Listen up: These Boston companies incorporate employee perspectives from every level

by Cailin Crowe
May 24, 2019

Today’s workforce wants to feel engaged and empowered at work. One of the best ways to build a motivated and happy workforce is by involving employees — from the intern all the way up to the CEO — in important business decisions.

In fact, a recent Salesforce report found that employees who feel that their voices are heard and appreciated are about five times more likely to do their best work.

These three Boston companies have mastered the art of empowering different employee voices to achieve maximum results.

 

ActBlue Boston
photo via actblue

ActBlue provides flexible and free fundraising tools for nonprofits and grassroots organizations. They’ve helped groups raise over $3.4 billion to date with big name users like presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Vice President of Engineering Tacita Morway told us how the Somerville-based company incorporates different perspectives into key business decisions.

 

Tell us about a project in which having a diverse team with different perspectives led to a better business outcome.

Every project has benefited from the strength of our diverse team. We serve and empower millions of users across the country. Incorporating different voices, mindsets and experiences equips us to ask necessary questions and recognize and challenge our own assumptions. Diverse voices help us tackle the right need, build the right solution and effectively communicate our value. Varied voices at the table help enhance the strength that we depend on: an environment where individuals can feel comfortable voicing and contributing their ideas.

 

How does your company ensure that employees from a diverse range of backgrounds are included in making key business decisions?

We move quickly at ActBlue. One of the most challenging parts of our fast pace can be recognizing when a decision is actually being made and developing the reflex to stop and incorporate necessary perspectives. Certain roles like engineering management and key communication roles like product management are specifically accountable for maintaining that vigilance. But we also expect everyone on the team to seek opportunities to incorporate other voices. This initiative is written into our competencies rubric. We also do our best to organize into small, diverse and autonomous teams that are charged with a specific business domain. These teams help us ensure that varied perspectives are included in key business decisions at scale.

 

perceptive automata Boston
photo via perceptive automata

Founded in 2014, Perceptive Automata builds software that helps autonomous vehicles constantly improve their understanding of human behavior, including eye contact or knowing if a person intends to cross the street.

CEO and Co-Founder Sid Misra explained how they foster an innovative environment that encourages an ownership mentality among employees at every level.

 

Tell us about a project in which having a diverse team with different perspectives led to a better business outcome.

Our team is innovative in both our approach to automatic vehicle problem-solving in human environments and in our actual makeup. We are an interdisciplinary team spanning neuroscience, behavioral science, computer vision and machine learning. To bridge the gap between humans and robotic systems, we use behavioral science to characterize the way human drivers watch and understand other humans on the road, and then train deep-learning models to acquire that human ability.

 

How does your company ensure that employees from a diverse range of backgrounds are included in making key business decisions?

One of the foundations of our leadership style and culture is ownership mentality. This does not just refer to the fact that each team member owns a share of the company. Ownership mentality is the idea that anyone in the company can have a large impact by thinking about what’s best for the company and then proactively owning the solution to the problem that they’ve identified. We have a strong belief that if we hire the best, smartest and most driven people, we have to let them think and act on behalf of the company’s interests. Otherwise, we’ll miss out on a great contribution from that individual. To achieve those contributions we’ve purposefully built a flat communication structure. We want the best ideas to shine, not the most senior person’s idea.

 

robin Boston
photo via robin

Robin helps companies make sense of today’s open office spaces by modernizing the workplace with software that manages the use of meeting spaces and conference rooms.

CEO and Co-Founder Sam Dunn told us how the rapidly growing company integrates feedback from each employee into their new value system.  

 

Tell us about a project in which having a diverse team with different perspectives led to a better business outcome.

Over the last year, we’ve grown from 38 to 87 employees. Our headcount will double by the end of the year. When you experience rapid-growth, it’s important to take a hard look at who you are, how you’ve changed and your values. The worst thing we could do is meet as a leadership team, make some decisions and one day say, “Voila! These are our new company values.” To prevent that, we kicked off several exercises with representation from every team, expanded that to a company-wide survey and offered in-person feedback sessions for each employee to voice their thoughts. We’re really close to landing on values that resonate across the team, and we only achieved that by intentionally seeking diverse perspectives.

 

How does your company ensure that employees from a diverse range of backgrounds are included in making key business decisions?

We want to avoid “sameness.” A team needs a variety of perspectives to avoid stagnating. And that’s boring — we should challenge ourselves. We’re investing heavily in people ops and talent to make sure we address things like understanding bias, de-biasing feedback and sameness. We pride ourselves on how each new hire adds a value, a characteristic and an interest that never existed here before. The thing that ties us together is uniqueness. Some of that was on purpose and some was an accident. Either way, we want to continue fostering that tradition. Our commonality is our individuality, and we work hard to ensure that we’re including those voices in key conversations and giving them a seat at the table.

 

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