Insights from a people-first leader: Jennifer Fong from

What's the biggest misconception about people-first companies and how can you stay connected to your people-first values? In this part of our interview series, you'll hear from Jennifer Fong, VP of People at

Insights from a people-first leader: Jennifer Fong from

Tell us a little more about your role. How do you and your team apply people-first principles in your work?

As a VP of People, it's my job to stay on top of patterns and trends as employee needs evolve over time. This means actively listening to their needs, concerns, and feedback and incorporating their perspectives into our People strategies. We often experiment with new perks and initiatives to tailor our programs over time and encourage team members to share ideas or programs they are interested in. Additionally, we focus on providing opportunities for continued learning and career development and fostering a culture of collaboration and open communication. Ultimately, my main goal is to ensure that our team members feel supported, motivated, and able to thrive in their roles.

If you weren’t doing your current job, what other career could you see yourself thriving in?

In another life, I would be running a dog daycare and spending my day loving on all the pups! 

What is the biggest misconception about running a people-first company?

I believe that the biggest misconception about leading and running a people-first company is that it's all about being overly accommodating to employees at the expense of business goals. In reality, it can be a tight-rope walk between managing company and employee needs. A people-first approach involves setting clear performance expectations while prioritizing the well-being and growth of employees and aligning team goals with the company’s objectives. It's about fostering a supportive and inclusive culture that enables employees to thrive, leading to higher engagement, productivity, and, ultimately, better business outcomes.

What main guiding principle do you follow as a people-first leader?

As a leader, my main focus is always on our people. I prioritize the engagement, growth, and success of my team members. This means listening to their needs, supporting their development, and helping them achieve their goals within the organization. I strive to reinforce a growth mindset, spark joy in work, and find opportunities to win together.

Do you have any personal habits or practices that help you stay connected to your people-first values?

At, we use several practices to stay connected with our core values and maintain a people-centric approach. One such method is the use of 'Donuts' to create new introductory touchpoints as our teams grow. Donut is an app for Slack that automatically and randomly pairs people within an organization for 1-1 chats. In the absence of a physical water cooler, this is our virtual water cooler! This offers team members a chance to meet more individuals within the organization in a fun and casual manner. I eagerly anticipate each Donut meeting as it provides another opportunity to foster community in a remote setting. Some people might be apprehensive about receiving a calendar invite from HR, so this serves as a fun, low-pressure way for individuals to familiarize themselves with other functional groups and potentially learn more about our culture and people programs.

What’s your number one advice to founders or other leaders who want to build a people-first business and workplace?

The most important aspect of building a people-first workplace is to clarify company values and understand how they may evolve over time. Then, deliberately integrate these values into key employee lifecycle processes such as hiring, talent assessment, compensation, growth, and development. Reinforcing the 'how' is just as important as the 'what.'

Then, once you have developed your culture, ensure you regularly take time to understand the patterns and trends in employee feedback. This way, you will know if you have implemented your values as intended and if people are being supported well, and you'll be able to identify areas of improvement and adapt accordingly.

What book/video/podcast/article do you recommend to people building people-first companies?

  • Media source: Worklife. Digiday Media's newest brand covers how work, workplaces, and the workforce are changing to meet new expectations. It is a great resource for keeping up to date on people and HR-related news.
  • Podcast: The Look & Sound of Leadership with Tom Henschel. This podcast is excellent for enhancing your leadership abilities and learning how to develop your speaking skills.
  • Book: Radical Candor. This book is instrumental in helping leaders build people management skills and better relationships in the workplace. 

Editor's note: If you'd like to hear more from Jen about building world-class teams and developing high-performing workplaces that empower people to do their best work, make sure to follow her on LinkedIn.