Sensat's ambitious mission depends on bringing together a team of highly motivated, diverse and skilled individuals, and creating the conditions for them to succeed. Employee Engagement is an important tool that helps us understand how things are going, we think it’s a good leading indicator of success for our people, our customers and for Sensat. As Head of People, I see a lot of articles, pamphlets and posts written about “great places to work” and honestly, I’m often underwhelmed, I flick through a page or two of carefully choreographed and selected photos and am left thinking “of course you are going to say it’s amazing”, this is compounded by the lack of data and insight into what company is really like. We’ve always believed in transparency, it’s one of our core cultural values and it’s a cornerstone of how we operate. Everything from our profit and loss (P&L) statement, to the minutes from our board meeting are fully accessible to everyone at Sensat—We are all owners here and we all benefit from being transparent. Each year we ask our staff to complete an anonymous survey of 47 questions across a variety of themes including psychological safety, management, and culture, here is what our 75+ Sensat employees think about Life at Sensat.
Sharing our engagement results in a transparent way with the world, was a no brainer. We want to attract the best and brightest, people that share our values, including transparency. So, if you are curious to know what it is really like at Sensat, read on to hear from employees old and new…
James Fricker, Managing Director
Time at Sensat: 3 years, 7 months
Managing with transparency
Whilst COVID-19 was a catalyst to be even more mindful of transparency and feedback within the business, transparency throughout the business has always been a fundamental value at Sensat. Over the past year particularly, we have been trying to better oil the cogs of Sensat to ensure that we can run a smoother machine, especially as we have doubled in team size over lockdown and I think our survey results show this. We have made great progress in our management scoring compared to last year, jumping up from 77% to 94% who scored questions positively, and I think this is due to a few reasons.
Firstly, we bolstered our feedback culture across the business using Lattice to promote a better speed of feedback, quality of feedback, as well as the encouragement of two-way feedback. We use Lattice for shoutouts and updates in order to recognise individuals' efforts and hard work, as well as for constructive feedback as we strive to better our processes. This culture of feedback has helped teams learn, be more focused and more motivated as we work.
We have also created a great support system for the management team to help one another on a monthly basis. We swap and share different stories, and ask for help or opinions, which is really interesting to learn from. As you can imagine in managing diverse teams there is a lot to learn from the differing management styles—something we have all benefited from.
Equally, I think that our management has improved because we have now got more mature managers in the business. If we rewind twelve months, we didn't have a solid management function set up, and we had some fairly new managers. Today we have worked hard to set up a solid foundation, hiring in more experienced managers who have helped existing managers really mature.
Thinking more methodically but keeping scrappy
The culture of Sensat has changed a huge amount since I joined. It has gone from being six people in a small basement to seventy-seven. Now, especially thanks to our ‘Work from Anywhere’ scheme, Sensat has a more autonomous culture than ever before which we couldn't afford to have beforehand when we were small. In the beginning, we had a finite amount of cash to hit our metrics and so we had to be more scrappy, we were focused on getting s**t done, and that was genuinely what we did. We didn't pause for thought too much, we didn't do a detailed analysis, we just did it, and if it didn’t work then we learnt from it and moved on.
Now, we have the luxury to pause for breath and think more methodically before doing things which is great because it allows us to see areas of improvement earlier which helps us to mitigate risks. I think when you have this space to breathe it encourages people to go and make more calculated mistakes that have that deeper level of thought process behind them, but at our core we have still tried to keep an element of scrappiness. The business has moved into a position now where it has to have that level of professionalism. We are a growing startup, but we are credible and can better compete.
A startup is not for everyone
One thing I've always believed is that people like to push boundaries and we echo this in our culture, seeking to work outside of our comfort zone and be challenged in a positive way. When things go wrong, because our values are so deeply embedded in our foundations, we know that we can bring in the grit and win together attitude in order to overcome challenges.
If I am honest, yes not everybody will be suited to this startup environment and, if you want an easy life, or if you want to join a company where you could go and deliver the average to make a moderate amount of change, then Sensat’s not the place for you. What we are trying to fix is a big problem. What we're trying to achieve is enormous, and if we can do the things that we set out to achieve, we will go down in history books. But, by virtue of wondrous things comes increased pressure to deliver. Those who work at Sensat need to love a challenge, because what we are trying to accomplish has never been done before and that is reflected in the almost 90% of Sensateers who found their work as a positive challenge, which is a really great position to be in, especially for the mission which we are trying to achieve.
We've created a good functioning business, but it's nowhere near done. At Sensat we are striving for something new, something different, something more and something better and our mission must be a central driver for every Sensateer.
Sophie Moren, People Partner,
Time at Sensat: 2 months
As someone who works in the People space, engagement is always something I have been passionate about—there is endless research out there showing that having an engaged team is a huge driver of organisational success and I think it’s important to all of us that we work in environments where we feel supported and can do our best work each day.
Having joined Sensat two weeks before the annual engagement survey was sent out, I didn’t have much idea of what to expect from these results. In fact, in my experience, engagement surveys, while bringing really valuable insights to the business, are often an opportunity to focus on supporting low scoring managers to improve their team’s engagement results rather than working with already highly engaged teams.
In the period between the survey being sent out and the results coming in, I spent a lot of time with different Sensateers as part of my onboarding. The overwhelming feeling I got coming away from these conversations was how passionate everyone is about working at Sensat, the pride they take in their work and their strong commitment to the success of the mission.
The results came in and I was blown away by the positive sentiment in both the scores and the written comments; “Sensat has become the love of my life” and, “I'd hire everyone I know to work here if I could”, to give you a couple of examples.
Most of the scores were above the Lattice (our HR feedback system) benchmark, but two of the themes that scored the highest were related to ‘Team Culture’ and ‘Commitment to the Company’. I see this played out every day working at Sensat, from the stream of supportive peer feedback on Slack, to the weekly Friday happy hour. One of the questions within the commitment theme (which scored 98/100) was “I am proud to tell others that I am part of this company”. Having been here two months now, it's safe to say that I also feel incredibly proud to be a part of it too.
Sheikh Fakhar Khalid, Chief Scientist
Time at Sensat: 3 years, 9 months
Seeding our values and fostering transparency
Although our culture has evolved—how could it not, having doubled over lockdown alone—it has remained anchored to our core values: purpose, grit, win together, self-awareness, customer impact and transparency, which I think has been the key to our successful teams. Our culture is our foundation and we have pillars of these values that help to support it. When an individual joins Sensat and buys into the values we work towards, they become a seed for the culture we are trying to grow. Therefore, it is not just the leadership team who has to foster a culture based on our values, in reality, teams build their own culture, and as long as those values are the same across all teams eventually that culture continues to embed and evolve itself.
At Sensat the cultural values haven't really changed since the start, we knew what we were working towards—empathy, having fun, building challenging technology—but since then we have learnt to define them better. We have a culture where your voice can be heard no matter your role, so anyone can bounce ideas off the leadership team, including our CEO, and be heard. We have grown very purposefully in this structure with an extremely transparent and flat hierarchy so the whole company has access to top-level decisions. This has meant that when decisions are made, they do not need to be enforced on teams as the teams are very much a part of the decision-making process, and it is this flatness that helps Sensateers to feel truly valued. Our structure also helps us to be agile so we can react quickly without the need to funnel decisions through several levels in the hierarchy for approval.
Areas of opportunity
I think it would be a bit hypocritical of me to not include the areas of opportunity with the importance of transparency being as it is.
In the data, it was clear that the feeling of being able to take risks has dipped slightly since last year, and personally, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing if you break down the data. As part of any startup culture you've got to take educated risks, identify the hazards and what could go wrong, plan around them and if the risk fails, we must learn to embrace our failures and move on. One of the teams that scored as the least likely to “take risks” was the data operations team who are responsible for data capture. This team works in potentially dangerous environments with strict safety protocols, so it's no wonder they are less keen on risk-taking! A piece of advice once given to me by a CTO, was that as a startup the worst thing you can do as a company is to not fail quickly enough. What is meant by this is that it is better to fail harder and quicker at the start than failing at the end having put all of that work in. This resonates with me to this day and I would hate to get so far out on our mission that we won't be able to come back.
Sasha Roberts, Marketing Executive
Time at Sensat: 10 months
Nine months of Sensat
Coming out of university I didn’t quite know what to expect from the real working world. I have had friends tell me about their office cultures, where they wouldn't know the name of the person sitting opposite them, whilst others felt that their job was meaningless, and to be honest, that is what I had started to brace myself for.
I joined Sensat as an Intern in the Marketing team last September and I am fortunate enough to say that all of my preconceptions were thrown out the window on day one. What was clear to me from the beginning was that the culture at Sensat is really something special and I think that our survey results demonstrate this. Sensat’s employee net promoter score (eNPS) of 62 is a huge achievement, especially when the tech industry average is 26 and the likes of Google scored 40 and Apple 23. Furthermore, when Sensateers were asked how likely they would be to recommend Sensat as a place of work, two-thirds of Sensat were identified as ‘promoters’ who answered the question with 9 or 10 out of 10.
Learning hard and fast
For me, a really important factor during my nine months here has been learning and being able to get actionable feedback regularly has been essential for my growth. In the nature of a startup, I have had to learn hard and fast, however, I have been well supported along my journey both personally and professionally, with the availability of great team managers, career progression advice from the people team, as well as insightful support from Spill (our all-in-one mental health support). What has stood out to me from the beginning is that Sensat creates a sense of belonging. 91% of the team felt as though they could be themselves at work. We have little pockets of communities within Sensat from diversity teams, parents, plant lovers to foodies so everyone has a chance to find a common interest.
Working for a startup has meant that I have been exposed to so many different aspects of Marketing, but also of the wider business including helping out on our values interviews, being a member of the diversity team, as well as attending Drone School set up by our Data Operations who are teaching anyone who wants to know how to fly!
Sensat’s engagement survey gives a great snapshot into what is going on under the bonnet, however, the numbers are only a fraction of the story. We have a culture where your voice is heard no matter your level of seniority, a sustainable mission which you can wholeheartedly say that you believe in and has the potential to change the industry, and an inspiring team who are willing to sit down and teach you something new.
If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of our results then you can access our data by filling in the form below: