If there’s one thing that says friendly, inviting and energizing it’s the color hot pink! Lyft’s signature color radiates not only it’s company’s values — Make It Happen, Uplift Others, Create Fearlessly, Be Yourself — but an inclusiveness that reaches far beyond a quick ride. And the true source of that infectious warmth is its people.
Available to 95 percent of the US population and Toronto, Canada plus approximately 2,500 corporate employees, the people engine at Lyft is arguably as strong as it’s fleet of hot pink rides. And at the helm of Lyft’s employee base is Chief People Officer Emily Nishi. After over a decade at Google/YouTube and witnessing massive scale in numbers and innovation, Nishi has joined the hot pink brigade with the goal of “improving people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.” As the company scales rapidly, Nishi works to ensure that the people and teams within Lyft are optimized for success without sacrificing the signature culture.
On the heels of working to expand paid parental leave for both men and women who work full time to 18 weeks (plus extending paid caregiver support leave from two weeks to 12 weeks), we caught up with Nishi. Here, we dig into her new role, Lyft’s plan for world rideshare domination and what it takes to recruit and retain top talent in 2018.
Glassdoor: Congrats on your first few months at Lyft! How would you describe joining the team?
Emily Nishi: Thanks! I’m excited to be a part of a company that’s at such an incredible stage of rapid growth. Lyft is a five-year-old company, and still largely in the foundation building process, which I think is really exciting. I’m also thrilled to be a part of a business that is very meaning and mission-driven, which is something I’ve prioritized and valued in all of my previous roles.
Glassdoor: Transitioning out of YouTube/Google is a big step. What was it about Lyft that made this new role enticing?
Emily Nishi: I was at Google/YouTube for more than 12 years, and saw it grow from about 3,500 employees to more than 70,000. It was exciting to come to Lyft and get a chance to help grow a company again! There are similarities between the two companies…people are driven by a shared purpose to bring people together and improve lives. I love that about Lyft.
Glassdoor: Lyft employees routinely leave reviews on Glassdoor raving about the “friendly, open company culture,” “having a big impact,” and “the great benefits.” What are your plans to continue to foster employee trust and engagement?
Emily Nishi: Lyft absolutely has an incredible culture, and it goes way back to our early days! To help keep our culture strong, Lyft has a dedicated team focused on team member experience – we are constantly thinking about all the important touch points for team members, from onboarding, to regular company-wide meetings, to sending out engagement surveys. People at Lyft love the culture here, and I’m excited to support the company’s mission and efforts.
True to creating a great experience for our team members, one of the first things I did after joining Lyft was to take a close look at what we can do even better. I worked with the team to expand our paid leave policies to better support our employee’s needs, ensuring that people feel supported in taking care of themselves, their families, and their communities. I got so many “I <3 Lyft!!” replies when we announced it to the company, and the cutest baby pictures too!
Glassdoor: Good leadership is not just one person, how do you work with your management teams to make sure employees have great leadership at Lyft?
Emily Nishi: We are so lucky to have John and Logan leading this company! Our core values at Lyft come right from them. We also have incredible leaders across the organization who play key roles in ensuring that our culture and vision stays strong. For example, Tariq Meyers, who leads our I&D efforts, has worked tirelessly to ensure that our team feels engaged and included every single day that they come to work. We also have incredible Employee Resource Group leads who have paved the way in shaping and introducing new policies, like our new Gender Inclusion & Affirmation policy and our new paid leave policy.
To ensure these values hold true across every team and level, I have dedicated a lot of my time since joining Lyft to make sure that every decision and action strongly reflects our beliefs. Our values are our north star, and I believe that the best test of leadership is how we choose to follow them.
Glassdoor: One of your previous colleagues said that you love a challenge, what challenges are you eager to tackle at Lyft? How do you want to put your stamp on the HR org?
Emily Nishi: I’m drawn to companies that are in their early stages of growth and that are scaling quickly. It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity to come into this company and help create the foundation for an organization that’s dedicated to improving people’s lives with the world’s best transportation. I’m focused on ensuring that different teams and departments at Lyft can continue to scale rapidly with the right processes in place, to make sure everyone is aligned and working towards Lyft’s missions and values. With all the growth potential we have ahead of us, it presents a great opportunity for someone like me to come in and make sure that the right foundation is in place to continue that growth.
Glassdoor: Glassdoor reviews also reveal that some employees feel that the rapid pace of growth at Lyft leads to burnout and ineffective leadership. How do you balance innovation with employee wellness?
Emily Nishi: Building the future of transportation is hard work, but how exciting to be a part of that! We’re growing fast in every part of our business, so I’m focused on ensuring that our organizations and people operations are as streamlined as possible so that our employees can focus on continuing to innovate and think creatively. It’s important to invest in our people along the way too. For example, we take employee wellness very seriously. We offer unlimited paid time off, generous paid leave benefits, and offer various on-site wellbeing initiatives such as flu shots, nutrition and ergonomics workshops, and family support tools.
Glassdoor: Shifting gears toward the recruiting process, when you’re evaluating potential candidates, what are some of the special traits or skill you look for?
Emily Nishi: As we grow our company, our values are our north star. I look for candidates that reflect Lyft’s values, both personally and professionally. We are looking for folks who are comfortable being themselves and bringing their best selves to work, those who uplift others, and those who are proactive and make things happen.
Glassdoor: Lyft is an industry leader. What are some of the unique ways you recruit talent; what are some of your best practices?
Emily Nishi: Lyft truly excels at making the hiring process personal. When I was interviewing, the people I spoke with at Lyft took great care to ensure that I felt welcome and at ease, and I have heard from a number of employees across a variety of levels that they experienced the same personal touch during the interview process. From handwritten welcome notes to excited emails from team members once you’ve received an offer, I think Lyft provides a personal touch that few companies provide. I love that.
Glassdoor: When you’re looking to retain talent, what are some of your best practices?
Emily Nishi: We’re only five years old but we’ve had a focus on inclusion and diversity from our early days. We focus on ensuring that not only are we bringing diverse and unique candidates in the door, but also that everyone feels welcome and comfortable once they’re here. For example, Lyft has Employee Resource Groups which are sponsored by an executive champion and have a real voice, having helped shape our culture and company policies along the way. One of Lyft’s ERG groups spearheaded the creation of our Gender Inclusion & Affirmation policy, which has led to real change in the workplace – with signs on the restroom doors that welcome employees to safely use whichever bathroom they identify with, and with pronoun options on our internal company tree. The work our ERGs do for our culture is amazing, and helps Lyft be an even better workplace.
Glassdoor: Now a fun one — what was your first job and what did you learn from it?
Emily Nishi: My first job was an internship at a Westin Hotel in their HR department. I saw firsthand how companies deliver great service to customers by ensuring their operations and organization function really well behind the scenes. Everything had to work together — from recruiting folks with a love for service, to how new hires were trained, to how tightly back operations were managed — even to how service areas were set-up. Witnessing what it takes to run the laundry room efficiently blew me away! Many years later, it’s stuck with me how important it is to be focused on being customer-centric – whether it be external customers or internal ones, like co-workers. I think it’s a great challenge to try and provide the best possible experience for everyone you work with!