How Pleo is scaling a hypergrowth culture and processes using Humaans
When Jessie Danyi joined Pleo back in 2018 as part of the People team, one of her core missions going in was that she never wanted her HR tech stack to get in the way of the employee experience.
In fact, it needed to add to it.
Back then, the team was around 40 people — and it was Jessie’s job to put the processes and systems in place that were flexible enough to meet the needs of Pleo’s rapidly growing workforce, while putting the cultural foundations in place. And that mission still holds true today, as the fintech unicorn closes in on 1,000 employees before the end of the year.
Jessie explains what made her entrust part of that mission to Humaans as her HRIS — and how the platform is helping her scale a culture of trust and wellbeing at Pleo.
“Having a Humaans account is as essential to us as having a Google Suite account.”
— Jessie Danyi, People Leader, Pleo
Pleo at a glance
- Headquarters: Copenhagen, Denmark
- Additional office locations: London, Montreal, Lisbon, Berlin, Stockholm and remote
- Sector: Fintech
HR tech stack: Greenhouse, Culture Amp, Contractbook, Lattice, Slack, Google Suite, Notion, Okta, Ben
- Saved the equivalent of one full-time employee role with Humaans’ integrations
- Reduced time spend on employee holiday approvals
- Full flexibility of People processes at scale with a 2000% headcount increase
Building People processes with built-in flexibility and customisation
When Jessie joined Pleo as the company’s first People person back in 2018, Pleo already had a HRIS in place — but she felt strongly that its lack of flexibility didn’t reflect the culture the company was trying to build.
“At Pleo, we believe in giving people freedom and autonomy,” she says. “But it feels like a lot of HR tooling on the market has rigid processes and systems you’re expected to fit into as an organisation.
“Our previous tool only had three options employees could choose when they wanted to record employee leave, for example. That felt like the opposite to what we believe — that we understand people live full lives. The tool didn’t work the way we worked. It was bringing control, when we firmly believed in trusting and empowering people.”
“Our previous tool didn’t work the way we worked. It was bringing control, when we firmly believe in trusting and empowering people.”
As a result, Jessie found herself manually approving annual leave for employees. The added workload was bad enough, but she also didn’t like what that process communicated to Pleo’s growing workforce.
And as the company scaled, these limitations felt like they’d end up harming the employee experience — and that was something Jessie was keen to protect at all costs.
“Since day one at Pleo, we’ve had people working remotely — and we always believe that our remote employees are as much a part of the team as our co-located ones. But in our previous tool, we couldn’t customise holiday calendars. We had employees in Montréal who had to follow the Danish public holiday calendar. Our old tool didn’t factor in enough customisation to make this work.
“Your tool should never put limitations on your people. It should be simple-to-use, flexible, and your people shouldn’t need onboarding to use it.”
Finding a culture-add partnership in Humaans
When Jessie started the search for a new tool, she knew she wanted to move away from the all-in-one model in favour of a more customisable HR tech stack.
She needed a core HR product that could become Pleo’s central source of truth for employee data — but she also wanted something that would actively add to their culture and employee experience.
“Whenever I build a People team, I see it very much as a product to the company,” she says. “I think that every experience — every touchpoint somebody has with the People team — has an opportunity to make their experience better, or it takes away from their experience. My mission is to make sure we create a smooth experience that delights people. Our previous tool didn’t contribute to that mission.”
Integrations were top of the list. Jessie was intent on building a curated HR tech stack of best-in-class tools that fit Pleo’s rapid growth and evolving needs like a glove — rather than an off-the-peg solution.
“Our philosophy to HR tech solutions in general is that we believe our tools should play their part — and do it well. If I implement a tool that has lots of extra functionality, but I’m not using some of the tools because they don’t fit our needs, then that doesn’t add value — not to us or the business.
“Humaans stood out because it was clear to us that they had a progressive way of thinking around people that we hadn’t seen elsewhere. We could tell Humaans is making a product for companies that trust their employees.”
“For me, I think the HRIS should do one thing: It’s a single source of truth. It needs to become that connective layer to all the other tools you’re using.”
Ultimately, Jessie picked Humaans because it checked all the boxes on integrations and provided a great employee experience — but she also felt confident that Humaans was a partnership that would scale.
“Humaans stood out because it was clear to us that they had a progressive way of thinking around people that we hadn’t seen elsewhere. Right from the early days, there were 16 different reasons you could report employee leave. We could tell Humaans is making a product for companies that trust their employees.
“With Humaans, we really value being able to share our problems and try to solve them together. We feel like we’re valued partners in building something together.”
Scaling trust, transparency and employee wellbeing in an 800-strong workforce
Four years on, and a 2000% increase in headcount, Humaans has become a core part of Pleo’s People operations. From facilitating payroll to senior level reporting and employee onboarding, Humaans is a critical platform across the entire business.
“Humaans is our single source of truth — we use it for everything,” Jessie says. “Having a Humaans account is as essential to us as having a Google Suite account.”
“What’s interesting isn’t the feedback we get about Humaans — it’s the feedback we don’t get. Out of over 1,000 employees who have been through the platform, I’ve never heard anyone ask how to book a holiday or use the tool. And that intuitive user experience — that’s pretty special. Humaans does exactly what a HRIS should do.”
Employees might find Humaans intuitive to use — but Jessie says that it’s also proved to be a value-add to Pleo’s culture, too.
“One of the most empowering features for us is the time off feature,” Jessie says. “From a wellbeing perspective, we want people to come to work and be their full selves.
“Offering different types of reasons why people might be out on leave might feel like a small thing — but it’s a really subtle, visible way to encourage healthy behaviour in people. We encourage people to take wellbeing days to look after themselves — and the way that the tool is designed actually shows our people that they have permission to do that without judgement.
“If a tool can influence your culture in positive ways and say to your employees, ‘we trust you’, and that we’re not going to make them ask permission to take time off for their mental health needs or a holiday, then that goes such a long way in those moments. It communicates a level of comfort and psychological safety that’s integral to our culture.
“Humaans is such a simple, collaborative, and forward-thinking platform. We really value the partnership we’re building together.”
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