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How Dashlane turned HR upside down

January 31, 2023

In this blog, we share some invaluable insights from a visionary leader who’s taken a sledgehammer to traditional HR approaches. Buckle up for our latest ride through the company building galaxy.

Lessons from Dashlane on disrupting traditional HR

Over at Scaling Stories, we were delighted to speak with Mafalda Garcês, the Country Leader and Senior People Director at Dashlane, the renowned password manager.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Mafalda shared her vision for how HR should not be viewed as some distant department where CVs get scanned and envelopes get stamped, but rather, “a central piece of solving business problems… because usually problems are created by people or solved by people”.

Mafalda works with the senior leadership at Dashlane to help them develop (and implement) people initiatives. In order to do this, Mafalda believes in doing a “proper organisational analysis” to understand business objectives, then get under the skin of what’s working (and not working) in a company’s approach to hiring talent, and then deploy “tailor-made” solutions.

Mafalda shares just some of the ways she approaches this ‘diagnosis and intervention’ at Dashlane:

  • Hiring leaders are encouraged to “always hear our internal clients frequently and systematically”. This can be as simple as holding one-to-ones involving “everyone in your organisation”, or more opportunities for “group moments where we can talk to folks and see what’s going on”.
  • Dashlane aren’t afraid to “use company surveys…to really get a picture of where we are”. This can highlight “the problems we are solving and the blockers we have”.
  • Mafalda has developed an “HR toolbox” with “specific proven tools and knowledge” to shape decisions. This includes everything from awareness of bias and protocols for remote working to data analysis on patterns of organisational behaviour.

Mafalda’s approach is the antithesis of ‘traditional HR’. She is not a fan of process for the sake or process, or as she explains: “My approach is a little bit different because I think we should always criticise why we have those processes.” 

And she understands the interconnectedness between an individual’s ability to perform and the health of a business. “We are all living our own mini startup – that is our career”, Mafalda says.

Mafalda also explains why it’s important to have an adaptable approach when problems arise, and offer a human solution. For example, when there is a conflict between staff, “we can go through the normal process of coaching the manager in order for the manager to talk with the person”, or alternatively, “if we have the right level of rapport with the folks involved, maybe we can facilitate a discussion. Maybe we can use radical candour to move past that conflict”.

On the subject of coaching, one of the great innovations at Dashlane is their strong “coaching culture”. In fact, every manager gets a dedicated person who will happily meet them weekly, listen to a brainstorm, and help them “understand more about themselves and more about their teams”. Often, the managers who benefit from the coaches will later become a coach themselves.

“It's basically a one-on-one relationship that we build with every single manager and in my view this is worth more than any MBA or any type of management training,” Mafalda says.

And perhaps this breaking down of the barriers between managers and the ‘managed’ is catching on. Salesforce now has a scorecard where direct reports can rank the performance of their managers (it turns out around 90% approve of their bosses).

There were lots of fantastic insights in our discussion, and Mafalda is a living testament to the idea that the most essential voices are often those with the courage to go against the grain.

Ben Horowitz on performance management

Picking up on some of the themes in our discussion with Mafalda, we were reminded of Ben Horowitz’s excellent book, ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’, which describes some of the things HR departments should (and shouldn’t) be doing.

“A high quality human resources organisation cannot make you a well-managed company with a great culture, but it can tell you when you and your managers are not getting the job done.”

Ben then hones in on some of the key questions HR leaders should ask themselves (clue: it’s not about Christmas party invites and lanyards).

There is a time and a place for culture-building, but perhaps there are more day-to-day concerns for HR teams to wrestle with first.

P.S. You can read a summary of the book online, or better yet, order a copy and add to your desk clutter.

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