Area 1 Security specializes in protecting companies from socially engineered cyber attacks. Its cloud-based service, Area 1 Horizon, stops phishing attacks preemptively across the three major attack vectors: email, web, and network.
Sara Nascimento is the Head of People Operations and Talent at the Redwood City, California based company. She started her career in sales and recruiting before joining Area 1 in 2015 as the first people operations hire.
Sara Nascimento recalls her first on-site interview at the then-stealth startup founded by former NSA analysts. “It was at an old Victorian in downtown Redwood City. There was big meeting that day, so there was nobody at the office when I first got in but there was a huge Bernese Mountain dog that greeted me at the door.”
“I was very charmed by the general vibe of the office. I fell in love with the place and the culture -- which is huge if you’re going to be heading up that function.”
Almost three years later and two years removed from launching its anti-phishing security product, Area 1 needed to address another issue: performance management. Sara explains, “Our talent needs are changing, so the leadership team’s been coaching our managers to ask more of the team to see who’s in it to win it. We understand what we need to scale.”
The company's first performance management tool was an HRIS solution that the team selected because it had “performance management built in, as well as other payroll features that we were looking for at the time.”
“It got us through that first year, but there’s no way that I would go through with using the tool again.”
“My trigger moment was the administration,” explained Sara. “I was very frustrated with the tool itself. It was hard to understand. I had to test it with one of my employees and work with them to see what was happening when I made changes to the review. It would go live before you could preview the flow yourself.”
“It was a clunky system. It felt very archaic compared to what I knew was out there.”
The module was also poorly supported because it wasn’t part of the vendor’s core HRIS product. “They didn’t have a support team for their performance management tool. They had people managing the entirety of the HRIS tool and it was not enough.”
Going into the evaluation process, Sara knew that she needed a well-designed tool that would be easier to use.
The solution would also have to be cloud-based because the Area 1 team was spread across the globe, with employees in California, Maryland, Illinois, Texas, Virginia, New Hampshire, Italy, and Hong Kong.
Sara’s evaluation process started with a lot of online research but she also leveraged her connections at other venture-backed startups to get their recommendations. Sara built her list and then evaluated each product.
After going “back and forth with a few tools,” Sara made the decision to go with Lattice. “From my conversations with people in the VC circle and my demos with the platform, Lattice seemed like the best platform for us.”
“The most important thing was simplicity for small teams. We didn’t need a lot of fancy things because we were at the beginning of iterating good habits. Second, the Slack integration was really important because we do most of our communication through Slack. Third, transparency -- you’re able to look into other team’s ongoings and goals and have a better idea of what your counterparts are doing.“
Sara was able to set up the company account without much trouble. “I was able to self-help most of the set up from Lattice’s help desk with all of the available tutorials. I would say that the videos are my favorite. I could scroll through to the part that I needed.”
“The support team was on it whenever I had questions. I usually use the chat or email the Lattice team member that I work with most of the time. He’s really quick to respond.”
Sara found success introducing Lattice to the company by running an annual review. It forced managers and employees to engage with the tool to write and submit their review components. “[Employees] were constantly waiting for feedback from their managers, so they kept on logging in. It turned out to be a success.”
“I thought they would be overwhelmed, but I was happy that the review process sparked an interest in the tool itself.”
Sara also put effort into introducing the goals and 1:1 features to managers. “The biggest thing for adoption was manager buy-in. That’s crucial for utilization.”
Enabling the Slack integration was straightforward and the company already had a Slack “#wins” channel for celebrating accomplishments, so it became the obvious home for Lattice praise posts that automatically show up whenever someone gives another person praise.
The first performance review cycle was “pretty fast” for Sara as an admin and also for users. “There was less administrative work for me. For the technical teams, who I usually worry about because they’re the largest, managers had to do less work also.”
“For a younger workforce that are non-managers that have no idea what performance evaluations are, Lattice is a great way to learn what it looks like and what to expect.”
The engineering team also started using the goals right away. “It’s been great for managers to look and see what their people are aspiring to do and those goal conversations are happening more often.”
The team is excited about having continuous feedback loops as opposed to waiting for an annual review. “Everyone knows that feeling when your review comes up. They think, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I even do this year?’ Everyone has recency bias. It’s really great to be able to go back and go through quarterly, or monthly, or weekly and put in what you were able to accomplish.”
The Slack praise integration has been a huge hit. “For whatever reason, people can be shy about giving praise in person.” But having a tool to do it “is great because it’s public but it doesn’t feel overly embarrassing versus something like if you won a big award that may feel like overkill. Spontaneous praise on what people may perceive as small things can make a great impact for morale.”
And it’s fun when everyone else piles on with emoji reactions to the praise. “It’s a reactive gesture that you can make that doesn’t feel like too much. It’s the perfect amount of recognition.”
“Our top performers are the ones that are the most engaged, and they are the ones using this feature the most and the folks that we end up having to let go or coach tend to be ones that are not engaged. This is a good temperature-taker for us.”