Updated: Sep 1, 2020
By Neha Pradhan
March 27, 2020
“Talent leaders should clearly define what inclusive means for their company. This means defining expectations for leaders and employees around respect and being an ally.”
Nellie Peshkov, vice president of people and culture at Reddit, talks about how the social media powerhouse inculcates deep expertise and a values-driven approach in its employees, with inclusivity front and center. She discusses the broad skill sets CHROs need today to reinvent HR as a strategic function and how HR tech supports Reddit’s efforts to scale workplace culture globally.
In this edition of HR Talk, Peshkov puts the spotlight on building inclusive teams in which leaders are open to engaging in uncomfortable conversations and keep putting in the effort to be better. She also talks about the philosophies and tools that empower Reddit’s employees to learn and grow.
Key takeaways from our interview on building inclusive team culture:
Top tips for CHROs to move business forward as a strategic function
Learn more about using HR tech to focus on gaining measurable results
Key trends to follow in workplace culture in 2020 and beyond
Here’s the edited transcript from our exclusive interview with Reddit’s VP of people and culture, Nellie Peshkov:
Tell us a little about your career path, your role at Reddit, and how your team strives towards creating excellence every day.
I started my career as an HR business partner and developed a passion for designing HR solutions that enable people and businesses to achieve their highest potential. From there, I had the opportunity to be part of a team that managed the acquisition of several companies. This gave me a unique insight into the impact that a company’s culture has on the business and the criticality of values alignment between companies and people. The lessons from this period of my career have continued to shape my HR philosophies.
When I joined Reddit, I was excited to bring all my learnings and passions to the company. I also found a deep understanding and connection to Reddit’s mission of bringing community and belonging to everyone in the world. That sense of community and connection to others is at the core of who I am as an individual and I’m looking forward to executing against our potential and continuing to grow Reddit’s community.
21st-century HR has given birth to a new breed of HR executives. What broad skill sets do CHROs need today to reinvent HR as a strategic function?
Focus on things that will truly move the business forward as opposed to designing HR programs or policies based on what other companies are doing or have done. To achieve this, you must always ask why you’re doing something. If it doesn’t solve a business problem, then you shouldn’t do it. The sweet spot is doing what’s best for the business with courage and heart; if you can unlock that then you will be able to build and grow an amazing culture and a successful company.
HR must also embrace vulnerability in order to be effective. HR doesn’t have to be the function that has all the answers or is responsible for developing all the answers. It is more effective when HR unlocks and facilitates a forum that allows us to collectively, as employees, find the right answers. I value and operate from a vulnerability standpoint in which you should be able to ask for help and listen to other perspectives.
And lastly, a critical skill set to have in HR is the courage to test new things, fail, and try again. Similarly, to product or feature development in the direct-to-consumer business model, you test and improve your solutions over time with lots of listening and learning from your employees along the way. Taking risks and trying new things has not always been part of HR’s DNA but it must be as our employees and our companies are agile and have more resilience than we give them credit for.
Considering the generational divide in today’s workplace, what can talent leaders do differently to build inclusive teams?
Talent leaders should clearly define what inclusive means for their company. This means defining expectations for leaders and employees around respect and being an ally. When it comes to inclusion and diversity, I believe there are three specific acts that should take place. First, acknowledge your gaps and weaknesses. Then commit to addressing them, and finally, embrace an uncompromising attitude to act. Companies do not become more inclusive or diverse overnight. We must do the hard work - engage in uncomfortable conversations, increase our inclusion IQ and EQ and keep putting the effort in to be better.
At Reddit, we have a ‘Default Open’ value. We prioritize transparency and make space for important conversations and constructive feedback. Having an inclusive team means that you not only value and embrace different perspectives, but you also seek them out. I also want to leverage the sense of community that our platform provides and make it a reality for our internal community as well. In practical terms, this involves embracing the internal communities that exist within Reddit as we do with the subreddits on the platform and make space for them to thrive.
You built your career at Netflix. What lessons will you bring from your previous roles to build deep expertise and a values-driven approach at Reddit?
It’s important to make sure that everything you do as a people & culture representative reflects your values; all our people philosophies and practices must reflect those values as well. At Reddit, one of our company values is ‘Evolve.’ We invest in development and learning for all our employees, which can come from anywhere and anyone. Creating a forum and tools to facilitate that investment is driven by HR and connects back our values.
Tell us how HR tech supports your efforts to scale Reddit’s workplace culture globally. What are the measurable results you will focus on with the help of the new tech?
We lean on analytics to support internal decisions and how we experiment with new practices. Our team relies less on specific tooling and systems and instead, we’ve adopted a rigorous approach to analyzing data in order to understand employees. This empowers us to shape what works best for our culture.
What does the term “DNA of organizational culture” mean to you? How differently will a Chief People Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer approach it, in your opinion?
The DNA of a culture is most visible in how you live your values. It is not identified by posters on a wall inside of the office. It’s lived in staff meetings and day-to-day interactions because you’ll immediately be able to decipher the type of culture: Is it transparent? Are leaders candid? Are employees asking the tough questions? Are we embracing mistakes and learning from them?
In the industry, traditional HR focuses on workforce needs through programs, policies, and practices. The Chief People Officer’s charter is to cultivate an environment where employees can do their best work. This does not mean having lots of programs but rather creating a culture where the north star is clear, and people are doing great work together to get there.
Can you give us a sneak-peek into the upcoming projects at Reddit on people and culture that you are most excited about?
In the next year, Reddit’s people & culture team will be focused on supporting the company as it scales. We are constantly innovating and improving our approaches so that our employees are also growing, evolving and thriving. We are rapidly accelerating our inclusion and diversity efforts, creating an environment where employees across all our offices, including at home, can continue to do their best work and be connected with their colleagues, and ensuring that our talent management philosophies and tools empower our employees to learn and grow.
Which are the key trends you are tracking in workplace culture in 2020 and beyond?
Of course, the advancements in machine learning in predictive analytics are interesting. Having information to inform how to improve employees’ experiences based on signals and indicators outside of what people tell you directly through surveys and feedback is additive.
The shift from more complex HR programs to providing guidance and tools will continue, which I am excited about because I wholeheartedly believe that smart, committed, and passionate people will do amazing things without needing to be required by HR to do things a certain way.
And lastly, I have an optimistic hope that we are creating companies where respect towards customers and employees is non-negotiable, and a future workforce where employees can thrive irrespective of their background as long we are all aligned to our company’s mission and values.
Neha: Thank you, Nellie, for sharing your valuable insights on building inclusive team cultures globally. We hope to talk to you again, soon.
About Nellie Peshkov
Nellie Peshkov is the Vice President of People & Culture at Reddit and has more than 20 years of experience leading progressive HR organizations with a special emphasis on talent acquisition, HR business partnership, inclusion, talent management, and leadership development. She most recently served as the Vice President of Talent at Netflix where she led the company through massive growth over the course of five years and built workforces in more than 20 offices around the world. Prior to Netflix, Peshkov led HR and Global Talent Acquisition for Electronic Arts and Symantec.