How we foster a “people first” mindset at PartnerHero

At PartnerHero, we talk often about our five core values both externally and internally.

  • Be humble: being humble encourages us to seek guidance, receive feedback, ask questions, and listen to each other.
  • Take ownership: accountability in our work and in our lives means that doing the right thing comes naturally.
  • Care for others: we cooperate, empathize, and seek opportunities to put each other first, even off the clock.
  • Embrace growth: we expand our minds by taking calculated risks, developing our skills, and staying open to change.
  • Manifest trust: trust is the bond that allows us to work at our highest levels, as members of a team, in a unified direction. It is continuously earned by delivering on our commitments.

One of the main underlying principles for all of these values is that at PartnerHero, people come first

This is not to say that setting (and achieving) goals, improving business metrics, and following official policies doesn’t matter, but these things can never come before or at the cost of our associates’ well-being.

We evaluate every business decision we make through the lens of creating and maintaining a positive culture where individuals can actually be their honest and authentic selves, and ensure that their voices are heard, with psychological safety provided in every situation. If something could cause harm to our associates, we don’t do it, even if it would be “good for business.”

However, to properly apply those principles, we have to make sure that all new hires at PartnerHero are very well aware of how committed we are to them.

So, how do we introduce, discuss, and solidify these fundamentals from the get go? By making sure they show up in training and orientation, onboarding, and the first critical months of new associates blending into our community.

It starts before applying

Before we get to training and onboarding, it’s important to keep in mind that we start reinforcing our values before an application is even submitted. 

We know that a good company culture and vibe are things that people purposefully look for when they’re job hunting. If these aspects of a workplace are not presented or talked about enough, it might leave the impression that the company doesn’t care about them and lead them to not even apply.  

We like to talk about our core values and “people first” mindset as much as we can to make sure it shines through in all materials a potential hire could come across when browsing.

This includes our website as a whole, our “about” section, our job descriptions, and on social media. We even specifically ask applicants to review our company values before applying and encourage them to think about which ones resonate with them most. 

This creates an understanding—from the very beginning—between us and any potential hires about the importance of our culture.

During training and orientation

All new PartnerHero hires are guided through two days of orientation before they get to work. Some of this training can vary based on the position the person is stepping into, but the basic foundational topics are the same for everyone.

Besides “obvious” courses for new hires—security awareness, data protection, tools training, etc.—a huge part of new hire orientation is focused on “people-first” topics, such as:

  • Our core values and what they really mean for an individual
  • Career ownership and development principles
  • Giving and receiving feedback effectively
  • People operations, culture and policies training
  • Emotional intelligence foundations training
  • Diversity and inclusion topics

These “people” topics make up close to half of the training that new hires take on. And, they don’t go through this information in a silo, we do it all together. After each learning block, there is a thorough discussion and room for any questions or concerns anyone might have. 

Strongly emphasizing our people-oriented culture and individual principles alongside the “technical” part of training reinforces the idea that these topics are incredibly important for everyone in the company to understand and implement. 

During onboarding and beyond

Although going over “people” topics during training is important, it can’t end there. It’s about walking the walk. These values have to be practiced after we’re done with training. And, most importantly, they have to be practiced by everyone

Here are some of the ways we make sure that new hires immediately feel like they’re a valid part of PartnerHero, and that they feel supported, heard, and appreciated.

Culture conversations with Shervin (and co.)

Shervin Talieh, our founder and CEO, has always been passionate about connecting with everyone that joins the PH community.

Every new hire has the opportunity to hear Shervin speak about PartnerHero, the early days of the company, and the company’s mission and values alongside his personal ones. Afterwards, he answers any questions through a Slack channel.

These conversations are useful for everyone involved. New hires have mentioned that these sessions help them feel less “removed” from higher management, bring everyone closer to the same “human” level, and allow people to get to know each other regardless of whether they’ll be working close together or not.  

Encouraging speaking out when it’s needed

Giving and receiving honest feedback is a huge part of effective communication and our performance management process. 

We believe the best way to resolve potential issues or shortcomings is to be open to talking about them, and every associate is expected and encouraged to speak up when it’s needed, without fear of any kind of retaliation.

People to contact with any questions or concerns are clearly communicated, and productive conversations are always welcome. 

An associate recently expressed to me that our culture of open communication is unique and makes them feel more connected to their peers and leaders.

 “I don't think I've ever really worked at a place where people continually said to me, ‘I'm always open to a one-on-one conversation,’” they told me. “People are so much more approachable in this environment than I've experienced before.”

Celebrating achievements 

Work-related achievements are always valued, but we also actively work towards encouraging associates to share their off-the-clock efforts and ideas.

This year, we started BrightMinds—an internal initiative that aims to learn about and help implement our associates’ creative ideas. Every quarter, anyone within the company can submit any idea or concept they have, and the best ones will be brought to fruition with PartnerHero’s help.

We also have a Spotlight channel, where we regularly highlight, shout out, and give credit to our team members who are doing an outstanding job or are just amazing humans in general. 

Creating communities

We always encourage our associates to get to know each other on a personal level, bond, and build communities and groups with like-minded people. 

To start, every PartnerHero associate who joins is introduced to the whole company through a dedicated Slack channel, where they can share fun facts about themselves, talk about their hobbies, answer any questions, and receive a warm welcome. This eliminates a lot of the potential awkwardness that can come with joining a new company.

Speaking of Slack, there are associate community groups where we network and bond through our commonalities. There are multiple channels created to chat about what we’re passionate about, whether it’s pets, video games, books, cooking, or anything else, really. We even have a chess players channel!

Encouraging these ways of people getting to know each other better and bond over what they love really helps create a strong sense of community and comfort. 

Making self-care a priority

We know that our people do their best when they’re taking care of themselves.

That’s why we’re very committed to allowing flexibility for associates to attend to family and personal priorities, even in scenarios when other companies may consider business priorities (e.g., seasonal surges) to be more significant. While we have a duty to deliver for our partners, our biggest duty is always to our people.

We even have an employee relief fund—a fund dedicated to support PartnerHero associates in unexpected financial hardship.

Life can be scary and unpredictable for all of us! We’ve seen the PartnerHero community rally to help co-workers in need many times. It’s an incredible thing to witness and be part of.

We strive to care for others, and let our people know that we have their back in difficult times or situations, and communicate the importance of proper self-care as often as we can.

Emphasize your values from the start (and keep it going)

Creating an amazing company culture and collaborative mindset can’t be a one-time, short-term effort. It’s important to go over what you value, appreciate and strive to provide for your associates right from the get-go, and then live those ideals every day.

Having conversations with your team members regularly and being open to discussion at all times is crucial to making everyone feel like they belong and are truly heard—it’s the only way to cultivate the kind of trust and loyalty between all parties.

How do you make sure your associates know just how much they matter to you as a person?

Tracy L. Ward