Clio’s Natalie Archibald on creating digital-first workspaces

Clio's Natalie Archibald
Clio’s VP of People says approach offers more flexibility, inclusion for employees.

Intentionality and collaboration are two crucial leadership pillars that every business needs to consider when redesigning the office and entering new markets, according to Clio’s vice president of people, Natalie Archibald.

Archibald spoke with BetaKit editor-in-chief Douglas Soltys at the SAAS NORTH conference this year to discuss how to navigate the changing work trends and launch new locations with an approach that largely focuses on employees’ needs.

“Things from the pandemic … are here to stay in terms of how we practice and organize our workplace.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most workplaces for two years, Archibald explained that “people are starting to blend more in-person experiences into their world of work.”

“What we know is that there are things from the pandemic that don’t seem to be like blips on the radar. They’re here to stay in terms of how we practice and organize our workplace,” she said.

Clio, for instance, operates with a digital-first experience as its baseline with the intention to have every interaction conducted digitally, according to Archibald, which she says provides the “greatest opportunity for exclusion.”

“If you have a bunch of people sitting around a boardroom table in person, it’s very easy to … land yourself at a decision without asking yourself, ‘Who needs to be at this table that isn’t here?,’” Archibald said.

“We try to design digital first as our baseline and try to bring the level of competency and skill set of our people to exceed just the bare minimum of being successful in that model.”

However, the Burnaby-based company also renovated its headquarters during the pandemic to foster the same connections when people return to working in physical spaces.

“The more we can design a workplace and way of doing work that is conducive to people that have different needs and preferences, the better.”

This is what works for the Burnaby location for Clio, which also has a post in Toronto. Replicating this exact strategy won’t work for international expansion, however, Archibald said. “Hope is not a plan.”

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“You don’t just say, ‘I’m going to open up a new business in a new country and I’m just going to rely on everything I’ve done in my country of origin and just drag and drop it and think that it’s going to work–it’s not,” Archibald explained.

To set up a business’ international expansion plans for success, there needs to be collaboration among the experts of different fields internally such as the head of legal and human resources, she said, as it’s integral to consider the different laws and regulations of operating and hiring in a foreign country.

In the full interview, Archibald speaks more to the consideration of personal biases and ethnocentrism when expanding beyond North America, employee listening mechanisms for reducing barriers in feedback channels, and culture building across the company.

Featured image courtesy SAAS NORTH.

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a staff writer for BetaKit.

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