Brooke Lesner is the director of recruiting at Catalyst Software, winner of OpenComp’s People-first Employers to Watch in 2023 Award in the <100 employees category. In this interview, Lesner explains how doubling down on feedback and creating brief moments of engagement earn Catalyst a near five-star Glassdoor rating.
A little about Brooke Lesner
Lesner joined Catalyst as a recruiting lead in 2020, dashing up the ranks to her current director role. Before joining Catalyst, she held recruiting roles at NewsCred, Avero, Shearman & Sterling, and Goodwin.
Tell us about Catalyst Software.
Catalyst Software is a customer success platform that was one of LinkedIn’s Top Startups of 2021. We’re backed by Work-Bench, Spark Capital, True Ventures, Accel, among others.
We currently have 93 employees with one location — HQ in New York City. We believe the future of work is distributed, so employees have the flexibility to work from wherever they’re most comfortable, within the U.S. or Canada. But HQ is available for those who prefer to work in a dedicated office.
How do you define employee-centricity?
No matter how big or small a decision seems, we think about how it will impact both individuals and teams. One of our values is “place customers at the center.” We apply this thinking to our employees as well. We want them to feel supported but not micromanaged, autonomous but not isolated, and fully empowered.
What are the pillars of your employee experience strategy?
There are three key areas we focus on. The first is providing regular company updates so employees can learn, rather than wonder, about what’s happening across the organization. This includes a bi-weekly, 30-minute sync where we hear from our CEO or leadership team, as well as wins and asks from each team. We then follow-up with a written summary.
Second are micro-engagements. We’ve learned that it’s difficult to drive fruitful engagement over Zoom for time-bound activities, so we’ve created opportunities for smaller groups to get together throughout the day, week, or month. We’re continuing to look for more ways to innovate here and ensure our colleagues are taking breaks together.
The third area is programmatic feedback loops. Our team has a lot of discovery conversations and listening sessions to ensure we constantly have a pulse on how we can improve engagement. We’re not waiting for our engagement survey results, we’re adjusting as we go.
How do you measure the effectiveness of your employee experience strategy?
We conduct an annual engagement survey and a bi-annual pulse check, and track leading indicators like attendance and feedback for major events. We’re really focused on giving and receiving feedback, so we also look at public shoutouts given over time. Last, we look at reactions and comments on specific posts in Slack to give us indicators on what’s landing well or what needs improving.
What do you do to optimize candidate experience?
We feel strongly about cultivating an exceptional experience for all candidates, regardless of whether they ultimately receive an offer. The recruiting team outlines the interview process on their initial call with a candidate to ensure alignment and mitigate the risk of any surprises. The team also provides each candidate with timely status updates throughout their interview cycle. We consistently receive feedback from candidates that their interview process was well organized, that they appreciate our pay transparency, and that they felt supported throughout its duration.
Also, recruiters complete a proprietary interviewer training, covering topics such as unconscious bias, culture fit vs. culture add, the importance of meaningful feedback, and how to handle tricky candidate situations. This allows us to deliver a consistent and equitable experience to all contenders.
How do you approach career pathing?
Our leadership cares deeply about their direct reports’ career aspirations and makes it their mission to learn about what motivates them. Early on at Catalyst, we built robust levels for those in management, or looking to get into management, and those who are individual contributors and want to remain so.
We ensure each employee knows what the capabilities are for the tiered levels of their respective disciplines. People managers also work with their direct reports on an Individual Development Plan that helps them define the skills they want to develop and outline how they plan to do so. Pay transparency matters throughout.
How do you ensure pay equity and pay transparency across the employee lifecycle?
Our compensation philosophy is that pay should be competitive, equitable, and consistently tied to performance. We use compensation benchmarking tools to hold ourselves accountable to preset salary ranges. Also, during each performance review cycle, our people leaders operate within a specified percentage for both merit increases and promotions, to deliver pay transparency.
What’s your approach to Glassdoor reviews?
It’s important to us that employees don’t feel pressured to submit a Glassdoor review, because we want reviews to be fully authentic. We want folks who share a review to know their submission is taken seriously, and one of our co-founders will respond personally to each review.
What tactics are you testing right now to improve the employee experience?
The micro-events I mentioned earlier are just in their infancy and we’re looking to build more ways for individuals and teams to engage. Also, Slack has become the place of work, so we’re working on how to minimize the noise and ensure everyone is finding it more productive than distracting.