The Challenge

Demandbase’s primary People challenge has been an all too common one in the technology industry, says CPO Landon Pearson. “For the most part, it’s been about keeping up with the growth of the company in changing times.”

As COVID-19 emerged, Demandbase grew from 300 to 800 employees via three acquisitions, and Landon’s role and team had to grow, too, as People needs became much more complex. “We have 800 employees and I’ve met less than half of them in person,” says Landon. New challenges rapidly became apparent. How does a company create and reinforce its culture in this type of environment? And how does, as Landon puts it, “the company help create a connective tissue for all employees? This challenges me every day.”

“When I got here, I was a team of one in a physical office. My first HR hire was our receptionist, who, as is so common with startups, was also our HR admin.” Demandbase has grown both organically and through acquisition, and the HR team members who were once assuming multiple roles as needed are now more specialized. “As we’ve grown, everybody has moved from generalist to specialist roles. My challenge as a leader is to empower the talented people on my team to do the work they are more than capable of doing, and get out of the habit of being a hands-on ‘doer.’” Leading the team without doing or being involved in every conversation is something Landon continues to perfect, helped in no small part by Lattice. “The 1-on-1s and Weekly Updates have been a great way for me to understand what each person on my team is doing and, more importantly, how I can support and guide them by removing barriers and providing direction.”

Evaluation

Landon says that Demandbase began its journey into people management technology years ago when they were initially looking for a tool to manage performance reviews. Even back then, before it was a common practice, he was looking for a tool that supported a continuous process and more organic conversations. “The time of once-a-year feedback was soon to be over, and I knew that what our people needed was a way to track progress, have regular conversations, and pivot between tactical ‘to-dos’ and career feedback.” 

An initial run with an internally built tool didn’t do the job, he says, as it was focused more on sales audiences. A second round with another tool lasted for several years, “but it got stagnant,” and Landon became frustrated with its limited features. Demandbase soon began looking for a new, more ideal solution that matched the way work actually gets done and encourages ongoing feedback. “What I was looking for was a tool that could be the hub for all things performance management —  and really all things people management — professional development, 1:1s, dialogues between managers and employees, and peer feedback. I wanted a tool that would help create the dialogue and infrastructure for the connections between managers and employees that are essential for being successful, and one that doesn’t feel like a ‘heavy lift’ to its users.”

Finding Lattice, he says, was “a journey,” but it was a successful one. “It seemed to be the product and the company that had executed on its vision the best.”

Using Lattice at Demandbase

“Lattice is now at the center of how we manage our people,” says Landon. Lattice is used for weekly 1:1 meetings,  bi-annual check-ins, and development conversations with the Grow tool. These multiple touchpoints and conversations encourage continuous feedback, which also has the advantage of making everyone more comfortable having conversations which many have previously experienced as difficult at worst, and inorganic at best.

Lattice has also been instrumental in serving Demandbase’s need for change management as it has acquired other companies. “Lattice enabled employees to connect with their new managers during reporting structure changes,” says Landon, who adds that  new employees who onboarded after acquisitions have been thrilled to gain access to Lattice’s many features. “What resonated the most were 1:1s. When people heard that there was a tool that could capture everything they wanted to discuss with their manager and then check it off their list, that’s what people were asking for more than anything.”

Demandbase has also implemented Lattice Grow as a tool to help people track and manage their career progress. “We wanted to know if people were motivated about where they were going. Are we all on the same page? Are people looking to pivot or move laterally into a different role?” He notes that in today’s workplace, transparency is more critical than ever, particularly when so many workers are stuck at home and have little or no facetime with their manager. “You have to engage with employees and engage with one another in a much more intentional, deliberate way than you did in the past,” he says. “Grow came along for us at the perfect time, just as we were developing that infrastructure.”

The Impact of Lattice

“The nice thing about Lattice is it isn’t a manager talking ‘at’ an employee,” says Landon. “Managers and employees put the same amount of information into the tool. My employees use Lattice as much as  I do.” 

He adds that Lattice helps get people on the same page more quickly, and encourages collaboration and communication. “These are the things that make an acquisition successful,” he says. “It makes people feel like they’re a part of something.”

Landon credits Lattice for helping ensure that employees and managers are communicating in the most effective, productive way possible. “It’s just keeping us connected in ways that I don’t think any other tool has really been able to do.”

But beyond that, Landon says that Lattice has filled a cultural need at the company, “helping employees focus on the right things, feel like they’re growing professionally, and get continuous feedback on their performance. Demandbase is a place where people can truly grow their careers, and Lattice is a key reason why.”

“I love to affect business outcomes by getting everybody rowing in the same direction, focused on and feeling motivated by the same things,” concludes Landon, and Lattice has been instrumental in making that possible. “I want people to feel not just that they’re moving forward in their lives at work, but that they’re accomplishing something great. I want them to understand their impact, because when they do, they make us a better company and culture.”

Takeaways

  • Lattice has been essential for making new employees feel like they’re truly part of the team during changing times.
  • The Lattice Grow module helps to engage employees in their career growth and provides them with motivation to succeed.
  • Rather than focusing on periodic feedback, Demandbase uses Lattice to encourage continuous feedback between managers and their people.

 

Challenge

Braze, a fast-growing marketing automation company, has offices in New York, San Francisco, London, and Singapore filled with smart, motivated people. It’s an attractive place to work but hiring can be a challenge when competing among other well-funded startups for talented employees.  

For Andrew, that hiring challenge transforms into a growth and retention challenge the moment that the candidate joins the team: “Now that we’ve brought them in house, how are we going to keep people motivated, engaged, and excited about their work?”

Employees Want More Development and Feedback

The People team discovered that there was internal demand for more career development and feedback. “We conduct quarterly engagement surveys and we found that our people have consistently voiced a need for career development and continuous feedback.”

The company had annual reviews and ad-hoc 1:1 meetings but Andrew acknowledged, “we didn’t have a process in place where we formalized how managers give employees feedback on a regular basis.”

Braze decided to use Lattice to build out a new continuous performance management process for the company and help automate some of the existing practices that weren’t scaling as the company grew.

Like many startups, Braze managed to grow to almost 200 employees by repurposing existing office applications for performance management.

“Before using Lattice, we conducted performance reviews through email. The employee would email his or her self-assessment to the manager, and the manager would gather peer assessments, and then craft the overall assessment of the individual’s overall performance and deliver that in an in-person meeting.”

It’s the kind of manual process that worked at the time but doesn’t last beyond a one-time use because it’s difficult to search for historical information from past review cycles.

Changing the Performance Management Process

Using Lattice, Braze separated its performance review process into two different performance review cycles each year. They have a fall cycle which is more of the traditional retrospective on the year and they’ve added a spring cycle to focus on career development in response to employee demand.

“The spring cycle looks at the employee’s contributions over the past six months but we’re also focused on their areas of opportunity in terms of their career path–what do they need to do, what types of projects do they need to take on, what scope of work do they need to have under their belt to secure that next position.”

As part of this new performance management process, the People team also asked managers to have monthly career development check-in conversations in addition to their weekly 1:1 meetings with their reports.

The company also implemented Lattice’s goals, feedback, and 1:1 meeting features to build a continuous performance management framework around its spring and fall performance review cycles.

Goals, Feedback, and 1:1s

Andrew explained that Braze refreshes goals quarterly, starting off with top-level company OKRs (objectives and key results). “Our CEO works with each department head to translate those company OKRs into department level OKRs. From there, those department heads work with their managers on more specific team OKRs that can go all the way down to the individual level.”

“We’ve enabled the Slack integration and have a Lattice Slack channel where we have a continuous feed of public praise and feedback. People see everyone thanking each other and they’re reminded, ‘Oh, yeah! I should give so-and-so feedback.’”

“People are using the 1:1 feature–they’re adding agenda items, they’re utilizing the 1:1 notes. I personally use it with my manager and I find it super-helpful. I can reference prior 1:1 agendas as needed. There were 1:1s happening prior to Lattice but I think they’re happening more often now and on a regular cadence.”

Using Lattice

“The administration and management of the performance assessment cycle was so easy. The interface is easy to use and super-intuitive. Just clicking through the screens to set up a review cycle takes no time at all. I’ve worked with a couple of other tools that weren’t as easy to use when it comes to the interface.”

Andrew worked with Lattice to assemble training materials for managers and employees. “Our [Customer Success Manager] Laura has been amazing. She’s incredibly helpful. A lot of the training content that I put together is based on the content on the Lattice website that she showed us. I took a lot of the screenshots and language and repurposed it.”

Having a system in place also makes it easier for the team to access past performance records and analyze results.  

“Now that we have this tool in place, everything lives on that platform. Should someone depart the company or if there’s an org change, those new managers have access to historical data which they didn’t have access to before when past assessments were locked away in personal email folders.”

“From the HR perspective, it’s helpful to have the Lattice dashboards on the admin side to look at our entire organization no matter where they’re located or what level they’re at within the org. We’re able to slice and dice the data to look at information by location, by seniority level or by department. We didn’t have that ability in the past. Having a tool like Lattice that can support our organization as we grow is key.”

Takeaways

  • Customizable performance reviews
  • Complete OKR platform
  • 360 feedback & 1:1 meeting tools
  • Helpful support
  • Comprehensive reporting