Company Culture

Leaning Into Values: How BSE Built a Winning Culture in Brooklyn

April 24, 2024
April 24, 2024
Jaclyn Lewin
Lattice Team

Even if you’ve never heard of BSE Global, you’re certainly familiar with its brands, which include the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, the WNBA’s New York Liberty, and both teams’ home arena, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

BSE’s team of over 450 employees faces considerable pressure to perform at a high level — on the court and from stakeholders, boardrooms, and the community at large.

Maya Sabin, the company’s manager of learning and development, and Emily Aponte, vice president of human resources, are tasked with fostering a winning culture at BSE Global from the leadership level to service staff.  

Sabin and Aponte joined Lattice’s senior content manager Andy Przystański for a conversation about how BSE used Lattice to transition to a performance-based culture in alignment with company values.

Defining the Roadmap: Lean Into Values

In June of 2022, BSE announced its new CEO, Sam Zussman. The company was in a growth period and looking to set a solid course forward.

“We were changing. We were growing. We were looking at the way we operated our company differently,” Aponte explained. “One of the things we realized through engagement surveys and talking to employees is that we needed grounding concepts that everyone could really lean into.”

Through many iterations and a lot of work, BSE developed a set of four company values that would drive its vision. The next challenges were to:

  • Communicate those values to employees
  • Ensure everyone understood and embraced them
  • Model how to live them out every day

“We lean into our values,” Aponte said, explaining that BSE weaved the values into the fabric of daily life through casual conversations, team meetings, annual reviews, goal-setting, and performance plans.

BSE also conducted focus groups with small subsets of employees to talk about the four new company values — and how people expected those values to show up at work day in and day out. With this input, Aponte’s team crafted behavior statements linked to the values and used them to drive the internal communication strategy for the transition.

Clarity Creates Capacity

The key to BSE’s values-based culture shift, according to Aponte, was clear and transparent communication, which she defined as “saying what we’re going to do, then actually doing it.” 

It started with outlining strategic priorities in quarterly leadership meetings, where department heads received a clear directive to create goals aligned with those priorities. “It was on each department leader to own those priorities and figure out where their teams were going to have the most impact,” Aponte explained. “We then wrote goals, rewrote them a couple of times with feedback, and shared those goals with individuals.” 

A photo of Emily Aponte and Maya Sabin, seated, at Barclays Center event.
Emily Aponte and Maya Sabin (left to right) discussed BSE's culture and people strategy at a Barclays Center event earlier this spring.

Aponte sums up the process with this mantra: “Clarity creates capacity.” She explained that with clearer leadership, more people will understand what’s going on and why. “They will take it in, they will appreciate what you’re doing, and then they will figure out how to build their own capacity to execute on it in the best way possible,” she said.

Sabin pointed out that Lattice was very helpful in bringing this concept to life. As she explained, “You have a really transparent tool that you can go into and get clarification on anything in regards to performance or goals,” which helps to drive alignment.

Aponte described how Lattice made it easy to ladder up all company, departmental, and individual goals to BSE’s strategic priorities. “We’re trying to make [goal-setting] as tactical and tangible as possible for people,” she said. 

Going Slow To Go Fast

Another element of BSE’s revamped HR strategy also strongly focuses on learning and development and talent management. Sabin believes it is a company’s responsibility first to bring in the right people and then give them the tools to develop the skills to help them become all-stars. “You’ll get people who are able to not only thrive but also grow in that environment,” she said.

Seeking to make the biggest impact with its training and development efforts, BSE once again took guidance from what employees were asking for in engagement surveys and focus groups. Aponte called this “going slow so we can go fast.” Taking time to listen to staff and carefully design the program ensured it would have the greatest possible impact on the business and individuals.

[Lattice] does help with alignment. It helps people understand our strategic priorities, which then fit into department goals, which then fit into personal goals.

BSE used the employee feedback to implement Lattice’s Grow module and created a skills and competency matrix for all different levels within the organization. Now, employees can chart their own career progression by reviewing the skills and experiences required for advancement and taking relevant training courses.

Training and developing mid-level managers has been an area of particular emphasis for BSE managers who currently receive training on feedback and coaching, strategies for having difficult reviews-based conversations, and inclusive leadership.

“We’re looking to build off of that even more so that when someone is promoted into a manager role, they’re given a curriculum of virtual and in-person training courses to gain more tactical skills to help the transition,” Aponte explained.

Driving a One-Team Mentality

BSE has managed its transition to a performance-based culture by staying grounded in its values and commitment to transparency — fostering a one-team mentality across the organization. And it has done so, thanks to Lattice.

“Every time I have a minute, I tell people to use Lattice because I think it’s so helpful,” Aponte said. “It really does help with alignment. It helps people understand our strategic priorities, which then fit into department goals, which then fit into personal goals.”

Aponte said she can feel this cultural shift sinking in when employees frequently ask her why the CEO’s goals are visible to them on the Lattice platform. Are they supposed to be there? Yes, she tells them: “These are our priorities as an organization. It’s a good thing.”

This article is based on a conversation Lattice’s senior content manager Andy Przystański had with BSE Global’s manager of learning and development Maya Sabin and vice president of human resources Emily Aponte. To learn more about how Brooklyn’s best teams use Lattice to build a winning culture, watch the full video here.