Karla Talley works in Learning & Development and DEI at Glassdoor, a company using Circles as their ‘work from anywhere’ strategy to foster connection and community in a scalable way. Her team has integrated Circles into multiple programs, including an ERG summit, in-depth Allyship training program and Connection Circles on world issues.
Safe by Design
Karla felt the platform was a safe space the moment she joined her first circle. “I do not use the term “safe space” loosely–as a woman of color, I feel safe spaces are hard to come by. There is an immediate welcoming and safety that I feel comes with Circles, and that seems to be consistently stated by any of our colleagues joining a circle for the first time.”
What she experienced is by design: founders built the Circl.es platform with belonging and inclusion in mind, including built-in features like timers preserving equal talk time, hand raises to limit interruptions and a random-order generator to signal who speaks when. Karla noticed: “The features keep people from cutting in and talking over each other. The result is extra space for everyone to process and engage in a way that is most helpful for them. Also, who doesn’t love the hugs?” She’s referring to another popular feature–participants can virtually circle around a team member for a ‘hug’, or press ‘c’ on their keyboard to celebrate with a shower of onscreen confetti.
Circles for Remote Work Community
Glassdoor first tried launching ERG breakout groups back in 2020 when work went remote; the gatherings worked for a while before fizzling out. A year later, head of DEI Stephanie Felix integrated Circ.es into the gatherings while rebranding and rebooting the experience. “In a company that is majority culture, we wanted to create space for safe conversations regarding identity, culture, and belonging. Our aim was to provide intentional space for meaningful conversations around intersectionality.”
“In a company that is majority culture, we wanted to create space for safe conversations regarding identity, culture, and belonging. Our aim was to provide intentional space for meaningful conversations around intersectionality.”
At a time when employee connections had dwindled down to their immediate teams, organizing them into cross-department breakouts gave everyone the chance to interact with colleagues they wouldn’t normally talk to everyday. Attendance was high, and the circles integration proved to be just what the experience needed to succeed.
After the success of the ERG breakout circles, Glassdoor used circles with an Evolution curriculum to develop Journey Lead, an experience to train up allies. Karla noticed social learning happening in the circles, as people grew in active listening and moved from defensive to curious. “People are not only learning about identity and privilege; they’re learning through interacting with one another in circles how to sit back and give someone else space to talk.”
Karla emphasized that circles were an especially protected space for allyship training–she’s heard multiple people use the word ‘safe’ without hesitation to describe the experience. “It’s been a space for people to ‘go there,’ and know that they are being supported and heard by everyone.”
Space During Crisis
The platform also provided a place for processing crisis when war broke out in Europe. With a global team dispersed throughout the U.S., London, Dublin and more, several Glassdoor employees formerly lived in Russia, or had personal ties to Russia and/or Ukraine. Using circles, leaders facilitated optional Connection Circles process conversations; facilitators had an agenda, but focused on providing space for people to share feelings and hear actionable relief opportunities from around the world.
Augmenting Cultural Values
Transparency and good people are two core Glassdoor core values, and Karla felt Circl.es elevated and activated both. “If Circl.es was going to impact something, it was going to elevate the goodness of our people–and it already is.” The people who have experienced Circl.es through the ERG breakouts, Ukraine processing groups or Allyship program are showing up for each other in new ways, and their vulnerable communication is proof of their trust in the platform.
In fact, Circl.es continues expanding throughout the organization. The people experience team used it during their first offsite of the year for a team building time. Karla noticed that “people feel really safe jumping on, whether it’s a fully facilitated and scripted convo or if we are meeting in circles to plan our next quarter.”
The positive twin outcomes of connection and growth are undeniable at Glassdoor, with 97% of respondents indicating positive feedback about their experience. Some participants shared that circles helps them engage in conversations they can’t even have with family and friends. Karla marveled: “I have learned so much about my co-workers, and I’ve been working at GD for almost a year!” She attributes the connection and growth in part to the unique circles design, saying: “The majority of our team was crying with happy and sad tears. I don’t think that people would have done that on another platform.”
“The majority of our team was crying with happy and sad tears. I don’t think that people would have done that on another platform.”