SAN FRANCISCO — “People don’t leave companies, they leave managers,” said Keith Watts, the industry lead for financial services and real estate at Facebook.
He was answering a question from an attendee at the Inman Connect San Francisco off-site CEO Connect event — held at Facebook headquarters. And that assertion was followed by a panel specifically about culture and work-life integration.
Jerry Canning, Facebook’s US head of industry — who moderated the panel — opened the discussion by asking what they thought culture was while also digging into their core values.
“Culture for us is the underlying color” that infuses everything at Facebook, said Lori Goler, vice president of people at Facebook.
Sherry Chris, CEO at Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate, said that they are changing one of the core values of the company — innovation — to integration. Eight years ago when she started the brand, innovation was important, but integration has since become the dominant value.
What makes each company different?
“We are entirely focused on our mission as a company, which is to make the world more open and connected,” said Goler.
There is no small job at Facebook, she added, and the company culture is “social by design.” Everyone is on Facebook (and Instagram) all day long. And using the product themselves can help them care deeply about their consumers.
Amy Bohuntinsky, the COO at Zillow Group, talked about the tangible differences that can infuse companies with stand-out cultures. Core values are “something we talk about all the time,” she said. Zillow Group employees discuss core values in their employee reviews and try to demonstrate those values daily, she said.
How to maintain culture through growth?
Communicate your core values, keep them in mind and talk about them, advised Bohutinsky. She used dotloop, which Zillow Group acquired last year, as an example.
“One thing you’ll notice when you go into the dotloop office in Cincinnati is, it feels like Cincinnati.” Although dotloop follows Zillow’s core values, it has its own unique culture — and that’s a good thing, she said.
People have “always been worried about” what will happen to the culture at Facebook as it grows. There isn’t just one person who “owns” that culture, said Goler — “It’s not Mark, it’s not Cheryl.
“We share with everybody that they are here now and they own the culture,” Goler said, explaining their new employee onboarding and how it helps employees feel involved in their company.
“As much as Facebook has changed over the last eight years in the time that I’ve been there, it is, in my mind, almost the exact same company,” she said. “The same things are important to us. And that’s because every single person in the company feels like they own it.”
Chris has a different struggle: 11,000 agents in hundreds of brokerage offices. “The companies run very differently,” she said, “but the values are still there.
“What I find is that if you establish yourself in a certain way and attract a certain kind of broker-partner, they will come, and others will come in their wake.”
So they don’t bring “just anyone” in, noted Chris.
How do you expand your culture?
Think office space can be brushed aside? Think again.
“Not every real estate office across the country looks great,” noted Chris bluntly. “They aren’t all very nice places to work.” Because part of the BHGRE brand involves dreaming and vision, it’s important that the offices look a certain way.
“What it doesn’t do is say, ‘You need to have X number of agents per square feet,'” Chris explains. “Brokers know that. What we help with [is], what should it feel like when they walk in? Is it a good space to recruit to?” That brand service is widely used, she said.
“One thing that helps us disseminate is the use of Facebook Groups across the world,” said Goler. “We have Facebook Groups for absolutely everything” — more than there are employees.
There are Facebook Groups for all Facebook staff (called “FYI”), including groups for each team level (engineering, product), each manager’s team, social groups, geographic offices (London, etc.), housing and games. “Every possible interest group you can think of,” she said.
This allows free-flowing interaction that takes place across the company. “You’ll see somebody post, and there’ll be 100 comments,” she said. “It’s much easier to get information out and be open if you can use a platform like Facebook to disseminate it.”
And what’s the point? Efficiency and autonomy. Everyone has everything they need to do their job.
Bohutinsky agreed that “frequent transparent communication” is also key — in-person.
Part of the Zillow Group leadership team’s job, she said, is to facilitate that face-to-face conversation across the different offices that Zillow operates.
“As we come up with more ways to communicate and communicate at more hours of the day, I sometimes find that the very best is in the same room,” she said.
“Tech companies are known for having pretty awesome physical spaces,” noted Bohutinsky, but she added that it’s important for them to have a life outside of work.
“We think about that in the nuances of how we build our physical space and how we create our benefits program,” she said. That includes lunches, treadmill desks and lovely views.
However, it doesn’t include dinner, dry-cleaning or other perks that might encourage employees to stay later than perhaps they “should.”
“We’re still a fun, vibrant place to come into,” she said, “but we still want you to go home at 5:30 and have a life.”
Facebook has a social-by-design layout, said Golen — couches, non-traditional workspaces and other design features encourage sharing and communication.
People at Facebook “really enjoy” their colleagues, she said. “I think it’s nice to have those spaces where you can gather and interact.”
The family wall with photos of team members, their children and pets helps facilitate work-life balance at BHGRE, said Chris.
And if you can facilitate that lifestyle? “You don’t lose employees,” she added.