How HR helps fuel the growth of “unicorn” company Procore Technologies

A significant investment in learning and development has been vital to strong talent management as well as the broader business success of “unicorn” company Procore Technologies, according to its head of HR.

Procore has always made L&D a “huge priority”, said Michelle Greer, senior vice president of people for the company: “we feel that if people are learning and growing, then they are more likely to stay and more likely to be top contributors,” she said.

“When I was hired, this was given to me as an early mandate by the CEO and President, who wanted to build a strong learning organisation.”

Procore specialises in construction project management software and has grown from 300 to 1400 people globally over the past few years, and in Australia, the team has grown to 60 in 18 months since launching locally.

Today, the company has 12 offices around the globe and Greer explained that Procore’s investment in L&D has also been critical to supporting the company’s rapid growth and international expansion to become a “unicorn” (a privately held start-up company with a valuation of US$1 billion or more).

The company has developed a specific L&D curriculum with 12 specific programs for employees – the first of which focuses on construction itself.

“Our customers are in the construction industry, but most of our employees have not come from construction so we must train them,” said Greer, who explained that more than 90 per cent of employees have no previous involvement with the construction sector.

“So, have developed an internal curriculum with basic construction training, and this is offered to all employees from new hire orientation stage through to advanced classes for other employees.”

Leadership development and selection
The company has developed a number of other construction-related courses internally, and the second biggest curriculum the company has built is around management development.

“We have grown very quickly, and as a relatively new company many of our managers are not that experienced in leading people,” said Greer.

“We have some experienced managers, but a lot of them are managing people for the first time.

“Our experience and research tell us that when employees leave a company, they don’t leave the company but rather they leave their manager.

“So, we want to make sure that we are doing everything possible to train our managers to be effective managers and retain good employees.”

“We want to retain the core aspects of our culture, while evolving it to support a bigger global corporation”

Procore interviews individuals for management positions based on several criteria, and the company asks specific behavioural questions related to management style and approach in the process.

When individuals are promoted into a management role, they are required to undertake a raft of management training – beginning with some short online courses immediately following promotion.

After three months, new managers are required to take more in-depth training in the form of a three-day face-to-face training program.

After one year, managers attend Procore’s “leadership challenge” which is more focused on strategy and visioning, and the last phase of the company’s leadership development program is for directors and vice presidents.

“These are the high potentials, the people who we really want to get into senior level management,” said Greer.

Procore’s management development programs are supported by a tiered coaching program in which four internal executive coaches help support and train employees as part of their career development, and employees also have access to an online coaching tool as part of this.

Managing growing pains
As a company that has grown rapidly over the past four years, Procore has had to upgrade and improve a number of processes and systems internally.

“We have transitioned from a number of systems that were good for us as a smaller company, but now we require systems that are more suitable for a bigger, more global company,” said Greer.

“It’s big shift to make those transitions, but it’s worth it in the end.”

Procore upgraded its HR technology platform to Workday to support a larger number of employees, while it has also adopted other systems to help measure and improve culture as the company expands further.

“Our culture is such a crucial aspect of our business and business success,” said Greer.

“We would never say that the culture is not going to change, because when you’re a company of 200 people you’re obviously a different company to one that employs 15,000 people.

“But we want to retain the core aspects of our culture, while evolving it to support a bigger global corporation.”

“We have been scaling up our internal communications efforts as well as the way we get feedback from employees”

Greer explained that it is important to scale how you communicate with people as the company grows globally.

“We aren’t all sitting on one continent anymore, so we have been scaling up our internal communications efforts as well as the way we get feedback from employees,” she said.

“For instance, we had skip level meetings in the early days, which is very common in tech companies.

“The CEO himself would meet with individual engineers but then we got way too big to do this, so now we use several different methods to gain employee feedback.”

Another system Procore uses is Culture Amp, which assists the company in conducting formal engagement surveys as well as evaluating inclusion and diversity efforts.

Procore also uses Culture Amp for exit surveys and training and development evaluation, while individual departments within the company also use the platform twice a year to conduct smaller poll surveys.

Talent acquisition and retention
Procore takes a focused approach to talent acquisition, and Greer said it trains hiring managers across the business in interview techniques and processes so they know the right behavioural and legal questions to ask.

“In the early days we were less structured and there was a lot of asking the same questions, but now we have a better approach to interviews with different people focusing on different aspects of the interview,” she said.

Cultural fit is particularly important in the talent acquisition process, and Greer said there are a number of behavioural questions which every candidate is asked in interviews to assess their fit against Procore’s culture.

The company also measures retention on a quarterly basis by function and location, and culture engagement surveys are also conducted every six months to help assess turnover lead indicators.

Greer indicated that Procore’s employee engagement scores have increased and said that this is a critical driver of success as the company continues to grow.

“I am fortunate to be working in a company at a point now where the technology and market have lined up,” she said.

“Construction companies were late to the party in embracing automation, but now they are getting on board and the technology they use onsite is able to support that.

“We feel like it is an important mission to be part of this and it’s an exciting time to be part of this work.”