For Rich Deal, Executive VP and Chief HR Officer at FICO, the key to creating a successful company culture is to trust the individuals who work for your organization. "I think culture begins and ends with really valuing people,” says Rich.
FICO has frequently been recognized for building a great culture. For three years in a row, FICO has ranked on Forbes’ list of America’s best mid-sized employers, and it was recognized on Forbes’ list of America's best employers for women. But it takes a lot of mindful choices to ensure that a company with 3,400 employees is a great place to work—for everybody.
Rich shared his insights with Wisq CEO and Co-Founder Jim Barnett on Happy Here, a podcast about helping people be happier at work. Here’s what Rich had to say about how FICO invests in its employees.
A people-first culture starts on an employee’s first day
Rich believes that it’s critical to demonstrate to employees that the company values them from day one. “We start at the very beginning of the relationship. We've invested a lot in our onboarding process because we want to get off on the right foot with folks,” explains Rich.
In Rich’s opinion, onboarding is particularly important for distributed teams like FICO’s. “Our people are geographically dispersed, so [learning new procedures and building relationships] is not as easy as just walking into a room and meeting everybody. It takes time,” he says, adding, “We help our new people come on board and gain easy access to the tools and the processes that they need to be successful in their particular role.”
Companies need to trust their employees
Rich believes that companies should have faith in the people they hire. ”We're a trust-first organization,” says Rich. “We embraced things like flexible work location and flexible hours even before the pandemic. We try to focus on setting goals for people, making it clear what's expected, and providing the tools, the information, and the guidance they need to drive success. Then we get out of their way and try not to overburden them with a lot of bureaucracy.”
That trust-first strategy has powered their hiring as well, allowing FICO to find talent around the globe. “Physical proximity should not be a proxy for performance or commitment. Get past that,” says Rich. “We win by not getting all caught up in where people are physically located. We find people with the right culture fit and the right technical skills and experience, who want to be part of something special. We trust them whether they’re located in our San Diego office, our Minneapolis office, or anywhere else in the world.”
"We try to focus on setting goals for people, making it clear what's expected, and providing the tools, the information, and the guidance they need to drive success. Then we get out of their way and try not to overburden them with a lot of bureaucracy.” - Rich Deal, EVP and CHRO, FICO
Inclusion has its roots at the executive level
Rich believes that the conversation around inclusion starts at an organization’s highest level. “It may sound simple, but we start by talking a lot about it. Sometimes I think the most powerful thing the leadership team can do is to verbalize what they truly value. So we spend a lot of time using the terms ‘inclusion’ and ‘belonging,’ and then our actions have to match those words,” says Rich.
One way FICO has taken action is by investing in employee resource groups (ERGs). “We bring people with different perspectives together to share those perspectives and to educate their peers in a friendly and welcoming manner,” says Rich. “We create a culture where we do recognize that individual differences exist. We want to get in touch with those differences and be better aware and knowledgeable about them, so that we can value them and understand them,” he says.
Employees need to see the big picture
For Rich, the ultimate benchmark of a people-first company is if an employee understands why their job matters. “Let’s say there’s a guy working at an automobile factory who puts the front left tire on the car on the assembly line over and over again. If they never get an opportunity to see the whole car and to understand that the car isn't going anywhere without their task, there's something important missing,” he says.
“I think we all as human beings want to believe that the work that we're doing is important and that it contributes to some greater good,” adds Rich. “If you can connect those dots for employees, I think you create a very, very special culture where people start to be emotionally committed to the success of the business.”
Get more insights from the Happy Here podcast, where HR leaders share stories of how they build cultures around employee happiness and engagement, available wherever you get your podcasts. Apple Podcasts | Spotify