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From the inside

Focusing on the EX factor

Posted by Manuela Montagnana, Brendan McCarthy |

Just as digital is transforming companies’ relationships with external customers, so too it is leading to rapid and fundamental changes for their employees’ workplace. Criteo’s chief people officer Manuela Montagnana, and chief marketing officer, Brendan McCarthy, share their thoughts on how the employee experience (EX) is being reshaped.

How has the covid 19 pandemic changed marketing professionals’ expectations about their work environment?

Brendan: It’s odd when you join a new company during a pandemic and you open the exact same laptop that you had at your previous company and it’s all new faces. There’s a mandate for the brand to make sure it’s strong enough for employees to identify and buy into a culture of a new company. In addition, as a leader and a colleague through the pandemic, I think we’ve all learned how to be a little bit more empathetic, checking in on people in ways that we probably never did, genuinely asking how people are doing and looking for a real answer, other than “I’m fine” and now let’s talk about work.

Where are businesses making further investments to make sure they’re creating the culture and work environment that employees expect?

Manuela: Remote work settings forced organizations to really think about how we connect people and bring the culture across. I think at Criteo we really took very seriously that for a manager, things are shifting a lot. We provided specific training to help leaders understand the new expectations when you work in an environment where your team is not located in the same place. It was a good reminder that bringing the culture of an organization closer requires extra effort. We have really doubled down on making sure that we have more communication, that there is a more regular pulse that is taken with the organization, not just twice a year. We also introduced Headspace, a meditation app that is helping people to decompress and de-stress, which is also available to two of their friends or family members as another way of really focusing on well-being. We also have a disconnection policy to ensure that employees understand that we do not want people that are working 24/7.

Brendan: I think the next most important thing that we need to do to build culture and connections is create the right workspaces. At Criteo, we’ve made our workspaces now a more collaborative space, so that they’re really geared toward bringing people together versus just where you’re going to go in from a set time in the morning to a set time in the afternoon. I was talking to a colleague of ours who said she goes into the office specifically because those are her collaboration days. And the next day, she’s going to be at home, she going to do all of her virtual calls from home. So, I think that’s the most important thing we do for culture is to get people back together in a workplace that’s geared toward the type of environment that’s going to help build culture through collaboration.

How are you managing this new world of hybrid models of working with your own team?

Brendan: It’s going to be a little messy as we transition. I’m not going to enforce that somebody is there on the days that I’m there. I may encourage them to be, but because we have a flexible policy, it’s ultimately their call.

In many ways, it was easier whenever we went into the pandemic because we knew that everyone was going to be home at the same time. With a hybrid or flexible working environment, I might have a colleague who’s in the office on a Monday, but I’m going to be in on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Lining up the times when they’re going to be in the office versus what my needs are can be a little bit tricky. So, we’re working through a few of those things and disruptions that didn’t exist during the pandemic. But, it’s a nice problem to have.

How are you handling this globally and what sort of perks and benefits are you adding that offer a bit more meaning to the employee experience?

Manuela: Flexibility and inclusion are the two things that are really key here. We provided everyone with a great work-from-home equipment budget to ensure they have what they need to be well-equipped at home. In addition to the initiatives like the Headspace example, we’ve also paid attention to development. Last year, we had 800 employees who changed roles through internal mobility, promotions or our very active global mobility program. We are leveraging the fact that Criteo has 29 locations across the globe. We believe offering almost a tailored answer at different stages in your career to your development aspirations is something that is going to really help us continue to attract and retain talent.

What advice would you give to marketing professionals looking to make their next move? How can you spot an employer that has its eye on the future?

Brendan: I would look at an employer that’s got the kind of flexibility that you expect in your next job. Our expectations throughout the pandemic have been reset. Our personal lives took a backset to what was required from the specific schedule at work. I think there are enough great employers out there that have the type of flexibility you need. I expect that people are going to look for that kind of flexibility in their lives knowing that at the end of the day, you’re working somewhere that’s going to meet your values. The talent has a lot of leverage today and we’ve got to do more to attract people who have different expectations of what a work environment is going to look like in the future.

Manuela: I think that companies are all competing for the same talent and offering basically the same things. But what makes a difference? What do you want to achieve? Do you feel like there is a fit with the values that a company is bringing forward? Criteo’s values are Open, Together and Impactful. This is exactly what we’re putting forward. We want people who don’t wait for somebody to tell them what they should be doing. We want them to take the lead and to do this in a very inclusive environment. You have to feel comfortable with that because with accountability and ownership and empowerment comes the responsibility to do things. Most candidates today are still doing virtual interviews so it’s challenging because you do not have the handshake and the same opportunity to feel the chemistry. So, candidates should do the research using great digital tools like Glassdoor to better understand the company and see if there is a good connection between what the company says it’s putting forward and the reality of what people who work there actually think.

This conversation had been extracted from Manuela and Brendan's conversation on The Drum Festival "Digital Transformation and Employee Experience".

Edit: since this interview, we have announced our New Flexible Work Approach to move toward more flexibility & collaboration. Our objective? Enabling Criteos to build work around their lives – not the other way around.

Manuela Montagnana

Chief people officer

Brendan McCarthy

Chief marketing officer

The Future is Yours.

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