company has found its groove with Lattice Engagement and Performance, Erica still has ambitious goals for Muck Rack’s use of Lattice Grow. “One of our core company values is transparency. I want to leverage Lattice to help us be transparent when it comes to career paths. We’ve already created our company-wide competency matrix, but the next frontier for us is explaining how an employee can continue to grow, not only within their department but also laterally within different departments. All that information is currently held within each department, so I really am excited to leverage Lattice Grow to bring this transparency across the organization,” she notes.

Over the last three years, Erica and her team have transformed the way Muck Rack approaches engagement, performance, and employee development. While Erica and her team did all the hard work, she’s quick to share some of the credit with Lattice and says they’re only getting started with what the platform can do. “We’re still working to make sure that we’re taking advantage of everything Lattice has to offer, but I’m really excited about where it can take us. I would give up every single HR tool that I have before I would give up Lattice,” says Erica.

Takeaways

  • Thanks to Lattice Engagement, Muck Rack can consistently collect employee feedback, analyze results, and take action on survey findings to build a stronger workplace experience.
  • Lattice Grow helped the company improve transparency around company-wide competencies.
  • With Lattice, Muck Rack has reached an outstanding 100% performance review completion rate.
  • Lattice’s all-in-one platform allowed Muck Rack to simplify its HR tech stack and access people data in one place.

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