Learning & Development
19 min read

43 Most popular People Geekly newsletter articles of 2017

Alexis Croswell

Senior Content Marketing Manager, Culture Amp

Reading Time: 19 minutes

Every year we’re thrilled to see how the People Geekly newsletter grows. In 2017, we reached almost 150 issues, and thousands of new readers. 

From building empathy at work, to how to interview for culture, to performance reviews for cats – and everything in between – The People Geekly covers a wide range of topics for HR and People Team leaders. 

It’s been nearly two years that I’ve had the privilege of curating and writing The People Geekly, and I’m thrilled that our readers (you!) still look forward to it every (other) week.  

Take a look at our most popular articles of 2017, and if you’re not yet subscribed, join The People Geekly to start receiving the best HR-related content from across the web, and the latest from Culture Amp.

Navigate to your month of choice here: 

January – February – March – April – May – June – July – August – September – October – November – December


Etsy’s culture: the maker spirit (3 mins)

Brian Christman, SVP of People and Workplace at Etsy and Jennifer McKaig, Culture and Engagement Program Manager at Etsy shared with us what makes their culture unique. The learning and development team plays a big role in helping to keep the maker spirit alive. Christman says, “I think that people feel very empowered to learn and grow at all levels within the company.” He also speaks to how Etsy is addressing big topics facing all companies today, like diversity and inclusion.

Performance reviews, for cats (4 mins)

This humorous guide to giving your cat a performance review comes from Thryn, a Sr. Interaction Designer at Google. It’s filled with gems such as, “You should be having regular individual 1:1s with your cats. Any negative feedback should be given privately so as not to embarrass or shame one cat in front of the group.” Many of the tips Thryn gives, while directed at our feline friends, aren’t bad advice for performance reviews between people. If this article inspires you to learn more about how to give feedback, we have another excellent resource for you.

Mentoring and inspiring managers (2.5 mins)

When it comes to seeing success as a manager, Rob Cahill says, “I can attest that successful managers view every interaction as an opportunity to learn and define who they want to be as a boss.” In the final article in his five-part series on the demands new managers face and how HR can help, he highlights the people behind successful managers. These people and inspirations include: managers, direct reports, parents and extracurriculars.

Making a successful people analytics team (12 mins)

People analytics leader David Green shares 16 characteristics of organizations with successful people analytics programs. First on the list – they focus on projects that matter to the business. “Don’t waste time developing a model to predict attrition if it isn’t a problem for your company. Learn the business, find out what matters to your CEO and senior leaders,” says Green. Other characteristics include: a fully involved CHRO, knowing how to leverage outside resources and having a clear strategy. While all 16 characteristics don’t have to be in place to start a team, says Green, aiming for them over time will make the team more successful.

Using employee engagement pulse surveys (4.5 mins)

Gathering employee feedback through surveys can be exciting. Survey data helps inform decision making processes and gives employees a collective voice. Because of this, it can be tempting to survey continuously, or use many pulse surveys to gather more data. However, that might not be the best solution. Culture Amp’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Jason McPherson explains why. He says, “Based on what we’ve seen, 90% of companies using continuous surveys can’t keep their response rates above 50% when the same people are being surveyed weekly or monthly.” We explain why survey fatigue matters and walk through an example survey cadence, explaining the effective use of pulse surveys.


Creating an exciting onboarding kit (6 mins)

Katie Brioux, a Graphic Designer and Department Ambassador at Breather gives a step by step overview of how they designed a welcome kit for new employees. Their onboarding process follows these three ideas: high quality welcome, educate to inspire and powerful swag. Brioux says, “Researching swag and welcome kits is not just about finding the best or cheapest branded water bottles and stickers, but about how the items in the kit can become a strong mix of the above [ideas], and have a more everlasting and positive impact on the new hire.” See kits that Brioux and her team used for inspiration up to the final kit new hires receive at Breather.

13 companies recognized as best employers (6 mins)

Every year we see a mix of familiar names featured on ‘best employer’ lists, along with a new batch of companies. Earning a spot on any of these lists generally brings positive recognition to your employer brand. This article showcases 13 organizations that have made it to the top of different lists (and some that have made it many times). We’ll explore what makes them special and what each award highlights about companies.

Should offices be designed like bars? (7 mins)

According to designer Daniel Krivens, it’s not (just) alcohol that facilitates conversations in bars, but rather the eye-to-eye, face-to-face connections that the space encourages. Krivens says these types of conversations are the foundation for finding common ground, trust, and encouraging the flow of ideas. But, most offices are a division between people sitting, standing, and walking. The solution? Designing offices around ‘collision moments’ where people meet each other during the day balanced with the right amount of seclusion.

The best HR idea I ever stole (3  mins) 

Our CEO, Didier Elzinga, shares why he has upfront conversations with candidates about their future career goals – yes, even when they don’t involve life-long employment at Culture Amp. As he says, “It’s an amazing experience – as soon as you ask the question you can see the voice inside their head saying, ‘Hang on, aren’t we meant to pretend I’m going to work here forever?’” Learn why he does it and how it impacts the culture of Culture Amp. 


10 ways good managers show they care (5 mins)

When people feel cared for by their manager, it makes a difference. Whether it’s a simple card sent to someone when they’re off work for an illness, or a manager taking the time to learn about a team member’s true career goals. Good managers show employees they care in ways that are big and small. With examples from Culture Amp customers and our own Insights team, we provide 10 ways good managers show they care about their team.

How good managers become great coaches (3 mins)

Managers who can integrate coaching skills into their interactions with team members are more effective. Coaches are adept at helping people develop in their careers while also looking out for the success of the team. We explore four ways for managers to become great coaches. For example, use one-on-one meetings for development by incorporating open-ended questions and a balance of personal discussion and team goals. Good coaches also encourage team members to problem solve proactively, rather than presenting ready-made solutions.

How important is it for employees to belong? (2 mins)

A new report released from Culture Amp drawing on insights from Culture Amp and Paradigm’s Inclusion survey, suggests that belonging is important to people at work. Belonging is not a new idea in diversity and inclusion, but we’ve explored how it impacts employee engagement. The New Technology Industry Diversity and Inclusion Report 2017 presents seven key findings based on this new research.

Employee engagement behaviors (3 mins)

Culture Amp Insights Strategist, Fresia Jackson, describes three ways we can recognize employee engagement behaviors. To truly understand the underlying motivations of employee engagement, it’s important to collect data. However, having the ability to see engagement behaviors in people’s day to day actions gives you a well-rounded view of employee engagement. For example, employees who are engaged behave opposite to someone who is experiencing burnout.


Figuring out personal development (3 mins)

Former Google career coach, Jenny Blake, shares four ways you can develop personally and professionally. Most broadly, Blake suggests using a mind map to visualize your interests and create goals. She shares how to tackle this exercise in an interactive video. Blake encourages people to use personal or work projects to fuel a passion, focus on learning new skills, and not to settle out of fear of the unknown.

How to destroy a culture of curiosity in HR (3 mins) 

Culture Amp CEO Didier Elzinga explains why a consultant-driven model of engagement surveys can hinder taking action on results quickly. “From my perspective, the biggest challenge in asking a consultant for answers is that it presupposes you know what the questions are. But that’s not always the case with people and culture,” he says. Learn why Didier sees real-time analytics as the solution. 

How to handle workplace factions (26 mins)

David Loftesness and Alexander Grosse, co-authors of the book, Scaling Teams: Strategies for Building Successful Teams and Organizations, provide their expert advice on how to avoid and dismantle unhealthy workplace factions. They present five areas where companies can take action – hiring, onboarding, team transfers, technology selection, and team and office structure. As Loftesness says, “Unwinding [a cultural problem] is going to be much harder than taking a small step early on to counteract factions. You owe that to your people.”

5 people analytics strategy tips (3 mins)

Penelope Barton and Jordyn Riley from Vend’s People and Culture team share the secrets to creating a successful people analytics strategy. Find out how they use data already being collected within their organization to identify and measure opportunities for improvement.


HR Tools for building your HR Stack (7 mins)

More SaaS-based tools for HR are coming to market now than ever before. It’s exciting to have options, but how do you know what will best support your people analytics strategy? Culture Amp’s People Operations Manager, Stacey Nordwall, along with the People Team at Vend, provide advice for building and evolving your HR stack. We’ve also included a guide with a sampling of HR tools to help you get started or update your HR stack.

Talking about mental illness in the workplace (8 mins)

As someone dealing with mental health issues, Tyler Smith wants to share what it’s like to navigate these issues at work in hopes it will help others. Smith works at Atlassian, a company he says takes its values very seriously. It’s their value of ‘heart and balance’ which gave him the courage to share his experience with his team. Smith says, “The ‘simple’ act of trusting [my team] and being vulnerable with them had the effect of them trusting me more.” Smith shares a day in the life of someone affected by mental health issues, and how coworkers can become allies by building empathy.

The importance of wasting time (3 mins)

Achieving inbox zero or checking off a list of tasks may give us a sense of accomplishment at work, but are we giving ourselves enough time away from it all? Michael Guttridge, a psychologist who focuses on workplace behavior, says, “Taking time to be totally, gloriously, proudly unproductive will ultimately make you better at your job.” Time away from our screens and devices recharges our mental capacity and gives us room to be more focused when we return.

Do you know these 3 modern HR practices? (4 mins)

Keeping up with the latest practices in the ever-evolving field of Human Resources can be difficult. Three modern HR practices that we’ve seen in successful organizations are a focus on empathy, using people data, and turning data analysis into a practical strategy. Learn more about these three practices, including helpful tips for each – like creating feedback loops – in the full article.

Introducing the team effectiveness survey (2 mins)

As companies move away from traditional hierarchies into flatter, team-based organizations, the workplace has changed. Adaptable and collaborative teams are now at the center of modern organizations. To help these teams grow and work together, Culture Amp has created the team effectiveness survey. This new survey uses inward feedback to help teams understand how productivity, cohesion, and alignment are driving their overall success. Learn what makes our survey different and how it works.


Tools for collaboration across time zones (4 mins)

Globally distributed teams have become the norm, but that doesn’t mean there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to making it work. A whole host of communication and collaboration tools exist to help people work together across time zones. Culture Amp’s own People Operations manager, Stacey Nordwall, shares some of the tools we use and what we’ve learned working as a global fast-growth company.

5 movies I think every leader must watch (6 mins) 

Our CEO, Didier Elzinga, has a background in Hollywood (his previous company won a technical academy achievement award!). There are five stories that he recommends for every leader – Hero, Wall Street, Rob Roy, Baraka and the Hero with a Thousand Faces. See what he’s learned from each one. 

How to be ruthless with your time (5 mins)

Recently a memo from talk-show host Steve Harvey to his team was leaked to the press. In the note, Harvey asks his staff to leave him alone and respect his time. While the memo went viral for its harsh tone, our friends at LifeLabs Learning know that it is essential to share your time-management needs with your colleagues. “The key,” says Roi Ben-Yehuda, “is to be ruthless with your time without being ruthless with your team.” Ben-Yehuda offers eight ways communicate effectively at work, including setting aside “dark time” when people are not expected to be available.

A performance review revolution (4 mins)

Nobody likes performance reviews, but what’s the solution? Some companies have chosen to completely toss the system out, but others are looking for a more middle-ground option. We look at the five ways performance reviews are broken (i.e. an infrequent coaching cadence that doesn’t match modern needs) and six steps to more effective performance reviews, like a formalized coaching cadence.


Women, interrupted (6 mins)

Several studies have shown that women are often interrupted while at work, making it difficult for their voice to be heard during meetings. There are a multitude of articles that give advice on how to handle being interrupted as a woman, but what can companies do to support female employees? This article explores several effective strategies that companies have implemented to make sure that all employees are heard. 

The cost of ignoring culture problems (4 mins)

We all know the risks of not addressing cultural problems in organizations, from a loss of productivity to an increase in attrition. Now, however, there is a new cost: reputation. As more and more companies are thrown into the spotlight for their cultural issues we explore what it takes to understand your company culture and why it matters.

Building empathy at work (4 mins)

Culture Amp’s Senior People Operations Manager, Stacey Nordwall, brings some learnings from her training as a marriage and family therapist to the workplace. Specifically, Nordwall shares how important having empathy is at work, and how you can build it in a way that’s authentic. Learn how using interchangeable responses is one step towards building empathy. As she says, “Empathy isn’t just a therapeutic skill; it’s an everyday skill you can use in the workplace.”

Using Lego for employee recognition (5 mins)

At the offices of Desire2Learn (D2L) you’ll see tiny Lego replicas of employees on desks. Why? In 2015 the Product Development team at D2L was looking for a way to recognize employees for their work – and decided on these Lego likenesses. The idea was a hit, and soon the whole company was participating. Employees get a custom Lego when they begin, and are rewarded with new achievement bricks over time. 


What is employee experience? (3 mins)

In order to understand employee experience, having a working definition of what it means is the first step. To us at Culture Amp, employee experience encapsulates what people encounter, observe or feel over the course of their employee journey at an organization. This starts at the candidate level, on through onboarding and exit. However, where you should start gathering feedback depends on the needs of your organization.

Four interview questions for culture (3.5 mins)

Hiring for culture fit (or culture-add as we like to call it) can be a somewhat tricky task. Many companies use questions related to their values to help them unpack whether someone will thrive in their culture. At Triplemint, CEO David Walker uses four questions to uncover culture fit. At the top of the list is: ‘How did the culture at your last company empower or disempower you?’ This gets people thinking about culture as a bigger concept, and the way people speak about a former workplace is often telling.

Why we should redefine the workplace (3 mins)

Vanessa Shaw, co-founder of Culture Summit and a passionate advocate for improving workplace culture, argues that the word, ‘workplace’ is outdated. Shaw invites us to imagine it differently. She says, “What would happen if we removed the emphasis on nouns and things? “Work” is a noun, so is “workplace,” they are inanimate things. The future of work is about experiences, which means action and verbs, and experiences give us feelings – the most human part of it all.” See what she thinks about the future of work and what alternative names she picks for the space formerly known as the workplace.

Telltale signs an employee may leave (4 mins)

Some attrition is unavoidable, even when companies create great work environments. So, what can you do to keep your best people? StartupSmart interviewed five leaders on how they sense when someone is about to leave and how they handle it. Andre Eikmeier, Co-founder, Vinomofo, says, “When someone withdraws into themselves, it’s a reasonable sign. Not absolute, sometimes other things are going on, but it’s a sure sign that someone’s not engaged.” 

What does a more agile HR look like? (3 mins)

Agile is an iterative approach to developing initiatives and solutions, structured around experimentation, integration and review, and supported by a trusting and collaborative culture. It gained popularity among software developers, but the core tenets of agile are being adopted by forward-thinking HR teams. We explore how agile HR uses responsiveness, experimentation, validated learning and trust and collaboration to approach employee feedback.


Elon Musk’s email on communication at Tesla (4 mins)

In an internal email, Tesla CEO Elon Musk explains how communication within Tesla should work. “Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company,” he says. Those who continue to perpetuate the old chain-of-command method will find themselves seeking employment elsewhere. While that might seem harsh, Musk explains why open communication is important. Read the whole email and consider questions that reveal your company’s approach to open communication.

Next-level workplace benefits (6 mins)

While we know that company culture doesn’t mean ping pong tables and frivolous perks, that doesn’t mean real benefits aren’t important. The basics – things like healthcare, vacation time, parental leave support – do matter to people at work. Some companies choose to go above and beyond as well. This article covers those “extra benefits” like paid time off to volunteer, continuing education, daycare, and, you know, discounts on pet cloning.


Best practices for salary negotiation (5 mins)

Negotiating salary is something that comes up for people many times over the course of their career. Jasmeet Sidhu, Senior Creative Producer at MasterClass.com, shares her experience of negotiating salary at different points in her life. From her first ask – an email to her boss on a Friday night – to her current process. She explains what factors to keep in mind when preparing for a salary negotiation and why it matters.

20 great employee engagement survey questions (18 mins)

If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for understanding some of the top employee engagement questions, we’ve got the resource for you. In this article we break down 20 of our engagement questions, why we ask them, and what a score above or below benchmark means for each. Because we’re people geeks, we also provide background on the importance of a consistent answer scale (Likert scales, anyone?). We also share why it’s important to measure employee engagement overall and how you can get started.


BroadSoft’s internal communications plan (3 mins)

Putting together a successful internal communications strategy can be a challenge, particularly when your company is spread across office locations and timezones. BroadSoft, winner of this year’s Internal Communications Award at the North American Employee Engagement Awards, shares the strategy they put together for internal communication. Centered around video communications, their plan crossed office boundaries and unified the company.

Creating a culture first onboarding program (9 mins)

Stacey Nordwall, Senior People Operations Manager at Culture Amp, shares how she’s evolved onboarding from a “good program” into what people call the best onboarding experience of their career. Nordwall shares three things to keep in mind when crafting an onboarding program, as well as how to incorporate employee feedback in future iterations.


Employee Feedback Examples: Evolving On Performance Reviews (12 mins)

We know that annual performance reviews are outdated as a process, but finding the best way forward can be challenging. We’ve compiled examples of both reinforcing and redirecting employee feedback to inspire you to make feedback a regular process. In addition, we’re sharing our guide to giving effective feedback and how to learn from feedback. It’s everything you need to start moving away from performance reviews and towards a culture of feedback.

Designing a new approach to Diversity and Inclusion (3.5 mins)

Steven Huang is Culture Amp’s 2018 Head of Diversity and Inclusion. In this article, he shares why we chose to rotate the person in this role annually, why we’re building diversity and inclusion workshops from the ground up, and what inspired us to create our own metrics.

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