Treat team members as whole people, frequently share appreciation, and create space for fun! At Ness, we add weekly shout outs and high fives to our team meeting agenda. The list has grown so long that we don’t have time to read each one live!
I work at Ness, a fintech company that offers credit cards to reduce the cost of wellcare. Think AmEx for health. As the People Operations Lead, I’m responsible for the full employee lifecycle from recruiting through off boarding.
Tell us about your team!
How big is it?
Ness is a startup with 25 full-time employees, whom we affectionately call “Nessies.” In addition to our 4 Co-Founders, our biggest teams are Engineering (1 Head & 4 Senior Engineers) and Marketing (1 Head, 1 Brand Marketing Lead, 1 Senior Editor, 1 Newsletter Editor & 1 Social Media Strategist).
Where are your teammates located?
We currently have Nessies in 11 states ranging from New York to California.
What does your team do? What are you responsible for?
For now, I’m a People team of one! I’m building the foundation of a great busiNess 🦕that includes defining our people processes, selecting key vendors, training the team, and more. (One project in the “more” category is a quarterly team summit that deepens trust across the team and facilitates IRL collaboration on our key initiatives and departmental goals—dubbed “KIDOs.”)
What are the components of a strong remote culture?
A powerful mission, vision, and core values. It’s critical that each Nessie on our founding team operates with intentionality as exemplars of our culture so new team members understand how we work together. Trust, empowerment, and clear communication guidelines are also a must for successful asynchronous collaboration and a healthy environment where employees don’t feel the need to be online at all hours of the day.
Strong remote cultures are built on strong connections. Strong connections are built with Hailey.
How do you make sure your team is happy and engaged in their work?
Treat team members as whole people, frequently share appreciation, and create space for fun! At Ness, we list weekly shout outs and high fives in our team meeting agenda. The list has grown so long that we don’t have time to read each one live! We also take a more structured approach to employee development through a program called Our Mutual Missions. Inspired by a book called The Alliance about LinkedIn's company culture, our Founder & CEO created a framework to build a common, transparent language so employee and employer are aligned on a specific mission for an established period of time and what the next mission looks like once that period of time is complete. Each employee has a quarterly check-in to discuss how things are going in terms of professional goals and growth.
Finding ways to create those micro moments that happen so organically in an office space can be a challenge. Our team thrives on deep connections and cross-functional partnerships! I’m constantly trying new approaches and tools that create opportunities for impromptu exchanges and foster a more intimate sense of community.
What's your biggest challenge as a remote leader?
Finding ways to create those micro moments that happen so organically in an office space. Our team thrives on deep connections and cross-functional partnerships! I’m constantly trying new approaches and tools that create opportunities for impromptu exchanges and foster a more intimate sense of community.
My Remote Manager Toolbox
In-person summits (held quarterly at locations around the US)
Teach Us sessions (topic chosen by the presenter)
“GoodNess Mornings” (our version of virtual coffee chats)
Pub Trivia (the winner preps for and hosts the next one!)
We spend the first 10-15 minutes of our weekly team meetings on a rotating social activity, some of which are icebreakers. We like to ask all new team members, “Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or a hundred duck-sized horses?” It quickly gets the conversation going and gives a snapshot into how the person thinks!
Products & Tools
Notion is our primary documentation tool, and our Ness OS workspace houses Team Legends. An elevated “All About Me,” the Legend gives new team members a way to quickly learn about other Nessies before creating their own Legend to share. The best part is learning which mythical creature everyone has chosen, as this ties into one of our core values about celebrating our differences and fostering an environment where everyone can bring their full self.
Resources for remote leaders
Right now, I’m leaning into a lot of People resources. My top ones include:
People Ops Weekly, a newsletter by ChartHop. They recently shared really great onboarding ideas, including a number of onboarding processes across different companies.
HR Advisory is a group for innovative leaders. Its Slack community is super active and great for crowdsourcing.
The People Ops Society (POPS) is a modern professional organization with a ton of templates and resources, including vetted vendor reviews.
Make your company a great place to work
"Adding Hailey has been by far the lowest effort, highest impact thing we’ve done to bring our globally scattered team together!" - Mary Grace Reich