“In 2020, we fast-tracked our three-year business vision in 30 days,” says Candice Saffer, Head of HR at Social27. In fact, demand for Social27 Virtual Event Platform from companies including Microsoft, Duracell, Tata Consultancy Services, Salesforce, University of Washington, SugarCRM, and Capgemini drove year-over-year revenue growth to just shy of 1,000%.
Social27 has always had a hybrid-first focus. Since its founding in 2007, co-founders Ike and Bally Kehal saw the value of virtual content and connections to create richer in-person experiences. So, when 2020 forced many businesses to replicate in-person activities in a virtual world, Social27 was ready to bridge the gaps for their clients.
Social27 Virtual Event Platform enables event attendees, speakers, and sponsors alike to create and interact with content, connect using a variety of native functionality, and derive greater value and insights—all powered by their Recommendation and Prediction Engine which personalizes each person’s experience. It even allows event keynoters or “celebrities,” like Dr. Anthony Fauci, to publicly attend, present, and answer questions, then go incognito to privately participate as well.
Explosive growth is a good problem to have, but growing rapidly and intentionally comes with many challenges.
Social27 had long been a tight-knit workforce who took coffee breaks together and threw surprise birthday celebrations for its employees. Suddenly, they were propelled into massive growth with a distributed workforce spanning the United States, the Philippines, India, Italy, and beyond. With this massive growth came the need to create policies compliant with local jurisdictions across the globe and to enable communications across increasingly large departments.
In the Spring of 2020, Social27 Co-Founders, CEO Ike Kehal and CTO Bally Kehal, took on all the growth roles. Ike personally hired over 50 people in order to manage the client requests and sheer amount of events coming in. Plus, with a shift to 100% virtual, Bally was overseeing continual iterations, additions, and updates to the platform itself. They had to quickly create a new organizational structure and appointed Candice Shaffer as Head of HR as well as appointing a number of other directorial positions to oversee their quickly expanding teams.
The directors and departments alike had to problem-solve on the fly while servicing customers and providing value to the events industry writ-large as everyone underwent massive transformation under tragic circumstances.
Candice quickly expanded her team to include Janelle Somoano, HR Generalist in order to accommodate its immediate need for sustainable scale—moving from a handful of full-time employees to a workforce of more than 175 people across eight countries in less than a year—Social27 required a technology platform to grow with them. The company also factored in a heavy emphasis on development, communication, and automation to accommodate sustainable scale.
That’s why they chose Zenefits.
Zenefits reporting is amazing. I’ve asked other tech vendors: why can’t you be like Zenefits?
Head of HR
Making Virtual, Personal
“We knew this was going to happen, we just didn’t realize how fast,” said Candice.
A critical component to Social27’s growth was ensuring that they brought in the right people to refine the product, scale live-streaming capabilities, streamline operational processes, and earn the confidence of their customers who are also adapting to this new virtual event.
“The success of every company starts with having a great product or service and relies on attracting and retaining top-notch talent to execute the company vision, mission, and objectives,” adds Candice.
Armed with a plan and Zenefits. Together they got to work building a people operations strategy, onboarding process, handbook, and retention foundation while hiring worldwide from the US to India, Macedonia, Belarus, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia.
“Our job is to recruit, retain, engage and be the guiding light to where each person—and the business—can go next,” says Candice.
Automating HR, to Deliver a Better People Experience
“Even though we are hiring 4-15 people a week company-wide, we are doing it carefully. So using technology, like Zenefits, is key to reducing the people we need to hire in HR—while increasing the value we are delivering to our workforce.”
Zenefits supports Social27 with:
- Integrated Recruiting. “The Hiring and Benefits Administration features in Zenefits have allowed us to transform and elevate our onboarding process and experience for new employees and contractors,” says Janelle. “Through Zenefits we integrated with JazzHR, so when candidates come in, they have a seamless journey, staying connected with us from their application to end offer including 401k and medical benefits. Through Zenefits the information is all a click away and our new employees feel heard and taken care of from the start.”
- “First-class” onboarding experience. Janelle has developed an immersive onboarding experience, powered by Zenefits, which includes: a) offer letters with contracts, benefits and all compliance paperwork b) new hire checklist c) personalized week one schedule with orientation, introductions and photos, org chart, FAQ’s and tools.
- Performance Reviews/Goal Setting. The first real 360-degree reviews were set in Zenefits in 2021. And reviews were coupled with cascading goals to track progress and development plans. ”We assigned goals in Zenefits so we can see and measure individual and company performance. It’s a powerful way to set expectations by role and to see your impact on the business priorities too,” said Candice.
- Communications and Engagement. “If you don’t speak with them, you don’t know what they are going through,” says Candice about their global team. For instance, to personally connect with teammates in India, they conduct engagement surveys every three months through Zenefits. “Anonymous feedback tools have been really helpful to ensure we are hearing our team—and acting on what we learn. There are a lot of pain points and opportunities to adapt at this critical point in our business. We talk about this in all hands meetings openly.” The company also uses Zenefits’ People Hub for announcements such as upcoming performance reviews.
- Compliance. Social27 also keeps the signed copies of job offers in Zenefits to help ensure legal compliance with regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Social27 has policies and procedures in place along with employee handbooks which acknowledge all the labor requirements of individual states and countries where they have employees and contractors. The small team appreciates the Compliance Calendar from Zenefits to stay ahead of emerging regulations and deadlines.
- Reporting: “Zenefits reporting is amazing. I’ve sometimes wanted to tell our other tech vendors, ‘Why can’t you be like Zenefits?’” says Candice. Social27 uses the built-in reports for everything from monitoring weekly time off requests to reporting on the organization structure, equal pay, diversity and inclusion, and progress on the HR Roadmap. Zenefits also helped us organize and ensure we had the sweater sizes and home addresses of all employees for a recent order of company swag.
“Before using Zenefits, we had just begun building our Human Resources department and formalizing HR processes and procedures,” adds Candice.
“Adopting Zenefits as our HRIS platform has allowed us to have one centralized database for employee information, a resource for compliance management that has helped us bridge lines of communication through employee feedback, and has allowed us to begin setting individual KPIs and aligning them with company and department goals. For the People Team, Zenefits takes away stress, leaving us to focus on setting up our employees for success, and boosting our bottom line. And our employees appreciate that Zenefits is easy for them to navigate, with the touch of a button they can easily see and update their important information.”
“Implementing Zenefits as our HRIS has been nothing short of a positive experience. Our dedicated representatives have always made themselves available to our team and have provided us with the necessary resources and training to ensure we are consistently set up for success.”
Just Getting Started
The Social27 team built out their People Operations foundation first in the US for everything from immersive onboarding to performance, development, engagement and growth. Now they are looking to mimic and/or translate that approach globally, with a careful look at cultural implications and relationships, which Candice says “is so important, but not an easy task.”
Speaking of hard work, the Social27 People Operations team is planning to hire 100+ more people by the end of 2021—in about eight months. All part of a “very ambitious HR Roadmap for 2021 that keeps us in check.” And they plan to power those efforts with Zenefits. Based on their tremendous success in 2020, Social27 won Zenefits 2021 POPS Star Award for Growth.