Cultivating a Culture of Learning & Growth With Marie Potter, Sr. Director of Culture & Development, Getty
August 1, 2023
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If you’ve ever designed educational content or published an article online, there’s a good chance you’ve used Getty Images. But Getty is more than just a giant in visual content—it’s also a leader in promoting inclusivity, employee learning, and global connectivity.
In this LEARN Podcast episode, Marie Potter, Senior Director of Culture and Development at Getty Images, shares her insights about forging connections on global teams, creating an environment where continuous growth can flourish, and why L&D leaders should strive to encourage what she calls moments and movement.
Moving the world
Marie describes herself as an “accidental HR person” who transitioned to the corporate world after 15 years in higher education. Since joining the company as a learning and development manager in 2017, she’s become the Senior Director of Culture and Development at Getty Images.
“Coming to a place like Getty has been awesome,” she says, pointing out that both she and the organization are highly mission-driven. So what is that mission?
She summarizes the vision that’s propelled Getty Images—which also includes the brands iStock and Unsplash—to become the world leader in visual content.
“At Getty, we believe in the power of imagery and that the perfect image or video can make you think, feel, or act,” she says. “It drives home your message, elevates your brand, and fits your budget.” Getty’s mission, she says, is to help businesses of all types and sizes connect and engage with their audiences in an increasingly digital and visual world.”
It’s a mission, she says, that’s pretty beautiful, and that’s to move the world.
However, as she also points out, setting a mission is only one step—it’s equally important for organizations to think about how they can support and develop their team members to accomplish their goals.
For example, it’s essential to build both a sense of community and a culture of learning. It’s also crucial to hire and develop exceptional talent—for instance, using strategies like upskilling and asynchronous learning, while also looking at data to ensure teams are diverse and inclusive.
So, what are some ways that Marie and her team at Getty are putting it all into practice?
Employee connectivity: building a sense of community
Getty Images is a massive organization with offices from London to Tokyo and a remote-hybrid workforce of 1,700 employees. How does it maintain a sense of community when its team members are scattered across the globe? Or, as Marie frames the question, “How do we foster connectivity so that people are engaged, feel seen, [and] feel valued?”
It’s all about transparency, communication, and collaboration, says Marie, who credits Getty’s culture of trust and flexibility with helping the company successfully ride out the disruptions caused by COVID-19. When trust and transparency stay high, says Marie, so does productivity.
“We’ve moved to this hybrid work model,” she says, with some workers creating their connections in the office. But for remote workers like Marie, she explains, Getty uses tech like Zoom and Slack to help teams stay connected.
Whether workers are remote or in-office, “We’ve been really focused on employee connectivity,” she says—from random coffee dates over Zoom to informal chats with executive leaders.
So how are some of those teams actually organized? What does culture and development mean for an organization as large as Getty Images?
“We’re talking about three verticals,” Marie explains: learning and development, diversity and inclusion (DEI&B), and people analytics—currently, a team of one she hopes to grow in the future. “We sit in the HR function and focus on those three intersecting verticals.”
“The nine of us roll into our Chief People Officer Lizanne Vaughn, who’s a fantastic leader,” she continues, emphasizing how crucial it is to have buy-in, trust, and support from executive leadership—something she calls the make-or-break-it point for L&D and DEI&B.
“When you have buy-in and trust from those leaders,” she says, “people follow that. It encourages followership towards learning, [having a] growth mindset, and inclusion.”
Moments and movement: building a culture of learning and growth
Coffee dates and informal chats don’t just build a sense of community—they also build a culture of learning by opening up the flow of knowledge between teams and individuals.
“We’re just taking 30 minutes to say, ‘How’s your day going? What are you working on? What are you learning about the business?'”
Marie also points out that employees at Getty are embracing connectivity and forming their own communities, such as communities around information science or project management. This gives people who might never otherwise have a reason to interact—for instance because they’re in different locations—the opportunity to sharpen and add to each other’s knowledge and skills. For example, two project managers might discuss issues like what upskilling is needed or where learning programs should be focused next.
“They’re building their own connections,” Marie says of her team members—and in the process, they’re also building a culture of continuous learning.
As Ted sums up, it’s about using L&D and connectivity to enable each other—and, in turn, enable the organization as a whole.
“If you think about the L&D, DEI&B, and people analytics pillars,” says Marie, “they’re totally interwoven.” Connectivity and engagement, she explains, function like binds that bring the pillars together.
She also shares another insight: organizations shouldn’t view training or L&D as transactional but rather as “a series of moments and movement.” For example, “moments” might include being onboarded, getting promoted to a leadership role, or participating in an employee upskilling program.
She defines movement, on the other hand, as “growing, evolving, developing, testing things out, [and] driving engagement.” Movement extends across all aspects of the employee experience, from learning and employee well-being to diversity and inclusion, says Marie.
“I believe that as L&D professionals, we should be really actively, strongly creating those moments…and we should also be creating the movement…[so] that people are constantly pivoting, trying things out, getting curious, [and] stretching.”
As Marie points out, employee learning can be synchronous or asynchronous and involve a huge range of content and programs, from onboarding and leadership development to mentoring, training, and upskilling.
Identifying, hiring, and nurturing better teams
The role of people analytics is to look at the full employee experience in terms of lifecycle and performance analytics. Analyzing data and creating custom reports also provide insights that help ensure teams are diverse and representative.
“What that has done,” says Marie, “is allow us to look at true global data around our employee population. We do an internal culture diversity and inclusion report annually,” asking questions like whether gender and race are being represented in promotions.
That enables Getty to hold itself accountable, provide equal opportunities, and ultimately “serve our employees really well,” says Marie.
“We are customer focused, we’re inclusive, and we’re supportive—and we’re always striving for improvement.”
Check out the full episode to hear more from Marie. And subscribe to the LEARN Podcast on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast-listening apps for more expert tips and insights from industry leaders.
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