Culture Issue LIVE: Stella Tran on Leading Remote Workforces

Five takeaways from Profile’s Prioritizing People: The Culture Issue LIVE, featuring HighRadius’ Stella Tran

Profile's Prioritizing People: The Culture Issue LIVE featured an interview with Stella Tran, vice president of people and culture at HighRadius. Photo by Black Frame Photos

Evolving both the candidate and employee experience. Accommodating working parents. Planning for a return to the office. These were just three of the topics discussed at Prioritizing People: The Culture Issue LIVE! on March 10, which celebrated of Profile’s first issue of 2021. Managing Editor Frannie Sprouls interviewed one of the issue’s featured executives, Stella Tran, vice president of people and culture at HighRadius.

Here are five key takeaways from their discussion:

1. Core Value Crowdsourcing

HighRadius takes its core values seriously and has worked hard to uphold them during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has eight core values that were developed after extensive feedback from employees across the global organization. HighRadius has approximately forty teams across the globe and in 2018 asked each team to submit what they believed were the company’s core values and aspirational core values, Tran said. About three hundred responses were submitted, narrowed down, and further developed to the eight that currently exist on the HighRadius website.

“Those have been in place since 2018, and we try to make them very actionable,” Tran said. “They’re not your typical core values—the most notable one probably “Call BS on Your Boss”—but we try to make them actionable. And then we reinforce it along the way.”

2. Evolving the Candidate and Employee Experience

Like so many organizations, HighRadius has come up on its one-year anniversary of working remotely. Tran noted that the company has gotten hiring managers more involved than ever before to evolve the candidate and employee experience. This involvement has led to some very positive outcomes.

“We do a lot of passive LinkedIn sourcing, and we found that if we could involve our hiring managers in the initial outreach that we can see sometimes up to a 50 percent response rate,” Tran said.

When it comes to the employee experience, HighRadius is hyper-focused on one of its core values: Call BS on Your Boss. HighRadius wants its leaders to be transparent about what they’re focused on, which is why everyone in the company has access to everyone else’s vision, goals, and initiatives for the year, Tran said.

“We wanted everybody working remotely to be super clear on what they needed to focus on,” Tran said. “Communication is super important. And also, we’ve evolved our town halls from quarterly to now monthly, where our CEO will share a strategic goal or message. But then we put him in the hot seat, and he’ll moderate the questions at the end that come up. And then after that, we always survey people.”

3. The Role of HR in Culture

The way Tran sees it, the human resources department needs to be the number one culture champ.

“That’s kind of our team’s top charter,” Tran said. “We have to be an extension of the culture. If we don’t buy into it, live it, breathe it, and hold each other accountable to it, then nobody else will. We have to really embody what the culture is.”

In terms of upholding that culture in a remote work environment, Tran believes in a top-down and bottom-up approach to culture.

“As we’ve said, culture is the sum total behavior of everybody in the company,” she said, “but I’ve been doing some work with department leaders specifically on identifying a few key core values that they really want to highlight in the behavior across their teams. And then working with them to put on culture road shows.”

4. Advice for Parents Working from Home

Tran described the HighRadius culture as one that does not want employees to apologize if their children walk into a room. To this end, the company is holding leaders and employees accountable to have honest discussions about how things are going so that everyone can be real about expectations, Tran said.

“This is a very personal question because I also think that the answer is very different for everybody,” she said. “But we’ve been trying to empower employees to talk with their managers directly on when they need to block calendars and when they’re available and when they’re not, and being truthful about what their true capacity is on what they’re focused on.”

5. Return to the Office

The biggest topic for the HighRadius human resources team is the eventual return to the office, Tran said. To this end, the company is working on office guidelines and safety rules.

“And then we’ll bring people back within phases on a voluntary basis and give people at least a month to two months heads up about what our plan is,” she said. “But we won’t be able to have the same approach because we’ve got all global offices.

“We’re going to watch the world do this before we try to figure out, innovate on this problem,” she added. “So we are not back to the office yet, but as things improved, we will consider it.”

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