Expensify employees abide by two simple rules, “Get Shit Done” and “Don’t Ruin It For Everyone Else.” The company whose slogan is “Expense Reports That Don’t Suck” translates this product mission into their organizational culture, emphasizing simplicity, straightforwardness, and respect. We sat down with Expensify’s People Operations Lead, Alex Revelli, to chat about Expensify’s journey and forward-thinking culture and hiring practices. Expensify is now used by over 2.5 million people and 300,000 companies worldwide. Clearly, they’re doing something right.
Two Simple Rules
(Expense reports on your phone!)
In 2008, company expense reports changed forever. David Barrett founded Expensify, a mobile and online platform that made expense reports more efficient, easier, and accessible for personal and professional use. But Expensify wasn’t just revolutionizing expense reports; the company was also busy quietly revolutionizing workplace culture.
Expensify encourages a “work hard, play hard” mentality that ensures employees enjoy a great deal of autonomy while achieving results. One of Expensify’s many great perks, the Free Lunch Policy, serves as a microcosm of their “Don’t Ruin It For Everyone Else” rule. Employees are allowed to expense up to $20 for any snack, meal or coffee when they’re “actively working.” This functions under an honor principle — Alex Revelli says that “there is no one to tell you what you can and can’t expense because we trust that all of our employees are responsible and mindful.”
In addition to promoting an environment built on mutual trust, Expensify has created a strong workplace culture. As the People Operations Lead, Alex has used both traditional approaches to increasing employee happiness (company events, culture feedback surveys, and snacks) and innovative, forward-thinking ideas that give employees more freedom. For example, Expensify has an annual optional “offshore” in which coworkers travel to a new country together and work remotely for a month (with the option to bring a spouse or partner for a portion of it). Not only are employees more productive during the “offshore,” but this new environment also brings team members together, encouraging workplace bonding. According to Alex, the “offshore” is fantastic because they “experience new cultures as a team, and use a new environment as an opportunity to approach problems from a different perspective.” Though working in a completely new environment might seem risky, ultimately, the success of the “offshore” is a testament to the solidity of Expensify’s two rules — “Get Shit Done” and “Don’t Ruin It For Everyone Else.”
Consistency Is A Virtue
We live in a time where companies start in garages and then rapidly expand to having offices all across the globe. While there’s nothing more exciting than being part of a profitable, successful company with momentum, it’s important for workplace cultures to maintain a level of consistency and not betray their original goals. Expensify started with a desire to make something seemingly complex — expense reports — simple and effective. It was important for the company to stay true to its mission statement throughout its journey. In order to maintain consistency across their offices, Alex and her team organize the month-long “Offshore” and a “Holiday Week” — a “week of festivities” where the entire company works from the same office. These events, plus communication tools like Slack, Google Hangouts, Highfive, and Skype, have kept Expensify a “close-knit” community, in which people “value passion and feed off each other’s energy,” even after establishing multiple offices around the world
Innovative Hiring Process
Like their innovative product and unique workplace culture, Expensify has been a trailblazer when it comes to hiring. Alex argues that Expensify’s success at maintaining a consistent culture can be attributed to its standardized hiring process across offices. Instead of prioritizing experience, Expensify looks for a passion for their product. How? They don’t demand resumes from applicants. Instead, they ask their applicants a set of questions and then evaluate them on their responses. If they think the applicant is compatible, they move on to the next step, a series of tests that examines the “real world” skills they would need to work for Expensify. Alex says that they “want to see how you can perform doing the essentials of your job in the best case scenario (a take home test with no time limit), or in a higher-pressure situation (in our office, surrounded by future peers, with a time limit).” After the tests, the candidate goes through a full day, onsite interview that is a “mutual evaluation” for both them and the company and a “small taste of the culture aspect of the company.” By having a thorough and yet forward-thinking process for hiring, Expensify ensures that their new employees will not just fit in but add something valuable to their workplace culture. Does this intense hiring strategy work? You bet! Over the years, Expensify has seen their turnover rates drop to “almost zero.”
What Can We All Learn From Expensify?
Companies with happy employees outperform their competition by 20%. Happy employees are 12% more product than the average worker. With about 70% of American workers unhappy, across industries there seems to be a lack of acknowledgement as to the fundamental importance of workplace happiness. In regards to company culture, Alex states, “The people of an organization are the MOST valuable asset. Focusing on your people and making your organization a phenomenal place to be is only going to contribute to building successful organizations.” Despite promoting a digital, automated approach to business, Expensify’s product and internal culture both make sure to prioritize the daily experience of people. If your company is struggling with turnover rates and a lack of workplace culture, follow Expensify’s lead. And if you’re struggling to get your CEO to reimburse your expense reports, Alex says to name them “something odd to catch the necessary attention” like “Princess Budget, Tea for two, Tahiti Flights.”