Business Daily Media

A Q&A Article with Claudio Pirko, ANZ Regional Vice President, BlackLine, on how to attract and retain a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce

  • Written by Claudia Pirko, ANZ Regional Director at BlackLine

How would you describe your company culture?

We’re a much larger organisation than we were 15 years ago when the company founder Therese Tucker decided to develop a software platform that automated many of the repetitive manual processes that keep accounting departments busy (and bored!).

But despite our extraordinary growth over the past two decades – globally, we’re a US$ 6.5 billion market cap company with more than 1300 employees – we’ve managed to retain a close knit, family feel.

We’re big on relationships and we have an open door policy. Team members know they can communicate their thoughts, ideas and concerns to management at any level, including to the CEO. Senior leaders, from new CEO Marc Huffman down, set aside time each day for this to occur. It speaks to our belief that good people are the backbone of the business. We want those people to be invested in BlackLine’s success, and nurturing a culture of transparency helps that to happen. We have weekly and monthly team meetings to discuss goals, monitor progress and keep people in the loop about how the business is travelling. Bottom line? People who come onboard tend to stay on board – our staff turnaround rate is negligible and we hope to keep it that way!

What is your stance on employee work life balance, flexible working, remote working?

We’re all for it and we always have been, long before COVID came along and forced everyone to learn about remote working on the fly. BlackLine understands that people aren’t just employees – they’re also parents, caregivers and individuals with commitments and interests outside the office. That’s why the company had a flexible working policy that pre-dated the pandemic by many years. We used to have what we called flexible Fridays: the opportunity for almost 90 per cent of employees to work from home every second Friday.

In late 2020, we were thrilled to have our commitment to flexible working acknowledged at the CEO World Awards, an international initiative to celebrate the achievements of leading companies and their management teams across a range of areas. BlackLine received the Company Work-From-Home Implementation of the Year Award for its success in maintaining business continuity and employee wellbeing, during its rapid transition to home based working when COVID struck. By allocating the resources we needed to make it a success, we’ve been able to weather the storm and make it through to the other side with a team that’s just as committed and cohesive as it was before the world was turned upside down.

Do you have official company values?

Our company’s motto is ‘Think, create, serve’. That informs our planning, the way in which we collaborate and cooperate for the benefit of the business, and our dealings with the many companies around the world that rely on our automated accounting software platforms to run their businesses smarter and more cost effectively.

BlackLine is the backbone of the finance department in more than 3400 enterprises and organisations, across 130 countries. Taking an intelligent, unorthodox and highly customer-centric approach to the challenges these customers face has been the key to success since our earliest days as a shoestring start-up and it will drive our continuing growth in the 2020s.

As you’d perhaps expect from the only billion-dollar accounting software company with a female founder, inclusion is part of our DNA. We celebrate diversity of thought and we value the range of perspectives that hiring employees from a range of backgrounds and cultures can provide.

We believe in celebrating employees who live by our values and demonstrate them in their interactions with colleagues and customers. To encourage and acknowledge people who do so, we operate an employee recognition and reward program via the Kazoo platform. Each month, employees are given 2500 points apiece which they can allocate to colleagues who’ve exhibited exceptional service or commitment – gone the extra mile, as it were. Points can be redeemed for all kinds of gift certificates and prizes and we see that as a good way to say thank you to our team for the extraordinary contribution they make.

What employee benefits do you have?

In the ICT sector, the competition for top talent is ongoing. We offer competitive salaries, along with performance-based remuneration and annual rewards, such as interstate and overseas trips, for our top performing teams and employees.

From the get-go we’ve also provided our people with a broad range of benefits. Many of them reflect our long-time commitment to work life balance.

Professional development has always been one of our passions – we believe that if you’re not encouraging your team to continue learning, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. To that end, we offer regular ‘lunch and learn’ courses, an on-demand curriculum and financial support to attend conferences and events offsite. All employees are entitled to an annual tuition benefit of around $AU4000 and there’s considerable flexibility in how it can be spent.

With the advent of COVID, we augmented our suite of employee assistance programs with some offerings to cater for the needs of our newly remote workforce. They include the Blackline Community Help Network – an online community where employees can connect and support one another to navigate the professional and personal challenges of home based working. The past year has been particularly tough for parents of school aged children and the platform’s Parents’ Corner has been a sanity saver for some. The team that plays together stays together and our Friday Closing Time group activities – online cooking and meditation classes and the like – have been well subscribed.

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