Facebook famously began in a Harvard dorm room in 2004. Now, the company is a publicly traded social and advertising behemoth that recently notched its two billionth user worldwide.
“To connect the world” is a lofty goal. But Lori Goler, Facebook’s Vice President of People, says the company’s success comes down to one simple yet complex consideration: culture. Recently voted the number one tech company on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list, Facebook’s culture stands head and shoulders above the rest. In an exclusive interview with Glassdoor’s Amy Elisa Jackson, Goler breaks down five core parts of Facebook’s culture – and explains how the network’s users inspire the company’s own internal sense of community.
The mission-focused culture began day one.
“The leadership team has always thought about company culture, which is how we got to this place,” Goler says. “When I walked in the door nine years ago, there was already a lot of focus on company culture led by all the people who are still here,” including CEO Mark Zuckerberg and product chief Chris Cox.
While Facebook has, of course, added many more leaders over the years, including COO Sheryl Sandberg, the original executives’ people-first mission not only informs but is the core of the culture.
“The culture is in support of the mission,” Goler explains. ”We have seen the way that our community of users uses the products to build community, and we use it ourselves to build community internally. It all feels very much in sync.”
Now in its fourteenth year. Facebook keeps its culture intact in part by conscientious recruitment and transparent interview practices, Goler says. “We’re really careful to explain what it’s like to work here and what is important to the people who work here,” she adds. “It’s for people who are meeting us to decide whether that is something that they really care about too.” The people who end up joining Facebook “sort of self-selected into this environment where the culture and the mission is a really big part of our value proposition.”
Zuckerberg’s authenticity influences the workforce.
Facebook’s founder landed in the No. 10 spot on Glassdoor’s 2017 Highest Rated CEOs. Goler attributes his high marks from employees to his authenticity and humanity.
“Mark is so human and so authentic with our team,” she explains. “He does a Q&A every Friday. He shows up as he is: The person that you see, his public persona, is the same thing we see internally. You see the warmth and the transparency in his posts; we see the same thing.”
Zuckerberg is dedicated to working alongside employees, Goler adds, “getting his hands dirty just like everybody else. At the same time, he provides this amazing vision and forward-looking inspiration for everyone here. He reflects what the company is all about.”
Jobs are designed not only to play to skills but to spark enjoyment.
Another core tenet of Facebook is building a strengths-based company. Facebook sees playing to strengths as two-fold: People must be in roles that not only make use of their skills but also provide work they enjoy.
Internal metrics like self-assessments and exit interviews bear out the importance of this focus, Goler says. “The thing that separates people who stay for a long time or who make the choices to leave is how they score themselves on whether they’re playing to their strengths. It’s not always about some of the things that you see on the surface.”
Those surveys also reflect a sense of pride in the work at Facebook, which goes back to mission-focused goals, Goler adds. “These are two things that are a little bit different — and almost intangible if you’re not on the inside feeling it — but I think they’re two of the biggest drivers of the reasons that people stay.”
Facebookers are expected to take initiative and “personalize their community at scale.”
Employees build their own places at Facebook. On one level, that’s about daily tasks: The company is open and transparent about its goals, so staffers are expected to take that “context and work with autonomy” to further the mission. “That is a really important part of feeling like you’re contributing at Facebook and the work that you’re doing matters,” Goler says.
Secondly, creating a place at Facebook often means integrating personal lives into the work community. “We’re this one single community of thousands of people, but we’re also a set of overlapping communities in many ways,” Goler says. “There’s your larger team and your smaller team and your ad-hoc team that isn’t about your hierarchy. But then there’s the parents’ group and the working moms’ group, the mountain bike on weekends group.”
Facebookers have created thousands of groups internally – more groups than there are employees, in fact – and Goler says this offers “a sense of personalization at scale. You almost design your own social experience and community internally, including smaller overlapping communities that don’t have anything to do with the specific work that you’re doing. I think that makes it a really special place.”
The company supports families and employees going through a difficult time.
The integration of home and work lives helps employees feel supported when they are going through a tough time personally. “We show up so well, and I think that’s all part of being a community,” Goler says.
Beyond smaller community groups, Facebook on a larger scale implements policies “that support people as they go through all the stages of their life. People would tell you they want to be good workers, family members and, friends. We’ve tried to build a set of policies that support that in every stage of life,” Goler says.
One recent new policy is Facebook’s extended bereavement leave. As of January employees now receive up to 20 days paid leave to grieve the death of an immediate family member, and 10 days for the loss of an extended family member – double the amount of bereavement time Facebook offered in 2016, and far more than most companies provide.
The extended leave is just the latest formal extension of the mission Facebook lives every day, Goler says: “It’s about showing up for people when they need it the most.”
Interview conducted by Amy Elisa Jackson.