Based just outside of Boston, Cramer is a brand experience agency that specializes in event and experiential marketing for global B2B brands, such as EMC Dell, IBM, Fidelity, Siemens, UPS, and many more.
Agencies like Cramer are built on people. Their talent is their “product.” Their people are why global brands choose to work with them. At Cramer, growing a high-performance culture is the full focus of Christine Fleming. As Cramer’s head of people and culture, Christine champions and delivers the tools their teams need in order to nurture their talents and built their careers.
“Developing our talent is my number one priority,” reflected Christine during our conversation in March 2018. But the tools that Cramer was using were out-of-date and out-of-touch.
“Over the years, like many organizations, we tried off-the-shelf tools but found that they were not build to support the realities of our business model and culture. They came with all the complexity and none of the customization that we wanted,” Christine continued.
To simplify things, the Cramer team started building their own tools. They tapped into their Microsoft Sharepoint platform and integrated custom-built tools with their business systems to give the team a familiar interface. “But, we quickly began hitting all sorts of challenges,” Christine said. “Our IT resources needed to prioritize other business systems, the functionality was too simplistic, the analytics non-existent, and on and on.”
For Christine and her teams at Cramer, it was clear: They needed a solution that was modern, simple, customizable, and powerful enough to deliver upon their longlist of requirements.
“When we looked at the landscape of software providers, we kept finding that the solution we needed didn’t seem to exist yet,” noted Christine. “The established providers were not delivering on the very fundamental requirements we had for this key business system.”
In January 2017, Cramer’s search began in the usual places: visiting the websites of big software providers, Googling, and asking their peers and network for suggestions.
Christine reflected on their journey, “We quickly found that all performance management software can do the basics like 360-degree performance reviews. Some of the newer platforms took highly specialized--highly opinionated approaches, like OKR-based reviews. But we had two needs we were not finding out there.”
In Cramer’s business, their teams are consistently starting new projects and finishing existing ones. Their teams are cross-functional and highly dynamic. Team structures and staffing changes along with the ebbs and flows of their client work. And individuals often worked on projects that were different than their managers’ projects.
“The speed, structure, and realities of our business is very different than what non-agencies face,” continued Christine. “We all know that the best feedback is real-time, or near-time. And, our teams don’t always work on projects with their managers, so a lot of times more constructive feedback can come from their peers rather than managers.”
Cramer needed tools that prioritized real-time feedback from their peers. But they also needed another major feature: They wanted a tool that would make feedback transparent. “We wanted a tool that was visible within the organization so that we could showcase praise and recognition internally.”
“So we needed real-time feedback and public recognition, in addition to a high-customizable performance review system,” concluded Christine. “We were beginning to think this trifecta of features didn’t exist in the marketplace… until we came across Lattice.”
Christine and the teams at Cramer immediately took to Lattice and started a trial.
“Some of the other tools had a lot of additional features but they were things that we potentially wouldn’t use or might have our employees feel like it was too much or too difficult. Lattice seemed like a very streamlined, easy-to-use product that could also scale with us.”
Setting up the company inside the Lattice platform “wasn’t hard,” explained Christine. “We received great support from the team at Lattice in terms of collecting our data, which was a file upload of our employees.”
Christine was able to configure the platform to fit in with her team’s needs and the Lattice support team was there to help her team with the configuration process. “If we had questions about ‘Can the platform do this?,’ oftentimes the answer was ‘No, but it could!’ and then they would customize it for us.”
Lattice’s ease-of-use helped reduce training time and accelerate adoption for Christine’s team. “From a training perspective, it’s pretty easy to use and navigate. We did hold a couple of training classes and demos but it was easy to manage.”
Lattice also has a complete knowledge base section with help docs, guides, and videos. “We’ve been able to self-learn. As new features come out, we get new emails, new pop-up messages letting us know about them.”
“We had a couple hiccups with the [feedback] integration for Outlook. Once we looped in our IT people with Lattice’s dev team, everything was resolved and we were happy.”
As with other companies, Christine found that launching Lattice with a performance review cycle is the easiest way to ensure adoption. “When we launched it was review time, so everybody had to utilize the platform.”
Cramer was able to create custom review templates to have questions that work for all employees.
Kate Romano, Cramer’s Marketing Director, explained that this made things easier for employees because their previous platform had static questions that couldn’t change. “I might be reviewing one of my teammates who is a designer and one of the questions might be ‘How did they deal with client interaction?’ and that’s not part of their role.” Lattice’s custom review templates allowed the team to create review questions that made sense for all positions.
Now that the reviews process is set, Christine’s next challenge is implementing praise and feedback. “In terms of giving and requesting feedback, we’ve had to push that a little more. That’s more of a cultural change that we need to make, so that people are thinking about it and eager to give and request feedback on an ongoing basis.”
Christine is excited about the Outlook integration that allows employees to give and request feedback right through their email client. “Now that our whole company is migrating to Office 365, the Outlook integration will streamline the whole feedback process.”