How Clover Health Maintained a Mission-Driven Culture Amid Rapid Growth
Office managers at startups face unique challenges: there are often few precedents for their work, and they must quickly adapt to rapid growth while staying connected to the founding values and culture. Clover Health, a San Francisco-based healthcare company, is no stranger to these challenges. Founded in 2014, the company has grown from under 100 employees to almost 500 in less than two years. As Clover’s growth mushroomed, Employee Experience team members Lindsey Kabahit and Emily Peacock played a significant role in cultivating the sense of community, transparency and openness that Clover prides itself in.
“It’s been an exciting challenge to maintain all the aspects of our mission-driven culture as we grow,” said Emily, who serves as Clover’s Office Coordinator.
Clover is a health insurance company that uses a combination of data analytics, custom software and preventive care to reduce the costs of healthcare while improving the quality of life for their members. The company’s mission to improve the lives of its members guides employees’ work, bringing them both motivation and meaning. As Lindsey and Emily’s team work to support the company’s culture in line with its mission, and accommodate the booming number of staff, they also handle facilities management, office logistics, and collaborate with the IT team to make sure in-office events run smoothly.
As Employee Experience Lead, Lindsey started when the San Francisco office was less than 30 people. She previously worked at Sutter Health, another healthcare company, but Clover was her first foray into working in the startup world. She now manages three other team members, including Emily, Jessica Cece, and Alex Frank. For Emily, her position is her first full-time office job after working part-time service jobs throughout college. She started as the office coordinator and receptionist, but is now solely focused on her office coordinator responsibilities.
An integral aspect of Lindsey and Emily’s team is the company’s onboarding process, which lays the groundwork for new employees to understand the complex healthcare industry and incorporates information about its members and providers to offer context into the efforts of Clover’s clinical staff. Their first onboarding session includes an office deep dive with Jessica where she walks them through the onboarding process. In addition to background on the company, Jessica helps give new employees the lay of the land at the office and what to expect during their first few weeks at Clover. As a result, the team has decreased the time it takes for new employees to make an impactful contribution. It also establishes Clover’s mission to improve lives and provides examples of what that looks like in practice.
“The question I really like to ask new hires is ‘What brought you to Clover?’ and everyone has a consistent answer—strong ties to our mission of improving the lives of our members,” said Lindsey. “We all have grandparents, aging parents and elderly or disabled people in our lives, and our mission is really the driving force as to why people choose to work here. As a result, organically Clover’s culture made up of ambitious people who want to tackle a problem facing an underrepresented demographic in technology.”
Lindsey and Emily bring that same spirit of perseverance to their day-to-day. They both praised the company for rewarding employee innovation and giving them the opportunity to try something different. For example, their colleague Lizzy Justesen, Clover’s Director of Internal Operations, grew her skills beyond a traditional office operations scope to take on commercial real estate and built out a new office from scratch without having a background in either area. Also, the company’s unique position as a healthcare tech startup means they frequently see their colleagues with healthcare backgrounds immerse themselves in tech training opportunities and tech teams eager to learn more about the intricacies of health insurance.
“The hunger for learning is one of the many reasons we think Clover is such a special company. If you want to try something new to improve the lives of our members, you’ll get supported with the resources you need to experiment,” said Lindsey. “Having our leaders actually demonstrate that through their actions and decision-making makes it a lot easier to build trust within the team and implement new ideas.”
That member-focused innovation and hard work has paid off, with the company quadrupling its size in only a few years. In addition to supporting the increased need for getting new employees situated at Clover, Lindsey and Emily’s team have established regular internal events that highlight the transparent and supportive company culture.
For example, Emily created the tradition of giving appreciation gifts, which are given to employees to celebrate certain personal and professional milestones. They include welcome packages for new hires, anniversary gifts, birthday treats, and gifts for new parents. Emily noted that while these may seem like small tokens, they make a big impact on workplace pride and office morale.
As an internal operations team, they’ve shifted from being scrappy to thinking strategically, which means streamlining internal processes and creating better employee feedback loops. The Employee Experience team partnered with the HR and IT teams to establish an office request process so that employee needs can be accommodated in a timely fashion. Their team member Alex recently recently introduced another feedback method called “Clover Chats.” They are casual, monthly lunch sessions that are open to anyone in the company. At these lunches, attendees discuss feedback collected from both online and physical suggestion boxes. It provides an opportunity for people across teams to address employee experience-related topics and voice their opinions in a comfortable, relaxed environment.
Maintaining culture as the company grows is still a challenge, and the team cites additional administration-focused hires, strong vendor relations, and streamlining operations as keys to their success. They have brought on Managed by Q for cleaning and facilities maintenance and a snack vendor, Oh My Green, to streamline day-to-day office needs in both their San Francisco and New Jersey offices.
Clover has offices in both San Francisco and New Jersey, so Lindsey, Emily, and the rest of their team must keep on top of office needs three time zones apart. Though the two offices’ needs may differ, they strive to ensure cultural initiatives they roll out, such as anniversary gifts, are aligned and bicoastal. They believe transparency and knowledge sharing sets up their team for future success, so as the company grows, anything new they implement is documented and shared with the entire company and other support-driven teams.
Clover straddles a unique opportunity as both a tech startup and health insurance company. While employees may be given fun anniversary gifts like a custom t-shirt, or bond together at happy hours and karaoke nights, they work in a government-regulated industry with a serious mission, and the well-being of those they serve is always the top priority. This balance means that the office culture is an environment offering flexibility, transparency, and autonomy, without the wild amenities tech startups can be known for because people are drawn to Clover who want to make a positive impact on the world. Or, as Lindsey joked, “I don’t see us ever having a ping pong table.”
Photography by Jennifer Emerling