Introduction

It’s no secret that many of the world's biggest remote and distributed companies use Sapling, but why do they choose us and what makes us different?

Building and managing great connections of tools, processes and people is really hard at scale, with lots of invisible problems and opportunities. Team members need to sign documents, submit requests and complete internal processes before their real work - and it’s on people teams to build and run the processes to make this stuff happen quickly and efficiently.

When it comes to onboarding alone, normally it takes 8 months to have a new team member fully ramped, but with Sapling our customers are able to get this done in 2 months. The winning remote and distributed companies get their people productive and adding business value FAST!

At Sapling, we know many of these challenges intimately, our growing 50 person team is also distributed across multiple geographies and timezones. Despite the unavoidable stresses of COVID-19, we're working better than ever as a fully remote team and are proud to use our own product to run our people operations everyday.

We wanted to share the common people challenges we’ve seen at distributed and remote organizations, and how Sapling uniquely solves these challenges - that’s why we’re trusted by companies like DigitalOcean, Zapier, Labelbox and InVision.

What makes a remote team remote?

There are many stages of remote work and Gitlab has done an incredible job outlining these in the phases of remote adaptation

The most common organization structure we see for Sapling customers is Hybrid-Remote, where some team members — but not all — are allowed to work remotely 100% of the time. 

With the rapid change of the employee experience brought by COVID-19 and several leading companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft increasingly positioning themselves for distributed work, we believe it’s more than likely that ‘all-remote’ will become an increasingly accepted and potentially dominant organization model.

Exponential complexity for People Teams

There are many challenges and opportunities that are unique to HR and people operations teams of large remote or distributed companies. 

Different people locations and employment types bring requirements for different processes that need different tools to be effective. This is often amplified by different regulatory environments and end-user work preferences.

As an example, a 100 person full-time team that is (or was) sitting next to each other in one office, doing the same thing (i.e. Sales), could allow many HR teams to get by with a simple set of tools and processes. 

Everyone joining can start at 10am on Tuesdays, do the same process, and may just need to learn Salesforce, Slack, and Dialpad to be successful. 

Now compare that to how modern companies are evolving through the eyes of one of our amazing customers - Couchbase.

Couchbase is the market leader in NoSQL cloud databases, and has over 500 team members across the world in six different countries, with a large population of remote team members, and differing employment types (FTE, part-time, contractors). 

These team members are split across many functions like sales, engineering, customer success, finance, and HR, that all need different processes and tools to be successful. 

All of this brings about exponential complexity which is often invisible to the organization. Luckily, the power of the Sapling platform and tools are designed with complexity in mind.

Rather than trying to deliver an all-in-one solution, we know that the best companies need people teams with the best tools. 

This may come in the form of different payroll providers, benefits-admin solutions or performance management systems - that’s why we focus solely on managing the connections between these tools, the processes and the (most importantly) the people.

How Sapling’s people tools are designed 

Sapling’s product enables people operations teams to run their internal operations faster and more accurately in these environments. People teams with our tools can help their entire company (all team members and all managers) maximize their impact and output. 

By building out repeatable processes and automations, people teams are doing more with less, and it’s having clear end-user benefits on the employee experience, retention, and creating an amazing culture for the most successful teams. 

We commonly hear three major factors in why large remote and distributed teams come to Sapling. 

Consistency and visibility of people processes

The first common challenge to solving complexity for remote and distributed teams is ensuring everyone has a consistent and amazing employee experience. 

In an office-centric environment, when people are moving in, changing desks or leaving an organization - it can be easier to understand what’s going on or when things are behind schedule … you can actually see it happening!

But in distributed or remote environments, you cant - all of it is invisible…. And it’s people teams that are responsible for the entire employee experience.

We need to make sure that there are clean and data-rich handoffs from recruitment teams - we then need accounts to be provisioned, emails to go out to these six people, and coordinate those 53 things to happen across the organization (things like documents e-signed, buddy assignments, onboarding plans and getting time off policies).

In mid-market companies managing 100's of these transitions in onboarding, promotions or offboarding each year, the total number of moving pieces quickly sky-rockets into the 1,000's or 10,000's. 

Sapling’s custom dashboards and people analytics ensure people teams can have the required insight on people movements and moving pieces. 

While often serving as an undeniably flexible tool, Google Sheets have become the default ‘chaos manager’ for many organizations, but A Google Sheet is not an Employee Onboarding Program. The world’s biggest remote and distributed companies deprecate this primitive tools and deploy the best tools to support their organizations. 

An example of this is at DigitalOcean, a cloud infrastructure provider that Sapling has worked with since 2016, helping their team grow from 100 to 500 people and deliver strategic onboarding experiences. 

Yoojin Lim Levelle from their People Operations team recalled, “We consistently hear from new hires that they appreciated the clarity provided by Sapling’s pre-boarding portal, which helps them understand what they should do on their first day, week, month, and quarter. It allows us to strategically organize and structure our new hire onboarding experience with intention and clarity, and the results speak for themselves.”

Even the physical aspects of remote work need oversight and this is opening up new opportunities for vendors to support remote teams - like Firstbase, which can supply and manage all the physical equipment remote teams need to do great work at home.

Increased efficiency and cost savings

While making your people programs consistent and visible is the first step, it wouldn’t be much of a win if companies required 100's of HR team members to execute on the processes, and slowed front-line teams down.

We need to make sure our internal processes are automated, scalable and fast, while at the same time ensuring we deliver the right experience for different locations and teams. 

A common challenge software providers have in larger companies is adapting the software to the company's unique processes. That's why a lot of HR software implementations can fail - the tools can’t adapt to the company way of doing things (and the company won't adapt either!)

Unlike our peers, Sapling took a different approach and focused on building tools that can be customized and configured to any company’s processes - we do this through workflows, smart emails, profile templates, and Smart Assignment.

Once you build your process, you can simply define what location, department of employment status it should be applied to and Sapling takes care of the heavy lifting. This can save massive amounts of time and energy, allowing people teams and front line teams to maximize these efforts in building killer products, selling more and supporting customers better.

Documents in Sapling are clearly ordered by Location, Department, and Employment Status to help you easily find what you're looking for.

If companies want to build for scale and efficiently in the long run, they must have the right tools and platforms in place. Our customers with 200 people don’t need a HR team of 5, when they can do it with two people and scale with the right tools.

An example of this is at Zapier, an online automation tool that connects your favorite apps. Sapling helps their team create a consistent employee experience for their 300 strong, fully distributed team.

The Zapier team makes heavy use of Sapling’s workflow automation engine, building out 30-60-90-day plans dedicated to each department and to functions within differing roles, giving the team the ability to mix-and-match workflows for a custom new-hire experience. 

With Sapling they have become even more efficient and save 480+ hours on manual processes a year. Cross-departmental communication is now automated, and the hiring and onboarding processes are less time-consuming. 

Reduce compliance risk

Although it’s everyone’s responsibility, generally IT and People teams share the majority of the accountability for internal compliance. 

Internal staff are the biggest threat to security (40% of breaches) - and the majority of risk is carried when things are changing (such as employee data, promotions and people movements out of an organization).

For IT teams and specifically identity management, at around 100 team members we commonly see IT and security teams deploy robust identity management systems such as Okta, OneLogin or Active Directory. Sapling helps IT teams stay up to date with changes in HR data to support these powerful identity tools.

For People teams, dedicated software for their operations is also required and our vision at Sapling is to be the trusted choice in the mid-market. Already today, we are proud to help many of our customers achieve SOC2 compliance and reduce risk through our product offering.

Whether it's document e-signing, provisioning and deprovisioning accounts, or ensuring risk is managed through workflows - Sapling helps people teams initiate, track, and report on these changes. Reporting on this granular level of HR processes across the employee life-cycle is not something you’ll find in other HR offerings.

Furthermore, we have robust role-based access control permissions, field masking across the platform for compensation data and view-as permissions to understand who can see and do what.

Sapling’s reporting on this process has supported many customers deliver on their internal security protocols, most recently LabelBox, a 60 person team based out of San Francisco that offers a collaborative training data platform for computer vision machine learning applications

By helping their team consolidate their disparate systems, automate busy work and reduce manual processes, Sapling was also a major factor in Labelbox's successful completion of their SOC2 audit. 

“Sapling has become our employee bible now… people directory, all the links, documents, workflows…. Everything!” says Abby Anderson, People Operations Manager at Labelbox.

Ready to learn more?

The pressure in People Operations is more intense than ever and dealing with remote teams can be unpredictable and messy. 

As a partner to leading people operations teams at remote and distributed organizations, our responsibility is to help HR leaders adapt and deliver the value and build the organization in these new ways.

Over the last four years we’ve seen how a company starts with an idea, which is brought to life by people. People build companies. The best companies need the best People Operations to create the clarity of purpose and systems that support front-line teams.

As a leader of one of the world’s biggest remote companies Clarke Valberg, CEO of Invision recalled “Sapling was pivotal in supporting our company scale remotely from 100 to over 1,000 people.”

Still unsure why the biggest remote companies in the world choose Sapling? We’d love to show you a demo.

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