KnowBe4 has regularly been in the news recently, with its spokespeople regularly offering advice or insight into the latest cybersecurity stories. However, for those that may be new to this name, KnowBe4 is the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform for organisations around the world. The company is making positive waves for all the right reasons including within its working environment, having recently been named the number one best place to work for Women in 2019 by Great Place to Work and FORTUNE.
Getting the working culture right for any business can be difficult but KnowBe4 seems to have found a winning formula to achieve this. We caught up with Erika Lance, SVP of People Operations at KnowBe4, who is seen as the brains behind much of this success, to hear how she was able to get such great results.
When a CEO wants to implement a good working culture for the company, what does that mean?
EL: It means that he (Stu Sjouwerman, CEO at KnowBe4) wants to set a tone for how you approach policies, procedures and the environment in relation to employees. Although an HR team can do initiatives, if it doesn’t start from the very top and then get communicated all the way down through every area of the organisation, it will fail. You also have to ensure it is scalable.
What does culture mean to you?
EL: It means the overall tone you set for the employees. How open and honest they can be, and how honest and open you will be with them. You want to create a management style where every employee loves to come to work for the challenge and creative environment they are going to be in. They have to know what is expected of them and they have to have a clear path to achieve this. Never leave an employee wondering where he or she stands.
What is wrong with current HR models used by organisations today?
EL: They are assuming that the employee feels 100% lucky they got the job. Gone are the days where an employee signs up to be there 25 years and get a gold watch. Today’s employees want to be able to move up. If that is not available at their current employer, they will find a place they can accomplish their goals. Also, most employers do not realise it is not about how much someone is paid. If they have an amazing work environment, they will be there no matter what they are paid. Employees work for their managers. Have the correct management strategy and you will go far.
In summary, the combination of good pay, amazing managers, good benefits and an amazingly challenging work environment is how to be successful with employees.
KnowBe4 recently won Best Workplace for Women by Fortune. Why do you think that is and what do you do differently from other companies?
EL: First, we have a workforce comprised of 50% women and have maintained this naturally through our hyper-growth. One of the largest differences is all employees are judged on purely their skills and abilities. We have opportunities for every person to move up within our organisation and in fact, we make sure that we have training, tuition reimbursement and certifications available so any person can move up. We also partner with many organisations that are helping women find careers and be successful in cybersecurity.
How difficult was it to get the board onboard with this ethos?
EL: Not difficult at all. In our case, the results speak for themselves in our numbers. That is truly the end result of happy employees.
I will say that is not always the case for most. We are lucky. But I think that we need to have more boards look up from the numbers and remember there are people behind them.
How do you go about implementing this strategy? Is it a quick process with immediate results or does it require patience?
EL: First, you have to ask what employees want. Well done surveys that are executed fast, and turning out the results quickly lets employees know you are listening. I’ve heard stories where people have been in jobs to fill out an employee satisfaction survey and six months down the line, nothing has been actioned and the same concerns are still plaguing the business. It’s a long time to be dissatisfied with an element of their jobs, so quick action is imperative.
We have a Developer of Fun and Shenanigans and an Artisan of Culture and Geekery (yes these are real job titles) that ensure our culture goals and plans are carried out. You have to dedicate time and money to invest on keeping your employees feeling like there is no other place in the world that they want to work.
How do you measure or know you have happy employees?
EL: You can walk into any place of business and in minutes you can see how happy the employees are. How proud they are to work there. It is an energy that is infectious, and you cannot help but want to be there alongside them.
What advice can you give to other budding HR employees looking to improve working culture?
EL: Remember that each and every employee is your customer. You want them to be happy, impressed and telling everyone they know about you.
Sometimes the simple act of walking around and speaking with your employees, finding about their goals and giving high-fives for being part of the team can make a huge impact. It is easy for an employee to find themselves feeing invisible, make them feel like a Rockstar instead.