Namely CEO Larry Dunivan on removing the guesswork from creating a better workplace

Workplace culture used to happen organically, but now companies use technologies to mold how employees interact and how HR operates. Namely, the computer software company headquartered in New York City, is one of the players changing the ways in which HR interacts with employees. From onboarding to payroll, Namely is helping mid-sized companies build a better workplace.

Ladders spoke with Larry Dunivan to find out how Namely uses its own product in the workplace, his thoughts on the future of work, and the work culture at the HR software company.

What’s the process of onboarding like for a CEO?

“The best onboarding of employees at any level happens when there is a thoughtful transition process. In my case, I was fortunate enough to join Namely as a consultant. This afforded me the ability to gain a deep understanding of the company and its needs. When the previous CEO stepped down, she and I worked hand-in-hand on the transition, giving me a fulsome view of the business and sharing her suggestions on how to move forward. Whether your new employee is a high-level executive or a junior employee, having tight job descriptions and clear expectations for their performance is critical.”

Have you made any big changes at Namely since taking over in July?

“The company already has a strong strategy in place, and I believe it is the correct course for the next few quarters. This will allow me to focus on what matters most, which is making sure that Namely employees and customers have what they need for long-term success. We already have a focused list of products and services scheduled to be released later this year. My responsibility is to help the company execute these exciting deliverables flawlessly while continuing to plan for the future.”

What’s the most surprising aspect of being the CEO?

“Being CEO is a great honor, but it can sometimes be lonely. Earlier in my career, I was deeply engrossed in long-term projects, and very involved at every stage. As CEO of a company, that’s not always the case -the mirror is the one tool that you’re the most accountable to (except at Board meetings, anyway). Delegation is essential and it’s wonderful to be supported by so many talented leaders.”

How does your company use Namely to drive employee engagement?

“Our use of Namely is core to our mission. We should never ask a customer to use a product we haven’t used ourselves, so the bar is high – if it’s new, we should use it first. Not only will we shake out the kinks before customers use it, our experience informs how we develop for the future. Customers appreciate it and we benefit first – and by doing so this increases employee engagement.”

What would you say is the biggest industry trend to watch right now?

“The employee experience in their workplace is critical to attract and retain top-notch talent. It may seem small, but when employees struggle to access critical systems like payroll and benefits, it can erode the culture and cause needless stress. Fixing these systems is a worthwhile investment to make in your business because it eliminates unnecessary frustrations for employees.

We’ve seen corporations investing in workplaces for a while, and now we’re seeing consumer-facing interfaces not just in the design of office spaces, but in the tools they use everyday, like Namely, Slack and other productivity tools.”

The workplace solution market is pretty crowded, how do you think Namely stands out against the competition?

“Our product is centered around driving data-centered decisions and everything we do helps organizations do that in support of our mission to create better workplaces. So many HR decisions are made on hunches or assumptions. We remove the guesswork.”

How do you think the future of work will play into what Namely does?

“Our products need to adapt to the way people work – and play. That ranges from the accelerating emphasis on remote workers to more deeply understanding what motivates people to excel and the programs needed to support it. All of that revolves around data, and our primary job is to help organizations collect and manage that data without friction.”

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What kind of skills do you look for in employees?

“I’m still learning more about that at Namely – but I can tell you that personally, I look for three things (outside of operational qualifications for the job): a clear sense of urgency, passion for the customer and a desire to do great work.”

What’s your advice for interviewing at Namely?

“I’d say this regardless of the company — show the company the real you. Great companies — like Namely — will want your efforts to be authentic and transparent and that usually results in the best fit between you and the organization. Match that to what you experience from our folks and test the fit. Not everyone will be happy at Namely — and vice versa — and the better job we do to mutually evaluate that fit in the interview process, the better the outcomes for both parties.”

What’s special about Namely’s work culture?

“Special is so subjective. We try to create a culture that speaks to all of our employees’ needs — great work that makes a difference, an environment that celebrates diversity, a range of work/life balance programs that are enriching, and a spirit of authenticity in everything we do. That translates into our mantra, ‘be human.’ “