Q&A: Part 2: Building Better Engagement

Danny Speros, Director of People Ops, Zenefits
Jul 27, 2021

Inclusivity and belonging at work matters more than ever. A survey of college students and recent grads revealed that two in three would only work for a company with an inclusive culture and provides a sense of belonging to employees from all backgrounds.  In Part 2 of our series on building better engagement, Zenefits VP […]

Inclusivity and belonging at work matters more than ever. A survey of college students and recent grads revealed that two in three would only work for a company with an inclusive culture and provides a sense of belonging to employees from all backgrounds. 

In Part 2 of our series on building better engagement, Zenefits VP of People Ops Danny Speros shares steps for creating cultures of inclusivity where people from all walks of life can find connection and belonging.

After you listen:

Ask a SMB Workplace Question and get featured on POPS! The People Ops podcast.

On this episode, you’ll hear: 

  • [00:39-01:08] Why belonging and inclusivity are key to employee engagement
  • [01:08-01:50] The first step to breaking down barriers to inclusivity 
  • [01:51-02:43] How accountability impacts inclusivity 
  • [02:44-03:36] The importance of creating space for everyone’s voice to be heard
  • [03:36-05:06] How to take action to build a culture of inclusivity and connection

POPS Star Bio

Danny comes from a family of entrepreneurs and spent 8 years running the family construction business including HR, Sales, Operations and Accounting. He understands the joys and challenges of building a business and learned a lot about how to avoid some common pitfalls. This context fuels his passion for working with other small businesses at Zenefits. Today, Danny taps more than 20 years of People Ops and small business leadership in his role as VP of People Ops at Zenefits. This makes him a great guest expert for the podcast, so you’ll hear from him often.  And you might just catch an occasional cameo from his young daughter in the background.


Danny: How can I build better employee engagement? 

Didi: Welcome to POPS!, the show that shows you how to shift from human resources, paperwork to people operations, but the new world of work by answering one question at a time today, to help us answer your question. Here’s Danny Speros, VP of People Ops at Zenefits. 

Danny: This is part two in our series on employee engagement. And if you haven’t yet be sure to check out part one, but today with part two, we’re going to talk about teamwork and the personal connections people make through work.

Two thirds of students and recent grads said they’d only work for an employer that’s built in inclusive company culture and provides a sense of belonging to employees from all backgrounds. As you’re building a team. And as you’re building connections to teams, you want to break down barriers that separate people or create cliques or for whatever reason, create division amongst the team.

And one of the ways that you can do that is by giving everybody easy access to resources. And so that’s going to be like your knowledge, um, your information, your policies, your procedures, whatever. They may be like, anything people need to do their job, make sure that it’s easy and accessible to everybody and in a way that they can access it without necessarily having to go through somebody else because different people, different times, different teams, sometimes at a new job, you feel like you’re asking so many questions and you don’t want to be a bother.

Just making things easy for people to get. Makes it easier for people that have those concerns to be able to just jump right in and learn what they need to learn and do those things. Another thing is accountability. Everybody’s been on a team, maybe it was a team in high school doing a group project or at work where it feels like.

And sometimes it’s true, but it feels like somebody is doing all the work and somebody else isn’t quite doing all the work. And it’s amazing how much that weighs on people, even adults, even in the workplace, maybe even more so than in high school projects, but it’s important to be able to sort of create a sense of accountability around who’s doing what.

How we measure success and how people are being measured for the work that they do. But also it, it helps people feel like the work I’m doing is being respected. And I can trust that the work that somebody else is doing is going to be there as well. And it also helps, like not everybody can do everything.

And so it’s really helpful to be able to count on teammates, to be able to do things. Another thing that’s important is create space for individual contributions. We’ve all been on teams where one, person’s got all the answers. Anytime the boss asks a question, somebody chimes in and says, I know it. And I’m sure that happened in school as well.

And so creating that space for everybody to be able to chime in is important. And sometimes that can be in meetings, particularly just asking people and asking directly, as opposed to just asking the entire group specific questions, they can also be doing group exercises where, maybe everybody writes down their thoughts on a sticky note and then one by one, they share their thoughts, um, by putting them up on a whiteboard or something along those lines.

But there’s ways that that can be done to sort of bring in the contributions of everybody so that it’s not just one vocal person. That’s always got all the ideas and doing all the work. And then the last part of this, and this goes back up to my stat at the top about being inclusive of people from all different backgrounds.

Inclusion takes action. The inclusion doesn’t just happen by not being prejudiced or discriminatory. Being inclusive really means looking at the group and making sure that you’re asking them like what things are important to you and celebrating those things. And that can be as simple as talking about things at work, but it can also be important to just invite people, to share part of their personal lives into the work.

Whether it’s food or holidays that they celebrate or things that they do or traditions that they have. But to be able to share that with other people does a couple of things. One is it helps us get to know each other on a more personal and deep level, which is a big part of this end game. And two, it helps us to learn and grow.

Like there’s more people out there in the world than we have met right now. And it’s important to just keep growing and being accepting and learning about different people and different cultures. And so bringing all of those into the workplace is helpful. In the first part of this series, we talked about how it’s important to connect people to the mission.

Of the company and to the, the outcomes of the customers in this section, what we’re really talking about is the connection that people have to each other. And those connections can be much stronger than a lot of other connections. And so it’s important to cultivate those and give people the opportunity to have that connection to each other, and that reliance upon each other.

Didi: Do you have a question for our experts? Click the link in the show notes, or if you’ve got other ideas and feedback about our show, send them to [email protected]


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