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This is the next step in D+I says Linktree’s new head of people and culture

August 4, 2021, 4:40 PM UTC
Isa Noterma, Head of people and culture at Linktree
Courtesy of Isa Noterma

Welcome to Worksheet, a newsletter about how people are working smarter in these turbulent times.

In this week’s edition, S. Mitra Kalita interviews the new head of people and culture at Linktree, Isa Notermans, and asks why she insisted her last title, as head of Spotify’s diversity and inclusion, be changed.

Isa Notermans started at Spotify as the global head of diversity and inclusion. By the time she left, she changed her title: head of diversity and belonging

“We were at an inflection point. D+I has this stigma attached to it. People would switch off and I would see a lot of glazed looks,” she said. “Belonging is an active state of work. You’re not just invited to this meeting. This is a place you have a voice.”

Data from LinkedIn shows that there has been a 71% increase globally in diversity roles over the last five years. And the latest role for Notermans, who got an earlier start in the space, might signal what’s to come for people who can weave diversity into every facet of a company’s mission. Six months ago, Notermans joined Linktree as its global head of people and culture. We spoke about this transition, how to apply a lens of belonging to a company’s entire culture, and how diversity isn’t off in a corner anymore. Edited excerpts: 

Your current title has the words “people” and “culture” in it. Tell me why. 

There is this expectation that you own culture when culture is in your title.

I believe I have a role in cultivating the right culture. The evolution of HR to people and culture is a very necessary one. We view people as not just a resource, not a machine, not just an asset. For all the different ways we show up, for all of us to thrive, the word choice is really critical. 

Why did you make the move to Linktree? 

I uncovered something I hadn’t seen in other conversations. We talked about people’s side hustle. Here, you are more than what you just do at work. Everyone does something outside of work and we want to enable that when they are here. We believe there are creators in all of us: We have Grammy Award-winning songwriters to Tik Tok influencers. 

I found a natural inclination of the culture to focus on people’s pursuits and a lot of them are humanitarian issues and social issues. We are doing more than just building a great startup. 

I love that you mention the side hustle. This column has been my side hustle for about seven months as I build my companies, Epicenter and URL Media. And now we’re hiring and I wonder how you support people’s other interests but still hold them accountable and ensure they’re “all in” on your business?

Support comes through trust. We trust our people to do the right thing. We know that life doesn’t happen 9-5. Flexibility really matters in that regard.

The only thing to be mindful of is burnout. That’s the unintended consequence of people wanting to do so much. 

What’s your side hustle?

Arts. I do painting and I have a very strong inclination to the creative space. It never became a career. (She also makes jewelry with her sister, bespoke bracelets and collars for adults and children.)

You moved to Sydney, Australia for this job, and you grew up in Melbourne. Tell me how global workplaces are thinking about diversity and culture. 

At the core of it is treating people with respect, kindness and focusing on humanity. Everybody should have opportunity to do their best work and feel heard and valued. 

It’s privilege, it’s power, it’s control. 

When you start to address that, then you unpack the systemic issues you need to solve for. 

What’s working?

We no longer hire people to be passive passengers in organizations. We hire people who want to see change. That’s igniting a whole new look and feel of the workplace.

In previous jobs, the D+I committees were filled with underrepresented folks. Now the majority of people in these conversations are white males. 

That is very telling to me that people are not happy to sit on the sidelines anymore but drive change from a position of privilege. 

How do you create a culture and manage different dynamics among generations in one workplace? 

We do a welcome note when someone joins the company. Our welcome note reveals a lot about who you are. Do you have animal babies, human babies, what are your pronouns, what’s your side hustle, what’s your favorite food?

That entry point is truly celebrated and embraced by everyone. We’ve started Slack channels devoted to different interests, plants, music, photography, dog mums, dog dads. And what this subtlety does is allows everyone to find a commonality, this really beautiful moment for people to reveal in a safe way and get excited about each other and commonalities and moments of connection.

Courtesy of Isa Notermas

I know you’ve only been there six months, but is there anything you’ve completed that makes you proud yet? 

As women, there are decisions that have to be made and it feels like you are choosing between parenting and work. 

I’ve strived to make sure parental programs are equitable and fair. We talk about a lot of the time you take off of work but what about the time around it? What can we build to support how they come back? You have a new identity when you come back. So we’re offering executive career coaching, prenatal classes, support to do IVF. If you have a loss, you get full parental leave up to 20 weeks. 

Those are bold and brave proposals, but we have to do it. This is the company we want to be, to challenge the status quo.

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