Humanizing HR with Eventbrite’s CHRO
Welcome to another exciting episode of All About HR! This is the podcast & video series for HR Professionals and business leaders who want to future-proof their organization and learn about the latest trends & insights from industry experts, CHROs, and thought leaders.
How can you unlock your employees’ full potential and improve mental health? In this episode, we welcome David Hanrahan, Chief Human Resources Officer at Eventbrite, and dive into employee wellbeing and the concepts of trust, flexibility, and choice.
David is a senior HR leader adept at building strong HR teams and innovative talent practices in fast-paced environments. He is a creative visionary and a focused executor!
In this episode of All About HR, we discuss:
- Trust as a performance metric
- Understanding employee motivations and unlocking their full potential
- Building an employee-centric organization
Watch the full interview to find out how to build a high-performing workplace that unlocks your full potential.
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David Hanrahan: That’s where it gets a little bit tricky to measure the type of trust I’m talking about because you can’t just say yes or no, I trust my boss. And then that’s, that’s okay, great. We have 90% trust in the team because we trust each other one thing I think is interesting. An interesting concept is how do you actually get trust? How do you build trust? So it’s one thing to say, how do you measure it? But how do you build it? What are the inputs to trust?
Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to this episode of All about HR. My name is Neelie and I’m your host. In today’s episode, I speak with David Hanrahan, who is the Chief Human Resources officer at Eventbrite. Our conversation was all about employee well-being, we explored the concept of trust, flexibility, and choice. And we zoomed in on a few of the initiatives that Eventbrite has taken when it comes to their people’s mental health. I think more than enough reason to check out this episode straight away, go and take a look right now. But before you do so, do not forget, as always, to subscribe to our channel. Hit that notification bell, and like this episode. Thank you very much, and happy watching.
Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a brand new episode of all about HR. My name is Neelie. I’m your host, as always, and with me today is David Hanrahan. He is the CMO at Eventbrite. Hi, David. How are you?
David Hanrahan: Hi, Neelie. I’m good. Glad to be here.
Neelie Verlinden: I’m super happy to have you, David. Now, I saw that you have an open position for total rewards. Where can I apply?
David Hanrahan: Yeah, eventbrite.com and our careers page. I’m looking at candidates now all over the place. And I’m excited to meet a lot of people as part of this search I just opened.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I saw that. So for everybody listening in. If you’re curious about this, do check out David’s and LinkedIn because he posted one of the cutest and, I think, funniest adverts that I’ve seen in a while. So do go check it out. David’s back now to you. You run the BriteLand experience team as the company’s CHRO in a few words. How would you describe the BriteLand experience?
David Hanrahan: A BriteLand experience is an experience we’re a compassionate culture wrapped around an important mission. So that’s what we hope for our Brite light when they join, that they’re going to get a compassionate culture wrapped around an important mission. And that mission is to bring the world back together through live experiences. I think a lot of us have felt disconnected from our fellow humans over the past 18 months or so because of a pandemic. And you know, we hope to solve that.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I think that’s very true. I think a lot of us did feel disconnected from our fellow humans over the past 18 months. And it’s something that I think we will be touching on as well during our conversation today, David, because one of the things I really wanted to talk to you about is building a workplace that can unlock people’s full potential. I think that is a really nice theme to frame today’s conversation around. And that brings me back to the pandemic and hopefully the aftermath of it, if we can already call it like that many organizations are rethinking the workplace that they’ve created. And with you, I’d like to reimagine workplaces in a way that enables companies to, as I said, fully unlock the potential of their people. Now, what would you say? Is there a foundation for such a workplace?
David Hanrahan: Well, I think about unlocking people’s potential. You got to understand what their motivators are. So I think a lot of companies are familiar with understanding employee engagement, doing engagement surveys, and these are typical, you know, fixed questions that have been determined to be linked to engagement somehow, or we get to see, you know, by the team and by location and level, what are employees engagement and through different factors, however, what motivates an individual is very interesting, and it’s very different. What motivates me versus what motivates you. These are very different. They’re very nuanced. And I don’t think that organizations have really done a good job yet of understanding what individual employee motivations are. A highly motivated workforce is a high-performing workforce. And when you’re really motivated, you’re tapping into what cares most about you and what you care about most. And that’s really the key to unlocking your potential and understanding what you care about your motivators. And I don’t think there are really great tools out there on this, and you know, I think this is probably the key or the foundation for a workplace that unlocks your potential.
Neelie Verlinden: It really is about finding out each individual’s personal motivators.
David Hanrahan: Yeah, yeah, that’s what I think. Because your motivators change when you’re tapping into what you’re motivated by, you’re tapping into what your potential is. And I think when you understand your own motivations, Then you can understand, you know, where you want to go in your career. And that’s again; it’s about your potential. And organizations oftentimes do a bad job of lifting up your motivations, and organizations oftentimes stifle motivations. So you come in really full of zeal and fired up too, you know, to kind of attack this new job in this new company that you join, you’re excited about it. Now, what happens over time is that that excitement wanes for various reasons, you get a new manager, you start working on something that you really don’t like to do, and your motivations get stifled by the organization. So if organizations were oriented around better understanding what you’re motivated by and marrying those motivations to the work, right, because there’s a key to not only understanding your motivations but then marrying it to the work, how do we take what motivates you and apply that in the workplace? If we did that we thought about that as really our key in a workplace that’s tapping into your potential? I think there could be really great things that come from that, but I don’t think most organizations think that way.
Neelie Verlinden: I’m gonna hold that thought, David, and I’m gonna come back to that in just a second. There’s one thing I wanted to ask you first here, because when we talk about. There are our personal motivations, and what really gets us up in the morning, I’m gonna put it that way. For instance, it does imply, though, that we know from ourselves what that is, right? And I think that a lot of people aren’t necessarily aware of what that personal motivation is. What are your thoughts on that?
David Hanrahan: That’s true? Yeah. I mean, how often do you think about, like, really deeply think about what motivates you? What motivates you now versus five years ago? There’s a tool that one of my former bosses introduced to me a long time ago that I think is really cool, called a motivational pie chart. We’ve applied for it at Eventbrite. But it’s kind of a reflective exercise, you know, you sit down, you think about just a pie, like a circle. And you know, you have as many percentage points as you want to apply to, if you say, what motivates you today. And you could say, 40%, creativity, 10%, money, you know, X percent relationship with my boss, you could say, my family, is my biggest motivator. But then, you know, red, yellow, green, how well is that motivator getting today? So you could say, 40% of what really drives me is being creative. And it’s read, I don’t feel like the work I’m doing today is creative. I don’t feel like I’m not able to, you know, scratch that itch I have on being creative. And so this can be a reflective exercise, like, hmm, wow, this is a problem. 40% of what motivates me is creativity. And I’m not, I’m not getting that met, then you talk to your boss about it like, Well, why is that? How can we move that from red to yellow? Is there just something fundamentally broken between the job and the company that you’re in right now? What do you care about? And sometimes when you’re doing that, you have to really reflect on what Yeah, what would creativity mean, for me, like, what would I be doing? Does that mean I want to go to film school, does that mean I want to just be more creative at work, and it’s in the conversation with your boss that you better understand for yourself, but then your boss better understands it. And I think every time I’ve done this type of exercise, it’s been really eye-opening for me because all my direct reports are very different. And even for myself, it’s changed. It’s changed when I have a, you know, I have two kids now. And what motivated me before I had two kids is very different, even at work. So I think you have to continue to look at this. And engagement surveys don’t really do this, they don’t really do what I’m talking about, because this is an individual exercise with your boss that I think is really important.
Neelie Verlinden: Absolutely. David, something else that I believe you mentioned, as well in various posts was a few elements, there was a choice, there was trust, and there was flexibility. And all three of them were important, I would really like to zoom in on each of these elements and explore them with you, starting with the choice element. Now, how do you actually make that happen?
David Hanrahan: As an organization, we have a training that we put together, in the middle of the pandemic, we realized that you know, leadership was going to be important now more than ever, and we already knew that before the pandemic, but certainly, amidst a pandemic, when people are, you know, frightened, and there’s a lot of, you know, strife in the world, things are changing. And we knew that leadership was going to be a real core to how we were going to navigate through the entire pandemic as a company. So we came with the leadership program called Lead to win. And it has nine leadership principles. And in those principles, really inherent in them is understanding yourself first before you understand your team. And when you understand yourself, that’s also about your motivators, right as an individual as a leader, like what motivates you, what you care about, what you believe in, and then eventually we’ll talk about understanding your team. And understanding your team includes a concept that we call starting with empathy to build trust, it’s kind of wrapped up in the notion of vulnerability. And there’s understanding what you care about and what motivates you, but then understanding your team. And so flexibility and choice, I think, are wrapped up in this concept of empathy. And so, you know, if we’re talking about how do you actually sort of building an organization that sort of manages that balances choice the right way and balances flexibility in the right way, at the core, it’s about knowing your people, knowing your building your workforce, and caring about them and having empathy. And so we actually trained for that. We have a leadership principle called, start with empathy, building trust, and so trying to operationalize empathy in a way, and I think when you do that, then you start to understand how to balance choice and flexibility with getting the job done, right? Because the radical flexibility of just doing whatever you want, there are no rules is obviously not a good way to go. You have to have some balance of flexibility and a balance of like, here’s some guideposts here’s some generally how we like to get stuff done, here are some operational patterns at the company that we find helpful. And so that that’s inherent in the look in the training that we built on that all our managers have gone through.
Neelie Verlinden: And David, how, how does that look like then in reality, because you say that you actually give training on that, which I think is very interesting. Is it then something that, for instance, every manager can then try to balance out with their own teams? Or do you give some best practices? Or how do you go about this at Eventbrite?
David Hanrahan: Well, I think if you zoom out, we’re a software company. And so in general, we can operate asynchronously. And that might not be true for other industries. And maybe we’ll touch on that in a bit. But the way that we can operate is like, we just got to get worked up. And so how you get your work done, whether you’re getting your work done from a cabin, on the beach coding developing code, we have timelines, we haven’t we have deadlines that we need to hit, but how you do it, and whether I’m going to do this on the weekend, whether I’m going to do this, you know, from a mountaintop, whether I’m going to just spend two hours today doing it, and I’m going to take the whole rest of the day off, we don’t really care that now that’s very different than a manufacturing setting. And so for us, we try to actually break down the idea that there is a legacy way of doing things. So for us, it’s actually about: Don’t worry about the legacy way of doing work Monday through Friday, nine to five, you know, like taking your lunch break, that’s just you have to break that down, operating asynchronously in a hybrid setting is just a very different reality. And so for us to pandemic 97% of our workforce worked in the office before the pandemic. We’re very in office culture, we’re very nine to five, you know, FaceTime type of culture. And so when the pandemic hit, we just like many companies realize we don’t need to operate that way anymore. We can start to rethink everything, and rethink all our sort of legacy beliefs about how you manage and how you work. And a lot of the core that is now operating asynchronously, we got to hit our deadlines, but how you do it is up to you. And so how you manage and how you lead in that setting is very different. Leading with high trust and leading with belief and understanding your team is your path to high performance more so than I’m going to command and control and I’m going to give you deadlines, I’m going to micromanage you. So that’s kind of what it’s about.
Neelie Verlinden: Yes, thanks, David, I really want to continue immediately on what you said there about leading with trust and high believers as the way to high performance. I really like that and I saw in one of your posts as well that you were explaining why trust is so crucial. Now. I can imagine some people hearing this and thinking yeah, well okay, what’s new there? Because everybody knows that trust is important. Why did you still feel the need to devote an article to the importance of trust? Let’s start with that.
David Hanrahan: I think for many of us in the middle of the pandemic, you know, we’ve sort of been inundated with misinformation. And so misinformation exists at work so we’re not you know, we’re not immune to that once you open up your laptop and you start working, we’re living in an era of misinformation and eroding trust in leadership figures in the corporate setting as well. We have eroded trust in institutions. And so I think a lot of people who wake up and watch the news and then go into their laptop and start working are questioning everything and so you know, trust is no longer inherent. I don’t inherently trust my leader. I don’t inherently trust my organization. I don’t inherently trust what they’re telling me. So you have to earn trust, but I think a lot of us in a corporate setting assume trust is a given like you said, like of course Yes, yeah, trust. You know, trust is important, but I think what we’re neglecting is that trust is eroding quite a bit and I believe that as leaders, you should assume that trust is not there, you should assume that building a high trust workplace is very difficult. But imagine a team being a team that is inherently trusting of each other, right? So just think of that team that you’ve been in that where we just like, we just trust each other. What is present, when you trust your team, and you trust your boss, you almost have this innate sort of ability to relate and understand what they’re going to think in a certain moment, what my boss would say, I can come to my boss, right? I have psychological safety, I can come to my boss and like to criticize, I can say, Hey, I didn’t think that was a good approach. You know, I didn’t think what you did there made any sense. And so then information flows much more quickly, you operate more quickly. You have feedback, you learn, you grow. So tapping into human potential, can’t do that without high trust. Because if I don’t trust, I’m not going to give you feedback, I’m not going to tell you what you need to know, I’m going to hold that back. And so I think that’s been true for a lot of society in the pandemic, that trust is eroded. But I think that’s probably true in the workplace, too. I don’t think we should assume that workplaces have been immune to, you know, eroding trust in society.
Neelie Verlinden: No, absolutely not. I was talking the other day with someone. And it was more in regards to when they were hiring new people to join a company. But what they said really was like, the fact that I hire somebody in my team, for me implies that I trust the person that I hire, however, he said, I still need to earn that person’s trust. And I think that was a nice way of putting it in regards to what the situation is like when you hire people into your organization. What are your thoughts on that?
David Hanrahan: When you hire someone in your team, you barely know them? Right? So you’ve met them? But do I know you do? I like that we have built a relationship. A relationship is trust, respect, and communication. You can think of that as the three legs of a stool, right? And so when you hire someone, you barely know them at all, you might feel good, like, hey, you accepted my offer, we had some really great conversations, you know, we’re smiling at each other in these interviews, and welcome aboard onboarding. And then there’s, you know, it’s kind of like roses and like all good vibes, but you don’t know the person at all. And you don’t have a relationship with a new hire, you know, so you don’t have trust, you don’t have respect, you have communication, you have to start on those things. You have good vibes, you have good feelings, but you know, do I trust you? And, you know, I think you shouldn’t assume that you know, like, it takes time to build trust takes time to build a relationship. And so think about this, a lot of managers are surprised when their employee leaves, right? Hey, I just hired you a year ago, and you’re already leaving, or you’ve been with me for 10 years, and suddenly you’re leaving. What happened there? And so this is a very common occurrence. I’m putting in my notice, and my boss is shocked. I thought we had a good relationship. I thought, you know, like, I’m surprised why are you leaving now? And then you start thinking back on those moments where they gave you a little signal of not being happy about something or asking for a raise? You said No, not now. And so if we really trusted each other, if we had a really good relationship with each other boss and direct report, you’re going to know when it’s my time to go because I’m like, I’m telling you, I’m thinking six months from now I gotta do something different. You know, and, and when that happens, that’s like, we got a trusting relationship. But when not, you know, like, oh, I don’t know how my boss is gonna feel about this, I can’t tell them I’m leaving in six months, because they might, they might fire me, they might like, I might have negative consequences for me. So I think you can think of trust as being really rare in workplaces because of that phenomenon. When people leave, typically, it’s, it’s always a surprise for their boss, the rare times it’s not a surprise when we’re talking about it, and like, Hey, I get it, I totally get it, you know, six months from now, I’ll help you, I’ll help you with that, I’ll help you get something different. That’s because those types of relationships are rare. But more commonly, I’m going to be surprised. And that means we didn’t really have the true relationship that I’m talking about.
Neelie Verlinden: I agree with that. But I do think that when you hire someone, there needs to be some sort of default level of trust because you are hiring someone and you are starting that working relationship with that person. But there needs to be, I think, a certain level of trust that this person will be grateful to a great addition to the team, but going back now to your article, what I found particularly interesting was how you talked about trust as a performance metric.
David Hanrahan: There was a quote that I was stealing from someone else. And the quote said that trust is the only legal performance-enhancing drug if we believe that, you know, sometimes we believe that engagement is the path to high performance, right? So high engagement is high performance. And so you can say, well, then engagement is the performance metric. I think these things are similar in that you don’t really have high engagement without a really highly trusting environment between the team and the manager. However, I believe that if we have high trust in our teams, we’re going to operate quicker We’re going to make better decisions, we’re going to give each other more, more constructive feedback, we’re going to be really honest with each other because we trust each other that I can tell you this without fear of negative consequences. And all of those things like the quote said, are really the path to high performance. So, but how do you measure trust? Yeah, how would you measure trust, if you could measure trust, would that also be associated with high performing teams, if you think about sports teams, if you think about teams that have, you know, that have really life or death consequences on maybe military squads, or, you know, like the space shuttle like, and then astronauts, those people in those teams in high pressure environments have to have a high degree of trust, if they don’t trust that’s like life or death consequences. And so some of those teams are operating at peak performance, though that’s like the peak of human performance. If you’re an astronaut, you’re working out, you know, you’re in an athletic team, you know, or you’re in, you’re in the military, and you’re operating a squad with life or death consequences, because things if you know, if people cooperate with peak performance in teams, that and they have a trusting relationships, we should assume the case can be true in software as well, that if we can measure our trust, as a team, probably associated, you know, with high performing teams would just be my belief, but maybe I’m wrong.
Neelie Verlinden: Do you have an idea about how we could measure that?
David Hanrahan: I mean, certainly, you could just say, you know, do you trust your boss? Do you trust your team, but I think what you talked about at the beginning is certainly true because there are different levels of trust. I could say, Sure, I trust my boss, you know, and, but the type of trust I’m talking about is a little bit different. If I trust you to show up, I trust you to do your work is a little bit different than I trust this person’s intentions or I trust what they’re telling me. You know, and so that’s different, you know, trust that you’re going to do your work is a little bit different than I trust this person’s feedback. I trust her opinion of me, that’s where it gets a little bit tricky to measure the type of trust I’m talking about because you can’t just say yes or no, I trust my boss. And then that’s okay, great. We have 90% trust in the team. Because we trust each other on one thing, I think that is interesting, an interesting concept is how do you actually get trust? How do you build trust? So it’s one thing to say, how do you measure it? But how are you? Well, how do you build it? What are the inputs to trust? One thing that we have talked about in our leadership training is to start with empathy to build trust. Right? So when I talked about the beginning, like what’s the Britening experience, it’s about being in a compassionate culture wrapped around an important mission. And so empathy and compassion is different than being nice, right? It’s different than being kind or ruinous. Empathy is a concept that Kim Scott talks about. But a compassionate, compassionate culture is one that also probably has vulnerability, right? So if your leadership team is routinely vulnerable, and they talk about what their own hopes and fears are, what you know, like struggles that they’re dealing with in their life, and sort of shows you what it means to be a human, your leader is humanizing the workplace and is showing up as a human, then I’m gonna start to trust you a little bit more, because, okay, you’re a human, you’re a good person. And I’m going to trust you a little bit more. And then, therefore, I’m going to give you a little bit more of myself. And so a vulnerability in that sense, at least for us is, we think it is an important input to getting to trust.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I think that that is a really good point. David, I think that if especially as a leader, as a manager in an organization, if you show your own vulnerability, and if you also say, especially over the past year and a half, of course, but if you also say, honestly, guys, I do not have the answer, I do not know what to do in this or that situation. If you open up in that regard, and show people that you’re not the all knowing leader, then yeah, I think that does open the door, and makes it a lot easier for people to relate to you as a leader on the empathy element, though, I think empathy is a tricky one in the sense that I definitely think that is extremely important. But empathy, I’m not sure if it’s something that can be taught.
David Hanrahan: I don’t know if empathy is innate versus can be taught. But certainly, we’ve had moments where we’ve been confronted with human life with our team, someone’s parent passed away, someone is, you know, suddenly very seriously sick, or their child is sick. And we have these moments where, you know, suddenly like, life comes back. It’s not just work. It’s like, okay, there’s this, this is real life. And so our CEO will routinely drop everything she’s doing when she is aware that one of the employees is dealing with something serious. So she shows her role models, what it means to be a compassionate leader to be an empathetic leader. And others pick up on what others pick up on, hey, if my leader, this is something my leaders do and care about. And as a good human role modeling is a little bit like teaching, if I’m kind of role modeling what like what we care about, we care actually care about each other, then I’m going to pick up on that I think we can also teach people little tricks to get to know each other better as humans. And so an example would be one of the things that we do at Eventbrite. We have a little management tactic a week that we call How are you really, really doing? And there’s, you know, pleasantries that we always do in one on one, just say, Hey, how are you? How are you doing? How’s your weekend? Oh, that’s great. You know, I went on vacation, whatever. We say, How are you really doing? And you give a moment there just a pause to say, How are you really, really doing something that might come from that? Well, you know, my father’s got Alzheimer’s, it was kind of a rough weekend. And so I’ve been really distracted by that. So if you see that I’m distracted. You know, that’s kind of what I’m dealing with. And so you know, what we suddenly start to surface when you really care? And you have a tactic like that we say, like, how are you really, really doing? So I want to know, suddenly, that’s a different conversation. And that’s a simple thing. So I don’t know if that’s the same as teaching empathy. But it’s certainly giving people little nudges, to go in certain directions with your workforce through role modeling, and little sort of things that we do that suddenly change the conversation a little bit.
Neelie Verlinden: Yes, the conversation and I think also eventually the behavior. So that’s a nice example that you gave there, David, moving on, slowly, but surely now to flexibility as well. I think we all understand flexibility in regards to working from home, of course, but I believe that for EventBrite, flexibility goes beyond being able to choose where you want to work from, what role does flexibility play in creating a workplace creating the BriteLand experience, actually, but that fully unlocks people’s potential?
David Hanrahan: Well, let’s take the opposite. First, the opposite is a workplace that has a lot of rules, there’s a very limited way you can operate, you can do your job, I’m going to tell you exactly how you’re going to do your job, certainly there are a lot of jobs out there, we can think about some of them, you know, there’s probably a lot of unavoidable jobs where you have to follow the rules, like you can’t fly an airplane and your own sort of creative way, you got to, like, follow the safety rules, right? So I got to get the plane up, I gotta, you know, kind of put the airlines out, I got to turn the gas. But now that’s a little bit different than the flexibility I’m talking about. In software companies, there’s a lot of unnecessary rules. I’ll just give an example like Monday through Friday, nine to five, you know, the schedule, take your lunch break, and we all take our lunch at noon, you know, so there’s like those little traditions that we have in legacy things that we do in workplaces that are kind of silly at times, right? as different as to how you fly an airplane. There are rules that we have in place, they’re either written or they’re unwritten rules on how you’re supposed to operate. And so flexibility is, you know, rules get in our way like if I have a certain way, I think we should do this, or this is the way it’s always been done. But I think the way it’s always been done is a barrier to improvement. And so flexibility is like hey, like there’s, you know, everything is open for improvement. There are no rules, let’s just say that. Now the complete opposite end is like there are no rules. So when there are no rules, there’s chaos, right? But flexibility, when we move in the direction of flexibility, we say then that you know that we can throw the rules out the window. And we can innovate. And we can sort of show up to the customers in different ways. We can help, we can ship new products, we can do away with things that are no longer the right way of doing that, and no longer the right way of building the software. And so a lot of developments in software moving from you know, waterfall to agile, just as one example, have been about throwing those rules out the window. And so flexibility and unlocking people’s potential is I trust you to know what’s the best way to operate for you? What’s the best way you’re going to build the deck to build this code? What’s the best way you’re going to launch this HR project? I’m not going to micromanage it for you, I’m going to trust you to tell me what you think is the best way. I’m going to give you a little coaching along the way. So flexibility, I think, is a really key ingredient to unlocking people’s potential. Unlocking team potential and unlocking organizational potential because it’s about saying we’re not gonna really operate by the rules.
Neelie Verlinden: I think this is a very nice take on flexibility here, David because it really is more about not having rules limit your way of thinking about solving solutions or your way of thinking about doing your job and in a way if I understand you correctly, it is always about constantly rethinking the way that you’re doing things to see if perhaps there’s a better way.
David Hanrahan: Yeah, absolutely. You know, think about meetings, and I got to be in all these meetings, right. So during the pandemic, the amount of time that we’ve been spending in meetings has increased dramatically, there’s a report that Microsoft put out because they’re able to measure how many times how much people are in meetings, the amount of written communication, the amount of time that we’re in meetings has increased dramatically. Now, is that a byproduct of moving to asynchronous work and hybrid working, that would be bad, because when we’re in meetings, or not, an engineer is really not getting a lot done when they’re in meetings all day. And so a new thing that we’re going to have to grapple with does I have to be in all these meetings, you know, because like when you were an employee, and your boss is calling a meeting, or other leaders are calling meetings, I’m going to go to him because my boss called this meeting, but maybe if I had a flexible workplace, and we trusted people say, hey, skip meetings that you don’t think are going to be good for you, or your attendance is not, you know, it’s not really required, then the magic amount of ability, like that frees up for the person to go do what is important. And so you know, in companies that have a very command and control culture, I get to go to all these meeting buttons in cultures that want to sort of belief in flexibility. Maybe I don’t have to go to this meeting, because I’m not going to be helpful. And so I’m just not going to go and I’m going to do something more important. That’s one other sort of, like a simple example of the flexibility that I think is important to pandemics, given how many more meetings that we’re having nowadays.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, absolutely. And I am actually going to move us here, David, from meetings to mental health, not that I want to imply that meetings have been a bad influence on people’s mental health, but there is a lot being said, of course, about mental health, it’s really getting a lot more attention. That is, unfortunately, a negative consequence of the pandemic, and many people feeling isolated often. So mental health has been increasingly getting a lot of attention. Now at Eventbrite. I know I’ve seen that you’ve put in place some really great initiatives in this regard. So there are the burnouts, Brite cams, and the Brite brakes are among those initiatives. Can you briefly tell us what these entail?
David Hanrahan: Yeah, so um, you know, we found a lot of companies that people were burning out in the pandemic, you know, incident rates of anxiety and depression, were spiking in the pandemic, and they were actually already increasing before the pandemic. So something that, you know, we as a society were already facing as a pretty significant issue. And so, you know, started with us talking about it, acknowledging the stress and anxiety that people were dealing with everything from the pandemic, but also climate change social justice issues, like you know, misinformation, social media is like the big root of this. And so what these entail with these programs is trying to break us free from our computers, for the most part, right? So like, we’re stuck on zoom. We’re bombarded with information that really worries us. And we need to acknowledge that number one, and this is about compassion and taking care of yourself in your family first, and the Brite camps were conversations about acknowledging what people are dealing with, and what they do. And so a lot of this in the burnout, Brite camps, which is really just a series of talks led by one of our engineering directors, Nick, it was about what are you experiencing? What do you do and so people share openly? I go for a walk 15 minutes every day, and it does wonders for my mental health. I exercise or I talk with a therapist, I get professional help. And from that, we realize, gosh, people really need people to be sort of freed up. They can be freed up because of these work-like workloads increasing we’re having more meetings, we’re having more meetings, and this is really high pressure and stressful. So Brite breaks became, you know, a pilot like let’s see what would happen if, during the pandemic, we take the first Friday off of every month, the whole company. From that, we learned that our employees valued this greatly. And it was like one of the most universally successful programs that we launched. The first Friday of every month we take off just to take care of ourselves to go recharge, but the Brite breaks were really just broken just taking time away from work. And a lot of companies have since experimented with some things like this, and even some companies are considering going to a four-day workweek. But at the core of those is really compassion and taking care of yourself first and your family first. And that like doing these things is really rooted in those things as opposed to rooted in something else was rooted in compassion.
Neelie Verlinden: We are getting towards the final part of each episode. So, David, I would like to start by asking you about an epic win that you would like to share with us
David Hanrahan: I guess I’d like to share so it’s very topical. For me, our culture has really rebounded since this during the pandemic, and we just talked in our meeting yesterday about how improved our morale is. So, when the pandemic first happened, you know, we went through a major restructuring as a company, you know, like live events, our core business bottle was on pause. And so as summer was a very dark summer, not only for us but for a lot of people. But for us, certainly, it was, it was a very dark summer. And so our morale has really rebounded, we measure it, you know, on a 100 point basis, and it’s rebounded by 20 points year over year, which is pretty amazing. And there’s a whole bunch of factors that have improved dramatically, everything from how we, how we direct resources to our leaders, and our and our leadership score. So I think something I’m proud of because a lot of our own employees has been part of building the culture. Our culture is really rebounded year over year so that’s an epic win that I’m proud of as a company leader.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, absolutely. It sounds, like a beautiful, epic win. And when it comes to an epic fail that you like to share with us what comes to mind?
David Hanrahan: I wrote an article about a whole bunch of mistakes that I’ve made in my career. And so an epic fail that I would admit to, is earlier in my career, not really believing in the power of values of company values, and neglecting that. And so I used to think of values as a soft word. And like, that’s kind of why HR teams get a bad rap because values are this kind of mushy topic that HR teams bring up. And when they bring up values like, hey, this person has no credibility, because they’re talking about values. And so I used to believe that, and I’ve kind of come full circle on that. But that’s an epic fail. Earlier in my career, I really neglected the power of company values. And like, it’s, you know, 20 years now in my career, and it’s like, the thing that I think is probably most important to the success of a CHRO is really knowing what those are and how you embed them.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I mean, again, I totally agree with you. And I kind of like how that went full circle. So thanks for sharing that, David. And also, thank you very much for joining me today. I really enjoyed our conversation. So thank you very much. And thank you everyone for tuning in to today’s episode of all about HR. As always, do not forget to subscribe to the channel, like this episode, and share it with a friend. Thank you so much, and see you again soon for a new episode of all about HR. Bye