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‘Culture-first’: how Box Inc.’s HR strategy drives business success
Box Inc. is a cloud content management company that empowers enterprises to revolutionize how they work by securely connecting their people, information and applications. Founded in 2005, Box powers more than 80,000 businesses globally (BoxInvestorRelations.com, 2019). Box Inc. competes for the multi-billion-dollar cloud services business segment, along the likes of major powerhouses such as Microsoft, Google and Dropbox. Christy Lake, Box’s newly appointed Chief People Officer, who joined the company in early 2018 truly believes that in this fiercely competitive industry, it is within the company’s HR strategy where Box can find success. Backed by the company’s founder and CEO Aaron Levie, they have established themselves as a “culture-first organization”. Mr. Levie states strict priorities of “continuing to build an organization that develops talent, celebrates diversity and cultivates a place for Boxers to do their best” (Simpson, 2019). Any process for Box, whether it is performance, recruitment, rewards and compensation, physical office spaces…whatever it might be is based on the idea of culture first (Simpson, 2019).
Mrs. Lake is responsible for what would be considered a traditional HR department but she does so much more than that. Lake pushes Box’s “people strategy”, which is essentially putting an emphasis on creating a sense of belonginess among employees. One way that the company creates that sense of belonging is its employee resource groups. Box workers started creating groups around common identities, or similarities that they shared and eventually Box, as a company, embraced it (Simpson, 2019). Lake says that these groups have become the foundation of its efforts around belonging. The numerous resource groups vary from “Families at Box” to “Women at Box” and these groups work together on a variety of things from education, to celebrations and will even collaborate on programming initiatives (Simpson, 2019). Lake claims to stay very connected with these groups in an effort to understand their worker’s different experiences so that they are mindful and cognizant of those issues.
Typically, Tech companies from Silicon Valley all the way to Toronto have experienced issues around gender and the workplace. Historically tech work environments favour young workers who are pushed to work hard, long hours and forego work-life balance. This is one aspect that makes it harder for tech workers with families to feel welcomed or able to compete in the industry. While things have gotten better in recent years within the tech industry, hurdles remain; women only accounted for 23 percent of the overall workforce at giant tech companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft (Simpson, 2019). Box combats these issues by not only creating an inclusive environment but offering things like benefits that address the needs of different workers. Lake says that Box is connecting with families at Box to understand some of the things that are important to them and would create a more inclusive and welcoming workplace. Lake also says that these concerns are being built into their benefits roadmap. The company has put in a number of benefits last year for employees with families around balancing time at work and home and this year already has plans to grow its leave support for mothers, fathers, adoptive parents and parents of all kind (Simpson, 2019). Box has also implemented programming to support travelling Boxers who have young families and plans to add fertility benefits in the coming year (Simpson, 2019). Lake’s and Box’s efforts as a whole our showing. Box was listed as number 30 on ‘Fortune’s 50 Best Workplaces for Parents’, noting “the transparency the company shows to each employee is pretty mind-blowing” (Simpson, 2019). Lake believes that these efforts aligning to her “people strategy” built around their culture first approach is what will continue to drive business success.
Lake has highlighted and began to make changes surrounding the changing world of work. She realizes that people want to work for a company and an environment that they feel closely reflects their personal value set. Lake looks to attain the “complete employee”, not just the professional one. She believes the complete version of an employee is empowered to be more creative and innovative. In addition to this theory, Lake says Box isn’t looking to increase work life at the cost of personal life, its about meddling the two (Simpson, 2019). Lake’s final statements summarize the overall goal of her HR strategy, saying “the more that Box can connect with what matters and is meaningful to workers, the more we believe people are going to be able and interested in bringing the whole of their perspective into the work” (Simpson, 2019). Lake is combining an inspiring work environment, meaningful and challenging work that gives employees the feeling of positive contribution and impact. “When those three stars align, we have really great success” (Simpson, 2019).
Connection to HRM:
This article is a real-life application of the importance of HRM in massively successful corporations. In this day in age, companies are looking more and more into ways they can differentiate themselves from the competition. This article shows the power of leveraging human capital to drive success in the technology industry specifically by creating a unique competitive advantage.
Many themes were presented in the article, however some of the most notable that will be discussed includes recognizing the importance of human capital, creating an influential organizational climate, employee empowerment as well as organizational culture. These concepts all relate to the strategic role of human resource management.
Human capital, as defined by the textbook is “the knowledge, education, training, skills, and expertise of a firm’s workers” (Dessler & Chhinzer, 2019). The text speaks of relating human capital to developing competitive advantage. This is exactly the root of Christy Lake’s motives for her “people strategy” at Box Inc. Human Capital is key in today’s society, yet sometimes human capital is not utilized and leveraged in the most opportune way. Lake is able to recognize the influx of human capital at Box, and she uses methods to create a sense of belonginess in the company. This in return will retain and truly allow her employees to perform to the best of their abilities. Lake also integrates this approach into all of the other HR functions, which the textbook states has “a positive relationship with turnover, productivity and corporate financial performance” (Dessler & Chhinzer, 2019).
The textbook defines organizational climate as “the prevailing atmosphere that exists in an organization and its impact on employees” (Dessler & Chhinzer, 2019). Developing a climate that allows employees to actively engage in their work and feel backed by their organization is key to success. In essence a strong and positive organizational climate can help reach the potential of human capital. The two work in conjunction with each other. Box, specifically Lake’s efforts to create a more inclusive and welcoming workplace is a large piece of developing a strong organizational climate. This is evident in Box’s resource groups as well as benefits that address the needs of different workers. Positive organizational climate tends to lead to greater job satisfaction, which in Lake’s hopes and based on HRM theory, creates business success.
Employee empowerment is “providing workers with the skills and authority to make decisions that would traditionally be made by managers” (Dessler & Chhinzer, 2019). Despite the textbook’s definition, I truly believe that empowerment is much more. I think, in congruency with Lake’s views based on the article, that employee empowerment is about managing human capital in such a way that employees feel confident in their abilities to not only make decisions but also takes risks. I know it may seem like my definition does not appear much different. However, taking risks is a massive part of employee development. It is what creates technological breakthroughs and can truly be the difference between innovation and complacency. Lake encourages this at Box Inc., given by her drive for employee empowerment, which she directly suggests leads to more innovation and creativity.
Organizational culture, Box’s main goal, supported by their “culture-first” moto is defined as “the core values, beliefs, and assumptions that are widely shared by members of an organization” (Dessler & Chhinzer, 2019). The definition in itself does not suffice for the importance of the concept with Box Inc. Organizational culture in relation to Lake’s goal is more about achieving a company-wide culture that is uniquely apart of its identity. When we think of the most innovative companies, typically our minds are drawn to the likes of Apple and Google. Both these companies have found their own organizational culture, among the many years of operation. Many would argue this culture is a major driver to their amazing success and accomplishments. Box is trying to find the same type of identity within their own organization. This is an identity that does not only represent Box for the next couple of years but will be attached to their name for the rest of their company-life.
This article, written by Meagen Simpson was very appealing from an HR perspective. It is so fascinating to see how the concepts taught in class apply to major corporations, specifically a cloud computing powerhouse such as Box. Even though Box is a tech company, it was interesting to conclude that many of the factors for their success is not driven by tech at all. It truly is the people and the human capital behind the organization that makes Box so different. It linked so many concepts spoken about in the analysis above to Box’s overall HR mission. I thoroughly enjoyed applying HRM theory to a real world multi-billion-dollar corporation such as Box.
In the future, I think it is not only important, but it is integral that corporations use human capital to establish competitive advantage. Given that there have been hundreds of major players in the cloud computing business and only a handful have found success, it is quite clear that there is more importance to be found in the HRM functions then people have contributed to in the past. HRM is a changing landscape that is separating the “good companies” from the “great ones”, and Box is just more evidence to support this.
- Box Investor Relations. Retrieved from https://www.boxinvestorrelations.com/home/default.aspx
- Simpson, M. (2019, January 10). ‘Culture-first’: How Box Inc.’s HR strategy drives business success. Retrieved February 05, 2019, from https://www.itbusiness.ca/news/culture-first-how-box-inc-s-hr-strategy-drives-business-success/108074
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