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How BuzzFeed Supports an Inclusive, Collaborative, and Creative Culture

Since its founding in 2006, BuzzFeed has been committed to delivering the best of the internet.

Providing news and entertainment to hundreds of millions of people across the world is a monumental challenge that requires a diverse team of talented, creative, and dedicated individuals. We recently met with Maritza Bocks, Senior Manager of People Operations at BuzzFeed, to learn how she and her team work together to deliver the elevated digital employee experience that supports and empowers that team.

An Inclusive Environment

Bocks mentioned several key factors that made BuzzFeed a remarkable place to work, but inclusiveness stood out at the top of the list, as she thought back to her very first days as a member of the team.

“I went from a more formal, business casual, in-office environment to a 100% remote position,” she explained. While this environment felt more energetic, creative, and fun, what stood out most was the way her new colleagues made her feel. “Everyone was so open and caring,” she recalled. “I felt included, and like I belonged.”

That spirit of inclusiveness and belonging remain core to BuzzFeed’s organizational culture, earning it numerous awards, including being named one of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality by HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.

Everyone was so open and caring. I felt included, and like I belonged.

Shared Achievement

Bocks also described a sense of shared achievement. “BuzzFeed does a great job at listening to diverse perspectives, promoting open communication, celebrating individuals for who they are, and respecting and encouraging collaboration among team members to embrace collective creativity,” she explained. “On my own team, the people ops team, everybody contributes in their own way, and there’s so much visible appreciation for the unique things each person brings to the table.”

That sense of collaboration, gratitude, and recognition expands beyond individual teams, permeating across the organization. At an organizational level, BuzzFeed communications frequently celebrate individual and team achievements across different roles.

“Those communications highlight a variety of things like exciting press clips, shoutouts, or spotlights on an employee who created a great film or story,” Bocks said. This perspective of collective progress and appreciation provides individual members of the team with a salient source of inspiration and esteem by providing a window into the value and impact of their own contributions.

There’s so much visible appreciation for the unique things each person brings to the table.

Celebrating Diversity

BuzzFeed’s dedication to making content more creative, empathetic, and inclusive also manifests itself internally. For the team, inclusiveness and empathy provide the foundation for a diverse tapestry of educational and community building opportunities.

“BuzzFeed fosters a diverse and inclusive workplace culture that promotes open communication, implementing policies that are inclusive and fair, and encourages a supportive and collaborative work environment,” Bocks explained.

To support this unique environment, the team uses an array of modern tools like Slack, and most recently, Haystack.

“We have Slack channels and pages within Haystack for all our [Employee Resource Groups] ERGs,” Bocks began. “Depending on what month it is, and what we’re celebrating, we’ll also have guest speakers, lunch-and learns, and other ways to explore heritage, culture, and values from new viewpoints. It helps people to be seen and heard, but it also provides an opportunity for people to learn and gain perspective.

I think there’s a place—a home—with opportunities and resources for everyone here.”

Information Access

As BuzzFeed continues to evolve as an organization, having a source of truth employees can rely on for accurate information has been crucial. In 2021, the team implemented Haystack to streamline communication and connect everyone to the people, resources, and information they needed to do their best work.

“Haystack has been essential for promoting consistency,” Bocks started. “If it’s not on Haystack, it doesn’t exist. It’s our source of truth and guidance. If you need an answer, Haystack is where you start.”

Everyone, from new employees just beginning their onboarding, to core team members from the early days, has access and a clear path to the information they need at any given moment.

“The way we’ve organized things for new hire orientation, policies, and procedures, helps eliminate confusion and brings the organization together. It provides a one-stop shop that can help reduce noise and confusion during times of change.”

While having a reliable source of truth for employees to seek information was transformative, providing a place for employees to share information was also incredibly valuable. The BuzzFeed team was able to direct some of its legendary content creation skills inward, providing valuable insights, guiding effective problem-solving, informed decision making, and sharing of knowledge and mentorship.

“There are people who have been with BuzzFeed since the earliest days,” Bocks began, “and they’re able to share some of their learnings and perspectives. That also provides newer employees with opportunities to learn, and that environment helps to spread a sense of truth and joy, which is something we’re always working to do.”

If it’s not on Haystack, it doesn’t exist.

Powerful New Tools

Prior to rolling out Haystack, information access was still a core priority at BuzzFeed; however, the tooling that supported it was less intuitive and more cumbersome to manage.

“Before Haystack, most official outgoing communications were via email. We had a Human Resources wiki page to help answer questions, and a non-branded internal website,” Bocks recalled.

While that system was well-organized overall, it wasn’t easy to maintain, and it presented some governance challenges. “When something was updated, it wasn’t always updated everywhere. That was challenging for people, because if you look up something important like a policy or procedure, you need to know you have the most up-to-date version.”

The team migrated all that vital information from the old system to Haystack, presenting Bocks with an opportunity to cross-reference, find, and fill information gaps. “I was also able to make sure that when we’re linking to a piece of information, we’re linking to that specific doc in Haystack. Then everything stays current.

Just having one spot to look for things, versus having multiple sources is super helpful.”

Just as Haystack made finding accurate information faster and more intuitive, as Bocks explained, it also simplified the sharing of information, creating a healthy loop of knowledge sharing. “It was an easier way for the organization as a whole to share vital information. It’s so simple to use for people who are sending out information, and also easy for recipients to quickly access the knowledge they need.”

Just having one spot to look for things, versus having multiple sources is super helpful.

An Interconnected Toolkit

With Haystack implemented, communication tools like email and Slack that the team already relied on weren’t cast aside. Instead, they maintained many of their important roles, but with the addition of some new superpowers. “It integrates well,” Bocks said, “acting as a hub that helps enhance the functionality of various existing tools, which helps to promote efficiency within BuzzFeed.”

Group-based audiences and automated multi-channel messaging made it easy for Bocks and her team to reach the right people in the right place, at the right time.

“When there was a learning opportunity, compliance opportunity, or training, for example, the communication was posted in Haystack,” Bocks explained. And because it was sent through Haystack, it was automatically distributed to all the correct channels.

Native HRIS integrations eliminated the need to create or manage individual employee accounts, and relieved the burden of creating and managing passwords for employees. “Haystack integrates really well with Workday and Okta,” Bocks said, “so when there’s a new hire, everything just pulls over to Haystack. We don’t have to manually manage users, and that was a really cool transition.”

Haystack integrates really well with Workday and Okta.

A Warm Reception

New tools can be helpful, or burdensome, depending on your role and perspective, so we asked Bocks  about the team’s response to Haystack.

“The overall organization loves that we have a one-stop shop to get all the information they need,” She said. “It was the first time that it was branded, and had all of the options to build out pages related to policy, procedures, employee resources, and all other communications employees would need in one place.”

Haystack also provided new ways for the team to support its core values of diversity and inclusion, with its purpose-built, streamlined tools.

“The culture and ERG teams loved the event management and communications they were able to do in addition to all of the training announcements and diversity awareness months. Being able to have dedicated ERG groups with their own administration and resources provided an opportunity for more exposure and with that, even more participation.”

The overall organization loves that we have a one-stop shop to get all the information they need.

Maintaining an Exceptional Digital Employee Experience

As a member of a team that drives meaningful value to its employee community every day, Bocks was kind enough to share a few key pieces of advice others might benefit from.

  • I always appreciate and would prioritize a user-friendly interface.
  • Seek input from a diverse group of important stakeholders.
  • Execute on a clear communication plan.
  • Branding is important. It should feel like it’s really yours.
  • Keep things light and fun overall—people will be drawn to use the platform more frequently, and more likely to use it when they need it most.

Bocks shared a final, crucial piece of advice that resonated throughout the rest: Keep the well-being of the employee at heart, and continue to make improvements that foster a more collaborative site.

Technology, Information and Internet
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New York, NY

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