Dan Kurzius and I have been running Mailchimp for 20 years, and in that time we’ve had our share of highs and lows. I’ve been on my own journey as a leader during this time—nothing can prepare you for the transition from founder to CEO—and more than once, I’ve been confronted with the fact that I needed to evolve as a leader.
But none of this compares to what I’ve learned over the last few weeks. Recently, a number of current and former employees have publicly shared stories of negative experiences they had while working at Mailchimp, sparking some important internal conversations that revealed ongoing problems with our culture. This is not the experience we want for our employees. We’ve always strived to make Mailchimp a creative, inclusive company where every employee feels like they belong. And there’s a lot about our culture to be proud of. But now I understand that in our rapid growth and singular focus on scaling the business, we didn’t invest in our people and culture enough. A healthy company culture is critical to business success, not a competing priority.
I recently heard someone say "the best apology is changed behavior." I believe that and am making some changes right away, but I still need to say: I'm sorry. I own this, and it's on me to fix it by resetting Mailchimp’s culture, full stop.
Last week, I shared some initial commitments with all employees of the next steps we’re taking to reset our culture. It’s just a starting point, and we’ll have more to share over the coming weeks and months.
Here are those initial commitments:
Create a safe work environment centered around fairness and respect
- We’ll build more accountability and visibility into the employee relations process, both for the parties involved and management
- The Ethics Committee will provide support and oversight of all employee relations investigations, and will help me hold the executive leadership team accountable for implementing necessary actions
- We’re making a renewed commitment to live by our Code of Ethical Conduct: “As a Mailchimp employee, you’re expected to treat your colleagues with consideration, professionalism, fairness, respect, patience, and goodwill.”
- We’re making training on unconscious bias, allyship, microaggressions, and cultural fluency mandatory for leaders and available to all employees
Make diversity, equity, and inclusion the executive leadership team’s priority
- We’ll reflect how DEI is a strategic priority by devoting the people, budget, and time needed for this work
- We’re assembling a diverse, cross-functional team of leaders to help us steer the work, without deflecting the executive leadership team’s accountability
- We’re increasing budgets for Business Employee Resource Groups (BERGs), which are a key part of our DEI strategy, to make sure they have the resources they need, as well as stronger executive sponsorship and regular access to the executive leadership team
- BERG leaders will have dedicated time for this work, which will be recognized in performance evaluations and supported by professional development opportunities
- Our Culture & Inclusion Report will be published for employees by the end of Q1 to bring transparency to our diversity representation and progress
Create equitable experiences for all employees so they can do their best work
- We’ll communicate our pay equity study company-wide, commiting to our ongoing pay equity work at a departmental level, and conducting external independent reviews on an annual basis
- We’ll create more transparency around development opportunities and improve promotion practices by clearly defining and publishing performance benchmarks, core behaviors, and job levels
- We’ll publish core people metrics (including hires, exits, promotions, and demographic data) to bring greater visibility to people-related activity and set representation goals at all levels
Elevate our Customer team by addressing their needs and investing in their growth
- We’re immediately addressing the core issues our Customer team employees raised, starting with re-leveling certain roles, creating new, customer-facing career opportunities to help our employees grow and advance, and adjusting salary ranges accordingly
- We’ll relaunch our apprenticeship program to increase internal mobility and expose employees to different aspects of the business
- We’ll offer our Customer team the same flexible work opportunities as other employees, including the ability to work from our new HQ once we return to the office
Turn listening into action and create more opportunities for feedback
- We’ll create more opportunities for feedback and 2-way dialogue through department all hands, office hours, and other 1:1 and group discussions
- We’ll bring in independent, external experts to listen to employees confidentially, and impartially report back their findings and recommended next steps
- We’ll increase the frequency of pulse surveys that measure employee sentiment and make that feedback more visible so we can quickly take action
Hold leadership accountable by linking progress to performance
- All people managers including the executive leadership team will be required to have a performance goal about building an inclusive and equitable culture within our teams
- The executive leadership team will be held accountable for this goal, and progress will be tied directly to their compensation
- Additionally, each member of the executive leadership team will undertake 360-degree feedback immediately and annually, and work with business coaches to help us identify gaps in our leadership skills and ways to improve
A year from now, we'll be a new Mailchimp. We'll have made measurable progress fixing the parts of our culture that aren’t working today. Our people will feel valued, respected, and proud to work for Mailchimp. This is a turning point for our company, for our leaders, and for me.
Co-founder and CEO
March 15, 2021