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Creating the ‘joy of missing out’ at Guru

Internal comms leader Julia Soffa is passionate about shaping the knowledge management platform’s digital future for employees.

Julia Soffa with team members at Guru's Center City office. (Photo by Sam Markowitz)

This article is sponsored by Guru and was reviewed before publication. Guru is a Talent Pro client.

After leaving a job of eight years and moving from the other side of the county, Julia Soffa was in a New York taxi when she received the email that changed the course of her career.

It was days after she had an interview at Guru, a knowledge management platform with offices in San Francisco and Philly and remote employees across the US.

The email included Guru’s core values. Her initial reaction? “As a cynical tech person, I was like ‘OK, here we go. Hard eye roll.’”

“I’ll never forget looking at these core values and being so struck by their humor and intentionality,” said Soffa, who formerly worked in advertising tech. “That’s what drew me to Guru, the precision of language that was nuanced and humble.”

Soffa joined Guru in February 2019 as a senior manager of revenue empowerment. Nearly four years later, she is Guru’s principal internal communications manager. Her day-to-day is driven by her passion to find answers to one question: “How do I help reduce the cognitive load of communications so employees can do their best work?”

Taking on internal communications

In her initial role, Soffa supported the revenue team and its efforts to expand Guru’s customer base. About a year in, she noticed gaps in company-wide communication; for example, the revenue team once struggled to find information about the product’s latest update. Soffa began to advocate for a more targeted focus on internal communications.

“In order to provide a solution to the problem, I had to prove there was a problem first,” Soffa said.

Julia Soffa. (Courtesy photo)

She started a listening tour, gathering qualitative and quantitative feedback from employees about their experiences with internal comms at Guru. She collaborated with the leadership team on company-wide surveys. Soffa also examined meeting cadences, gaps in internal documentation, and duplicate Slack channels and projects that could create silos.

Since then, Soffa helped manage critical internal communications campaigns about COVID-19 vaccines and employees’ options to return to the office. (Pssst — for more information about Guru’s remote and in-office experience, check out this interview with the company’s workplace experience manager). She also collaborates directly with stakeholders including the CEO on high-impact projects, such as changes to Guru’s performance review tools.

Soffa also rolled out Guru’s “golden rule of internal communications,” which states that every employee commits to:

  1. Sharing knowledge asynchronously, knowing that everyone else will seek to digest what you share, while also recognizing the audience you are sharing to and optimizing it for them.
  2. Digesting the knowledge that others have spent time preparing to share with you and providing feedback if what is being shared is unclear or not relevant.

Fostering ‘JOMO’

At Guru, 6% of the company was remote pre-pandemic. Now, 62% of its employees are remote as part of the company’s “work anywhere” policy, Soffa said.  Guru’s internal comms strategy centers on asynchronous communication, guidelines for Slack and meeting etiquette and using Guru’s internal comms features to send company-wide updates.

All of these practices help foster what Soffa deemed “JOMO,” or the joy of missing out. JOMO is possible when there are digital communication strategies in place that allow team members to miss a meeting but still access the information discussed.

Soffa believes asynchronous internal communications translates to a more equitable work environment, especially since women, people of color, people with disabilities and others in underrepresented groups are more likely to prefer remote work.

A recent McKinsey report states that women who work where they choose report lower levels of burnout, and this Future Forum study states that workers of color want to return to in-office work at a far lower rate than their white counterparts.

“In the old world, an employee would get ahead in their job by coming into the office, sitting next to the CEO and having serendipitous conversations that move their career forward. But that requires a certain lifestyle. You’re likely a guy who can afford to live in the city, doesn’t have any caregiving responsibilities, etc.” Soffa said.

“But if we acknowledge that the development can’t just happen by people being in person, that changes the conversation,” she added.

Ever since she joined Guru in 2018, she has  been thinking about the ways digital communications now rule everyone’s life, whether it’s a push notification from your work email or a ping from a dating app sharing the same screen, and is as passionate as ever about seeing that cognitive load reduced for employees everywhere.

“We have a daily deluge of digital inputs from our personal life and our work life,” Soffa said. “We’re constantly switching tasks and jumping from app to app, which makes it impossible to get into a flow state. … My role is to help people with their digital wellness so that they can have a more balanced existence at work and outside of work.”

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