How Thumbtack Delivers an Award-Winning Virtual-First Employee Experience

Thumbtack employs a diverse and talented global team over 1000 strong. As a virtual-first and values-driven organization, the Thumbtack team relies on modern technology, effective communication, and a digital employee experience that rivals any in-person campus.
Try Haystack With Your Team


Platform Owner
Platform Name
JD Norton
Senior Director of Communications
Brooke Beiermann
Communications Manager
San Francisco
Software Development

Since its founding, Thumbtack has been helping local businesses to grow and empowering homeowners to confidently care for and improve their homes. With over 80 million projects started on Thumbtack, it’s no surprise that the people powering the platform are some of the best in the world at what they do.

Thumbtack employs a diverse and talented global team over 1000 strong. As a virtual-first and values-driven organization, the Thumbtack team relies on modern technology, effective communication, and a digital employee experience that rivals any in-person campus.

We recently had the chance to meet up with JD Norton and Brooke Beiermann, Thumbtack’s Senior Director of Communications and Communications Manager, to learn more about their organization, and explore what it takes to deliver a truly remarkable digital employee experience for a large global team.

Solving Big Problems with Great People

To understand how Thumbtack built and continues to retain such an extraordinary employee community, we asked Norton and Beiermann what makes Thumbtack a special place to work.

“Since day one, the best thing about Thumbtack has been the people,” Beiermann began. “Two years later, I’m still excited to be here, everyone around me is too. It makes it really easy to start each day when you know you’re going to be working with great people.”

Norton emphatically agreed, adding, “It’s also the work we do. We’re solving real problems; helping small businesses grow and helping homeowners care for their homes. I feel like we’re really doing something good for the world, and the people we get to do that work with are incredible.”

At the core of all that great work, Thumbtack’s core values shine through, acting both as a guiding light and cultural glue keeping everyone together and aligned.

  • Lead with why.
  • Make it count.
  • Own it.
  • Choose teamwork.
  • Say what you mean.

“Every company talks about culture and values, but quite often the only time you might hear about them is when an executive mentions them during an all-hands meeting to rally the team. You rarely hear them used behind closed doors,” Norton said. “Thumbtack is different. Everyone really lives our values in all we do. They’re not just words on a wall.”

The focused, authentic nature of Thumbtack’s core values not only makes them easy to remember, it makes them more natural to internalize and live day-to-day.

“We have five values, and they really come alive in our work,” Norton shared. “I’m in meetings with members of our executive team practically every day, and they’re always asking if a decision aligns with our values. Hearing people referencing values when nobody else is looking—that’s living your values.”

An Award-Winning Workplace

The team’s steadfast dedication to building an employee-centric organizational culture led to numerous awards and accolades over the years. In 2023 alone, Thumbtack received nine “Best Workplace” awards, including recognition as one of the best places to work in tech for remote workers, and also for parents.

“We really are a people-first organization,” Norton said. “Our head of People always says that ‘the success of our people equals the success of our organization,’ and living that mentality leads to those results.

We do have great benefits, but I think it often boils down to the fundamentals: staying culture-focused, asking for feedback, listening, acting on it, and putting people first.”

Beiermann agreed, adding her own perspective on what it means for an employer like Thumbtack to be people focused, not just in spirit, but in action.

“Company leadership has clearly bought in on the value of making a difference for employees. They’re focused on delivering things that can make a meaningful difference in both our personal and professional lives. That comes from asking people what might actually be beneficial to them, and responding.”

A New Home Base for Everyone (TackHub)

In 2022, that dedication to delivering an exceptional employee experience, combined with a Virtual-First working modality, led the Thumbtack team to implement a new digital home for employees across the globe: TackHub.

“Going virtual-first was one of the biggest influences for us to establish a real digital home, but it also made sense for our growing employee base,” Beiermann explained. “We have people worldwide, and establishing connections can be difficult on a distributed team. It was essential to have a place where people could find information, collaborate, and get company news that didn’t rely on synchronous, real-time communication.”

After a comprehensive evaluation, the team decided on Haystack as the platform they’d use to build TackHub. Thumbtack’s new digital home helped bring people together, shrink boundaries, and foster collaboration regardless of where (or when) someone logged in from.

“It’s like creating a central time zone for the entire employee base. It’s a place where the information is all relevant, no matter where you are or what time it is,” Norton said.

“As a virtual-first company, we don’t have one physical campus where everyone comes to collaborate every day. Instead, we look at TackHub as our virtual headquarters. It’s where everybody gathers together to get the information they need, to learn about each other, and even for watercooler talk.

Just yesterday, someone messaged me on Slack that I hadn’t worked with in the past. I checked out his profile in TackHub, which he’d fully filled out. It was awesome, because I felt like I already knew so much about him just by going to that page.”

Delightful Digital and Physical Spaces

Thumbtack’s unique virtual-first approach combines the flexibility of remote work with engaging physical spaces where employees can work and meet in-person. The company was honored as a 2023 Transform Awards winner for the Space Pioneer: Workspace Design of the Year Award.

Beiermann shared some of the ways Thumbtack’s digital home draws influence from both organizational culture, and the company’s physical space.

“We keep things easygoing and straightforward, and that’s exactly what we were looking for in a digital space. It shouldn’t be too complex. It needs to be a fun, simple space to connect and find information,” she said.

That theme of establishing fun, functional, and collaborative spaces runs through both TackHub and Thumbtack’s physical office, dubbed a “Library,” in San Francisco.

“Whether you’re in a physical or digital space, it needs to be a place where people want to gather together, collaborate, interact, and see what’s happening,” Norton added. “So many intranets are just focused on pushing information out to people—and you do need that aspect at times—but people need to be empowered to do other things.”

“As JD was just describing the environment, he really could have been talking about TackHub or our San Francisco Library,” Beiermann mused. They really are both fun places to visit and collaborate.”

Connecting People and Organizational Knowledge

Like any great library, TackHub provides employees across the world with a trove of information that is easy to access, and easy to find.

“One of the biggest benefits, since you can’t just walk past someone’s desk and ask them, is having a knowledge base where all the information is easily searchable, so if the answer to your question exists you’ll find it, or be pointed toward the person who can answer it,” Beiermann said.

While it’s essential to house organizational knowledge and resources in a secure and reliable space, it’s equally important to have a flexible way to index, share, and find them. As Norton explained, that can often mean pulling in resources from other platforms.

“We are a 100% Google Workplace company,” he began, “and Google Drive integrates into TackHub, so people can search across all our Google Slides, Sheets, Docs—everything.

TackHub is that one place where people know they can find what they need. The only time you’re not going to find a resource is if it doesn’t exist. That sort of digital home is necessary, because Slack and email are both really ephemeral. If you’re out for a week, you can miss so much.”

Before TackHub

While the Thumbtack team didn’t always have TackHub, they were always focused on providing reliable information, essential resources, and clear and forthright communication. In the meantime, they used the tools at hand to get the job done.

“We leaned more heavily on other channels,” Norton said. “Our executives would send out emails about various things, then we’d send a post in Slack as a reminder. We also used Confluence—some of our engineers still do.”

As a project management tool, it worked well, but it didn’t fit the broader vision the team had for their new digital home.

“There were a lot of old pages, orphan pages, and information was really hard to find. You’d search for something like ‘benefits,’ and get things all the way back to 2012. There wasn’t as much you could do with it,” Norton continued. “You couldn’t get creative and implement brand colors or themes. There wasn’t a great way for internal comms to push out information and publish articles.”

Key Objectives

As the team set out to find that perfect fit, they began by soliciting feedback from a broad range of stakeholders. After combining those needs with their own departmental wishlist, they settled on a number of key functionalities:

“It had to be interactive. It had to be more than just a push mechanism,” Norton said, as he began listing off some of the most critical elements.

  • It had to integrate with other tools we were using already. Our IT team was an incredible partner throughout the procurement process. They were involved from the opening of our RFP all the way to the end, because if it didn’t work for IT, it wasn’t going to work for us.
  • It had to be easy to use. I worked at some places where we’d implemented other tools like Sharepoint, and people had to go through a whole course just to learn how to use it. That was not a possibility for us. It had to be super user-friendly.
  • It had to serve as our information repository, taking the place of other tools, and ensuring information was always up-to-date, and employees could rely on it.
  • It had to feel familiar and intuitive. Even though it was a brand new tool, things like creating profiles, navigation, and on-platform interactions had to feel natural, so people didn’t feel like they had to learn a brand new tool.

“Another reason we chose Haystack for TackHub: the Google integrations were the most robust we’d found. It felt like Google Workplace was prioritized in Haystack, compared to some other tools, where it felt lIke an afterthought,” Norton explained.

Initial and Ongoing Impressions

It’s been over a year since the initial launch, and the reception, both from the executive team and the broader employee community continues to be overwhelmingly positive.

“Comms worked well before we implemented TackHub,” said Norton, “but they’re so much better now because we’re intranet-first.

It makes comms more interactive. Our CEO will publish a story where people can react, and leave comments. You can’t really do that with email.

It’s also nice that when we publish a post, an email can automatically go out, and people who do want an email get one—but we don’t have to write (or design) it. Now we use other comms channels to direct people to the intranet. It really has become the one-stop shop for communications.”

Looking back on the first few weeks of launch, Beiermann remembered a sense of enthusiasm across the team. “There was immediate traction,” she recalled. “Everyone wanted to try it out and see if it really delivered on what we’d promised. From the beginning, people were excited to share their content and share stories.”

TackHub’s warm reception was no accident. Instead of delivering something they thought the team would or should want, Norton, Beiermann, and team followed the same core principles that make Thumbtack a great place to work—and simply asked their audience what they wanted.

“We did surveys of our entire employee base,” Norton said, “asking what wasn’t working with the old system, and what they’d like to see in TackHub.”

As a result of this approach, even before launch, members of the team were engaged and looking forward to exploring their new home.

“We put a call out to our employees to help pick the name, and got back over 500 responses,” Beiermann remembered. “The team was happy to have something new that would be easy to use. They were ready for something that was fun and functional, and easy to participate in.”

“People loved it,” Norton said. “We set some pretty lofty pre-launch goals for ourselves, and hit them within the first week. If you can get people excited about something before it even launches, you’re going to have a successful launch.”

The Thumbtack team’s pre-launch goals for TackHub were:

  • 75% of employees using TackHub on a monthly basis
  • 95%+ of active employees in TackHub
  • 50% viewership on promoted posts

But the Thumbtack team didn’t just reach their lofty goals for TackHub within the first week, they blew past them, with:

  • 90% of employees using TackHub on a monthly basis
  • 99.9% of active employees in TackHub
  • 68% viewership on promoted posts

The response from the executive team was equally positive, owing to the team’s dedication to listening and acting on feedback. “By bringing them along for the journey from the very early stages, we were able to earn their support. They were excited for what would be possible,” Norton explained.

That enthusiasm continues, as Norton, Beiermann and team continue to over-deliver on the promise of a real digital home for everyone in the organization.

“Over a year in, people just keep coming back,“ Norton said. “It really has become our virtual headquarters. A month after our new CMO joined, he reached out to say it was the best intranet he’d ever seen!”

Pro Tips

As part of a team that planned and delivered on a truly remarkable digital employee experience, Beiermann and Norton shared some advice for others working to accomplish the same goal.

  • Take your time.
  • Understand your audience, what they need, and what’s going to be beneficial to them. You’re not implementing an intranet for your executive team; you’re implementing it for employees. Those are the voices you need to listen to; those are the people you need to build for. It has to be employee-focused.
  • Keep a constant pulse on employee sentiment. In our case, we launched TackHub, and accomplished everything we’d set out to do in the beginning—but that was just the beginning.
  • Make sure you’re still delivering on the results you set out to achieve, and keep checking in and asking for feedback on ways you can make it better.
  • Don’t just roll it out and assume everyone “gets it.”
  • Build something that people actually want to visit. It shouldn’t be a tool where you’re just pushing information at people.
  • Have a plan in place ahead of time so that once you launch, it’s always up to date. Make sure there’s always something new there, bringing people back.