Culture · 5 min read

Why empathy is at the heart of our career development program

Jaclyn Spangler
Posted June 30, 2021
Why empathy is at the heart of our career development program

At FullStory, we believe that a more perfect digital experience benefits everyone, and helps our customers drive user happiness and loyalty.

We take the same approach to our employee experience, following the belief that satisfaction at work benefits both our employees and our business. FullStory focuses on prioritizing the employee experience throughout the talent management process, ensuring that career development opportunities and exciting challenges are always within reach for FullStorians.

Recently, we’ve worked hard to put philosophies and processes in place that embrace the “new normal” of the hybrid workplace. In this blog series, we’ll outline how our Watchwords (Empathy, Clarity, and Bionics) inform our approach to career growth in an increasingly dynamic workforce.

Why and how we focus on empathy in the workplace

Why do humans work? It’s a big question. Huge, actually. There are entire fields of study dedicated to understanding the drivers of motivation and satisfaction at work (shout out to my industrial & organizational psychology fam!). Research in these fields aims to find generalizable patterns in human behavior and their complementary solutions that can be applied at scale to change the way we experience the workplace. 

If you’ve been working for more than a few years, you’ve probably noticed the effects of these studies.* Innovative companies who apply the results of this research have vastly improved our collective experience of work. 

But like any macro solution, the trickle down effects can be hard to see or connect to your personal experience. Considering the uniquely personal aspect of career growth to each human in an organization, you can see how empathy must be central to any effective talent development program. 

At FullStory, we define empathy as caring to understand someone else’s perspective. This concept becomes important in nearly everything we do at work day to day, so it’s no surprise that we consider empathy to be a critical element of a healthy career development program. 

So how exactly does empathy show up when we’re talking about careers at FullStory?

Unpacking “career baggage” and building trust

“Probably the most important skill that I have learned [as a manager] is listening with empathy. When you’re having a 1 on 1 with someone and they are having some difficulty, you just have to shut up and let them talk through it. Sometimes just being quiet and letting someone say words out loud is very helpful.” 

- Engineering Manager at FullStory

First, it’s helpful to note that we understand FullStorians are usually holding on to some career baggage from their previous job experiences–both good and bad. Promises may have been made and not kept, systems or processes may have been unfair or opaque, and you may be generally skeptical about the relationship between a company and your own growth. We therefore approach the question of growth with empathy, working to provide “the why” behind our talent development systems so that FullStorians can understand the company’s philosophy on career growth and begin to map that to their own experience. 

That said, the unpacking process requires trust and, unfortunately, trust isn’t built overnight (our friends in IO have studied that, too). Often, an employee's ability and desire to trust a company is built through consistency, as the company keeps its promises, communicates transparently, and adheres to established processes. 

Empathy plays a part in this process, as companies need to recognize and allow space for trust to build. Similarly, employees should strive to be cognizant of their own career baggage, and enter new roles with an outlook that isn’t colored by past work experiences. 

“I came in [to FullStory] with the notion that where I’m going to be today was probably not where I was going to be in a year and a half or two.... Knowing what drives me helps me to know when I do look at a role or a career move to know if it is going to be rewarding.”

- Solutions Architect at FullStory

Managers and career growth

Managers play a key role in unpacking career baggage and building trust. At FullStory, we think of our managers as force multipliers. They are there to clear the way for their teams, and to provide support and guidance to help their team meet business and professional goals. To that end, FullStory managers employ strategic 1:1s and regular career conversations. 

At the heart of the manager-employee relationship is asking, “What’s now and what’s next?” In this vein, managers seek to uncover what’s important to each of their direct reports at this point in their career journey. Is it salary, title, new opportunities, or interesting and high impact work? Knowing the answers to these questions helps a manager tailor their approach and funnel the right types of opportunities to their team members to help them on their journey. An employee’s needs may shift over time, so continued conversations, active listening, and genuine curiosity must be hallmarks of manager and employee conversations.

“I had a great SDR manager. In our weekly 1:1s he set aside time in each meeting to talk about career objectives. One of the best things we did in those meetings was to talk about the prior week and discuss what I liked and didn’t like about the work. That helped me figure out that I preferred process driven tasks more than the hunting aspect of sales and led me toward revenue operations.”

- Sales Operations Analyst at FullStory

Empathy, now and forever

At FullStory, we seek to empower and encourage employees to take charge of their career growth, and knowing what that means to each individual is the first step. Empathy has always played a central role in our company culture, and as we grow and FullStorians grow with us, we’re finding that this posture of empathy is key to our ability to provide meaningful and personalized career growth. In the next two posts, we’ll cover how Clarity and Bionics build upon this foundation of empathy and how it all relates to a distributed or remote workforce.

Interested in an empathetic approach to career growth? Check out our open roles.

* We now talk a lot more about bringing your whole self to work, as researchers find evidence that this is what we fundamentally desire. Ever heard of autonomy, mastery, and purpose? It’s a way to say we crave more than just transactional work and paychecks and it is a concept that comes directly from scientific evidence of human behaviors at work.

Jaclyn SpanglerPeople Operations

About the author

Jaclyn Spangler is a lifelong nomad currently calling Atlanta, GA home while helping to scale culture at FullStory. Since joining as employee #16 in 2015 she has worn many hats, most recently focusing on talent development and employee experience in her role as People Operations Director. You can find her eating, drinking, or running her way through Atlanta in her spare time.

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