One Of The Storied ‘People Geeks’ At Culture Amp Discusses Culture, COVID And Crisis Communications

“In a crisis, whatever you are as a company gets amplified,” says J.D. Peterson, Chief Growth Officer at Culture Amp. “A crisis exposes your weaknesses and tests your core values”: Are your stated values just words on a poster or do they represent actual life at your company? You’re sure to find out when times get rough.

Peterson, a veteran Silicon Valley executive you’ve likely encountered previously at Zendesk, Trello, or Scripted, is one of the self-professed “people geeks” who power the Culture Amp “people and culture platform,” and, he says, it’s been round-the-clock since the medical and economic pressures from COVID-19 kicked in. “Everyone is feeling added pressure and anxiety due to the crisis, and it’s become more crucial than ever for companies to understand their people and the extent to which values are shared. And that’s where Culture Amp can make a difference.” 

Culture Amp, if you’re not familiar, is a software platform that’s focused on making it easy for companies to collect, understand, and take action on employee feedback and data. It helps companies to capture the “employee voice” and then apply analytics to help them find the insights that ultimately can help a company’s leadership to take action–fixing what’s broken and reinforcing what’s going well. Co-founded in Melbourne, Australia, by its CEO, Didier Elzinga, who formerly helmed Rising Sun Pictures, privately held Culture Amp has raised significant venture capital and has 3,000 customers around the globe including McDonald’s, Yelp, Etsy, Airbnb, and Adobe.

Being software-based makes Culture Amp particularly nimble in the current WFH (work from home) landscape, says Peterson. If you’re no longer having those face-to-face interactions in the hallways and at the water cooler (or cold brew tap), Culture Amp can fill the gap in insight-gathering, making it easier to get sentiment data and information from all of your employees, regardless of where they’re physically located. 

Culture Amp also has launched a few new surveys on its platform to specifically capture how people are feeling about working from home, about adapting to their new circumstances. (This isn’t, by the way, the kind of cobbled-together Survey Monkey canvassing you can do yourself, says Peterson. “Everything we do is science-based; it’s rooted in actual science. We believe garbage data is worse than no data at all–we’re passionate about that here.”)

Before I left him, I wanted to get Peterson’s thoughts on what companies should be doing differently during this time period. “Now more than ever, it’s important to be checking in, collecting and listening to the voice of your employees. This is critical to understanding employee safety and wellbeing, along with motivation and engagement.” Outgoing communication is also essential: “You need to ensure that people are getting the information they need and that supports them in doing their jobs, especially in the case of shifting to remote work and other changes in workplace conditions.”

Tone matters too: “Ensure you balance confidence and communications with empathy and listening. People need regular communications from leadership and they want to feel that there is a solid plan in place for the business. But they also need to be truly heard.”

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Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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