With unemployment rates in Silicon Valley hovering around 2 percent, there’s an epic battle for talent, and a growing realization among chief marketing officers that employees are yet another target they need to contend with, if not actively engage. This is the case with Leela Srinivasan, who became CMO of SurveyMonkey in April 2018. The company’s employee count grew 32 percent in the last two years (according to LinkedIn). Survey Monkey has more than 900 employees, 600,000 paying customers and 16 million active users in over 190 countries.
Dealing with the talent war is Srinivasan’s responsibility. She saw it as an opportunity to put both the company’s mission and product to work. The mission, “we power the curious,” is what attracted her to SurveyMonkey in the first place, and the use of surveys seemed like a natural way of making that idea very real to employees and vendors. Turns out, it’s good business to be curious.
Can you talk about the “power the curious” idea?
We had actually come up with ‘power the curious’ a year or so ago. Our organization, before I arrived, went through a brand refresh. As part of that, the company defined this mission of powering the curious, which was one of the things that actually drew me to SurveyMonkey. I consider myself intellectually curious. I've always hired for intellectual curiosity and there's something really delicious about this notion that...our products and solutions enable individuals and organizations everywhere to measure, benchmark, and act on the feedback and opinions of the stakeholders that they care about most.
There is often a temptation among new CMOs is to reject what's in place—what made you say, “I think there's something really good here?”
A couple of things. Number one: this notion of curiosity is something that we've seen a lot of our audience lean into. That curiosity is truly intriguing and inspiring, and I think the smartest people always display curiosity. Since the idea itself partially drew me to the organization, I certainly wanted to explore it further.
What was the other thing?
The other thing is, as we think more broadly and about tying this back into our talents, at the organization, we had this notion of powering the curious and thought about ‘well, what is the employee value proposition? Why would someone come to work at SurveyMonkey?’ And we now think of the organization as 'the place where the curious come to grow.’ And I think for me that really taps into what people are looking for in their careers and their work experience these days, which is the opportunity to develop, to grow, to continue learning— and it's SurveyMonkey. Of course, we put a particular spin on it, which is the fact that so much of that learning can be derived from feedback. If you can just isolate that feedback tap into the why and then act on it then that's what can spur this tremendous growth in innovation.
It’s easy to imagine that you might do a lot of surveying for yourselves.
This is where the ‘eating in your own restaurant’ definitely comes into play. In so many ways here at SurveyMonkey, we're probably guilty—if it's possible—of gathering almost too much feedback. There are certainly plenty of instances on a monthly basis where we leverage our own technology and our own survey platform to get needle-moving feedback.
Zeroing in on your employee surveys, what do you measure?
We use our own technology to measure employee engagement and better understand where the areas of opportunity are for us, to continue making SurveyMonkey a fantastic place to work and the kind of culture where every employee can feel like they belong, like they can bring their best selves to work and really be part of something. We do that in a couple of ways. We have an ongoing pulse survey that we run through our tool SurveyMonkey Engage, which takes the pulse quite regularly with short surveys and then has a longer survey twice a year. We also run a regular inclusion and belonging survey that delves specifically into how much our employees feel like they do belong to something.
What do you do with all this information?
Every leader here including myself, and my leaders on my team, is given the scores for their department to better understand how they stack up against the broader organization, where the opportunities are, where they're ahead, where they've got more work to do. That's the fundamental way that we actually think about the health of our overall organization and our talent base because our people are obviously so important in us delivering on our promises out to the market.
Are there any surprising ways you're using your own product?
Really, we use surveys for everything you can think of from, designing our new headquarters building—a lot of which was fueled by thinking on what employees would like to see in their place of work—to the shaping some of our HR strategies. We recently rolled out vendor benefits in response to feedback from the organization that people who walk the hallways every day and feel like part of the team but happened to work for third-party contractors, whether it's janitorial services or kitchen staff and so forth. People on the SurveyMonkey team wanted to see them get the same level of benefits. And so, we actually made the decision to invest in delivering more benefits that were more in line with our own full-time employee benefits. And that idea came directly from the employee base. We're constantly listening for ways to improve our offerings our organization through our survey technology.