Qualtrics CEO Says When it Comes to Social Good, Startups Should Start at Home

I believe social good begins at home. If fact, the greatest form of social good is taking care of your employees.

It seems like everyone wants to make a social impact these days. And while not everyone can be a TOM’s, social good can, and should, be built into the very fabric of every organization. Whether you’re selling shoes with a One for One mission, or a SaaS software for the enterprise company, there are many ways to incorporate social good into a startup or small business.

Entrepreneurs should think about how they want to give back, early on, and scale giving as part of a company’s overall growth model. I believe social good begins at home. If fact, the greatest form of social good is taking care of your employees.


Company Culture, A Family Affair

As a founder, I understand the demands that entrepreneurship can place on your life. Sometimes family time comes last; so encourage opportunities for families to become a part of the corporate culture. Make it a family affair.

Be sensitive to the fact that employees, and their families and friends, are often making enormous sacrifices to help grow your business. If they feel ‘ownership’ in a stake of what you are building, then they will be proud and the sacrifice will seem less like work and more like fun. Most importantly, you’ll avoid the “us vs. them” mentality, while making families’ de facto team members.

For example, at Qualtrics, we encourage family and friends to participate in our weekly TGIF company-wide meeting and lunch. This started with just a small team and a couple of families and friends. It grew to a staple event in our community as a chance for folks to swing by for lunch when they’re in town.

At times we’ve had 800 people attend this meeting. On the weekends the office turns into a destination for date night, super bowl parties, and fantasy football drafts. This environment is an opportunity for our staff and families to hear about corporate activities and to offer feedback in a fun, casual atmosphere. But it also takes into account the enormous pressure that many feel to balance work and home life.


Work-Life Coexistence and Giving for the Social Good

Today, it’s just not possible to compartmentalize work and home life in an always-connected world. Instead, our goal should be to make it all work well together, not separately. This is why our work environment is a family friendly atmosphere.

By opening our doors to the broader Qualtrics family, we extend our reach into the community at large. For me, social good really means caring about, and for, your employees.

For example, tangible giving to employees is essential — such as providing health care programs. It’s a well-known fact that health care costs continue to rise, dramatically. For Qualtrics we experienced a 30% increase in the last year alone.

As an employer, you can relieve some of the financial burden on your staff by doing some hard work, employing the best health insurance coverage your company can afford and by taking on a majority of the costs, if possible. Expensive? Maybe. Worth it? Definitely.


Creating a Collective Force for Good

Your employees are your most valuable resource. Take care of them. They deserve it.

Go beyond simply providing health coverage; encourage overall health and wellness among your team. Host wellness programs, stock the employee kitchen with healthy snacks, sponsor sports teams, offer life insurance, or open an on-site gym.

These are small ways that your organization can enhance an employee’s experience, while promoting employee well-being. This, in turn, frees up your staff to help others. There is power in numbers, so leverage your company to create a collective force for good.

Think about what being socially aware means for your business. Decide what really matters and how your company can make a real, lasting impact. Ask your employees what matters most to them. Then act on it.

By listening to what employees think you encourages their commitment to programs and initiatives. This mass effort could have an enormous social impact on the community that you call home.


Ryan Smith is co-founder and CEO of Qualtrics. As CEO, Smith has led the company from a basement startup to one of the fastest-growing technology companies, with triple digit growth in the past four years. Smith was named one of Forbes’ “America’s Most Promising CEOs Under 35” in 2013 and has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. He studied at the Marriott School of Management.


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