The Work of Your Life: Inside Company Belonging with Joan Burke

Empowering your people starts with empowering your managers, says Joan Burke, former CPO, DocuSign
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Joan Burke

Recently, Wisq launched its new podcast, Happy Here, hosted by Wisq’s very own CEO and co-founder Jim Barnett.

In Happy Here's third episode, Jim got the chance to speak with Joan Burke, former Chief People Officer at DocuSign. 

Take an inside look at how Joan’s contributions to human resources gave both companies SaaS industry leadership by creating and inspiring cultures of innovation and growth.

Jim Barnett: Joan, welcome! I'd love to start by asking you, what does belonging mean to you?

Joan Burke: Belonging means a sense of psychological safety where individuals can show up authentically themselves. We started talking about diversity so many years ago, and it was just about diversity — there was no culture to make them wanna stay. Then, we morphed into inclusivity, which is really even bigger than that; it's about belonging, which is a deeply personal instinct.

🔎 What kinds of programs put connection in focus? 

Jim Barnett: It sounds like listening was a big part of what you did to enable that culture of belonging. Could you share the programs you put in place to promote connection?

Joan Burke: The pandemic was a challenge for all of us, particularly in the human resources space who didn't have a playbook for making sure people stay connected. At DocuSign, we put in a program called DocuSign Connections. It was this platform that helped us connect people with similar interests for both mentorship and peer coaches.

We also doubled down on our ERG programs. We used the connection and power of ERGs to really bring people together, staying connected to each other and to DocuSign.

💼 Helping people do the work of their lives 

Jim Barnett: You talk about making sure employees look back and reminisce about their career, where they can say they did the ‘work of their life’. Can you talk about some of the things that companies can do to ensure that people are actually doing the work of their lives?

Joan Burke: Everybody wants to be the best place to work, including us. We wanted to create an environment and a sense of opportunity to do the work of their lives. If I was your manager, I have to have that deep conversation and see if you’re actually doing the work of your life here. And if not, what's the company's role? What is it you need from me?

🏢Building people-centric cultures at work

Jim Barnett: You said that each HR professional has an organizing principle that's their ‘true north’. Is this your true north, your focus on building people-centric cultures that help them do the work of their lives?

Joan Burke: Yes; I've seen how powerful it is, and again, it puts the individual at the center of that conversation. It requires me to be a good listener. It requires me as manager to be supportive. And that’s why I love that.

How employees feel about the company — in many ways — is how they feel about their manager. I've always had this strong belief that if companies can develop great managers, they're way more than halfway there.

"You know, when you do the right things for people, you always feel good about yourself. You always feel like you've done something to help someone." - Joan Burke

🤝 Always doing right by your employees

Jim Barnett: I want to share a story; my team had opened up a role at our company…one of the members of your team applied for the role — and I will never forget your response. You said to me, “Jim, I never stand in the way of anyone's career. You should interview her. She's terrific.”

How did you learn to embrace that mentality of never standing in the way of anyone's career?

Joan Burke: I do remember that story! You know, when you do the right things for people, you always feel good about yourself. You always feel like you've done something to help someone. And if you had a better job than I had for that individual — if I didn't have a job as good as the one you had — that's why I say never want stand in the way of anyone's career.

🔑 Joan's key tip on how to be happier at work

Jim Barnett: Before you leave, I've got one last question for you. I'd love to know just what's one thing that you do to be happier in life or at work?

Joan Burke: It really matters who I do it with. It really, really, really matters who the people are around me. There were earlier times in my career when I might have been in a situation where I felt, I'm not quite loving this, but I made a decision to hang in there because you know that it is gonna pay off somewhere along the way — to get to a stage it's where just about people.

Jim Barnett: Well, thank you so much. It's definitely about whom I'm doing it with, and I really appreciate the opportunity to do this with you today.

🎧 Listen to the Happy Here Podcast, with host Jim Barnett

Thank you again to Joan Burke for joining us on the third episode of Wisq’s Happy Here podcast!

If you found this article interesting, definitely give the full podcast episode a listen wherever you get your podcasts and share it with a friend. 

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