February 1, 2021
This week’s article is written by Pam Perron, Chief Human Resources Officer at Adstra.
2020 was a transformative year for every business, forcing a reimagining of culture and
collaboration from the ground up. The challenges of the past year have also reaffirmed a lot
about what we value in the unique atmosphere we’ve built here at Adstra.
If I were to sum up that unique culture in one word, it would be “balance”. It’s something that we think about at all levels of our efforts—how to balance the experience of our seasoned team with the passion of our new talent, how to balance the stability of our foundation with the disruptiveness of our model, how we balance technology and service in our products, and even how we balance HR best practices with fresh approaches to creating a supportive culture where everyone can thrive.
Balancing seasoned tenure and fresh talent
The modern Adstra was founded by a leadership team who, after decades working within the older data models, sketched out a bold strategy for disrupting the industry. This tenure and depth of experience is a common feature throughout the core of Adstra’s leadership team, many of whose members knew and have worked alongside each other in prior roles. Their inside-out knowledge of the industry guides and informs the company’s strategy, and it also sets a stable and collegial tone for the company’s culture, instilling it with a quiet confidence that comes with having seen it all.
At the same time, Adstra’s vision is animated and informed by new members with fresh perspectives. Whether it’s specialized technical talent or experience from other industries, their energy acts as a critical supplement to the well-tenured core.
Balancing a stable foundation and a disruptive new model
The modern Adstra is built atop a legacy data and direct mail business that, until the company’s 2020 rebranding, was known as American List Counsel or ALC. Adstra has come to stand for its revolutionary enterprise identity and data orchestration platform, but aspects of the ALC business still serve as an important foundation for the company. And today, Adstra’s clients benefit from the company’s traditional data business as well as its new technology for orchestrating and deploying those data assets in today’s people-based ecosystem.
It also means that Adstra’s disruptive model did not have to get off the ground from a standing start. The current Adstra team inherited a healthy data business and has been able to be deliberate and measured in how it introduced new offerings on top of its existing products and services. Existing clients have been able to benefit from new and disruptive technologies without having to endure any disruption in service. This balance has contributed a lot of stability to what could have, in other circumstances, required the company to adopt more aggressive tactics for marketing and growth.
Balancing technology and service
Balance is also an essential feature of Adstra’s core platform offering. As Adstra CEO Rick Erwin is fond of saying, “data does not do itself;” it requires guidance from experts that understand its value in a business context.
Some of the best technological innovation today comes from well-funded software companies that are pursuing models of growth that make them allergic to human service because it cannot scale fast enough. On the other hand, many legacy data providers require too much service to make their underlying products actionable – in this case, they are relying on overwrought service models to overcome a lack of technological sophistication. Marketers need an intelligent balance of both: savvy tech; and proactive hands-on human support.
This balance is a guiding principle behind our platform and product development – and it also sets an important tone for our company and its culture. At Adstra, the pursuit of balance between technical expertise and service acumen guides our approach to new talent. We make it our priority to build a company that, at both the team and individual level, maintains a balance of people skills and technical excellence.
Balancing HR best practices with COVID necessities
Lastly, the past year has required us at Adstra HR to rethink and reimagine our own practices for creating a supportive work environment where everyone can thrive. This, too, requires balancing between the old and the new. Chiefly, this means understanding that, on the one hand, our team members still need ways to connect in a remote environment, and that, on the other hand, the way to achieve this is not to simply virtualize every aspect of the office.
Moving to a 100% remote associate setup challenged us to think beyond our traditional office-centric approach while still maintaining a high performing culture of engagement. This transition allowed us to re-imagine and, to my surprise, improve the culture in many ways.
Some examples of this improvement include:
- Productivity & Work/Life Balance: Like many companies, we had to ensure all associates had the necessary tools and availability to work remotely in a short timeframe. To enable both associates both as individuals and as teams, we established core business hours during each day that allowed for associate flextime to balance their home and work obligations at their own pace and consistency in team collaboration.
- Engagement Activities: Subcultures have been a historic ongoing challenge with associates being remote and office-based. The full shift to a remote environment forced our hand to think on new ways to engage with associates and allowed for us to roll out more nationally inclusive engagement activities on Zoom, all of which proved to be big hits. These remote get-togethers garnered much higher participation and collaboration than previous office-focused activities and created more cohesivity across our entire organization. It also has freed us to be able to recruit nationally as we can better build collaborative teams through these new engagement approaches.
- Holiday/End of Year Gifts: Given that we could not have the annual holiday party, we instead used a fraction of the budget to send gifts to each associate which included an associate cookbook, created by the associates themselves who shared their favorite recipes. This was truly one of the most meaningful and bonding “company” gifts ever.
Without a doubt, 2020 was one of the more volatile years in my career. We have had to adapt quickly to a changing work environment and way of working, and if someone said your company would be 100% remote a year ago I never would have believed it. 2021 will be no less of a challenge, trying to find balance with capitalizing on the new ideal in work arrangements and moving past this pandemic and back to some sort of normalcy.
Disruption doesn’t require chaos
It’s common to see companies today emphasize a culture of innovation, experimentation, and constant change – expressing willingness to question precedent and disrupt themselves. Even the largest and most established brands aspire to this ideal: to scale a business while retaining a scrappy, entrepreneurial DNA, to take bold risks, and never let calcified procedure get in the way.
The benefits of this approach are well-proven, but on its own, the idea of “moving fast and breaking things” conceals the fact that some of the most innovative companies succeed because of their balance, stability, and poise.
At Adstra, we seek out a balance between experience and new talent, between continuity and novelty in our models, and between technology and service in our platform. Maintaining that balance, even amid the turmoil of the last year, is what has kept us true to our disruptive vision, and made it possible for us to execute it without missing a beat.
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