Human Resources Today

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workplace culture

Lean In Meets What to Expect: An Interview with Allyson Downey

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Lean In Meets What to Expect: An Interview with Allyson Downey

Our founder, Susan LaMotte, recently interviewed Allyson Downey, founder of weeSpring and author of Here's the Plan. Here's the Plan offers an inspiring roadmap for working mothers steering their careers through the parenting years. Ironically, Susan and Allyson have much in common -  both are entrepreneurs, MBAs, writers and mothers. In this honest interview, Allyson shares with Susan why having a plan is important for women to thrive in the workplace. This may just be the motivation new mothers need to keep shaking up—and changing—the world!

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Talent and HR News Weekly Update: The Psychology of Working Together

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Talent and HR News Weekly Update: The Psychology of Working Together

Psychology can be applied to almost everything. Wonder why companies pick certain colors to be a part of their logo? They are trying to tap into something deep into your psyche to evoke an emotion they want associated with their brand. The same applies to the workplace and working together - there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. This week's Talent and HR News Weekly Update looks into the psychology of working together. Check out the latest thinking below: 

1) Managing The “Talent” from The Work Psychology Company

"Managing talent in an organisation could be defined as being focussed upon particular people in the business, a set of characteristics or more toward a statement of identified needs for the future. Some organisations see talent as the ability to go on toward leadership & CEO status, or as McCartney & Garrow (2006) suggest as “employees that have a disproportionate impact upon the bottom line, or have the potential to do so” However the CIPD (2006) defines talent management as ‘the systematic attraction, identification, development, engagement/retention and deployment of those individuals with high potential who are of particular value to an organisation’. So how do organisations identify a talent pool or groups of individuals that will have significant effect upon the business and most interesting what do they do with the group when they have been identified?"

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Culture + Talent: Q&A with Cathy Atkins from Metis Communications

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Culture + Talent: Q&A with Cathy Atkins from Metis Communications

We often sit down with leaders of growing businesses to get their take on culture and talent. I recently spoke with Cathy Atkins, co-founder of Metis Communications, a public relations and marketing firm. Cathy has more than 17 years of experience helping companies get in front of the right audiences at the right time. With a mission of “doing our best work ever,” Metis works closely with high-growth, emerging companies that need a true business partner to help them build influence and create measurable results. The “Metis way” is something the company’s team embodies daily, which Cathy hopes will have a long-lasting effect in redrawing the boundaries for PR and marketing.  Here’s what Cathy has to say about culture and talent at Metis.

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Forget Super Bowl Sunday: Five Reasons Competition Is Good For Workplace Culture

While this year's Super Bowl ads are leaning toward thecuteness factor, the game is all about the competition. Fromsports talk radio to trash talking reporters, winning predictions, potential stars and placing betsdrive our obsession with the game. Scores, statistics, pre-game tape reviews: teams strategize how to win and rally the fans behind them. And it works. One Seahawks fan is so confident in his team, he already has a tattoo declaring Seattle as Super Bowl champions. But come Monday morning, we're back to work. Which makes me wonder: where's this kind of loyalty in the workplace? Across 2012, much of exaqueo's workforce research showed a preference for paychecks over promotions. Has the fire in the belly gone out for most workers? Have we lost the passion that drives us to do the best we can in our jobs, rally behind our company missions and strive towards greater success? Maybe tattoos aren't the answer to employee engagement, but somewhere along the climb out of the recession, employees have become complacent--perhaps understandably so. 

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Startup Culture: Q&A with Trupanion’s Darryl Rawlings

Dog A recent Wall Street Journal blog post talked about the fight for talent at startups. The blogger, Neil Blumenthal (Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Warby Parker), said, “The first step toward finding the right people is to have a deep understanding of your company’s identity.” This couldn’t be more true.

Darryl Rawlings, CEO of Trupanion (a pet insurance company whose mission is to help pets receive the best veterinary care possible), believes this to be true as well. Continuing with our Q&A series with startup leaders, today I’m sharing Mr. Rawlings  views on startup culture in his growing company and the role of Trupanion’s identity in hiring talent.

exaqueo: Does your company have a stated set of cultural values?

Darryl Rawlings, Trupanion (DR): Yes. They are: 1. We do what we say; 2. Simple is better (which is why we have one simple pet insurance plan); 3. Do not punish unlucky pets (meaning pet owners and their pets do not get punished with fees, restrictions, etc. for making claims. We want them to make claims! That’s what we’re here for!); 4. Do not be insurance-like. Be innovative and fair; 5. and We love our pets! And if you don’t, it was nice meeting you; however, you’re not a good fit for our company.

exaqueo: Can you describe your corporate culture in three words?

DR: Original, Fun, Passionate.

exaqueo: When you have made an effort to understand and strengthen your culture, what did you learn the most?

DR: I learned that the stronger the culture, the happier the team. And the happier the team, the happier they’ll make your clients.

exaqueo: What have you learned about the importance of culture that you can apply to the work you do for your clients?

DR: In my business it’s extremely important for every team member from the bottom to the top to be passionate about pets. Their passion for pets makes them passionate for clients pets. When you care about your work like we do, you do better work.

exaqueo: How do you manage having the right talent to meet rapid growth?

DR: When you’re growing as rapidly as we are, you don’t just find good leaders; you find leaders who will strive to create other leaders. Team work is important too, we only hire team players. We’re constantly on the lookout and keeping our eyes peeled for good talent. We spread the word about our company and network our tails off. It’s paid off over the years as we’re getting more people excited about our company and wanting to work with us. It helps our recruiters with candidates knocking on our doors versus the other way around.

exaqueo: Why does talent + culture fit matter?

DR: For Trupanion, the talent absolutely has to fit our culture (pet-friendly culture) or they simply won’t be able to fully understand the value we are offering pet owners. You don’t get the same high quality work from workers who don’t fit well. Quality is low and that worker’s future opportunities in the company are low too because they simply don’t fit our values. When I was raising capital for Trupanion, I brought a variety of big hitters into a room together. I asked them all to raise their hand if they had a pet. For those without their hands raised, I asked them to leave, because unfortunately, they just won’t get what we do. And I made them leave. I require everyone who joins our Board of Directors to own a pet.

Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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What Company Cultures Can Learn From Freemasons

Harry Houdini. Henry Ford. John Wayne. Winston Churchill. My grandpa. What's the common bond? They were all Freemasons. From fraternities and Freemasons to the Girl Scouts or Rotary, membership really does have its privileges: belonging. We join groups, teams, clubs and even companies to feel a part of something. A community or camaraderie. That's what culture really is: specific rules and attributes that define who you are and how things work. The rules of the road, the community norms. The way we exist. It's what makes strong cultures strong.

The Freemasons began as a guild in the 1700s for stonemasons and then evolved to a social organization full of ritual and rites of belonging. Historically, the rituals drove conspiracies which in turn drove attention and ultimately membership. At its height in 1939, the Freemasons had 4 million members. 

Today, still boasting a membership of over one million members, the Freemasons continue to welcome new recruits into their culture. They don't actively solicit new members--you'll need a referral--and you'll have to check off a few boxes:  men only, above 18, good character and belief in a supreme being (it doesn't matter which one but no atheists allowed).  And that's about all I know for sure because the rest is a secret.

There's a reason ritual, secrecy and tradition matter here. It's called culture. And if your organization wants a strong one, you're better off to learn from an organization that's been in existence for 800 years over hot brands with track records of less than a few decades. Here are six ways you can strengthen your culture Freemason-style:

1) Get people interested in your culture and keep them interested.

While membership in the Freemasons has ebbed and flowed over the years, they've found a way to stay relevant. For modern men, the Dan Brown books did the trick. For modern organizations, they have to stay vocal and relevant to drive interest. That means regular content, and insight where possible into what makes you special and unique.

2) Be clear about what it takes.

While most companies wax poetic about the incredible career opportunities or company culture, they avoid being upfront about how they recruit and who they recruit. Freemasons are clear on qualifications, how to recruit, and who to talk to about membership. Direct connection with a member gives you an immediate, personal, offline culture connection.

3) Show a commitment to your community.

When you create a culture you have to demonstrate no matter how elite or special it is, you care about the larger world that allows your culture to exist. You can't shut yourself off. Freemasons donate an average of $2 million to charity. Every day.

4) Make it special.

Freemasons have secrets.They have closed meetings. Not anyone can become a member. And when you do, you have to keep what's secret, secret.  There's something special that provides a certain allure. And when you're in, it's that sense of belonging.  Same thing goes for organizations with strong cultures. They care about how they welcome you and give you benefits only members have. That gold mason's ring that belonged to my grandpa? My dad had it melted down since he couldn't wear it.

5) Make it accessible.

Great cultures aren't elitist. Freemasons come in all colors and creeds. And they ban conversations on divisive topics like religion and politics. It's not about being better than someone or something else. It's about being a part of something bigger. Accessible, but you have to really want it and make the effort. Organizations with great cultures don't give job offers after one paltry interview. Both sides need to truly flesh out fit.

6) Be consistent.

Every company has a vague list of values on the wall. How many can say they have practiced those same values and have rites of tradition lasting 800+ years? You may not want to develop extensive ritualistic practices but you can develop work rules to show how your culture manifests itself in the business.  Align traditions for work and play -- and don't abandon them. Make cultural norms crystal clear and long-lasting.

Like any culture, the Freemasons have rabid fans and detractors.  And for most modern-day companies, look no further than Glassdoor to find the same.  This isn't an endorsement or a criticism--we can learn similar lessons from many long-lasting religious groups, political parties and local clubs.  It's about understanding what drives long-lasting culture, that sustains and aligns.

Find what defines your organization--what you live by, how you exist, and the constancy that will ensure your business is around in 2714. Then live it, practice it, and hire to it. Don't you want to leave job opportunities for your great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren?

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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HR and Talent News Roundup: Scaling Your Workforce Edition

As companies scale, culture and growth go hand-in-hand. This means founders and leaders have to be more and more creative about how to ensure they continue to sustain culture so it doesn't get lost in the forest of growth. This week we share multiple examples of ways you can think about scaling the talent side of your business in the right way. 1) Why Zappos CEO Hsieh Wants To Enable More Collisions In Vegas from Forbes

" "When a city doubles in size, innovation increases by 15 percent,” he says. “But when companies get bigger, productivity goes down.” To avoid that destiny as Zappos expands, he aims to organize the company “more like a city and less like a large company” with densely populated workspaces, and, when it comes to navigating them, a preference for “collisions over convenience.”

2) Small business advice: How to set your firm up for long-term, sustainable growth from The Washington Post

"Hire the right sales people for the right positions and set performance expectations early. Having a well-developed sales culture from the get-go is essential in setting the stage for incoming talent, and it will keep the existing representatives inspired for the long haul...It is much easier to maintain a good culture than fix a bad one. If your once-thriving sales culture becomes stagnant, consider adding fresh talent. Bringing in new, hungry individuals to any team can ignite productivity among existing members."

3) Supercell's CEO reveals the culture he built to produce a £2.5 billion company in 2 years from Wired

"Despite this [success], all Pannenan wants to talk about is company values, both in terms of organisational structure and "the power of small." It is a manifesto for building a better company and he is conscious the world is now listening.  "The best people make the best games," says Ilkka Paananen, founder of Finnish gaming startup Supercell. "It sounds simple and perhaps naive, but if you truly believe it then the only thing that matters is getting those people and creating the best possible environment so they stay." "

4) 4 Ways to Build On Your Company Culture from Momentum

"When you’re not a startup anymore, it can feel like company culture is something that’s already set in stone — not something you can adapt father and improve. This couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Culture can be developed and molded over time, especially with new leadership at the helm."

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Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce strategy that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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The Path to Startup Culture: Q&A with Roundtable Companies' Corey Blake

 

At exaqueo, we’ve always believed that the earlier you define your culture, promote that culture –the good and the bad – and hire to it, the more effective the role talent can play in your growth.

Today we’re continuing our series on companies not only passionate about culture but making the effort to pull that through. Our goal is to show you talent not only matters but can be the difference between success or stagnation.

This week I sit down with Corey Blake, President of Roundtable Companies, a storytelling and publishing company that develops and distributes books that change the world.

Susan LaMotte. exaqueo (SL): You’ve had a [excuse the pun] storied career. And now as a company founder, you’re paying close attention to the careers of others. In your mind, why does talent and culture fit matter?

Corey Blake, Roundtable Companies (CB): Talent alone can be a disaster. We actually hire based on culture fit more than anything because there is plenty of talent available. The combination of the two sets the stage for us all to pull the rope in the same direction and create work that matters.

SL: It’s always surprising when you find diversity of talent with similar behaviors. As you’ve gone through this process to understand and strengthen your culture, what have you learned the most?

CB: Investments in culture require faith because they produce results that can often be difficult to measure. But every time we invest in culture, we generate more happiness among our people who then turn around and serve our customers with more enthusiasm, dedication, and brilliance. Lesson learned: investing in culture requires a leap of faith.

SL: That leap of faith isn’t always perfect though, right? Tell me about a time you felt company leadership went wrong. What did you do?

CB: As the CEO, I was handling too much of the day-to-day operations earlier this year. But as an entrepreneur, I'm not best suited to management. I was cranky and financial fluctuations gave me anxiety that I spread all over. My other executive team members sat me down and we had some tough conversations on how to make the necessary shifts so that I wasn't infusing our culture with fear and anxiety.  Our conversations around my anxiety resulted in us making a major shift. We moved me out of operations and our VP moved into the COO role. He is steadfast and our staff responds to him beautifully. That shift gave our staff more comfort (because I am too much of a roller coaster), while it freed me up to get back to my own zone of genius which is being an entrepreneur and building something new. Since then I have spearheaded the launch of our community. An all around win.

SL: Now that you have the right foundation, what will you do to grow the company you want to grow?

CB: At this point, our staff and systems are working at a high level. Our future growth will come from exposure of our work through our new community. We feel we are one of the best-kept secrets in the business world and the world of storytelling, so our growth will come through the use of a bullhorn and inspiring people to share the work we're engaged in.

SL: Looking back, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs about starting a company?

CB: At all costs remain true to your word. And do what is right, regardless of the cost. Become known for your integrity. You'll learn some painful lessons that force you to spend large amounts of money to remedy, but that will teach you how to hire the right people, how to care for your customers, and how to build systems that support doing things the right way and to an incredibly high standard. That will in turn sell your business.

SL: Well said. Thanks for your time Corey!

Corey Blake is the President of Roundtable Companies. He has been storytelling for almost two decades since he graduated from Millikin University with a BFA in Theatre in 1996. Learn more about Corey and Roundtable Companies.

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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Caring About Employees Isn't a Talent Strategy

Almost every founder has the same mentality: talent can make or break your business. From finding the best talent to maintaining a strong culture, founders regularly wax poetic about how much they care about their people and their culture. We all know that people and culture matter. The real question is what are you doing about it? 

Founders and leadership teams talk culture and people but rarely have an actual strategy in place.  They’ve got values, cool perks, and equity packages to offer.  But ask what the strategy is, and they fall silent.

Let me be clear: caring about employees isn’t a talent strategy. Imagine if you rolled out new product features just because you thought they’d make your users happy. Engineers everywhere know there has to be a roadmap.  You don’t add new features to make users happy if they’re not part of a plan to grow your user base or you know they’ll be outdated in six months.  Product development conversations are tied to revenue, growth and vision.

So why don’t startup leaders think about talent in the same way? Founders and investors don’t know how. But when they do, it changes everything.

Enter Dan Berger, CEO of Social Tables. Unlike most founders, Dan has both work experience in HR and has sought out mentors with HR experience. He uses terms like “hiring yield” and “employer of choice” regularly in conversation. More importantly, he doesn’t just care about his employees and culture. He can answer the question, “What are you doing about it?”

Social Tables is putting rigor into their hiring process. They’re starting to track employee satisfaction and aligning business goals directly with individual employee performance. They’re building out a competency model for their sales team so they can hire, coach and develop around specific success drivers.

Sound too corporate? Too formal? Too focused for a startup that should be spending time on product and growth. Try again and ...

Read the rest of this post over on Tech Cocktail.

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This post originally appeared on TechCocktail written by Susan LaMotte, the founder of exaqueo. A workforce consultancy, exaqueo helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to grow in the right way.

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Four Reasons Perks Won't Help Your Culture or Hiring

4 Reasons Perks Won't WorkToo often I hear company leaders or recruiters say things like: "Our culture is great. We have free lunches, you can bring your dog to work, and there's free beer every day at 5pm." Workplace culture does not equal perks.

Perks aren't culture. Even ridiculous perks.  Culture is culture.

Culture is the way in which you work--the norms and values that define who you are as a business and what makes you different. It's how you get work done and the way people are expected to behave.  Culture is your foundation and then your build your business around it--including perks.

Here are four reasons you shouldn't confuse perks and culture:

1) Perks Are False Promises

If you just focus on perks, it's like promising a gorgeous engagement ring--without meeting the guy. If the guy sucks, the ring is only sparkly for so long. Then you get tired of it. No one stays at a company for the perks. They stay for their boss, the product, the potential, the work. Why waste time luring people in only to lose them after the fourth date (week)?

2) Perks Can Blow Up In Your Face

Sure, dogs in the office are cool. But what if that new developer you're trying desperately to hire is allergic? Think about the ridiculousness of that conversation: "We'd love to give you an offer, but we typically have dogs in the office so this isn't going to work." Really? You'll give up a great candidate for that?

3) You Don't Want a Candidate to Make a Decision Based on Perks

When you get that fantastic candidate to fill the void on your sales team, do you really want him to take the offer based on free beer? No. You want him to be passionate about what he's selling, the team behind the product or service and the future of the business.

4) Perks Don't Make Your Employees Perform Better

Free drycleaning or a easy-access gym might make employees' lives easier, but it won't turn an average developer into a stellar one. Culture, values and work rules are much better at vetting out candidates who won't perform well in your environment. For example, one candidate might be a Ruby rockstar but she can't get used to your super-fast product development cycles or deal with the complete transparency that's part of the way you do business

Should you ignore perks? No--they're important rewards and incentives to your business. Just don't hang your culture and hiring hat on them. Otherwise you build a company based on fringe benefits instead of on values.

And when you create perks for your business, tie them to your culture first. If one of your core values is customer service, perks should be designed to make it easier to service customers (making it quieter, freeing up your time, or giving you a budget to spend to develop relationships with customers).

Don't want to give up on perks? Don't. Just make sure your culture, values and work rules are strong. And sell those first.

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exaqueo is a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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Work Rules: What They Are and Why You Need Them

Work Rules: What They Are and Why You Need ThemEvery company wants to be cool in some way -- more specifically, be known for something: a great place to work, a cool thing to be part of, a place people brag about joining. That's where the values come in. Whether valuable or not (pun intended), core values are the hot topic when it comes to culture. You have to have them. And whether you're Toms Shoes, Whole Foods or Teach for America, your values set the stage for your business.

While values and culture creation is the first step, it's not the most important. Enter work rules.

What Are Work Rules?

"Work rules" is a term we've developed here at exaqueo. Work rules are a way to make what a company values real and hold employees accountable. You can have the best list of core values ever, but if you don't hold employees accountable and align the way you do business to them, they don't mean anything.

Here's how it works:

Take one of Whole Foods' core values: "supporting team member excellence and happiness." Sounds good, right? But what exactly does that mean? How is that manifested in the day to day operations of a Whole Foods store?

It could mean personal support -- doing right by each other when it comes to learning and development, lots of time off, special dispensation for family needs, stipends for personal interests. Or, it could be about the business -- supporting team members who need help stocking shelves or find themselves overwhelmed with a line of customers at customer service.

You Have to Define Your Values

Specifically, what do they look like in practice? And at Whole Foods, this particular value is focused more on workplace happiness than happiness outside of work.

Nothing wrong with that -- in fact, their clarity is commendable. As an current or future employee it's clear what they mean by happiness. I can expect very fair wages. I shouldn't expect extra time off.

Another example of a value many companies might have is "customer service." But what kind of customer service is valued?

That's where work rules come in.  Maybe the focus is on deep customer relationships and problem solving. Or it could be about fast service, getting customers served efficiently and correctly. Either way, work rules help you better define what great performance looks like in your organization, and that makes hiring and performance management better. And it helps your company stay focused.

If you're wondering if it's worth it, if there's real, monetary value in this, let me know. I'll send you a real-world example from one of our clients.

If you need the motivation to get started, ask yourself how important talent is to growth.

There's your answer.

exaqueo is a human resources consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to grow in the right way.

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