‘We Are Better Together’ — How This Director Is Helping to Build a Best-in-Class, Flexible Culture

Sponsored by SoFi

Chandra Joy Kauffmann

Photo courtesy of SoFi.

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June 23, 2024 at 4:37PM UTC

What are Chandra Joy Kauffmann’s (the Director of Employee Experience at SoFi) top two tips for excelling at a hybrid or work-from-home job? She says to:

  1. Prioritize: For instance, when you see a day of back-to-back meetings, ask yourself, ‘What do I absolutely need to be a part of, or can I push something?’

  2. Friends Matter: The buddy system is in place for a reason. Whether it’s someone on your team, a cross-functional partner or member of an employee group, make a conscious effort to connect with others with whom you find a common connection.”

And, at SoFi, Kauffmann and her team are there to help employees succeed while following these tips — no matter where they’re working. For instance, they are helping employees prioritize both their work and personal lives through SoFi Cares, a new employee wellness program. “In order to deliver quality work, it’s important we strive to find a work-life balance that works for our employees,” Kauffmann explains.

This push to empower employees to find their own way to excel comes from the top, with SoFi CEO Anthony Noto sharing that there is, “no one-size-fits-all solution for all employees.” Kauffmann shares with us that Noto, “empowers all employees to have a conversation with their managers to determine and optimize [what works best for SoFi’s members/clients and the employees who support them].”

In regards to her second point, SoFi provides nine SoFi Circles (aka Employee Resource groups). These “were created to help employees to feel comfortable showing up as their authentic selves and to educate allies to be mindful of bias and how they can better help Embrace Diversity - a core value of ours - for all,” shares Kauffmann.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on how SoFi is making the future of work better for everyone. Here, we caught up with Kauffmann to learn more about her career, company, and team — and how it’s all looked different over the last few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s how SoFi has managed to cultivate a company culture employees love, even through indubitably tough times.

Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role, how long have you been in this role and what’s your day-to-day like? 

I joined SoFi in April 2019, and our mighty Employee Experience Team focuses on three objectives: 

  1. To help Inform, Inspire, and Involve all employees to live our mission and eleven core values every day. 

  2. To make people proud to work at SoFi.

  3. To create experiences that are worth sharing — to help further amplify our brand and help more people get their money right. 

To help bring these objectives to life, we focus on three areas: onboarding, DE&I programs, and employee engagement.

What was SoFi like prior to the COVID-19 pandemic? How has this changed or stayed the same during the pandemic?

Like so many companies, we shifted from being an in-office company to primarily remote during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know flexibility is no longer a nice thing to have; it’s a non-negotiable for employees. Now, we offer flexible work environments in which teams work with their managers to pick environments that work best for them: in-office, hybrid or full-time remote. While we may have changed where we work, we haven’t changed how we work because of our commitment to our core values. 

Our 11 core values are at the center of how we think about serving our members, building our company, and, most importantly, how we work together. I know what you’re thinking: eleven is a lot! But, I truly feel that they are the secret recipe to building a best-in-class culture. They align everyone in terms of how we deliver on our business and how we work together. This is what kept us together, aligned, and connected before, during, and after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Prior to the pandemic, we received a lot of feedback from employees on how we were very headquarters-centric, and the pandemic completely washed this away. We really see ourselves as one team. We’re location neutral

Does SoFi have any initiatives in place to help employees manage their work-life balance? If so, can you describe them and how they are helping?

With the shift to a work-from-home environment, like many companies, we found people have a hard time shutting work off. It’s hard to do when you’re working from your living room, kitchen table or even your bedroom! Having a commute to and from work allowed people to turn off their work selves and transition to their home selves. So, we’ve strongly encouraged everyone to own their schedules, whatever that means to them. Maybe it’s taking a few minutes to listen to music, read a book or call a friend. We also introduced SoFridays, when we encourage eligible employees to start their weekends early every Friday at 2 p.m. local time, all year long. 

We truly believe that, in order to help employees manage work and life, we have to weave mental wellness into everything we do — from our benefits offerings, manager training, and onboarding to our special events with our Circles and more. We want to start thinking about mental health being a holistic experience so our employees can bring their best selves to work every day.

As we return back into the office, employees will find that we have embedded wellness into the employee experience with motivational messages, spa-like touches in restrooms, and meditation rooms in some offices–all with the goal of reinforcing the importance of taking care of yourself. Additionally, we curate a program once a month to reinforce ways people can and are taking care of themselves. For example, this month, we are hosting professional massage therapists onsite so employees can treat themselves with a 10-15 minute massage. 

What is your top advice for people who are looking to network in a hybrid/WFH environment?

I would strongly recommend leaning into opportunities to connect with folks around you. I know our brains tend to think “yuck, networking is cheeeezzzyyy” or “not my jam,” but try to think about it differently. Think of it as an opportunity to simply learn about your colleagues and who they think you should connect with. It’s amazing how just one conversation can lead to a garden of conversations.

You can network in a variety of ways, like a new-hire networking or mentorship program, employee resource groups or team get-togethers. If someone continues to add something in a Zoom chat that makes you laugh, take note and reach out to them for a virtual coffee date or a walk and talk (my new favorite way of meeting with folks). 

Looking ahead, what do you see as the future of work?

I feel like I’m at an age where my 14-year-old son will never understand the workplace that I have experienced. I know for certain it won’t be the same for all — some might be fully remote, some might have robots delivering on our every desire. I hope that the future of work follows SoFi’s path in abiding by a set of core values that brings people together — because we are better together.

The individual featured is a SoFi employee. Their personal experiences, obviously, do not take into account your own specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. Results will vary.

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