Here at The Muse, we know that there's no better way to understand how to ace your own employer brand than by seeing some best practices in action.
Well, you're in luck—because that's exactly what our Employer Spotlight Series does. We feature all sorts of helpful advice and insights from companies that are totally crushing their employer brands, so that you can learn from their success.
This month, we chatted with Katie Bouwkamp, Senior Manager of Internal Communications and Employer Brand at Smartsheet, about sustaining team culture as you grow quickly and how the company brings their mission and values to life.
Tell us a little bit about your career journey. How did you discover your current role? Does it align with your background (education or previous work experience)?
I’ve spent the majority of my career driving external communications—PR, content marketing, social media, and thought leadership—for high-growth tech companies. When I joined Smartsheet three years ago, I managed the company’s PR program. Nearly two years into my role, I went out on maternity leave and, while I was out, had the opportunity to reflect on both my own career and the needs of the business. We didn’t have an internal communications function, so I pitched the idea to Smartsheet’s Chief People and Culture, who was incredibly supportive.
That’s the great thing about working at Smartsheet—employees can chart their own career path and pursue opportunities that are meaningful to them and add value to the business.
What is one tool or piece of advice you wish you'd known about when you first started working at Smartsheet?
I use Smartsheet for everything, from managing and reporting on progress against team objectives to collecting employee feedback on new initiatives. When I started at Smartsheet, I couldn’t believe how versatile the platform is and wish I would have known about it sooner!
You lead both internal communications and employer brand. How do you bring your mission and values to life for both your current employees and potential candidates?
Great question! It’s so important for company values to be put into action by employees and shared with potential candidates. They can’t just be words hung on a wall and displayed on a company’s website. Earlier this year, we launched something called a Values in Action Playbook, which is essentially a guide to the behaviors and attributes that are tied to each of our six core values.
We also reinforce our values throughout the employee experience, from how we assess candidates to using our quarterly Brightspot Awards to recognize employees who demonstrate our values.
Smartsheet has increased in size significantly since you joined the company over three years ago—and it’s not slowing down. What advice do you have for sustaining company culture as you grow quickly?
When I started at the company three years ago, we were a team of 400 people and now, we have more than 1,400 employees! So yes, it’s growing quickly and not slowing down anytime soon.
We’ve done an incredible job hiring individuals and leaders who embody our values, and the launch of our Values in Action Playbook is intended to help us keep operating as one team as we continue to scale.
What role does The Muse play in helping you activate your company culture and values?
It’s one thing for prospective candidates to read about our company, it’s another for them to hear first-hand stories from current employees and learn about how we live our values across the business. Through our partnership with The Muse, we’ve been able to bring our employees’ stories to life through video spotlights and authentic employee testimonials that provide insight into what it’s really like to work at Smartsheet.
Through our partnership with The Muse, we’ve been able to bring our employees’ stories to life through video spotlights and authentic employee testimonials that provide insight into what it’s really like to work at Smartsheet.
What are some programs and initiatives you have in place to help boost employee engagement and development?
Engagement starts with onboarding and making sure every new employee has an opportunity to spend time with our leadership team. We have initiatives like SmartMentor (our mentorship program) and Smartsheet Serves (our CSR program), and we make learning and development tools and resources available for both individual contributors and people managers.
Last year, our company launched Workplace by Facebook and it’s been a powerful platform for building connections across teams and with senior leadership, as well as driving discussions around topics like diversity and inclusion, customer insights, people manager best practices, and learning and development. We also use the platform to drive “connection” campaigns like Coffee Connect, where employees are randomly matched with another team member from across the business.
We're almost at the end of September and you recently wrapped up your summer internship program. How do you ensure interns feel like they’re part of the team and empowered to take ownership?
We set the standard with our hiring managers that our internships are meant to provide an immersive experience into real life at Smartsheet, meaning our interns are full-time team members with opportunities to make an impact. Managers are asked to tailor their summer roles to focus on how their intern will benefit from being at Smartsheet—not the other way around. This shift in thinking has worked really well in keeping our company culture strong, and we’ve seen that interns who feel this kind of empowerment and inclusion bring their best selves to the table and are excited to be there.
Managers are asked to tailor their summer roles to focus on how their intern will benefit from being at Smartsheet—not the other way around.
It’s our goal to foster a unique internship experience which is why we have programs like our UX Idea Contest where interns work in teams to create solutions for actual Smartsheet use-cases, which may become integrated into future product releases. So they get to see that real life impact happen regardless of the position they’re in for the summer.
Our interns are also matched with a mentor outside of their department who can offer another perspective on career path, development, educational path, etc.
These are just some of the steps we take to make sure interns are invited to be as much a part of our company as any other employee while still making the summer fun. This mindset is what really makes our program so successful and sets us apart.
What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
Making an impact. I’m a mom to two little boys (a 2-year-old and an almost 2-month-old) and to be away from them during the day, I need to be doing something that makes a difference—something more than just bringing home a paycheck.
I feel very fortunate that, through my role, I’m able to take everything I love—storytelling, building relationships, solving hard problems, and giving back to our communities—and use those skills and passions to support a company that I have the utmost confidence in.
What's something you do outside of work that makes you a better employee?
I really enjoy connecting with peers who lead employer branding, internal communications, and corporate social responsibility to share best practices. Good ideas don’t happen in siloes. I also use the Calm app to meditate before work, which helps me center myself before I get my boys up and set my intentions for the day.