This month, we’re thrilled to welcome Pat Wadors to the Zenefits Board of Directors. A senior-level people and talent executive, Pat brings a unique practitioner point of view to the five-person board and extends its diverse mix of HR technology, operations, engineering, and investment leadership expertise. Her addition to the board reflects the customers our company serves: business leaders looking to be smarter about running and growing their companies by better enabling their people.
Much is written and researched about delivering better business outcomes with more diverse perspective in companies — both on executive teams and on boards. Pat herself has lectured, written and counseled extensively on the topic of diversity. Her core premise: diversity and inclusion only works when people with different perspectives are welcomed in a way that they are comfortable sharing their true selves and unique ideas at work. They need to know that they belong.
For a company like Zenefits, which powers small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) with software, advisory services and partner solutions for people and talent programs, it becomes even more persuasive to lead by our own example. After all, we’re an SMB business too.
To properly welcome Pat to the Zenefits community, we sat down to interview her on her business and personal motivations behind serving on our board and how she ensured her own “belonging moments” in the process.
“At a high level, Zenefits is in the talent space, and that’s my wheelhouse. I love creating great employee experiences, and Zenefits not only wants their employees to know that they’re essential, but also wants their customers to know they matter. I was intrigued by the company and its perspective on people, so when Zenefits’ Jay Fulcher (CEO and Chairman of the Board) and Beth Steinberg (Chief People Officer) initially reached out to me, I started my due diligence on the management team and the product. What I found piqued my interest and aligned with my personal ethos on building smarter businesses with people at their heart.
I especially wanted to get to know Zenefits’ leadership: I wanted to make sure that the business decisions they make are reflective of the business direction; I needed to know how Zenefits competes; and I wanted to determine if the company’s leader had both the grit for moving the company’s story ahead, and the internal respect to make it happen.
Most people won’t stay in a company that might need to stare down tough problems: to battle a brand or perception issue or a challenge like making a business pivot. So, I needed to know if Zenefits had the leadership to continue to engage its team to deliver on its new vision and business purpose.
What I found is that Zenefits’ management team finished each other’s sentences while I was in the room — it sounds trite but it’s true. They were also comfortable discussing and debating new ideas from different perspectives. From my experience with many executive teams, I know that mutual trust has got to be high to engage like this. It is the sign of a good, healthy team. One that can take on —and work through— big, tough challenges.
I also looked at the product: I wanted to be delighted — and I was. Zenefits designed its People Platform for mobile. As a user, I don’t have to slow down. It feels like that product was designed for me: Zenefits cares about the details that matter to me; and Zenefits simplifies big life decisions like insurance and 401K selections, payroll deductions and tax-free savings accounts. The company cares about me and my family, and offers me options to meet my conditions and needs. As a people and talent leader, the tool is also super transparent and would make it easy for me to model this for my organization.”
“I want to help Jay and the team achieve their goals to build the business: scale, size, people, pricing, product — the works. Zenefits has spent the past year deliberately re-framing its business model and building the right, supporting foundation of people, tools and process behind it. Now they have an opportunity to meaningfully connect their people, as well as their customers, with the company’s purpose.
If you build trust, loyalty and shared purpose, you unlock peoples’ super powers and give them the flywheel to scale. Talent beats strategy every day. If you have great talent, you can overcome mistakes in your strategy more quickly.
I’ve built my career scaling companies, but I haven’t worked with one at this stage yet. Personally, this gives me a peek into another angle of a business lifecycle and I look forward to both tapping what I know and continuing to advance my own learning along the way.”
“SMBs’ size gives them opportunity for nimbleness. Small businesses need a strategy to how they compete for talent; it is equally important to how they compete for customers. Small business owners have to think through their options and be transparent on delivering context for what they’ve chosen.
In fact, I’ve seen small businesses like Pinterest and Zuora design their people experiences right from the beginning, similar to how they designed their customer experience. Having those people practices and cultural tenets on what you stand for, early on, is key to decision-making and thriving. When all the people in a business understand what to prioritize, and the level of service, quality and delight intended, the business gets more traction. How you decide to break a tie, to fire or hire, etc. Write those down; because the answers matter to you. Share and codify the culture and experience across the organization as you scale. It’s like a marriage; nurture your connecting values.”
“We are so distributed in the workforce today, technology systems become the default to how we stay connected. The video, the tools, the artificial intelligence that suggests the five simple courses to take next. It is a push and a pull. The best technology helps me be better at me.”
I think businesses of all sizes owe their people three kinds of experiences: culture (how I pay you and treat you); the tools I give you to do your job; and a delightful physical environment in which to thrive.
In a competitive business world fueled on measurement, we can’t lose track of humanity. Smiles are infectious. They’re how I measure success: the number of smiles on a tough day I sit in a cube in an open floor plan and my team can see my joy. The more I am there in front of them, the more my excitement energizes them; and theirs motivates me. In open workspaces, there is value to thinking that if I can see you, things will go better. High walls are good for concentrated work; the rest should be personal and virtual connection.
At Zenefits and at ServiceNow, we are trying to build companies that scale. We are thoughtful and mindful about our experiences at work: how we work together, treat each other, develop an inclusive culture where we belong, matter, and can be authentic humans —not just a fit— but be myself in a workplace filled with cognitive diversity, that takes risks with me. A workplace where we are compelled to belong.”
Pat Wadors is excited to belong at Zenefits on the Board of Directors. And we are thrilled to have her.
Looking for more executive perspectives on running, growing and engaging teams at small and mid-sized businesses? Check out www.zenefits.com/blog