Aligning Your People & Culture Initiatives to Your Business Strategy

The Next Practices Weekly call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders each Thursday at 11am ET / 8am PT. On this week's call, i4cp Senior Research Analyst Tom Stone facilitated a conversation with special guest Debbie Shotwell, Chief People and Culture Officer at Stack Overflow. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • Shotwell has over 20 years of experience as an HR leader at organizations including Peoplesoft, Taleo, Pacific Pulmonary Services, Good Technology, BigCommerce, Saba Software, and now Stack Overflow. She also currently serves on the advisory board of Best and Brightest Companies to Work For, WorkTribe Dynamics, and Agile Literacy.
  • Over the last several years, she and her team have helped Stack Overflow integrate with technology investor Prosus; nearly double in size; become more data-driven in their approach to people; significantly improve the talent acquisition team and processes; accelerate and formalize diversity, equity, and inclusion with a written strategic plan; and roll out a company-wide L&D strategy.
  • Stack Overflow's overall vision is to become the most valuable destination for the world's current and next generation of technologists. To support that vision, the people team's vision is to fuel Stack Overflow's growth by making it a coveted and long-term career destination and great place to work. The people team's vision is built on four principles:
    • Career development is clear and easy
    • Collaboration is encouraged and seamless
    • Diversity is a priority, not an afterthought
    • Transparency is the default, not the exception
  • Stack Overflow was already close to 50/50 remote vs. onsite workers prior to the pandemic. Of course they went 100% remote in 2020, and since then they have emphasized flexibility in the where of work while carefully considering their best approach for the longer term. After listening to employees, they recently decided on fully remote going forward--doing so in a way that preserves their strong culture while garnering the obvious cost savings. For instance, they are very focused on how they onboard new employees, including having new employees meet the CEO. Shotwell also holds monthly meetings for organizational culture building purposes. And they provide funding for employees to use WeWork or similar arrangements if they are not well setup for working from home.
  • Shotwell noted that the "when" of work is also flexible for employees at Stack Overflow. What matters is goals and outcomes being achieved, not working set hours each day.
  • Shotwell noted that when asked a few years ago what was missing in the employee value proposition at Stack Overflow, employees indicated more was needed in the area of learning and development, career journeys, etc. So that has been a focus area since, with her team developing a "learning and growth" strategy with four aspects: skills-based development; career paths and learning paths; robust employee enablement tools; and multiple learning modalities.
  • Employees, who Shotwell noted are affectionately known as "Stackers," have access to a MyAcademy portal, which provides self-paced learning resources from popular vendors such as LinkedIn Learning, Skillsoft, GetAbstract, Udemy, Coursera, Harvard, and more. Their skills are also used to recommend courses and learning paths.
  • Each month, half-days are dedicated to employee skills development, with a rotation through three types: self-directed learning, team/department level training, and company-sponsored learning events such as a thought leader, guest speaker, or topic with broad learning need.
  • After one year, the results have been very positive: the company has grown by almost 50% (~550 employees now), they have an 81% FY23 engagement score (up 4% from FY22), and an 81% L&D score (up 7% from FY22).
  • At Stack Overflow, a key part of their DEIB initiatives is the role of their nine Employee Resource Groups. One special ERG is their broad Allyship ERG, which focuses on allyship across all identity groups and has over 150 members. The ERGs at Stack Overflow use Slack channels for ongoing discussion between live meetings.
  • Shotwell shared some of the early uses of AI in HR at Stack Overflow, including learning recommendations via the MyAcademy portal where each employee's assessment drives suggestions in their career path. They also use SeekOut (high-performer profiles) and Paradox (candidate experience) as tools in talent acquisition, both of which use AI in their solutions.

Links to resources shared on the call:

This event is approved for certification credits.