People Manager
November 11, 2020

“Don’t Get Stuck in the Spreadsheet Math”: Employee Experience Advice from Mike Malloy, CPO of Rocket Mortgage

In Detroit, where we’re based, some people talk “Rocket”. It’s a language you learn working at one of the area’s biggest employers. And it’s a language shaped by “the ISMs,” a list of 19 sayings and Yoda-like guidelines that together define the company’s culture. The 19 ISMs are so central to the company culture that they were included in the recent IPO filing under the company’s new name, Rocket Companies.

Everyone who works at the company has their favorite ISM. I recently talked to Mike Malloy, Chief People Officer at Rocket Mortgage, who told me his favorite: “Yes before no.” To Mike, “yes before no” means that you’re inspired, energized, and guided by good ideas. You take your direction from people and from your values, not from a spreadsheet.

This is important guidance to remember right now, when everyone is facing a few tough realities:

  • The future for most businesses is uncertain at best.
  • Employees are stressed, stretched, and in major need of connection.
  • The employee experience is suddenly a completely digital experience.
  • Budgets are often slim, and many leaders are pretty tied to their spreadsheets, for good reason.

“There’s a strong desire out there in most organizations to grind things down to the last basis point,” Mike says. “We’re a very successful company, and we understand how to generate revenue and margin. But we don’t allow ourselves to get caught up in short-term thinking. ROI is a good concept, but like anything, when it’s taken to the extreme, it becomes a ‘no before yes’ mentality, whereas our ISMs say ‘yes before no.’”

Here’s how “yes before no” played out in the company’s quick shift to remote working when COVID hit in March. “On the first day we started sending people home, about 8,000 team members did not have work-from-home capabilities,” he says. “Five days later, all 20,000 of our team members were home and working remotely. During that time, if we had just looked at the spreadsheet math, and we didn’t have trust or the right attitude, we couldn’t have done it. We set up a drive-through. People would drive up, show their badge, and tell us what they needed — a laptop, a webcam, monitors. And they took it and drove off. We sent millions of dollars in equipment out the door.”

Instead of turning down ideas quickly, Mike says, “we say, ‘How can we accomplish this?’ We don’t turn our backs on an idea that has been brought forward just because the spreadsheet says not to do it.”

And instead of worrying that people won’t do the right thing with all that equipment or their new hours working from home, he says that Rocket leaders ask, “How much better can we be? What can we do in this new environment that’s different? How can we listen, and how can we ramp up our communication to humanize this experience?”

I asked his advice for leaders who want to build a positive employee experience right now. His answer was simple: “Don’t get stuck in the spreadsheet math. Take a long view of culture. Invest in your culture and you’ll invest in the success of the business.”

I hope his advice is helpful for you as you make tough decisions about employee experience and how work is going to work for the next few months. I know Mike’s advice helped me.

Looking for more advice like this? Download our eBook on How to Build a Best-in-Class Digital Workplace below. You might see some words of wisdom from Mike himself.

How C-Suite Leaders Built an Exceptional Digital Workplace

Everyone wants to build a great employee experience, and the need for a robust digital workplace has been written in neon since COVID disrupted business as usual. But how do you put this into practice? Learn from 8 C-Suite Leaders from Rocket Mortgage, a leading financial services firm, on how they have built an exceptional employee experience.
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A monthly collection of the latest Sift content, thought pieces, and resources, we keep you updated on what's going on in the world of work and Sift.

In Detroit, where we’re based, some people talk “Rocket”. It’s a language you learn working at one of the area’s biggest employers. And it’s a language shaped by “the ISMs,” a list of 19 sayings and Yoda-like guidelines that together define the company’s culture. The 19 ISMs are so central to the company culture that they were included in the recent IPO filing under the company’s new name, Rocket Companies.

Everyone who works at the company has their favorite ISM. I recently talked to Mike Malloy, Chief People Officer at Rocket Mortgage, who told me his favorite: “Yes before no.” To Mike, “yes before no” means that you’re inspired, energized, and guided by good ideas. You take your direction from people and from your values, not from a spreadsheet.

This is important guidance to remember right now, when everyone is facing a few tough realities:

  • The future for most businesses is uncertain at best.
  • Employees are stressed, stretched, and in major need of connection.
  • The employee experience is suddenly a completely digital experience.
  • Budgets are often slim, and many leaders are pretty tied to their spreadsheets, for good reason.

“There’s a strong desire out there in most organizations to grind things down to the last basis point,” Mike says. “We’re a very successful company, and we understand how to generate revenue and margin. But we don’t allow ourselves to get caught up in short-term thinking. ROI is a good concept, but like anything, when it’s taken to the extreme, it becomes a ‘no before yes’ mentality, whereas our ISMs say ‘yes before no.’”

Here’s how “yes before no” played out in the company’s quick shift to remote working when COVID hit in March. “On the first day we started sending people home, about 8,000 team members did not have work-from-home capabilities,” he says. “Five days later, all 20,000 of our team members were home and working remotely. During that time, if we had just looked at the spreadsheet math, and we didn’t have trust or the right attitude, we couldn’t have done it. We set up a drive-through. People would drive up, show their badge, and tell us what they needed — a laptop, a webcam, monitors. And they took it and drove off. We sent millions of dollars in equipment out the door.”

Instead of turning down ideas quickly, Mike says, “we say, ‘How can we accomplish this?’ We don’t turn our backs on an idea that has been brought forward just because the spreadsheet says not to do it.”

And instead of worrying that people won’t do the right thing with all that equipment or their new hours working from home, he says that Rocket leaders ask, “How much better can we be? What can we do in this new environment that’s different? How can we listen, and how can we ramp up our communication to humanize this experience?”

I asked his advice for leaders who want to build a positive employee experience right now. His answer was simple: “Don’t get stuck in the spreadsheet math. Take a long view of culture. Invest in your culture and you’ll invest in the success of the business.”

I hope his advice is helpful for you as you make tough decisions about employee experience and how work is going to work for the next few months. I know Mike’s advice helped me.

Looking for more advice like this? Download our eBook on How to Build a Best-in-Class Digital Workplace below. You might see some words of wisdom from Mike himself.

Get Our Newsletter

The Forge

A monthly collection of the latest Sift content, thought pieces, and resources, we keep you updated on what's going on in the world of work and Sift.