Encouraging team engagement virtually with Kristi Flores, CMO at Tektronix

Kristi Flores is the CMO at Tektronix, where she heads up an 80 person marketing team that is not only hybrid, but global.

On this podcast episode, Kristi shared her perspective on working with a large remote team, and advice on how to keep them engaged and excited about their roles.  

This episode covers:

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And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here

Full Transcript:

Alex (00:06):

Welcome back to the FINITE Podcast and thanks for tuning in. In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to keep a global marketing team engaged virtually and regionally. I’m sure we’ve all had experience working remotely by now, but as office work comes back into play, how can we work to ensure best business practices in a hybrid reality? How can we keep our team excited about work and collaborating effectively? 

We’re gonna be joined by Kristi Flores, VP and CMO at Tektronix, a measurement insight company for engineers. Kristi’s been busy building out the marketing team there and leading them through a difficult time in the pandemic, while working to improve diversity and inclusion. And so I’m really looking forward to hearing about her experiences. 

Before we dive in, I want to remind you about our upcoming virtual conference specifically for B2B tech and SaaS, marketers like yourself, FINITE Fest. We asked our FINITE community what their biggest challenges were going into 2022, and in response, all the sessions at FINITE Fest aim to tackle these with takeaways, insights and solutions from B2B tech marketing leaders. If you want to join the hundreds of other B2B tech marketers registered so far, head to finite.community/finitefest2022, or click the link in the description to get your ticket and save the date. I hope to see you there.


FINITE (01:22):

The FINITE community is kindly supported by the marketing practice, a global integrated B2B marketing agency that brings together all the skills you need to design and run account-based marketing, demand generation channel, and customer marketing programs. Head to themarketingpractice.com to learn more.


Alex (01:41):

Hello and welcome to the FINITE Podcast. Thank you for joining me.


Kristi (01:45):

It is great to be here. Thank you, Alex.


Alex (01:47):

I’m looking forward to talking. We’ve got an exciting topic lined up and one that we haven’t yet covered in terms of remote working, hybrid working, teams, engagement, all of the really exciting people-focused stuff. And I know you have a lot of experience in this, but a long career in terms of experienced marketing roles at Tektronix and before, but I will let you, as we always do tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and we’ll go from there.


About Kristi and her role at Tektronix

Kristi (02:12):

Sounds great. Yes, it’s a lot of topics we’ll cover today. It’s a big passion of mine, Alex. I’m currently in Portland, Oregon in the United States. I’m the chief marketing officer at Tektronix and I’ve been at Tektronix for 14 years of my career. So all of my career by and large has been at technology companies. 


For me, working for a global team and technology is where a lot of my passion is from a global perspective. Although I was born in the United States, I spent my childhood in Australia. I studied in Guatemala and Spain. So understanding different cultures and parts of the world is a big passion of mine, but also an interest area for me, particularly working with a global company.


Alex (02:59):

Cool. And just give us a sense of, I know we’re gonna be talking all about teams and structures and how everything works, but just to set the scene, give us a sense of the current team size and shape. What’s the marketing function look like?


Kristi (03:10):

Yes. So because Tektronix is a global company with a footprint, I’m responsible for 80 marketers in 14 different countries. The makeup of the team, is there’s two drivers on how we look at the team. First is that location piece, because we’re a global company. So with that, we want to have a global mindset with a local expertise. So about 40% of my team is located here within the United States and 60% is outside of the US. 

The second piece Alex is this marketing functional expertise. Just to give the audience a little bit of perspective, we’ve got global teams and then we have field or regional marketing teams. For the global teams, they really drive activities and initiatives that can be scaled globally. 

So across brand, global campaigns, communications, digital, those are just some of the things that they’re doing from a global perspective and scaling it. And our regional teams, they focus on generating brand engagement, demand generation locally in the regions. Some of those roles include events, technical marketing, communications and channel. Just to name a few.


Alex (04:23):

Nice. I must ask before we go on, I know we’re talking all about people and teams, but your own journey from, I think you said 14 years at Tektronix. So maybe just, you can tell us a little bit about the role that you started in. And I mean, that’s a pretty epic journey from 14 years to CMO.


Kristi (04:39):

So I started as a marketing communications manager for America’s team, and then I was fortunate enough to be able to do most of the roles over my time here. So I ran our digital team. I ran our regional America’s team, our global team that does campaigns and content. 

I even did a year working with our parent company Fortive doing innovation management. So how we’re deploying innovation practices and mindset to drive more disruptive innovation? So the company is incredible in providing development opportunities for their employees. And I think I’m a good example of being a recipient of that.


Alex (05:19):

I was gonna say, that’s a big reflection of the company, right? To be able to support anyone on that growth trajectory. I mean, I guess the company must have been growing and being successful as well to keep those career opportunities open for people. 

But I guess it’s quite unusual, particularly in the technology space, which moves around quite a lot. I always see it as sometimes the company grows faster than the people and sometimes the people grow faster than the company and both of those can be challenging, but I guess you and Tektronix have stayed in sync over that time.


Kristi (05:50):

Yeah. It’s a great point, and something that’s top of mind for me is how do we have really good development opportunities and plans for the team? For me specifically, I think I’ve always been hungry to learn more and there’s always been that opportunity, but part of it is leaders.

And I’ve been a recipient of it as well, having leaders that give you a stretch assignment. When I moved into the CMO role, although I was thrilled after being at the company for 14 years and realising that dream, I was also terrified thinking, can I do this? I don’t wanna disappoint people, but my leader and manager, Tammy Newcomb, the president, she gave me the space to go and learn and grow in areas that I had a great marketing expertise. 

Did I have all the experience in being an executive leader? No, but she gave me the support and the space. So that’s a big part of it as leaders giving the team the space to grow.


Alex (06:45):

Absolutely. Let’s talk a bit more about the global structure and the challenges that come with an 80 person team spread around the world. I’m sure there’s lots that come with that. You’ve given us a sense of team and structure, and I guess there’s a lot of benefits of you having been in a lot of these roles and led a lot of these individual teams. 

So maybe in a way that, I guess if you just came in as CMO from a different company, and you were a few weeks in, you had 80 people, maybe that gives you an advantage in terms of just that understanding and empathy. But I know that part of this conversation with looking at it from the perspective of the challenges of the last couple of years, COVID, remote working, but I guess that’s always been even pre COVID a remote team has to work in remote ways. 

So maybe you can tell us a bit about how Tektronix has shifted things as restrictions have eased. And just talk a bit about how things work globally in terms of bringing people together. If anything’s changed as the world starts to open up slightly.

What is happening to Tektronix’s business practices as restrictions ease? 

Kristi (07:50):

Yes, because we are a global company it’s been interesting throughout the pandemic to keep up with different situations. So we’ve been really mindful of local situations because they’ve been very different throughout the last two years. 

So first and foremost, just making sure that safety is our top priority in each of our local regions and teams and understand local situations. We’re cautiously optimistic regarding COVID 19 restrictions. We’re seeing some openness happen in the United States and in Europe. 

So teams are planning to come together a little bit more with events, and they’re just looking forward to collaborating and also engaging. We’ve got some teams that haven’t seen each other for two and a half years in person. We’re cautiously optimistic but looking to plan some activities in the coming months, Alex, as we see opportunities and things are looking much safer for employees to do that.


Alex (08:50):

Yeah, absolutely. I guess that must be tough. I think even pre COVID there’s different employment laws and things are different all around the world. But with COVID, it’s been amplified. Even different states within the US have had different rules, but globally it’s been a diverse mix. What about that engagement piece specifically? 

Because I guess my experience has been some people really thrive off being alone and working in a room and they like the calm and quiet and others really thrive off being surrounded by people. And do you think that the whole hybrid work and the mix of remote and sometimes in the office and however things have evolved over the last couple of years has had an effect on your team’s engagement overall?


What is the effect of hybrid work on team engagement? 

Kristi (09:32):

Geez, it’s been such a big learning experience to really more deeply understand how effective we can be or how work happens when we’re remote. And even to your point, what are some of the needs and interests of our employees? I think first and foremost, we’ve seen that the team at Tektronix and the global marketing organisation in particular has been really successful in driving our plans and performance virtually. 

So that was something that we had to always do because we’re a global team. But when you’re really mandated and everyone’s virtual, you see the power of working together and also prioritising some of that virtual and remote work a little bit better. 

So what we’ve learned from our employees, Alex, is they’re telling us that they really appreciate the flexibility that we’ve seen through the pandemic. 70% of our employees said they’d like hybrid schedule and that they want to work in the office two days or less in person. 

So I think employees have found that some of that flexibility has given them a better work life balance, given them even more flexibility as they might have to work early or late with some of the other global teams. So I think generally when I look at it, the team’s done incredibly well working virtually, and they’ve found some personal benefits that we want to keep available to our employees so they can benefit on those.


Alex (11:01):

Yeah, I think that’s the challenge a lot of companies going through is there’s a lot of benefits that have been seen and people want to get back to the office. It’s finding that balance between getting people back together, but trying to also maintain the benefits and all of the plus sides of remote working. Were most people pre-COVID in the office every day?


Kristi (11:19):

You know, it depended on the region or the country, Alex, but by and large, I’d say probably 80 to 90% of our employees were coming into the office four to five days a week on average. So it was definitely an office culture. And now I would say we’re balancing what that will look like for the future, but enabling employees to have more flexibility while also keeping high performance and driving results will be the priority. But I would say we’re definitely leaning into hybrid and more flexibility for employees.


What challenges have you faced in encouraging employee engagement virtually? 

Alex (11:54):

Cool. And so it sounds like the team’s done a great job and they’ve risen to some of the challenges, but I guess what are some of those challenges that you’ve seen? Are there particular challenges from an engagement perspective and a large global team perspective that has been amplified in the last couple of years?


Kristi (12:12):

Yes. We’ve always tried to be really inclusive as a team, as a global team, and virtual engagement can be limited. It’s always bothered me that we didn’t have the technology to be more inclusive, but I’d say it’s really pushed us further on how we can tap into technology to create that. 

So before the pandemic, we always use our cameras very much for virtual calls. Seeing those connections across our global team has been proven to be much more inclusive and just engaging for our team. So it’s pushed us to think about how we’re showing up and how we’re using technology to create some engaging opportunities for the team. 

And for me, the engagement piece, I’ve really learned a lot on how I can think about what I need to do differently during the pandemic before I would spend a decent amount of time travelling and spending time with the team face to face. So it’s had me rethink how I am creating moments individual with team members outside of my core leadership team, which I realised after probably about six to eight months in the job thinking I’m missing some of those connections. 

So I started doing some one-on-ones with the team. So last year I met with every single marketer on the team, and it was incredible just to have conversations with the team on how they’re doing, how their development’s going. And that’s something that will be in my leadership arsenal forever. 

Now just making sure that I have those one on ones, even when I go back to travelling, I’ll do that, but I’ve also just changed my leadership style as well on how I am showing up for the team, particularly when the team’s going through more macroeconomic challenges and stressors in their lives than ever before. And they’ve had to blend their professional personal lives almost overnight. 

So how I’m showing up to be a really empathetic and compassionate leader, bringing in different conversations in our town hall meetings, or even in my one on one, asking how I can support employees, how is their mental health, those are some of the things that I’ve really adapted my approach and leading with the heart a little bit more.


Alex (14:26):

Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. I think we definitely need more and more of that.


FINITE (14:30):

The FINITE community and podcast are kindly supported by 93x, the digital marketing working exclusively with ambitious fast growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams in B2B technology companies to drive growth.


How do you encourage employee engagement on a day to day level? 

Alex (14:49):

Are there other ways that you manage day to day. You talked about one-to-ones, which are always a great tool, but it sounds like you’re doing them, or you’ve done them across the entire team rather than just your direct reports. Are there other ways that you’ve been encouraging engagement? I know you mentioned cameras on and I’m always intrigued by the cameras on calls thing. Did that happen quite naturally for you? 

I know certain cultures are still very much just cameras off on every call, others are not forced, but encouraged, like, come on guys, we’re working remotely, let’s show our faces. It will help. And other cultures where it just happens because people felt like it was the natural thing to do.


Kristi (15:32):

That’s absolutely what I’ve observed as well. Alex, I join our team operational reviews and staff meetings across different teams, just so I can be closer to the employees and their day to day work. And I’ve observed there is a different culture, even team aspect to whether people have their cameras on. 

I typically, with my leadership team, we have our cameras on a lot, but I also want to be mindful that it may not be an optimal time for someone when we’re doing meetings or they may have to do it in their apartment or condo. That isn’t always ideal to have their camera on as well. 

So it’s that awareness and support to employees, encourage it when it’s available, but know that it’s not always possible from that particular example. But from a larger perspective, engagement is one of the most important things that I’m responsible for. And as I moved into the CMO role, I really started to, although I was hired in for a lot of my marketing expertise, I’m ultimately a leader of people to get the best out of them and to inspire them to do great things. 

So this engagement piece is a top priority for me, it’s a top priority for the company. We like to do quarterly engagement surveys, where we ask our employees regular questions around their overall engagement. One example is, would you recommend our company to your family or friends? It’s that almost NPS core question. And it’s a great pulse on our internal culture. 

If someone is willing to recommend, it’s a great indicator if they’re happy and whether or not they want to show up every day and do great things. So that’s one of our barometers of how well we’re doing, but there’s so much that we’ve been driving to help change the culture to be the best we’ve got. I mentioned this town hall piece. 

We’ve experimented with that over the last two years to make sure that we’re adapting to this new reality, the pandemic, but also just making sure that it’s really hitting the mark. We’ve started including a customer story in every town hall. And that just gets the team really close to the impact we’re making in the world and that they’re making through their marketing activities. We’ve brought in mental health topics. 

So we can destigmatize what it might look like to ask for some additional support and what resources we have available in the company. We’ve increased our communication with new letters and experimented with other ways, but we’ve got a lot of different activities. And I’d say my whole leadership team is really focused on this initiative with me.


How can you celebrate wins virtually? 

Alex (18:19):

Cool. It sounds like there’s a lot that you’re thinking about, which is great. You mentioned a little while ago, the performance side too, and it is impossible to talk about anything to do with marketing, without thinking a little bit about the performance picture. 

We’re talking obviously about engagement and keeping people engaged. But I wonder what that relationship is like with just performance generally, in terms of, is it harder to have a culture of celebrating results and performance? And is that also something that you’ve felt like you had to work harder at to celebrate those wins? 

Cause I know it’s easy for those when you work remotely or hybrid to just when something great happens or when there’s an achievement, it’s easy for them to just onto the next thing and you don’t celebrate them enough when you’re not all in the same room together.


Kristi (19:00):

It’s a really good topic for us as leaders to think about how much are we celebrating? It’s been a big topic for us, Alex, over the last couple years, as we got deeper into some of the engagement and spent time with our employees. One of the pillars we really focus on is this engagement piece after strategy, and then the communication is prioritising our people. 

And part of that is celebrating and recognising when we’re winning and just individual achievements. A couple of the ways that we’ve brought that to life in the last year, Alex, is we started a marketing excellence awards and what we found was that we were celebrating team events. 

And then we were doing individual spot awards for employees, but we weren’t looking at all the big achievements that were related to our core values. We have nine core values to showcase when individuals and teams did extraordinary work throughout the year. 

So we just hosted our first event last month to recognise all the work for 2021. And it was one of my favourite things to do to see. It’s peer nominated, Alex. So individual marketers recognise their peers to see the work that the team was doing.

And although I’m close to a lot of it, I don’t see all of it. And it’s also special when the teams recognise that and to be recognised in a big way. So we had different levels of recognition and awards, but I think just that the sheer platform and venue for employees to feel recognised and highlight their work was one of the most special things we’ve done in that way.


What tools can help with engaging a virtual team? 

Alex (20:44):

Yeah. That sounds like a great initiative. And I think it’s so important. I know it’s so easy to jump through those periods and forget about them slightly. Are there any tools, technologies, things that you do? We talked about video cameras and video calls and all the usual stuff, but is there anything beyond the usual that you’ve been using to encourage engagement or do things differently at all?


Kristi (21:04):

So at Fortive, our parent company, we have a lot of business tools that were typically designed for in person. So we’ve had to adapt a lot. We’ve got this culture of continuous improvement, Alex, on how are we creating, deeply understanding problems and leveraging some of our world class tools to help the teams solve those or drive initiatives. So one of the ways that we’ve adapted and one of the tools I’ve really loved in the last couple years is Miro, for collaborating and brainstorming. It’s been a terrific tool for us. 

And in a way I think it’s gonna really augment some of the in-person work that we do as we get more in person engagement. Asana is the other one we have historically used for a lot of spreadsheet management. We use Asana and it’s been incredible for a global team to drive more transparency and activities that are happening and just more manageable for the team to navigate and manage different programs and initiatives. But those are two, probably my favourites.


Alex (22:03):

Yeah. I’m a big Miro fan. Those virtual whiteboards are great. And actually, I guess you can use them in an in person environment too in a very similar way, but best of both worlds. Which kind of leads me onto the next question around the future of remote, hybrid, office. 

I don’t know what your policy is as a business moving forwards, but where do you see things going in terms of that future? Do you think you’ll just be a pretty consistent balance of the best of both worlds and hybrid working? Or a bit more of a return back to the office?


Kristi (22:34):

What we believe and what we’ve seen from the work in the last two years, and also our employees, is some of it is determined by the team that the employee’s on. So if you’re an engineer that needs access to hardware and you need to come into an office that might mandate and provide some additional requirements for your core team. 

For the marketing team and for a lot of our digital workers, we’ve been really successful and powerful in remote work. So we’re gonna balance this in person and hybrid and really take some of that employee feedback where they’ve appreciated that hyper structure and the flexibility. 

So we’ll do some return to work and office and we’ll do some person engagements, but we’re also really going to encourage and support employees that want a little more of a hybrid or balanced lifestyle by working in their home or in the office.


How can you encourage diversity and inclusion in a remote environment?

Alex (23:31):

Cool. I know one other area that’s really important to you is diversity and inclusivity and should be important to all of us these days. Maybe you can talk a bit more about that from your perspective and how that fits into the remote environment where that’s relevant?


Kristi (23:47):

Absolutely. This is a topic really close to my heart. I co-lead our Allies Across Fortive, which is an employee and friends resource group at the Fortive level, but I also hold a nice platform to be able to influence the marketing organisation more broadly. It’s also a really big priority at Fortive.

So it’s great to be where I am and have the support across the corporation within a remote environment. Alex, what we’ve seen is we’ve been able to create more diverse opportunities for our talent because of more flexibility in where people can work. 

So that opens us to where people work and how successful we can be without being in person all the time, and it has expanded where we might hire people. So that’s been a great advancement. For me, particularly as a leader I’m really engaged in making sure that all voices are heard. 

So little things we’re doing: prior to meetings, making sure that I’m sharing the agenda and topics in advance to provide a balanced perspective, maybe introverts can spend a little bit more time looking at it. Also for our teams who’s English is a second language, they get to review it in advance. 

We’re also encouraging and getting our leaders and teams to think about tools like raising the hand function. That encourages just a varied participation and not always the loudest person in the room. I’m just reading Erica Dhawan’s digital body language, which has been a great book to think about how we’re creating inclusive environments. 

And there’s just little things that we can do every day, but we’ve also encouraged everything at our company, from leadership expectations and how we create inclusive environments to how a bottoms up opportunity, where we’ve got a lot of employees and friends resource groups within Tektronix and Fortive, where employees can have a access to adjusting or influencing the culture and having an impact as well. 

We’re also looking at our talent pipeline to make sure that we are creating enough diversity in the pipeline because we’ve seen it to be true time and time again, when we’ve got a more diverse perspective in our teams, the outcome is just so much better. So those are a few things, hopefully it helps share a range of what we’re doing to create a really inclusive culture and diverse teams.


Alex (26:13):

Absolutely. And I know that you at Tektronix, your president is one of the few presidents who’s a woman in technology. I know that’s also a big area that it sounds like the entire business, including the parent company, works a lot on. And I guess that having that leader and that effect across the whole organisation is hopefully really, really amplified there. But are there other things that Tektronix does to actively empower women in technology in that sense?


Kristi (26:42):

Yeah, I think that role model piece of it, Alex is so important. I know when I started at Tektronix 13 years ago, there weren’t as many female role models. And so I remember as an early career employee, would it be possible for me to be an executive or to be president? 

So having those role models for our employees is so powerful because we oftentimes, if we don’t see someone that looks like us in these roles, we don’t know if it’s possible. So first and foremost, just the diversity of our employees from the leadership down is an incredible step forward. 

And I think something I’m really proud of that we’re doing at Tektronix and Fortive, when we’ve got that diversity of thought and perspective and representation at different levels, it also brings to light ways that we can clear the path and lead the way for our employees with ways that we’re sponsoring employees with new opportunities or creating more inclusive environments. 

That allows employees to bring themselves to work their whole selves, to work and really contribute the way that brings the best out in them. So the role model piece is huge. We educate our teams on how to be allies to women and to people of colour within the company and underrepresented minorities. 

And then we also just encourage and expect leaders teams to drive action. So one example with my team, we started the year and all taking one action, my leadership team, what were we all going to do to create a more diverse and inclusive culture? So, it’s taking accountability and is a big part of how we drive change within the technology space.


Alex (28:25):

Cool. Some great initiatives and ideas that you’ve shared. We’re pretty much out of time. So I’m gonna wrap up there, but I’m grateful for you sharing everything. And I think lots of good healthy food for thought for anyone that’s been listening. So thank you again for joining.


Kristi (28:42):

Oh, it was a pleasure to be here and thanks for all the thoughtful questions. I had a wonderful time.


FINITE (28:49):

Thanks for listening. We’re super busy at FINITE building the best community possible for marketers working in the B2B technology sector to connect, share, learn, and grow along with our podcast. We host monthly online events run interview series, share curated content and have an active Slack community with members from London, New York, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Melbourne, and many more to strengthen your marketing knowledge and connect with ambitious B2B tech marketers across the globe. Head to finite.community and apply for a free membership.

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