A Remote-First Company's Lessons in Engagement

Savina Perez of Hone shares her drive for continued engagement as a remote-first company.

While live vir­tu­al train­ing is com­mon­place in today’s post-pan­dem­ic work­ing world, it was still a new­er field when Sav­ina Perez, Co-Founder and Chief Cus­tomer Offi­cer at Hone, entered it in 2018. Hone is a leader in deploy­ing live learn­ing at scale to pow­er behav­ior change, human con­nec­tion and con­tin­u­ous devel­op­ment for peo­ple every­where. Its inno­v­a­tive approach to human skills devel­op­ment is help­ing to change work­place culture.

Sav­ina recent­ly joined us on The Brag­Wor­thy Cul­ture to share Hone’s jour­ney and some lessons she’s learned along the way.

Hone’s jour­ney grew out of Savina’s own work­place jour­ney. In her pro­fes­sion­al life, she moved from indi­vid­ual con­trib­u­tor to man­ag­er, direc­tor and then to a VP posi­tion, but with­out a lot of for­mal­ized coach­ing along the way. She knows that with train­ing, she could have had the chance to receive and devel­op oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties, both inside the com­pa­nies she was work­ing with and more generally.

Hav­ing to learn on the job in a tri­al-by-fire sce­nario made Sav­ina want to build some­thing that would enable access to expe­ri­ence, guid­ance and train­ing for peo­ple at all lev­els in all kinds of orga­ni­za­tions. She and her co-founder were aligned on what that meant con­crete­ly and not­ed they would have to buy what they were sell­ing them­selves — they had to make sure they had for­mal­ized struc­tures in place to grow their own team.

One of the deci­sions Hone made ear­ly on was to com­mit to live remote train­ing. This allowed it to serve more com­pa­nies but it also cor­re­spond­ed to a deci­sion to be remote as a com­pa­ny. That deci­sion allowed it to recruit tal­ent from all over, not just what was avail­able in a giv­en region.

Making Live Remote Training Better

Sav­ina and her team knew that live remote train­ing didn’t have the best rep­u­ta­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly when train­ings were full of hun­dreds of atten­dees and a video call was more like a webi­nar than any­thing inter­ac­tive. This can lead to dis­en­gage­ment: stu­dents can be observed look­ing away, click­ing on oth­er tabs or screens. This isn’t a recipe for engage­ment or suc­cess­ful train­ing. Train­ing is only as effec­tive as the engage­ment of the peo­ple going through that train­ing,” Sav­ina says.

So the first way that Hone set about mak­ing sure it would get more engage­ment was to reduce the train­ing size. Small­er class­es not only meant class­room man­age­ment would be eas­i­er but also that instruc­tors could inter­act more with their audi­ence. They could ask stu­dents more ques­tions, sep­a­rate them into break­out rooms and con­duct polls that drove con­ver­sa­tion and the direc­tion of learning.

Anoth­er aspect that Hone zeroed in on was the wide vari­ety of time zones being served. It want­ed all stu­dents to have sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences of ser­vice and atten­tive­ness. So rather than hav­ing one cen­tral­ized time zone for ques­tions and engage­ment, Hone worked to make sure that var­i­ous time zones were cov­ered by teams that were more time-zone com­pat­i­ble, lead­ing to faster response times and stu­dents feel­ing heard and valued.

In addi­tion to time-zone com­pat­i­bil­i­ty, anoth­er impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tion is cul­tur­al rel­e­vance; the way a mes­sage lands or is framed in one cul­ture can be adjust­ed in oth­er cul­tures. Hone made sure its train­ings con­sid­ered cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences in how mes­sages were pre­sent­ed, while still pre­serv­ing the over­all com­pa­ny cul­ture of multi­na­tion­al companies. 

Sav­ina and her team uti­lized the expe­ri­ence of high-qual­i­ty exec­u­tive coach­es to make improve­ments to live train­ing. These coach­es shared their tech­niques for what worked remote­ly and what didn’t, cre­at­ing a cur­ricu­lum and expe­ri­ence that would have stu­dents engaged and vis­i­bly lean­ing towards their screens, instead of list­less­ly scrolling through oth­er feeds to pass the time.

Building Employee Hubs

While Hone has been remote-first from day one, it’s con­tin­ued to val­ue the pow­er of in-per­son inter­ac­tions and, as such, it has employ­ee hubs in San Fran­cis­co, San Diego and New York.

A hub is exact­ly what it sounds like: a space where employ­ees can come to work togeth­er instead of work­ing at home or in sep­a­rate cowork­ing spaces. This allows for all the brain­storm­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion that comes with in-per­son work­ing but also offers the chance for teams to social­ize out­side of work, hav­ing meals or drinks togeth­er, or even attend­ing events.

Finding Advisors

As Hone has con­tin­ued to grow and fundraise, it’s want­ed to lean on the advice of oth­ers who have gone through the process before. To find advi­sors, Sav­ina start­ed by lever­ag­ing Hone’s net­work to find high-cal­iber indi­vid­u­als, then asked those peo­ple if they would be will­ing to offer feed­back on a demo of the product.

That sim­ple request not only led to feed­back but in some cas­es to engaged advi­sors who were will­ing to give their time and exper­tise to help grow Hone. These advi­sors were inspired by the prod­uct and inter­est­ed to see where and how it could grow.

Continued Growth

As Sav­ina looks to the future of the com­pa­ny, she sees a lot of val­ue in:

  • One-on-one meet­ings. It’s impor­tant to ensure that peo­ple feel heard and seen and there’s noth­ing that com­mu­ni­cates this bet­ter than indi­vid­ual meet­ings. Sav­ina also sees val­ue in skip-lev­el one-on-ones to offer on-the-ground insights that wouldn’t usu­al­ly be gleaned from ordi­nary interactions.
  • Founder lunch­es. Sav­ina offers a month­ly forum for peo­ple to ask ques­tions on any sub­ject or top­ic that inter­ests them. This offers trans­paren­cy and puts a more human face on some of the lead­er­ship team.
  • Enjoy­ing the jour­ney. While build­ing a fast-grow­ing com­pa­ny is always going to feel like mov­ing at 1,000 miles a minute, it’s impor­tant to peri­od­i­cal­ly step back and appre­ci­ate the impact that the com­pa­ny has had on its stakeholders.

Check Out the Full Episode

Learn more from our chat with Sav­ina by lis­ten­ing to our full inter­view on Apple or Spo­ti­fy.

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