June 18, 2018

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Etsy's Recipe for Purpose: Creating a Culture Around Mindfulness

Look for beauty, opportunity and creativity in the work of your team, not just the job function or results.


By Aaron Hurst, CEO, Imperative

When you don’t have a lot of cash to attract the best talent, you might as well try the temptation of purpose.

Forget how clichéd that sounds and you have Etsy, which has actually been able to compete with cash-rich companies like Google and Facebook for talent based on that premise. As Matt Stinchcomb, Etsy’s VP of Values and Impact, told me, they don’t have “gobs” of money like other companies but they’re rich in community.

Matt and Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, both profiled on the first-ever Purpose Economy 100, have built the largest online marketplace of handmade and vintage items on the framework of e-commerce married with a sense of local community. Nine years into its existence, not only has Etsy created a means for people to bring their craft to a marketplace, providing added integrity to their brand of commerce, the company has also fostered a strong, caring internal culture.

As Matt reveals, the company bases its mission and ethics Tshirt-P100around a mindful, humane and transparent business, with a commitment to continually creating opportunities for its employees, sellers and community members.

“My job is giving people the means and the desire to make mission-, vision- and values-aligned decisions,” says Matt, whose main preoccupation is to develop and maintain company culture. “Knowing and caring and doing are three different things, and I feel like […] you can understand and know the values. That’s the first step: the mission, vision and values. The second is […] internalizing that, and the third is … making the decisions within that context.”

How we each internalize and personalize the pillars of our work is open to interpretation, as it should, he says. “You can’t force a culture. You’ve got to feed the yeast and just let it happen.”

Looking for some of the key ingredients to the “secret sauce” behind their success in attracting and retaining talent? Matt offered six:

1. Begin with an organizational mission that is compelling.

Etsy’s mission is to re-imagine commerce in ways that build a lasting and fulfilling world. The opportunities that that mission implies are endless, not only for those who want to have a positive impact but also for those candidates who align values, compensation and a constantly growing career.

2. Build a community of customers, employees and supply chain and unite them all in your mission.

Etsy blurs the lines and includes all its stakeholders in its community. That ensures everyone is united in a shared vision and passion. Etsy staffers make sure that anyone with a creative pursuit is able to find an outlet of expression within its community and network. The organization fosters participation, so everyone is engaged and shares in its processes and success.

3. Create space in your office for your community.

Etsy has its own school that helps employees with personal growth and professional development. Employees are encouraged to participate in and lead workshops Etsy-officeon creative enterprises like photography, screen-printing, jazz and even mindfulness. Not only do these workshops occur during business hours, Etsy also cover the costs.

“We allow groups of people into our offices all the time for these workshops…We have a person whose job is to basically bring the community in as well as take employees to seller studios to meet with them, to understand them. We have a whole testing department that makes sure that we’re getting sellers’ input on everything. We do a lot to make sure that that connection, that relationship, is active.”

4. Embrace your extended community.

Just like its online platform, Etsy believes in cultivating relationships with other organizations in its neighborhood and welcomes employees to bring their children to work. Rather than operate in an isolated campus or an ivory tower, their office is part of the neighborhood. Etsy employees also host meet-ups of local Etsy sellers when they travel home to scale their community and support teams on a local level by providing resources.

5. Foster openness and transparency.

Etsy hosts a town hall every quarter to share exactly what they’re working on and why. There is a live studio audience, and people – customers, suppliers, employees, etc. – watching online are also invited to submit questions. The company’s financial information is also published monthly on the site’s blog. “We try to keep that kind of direct line of communication with our customers open. And these are ideas that we’ve had since the beginning that have continued to this day.”

6. Treat what your team produces, down to HR policies, as art.

Etsy is all about craft and celebrating it in all its manifestations. “Someone once said to me, ‘The greatest thing you can do for somebody is give them an opportunity to share their gifts.’ And so I decided that we'd do just that. So you may be in customer support, but now you can be teaching cello to people in the company, and getting a chance to The-Purpose-Economyreally express yourself in other ways.” In other words, look for beauty, opportunity and creativity in the work of your team, not just the job function or results.

Through these seemingly simple yet profound principles, Etsy manages to bring both humanity and humor to its business practices, felt at every tier of the company hierarchy. It relies on the simple formula of mindfulness: paying consideration to every player in your marketplace.

And Matt’s team works hard to ensure that the values and mission of the company are relevant to everyone within the organization so that no job feels thankless.

CSRwire is proud to collaborate with Imperative on highlighting leaders from the inaugural Purpose Economy 100. To learn more, please visit ThePurposeEconomy100.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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