To Support Employees During the COVID-19 Crisis, ParkHub Leans On Lattice
A conversation with:
We need to know if we're doing the right thing, and we need to know in real-time. Happy employees are productive employees, and if our teammates feel unsupported or unheard, then we owe it to them - and to our stakeholders - to take productive steps to raise morale and address their concerns as quickly as possible.
General Counsel & Chief of Staff
ParkHub was launched with speed clearly in mind. Speed to market. Speed to develop new products. ParkHub’s Never in Park; Always in Drive mantra meant that the company moved at the speed of Now. Accordingly, ownership of ParkHub's human resources function changed hands several times over the years. Initially, the Chief Operating Officer managed human resources alongside operations, logistics and finance functions. In late-2018, ParkHub’s new Chief Financial Officer joined and drove a budget-oriented approach to people management, which resulted in one of ParkHub’s most efficient years on record. Hiring plans and budgets were established and followed. It worked, and the company scaled. ParkHub’s human resources function had been built to support its growth targets, but as the sun set on 2019, ParkHub needed to build an HR function that focused on supporting its employees. In late 2019, ParkHub handed the reins of its human resources function to its General Counsel and Chief of Staff, Nick Schanbaum.
“Being someone’s advocate gets my blood pumping,” Schanbaum says. Overseeing the people management function provided Schanbaum a new set of challenges, which he relished. “Your problems are my problems. What can I do to help solve them?” When Schanbaum took ownership of ParkHub’s Human Resources, he started collecting feedback on what the employees needed and wanted. ParkHub had identified employee engagement as a priority in 2020, focusing on increasing efficiency, visibility, and alignment across the functions.
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the company’s culture to change overnight. “We were moonwalking our way into the summer,” says Schanbaum. “Then, over the course of a few days, we went from ‘ParkHub supports you working remotely’ to ‘You are required to work remotely, do not come in tomorrow.’ And that meant we needed to ramp up our communication with our employees immediately.”
Before the coronavirus arrived, Schanbaum had been focusing on revamping performance reviews and setting and managing goals. Internally, ParkHub calls goals “Rocks”. “We live and die by our Rocks,” says Schanbaum. It was crucial that ParkHub had a system to manage them effectively. He and his colleague, Suzanne Champagne, who was also appointed to take over the department, quickly saw a need to upgrade HR processes, particularly in the face of COVID-19 and the resulting upheaval it caused. As the team began exploring options, they found themselves faced with a surprisingly broad spectrum of human-focused activities that needed overhauling. “Some processes were quite outdated, and nearly all of them were manual - i.e., evaluations written in longhand that had to be scanned into a computer,” recalls Champagne. The road forward was clear, and Schanbaum knew it was time to pivot the function from a side job into a modern, full-fledged people management operation.
“I’m surprised by the number of people who don’t prioritize human capital,” says Abby Wilson, Head of Talent at Arrowroot Capital, ParkHub’s lead investor. “A lot of times it gets de-prioritized because it sounds like too much effort. But this is the opportunity to have a really open dialogue with your team on a daily basis, one where you are prioritizing their growth, development, and opportunities.”
Too often, Wilson noticed that company leaders, particularly startup founders, don't put the kind of energy into people strategy that it deserves because it can be difficult to track and measure if you don't have the dedicated tools and resources. But what impressed Wilson about ParkHub is that they took such a strong initiative with human capital, and she was encouraged by Schanbaum’s efforts from the start.
While looking for a modern people management system, Schanbaum characterized the company’s technology evaluation process as fairly succinct, which is actually quite common. The search for people management software turned up a variety of options, some too big and some too limited given their needs. What ParkHub wanted was a turnkey solution to consolidate people operations into a single tool, not a software package with a mountain of components and extra features ParkHub couldn’t use or didn’t want.
“Lattice provided only the resources we needed,” says Schanbaum, a list which included goal tracking, 1:1s, performance reviews, and employee engagement surveys. “It was easy to use and had a great interface.” Schanbaum describes Lattice as a “Goldilocks” situation – just right for the rapidly growing SaaS company’s needs.
So easy to use, in fact, that many ParkHub employees had already started utilizing many of Lattice’s features before Schanbaum officially unveiled them to the company by taking advantage of the library of video tutorials in Lattice University. “By the time I was introducing the leadership team to the fact that they would be doing 1:1s in Lattice going forward, our developers had already figured out how to do it on their own and were using the tool for their 1:1s,” notes Schanbaum.
ParkHub was in the process of implementing Lattice when the stay-at-home orders hit, and the company then had to decide whether to put implementation on hold or push forward. It chose the latter. ParkHub finalized Lattice’s deployment within two days of its decision to mandate working from home across the organization. The company sent team members home before Dallas County officially locked down, thanks in part to a mature technology infrastructure, thus making the transition to remote work both straightforward and clear. Fundamentally, Schanbaum says the decision to close ParkHub’s offices early came from a sense of duty, driven by ParkHub’s strong company values. “We knew we were responsible for these people,” he says. “We needed to make sure that they’re OK.”
Of course, business priorities changed quickly. “We were busy trying to keep up with customer and employee concerns,” says Schanbaum. “We had to turn this ship around and become a customer retention machine immediately.” Part of that strategy (called “ParkHugs”) was to proactively reach out to customers and tell them that ParkHub was here for them whenever and however it was needed. “Being proactive was key,” says Schanbaum. “We wanted to reach out to them before they had to reach out to us.”
It was inevitable that the stress would reach employees too. As Lattice was coming online, the company’s first step was to leverage the Lattice Crisis Response Survey template to take the pulse of its workforce. “It was a matter of days between having Lattice implemented and sending out the first survey,” says Schanbaum. “And we had an overwhelmingly high response rate. All but three employees responded.”
What would have otherwise taken weeks, the survey was built ready-to-launch. “It was so easy,” says Champagne. “We looked at the questions that were already written and said, ‘We want to keep every single one of these.’”
Naturally, the survey was greeted with some initial nervousness among employees. ParkHub made it clear that the survey was entirely anonymous and that the team needed honest opinions from the staff in order to provide the best support. “Anytime we’ve made changes, people are concerned with why we made them,” says Schanbaum. “The logic behind the survey is that we need to know if we're doing the right thing - and we need to know right now. We can't waste a month with employees being unhappy and suffering in silence,” he says. “If there's something we can do, you have to tell us.”
Ultimately, the survey responses provided the foundation for initiatives that, by all accounts, have been extremely well-received by its employees. Schanbaum and Champagne needed to take action for ParkHub, but they needed to take the right action. For leaders at any company, it’s this kind of data and action that saves time, resources, and morale. During a crisis, it’s even more important. “If you don’t have a way to survey your organization as a whole right now,” says Wilson, “you need to figure out a way to do it.”
With stay-at-home as the status quo for the foreseeable future, ParkHub is using the results of their Crisis Response Survey to address some unexpected findings.
One significant discovery in the survey data: Employees were working themselves ragged. Question #2 on the survey asked if employees felt encouraged to take time for themselves during the workday. The surprisingly negative result raised a flag for ParkHub’s management, and they understood they needed to set the example themselves. “None of the leadership was taking time off,” says Schanbaum. “We had a realization that we weren’t practicing what we were preaching, and so we couldn't expect other people to do it.” Inspired by the survey analytics in Lattice, company management had made visible efforts in leading the work/life balance discussion.
Now, ParkHub’s Chief Revenue Officer often attends some early morning meetings while hiking in the hills; its President and Chief Product Officer highlight their boxing and powerlifting regimens to the team. Schanbaum has been known to attend some of the company’s virtual engagement events while grilling or splashing in an inflatable pool with his daughter. “The message quickly took. Once we made it clear how seriously we took self-care - and kept reinforcing it - our team started to make time for themselves. Planned bike rides and video game sessions started showing up on calendars.”
Wilson applauds their efforts, saying, “ParkHub did two things really well. They were transparent with their communication with their employees, and they were timely with their communication. They used Lattice to really listen and get feedback from their employees. I feel like they're very connected to their people.” Wilson notes that employee engagement is also good business practice: Highly engaged employees boost the company’s bottom line not only by helping to recruit other great talent, but by staying at the company especially when times are tough. “You can’t afford to not think about this,” she says, when she hears founders considering the benefits of understanding engagement. “When employees are engaged, you retain them longer and they’re more productive. That’s what Lattice solves.”
Bolstered by a strong first outing, ParkHub plans to revisit the survey soon. “I want to run this survey all the time,” says Schanbaum. “Like every month or two. I want to show our team that we are asking for feedback, and then go and do the things that they say they want us to do. You can’t do the right thing unless you ask the right questions. You need a process that is part of a system.”
Looking ahead, Schanbaum says he also wants to use Lattice to broaden HR’s capabilities, using the system for quicker pulse surveys, polls to gauge awareness of various corporate policies, and, of course, better management of those “Rocks.” Schanbaum notes that a common comment from employees was a desire for clear visibility into how their Rocks fit into department- and company-level Rocks. Now, that is happening with Lattice. “I want to know if employees understand where we’re headed as a company,” he says. “I want to know if our high performers are happy or unhappy, because if they’re unhappy, we’ve got to fix that. As with everything, it all comes back to bringing value to our stakeholders, but at the end of the day, strong margins can’t stand up to a weak culture.”