How NerdWallet Supports a Collaborative, Consumer-Centric Culture

We recently met with members of NerdWallet’s Internal Communications team to learn how the organization attracts, engages, and supports its uniquely talented, engaged, and motivated employee community.
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Platform Owner
Platform Name
Sara Colvin
Sr. Manager Internal Communications II
Jasminne Velandia
Internal Communications Manager
San Francisco
Consumer Services

NerdWallet, a platform that provides financial guidance to consumers and small and mid-sized businesses, is on a mission to provide clarity for all of life's financial decisions. Delivering on that mission requires a team of knowledgeable, dedicated, and passionate individuals. We recently met with Sara Colvin and Jasminne Velandia from NerdWallet’s Internal Communications team to learn how the organization attracts, engages, and supports its uniquely talented, engaged, and motivated employee community.

The Importance of Mission and Values

As members of the NerdWallet team, Colvin and Velandia were able to call on a diverse range of qualities that initially drew them to the organization and now keep them excited to come to work every day. The team’s shared commitment to core values and mission revealed itself as a powerful common thread.

“One of my favorite things about being a Nerd is our commitment to core values, our remote-first approach, and the sense of ownership everyone has—not just toward their work, but toward driving our shared mission forward,” Velandia began. “Everything comes back to helping consumers make informed financial decisions.”

“I have such a huge appreciation for so many aspects of the business,” Colvin added. “We’re solving really big, challenging problems, and that’s always exciting to be part of. There are so many opportunities to live our values, and grow in our careers through that. Taking ownership and taking informed risks helps set people up to maximize their potential and create change.

Underpinning all of this is the people,” Colvin emphasized. “I love all the people I work with, and the culture we’ve built collectively.”

A Reliable Source of Clarity

As an organization dedicated to providing consumers with clarity for all of life's financial decisions, it was vital for the NerdWallet team to have its own clear, reliable source of organizational knowledge. To support that goal, in 2021, NerdWallet implemented Haystack.

“If you have multiple sources of information, it can be difficult, not only to keep track of everything, but also to consistently update and maintain it.

Having everything hosted centrally ensures that there’s a single point of reference for employees, and there’s just one place to update critical resources when they do change.

That’s why streamlining critical information into one source of truth, like Haystack, is so helpful.”

While having critical information and resources housed under one roof is essential, it’s only part of the equation. NerdWallet built its legacy on transforming complex financial information and concepts into clear, easily digestible insights to empower consumers. Internally, that concept continues to be a central guide for communication.

“As internal communicators, our goal is to simplify the complicated. So, when there are updates like new strategic priorities, project launches, or IT communications, we’re helping translate technical language into comms that are easy to access and easy to understand. For that, it’s vital to have a resource like Haystack.

We’re always driving alignment with company objectives, and you can’t accomplish that without clarity,” Velandia said. “Ensuring employees know the who, what, why, where, and how behind key decisions helps provide confidence, not just in their roles, but in NerdWallet as an organization.”

Dedication to Core Values

The organization’s authentic dedication to its mission and core values have always helped foster the unique environment that leads to so many accolades.

“Those cultural values are embraced, not just once in a while, but every day, from the executive team to individual contributors,” Velandia continued. “People are open, candid, and constructive. They’re taking informed risks when it makes sense, and they’re not afraid to fail, they’re constantly working to improve, and embracing a sense of ownership. Nobody’s pushing off challenging tasks, or saying ‘I can’t do this.’ Instead I see a willingness to ask the right questions, and say ‘I may not be an expert in this, but I will own it, and learn as I go.’”

While a powerful mission and authentic cultural values are essential for building an engaged and passionate team, it’s critical for those elements to be connected at the foundation of the employee experience.

“Our People team does a fantastic job of operationalizing our values as part of all our cultural and operational touchpoints, and building an inclusive, positive organizational culture that people are excited to be part of,” Colvin emphasized.

NerdWallet is dedicated to providing its employee community with the support and confidence they need to live their best lives, and that shows in its commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). The team uses channels like Haystack to support that commitment and reach its global community of Nerds with that support.

“We have numerous programs that help foster inclusivity, and each individual program plays a unique role in helping build the culture,” Velandia added. “We also have a number of active Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) along with regular DEIB programming, consistently reinforcing our commitment to DEIB.

Group pages are another way we use Haystack to drive DEIB forward. All our ERGs have their own group pages and are encouraged to use them to build connections, to share updates, and organize events. It’s a great resource, not only for current members, but also to help provide an introduction and information for other Nerds who might be interested in joining.”

As the team puts forth a proactive effort to support the entire constellation of Nerds, Velandia and Colvin both highlighted the importance of preparedness and action during unexpected events.

“We work very closely with the DEIB team on responding to the moment, and knowing that issues outside the company effect Nerds, so how can we leverage tools like Haystack to communicate proactively or reactively about issues as they arise, to ensure that Nerds who may be affected by those situations know that we are supporting them, and that we’re here to help, whether that’s through accommodations, mental health benefits, or any other means,” Colvin shared.

Growing as a Company

NerdWallet has grown over the past several years, and with that growth came an entirely new landscape of challenges and opportunities. As a longstanding member of the team, Colvin was able to share some unique perspective on that growth.

“Since I’ve been at NerdWallet, I’ve seen it grow from 200 Nerds to over 700. We were growing up as a company, and beginning to implement more formalized, mature processes.”

In November of 2021, NerdWallet made its initial public offering (IPO) of shares, leading to a new era for the organization.

“An IPO comes with more responsibilities,” Colvin began, “and that requires more global, scalable, and stable processes. So, we needed to think about how we’d start upleveling our knowledge management and our technical approach to internal communications.”

Colvin and her team ultimately chose Haystack as a means of streamlining communications, connecting its growing employee base, and providing a reliable source of clarity for organizational resources and knowledge.

“Before Haystack, things were scrappier, and a lot more manual. We had information housed in a bunch of different places. We used email or Slack for most of our communications, and weren’t archiving and consolidating all this institutional knowledge into a central location.

Having crucial information consolidated was a key goal for the team, but a vast trove of information isn’t useful unless people feel empowered to access it.

“In the past, if someone had a question about something like benefits, they had to ask someone directly, Colvin explained.”

“We wanted to find a platform that was user-friendly for both technical and non-technical folks—both for those of us on the administrative side in Comms or HR keeping it updated, and for our Nerds to have an attractive interface that was easy to navigate, easy to search, and self-directed.”

As the organization continued to mature, the tone, delivery, accessibility, and content of communications became a key consideration.

“We wanted more formality around our communications, so rather than just being delivered through email and lost in an inbox somewhere, they could be archived and searchable. That’s become even more critical over the past year as we continue implementing new data policies. We take security and privacy very seriously, so having some of the controls that Haystack offers, like Secure Delivery, became of much higher importance.

Maturity also meant having better analytics, and being able to fine-tune our programs based on what we’re seeing, and that’s something Haystack provides. Now we can offer a much more seamless experience with our knowledge at NerdWallet.”

Cutting through the Noise: Thoughtful Multi-Channel Comms

In a modern organization, communication is fluid; oftentimes, it’s a torrent. So when the NerdWallet team needs to cut through the noise, they use Haystack.

“The broadcast feature is something we use a lot,” Colvin said. And while it’s a critical means of reaching the entire organization instantly, she and her team are careful not to reduce its effectiveness by overusing it. She then elaborated further on the NerdWallet team’s evolving philosophy on delivery.

“It depends on the type of content,” Colvin elaborated. “Things like company blog posts are published on Haystack, where people can easily find it, and they’re also sent out in a weekly digest, but they’re not automatically broadcast as company-wide emails, push notifications, or Slack notifications.

We have a subset of important comms that we want to live on Haystack and benefit from the beautiful design that comes with it, but they’re also pushed out to inboxes, mobile devices, and Slack channels. For example, messages from [NerdWallet Cofounder] Tim go straight to everyone’s inboxes—or anything with a call-to-action we need people to engage with.”

Automated multi-channel comms help ensure the right messages reach the right people in the context of their work. But as Velandia explained, that’s one of many benefits.

“One of the benefits I appreciate about Haystack is how much it cuts down on duplicative effort. You don’t have to use one software to send an email, and then repost it on the company intranet, then repost it again on the company Slack.”

A Well-Loved Component of Team Culture

As someone who was there from the initial rollout, Colvin was able to share a unique perspective on the initial and long-term reaction Haystack received from the team.

“It’s been an overwhelmingly positive response, and continues to be. Haystack is such a part of people’s lives now. Nerds, in general, appreciate having a one-stop-shop for institutional knowledge and a searchable archive, but they also really love some of the fun features like the birthday and anniversary widgets we have on the homepage.

Our “Meet the Nerd” feature has also been really popular. We’ve been using Haystack for about three years now, and I still get those introductory messages every two weeks with people looking to catch up. I think that’s been a really positive tool that people continue to value, beyond Haystack’s primary functionality.”

That ability to strengthen collaboration and relationships across the organization extended to cross-departmental peers as well.

“The posting functionality really allowed us to streamline and uplevel our communications,” Colvin said, “which has also made collaboration with stakeholders like the people team and executive team more seamless. It’s so much easier for us to work with our colleagues and stakeholders on their comms to ensure those messages are distributed the right way, and to the right people.”

Velandia also touched on another critical aspect of team feedback that stood out as a clear demonstration of value she and her colleagues could share with other Nerds.

“When we’re working with stakeholders on a communication they’ve sent, we can provide analytics on engagement. I’ve had a few instances where people have been surprised that a), we have that information, but also that b) they’re getting that information. It helps to build a collaborative environment between us and our partners, and also helps us build clear objectives regarding where, when, and to whom a communication should be sent.

Pro tips

As members of a team that supports an extraordinary digital employee experience, Velandia and Colvin shared a few pieces of advice for others striving toward the same goal.

  • You can’t do this in a vacuum. When you’re introducing something foundational like an intranet, there’s a lot of behavior that needs to change. Earning buy-in from stakeholders, and continuing to demonstrate shared value is critical.
  • Think about ways to set benchmarks or create goals for yourself and your team. Leverage analytics to confirm you’re truly tracking toward the change you’re looking for.
  • Use the support team at Haystack. We work with Alison, who is great. She’s always listening for new requests we might have, keeping us up to date with the roadmap and new features. It’s also really helpful to brainstorm together because we can share ideas we’re considering and she can pull from her experience on how they might have worked for other organizations.
  • Keep realistic expectations. People often want to see an instant change in behavior, for people to start using a new system when they are accustomed to another one. It will take time, so be patient as people onboard and continue demonstrating value.