WP Engine’s CEO and Chairwoman, Heather Brunner, attended Fortune’s CEO Initiative, on June 25 and 26 in San Francisco. This invite-only event brought together CEOs from Apple, Delta, Deloitte US, EY, Great Place to Work, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Levi Strauss, Workday, and many others to discuss and collaborate on the topics of doing well by doing good; infusing businesses with a broader purpose to help with recruiting, attracting new customers, and improving corporate images.
In a Town Hall discussion on “The CEO’s New Imperative: How Corporate Culture Drives Innovation and Lasting Business Success” Brunner reflected on the early years of her career, recalling the pressure she faced to fit in as a leader. This often meant not embracing essential aspects of her individuality, most notably, the fact that she was a female in an industry largely dominated by men. In more recent years, she has learned to embrace her most authentic self and at WP Engine, and she works hard to establish a culture of authenticity and transparency.
During the session, Brunner offered advice gleaned from 27 years of experience in the technology industry, five of which have been spent serving as the CEO of a hyper-growth technology company, WP Engine. She made note of how WP Engine’s Core Values influence everything within the company, and help establish the framework for policies, practices, and culture to foster diversity, equality, and authenticity in the workplace.
Open Doors Wider
Despite recent strides, certain demographics are still underrepresented in technology. To maintain diversity and avoid inequality and imbalances, WP Engine takes a less traditional approach to recruiting and hiring.
Instead of hiring based on prerequisites in the form of experience and degrees, WP Engine emphasizes a match for skills and culture during recruitment. WP Engine does not require a college degree for a large number of roles which opens up candidacy for a more diverse applicant pool. Today, a third of the WP Engine team does not have a college degree.
Biases during the hiring process can often inhibit the desire for more diverse teams. For this reason, our engineering team employs a double-blind interview process. When candidates are assessed by their performance on a take-home test, more opportunities arise for a diversity of people and skills to help the company press forward.
WP Engine is committed to equal pay for equal work. To uphold this principle, the company strives to maintain a baseline for compensation based on position and competitive with industry standards.
After an employee has been hired, performance is the chief negotiator. Better performance equals better compensation. Across the board, employees are encouraged to work hard. Performance and personal growth are closely monitored and maintained, giving each employee a sense of value and an optimism for growth.
Everyone is a Leader
The company’s core values influence everything it does and leadership is a reflection of its core values in action. The company is committed to doing the right thing. For WP Engine, that’s facilitating a culture of transparency and constant communication. For managers and leaders at WP Engine, open-book management is non-negotiable.
In practice, this means facilitating a culture in which every employee knows the good, the bad, and the ugly details of how the company is faring. Every employee is taught how to read the key KPIs (key performance indicators) of the company’s business. When employees know their role in the company’s success, they become more invested in doing what’s best. This transfers over to interactions with each other as well as with customers.
WP Engine believes that culture matters and will continue to innovate in ways that will attract talent and drive performance. It’s well established that, more than prior generations, millennials are searching for purpose at work, and evidence continues to mount that a diverse and inclusive workforce leads to better business results. As Heather often says, “Diversity attracts diversity.” People are more likely to join an organization where they can be themselves and find people with shared values and opportunities that will challenge them. WP Engine aspires to build a company that empowers people and provides them with the environment and tools to be the best they possibly can.