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Episode #62: Creating Once-in-a-Lifetime Employee Experiences, with Diane Adams

Grad Conn

January 25, 2021  •  22 min read

It’s been said you can’t have happy customers if you don’t have happy employees. I tend to agree. Diane Adams, Chief Culture & Talent Officer at Sprinklr, joins me today to talk about the power of happy employees, and why creating extraordinary employee experiences is good for your customers.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad
It’s the CXM Experience. And, as always, I am Grad Conn, CXO, chief experience officer at Sprinklr. And today, I’m really excited because I’ve got a special, special guest, Diane Adams. And Diane Adams is the chief culture and talent officer at Sprinklr, a great partner, a great friend and a great person. And so we’re going to have a really interesting discussion today with Diane about how experience applies to employees. We talk about experience all the time, mostly from a customer standpoint. But today, we’re going to talk about a different kind of customer — the customer that the company hires to help make their business happen. So before we get going, welcome, Diane. Hello, and welcome to the CXM Experience.

Diane Adams 
Great. I am thrilled to be here Grad. So thank you for having me.

Grad 
Well, you know, they’re paying you a lot of money to be on this show.

Diane Adams 
I was gonna talk to you about that. But later,

Grad 
I just I appreciate you giving us a bit of a break. But it’s great to have you here. So, let me put the basic thesis of what I want to talk about today. So most companies have a vision statement, a mission statement. Most companies have phrases about what they’re all about. Most companies talk about culture. And some have like the usual bevy of accessories and mugs with sayings on them, and sweatshirts and all that kind of good stuff. And we all know that employees are going to companies based on culture. What’s been striking to me watching you in action now for about three years, is that while we have all that stuff at Sprinklr, what’s different at Sprinklr is that the experience of the employees, the actions the employees take are so radically different from anything I’ve seen anywhere before. And I’d love you to talk about that a little bit, like the kinds of things you’re seeing employees participate in. But I think that’s really uniquely different. And I’d love to talk and hear from you on, how did you make that happen? And how did it not just become a set of meaningless phrases on the wall? How did you actually turn the culture into something that people lived every day, could demonstrate to their friends? That’s the overall thesis, and we’ll frick and frack back and forth as we go through this.

Diane Adams 
Alright, love it. So the first thing I’d say Grad is, you know, I appreciate you giving me credit. But the reality is, this was a team effort, as you know, with you, right by my side, as well as a leadership team, and as well as the Sprinklr people. And I think maybe I’ll start Grad, I think it’s important… you know, you made the point, so many companies talk about it, but do they really make it come alive? And is it real? And so why don’t we just talk a second about Sprinklr. Like, how do we think about culture? And that, for me, is our goal is to create an extraordinary experience for everyone, where people thrive personally and professionally. I think the first thing, gosh, you and I talk about it so much, is that’s a differentiator for us. There’re so many companies that do invest in their people, to thrive from a career perspective. But for us, we invest in our people from a life perspective, and I can talk about that. And as you and I know, our goal is to create a once in a lifetime for people so that they live their best life and their healthiest life. That’s how I think about. So we keep that in front of us.

Grad 
You have a phrase you use. I heard you… just for a quick thing for the audience. So we have an orientation session called splash. I don’t know where we got the word splash from a company called Sprinklr, but somehow someone came up with it. And during splash there’s a whole bunch of different things that are done. Today we’ll talk about a little bit. But one thing I really love is there’s an executive session with the different C-level executives in the company, where we sit down and we talk with the new hires. It’s great. It’s an open Q&A, open forum, no agenda. Get lots of interesting questions. We did one this morning. This morning?

Diane Adams 
It was this morning, and yesterday morning.

Grad 
So what’s interesting in there is you have this expression that you said to the team that was on the call. And you said we want Sprinklr to be your once in a lifetime experience. I love that. And I also love that you said experience. So just touch on that for a second if you don’t mind. What do you mean by once in a lifetime experience? And what do you think the gold standard for that is?

Diane Adams 
So, here’s how I think about it. And I’m gonna go back Grad to, you know, the personally and professionally. And if I think about my own life, and I think about my own career is I’ve had — and I’m just going to give you one experience that you know well — is I had the opportunity to spend many years at Cisco. And John Chambers, as you know, is on our board here, but he was the CEO. And, you know, the people showed up for me, to support me through the beautiful moments of my life. And they were all also there, through the hard moments of my life Grad. When I think about creating an extraordinary experience, that’s how I think about it. We all have lots of beautiful and we all have hard, and you want to be in the right place, where you really do thrive. You can be at your best through all of life. And having had that experience, that’s what I think about us creating here at Sprinklr. And the reason I also use, Grad, is we’re going to create a once in a lifetime experience. What Raji our CEO will say is, he’ll say to me, Diane, I want this to be the once in a lifetime experience. You’ve had phenomenal experiences. And I have been able to truly live my life with no regrets. Because I was in the right place, the right culture, surrounded by great people who embrace that. I mean, gosh, I think about how many conversations you and I have, Grad, right? About career and about life, because we’re there to support each other. So that’s how I think about…

Grad 
Lately I feel it’s mostly you supporting me, but I’m here for you, Diane, I’m there.

Diane Adams 
I think you have been there for sure. But that’s how I think about this once in a lifetime. When you think about your life, that this is the time in your life, where you really are thriving. On the career front, and you’re also thriving in your personal life. And you know, and as I said, I have this philosophy, live your life with no regrets. And I believe when we create this in companies and the worlds in which we live, gosh, what a gift for everybody, to be able to live that way and feel that way.

Grad
Neat. Okay, that’s super cool. And so then just to drive to that once in a lifetime experience, you’ve got a set of experiences that people participate in, from the Daily Joe to all the other things that are happening. So just maybe give everyone a sense of what you built up there. It’s pretty cool.

Diane Adams 
All right, and if you don’t mind Grad, you referenced one. I’m gonna go back to the example that you gave. You talked about our splash program this morning, which is really our onboarding. And gosh, right now we’ve been hiring 75 to 100 people a week. So really important. You and I joined a week apart right? Almost three years ago. And since that time, one of the first things that we did is the executive team is part of every onboarding or orientation, or as we call it, splash. And why is that? If you think about culture, your culture comes down to trust at the end of the day, right? Like you want to build a culture where you trust each other, you show up and we can show up as we are, which I think you and I really do pretty well, huh. But that’s what you want for everybody. So when I think about just one experience, it’s the one that you mentioned. We want to be right there to meet everyone who joins Sprinklr, and we want to get to know them. And then we also want them to know from us how we think about the world that we are creating, right? And the culture that we have. So that’s just one example.

Diane Adams 
And I think, on the theme of trust. There’s a lot you and I could talk about, but I think if you’re good with it, Grad, maybe I’ll just give the example of one of the first things that you and I and the leadership team did. And that was to create… as we talk about wanting people to have an extraordinary experience where they thrive, and we always talk about we want our people and we want customers to be happier, right? Happier today than they were yesterday, or happier this year than they were last year. So we implemented the employee delight assurance program. And just to explain to the audience, it goes like this. Each leader… once a quarter now, but a while ago it was once a month… to build trust and ensure that we do want our people happy and happier, the first question is… so when I meet with Ragy, when you meet with Ragy, Ragy’s gonna say to us, tell me what your happiness score is on a scale of one to 10. And then tell me your recommendations for you becoming happier. And that can be personal or professional. When I think about… I’ve said to Ragy before, here’s my score, and the only thing that I need to get better at is I’m out of my exercise routine. And I know, for me, I gotta be in it every day.

Diane Adams 
But the reality is, it builds trust, because the two of you know each other, personally and professionally. And that evolved to a process now that we not only ask about how happy you are, and recommendations, we also ask, tell us how you’re doing relative to your goals and your performance and your areas of focus. And the last one, and I’ll just speak to this, relative to culture Grad, is, Ragy is going to say to me, how would I assess myself relative to how I’m doing on my learn to grow plan, or my learning plan? And then I’m going to say, and here are my three areas of focus to learn for the next quarter. So you’ve got those, those three elements. And just one last thing on this, which I think is important for the audience, because it’s internal/external, right? We aggregate what everyone said… it is confidential, we put it in a tool. So my three recommendations are rolled up across Sprinklr, and then we prioritize. And as you know, we take action to make our culture even better.

Diane Adams 
Early on, an example, there was a lot around communications. And partnering with you, the marketing team, one of the things we did was, we implemented all hands, and town halls, and every leader has a team meeting every week. We implemented this employee delight assurance program. So just a number of things. So we ensure that the entire company was on the same page. That’s just one example of, how do we get to a happier, better place. That was one example of what we did. And my last comment and I’ll turn it back over to you, Grad, is I always loved that you’d always talk about with customers, listen, learn, love, right? And this is why I think you and me have just been right here together because how you think about the experience, externally, is exactly how I think about it internally. But actually, both of us are thinking about this one experience. And that was an example of how we listen to our people, you learn from them, and you love them, and you act on their recommendations?

Grad
Well, you know, I think one of the things I’ve heard many times, it makes total sense to me, is you can’t have happy customers if you don’t have happy employees. Or in our way of saying it, you can’t have happier customers if you don’t have happier employees. I mean, I don’t see how you can deliver a great customer experience if your employees aren’t really into it, right?

Diane Adams 
That’s so right. I always think about it, Grad, is inside out. You’ve got to get it right internally with your people. If they’re energized, if they’re happy, gosh, that’s exactly where our customers are going to be. If we’re creating this extraordinary experience where they’re thriving, then they’re going to create that with the customers that they touch.

Grad
So let’s talk a little bit about the things that people are engaged in, because that’s the thing that’s so striking about Sprinklr. Do you want to just rattle off, like if you are to say, Hey, isn’t it cool that 83% of employees are posting content on the advocacy portal. I’ve given you one already. 83% like, ya know, what isn’t it 100? Like what’s going on?

Diane Adams 
And to that point, as you know, a year and a half ago, you and I and our teams started this journey to increase the participation in social media and on our, advocacy platform. So you know about 15-18 months ago, we were at 30% participation. And now, to your point, we’re above 80%. And I think the number of shares, I looked this up a little while ago, is close to 50,000.

Grad 
Amazing

Diane Adams 
And what’s great about that is, because they’re having a great experience, then this is what you get. And let me give you… a couple of things, Grad, for me, my love is creating. Creating great cultures. And this is one of my biggest learnings, and partnering with you, I’ve learned a lot, given the space that we’re in. The power, the impact, of everyone being engaged in advocacy and being advocates for our company, that’s where the impact really comes. You can’t do it by yourself, I can’t do it by myself. It’s really the people. And I was just going to share, one of the things to just show the power of that is, if I look at the voluntary attrition for us, it runs 6 to 7%, half of what you would see in most tech companies. And our engagement scores are the highest they’ve ever been. You look at Glassdoor, it’s in the 4.4, 4.5. But again, we were at a different place. And it just shows the power of the engagement of our people. And I think I’d just gives you one more stat would be recruitment. And we’ll come back and talk about that in a second. But, we’re gonna hire 1,100 people this year, Grad. And because of what I just shared with you, our engagement scores, Glassdoor, because our people are having a great experience, and they’re sharing it, the recruitment of phenomenal people, it’s just so much easier, right? Because they want to work at a place… they want to be at a place where they are having this once in a lifetime experience.

Grad
Yeah, feeds on itself. Great people get more great people. And it’s a tough cycle the other way around, you know. Boy, I tell you, you get on the wrong side of that death spiral, it is really, really hard. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about, let’s talk about things you do differently, if you could do it all over again.

Diane Adams 
Yeah, I think a couple of things. I’ll just start with, with Sprinklr. So, thrilled where we are today, and I want to talk about culture of belonging. And we’ve put… and let me just say what that is… creating a culture of belonging, where everyone can show up as who they are. Authentic, right? And be as you are. And I’m really pleased at the progress that we’re making now. But when I think about when you and I came into together, I didn’t put as much emphasis there as I should have. And now, I am thrilled about what we’re doing. We’re doing a really deep dive. What we want, the goal, is that we’re creating a culture of no judgment. But I would say, hindsight, I would have gotten started on that earlier. I was prioritizing, but I would have put more of an emphasis on that. And why would I have done that? If I look at the past year, gosh, everything that’s happened in the world, everything that’s happened in the US. The fact that we’ve invested so much gosh, I see the difference that it makes. I’m just going to give you an example. You look at Black Lives Matter, you look at the engagement that we had, in Sprinklr, the more open conversations that we have, and the value of that, like I talked earlier about building a culture of trust. So, I’m just more passionate than ever, because we really invested last year, that this year, and the years to come, there’ll be even more of an investment, and a lot of that investment comes with education. And I think about how do we do this differently now Grad. And one of the things Ragy will say is, we want to strengthen that soul-to-soul connection. I used you and I as an example, right? Like, we understand each other’s hearts, our minds, and our worlds. And that’s what we want.

Diane Adams 
So if you asked me, what would I have done differently? And if I just look here, I would have gotten started earlier, because the impact is so great. So that would be my first answer. Then my second isn’t related to Sprinklr. It’s where I learned in a previous experience, is when you think about people being at their best, right, like being in the zone, being in the flow, that starts with wellbeing and us taking care of ourselves. And I’ll give you two things. Again, in a previous company, and it was a healthcare organization. And you realized, gosh, everybody’s really not at where you’d want them to be from a health perspective. We just really doubled down and for me, it was a high of my career, because the people saying the focus on wellness changed their lives. And that’s what I love here at Sprinklr, Grad. I mean, when I think about last year, one of the hardest years ever, for anyone, you look at COVID. Gosh, we really tripled down on wellbeing. And we will forever. And I think this is one of the reasons, when you think about people thriving personally, professionally, you’ve got to start with your wellbeing. The emotional, the spiritual, and the mental.

Diane Adams 
And I’ll just give you some examples here. Learning that, and now realizing in the past year, and this year, how hard it is, for people to see, to visibly see — you asked me for examples — that we care. And as you know, we offer meditation nine or 10 times a week. We have fitness classes where the people, you can see each other working out during the day, and their kids will be working out with them. So you’ve got the fitness, you’ve got Audible, so everyone has access to learning. And some of the most downloaded books from our people are around wellbeing and how to take care of themselves during a time like this. Same thing on LinkedIn Learning. And, the other thing is, we offer Headspace, Grad. And one of the things I’m really pleased about is if you talk to Headspace… the participation when we offered that to our people is… they said that the participation right out of the gate was so high, and it still is. Because people are just really appreciative, and they see the value in it.

Diane Adams 
You know, there’s a lot around the wellbeing. We just launched our first… we’ll call it happier certification program. And it is a program, it consists of yoga, meditation, breathing. And we’re creating now happier certification 2. And it’s pretty extensive. Again, how do you take care of yourselves, particularly now, with all that we have going on? And I think just to close on this piece Grad, one of the things that I’m most proud of, and again, learnings from previous lives here, is with COVID, around the world… you know, we had a number of people around the world that were confirmed with COVID. And we stay close to them to give them the support, to get on the other side of that. And just staying really close to our people during some of their hardest times, is also something that you’ve learned over the years, just the importance of that. One of my favorite quotes is, people don’t care how much you know, till they know how much you care.

Grad 
Very nice. That was amazing the way you did that. Okay, so that was really fun. I think the key message here is do things that get people involved, so that they live the culture not just hear stories about the culture. Because otherwise the cultural will be what they do on a day-to-day basis, right? So this is almost an overlay on top of the job. And there’s a lot of it. That’s really amazing, a lot of it. And it was incredible when you think about it, we’re a sizable company, but not a multibillion dollar corporation.

Diane Adams 
Right

Grad  
And I would say that… I was talking to Carlos Dominguez, who has actually been on this show already. And Carlos is our executive chairman, and he and I were talking about you the other day, I think, on the podcast. One of the things that we dug into a little bit was, in Carlos’ experience. — and he sits on the boards of large companies, one of the boards he sits on I think is one of the largest companies in that space in the world. And he looks at all the things that you did during COVID, a lot of stuff that was launched then, and we did an amazing job of creating lots of ways to engage during COVID for employees. And Carlos said, even with all the resources of a multibillion dollar corporation, they didn’t even come close to doing half of the things that you did, which is pretty, pretty neat. And it was amazing. I think, as a result of all that, Diane, I think, didn’t we get some kind of like, top places to work during COVID? Or something like that?

Diane Adams 
Yeah, yeah, we did. We were named one of the greatest places to work during COVID. And I think, to your point, I pride myself that we don’t have to be this huge conglomerate, this huge, multi billion dollar company. We don’t have to have deep pockets. Because at the end of the day, this happens with the engagement and the involvement of our people. And that’s really what it comes down to.

Grad 
Amazing. Well, that was great. Any last words or any last thoughts for the folks that are listening to this, because I love this. I’ve been there all along. So I’ve seen the thing unfold, but it’s really nice to hear your perspective on it and how you summarized it. It is a fantastic place, and it is a fantastic experience. You’re kind of living the experience, the philosophy on a day-to-day basis. So, thank you for that. Any last thoughts for the audience as they think about landing their own employee experiences which lead to great customer experiences? What advice would you give someone is thinking about trying to improve what their employees are experiencing?

Diane Adams 
I just think the mindset, Grad, and this is what my team and I always talk about, is always think about how do I create an extraordinary experience for my people? And for my customers? And that differentiator, creating that extraordinary experience, personally and professionally makes all the difference. So thank you for having me. This is always a blast with you.

Grad 
Fantastic summary. Diane, thank you so much. Well, that everybody is our great CXM Experience show with Diane Adams, the chief culture and talent officer at Sprinklr. And I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr. And that is all for today, and I’ll see you next time.

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Grad Conn

Chief Experience Officer, Sprinklr

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