Stella Tran Promotes Collaborative Communication at HighRadius

To ensure company and culture success across a global remote workforce, Stella Tran and her team at HighRadius Corporation know that communication is key

Photo by Black Frame Photos

Houston-based HighRadius Corporation is a fintech software-as-a-service company that helps companies automate complex accounts receivable and treasury processes by using autonomous systems based on artificial intelligence. Its global customer base ranges from more than two hundred of the Fortune 1000 companies down to midsize enterprises. As HighRadius’s vice president of people and culture, Stella Tran finds that collaborative communication in all directions is an essential tool for her team’s success.

“In HR, you have to be agile enough to be a coach, a confidant, or a copilot. Sometimes we’re called upon to be all three in one day. It’s how we become an extension of the teams we’re supporting,” Tran says. “Because we want to optimize them for success, we always strive for balanced decision-making between the employees and the company. We look for a ‘win’ on both sides.”

It’s no surprise, then, that the hiring process is highly collaborative. A lot of time is invested upfront to define roles, and hiring managers are directly involved in sourcing their own candidates—which increases the response rate to more than 50 percent.

“We look for creative career paths; it doesn’t need to be a straight-line progression as long as we see growth in scope and positions along the way,” Tran explains. “We look across complete past to present life experiences that indicate someone who can be more agile and stretch into different positions and responsibilities. The bigger the track record of success, the less someone has to check all of the qualification boxes on the job description.”

Stella Tran HighRadius
Stella Tran, HighRadiusPhoto by Black Frame Photos

Potential new hires meet a diverse panel of interviewers, who assess the candidate independently and present their individual conclusions in writing with a definitive recommendation to the hiring manager. The hiring manager then synthesizes and evaluates. All the notes from the panelists are shared after everyone has submitted to avoid affecting each other’s recommendations.

Tran adds that the team is empowered to champion candidates who might be slightly disruptive of the status quo or have other distinguishing qualities—but they aren’t brought on to have an immediate impact. With HighRadius’s new onboarding program, new leaders are encouraged to “be humble before they rumble”—a core value—and adopt the company’s leadership principles and core values.

“It’s a part of our culture to be a student first, and these values and principles will be a significant driver of their future success with us if they can be embedded into everyday practice. It’s problematic to have a bunch of leaders creating cultures of their own,” Tran explains. “Our leadership principles and core values provide a common language and operating framework that enable success and alignment globally for our ‘one company, one culture’ mentality.”

Two-way communication starts before they are officially on board and throughout their tenure. A member of Tran’s team checks in on the first day, and new hires are offered an employee playbook that maps all the touchpoints of the employee journey, roundtable discussions, one-on-ones, pulse surveys, quarterly recognition, virtual happy hours, and regular virtual town halls. “We also put Sashi Narahari, our founder and CEO, in the ‘hot seat,’ and he doesn’t shy away from direct questions. It reinforces our core value of ‘being bold and blunt,” she adds.

Employee performance is reviewed every six months, in terms of KPIs and other established standards. “We are very much a ‘numbers don’t lie’ company,” Tran says. And the reviews are not one-way streets. “Our employees are urged to present feedback to their managers during their reviews. We encourage them to bring solutions, not problems. It’s part of our ‘call BS on the boss’ core value. If you’re thoughtful and pragmatic, you can challenge just about anything.”

“In HR, you have to be agile enough to be a coach, a confidant, or a copilot.”

The COVID-19 pandemic forced HighRadius to abruptly shift its work-from-home population in 2020 from just 5 percent of its global workforce to 100 percent, and Tran reports that it was actually a smooth transition overall. “Because we are a global company,” she explains, “we’re already in a good rhythm in many ways for everyone to stay connected and collaborate remotely on projects. We are flexible to work across time zones to accommodate one another.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, the HighRadius leadership team developed new strategic operating plans and redefined KPIs. To provide transparency, everyone’s vision, goals, and initiatives were published so they could track against KPIs—one way to drive dotOne (one in one thousand) performance and a high-performance culture.

“We’ve found that if people have clear goals and a solid understanding of how the business is operating and how they’re measured, there’ll be few questions about you need to focus on,” she explains. “We try to be as proactive as possible in communicating changes broadly.”

Despite the ongoing challenges, Tran highlights another core value, which is “bringing the zing!” when directing her team. “Positive attitudes and having a growth mindset are a key part of our culture,” she said, “I don’t think I’ve been to one meeting where I haven’t laughed or exchanged smiles, no matter how intense or crazy it gets. It inspires others to do the same.”

Foster LLP: “We are honored to partner with an HR professional as dedicated and exceptional as Stella Tran and her team at HighRadius Corporation. From her business acumen to her strategic HR leadership, Stella deserves any and all well-deserved success that comes her way.” —Helene Dang, Partner