Denise Umubyeyi and Jasmine Shells are putting their own spin on company culture with Five to Nine, a culture engagement solution that increases workplace connectivity and inclusion while providing analytics to drive people strategy. In this interview, Umubyeyi and Shells share their thoughts on community, culture, and confidence.
Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ‘em -- but according to recent studies, it’s the can’t live without ‘em aspect that should have you worried. According to a recent study, having fewer social ties in your personal and professional life can lead to heart disease, impaired immune functions, and an assortment of other health problems. In addition, co-workers with a “best friend at work”, are reported by Gallup, to be 7x more productive.
It’s a growing issue among younger generations; in fact, more than half of all Millennials say they want closer relationships with their co-workers. This will become increasingly more important as millennials will be 75% of the workforce by 2025. But it’s fair to say that in today’s workforce, there are certain ‘rules’ that govern the way we interact with each other; marketing employees connect with other marketing employees, sales employees connect with other sales employees -- but never with their co-workers who sit on the other side of the office -- much less their department. It’s a problem that Jasmine Shells saw all too often in the workplace..
"Outside of silos, culture within companies revolves around the experiences and events management puts together to curate a positive and inclusive company culture. The way management currently organizes and manages these opportunities is extremely inefficient. For instance, the communication strategy is currently fragmented and the ROI on these opportunities are not consistently measured. We optimize the time and investment companies place on culture by seamlessly helping them bring their employees opportunities that engage them all." – Jasmine Shells, Co-founder, Five to Nine
And that’s exactly what Shells -- and college friend, Denise Umubyeyi -- set out to do. To help companies improve relationships between departments and teams, Shells and Umubyeyi built Five to Nine, a B2B platform for companies that leverages data collection, analysis, and culture management to better connect employees internally and externally over communities of interest and to measure those outcomes.
"By using the platform, companies can easily de-silo their teams, bring more organizational capacity through more streamlined and time-efficient communication, and utilize analytics to drive the employee experience instead of shooting in the dark for what sticks. There’s a science to it. We go to companies, assess the gaps they have, and show them demographic insights that illustrate how employees are involved from a culture perspective. From there, companies can craft experiences to better meet the needs of employees. This is critical especially with an increasingly diversified workforce… we often see that the diverse employees are often left out of the culture-building process” – Denise Umubyeyi, Co-founder, Five to Nine
And while Five to Nine is focused on helping companies break down silos and improve communication, Shells says that the platform also serves another purpose.
“Management wants to build culture to retain their employees and be considered one of the best places to work, but are currently designing the employee experience with blindspots. We surface what those blind spots are by leveraging employee data to inform inclusive, culture strategies. We know this is a key issue as 94% of executives believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success, however 64% of employees feel they do not have a strong work culture. We’re closing that gap and that’s a huge part of our mission.” – Jasmine Shells, Co-founder, Five to Nine
Although both Shells and Umubyeyi embarked on this mission with a significant amount of entrepreneurial experience, they began looking for an accelerator to grow their platform. That’s when they heard about WiSTEM, 1871’s 12-week accelerator for women entrepreneurs.
“WiSTEM’s programming is structured to help us become more poised for the funding stage and present companies in the best light. It’s also a community that supports and brings women entrepreneurs together so that they can share their tough experiences and empower each other. That type of network is very important but also hard to find.” – Denise Umubyeyi, Co-founder, Five to Nine
For Umubyeyi, ‘tough experiences’ might be an understatement. Born in Rwanda, she was forced to move at young age and lost everything as a displaced refugee. Umubyeyi’s family then fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they stayed until ethnic violence forced them to flee once more. Despite countless challenges, she eventually escaped the violence, graduated from the University of Notre Dame, secured a position as an Associate in an executive search firm, serves on the board of directors of a children’s resource center, and helped create a powerful social wellness platform.
“When things become difficult, I always try to remind people to keep a sense of optimism. As a minority, especially being black and also being a woman, there are a lot of things that seem to be stacked against you. If you don’t stay positive then you’re just adding another hurdle for yourself. Of course you need to be realistic, but seeing the cup as half full will get you through a lot of storms.” – Denise Umubyeyi, Co-founder, Five to Nine
And for those who see the cup as half empty? Perhaps they just need a friend with a fresh perspective – and thankfully, we know someone who can provide the introduction.
Learn more about the WiSTEM program here.
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