While Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are often caught up in controversies regarding users' mental health, Pinterest seems to lay low. On the site, pinners share recipes, self-care ideas, inspirational quotes, do-it-yourself wedding ideas, seasonal fashion trends, decor inspiration and more. "I hear my friends and colleagues say all the time, 'Pinterest is the only social network I go to and actually feel good about myself when I leave,'" Charlotte Fuller, the company's head of corporate communications, told HR Dive.
Pinterest has an active and growing user base. With people closed off from most social entertainment during the pandemic and looking to develop their hobbies, searches for terms like "hiking fashion," "outdoor kitchen bars" and "thrifted home decor" took off. Pinterest has grown to keep up with user demand, employing about 3,400 full-time employees and working with nearly 2,000 independent contractors, with a headquarters in San Francisco and satellite offices in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Toronto, Dublin, Mexico City and more. Thirty percent of its growth happened during the past year, Christine Deputy, chief people officer, said.
Deputy joined the company's executive team in May. The HR team looks for chances to replicate the creativity, joy and introspection users experience when interacting with the site among "pinployees" behind the scenes. "We're in a moment where we're very focused on culture and values, and really making sure that we're connecting the experience that we create for our pinners in alignment with our experience for our employees," Deputy told HR Dive.
Advancing mental health
Pinterest employees have a range of employee resource groups, or Pinterest Communities — Blackboard for Black employees, PIndigenous for indigenous employees, Pinwheels for LGBTQ employees, etc. — through which they coordinate activities and bring in speakers for staff events. One group that formed to advance awareness of and promote mental health, Pinside Out, recently launched a mental health initiative called "Pinterest Havens," which has resulted in both digital and physical projects.
In alignment with World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10, Pinside Out worked with Pinterest's marketing and communications arm, nonprofit partners and local artist Dwight White to create "Havens: Invest in Rest," an installation in Boxville, a neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. The project is "dedicated to bringing the anti-burnout oasis to life through real-life Pins, immersive art and community programming," Pinterest wrote. Pinside Out also created a handful of mental health boards to accompany the initiative.
"The thing that I think is really exciting about our work in … inclusiveness, is that it's this partnership where our employees are really motivated and energized about things … We're really trying to create that sense of energy and responsiveness to employees and what their thoughts are," Deputy said. "I think the workforce today is demanding a different level of responsiveness from employers, whether that be a point of view and having a voice outside about topics that are important to the company, whether it be the willingness to hear negative feedback or challenges when we do things that don't work, whether it be opportunities to change policies and engage in a really robust debate about whether or not we're going in the right direction."
Backing up its employees' interest in a strong approach to mental health, Pinterest offers its workers counseling benefits and unlimited time off. The company also often closes the office on the day before or after a holiday, Deputy said, providing employees a little extra time with family. "We try to give people a little bit of notice, but not too much notice," she said. "It's nice to have a surprise."
For parents, Pinterest also provides 16 weeks' paid leave and adoption and surrogacy assistance.
In addition to its employee resource groups, the company has redoubled its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. "The people team is spending a lot of our time on leadership capability, on engagement and insights, on understanding what our people need," Deputy said. "We're spending a lot of our time hiring, and really making sure that we're engaged, sourcing the right candidates and getting a diverse set of candidates to come and join the company."
Pinterest uses a diverse slate approach to candidates, which has "really made an impact," Deputy said. The company is also forging partnerships to attract diverse engineering talent, and has worked with advisors to employ a strategy of "opportunistic hiring" — a process of hiring strong candidates, even when a specific role isn't available for them.
"We build these relationships and maintain these relationships and when it's the right fit, then we can go ahead and make those hires," Deputy told HR Dive. "That's had a great impact and we've had a number of hires in that space."
The inclusive hiring efforts have begun to pay off; in 2020, roughly one-third of new hires were from underrepresented races and ethnicities (defined by Pinterest as Black, Latinx and Indigenous people). Ten percent of those new hires were in the engineering department.
Last December, Pinterest formed the Inclusive Advisory Council in partnership with the NAACP. The group is intended to "bring influential voices together to guide the company on its journey to foster a culture where all can thrive and are valued for their unique perspectives," according to a news release.
"The first topic we talked to that group about was our inclusive product initiatives and how we're working in that space," Deputy said. The company's user-facing diversity initiatives have included efforts to diminish bias in algorithms and efforts to block hateful terms.
Keeping the Pinployee culture alive
Beyond diversity and mental health initiatives intended to continuously improve upon company culture, employees also have activities that are just for fun — a way to showcase their creativity and passion for colleagues.
PinCuisine, the company's culinary team, has created holiday picnics. "In the summer, you could sign up and get a picnic basket delivered and it had goodies in an icebox," Deputy said. "It sort of creates this connection to the fun stuff that you would do in the summertime."
During an annual, company-wide celebration called Knit Con, employees spend two days putting work aside to teach each other an endless variety of skills, from pasta making and watercolor painting to disaster preparedness and speaking Russian. This past Knit Con, one employee, a former fighter pilot, taught colleagues how to land a plane on an aircraft carrier — virtually. The event aims to help employees from across the globe connect and inspires them to try new things.
"We're really doubling down on our position of being a safe and positive environment," Deputy said. "And so we need to do that with our own people as well as doing that on the site for pinners."