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An Exec Reveals What You Should Look For In A Company’s Culture

Culture is never accidental. It has to be built and sustained, tested and invigorated, applied far beyond T-shirts and posters.

Over the past year, we’ve been thinking a lot about culture at Accolade—taking a deep look at the original vision that shaped us and the changes that must be set into motion to ensure that we meet our goal to become not just an even better place to work, but the world’s best place to work.

More than half of our employees participated in our performance enablement process, focus groups, and reflections. Together we agreed that our commitment to reinventing health care— our vision, indeed, that one day every American will have his or her own health assistant—must remain at the center of everything we do.

That was non-negotiable.

At the same time, we learned that while we had established a decidedly high-performance culture, we were not doing as much as we needed to do to hold ourselves accountable for results. We needed to set our own bar higher. We also had to create an environment that encouraged the right kind of risk taking.

Our research led us to another key conclusion: We are much stronger together at Accolade than we are as individuals. Certainly, our diversity of expertise, opinion, age, and ethnicity was something we were all proud of. But was it enough? Had we done enough to strengthen our teams, to build lasting bridges, to create an environment where employees can be their true selves. We realized more could be done.

Finally, we agreed that to be the kind of company we want to be, we would have to continue to find ways to ensure every employee can apply his or her raw talent to the opportunities before us.

Our process was energetic. Our people were engaged. Our conversations led us directly to the four cornerstones that now define us and are shaping and fortifying our culture.

  • We find joy and purpose in serving others.
  • We’re boldly and relentlessly reinventing healthcare.
  • We’re strong individually and together, we’re powerful.
  • We roll up our sleeves and get stuff done.

We’re now taking the steps to incorporate those cornerstones into everything we do. We’ve changed the talent acquisition process, for example, by making sure that we show up where the talent is (at women in technology conferences, say, or university career fairs), that we’reinviting the best in class to join our team, and that our interview questions reflect the Accolade values.

We’re also changing the way we’re measuring performance, thinking equally about the progress made against goals and milestones and the progress made in the ways that the work gets done. The “how” matters just as much as the “what” at Accolade. Our performance measures prove it.

The recent creation of the Culture Champion Awards program is offering us a positive way to recognize those who have personified our cultural cornerstones. Culture Champions are nominated by their peers. They are recognized at quarterly All Hands meetings, with handwritten thanks and with the telling of stories. Their work offers living proof of the values that define us.

At the same time, we’re reinventing careers at Accolade—creating opportunities for three- month rotations while strengthening basic training. We’re listening more intently to what our employees tell us. We’re thinking more broadly about the concept of Total Rewards, amplifying traditional benefits packages with human touches.

With 850 Accolade employees now at work in four separate facilities (Plymouth Meeting, Scottsdale, Seattle, and Prague), and with the number of new Accolade employees set to exceed the number of existing ones, culture will not just define us going forward; culture will define our possibilities.

The world is changing. We have a commitment to those who rely on us. We are building the kind of company that makes us proud. This is a work in progress; it will always be that. But we’re excited about the road that we’re on.

Elizabeth Napolitano is the EVP Human Resources at Accolade.

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