Street Culture: Three Years Later, What’s Changed and What’s Stayed the Same at MomentFeed

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It’s been three years, and MomentFeed CEO Robert Blatt is still saying the same thing:

“Unless you have to be here, don’t join MomentFeed. We really still operate that way.”

The local marketing software company is also still growing, now employing about double the 65 people it employed in 2015. Blatt says the company culture is changing, focusing more on what it means for MomentFeed to be the best place for employees to work. Anticipating change in culture is essential, he says, because what your company is doing well in one period of evolution can prevent it from doing well in the next.

One of the most recent changes concerns the company’s communication processes, which have become further systematized.

“Before, it was pretty much an ad hoc approach to talking to people, making sure they were still being challenged and that they were energized by their jobs, being sensitive to indications that things may not be moving in that direction,” Blatt says.

At the beginning of 2018, the company deployed the Small Improvements performance management tool as a way to organize the feedback process.

“It takes the notion of reviews and completely throws it out the window,” Blatt says. “Instead of an annual review, it puts everyone on an ongoing review process. It’s not just the manager saying, ‘Let me tell you how well you’re doing.’ It’s a two-way conversation, where the employee creates a set of topics, the manager creates a set of topics, and then they sit down and talk about the degree to which the company is performing for the employee, and the employee is performing for the company.”

This new tool was deployed as a way to gain more insight into something else: the departures of some employees.

“What started to happen was that, employees who had been here for three or four years, who were unbelievably good employees, we were finding they were leaving the company,” Blatt says. “Not a lot, but some.”

If MomentFeed’s goal was to be the best workplace for its employees, a partial exodus of employees indicated the need to shake things up.

“Here’s the part that was heartbreaking,” he says. “When an employee was leaving or when the company was asking an employee to leave, it nearly always was a dialogue of either, ‘This person’s not good,’ or, ‘The company’s not good.’ It was heartbreaking to have that be the conversation, and it really wasn’t true, either.”

Employees leaving is a natural process that happens in every company, especially for fast-growing companies where things change quickly. For MomentFeed, Blatt understood that, in reality, what the employee needed most wasn’t what the company could provide, or what the company needed most, the employee couldn’t provide.

Now, leadership approaches employees leaving in a more positive way.

“When an employee leaves the company, we’re able to celebrate them,” he says. “We take all those years when they worked for us, and we don’t undermine them with the eventual exit. We really celebrate the time that they were here.”

At the end of last year, former CTO Patrick Kirby left the company because he wanted to write code. MomentFeed had expanded to a stage where that wasn’t in his job description anymore. CFO Adam Schneider was also presented with the opportunity to expand his skillset in operations.

These experiences crystallized the importance of framing how employees left MomentFeed, Blatt says.

“Constructing a narrative around this was really healthy for the company and for the employees,” he says.

Like Ibotta CEO Bryan Leach, Blatt has learned from experience about how best to deal with difficult conversations regarding performance or other problems in the workplace.

“If you set initial expectations well, if you do have that conversation, it’s much different,” Blatt says. “One thing we tell everyone, it applies to everyone here, is if you’re doing a phenomenal job today and a year from now you’re doing the job the same way, you have probably gone from doing a phenomenal job to doing a barely-OK job.”

Blatt tries to set an expectation of continuous evolution and innovation to meet the needs of MomentFeed’s clients and of the marketplace, he says. Difficult conversations should be based on a history of trying to prevent the problem from actually occurring.

“You have to start the conversation before there’s an issue,” he says. “Then you can say, ‘Remember we talked about this, this is the change you have to make, can you do it? Is there anything we can do to help you make that change?’ So the employee can say to you, ‘No, I can’t do that, I don’t want to do that.’ Well, that’s OK. Let’s find a place for you where how you want to operate will be rewarded as opposed to a place that wants you to change.”

April Nowicki is a staff writer at Street Fight.