San Francisco techies have been working from home for months, and it’s still unclear how much more time will pass before we can safely return to our office spaces. While the initial frenzy to set up home offices has passed, maintaining team culture, increasing productivity and improving cybersecurity from afar have become major points of focus for tech leaders throughout the Bay Area.
Many local companies are now sharing the lessons they’ve learned along the way, publishing wave after wave of blog posts and thought leadership. A rising tide lifts all boats, so we’ve collected some of the most insightful lessons our community has learned over the last couple of months and organized them here into one central resource.
How to Approach Annual Reviews
The Source: Hannah Wilken is a senior people scientist at Culture Amp. She recently published a blog post designed to help business leaders plan performance review cycles under severely disrupted business conditions. Culture Amp is an Australian HR tech company with offices in San Francisco, Melbourne, New York and London. Founded in 2011, the company uses anonymous employee surveys to help businesses retain and engage workers, and ultimately help to boost performance.
Takeaways: Some businesses might temporarily delay or abandon performance reviews altogether — especially those without an established review cycle or which recently saw furloughs or layoffs. However, businesses that don’t conduct performance reviews risk losing valuable performance data. In her blog post, Wilken addresses the pros and cons of continuing, scaling back or cancelling performance reviews, as well as the repercussions of standardizing or cancelling review-related bonuses.
Quotable Quote: “It’s critical to ensure that your employees feel equipped to adapt both their daily work and their goals to the new situation, as well as communicate a shared goal and mission to work towards. Furthermore, providing them with the opportunity for bonuses and learning and development opportunities throughout times of uncertainty will help alleviate their stress, keep them motivated and allow them to learn faster through feedback.”
How to Evolve Workflows for Remote Workforces
The Source: Since 2012, SF-based Airtable has been building software that adds database technology to traditional spreadsheet formats. Teams use the software to collaborate on product design projects, marketing campaigns, editorial calendars and other use cases. Recognizing that collaboration looks different over video conferencing software, the company published a guide to help teams transition to remote work.
Takeaways: The company recommends that managers take every opportunity to communicate team priorities and status updates, as the urgency or importance of a particular project may be lost in translation when all communication occurs via messaging channels like Slack. Team directories, internal communications calendars and visual structures for meetings and check-ins can also help simulate in-office interactions for remote teams.
Quotable quote: “Once your team has gotten more acclimated to the basics of working remotely — the team has agreed on which tools to use, team members have begun to set up their home offices, and everyone has figured out a schedule that works for them — you might start to notice that the conditions of a remote-first business create entirely new needs and subsequently, new workflows.”
How to Run a Remote Brainstorm
The Source: Software company Figma builds cloud-based design software that helps teams collaborate within a shared digital space, with a suite of tools for writers, graphics teams, engineers and other relevant parties. With brainstorming sessions now occurring through video conferencing and instant messaging software, Marketer Alia Fite outlined how her company has altered the ideation process to suit this new setting.
Takeaways: Some steps may seem self-explanatory — include a video-conferencing link in the session invite, send relevant information in advance — but these are the kind of steps that can get overlooked by teams who are unfamiliar with virtual brainstorming. Other recommendations, like opting for structured exercises over freeform sessions, may be less intuitive. Together, Fite’s recommendations read like a checklist for building constructive creative sessions.
Quotable quote: “Now that it’s no longer an option to have a quick huddle or whiteboard in a conference room, we’re realizing how challenging it is to run an effective brainstorm (and how frustrating it can sometimes be for our always-remote colleagues).”
How to Recruit, Hire and Onboard Remotely
The Source: Hiring plans continue uninterrupted for some tech companies. Zenefits ran a story with those companies in mind, outlining how HR teams can meet their recruitment goals in a socially distanced world. As an HR software company, Zenefits has also been flexing its own technology to help customers access federal loans and additional resources.
Takeaways: The post recommends ramping up engagement with candidates through emails, phone calls and SMS; a renewed focus on digital recruitment marketing efforts; and substituting in-person events for virtual career fairs. The company said onboarding processes like background checks and post-interview assessments must also be moved online.
Quotable quote: “The current situation may be an unprecedented crisis for many employers and workers, but it gives HR an opportunity to demonstrate its value.”
How to Avoid the Spread of Misinformation
The Source: Hearsay Systems builds a number of software products that help financial service providers engage with customers through social media, text, email and websites. To help customers retain trust with users amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company’s compliance team has built a number of tools designed to prevent the spread of pandemic-related misinformation.
In a post on the company’s blog, William Warren, a product marketing manager, outlined steps that financial services companies can take to remain a trusted source of information. While the information is tailored to the finance sector, the advice remains applicable across industries.
Takeaways: Some of the actions Warren mentions, like promoting trusted resources, are fairly straightforward, while others require a touch more elegance. These recommendations include leveraging dedicated lexicons within social media supervision processes to identify and review any engagements that focus on COVID-19, and then tracking pandemic-related engagements to find overall trends.
Quotable quote: “In highly fluid, turbulent times, the risk of misinformation is heightened. We’re increasingly susceptible to both consuming and spreading content with misinformation. Social media and other client engagement channels are the front lines of this issue.”
How to Adjust Your Subscription Strategies
The Source: Zuora builds software to create subscription-based revenue streams. Tech companies like Zillow, Zendesk and DocuSign and newspapers like the Guardian, the Seattle Times and Financial Times all use Zuora’s technology to manage their subscription businesses. In a blog post, CEO Tien Tzuo discussed the findings of Zuora’s most recent “Subscription Impact Report,” which measures the health of subscription businesses worldwide.
Takeaways: Zuora found that just 24.2 percent of subscription businesses saw growth slow down or contract during the month of March, compared to the preceding twelve months. Meanwhile, demand actually accelerated for 22.5 percent of businesses in the same month — mostly video streaming, digital media, e-learning, telecommunications, utilities and communication software. The post also has information on when to offer the ability to pause or re-bundle packages and why free trials can help earn goodwill with consumers.
Quotable Quote: “Product ownership is now seen as a thing of the past. What we’re witnessing is ‘the end of ownership’ as industry after industry sees their unit sales go down, and consumption of digital services go up. Successful companies today are focused on adapting to this rapid pace of change, deciding to focus on growing and monetizing a loyal customer base versus shipping more products.”
How to Pivot Your Mobile Strategy
The Source: App Annie’s mobile market data and analytics platform helps businesses like Google, Apple and Tencent acquire and retain customers. The company’s software products track data, revenue, competitor apps and revenue streams to help app makers optimize their businesses. The company published a blog post outlining how strategy pivots at Niantic and Peloton have maximized those companies’ impact.
Takeaways: The post highlights Peloton and Niantic as examples of successful pivots in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The former increased its free trial period to help users stay fit under lockdown, while the latter quickly spun up a version of the location-based Pokemon Go game that did not require users to leave the house. For both companies, technology that sifts through app store reviews to surface feedback on updates helped inform their next moves, while tweaks to verbiage help users find those apps in the first place.
Quotable quote: “More consumers are relying on mobile than ever and the time is now to understand your competitive landscape in order to make more informed product and marketing decisions.”
How to Reflect on Advancements that Gave Us a Leg Up
The Source: Content delivery network Fastly provides content distribution services and data centers for companies like BuzzFeed, the New York Times and Pinterest using its “edge cloud platform.” The idea is to house data and applications closer to the endpoints where users interact with them, thereby speeding up load times. Patrick McManus, an engineer at the company, wrote a recent blog post describing a number of technological developments that have allowed the network to flex under heavy traffic from populations stuck at home.
Takeaways: McManus pointed to several innovations that will help business leaders sleep better at night, including zero-trust networking security that allows users to access secure files and data from everywhere. Those same cloud servers that techies leverage to work from home also help networks scale to meet heightened traffic, while content delivery networks increase efficiency by moving content away from origin servers.
Quotable quote: “The internet has evolved away from a compartmentalized structure, allowing us the flexibility and capacity necessary for this moment in time — a way to be together at all times, while keeping a safe distance.”