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Blog - Didier Elzinga, author profile

Didier Elzinga

Founder & CEO, Culture Amp


One of the most powerful ideas in marketing over the last 10 years has been the concept of journey mapping. This is intentionally describing the experience that you want your customers to have when they interact with your company. It involves describing how you want customers to feel and then putting in place things to make that happen. Great companies are now applying this same lens to their employee landscape and starting to design the employee journey and the processes and systems that underpin it.

This means companies are sitting down and asking, what is the experience we want our people to have? This isn’t about generic things, like wanting people to be happy and proud all the time. Instead, organisations are asking, how do we want somebody to feel when they apply for a job? How do we want them to feel when we give them an offer? How do we want somebody to feel at the end of their first week? How do we want them to feel in their first one-on-one with their manager?

CEOs are accountable for the employee experience

When you’re designing that journey, CEOs and senior leaders need to decide what role they have in the employee experience. As a CEO, you’re accountable for the experience your people have, but where you turn up in that experience and how you apply yourself to it will differ depending on your skills and interests. From my own perspective, I get a lot of value and energy from spending time with new starters.

I used to call everybody after they joined Culture Amp and ran the culture and values induction sessions as well. As much as I enjoyed doing that, it became too difficult for me to continue as we grew across multiple time zones and I had less time available. I’ve since had to shift the types of interactions to get as much leverage for the company as possible.

The Culture Amp Founder interview

For me, one of the critical points in the employee experience at Culture Amp is the founder interview. Once somebody has gone through the interview process, myself or one of my co-founders meets with them as the last step in the process. We don’t do this to decide whether we're going to hire them or not. We meet them to see our employee experience in action. The candidate also has the opportunity to talk to someone senior in the company - I'm not just a faceless CEO, I'm somebody that they've spoken to one-on-one.

That’s why I’m going to continue to do founder interviews for as long as I humanly can. Often we don’t do things at all because they won’t scale, but the advice that Paul Graham gives to startups is to do things that don't scale. Do them until they absolutely break and then do something else. Even if I can only do founder interviews for another year, I can still talk to 100 people that I otherwise wouldn't have and there's a lot of value in doing that.

When I reflect on the role that I play in the founder interviews, it’s a bit like the experience of a teacher. Every year a teacher gets a new group of students at a similar stage, but it’s the only year the students are going to have that experience. It’s the same for every person who joins our company. It’s the only time they’ll have that experience so we have to do it exceptionally well even though, for me and others, we’ve done it hundreds of times.

One of the things we discuss internally is whether the founder interviews are the best use of my time as a CEO - I do about 15 of them a month so it's a reasonable chunk of time. The conclusion we keep coming back to is it actually is one of the highest leverage points for me. It's a place where I can contribute the most and ensure that we are truly delivering the experience we want to give people who come to work at Culture Amp.

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