The New People Teams: How Enigma’s 4-Person People Team Has Made Massive Impact Within the Organization

January 6, 2017

Everywhere around us, a growing number of HR Departments are transitioning into People Teams. People Teams focus on people — putting employees first and carrying out strategic programs and initiatives that nurture them.

We’re thrilled to spotlight a handful of these people-centric organizations and their People Teams in this blog series, “The New People Teams.” (Click here for a previous post highlighting Medallia, here for a post on Bonobos, here for a post on Flatiron Health, and here for a post on Rapid7).

Adding to this list of great companies is Greenhouse customer Enigma. Besides maintaining the world's largest open-source collection of public data and enabling organizations to to use data to address their most important problems, it’s also one of several modern companies leading the People revolution through its internal initiatives and efforts.

We recently chatted with Enigma’s VP of People Rebecca Price to learn how the company’s People Team has made a massive impact with just a 4-person team! Here’s what she had to say:

1. When was Enigma established? How many employees does the company have, and how many are on the People Team?

Enigma was founded in 2011. We build technologies that help companies understand the world better and enable people to make smarter decisions. In today’s world of data silos and heterogeneous information, we place data in the context of the real world and make it connected, open and actionable. Enigma’s  ecosystem of tools acquire, link, and apply data for intelligent operations.

Since closing a Series B round in Spring 2015, we have more than doubled the size of our overall team! At approximately 60 people, we have a talented team of Engineers, Designers, Analytics, Operations, and Commercial/Product experts. The People Team is an important and fast growing function within the company, with a team of four (as described below).

2. Did Enigma always have a People Team, or was it originally an HR Department? If the former, how did your Founders know that a People Team is what they wanted? If the latter, what drove it to change, and which measures did you take to establish and grow it?

At Enigma, we strive to build a culture based on generosity, curiosity, and hustle. These are our core company values. Our Founders understand that our employees are our #1 priority and are essential to growing a successful business. We are cultivating an environment where our employees are passionate and excited about the company they work for. To that end, we hired a culture manager and our first recruiter when the company was comprised of just 20 employees. It’s safe to say that Enigma’s Founders prioritized company culture! When we reached 50 employees, we brought on a VP of People and added another recruiter to the team. Compared to other start-ups in the market, it could be considered early to hire an executive in the People function, however, this is a testament to our Founders’ core belief of “People First.”

3. How is the People Team constructed?

We have a team of four, consisting of the following roles:

  • VP of People

  • Lead Recruiter

  • Recruiter

  • People & Operations Manager

4. What has the Enigma People Team achieved so far?

Our team’s bedrock is strong communications, and we’ve launched several initiatives that address transparency and fluid communication. These include a bi-weekly All-Hands (“Agora”) meeting where the CEO addresses employees, and a bi-weekly “Parliament”, where we have a single presentation by a department and then break up into smaller randomized groups to share projects and focuses.  

Our other programs/initiatives include:

  • Engagement Surveys

  • Engineering Career Ladders

  • Performance Reviews and 360 reviews

  • Management Training

In addition, we put on many cultural events, e.g. company-wide retreats and monthly company outings. We’ve played mini-golf and bowled on the piers; we’ve rented out movie theaters for private screenings; and we’ve played laser tag and enjoyed SoulCycle and DayBreaker parties. We also volunteer with Billion Oysters Projects and New York Cares throughout the year. And we’ve hosted a Thanksgiving Potluck, Chili Cookoff, Homemade Dessert Taste Testings, and thrown a killer End-of-Year Party with a full live brass band!

Next, we host Lunch & Learns with relevant members of the data community. Every month, our company hosts a different guest speaker in an informal Lunch & Learn format. Our goal is to cultivate a set of conversations between relevant members of the data and community. To give you a sense, we've previously hosted The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, Sarah Cohen; Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, Opinion Editor at Al-Jazeera America who just published "The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen"; Gilad Lotan, Chief Data Scientist at betaworks; Mona Chalabi, Data Editor of the Guardian US; and Gideon Mann, Head of Data Science at Bloomberg, among others.

And, we have implemented a world-class onboarding process. Our onboarding process is hands-on and personalized for each new hire. We believe that first impressions matter, so a new hire’s first day at Enigma is a big deal. To start, their workstation is equipped with everything they requested, fun company swag, and a gift card to a local coffee shop, which we encourage new hires to use to meet their new colleagues. Additionally, every new hire has an offsite First Day Team Lunch with their entire team. We never want any new hire to ever have a “sad Chipotle” on their first day! Further, a 30-Day Plan is crafted by our People Team along with the new hires’ manager. This ensures that new hires meet with the right people, have the right conversations and ask the right questions to hit the ground running. The 30-Day Plan also includes weekly goals, required reading, and introductory meetings and lunches with the executive team. Finally, one of our company values is Curiosity and we instill this value during the onboarding process by asking new hires to select a book to add to our library. This can be any book that inspired them or that they would want to read in the future. We have a pretty robust library and encourage employees to borrow books any time!

5. What does the People Team still want to achieve?

Here’s what’s on the horizon for our team:

  • Scale up the org, including building out the team to support the addition of new clients from a commercial and engineering perspective

  • Implement company-wide career ladders

  • Conduct surveys to gauge the success of different experiences: onboarding, offboarding, etc.

  • Provide interview coaching

  • Continue to hone programs for leadership development and management training

  • Build processes to scale in recruiting, talent management, succession planning, and compensation

  • Create a culture of engagement where employees can grow their careers

6. How does the People Team view its role in the overall organization, and how is the Team viewed by others overall?

Our team is viewed in the organization through two distinct lenses. As a bottom’s up approach, the People Team is seen as touching every employee in the organization and as building trusting relationships to help every employee feel that they have a voice, that they have a place to develop their careers, and that they have an engaging place to work.

As a top down view, the People Team is the eyes and ears of the organization. We seek to study and understand the organization as a dynamic entity that’s always changing and to keep a pulse on how it’s adapting, coaching leaders along the way to ensure we hit our strategic and business objectives.

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