“I’ve started jumping on calls and saying, ‘Hey, how are you?’ And everyone’s like, ‘Great, thanks.’ And I’m like, ‘No, no, no, really, how are you?’ And all it takes is asking the same question again to show that it’s not just a greeting, you actually mean it.” —Dipti Salopek.

This sentiment—that organizations must take care of their people during this time—wove throughout our recent conversation with Dipti Salopek, VP of People at Snyk, a developer-focused cybersecurity firm. 

This article highlights some of the key takeaways from our conversation. If you want to watch the full webinar, check out the recording: The Power of Your People.

Unedited versions of these questions were asked by Katie Stricker, Co-founder, President and Chief Coaching Officer with Sayge. Answers were originally spoken by Dipti Salopek. Transcriptions have been edited for brevity.

Q: What is Snyk’s philosophy on taking care of its people, and how does it impact the business?

“…our culture and our talent [at Snyk] is truly our competitive advantage. And when you really believe that—at the core of the company—then I think, first and foremost, you want to take care of your people because you care about them as people, as individuals, as human beings with families and lives, but also because it just makes business sense.”

Q: What did Snyk experience those first few days when responding to the pandemic?

“…the one thing I would say right from the beginning, is that it was incredibly chaotic.”

Just like the rest of the world, Snyk found itself without background information or research, trying to learn and consume information that was constantly evolving. 

“We’re trying to respond and change our own policies and pivot as a company. . .But within that context, I definitely think that Snyk had an advantage. . .it was very easy for us to pivot to work from home since we’re globally distributed. People are used to working from home; we had an infrastructure that allowed us to work from home.”

“…the other big advantage was us being global. . .getting insight from all these different governments and sources of input. For example, one of our big hub offices is in Tel Aviv in Israel, and the Israeli government was just a lot more conservative and swift in their decision making. . .it gave us a couple weeks of heads up. And that couple of weeks was exactly what we needed.”

Q: Can you talk about how you pulled together your pandemic response task force?

“One of the most effective things we did was quickly establish some kind of governance around [the pandemic].” 

Dipti managed employee communications, asking questions like, “Are we being as transparent as possible?” The CFO focused on the economy, asking “What’s happening? What’s changing? And what do we need to worry about from a business perspective?” And Snyk’s CEO researched strategic pivots that companies were considering, while also focusing on investor expectations. 

“Everyone had a role, very immediately, [and] we would bring these perspectives together every other day. . .If we ever face any kind of crisis again, I’d do the same thing. . .pull together a Rapid Response Unit—and make sure that everyone [knows] their role.”

Q: Tell us about how you implemented Snyk’s Principles for WFH during Covid-19.

“One of our top values is to care deeply for our people. . .At the end of the day, we always went back to our values. What seemed like difficult decisions suddenly became very clear. . .our value of care deeply [became], ‘Protect our people at all costs.’”

“And then similarly, we have a value around ‘ship it’. . .how do you be iterative, be quick? You don’t have to be perfect, but you need to be quick. . .When we started thinking about our communications, our frameworks [e.g. Pandemic Response Framework, Return to Work Framework]. . .it wasn’t perfect; the situation was rapidly evolving; we didn’t have a lot of the information. But we were like, this is 75% there. It’s more important to get it out, so people feel secure that we’re thinking about these things, that we’re monitoring these things, and they understand how decision making is happening. That was more important than having all of the answers to everything.”

Q: What’s the cost of not getting information out quickly and not prioritizing the care of your people?

“The biggest cost would have been losing the trust of our employees.”

Q: How do you engage your people outside of the leadership team?

“One of the first things we did as soon as we moved to a. . .fully remote environment, we knew we’d have to rethink what engagement looked like. Immediately. So we did. So we pulled together a little team. . .[and started] brainstorming what that could look like.”

The team identified four priority areas:

  • Communication. How are people accessing information?
  • Culture. How are we building culture?
  • Wellness. How are we focusing on mental and physical wellness?
  • Hardware and logistics. What setup will allow people to function remotely?

“We were very systematic about how we approached these different areas. But philosophically, I think it still comes down to our overall values. We want to take care of our people from a security, from a health, from a wellness perspective, we want to be transparent, and we want to throw as much information out there as possible, even when it’s imperfect.”

Q: What advice do you have for HR leaders about how to take care of their own HR teams?

“The number one thing is to be checking in with people. . .I think the other part of this. . .[is] asking people, ‘Are they taking enough time off?’. . .I want to make sure that everyone takes a whole chunk of time off before the end of summer. . .Do something that’s focused on your own wellness.”

“The last thing I’d say is, you can talk as much as you want about wellness. . .but it doesn’t work unless you also think through how you scale down your goals and expectations to work alongside that. If you take a mental health day. . .but then you have to work 16 hours the next day to make up for the fact that you were out, that annuls any of the goodness that you got from taking some time off, right? . . .I keep trying to make it explicit to my team and keep asking leaders to figure out how to make it explicit to their teams to have a real conversation about what’s realistically achievable.”

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Interested in learning more from Dipti Salopek? Watch the full webinar: The Power of Your People.