How to Scale a Great Workplace: Put People First

We’re very proud to announce that Incorta has been named to Inc. magazine’s 2022 Best Workplaces list. This is a gratifying achievement for all of us at Incorta, and one that speaks to the momentum we’ve experienced over the past year. I’m personally very honored to be part of our incredible team, and am equally proud of the company culture we’ve created and continue to cultivate.

The Value of a People-First Culture

To me, culture is about how a company makes people feel valued and encourages all employees to reach their full potential. That means being transparent and promoting open and honest communication; making room for individual thought, while listening to all ideas; and providing people with autonomy in their roles. When people love what they do, and are encouraged to work to their full potential, that’s when the magic happens.

As Incorta’s first Head of People, it’s important to me that our company values its people as much as the company strategy, and that individual contributions are encouraged. From my first conversations with our CEO Scott Jones and other executives, it was clear that the leaders were aligned in these values, which is what drew me to the company and the role.

Culture and Change: A Delicate Balance

The main initiative during my first year at Incorta was to ensure that we never lose sight of our values as we build a new structure to support the organization as it scales.

When you’re a startup, there isn’t a lot of process in place. The focus is typically around building the product and getting the resources you need to go to market. The early days are scrappy, fast-paced, and bootstrapped — certainly not an easy task. You don’t have a brand name yet, or a hiring process, so you must rely heavily on your networks. Job responsibilities are fluid and people wear many hats. The approach to performance communication and management varies by department. There is a lot of activity throughout the organization. Sound like fun? Totally!

Eventually, though, you have to create something more sustainable. You need foundational systems and processes in place so that the company can scale, but you also don’t want to create a lot of red tape that slows the business down. People Team executives collaborate with the CEO and other leaders to build a partnership that supports the business strategy. This involves change, which can have a huge positive impact on the company when it’s executed well.

The Incorta Way

At Incorta, we wanted to introduce new ways of working that would make a positive impact for both employees and the bottom line. Implementing templated policies wasn’t going to cut it, so we needed to hear from our employees about what was working and what needed attention.

The first thing we did was launch a company-wide employee engagement survey. Based on what we learned, we set strategic goals and metrics for the entire company, and then cascaded them down to each department and role. In conjunction with that, we worked to standardize and rationalize roles so that people who had been doing a lot of the heavy lifting required of a startup didn’t burn out. We operationalized our hiring processes, and we brought on a compensation partner to ensure pay equity as we expand globally. This work has helped us attract and retain the best talent, and accelerate our growth.

This newfound clarity helped the People team partner with leadership on strategic plans to scale the business, and made it easier to understand the resources needed to support our teams. Resources include people as well as tools or training — so long as it’s commensurate with the company strategy and further supports our teams in reaching their full potential.

Initiating this work remotely during a pandemic meant we had to be more deliberate about our communication in order to build relationships and trust. We put extra effort into our onboarding processes to make sure people got connected not just to their manager and team, but to all the people they need to know in order to get things done across the business.

We go to great lengths to make sure our employees are heard. We have a very robust organization in Egypt, and in the past year we’ve established offices in Newport Beach, CA, Austin, TX, Dubai, and in the U.K. It’s imperative to know when to cross-pollinate best practices from one region across the whole company, and when to make regional accommodations for culture and customs.

You need policies to set expectations and ensure they are met, but you also need to know when to flex and make exceptions. For example, if your policy is that people must be in their job for a year before they can be promoted, and a critical role opens up and you have the right person on board and ready, it makes sense to make an exception. The key is transparent communication as to why exceptions are made.

Onward and Upward Together

In short, it’s been a pivotal year. Over the past 12 months, we are proud to have created an “ask me anything” culture which we continue to foster today. People aren’t afraid to talk about real issues. Leadership isn’t afraid to give honest answers, or to address issues proactively. This is how we are building a high-performance culture that we take pride in.

This award validates our collective efforts. Everything’s coming together in all the ways we had hoped and more, and we could not be more delighted to be recognized on Inc. magazine’s 2022 Best Workplaces list.