Diary of a Chief People Officer   //   July 29, 2022

Diary of a Chief People Officer: ‘You can’t solve all the world’s problems, but you can support employees so they can thrive’

As an entirely remote company, it’s vital for Mural to get hiring right. The collaboration software company has employees spread throughout the world. Without people who fit the company’s culture and share its values, the organization won’t succeed, said Adriana Roche, Mural’s chief people officer.

Roche recently spoke to WorkLife about Mural’s system for finding the right employees as part of our Diary of a Chief People Officer series, where we ask the professionals tasked with managing workforces and the return to the office to speak candidly about all their challenges and priorities.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Since Mural has always been remote, how do you share the company’s values and ensure you’re hiring someone who is the right fit?

Every person that interviews at Mural goes through a culture interview to make sure they’re aligned with our values. The people who conduct the interviews are not in the recruiting department — they’re individual contributors and managers. We’ve crafted two or three questions for each of the company’s values that get to the heart of whether a candidate exemplifies them in past behavior. Every candidate gets the same question.

How do you determine if the answer is a good one?

We created a rubric on what a good answer looks like. Of course, these things can be open for bias. We get the team of culture interviewers together to see how people are responding to questions. Have we seen different answers in different locations across the world? And how can we iterate along the way to make sure we’re being thoughtful? For example, one of the questions we ask: Tell me about a time where you had a big impact? The goal of that question is to see how proactive people are and what they value. We noticed that in Ireland, candidates had a really tough time talking about themselves and instead they talked a lot about the team. It was hard to discern what they did versus what the team did. We had to clarify that question by saying, “We understand this is teamwork. We want to understand exactly what your role was in this entire project.”

Have you ever not hired a candidate who had the right technical skills for the job, but didn’t seem like the right fit culturally?

Yeah, it does happen. Those are the toughest ones — when we have interviewees who seem brilliant on the skills portion of the job, but through the culture interview, it’s clear they’re not going to be helpful to the culture and ultimately they’re going to do more damage to the organization.

Onboarding remains a challenge in remote work. What are Mural’s strengths in virtual onboarding?

We have a pretty comprehensive onboarding program where employees are fully dedicated to it that first week. New hires meet with different Muralists [that’s what we call employees], we set them up with buddies and we go through our values to set them up with a foundation for our culture. These days you need to be a lot more deliberate about what your culture means. For us, it’s not just the happy hours. Culture is, who gets promoted, who gets rewarded, how do you celebrate things? 

Can you give examples of what specifically happens during that first week?

The team created a template that looks like a Candyland board with tasks on each square. New hires have their first 90 days to finish it. They include meeting designated people and accomplishing certain tasks. It also teaches them the product as they go so it’s valuable on multiple levels.

We also do check-ins and Tiny Pulse surveys for everybody after their first week, 45 days and after 90 days. We ask questions about how the onboarding went and also whether they feel like they belong. Throughout the past two years, we started to use their suggestions and answers to make onboarding better. Things that have come out of it include giving people buddies and creating onboarding cohorts that get together even after onboarding ends. 

Does getting together in-person for meetings or socializing have a place at Mural?

Before the pandemic, the company got together once a year for a retreat where people would get to know each other, refresh on the values, mission and the vision. Since the pandemic, that has changed. Covid is so unpredictable that it’s been hard. In February we got all of our go-to market team together to kick off the year. We’ve had some smaller get-togethers for the leadership team.

What keeps you up at night?

In the last two years, the world has been upended, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up. The fires in Australia, the pandemic, social unrest, a war and now inflation. Employees are exhausted. The question is, how, as a company, can we help with these external factors and keep people healthy, happy and engaged. And it continuously changes. I need to be on top of it and iterating on what we need to do to keep an ear to the ground to help people. You can’t solve all the world’s problems. But you can support employees so they can thrive at work and be healthy while doing it.

Should companies be weighing in on the most pressing social and political issues of our time?

It’s a very tricky balance because culture and context are paramount. Things that are acceptable in some cultures are not acceptable in others. We try to pay attention to the things that are universal. So with Roe v. Wade, rather than taking a stance in either direction, what we felt was true for employees across the globe was a sense of instability, anxiety and wanting to talk about it. We try to make sure we’re creating a safe space to talk, regardless of where you fall in political context.

How is that specifically showing up at Mural?

When Roe v. Wade happened, for example, our women at Mural ERG, created a guided Zoom discussion where everybody could give their opinion on the matter. We heard a lot of, “I understand your point of view. I very much disagree with it because of X, Y and Z. But I see where you’re coming from.” At the start, we stated three very important rules: It’s confidential. You must be respectful. We don’t interrupt each other. Raise your hand if you want to speak. About 35 people attended.

Do you hire early career professionals? I ask because it seems like there isn’t a ton of in-person gathering and that is a segment of the population that seems to benefit from learning by being near more seasoned professionals. 

We don’t hire a ton, but we have had a few. We’ve been growing so quickly that we need people who can pick things up and move very fast. We do have recruiting coordinators that are early career and there’s a huge enablement function to help them ramp up. But it is harder since we’re entirely remote. In an ideal world, we’d get those people together to help make up for it but of course, the logistics of a pandemic have made it really hard to do. We make sure there’s a lot of classes, coaching, and we use tools where we’re able to listen to their conversations to help train and coach them.