December 09, 2022 by Andrea Rajic
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For HR, Workplace, and People professionals, 2022 was all about providing exceptional experiences to employees, even if they are distributed across countries, continents, and time zones.
And it wasn’t easy – the workplace moved away from being a physical location and became the driving force behind engaging, retaining, and attracting the best people. Companies that recognized the importance of workplace innovation have implemented initiatives, started programs, learned, and shared their experiences with others.
Our list of Top 20 Workplace Innovators aims to shine a light on experts and leaders truly dedicated to pioneering a new, better workplace for their employees. These experts lead with kindness, empathy, a desire to learn, and the ambition to build a workplace where employees grow and thrive.
They are listed in no particular order, as the goal of the list is to amplify the good examples of leadership and dedication to company culture.
Brandon Sammut is the Chief People Officer at Zapier, a company that has been 100% remote since its founding in 2011. Zapier focuses strongly on company culture, DE&I, and employee wellbeing, and their Careers page showcases their remote culture and incredible employee benefits. Their efforts are noticed, and they rank #9 on the Most Loved Workplaces list by Newsweek in 2022.
Brandon is passionate about building relationships and culture in high-performing teams, and he insists the work of People teams has never been more important. You’ll often find him speaking at conferences about strategies to build thriving, diverse, and global teams.
Q Hamirani is the Global Head of Live & Work Anywhere at Airbnb, which he joined in 2018 as its first global People Operations leader. He ideated and incubated Airbnb’s Digital Nomad program globally in 2020, which became the Live & Work Anywhere program in 2022. With this program, Airbnb seized an extraordinary opportunity to become the industry leader in the Future of work.
The launch of this incredible initiative ideated by Q brought an influx of 800,000 people to Airbnb’s careers page within a week. Q believes that employees know what’s best for them and often talks about the remote workplace, especially flexibility, diversity, and relationship building between employees and their companies.
Hebba Youssef is the Chief People Officer at Workweek, a collective of industry experts creating content for the world of business. But Hebba isn’t just their CPO (as if that’s a small feat!) – she’s an HR content creator as well.
Hebba is the face behind one of the most popular and certainly the most honest newsletter in the People & HR industry - I Hate It Here. It’s a newsletter Hebba describes as a “safe space for jaded, overworked, and burned out HR/People Operations professionals,” but it’s more than that. She brings a refreshingly honest tone to your inbox every week and adds actionable tips and specific solutions to problems facing People experts everywhere.
In Hebba’s own words,"As the famous poet Blink-182 said "work sucks, I know" and that's why I write my newsletter."
Mark Frein is the Chief Workplace Officer at Oyster, a company helping organizations to equitably and consistently employ and compensate global talent in a world without traditional work borders. In the spirit of their company mission, Oyster is itself a fully remote company, oriented towards building a new culture of work that doesn’t rely on co-location.
In his role, Mark is responsible for the People and HR function, internal communications and events, IT & Knowledge Management, as well as Learning. His title is a reflection of Oyster’s (and his own) emphatic care about the health of the virtual places employees spend their days.
You’ll often see him talk about work-life balance, driving connections in remote teams, and good management practices.
“At Oyster, we elevate talent, build trust, and thrive together. We've tried to keep our values very clear and straightforward and tied not only to how we want to work together as staff but the impact we hope to make on the world through our mission to create a more equal world by making it possible for companies everywhere to hire people anywhere.” - Mark Frein
Katie Burke is the Chief People Officer at Hubspot, who just recently celebrated her 10th anniversary with the company. She oversees Hubspot’s recruitment, people operations, learning and development, culture, and employee experience verticals and is driven by making people and culture a competitive advantage for the company.
Building a workplace culture employees love is essential to Katie, and she leads initiatives like Hubspot’s Bring Your Family To Work Day, all while running a hybrid, globally distributed workplace. Her efforts and leadership are recognized by employees and regularly land Hubspot on the list of best spaces to work, like the Fortune Best Workplaces for Women 2022.
Alana Collins is the Head of Real Estate & Workplace at Zoom, overseeing their real estate portfolio, global workplace operations, and Future of Work initiatives for Zoom’s 7000+ employees worldwide. The company that has become an irreplaceable part of so many employees’ everyday lives doesn’t actually work all-virtual, and Alana is leading the cross-functional efforts that combine physical spaces, employee experience, and global culture.
Alana is focused on amplifying the employee experience by combining Zoom’s hybrid work policy with an extraordinary portfolio of office spaces worldwide, ensuring that employees anywhere in the world feel supported, empowered, and connected.
Cara Brennan Allamano is the Chief People Officer at Lattice, a people management software for growing companies. She leads the People function for a remote-first, global team with 750+ employees.
Cara is passionate about building supportive workplaces for all employees, from caregivers to working parents, and her team’s effort is recognized with Lattice being on the Best Workplaces for Parents™ 2022 list. She often shares stories about leadership, employee wellbeing and engagement, and new ways to build relationships in global companies.
Tamar Draper Mahru is the VP of Global Real Estate & Workplace at Twilio, leading the efforts to transform their workplace and design the best employee experience for employees across the world.
Since publishing its Open Work Policy last year, Twilio has demonstrated a commitment to remote-first experiences and flexibility for employees, and Tamar has been at the forefront of a cross-functional effort to solve for a remote experience as the cornerstone of work. Tamar leads with empathy and is always eager to share her experiences with others.
Here’s what Tamar says about Twilio’s workplace transformation in 2022:
“We have gone from thinking that place is physical, to the place being what you feel when you are connected to others - our Ecosystem of Place. It is the cornerstone of how we are evolving our program, where concentration on what brings people together is what gives a sense of place meaning. This can happen anywhere in the world and not just in an office.”
Shane Metcalf is the Co-Founder and Chief People Officer at 15Five, a holistic performance management company. He focuses on building organizations that enable employees to thrive and grow, particularly through values and company culture.
Shane often shares stories from his professional life, amplifies the voices of others, and showcases the core values needed by companies in the modern workplace. He also hosts HR Superstars, an insightful podcast highlighting stories and advice from the frontlines of People Operations.
Caroline Quick is the Head of Global Real Estate and Workplace at Cloudflare, which was named to the Top 100 Most Loved Workplaces in 2022 by Newsweek. Their Real Estate and Workplace team is focused on delivering global, strategic, and culturally aligned solutions for their employees worldwide.
Caroline is always happy to talk about evolving physical spaces for a flexible future and harnessing the combined powers of space, purpose, and flexibility.
Regina Ross is the Chief People Officer at Khan Academy, a non-profit organization providing world-class, free education for everyone, everywhere. She’s at the forefront of the organization’s remote-first initiative, focusing on providing an equitable experience for all employees.
Regina leads a people-centric team and aims to ensure employees are set up for success regardless of their geographic location. You’ll often find her writing about wellness, career empowerment, and diversity in the workplace.
Lara Owen is the Vice President of Workplace Experience at NetApp. She is focused on creating an optimal employee and customer hybrid experience, implementing workplace transformation initiatives, and ushering in innovative ideas around flexible work to drive stronger performance across the business.
Lara believes the workplace should be people-centric and focused on experiences (including those that happen at home) and not driven by the real estate footprint. If you follow Lara, you’ll certainly hear about building equitable experiences for employees and reimagining culture in a remote-first world.
Christine Maxwell is the VP of People at Rippling, a platform helping businesses to manage all of their HR, IT, and Finance in one place. Rippling is a company that cares deeply about making work better – for both their customers and employees. They do it with a culture that emphasizes belonging, fun, and solving problems by tapping into everyone's potential.
Christine likes talking about change management in the workplace, employee development, and building culture in high-growth organizations.
Assal Yavari is the VP of Global Workplace and Safety at Okta. When asked what kind of a leader she is, Assal responds with “one that develops, invests, and empowers,” and her dedication to employee growth and thriving is what sets her apart.
She is a strategic thinker and leads the efforts to make Okta’s workplace inclusive, transparent, experience-driven, and loved by employees. But above all, Assal is always happy to share her expertise with others and offer advice on how to build an employee-centric workplace culture.
Jeff Diana is the Chief People Officer at Calendly. Calendly is a remote-first company with a strong focus on collaboration and culture. Jeff leads the People and Real Estate teams at Calendly and focuses on making their remote approach successful.
He does this by emphasizing trust and relationship building, which isn’t always straightforward in remote environments. He believes in the power of connections and strives to ensure all Calendly’s employees – wherever they are – have the same experience and opportunities in the workplace.
Relina Bulchandani is the EVP of Real Estate and Workplace Services at Salesforce. Before Salesforce, she led Real Estate and Workplace teams at Stripe and Google, and she’s passionate about the future of work and providing a first-class employee experience through the convergence of real estate and technology.
Considering that Salesforce regularly makes it to the 100 Best Companies to Work For lists, it’s no wonder you’ll often find Relina on panels and conferences, speaking about the Future of Work, women in the workplace, and building culture in global teams.
Margaret Driscoll is the Chief People & Culture Officer at Blackbaud, a cloud software company powering social good. Margaret is a strategic leader with vast experience, focused on building and leading global HR teams and driving change management.
She focuses on building a company culture driven by values like respect, care, and collaboration, particularly in a remote-first environment. Under her leadership, Blackbaud was listed on Quartz’s list of Best Companies for Remote Workers in 2022.
Nicole Miller is the Director of People Operations at Levels, a company that helps people see how food affects their health. Levels is a remote-first company creating an intentionally asynchronous, highly productive, and values-driven workplace.
Nicole leads their People Operations team with a focus on remote-first experiences, the future of work, and remote hiring and onboarding. She’s always focused on serving people, and her team is always eager to share their experiences and best practices about remote work.
Avril Eklund is the Head of Global Workplace Experience at GitHub, the complete developer platform to build, scale, and deliver secure software. Avril is an expert with a proven track record of creating, developing, and leading enterprise global workplace operations.
She often talks about what of future of work might look like, as well as the importance of freedom and flexibility in the workplace of today. She believes in trust and transparency, and is always learning and improving.
Michelle Saurel is the Director of Global People Operations at Culture Amp, a leading platform for employee experience. Michelle leads their People Ops function with a focus on problem-solving, building employee relations, and delivering exceptional experiences.
In light of Culture Amp’s dedication to employee experience and wellbeing, you’ll often see Michelle speaking about building equitable experiences, workplace culture, and bringing people together.
In 2022, the workplace was a vital part of how companies built and maintained culture, attracted talent, retained employees, and kept them happy, connected, and engaged. The leaders in this article and their companies lead the way for a workplace where employees feel empowered to do their best work, grow, and thrive, and we’re sure they’ll continue to innovate and drive change in 2023 and beyond.
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