Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Belonging Sessions 009: Shirley Au from Huge

Huge is a full-service digital agency that transforms brands and grows businesses.

I sat down with president Shirley Au and posed three crucial questions on belonging:

1. Good brands are bought, but great brands are joined. Why do you think your employees join yours?

We try really hard to have a flat organization. We don’t tolerate big egos in the workplace. For a lot of people, it’s attractive that the company is a meritocracy and employees are evaluated based on their smarts and hard work. At Huge, we do amazing work and build great products and experiences that people use all the time. If you look across our body of work, it’s clear that we have a point of view. We tirelessly analyze how users think and try to understand what they want to achieve when they interact with a brand—whether it’s setting up their wedding registry or doing something positive for their local community.

2.     The great workplaces of the world have soul. How do you humanize your culture?

What’s interesting about Huge is that there aren’t rigid job descriptions or career trajectories, especially because the digital space continues to evolve so quickly. We’re very flexible in terms of allowing employees to move into different roles and disciplines, if they demonstrate talent and interest in a different area of the company. We aren’t strict about hierarchies or making people follow specific paths.

We also try to create a relaxed-yet-professional office culture. We want people to feel like they’re in a comfortable environment while they work. Employees can bring their dogs to the office, we provide free snacks and beer daily, we have indoor bike racks to accommodate employees who cycle to work and we celebrate everyone’s “Huge birthday”—the annual anniversaries of their start dates—with cards and treats.

Each office and department also tends to have its own organic subculture, which we try very hard to support without it feeling contrived. Our Huge Social program sponsors activities based on employee requests, such as company-wide kickball, soccer and bowling teams.

3.     Belonging is a basic human craving. What do you do to remind employees that they've found a home?  

In general, we have a very high retention rate. Many employees have left to work at other companies and actually end up returning to Huge. We give our project teams a lot of latitude and freedom to learn, create and grow along with their teammates. We give them the toolset and framework, and it’s up to them to figure out the best solution for the client, without micromanaging.

People come to Huge to work with the best people in the industry and to work really hard on things they care about. For most of our employees, when they find their workplace full of like-minded people with shared values, shared priorities and shared talent, that’s when it really feels like home. We work very hard to strip away the distractions so that people can focus on what they’re really here for—to make something they love and would use themselves. 

Thanks Shirley! Learn more about Huge here.