When I joined Criteo in early 2014, I was hired to address a challenge Criteo was facing specifically in the U.S.
In the U.S., Criteo felt very much like a small branch of a company headquartered overseas and disenfranchised from the universal company story. Criteo is an established company in Europe, but was still rising up in the U.S. market. I joined specifically to drive engagement and growth across our offices in the United States and to establish Criteo as a top place to work in the U.S.
Day one at Criteo, I was excited, yet nervous. Before joining, I knew Criteo was a great place to be, but I also knew Criteo in the U.S. needed to find its own voice. Criteo had to empower its employees and give them a voice in shaping the company into one that they love and are proud of.
It started small, with focus groups and feedback surveys to get a sense of how employees felt, what they wanted and what Criteo could do to make improvements. We instantly received a barrage of candid feedback, which revealed two assets:
- Employees trusted leadership’s intentions to make progress, and were willing to engage in the process to do so
- Employee willingness to be honest showed a genuine commitment to enhancing the workplace experience
As a company, Criteo held itself accountable in addressing the feedback received. Our first step was to show momentum by some quick short-term wins. Concerns raised, such as no career path, lack of training, better onboarding, were addressed immediately. And, soon afterwards, we noticed that the momentum started to build upon itself. Employees started pitching in with ideas and actions of their own.
The democratization of company culture involves taking the risk of relinquishing control, and trusting employees to do the right thing. It means fundamentally believing the notion that if you hire smart and passionate people at the outset and give them the space to perform, they will engage, flourish and lead by example.
Here are five examples of how Criteo U.S. moved from a culture of relative disenfranchisement to one of active engagement by empowering its employees:
1. Personalized office space
Criteo let its employees participate in the office setup. For Criteo’s new office in Boston, an employee and their family member who is a professional graffiti artist together painted a mural along one of the walls in the space. For Criteo’s new New York office, an employee who builds furniture as a hobby is creating several pieces of furniture from unique, locally sourced woods for office social areas.
2. Community engagement
Employees told us loud and clear that Criteo needed to engage in local communities. So, we organized quarterly volunteer days whereby each quarter, a self-appointed committee of employees gets together and determines how best the company can volunteer time together. Since getting more involved, Criteo has already made meals for the underserved, organized clothing and food drives, and mentored children in inner-city schools.
3. Social media ambassadors
Being a business to business company in the advertising technology space, our brand is relatively unknown outside of the industry. Recruiting, especially for a company that’s trying to grow as rapidly as we are, can be a struggle. As part of a campaign to increase Criteo’s viral marketing, we asked our employees whether they would be willing to be social media ambassadors for Criteo. A total of 35 percent of employees immediately volunteered to promote Criteo.
Each week, we aggregate information on company updates for our ambassadors to share with their social media networks. Employees can pick and choose what they’d like to promote, as well as when and how to position the information.
4. Public accountability
Criteo holds itself accountable to a high standard, and we support our employees in holding us accountable, internally and publicly. We encourage employees to review us on Glassdoor, and give honest, anonymized feedback. Similarly, we encourage all new hires to candidly review our interview process on Glassdoor.
5. Global movement to empowerment
As Criteo continues to build on its momentum globally, we’ve recently launched a program called PowerUp that is focused on employee empowerment. The scope was broad and intentionally vague. By that we mean that we asked employees to submit suggestions on anything that could make their work lives easier. At first, the submissions were small and tactical, like a request to change kitchen coffee brands. But, we treated all recommendations as valid, and ensured suitable resolutions were found. We’ve noticed a fundamental change in the nature of requests as time went on. Employees are embracing the idea of instituting large process improvements, and are getting involved in being a part of the solution.
As a result of our constant outreach, we have found that giving employees ownership in the process helps our efforts. Our ratings jumped significantly as soon as we started this initiative, and we’re pleased to say that they have stayed high.
We took a risk by entrusting our employees to improve company culture and create a personality in the US market. In turn, employees responded by accomplishing much more than we imagined. It’s no surprise that engagement and feedback scores jumped significantly. Criteo US has created a culture owned and built by its employees and I personally have never been prouder of the team.