Hulu is serious about company culture. From flexible paid time off to family support to the annual Hulupalooza day of service, the workforce of 2,500 is bonded in shared goals, freedoms and fun.
“We are trying to be very deliberate around defining and carefully curating the culture here because if you don’t define it, it just gets defined and it goes out of your control,” says Shannon Sullivan, SVP of talent & organization.
Hulugan culture revolves around a set of core company values, culled and refined from continuous employee feedback. “It’s not a top-down, but a ground-up effort, with employees saying what matters to them, why they come to work every day. It’s really important for organizations to have principles that aren’t just defined by leadership, but by the workforce,” Sullivan says.
Which doesn’t mean leadership gets a hall pass. “Everyone on the leadership team has to walk the talk. They have to be passionate about the values and they have to be cultural champions of Hulu,” she says. When recently departed CEO Randy Freer joined the company in October 2017, Sullivan and her HR team took the opportunity to assess Hulu culture drivers. “We did a new series of focus groups and realized 90% of the value statement still felt good, but there were changes we needed to make to address how Hulu was evolving.”
At the core of Hulu culture is a tenor of simply treating employees like adults, Sullivan says, a vibe that manifests itself in myriad ways.
For one, the company offers fully flexible time off for all salaried employees. “We provide general guidance that says, for example, for your health and wellness you should take at least 15 days,” Sullivan offers. “Some team members in a year may take more, some may take less, but it’s all about being accountable and trusting they’re going to get their job done and they’ll manage for themselves.” Managers are guided to ensure team members actually do get out of the office. “We’ve tried to train mangers, keep a look out, if you see people who are burning out, not taking their time, have a conversation with them and as a manager, set the example yourself,” she says.
Hulu’s parental benefits have gotten more progressive. Last June, the company reached its goal of offering gender-inclusive leave for all parents, and significantly beefed up its return-to-work support. For nursing parents traveling for work, Hulu supports Milk Stork breast milk delivery service. The company also partners with Lactation Lab, which will test breast milk for nutritional value and toxins. Also new is 40 hours per year of subsidized in-home child care, which Hulugans “are not only using when a kid has flu and can’t go to daycare, but also for things like date night,” Sullivan says.
Also significantly boosted is Hulu’s emotional intelligence curriculum, under the Elevate banner. “We’ve doubled down on our EQ curriculum,” Sullivan says of the program Hulu piloted in 2019 that saw 400 of the company’s then-2,200 workforce sign up the day it was offered. Today, 35% of total employees have completed Elevate, and the company has added deeper dives into various aspects of the curriculum, including a segment on “Understanding Your Stress and Emotions During Times of Change” and “Empathy: A Key to Collaborative Relationships.”
“One of reasons we implemented this program is, as we continue to scale as an organization and the business becomes more complex, it can be very easy to become fragmented,” she says. “You need common goals and common things you’re working toward and then, if you aren’t emotionally intelligent you can’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see what’s motivating them.”
Continuing education offerings also continue to expand. Hulugans can benefit from a tuition assistance program that offers up to $5,000 a year for higher education courses, a $200 stipend to purchase books or attend a workshop, and engage in the continually evolving Huluverse Learning program, first implemented in 2018.
“We have curated it down,” Sullivan says of the digital learning library. “We polled Hulugans to find out what they’re most interested in and they’re very interested in technical skills, things like database management, project management foundation, presentation skills. So we have some general softer skills and some deeper technical skills in there. We’re very much focused on Hulugans being passionate about their own career development.”
– Cathy Applefeld Olson