Helpful lessons from Greenhouse for reviving and motivating employees

Happy coworkers working in office

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As we settle into the “new year, new us” phase of 2021, there’s no better time for people teams to reassess how to keep remote employees engaged, supported and motivated as we continue to work from home in the upcoming months.

With the excitement of mandatory happy hours dwindling before our blue-light-soaked eyes, it’s important to note that it’s not our responsibility as people team professionals to force employees to have fun, practice self care or even spend time with one another. It is our responsibility to meet them where they are and create opportunities for these moments of socially distant connections to happen.

Many, if not all, companies are facing an understandable shift in productivity and morale due to the pandemic. With no separation between work and home, we might even be missing our commute (just a little) as a way to decompress and recharge. By not bumping into one another in the kitchen or between meetings, it may feel less organic to chat about your lunch plans or weekend TV marathons to embrace those kinds of dopamine-inducing bonding moments. And there are times when, with everything going on in the world, some day-to-day tasks just feel unimportant.

The data and commentary in our biannual engagement survey confirmed our theories about motivation pain points. The value derived from regularly measuring employee engagement is important from the top down for us at Greenhouse. Our CEO Daniel Chait says, “these surveys are an important part of the culture we are working to build, and a supplement to ongoing conversations we have every day around the company.”

2020 was full of constant pivoting and experimentation. All of that, coupled with learnings from our engagement survey results, have led us to these tangible ways to support our teams toward feeling motivated and revived:


First, and above all else, we lead with our values.

At Greenhouse, we highlight shoutouts that are directly tied to our values (belonging, purpose, entrepreneurship) at every all hands meeting. One of our long-standing traditions is awarding our annual Golden Gnomes. Everyone submits Gnominations (we love a good pun) for their colleagues who exemplify and epitomize our values. The winners are chosen anonymously (we love a structured process) by our executive team and DE&I Council leadership team. The winners receive a physical golden gnome statue and the honorable title for a lifetime. In these times of uncertainty, leaning into our values and traditions has given us a much-needed sense of consistency.


We accept the fact that it’s impossible to recreate a true Greenhouse party over Zoom.

Rather than forcing the logistics and engagement of a 300-person Zoom holiday party, we opted to bring the party to everyone’s home by sending a swag box filled with cozy goodies just in time for the new year. In an effort to recreate the “toast” aspect of any good party, we encouraged employees to toast to one another on a #postyourtoast Slack channel. Of course, we’re all looking forward to being together as soon as it’s safe to do so. Further upholding the notion of meeting our people where they are, the swag box itself was optional, as we offered Greenhouse employees the opportunity to opt out if they wanted to. Personal preference and choices are key to offering flexible and empathetic support to employees as well as motivating them in specific ways rather than offering blanket perks, opportunities and engagements.


We recognize that motivation is not one size fits all.

For some people, motivation comes from watering their new desk plant or achieving their daily step goals on their desk treadmill. To support this, we’re proud to offer a stipend to ensure that everyone has a productive home setup. And while some thrive in our employee-led cooking and yoga classes, others would rather join our snail mail social club and write letters to their loved ones or strangers in need of a boost.

As you prepare your people team roadmap for 2021, remember that while your employees might not remember the exact event you planned to celebrate National Donut Day (February 9th, by the way!), they will remember feeling heard and supported through uncertain times.


Looking for more tips on how to be successful in a distributed working world? Download our new eBook: The business leader’s guide to building a hiring culture.

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Kara Sang

Kara Sang

is the Employee Experience Manager at Greenhouse, with 8 years in the education technology field. When she’s not enabling connection and belonging at work, you can find her on the search for the best cacio e pepe.

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