Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving, examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Denver: For this edition, we make our way up to Truman Avenue in Yonkers, New York and to the headquarters of Consumer Reports. We will begin with their President and CEO, Marta Tellado and then you will hear from some of the other members of the team.
Marta: We like to call ourselves, our culture, one-CR culture. One-CR culture is that, we have to keep our focus on our mission. Our mission is social impact, making a difference, bending the marketplace and putting consumers first. That means we have to have a very open and collaborative culture because it’s the testing and the journalism, as well as working in tandem with the advocacy that creates change in the marketplace. That means that we have to do a lot of cross-teaming and cross-functional work. That’s challenging to do, but we’re trying to create the spaces and the opportunities for our teams to get out and create teams around those products.
Omar: I think we have a great internal communications system. Our TVs all across the Yonkers offices, and I know in DC as well, how this ongoing – either it’s news clips or updates or what – our content team, our policy team, our advocacy team has been working. We have so many media clips that we can display and share, so everyone across the department no matter what will always see these spots about what we’re working on.
Laura: The reason it’s just coming out today is because our fact checking team has been all over it. It’s been an insane experience filling through this piece and making sure I can verify single beat that we’re not saying anything that isn’t true. I feel like it’s almost a metaphor for “Oh, it’s CR culture.” Because we are so dedicated to truth and so specific in how we approach that… I was shocked when I came here. There’s no fake news. There’s real results, real testing, and real advocacy work that we do, your research, we’re data-driven and our reporting is so well backed up by our extremely good fact checking team. I think that there’s transparency. For example, I actually work with a lot of different teams in my role. Sometimes, I’ll here about a project that one team is working on. It’s not a secret. I can go and talk to someone else about it, and you’ll realize that we’re all communicating and all really understanding what each other is working on. No silos.
Emma: One of our core value is independence. I personally screen any donation over a certain threshold for conflict of interest. If the CEO of Dyson Vacuums wanted to give us a ton of money, we would actually return that money to him. We would say, “We’re so sorry. Love the active generosity but we rate your products. We can’t have our integrity, our independence compromised.” When people hear about that conflict of interest policy in the guardrails that we have in place, I often get a lot of surprise.
Grant: I remember when I first came to Consumer Reports here in the Yonkers office about four years ago, I looked at the outside of the facility and I said, is this the right place? It looks like somebody’s post office or something like that. But when I first came inside and I saw the atrium which was designed by the same group that designed the Google’s offices in the city, I said, “Wow, there’s so much more going on in here than you actually realize.
Jennifer: Now, the interaction and the collaboration and the transparency is a good word, with our subscribers for one; we are asking much more often what they want, what they need. Even the transition of calling them subscribers to members has happened recently. We really look at it more as a partnership than a push. Manufacturers, it is much more common to have a manufacturer here not just to say what products do you have or, hey, there’s something wrong with your product but more a technology interaction; what’s coming in the industry, what are the trends do you feel our test protocols are in keeping with the products. Much more of that interaction.
Elias: The other thing is they stretch my weakness which is not a favorable experience because when my boss sees that I like to work on my own, she’s asking me now to delegate and so I have to leverage or learn a new skill or stretch and say, Okay, I need to be more of a leader here. I need to engage with others and trust that others will carry the ball along with me and not just do the work on my own. I like that. I’m engaged in that way to become more comfortable in ways that I have not been comfortable in. and that’s actually grown in me. It’s easier now to let go and let others work with you and get more done and be more focused on some of the other things that get thrown my way.
Omar: There are these now business resource groups, BRGs, that represent different affinity groups with an organization, so there is one that represents Latinx folks and people who connect to that culture, African-Americans, millennials, LGBTQ, women, and I think there might be another one that I’m missing. I think those groups have created a nice forum for those who hold those affinities to talk about issues that affect them and how they can work to promote those issues within the organization and have it incorporated into our work as well where it makes sense.
Octavio: I think that it’s very interesting proposition for a new employee to be somewhere that’s changing and see how you can effect change towards the greater good that you’d like to see, and diversity and inclusion are something that I’ve always felt passionate about. It was one of the reasons that I think I was hired was because of that passion and because of what I represent. Upon joining, I noticed that there’s a lot of effort being made to hire more broadly whether it be racial identity, LGBTQ, women in their positions, our leader. That’s one of the big reasons why I felt compelled to coming is that I really want to work under Martha, a Cuban woman who’s leading one of the most vulnerable organizations in the world. To be part of that is really really special.
Monica: I remember at the beginning thinking , wow, I’m doing a lot work here. You got this job. I better get it. I had to have a screening with the recruiter and HR, and then I had a hiring manager conversation, then they brought me in for the first round of interviews with a few folks, and they brought me in for another round of interviews. At the end of the day, I think I spoke to 10 or 11 different people. I remember being like, “Oh my God, wow. This is a process.” But once I got hired and I came, I realized actually how beneficial that was because I already knew 10 people coming in through the door, and it was 10 people that I was going to be working with on a pretty consistent basis. It actually already helps establish some of those relationships really early on, and I’ve really grew appreciation for the process.
Emma: And we ended up doing this research project where we looked at millennial consumer behavior in the areas of product testing and purchasing, content and online engagement and then philanthropy. We road showed it around the organization and we got to present it to our leadership team. The feedback we’ve gotten from that and the projects that have now come in the works because people are, “Oh, you guys know what you’re talking about. Let’s tap you for these projects.” That has been one of the most rewarding things that I’ve worked on here. having that leadership exposure, having the opportunity to do research, present it, get feedback, then do really cool things with it, and it’s something that I don’t think I would have gained in previous employment.
Grant: We completely changed that where everybody now has an opportunity to present on an individual topic they would like to but then at the end, we save time for that presenter to present about five things about them that we wouldn’t know kind of a thing. It’s all personal based off, and the team has absolutely responded to that so well. Not only the people that are presenting the things but the people that are listening just have a zillion questions about stuff, and it’s a great teambuilding opportunity but you see different pockets of this. I think it goes back to how interested people are in different cultures and how welcoming they are when they have.
Jennifer: We have been afforded a lot of technology that helps particularly coming from being a working mother and being at a remote location to the Yonkers headquarters, the ability to connect to any meeting with a press of a button is huge because inevitably, the kids are sick on the day when you have a boatload of meetings. Our IT department, the fact that we all have individual laptops, that each of the conference rooms have this connect-ability means that I can be attending to a sick child and connecting to my meetings without missing a beat. It means that we at Auto Testing Connecticut feel has integrated into what’s going on at Yonkers at the press of a button. It can even be our phones. I can be sitting at an airport and still be in a meeting.
Elias: My first day on the job, they brought me straight into a heated meeting over a content that was going to be published shortly. They actually asked my input. I saw my input as part of the results in the publication from the very first day. From there, experiencing going to another state and being on TV and then doing a Super Bowl radio program, 50 different interviews. My first year was insane and then, I was happy a year later to be promoted. It was just my onboard experience that just felt like I’m never stopped. From the minute I got in the door, I came straight to an important meeting. I was like, I’m in this meeting. Everybody including my new bosses are in here, and then they’re saying, “Okay, Elias. What do you think about this reading the story?”
Monica: I’ve always had to fight the fight for why people should listen to the data, why people should care about the consumer and listen to what the consumer says. It was very refreshing to come here and not have to fight that fight. I felt like people actually listen and they want the information and we’re almost over-subscribed which is a great problem to have. I think that the fact that we’re data-driven but also really working hard to put the consumer at the center, at the heart of everything we do, and really actually live by the name Consumer Reports I think is just amazing.
Jennifer: Car stuff tends to be interesting to a lot of our members particularly when it’s Tesla car stuff. What proved to be super collaborative is that that process went from literally the car on the track who hit the brake pedal, who came in and said, “Some of these brake distances are rather long.” From there, a process of repeating, so a lot of engineering work goes into repeat, make sure our data is consistent. All of our channels, video, external relations. I was reaching out to Tesla. They’re literally talking to Elon Musk, legal, digital, now creating the model pages, correcting the ratings, social, CRTV. There is all of this. Communications now is reaching out to media. And all of these cylinders have to fire at the same time because this is our data. This is our news moment.
Denver: I wanna thank Barry Rosen and Laura Spina for organizing my visit and to all those who participated in this piece: Elias Arias, Omar Hakim, Octavio, Monica, Laura Murphy, Emma Pyle, Grant Repsher, and Jennifer Stockburger. To hear this again, read the transcript, or see pictures of the participants and the offices, just go to denver-frederick.com and we will have a link there posted to my full interview with Marta Tellado, the President and CEO of Consumer Reports.
The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving