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HR Superstars

Episode 10 · 1 year ago

Improving Employee Performance Through Manager Enablement At Gong

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The traditional approach to sales was all about hitting the number at all costs.

Not only is that unsustainable; it’s inefficient.

The key to high performance at any company is for managers to compassionately and empathetically engage and enable their people.

To find out how to do that, we talked with Sandi Kochhar, Chief People Officer at Gong.io, about living company values and manager enablement strategies.

We also talked about:

-How to keep values at the center of your culture.

-The role of the manager in culture.

-The hard and soft skills of management.

-How to help your people with emotional renewal.

For the entire interview, subscribe to HR Superstars on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher. Or, tune in on our website.

When I had asked like how do you describe Gong's culture? My answer is always it's the value space culture. You know, we have our operating principles, but they're really a proxy for our values and I really appreciate the fact that we call them our operating principles, because they are in the way in which we work together there the way in which we make decisions. You're listening to HR superstars, a podcast from fifteen five that highlights stories from the front lines of HR and people ups. Each episode will showcase fascinating conversations with leaders offering their unique experiences and advice for building an extraordinary company and culture. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to HR superstars. My name is Shane Metcalf and I'm here with my cofounder and CEO, David Hassell. Today we are thrilled to have sandy coach are, who is the CPO of Gong. Gong is one of our favorite companies when we've been using them at fifteen five for quite a while to really improve all of the efficiency of our sales team to get deep insights into how did the actual conversations we have with prospects and customers actually go and gives me and David easy access to understand those conversations and get direct insight instead of taking it for the sales reps word. So Sandy brings a wealth of knowledge and over two decades of people experience at companies, including success factors at last seen and most recently ripple. Welcome to the show, Sandy. Thank you for having me. Super excited to be part of this conversation. Yeah, that's great to have you and creator a wh chains said, you know, I think we probably hear Gong mentioned about Eight Times a day here fif five, so I love that. It's a stick. So, Sandy, one of the things that I love knowing some some people are going and getting to know you a little bit is that Gong has just to from what I can tell, a remarkable culture, and I think that I always laugh at that because, you know, I think from the outside Gong could easily be a very like sales broie culture, since it is you build tools for sales reps, and and yet what I hear is actually this incredibly compassionate, kind loving, fun, authentic culture that you've helped co create, and I'd love if you could just share a little of like what's the culture look like from your perspective? Yeah, that that's a great question and I think I was fortunate to join a company with the phenomenal culture. When I was looking at opportunities, it was one of the things, it was really important to me of coming into a company that had a thriving culture, and so wish I could take some credit for it, but it was already well in place before I joined. But I think you know, when I get asked like how do you describe Gong's culture, my answer is always it's a value space culture. You know, we have our operating principles, but they're really a proxy for values and I really appreciate the fact that we call them are operating principles because they are in the way in which we work together there the way in which we make decisions, and so, you know, a couple to highlight is we have one that's no sugar and our CEO is is like no sugar, but without the bitterness, right like. So with that is is transparency, really transparent in how we're doing as an organization, transparent in wanting to her feedback, like the leaders, the managers, the executives, wanting to hear what's going well, what's not, and the note that without the bitterness. Is like how you deliver feedback or how you give, you know, share your thoughts, is really important to doing it in a mindful way and then to your point of you know, looks like a place we have fun, like enjoy the ride. Is One of our operating principles and we take that pretty seriously. I mean we're it's a group of really smart people that work hard but want to enjoy that ride and taking the opportunity to celebrate the winds and have fun together. So a very values is driven organization and I think that's great because we're growing so quickly. I mean when I joined August of two thousand and nineteen, we were a hundred and fifty people. will be almost five hundred in April, so it's a lot...

...of growth and we're going to continue to double in size this year and if we keep the values at the center of how we operate, how we make decisions, I think the culture will continue to thrive. So how do you do that? How do you keep values at the center, because, you know, I mean it's it's a really easy thing to say yeah, and it's a much harder and practice and the nuance of wake. Okay, well, is that that's kind of ambiguous and borderline value, but not, you know, so I think. I mean, I think the reality of is it starts with the executive team and it starts with the CEO First and foremost. Right, I think, because you're that, David. I heard it. We lead by example and the team is looking up to the way in which we work together or the way in which we lead, and so we're not living and breathing the values, like there's no way we can expect the organization to do so. And so I think one making sure whatever values you have aren't just like these are the aspirational values of what we want to get to. Like when we put the values together or the operating principles, we had an external consultant come in meet with not only leadership, so this the cxos, the VP's, but also with the gonsters that had been around for a while that were like the culture bears, to really say, like how do we define gone and so is that exercise? We said, this is the essence of what this community is, of what this organization is, and so one is, I think, yeah, living and breathing it at the top. And what is that mean? That means one, it's how we make decisions. So you will often hear US say when we're in a meeting, like I've said it, like hey, no, sugar, I don't really understand why we're going in this direction, or like are we really creating raving fans by doing this? So it's the language we use when we come together as an executive team and when we make decisions. So that's one too. When we see behavior that doesn't align with those values, we bring it up and we call each other out on it or we bring it up as a form of hey, we're seeing, you know, whether it be an individual or a trend, of like we're not really enjoying the ride right now because times are tough. Like what do we do to infuse a little bit of fun into things? So I think one just being really conscientious of it. Hiring is really important and I think that's one place that I've seen organizations kind of break that values, if you will, especially when you're in hypergrowth, you're growing really quickly and it's like, oh my gosh, we need to double in size. That means we need people in the organization quickly and sometimes you'll see compromises that get made because you feel that tension of I've had this role open for two months, I really need someone next week, like this person might not be the right values fit. So what we've instituted as a couple of things. So one is we've trained the recruiting team and we're working with our hiring managers on we don't say culture fit, we say values fit, culture ad and that's a screening criteria. But we have a bar raisor a cross functional bar raisor on every interview. At a certain level it might be your cxos and you know, below your directors it's senior leaders in the organization and they're the Bar Raizor. It's cross functional, so you're not getting influenced by those on your team right, you can really give that no sugar feedback and we've trained all of those bar raisors to interview around our values. We've given them a tool kit questions to ask and that is their primary purpose is to come to those interview screen for the values and bring that feedback and they take that role really seriously right, and so that's one of the ways that we've been kind of making sure that we adhere to the values by bringing in people who are aligned to our values, because I think if you have that, the rest of it is usier to enforce. And I'm not sure. I'd be curious in a David, if that's similar to experiences you've had or what you're hearing from other leaders around you know, or on this question specifically. Yeah, I love the concept of bar raisers and having that those people who are you cross functional or at the sea level doing those interviews for that not necessarily. I also like how you frame that not culture fit, but values fit and culture add I think that's a huge thing. We talked a lot about cultural contributors and then also cultural dictors, and so you...

...know, you want people who are going to align with the values but also add the additive to the culture, because it is really this incredible soup that we're creating of all these different diverse and distinct backgrounds and in people in the one of the things, I think, Shane, you have for a long time was this desire to scale the culture and have it be even better tomorrow at scale than it was what in the early days and and part of that it is you know, the amazing diversity that people bring to the table. So I love that culture add and yeah, so I agree. I think the you know, the bar raiser concept is is something that we're practicing here now internally and I think that I have heard of some of the most successful companies doing something similar. Do you give the bar raizards Vieto power, like how much sway do they have in the final vote? They've got a fair amount of this way, you know, like at the end of the day it's the hiring manager's decision. But if a bar raizor is no, what will happen is then let's Cxo, and sometimes our CEO needs to be that final interviewer. So they've got and pretty significant power of like you can't, I will not meet and I approve all the offers, like we're not going to prove an offer. If the bar raiser is and know, then the questions come back and explain why and then they'll be more digging that happens. So they definitely it's more than a check the box. They definitely have significant power in the process, which I think they need for it to be meaningful. Yeah, David just vall and told me to do final interviews with everybody, and I was like we're doing them all and then, you know, busy CEO, I'm like, okay, well, I'll take these funds. And you know, it's interesting because because part of it is of like okay, this this person, has made it through the entire process and you know, we I trust my people a lot. And and then it's like, if I'm lukewarm, I have to go through that process of like Oh, I'm going to throw a monkey range. We've been trying to build the position for three months and everybody's stoked on this person. And then am I really going to be the one that's like, nope, not, hi doesn't meet the bar. And and so that's actually something I'm wrestling with internally. Is Am I willing to blow up that whole process because this person doesn't actually meet my bar? Yeah, and and so I kind of go back and forth because I know that ensuring that values fit culture ad is so important as well as, you know, talentensity in the idea of like from Netflix and just incredibly good. Are this person one of the best at what they do, and finding the balance of trusting the team will also throwing my UTA power. Yeah, I mean, I think it's an interesting question. I will tell you, like a couple of times I've actually reached out to the hiring manager, and sometimes it's my fellow Cxo, to be like, Hey, I'm really sorry, I'm putting a no in here, and here is why I like I feel horrible doing it, but and I will tell you, like ten times out of ten, the feedback is like that's why we want this is why we have this process and thank you and like yeahs it heartbreaking, sure, but like it probably helps us in the long term, and I think taking that favor the long term is one of our values as well. And taking that long term view of like bringing on someone that's not a values fit. Oh does that get painful down the road. And the way I look at it is if there's like maybe some technical acumen, that's not and that's not what I'm interviewing for at the end, but if I were, if the manager can say, like I can coach this person on these competencies in these areas, like that's one where you go, okay, then we let's move forward. But if it is a there's a something from a values perspective, that's not aligned. I just personally know, being a people professional, the pain that causes in the organization and so, yeah, it's it's that short term pain, but you know, been favoring the long term. It's probably the right thing for the organization. What are the other you know, because we have a lot of HR and g people, officers, hrros and just a h our professionals that listen to this show, what are the other short term pains that they you know, what are the yeah, what are the short term pains that produce long term gains that you see across your...

...organization that you've learned of in your career but are kind of hard to do in the moment but you know is the right thing to do and is actually setting you and the organization up for success? I think one that comes to mind right now, because you just see it in hyper growth a lot, is compensation. I think in a couple of areas the recruiters will come you and say like we need to do everything we need to do to close this candidate and you just go this is going to break internal pay equity and sometimes you have to be able to walk away. There's times where you can get creative with a sign on or whatever, and there's times we have to be able to walk away and say like this is like this person might be phenomenal, but you know, this might not be the right thing. Or something that you see, and I've seen in several other companies, is you start to bring people in and then the managers like, well, we need to adjust that person's compensation right now and that person right now, and you start doing things at Hawk and then again you look at whether it might be from a you know, gender perspective or the squeaky wheels get the the loudest attention. You're like, oh my gosh, all of a sudden we're imbalance from a pay perspective. So we've, you know, put at philosophical stands in places. We do we do look at pay equity on an annual basis. Then we do twice a your salary planning and like weren't? We don't do those little Ad Hawk salary adjustments. We say like let's hold on this, let's wait, because that's the other thing that I've seen happen and it employs are like, well, why did that person get a raise and I didn't? And so like, you know, holding that discipline and place is really important and it's it's sometimes it's so hard because it's like Oh, like this, this really makes sense, its and it's so compelling and I just want to say yes, and then the politics and drama that can ensue. I think you know, I take back, go back to like we wanted to be transparent and you want it to be fair and you want to be able to stand behind that decision and you know, if you make an exception, to be able to articulate why. But I think looking at those things really holistically, knowing that sometimes you have to have a difficult conversation with someone. I've had to have a couple of those of like, I know you really feel like you deserve this whatever increase, like here's why we can't do is. Here's why is a people team. We can't break our own roles and and you know. And so it's supporting those managers. Sometimes do those difficult conversations where that like, let's just give them that. Five K's a quick and easy fix, but it does have longer term corammification. So that's the first one that came to mind. That's really good. I don't don't realize how hard the stuff is, you know, and how you really need to stick to your guns on this stuff, because once you start to slip and then things get out of integrity, it's a slippery slope. They do. And you know, I think from you know, Adi perspective, like there are, you know, some demographics, women being one of them, that maybe aren't is comfortable having those conversations and pushing and so I also think from it like pay parity perspective and really looking at things holistically versus who are the people that are coming to me and asking for it reactively, is really important to maintain that integrity of pay parity. You're saying you shouldn't just reward the confident extroverts who are asking for what they want. I mean you can reward them with more meaningful work exactly. There's other ways to reward and I think that said, just identifying what that is, I think that the other one is, like talking to my fellow people, leaders is and I'd be curious if you all have seen this throughout your experiences as well, and this is where your tool is really helpful. Is Things sometimes you hear a couple of like nuggets because we've got our ears on the ground. Right. We're talking to team members, are business partners, are talking to employees. You hear a couple things and you go, oh my gosh, there's an issue here, and that impulse to fix something or react without knowing like how big is you know the concern? I think using data to drive some decisions is important. I feel like I've been guilty of that if I hear a couple things and I assume there's a trend and then they're like really, und I don't still a pulse survey and find out? Yeah, it's like it's like, oh no, we just change the entire company policy and direction we were heading in because there is a very small vocal minority exactly. And then people are...

...like, oh, that minority has a lot of powers, let's go to them to like get other things, and so like gotal back, being a little bit patient, taking more of a data driven approach, I think is beneficial. That's really good. Like the pivot little bit. And and how do you think about the role of the manager in you know, as you think about the culture and being, you know, culture bearers or yeah, you know, you've heard so much. So where does the manager fit in and what do you guys is doing as an HR team to support and enable them. I think the manager is at the center of it thereout the nucleus of, you know, the culture. I we're doing a couple of things. For my experiences in kind of companies in the past we've made investments later stage in learning and development, right, like maybe when the was five hundred, seven, hundred fifty thousand, and I think the reality is that growth from two hundred to a thousand is there's a lot of change that happens in that period and enabling your leaders to guide and manage through that change is really important. So we have we've stood up a learning and development functions. So we have a senior manager of land right now in his primary mandate is manager enablement. Right, looking at it into areas. One is your frontline leaders, like your first time managers, right, and what support do they need to be the most effective leaders they can be? This is where there's a beautiful intersection, for for me personally, between going and the fact that we have a people pillar and coaching as a big part of our product. So it just creates a culture of foot in the culture of feedback, which is pretty darn phenomenal. We feel the same way. Yeah, it's great, like it's what attracted me the opportunity. was like, Oh, this must be a culture of like development and feedback, because we got to drink our own champagne here, and you know, I've seen that play out for sure. I also think there is, you know, the the role of like your director, senior directors, VPS, is extremely important as well, through like that phase that we're going through right now from four hundred to a thousand, to be like that's your maker, break layer and that, because their roles are going to continue to expand exponentially every year, and making sure you provide that enablement is so important. You know, I it's I came from a big company, honeywall, before I made my transition to tack, and I remember before I had my first leadership role, like I went through a month of training, like, you know, coaching development. I had a little cohort that I could go back to the first time I ran into issues and then I joined my first, you know, start up. But then it's like these people are being promoted, but wors the enablement. You're just like go figure it out, good luck, be a great leader, even gratulad like we believe in you. All right, hopefully yoursing a people. I don't know how. I some people from the early Ivm days where they put a lot of focus on manager training and whatnot. It feels like for whatever reason, like culturally business, culturally, that was lost in the list period of time. It's just like Oh, you're good, I see, let's promote you to manager. Good luck. Right, and it's cool to hear you use the term manager enablement because I do think it's something we talk a lot about internally. We think it almost feels like you're on the cutting edge where this manager enablement role is almost something that's going, we think, is going to become more and more popular and more and more needed. And I'm curious, Andy, what do you mean by manager enablement? Yes, so we've got a couple of components. Again, I do think long is at the cutting edge. One of the reasons I was so excited to join because it is a very employee centric organization. So I think there's two components to the manager enablement. There is we've got a sales enablement team. They support sales and customers success. So there's some of that, just technical acumen, right, that you need to be but at to do your job, to coach your reps, to coach your csms. And so the enablement team is working on more of like the you know, the technical skills, the competency used to be good at your craft. My team works on the soft skill s side, right, and so I think it's a really good complement.

So my led team is like we're focused on, you know, how do you communicate? How do you give effective feedback? How do you manage up, in, across and down? How do you work, you know, create partnerships, cross functionally? And so we're providing that soft skills enablement and support and partnership with the sales enablement team or the the re go to market enablement team, and so I think those two really complement each other really well. What are the hard skills, you know? So if soft skills for managers and manager Enablement, our communication, empathy, managing up, managing down, coaching skills, what are what are the hard skills of management? Yeah, I think it depends on on the function, right, like it's. So maybe I'll just speak to the people org. So, if I'm thinking about talent acquisition, for example, and I'm I've got a director that I'm growing into that VP. Like what a is this some of the areas that I'm going to focus on with them. It might be data and analytics, like how do you bring data to the table to influence like what are the what are the things around process that we need to look at? And what I've done in the past is partner by tea people that maybe aren't at that level yet with folks that have done this in the past to kind of shed light with them, like hey, in the craft and what you're doing here. Are Some of the things that you need to put in place, whether it be technology, whether it be systems, process, whatever. And then we're I'm coming is around, like how do you coach the team? How did we develop people? How do we think about, you know, supporting the team, giving feedback, things like that. So I think it varies by roll a bit. It really. And so with the sales team is probably looking at it. What what is a great seller and what are the things that we need to make sure we're looking out for, like is it talk time, is it whatever, to make sure that like, our leaders know like what great looks like right and understand what grace looks like are able to come in and help support a deal if they need to. They've got the skills to do that, but then also know how to deliver that feedback in the soft skills and a really meaningful way. So if you could wave a magic wand and export something that you do really well around manager enablement and Gong to all other companies, what would that be? Who? We're still figuring it out. I'm going to be honest with you, like we're still in early phases of figuring it out. I think. I mean not to Hawk our own product, but to think is is pretty powerful and we've actually started to and disclaimer, this is just us. You using it as an Alpha for for own team. Use It for recruiting, and where I've seen it actually be really beneficial is we're able to record, like our sales people are candidates go through MOX sales calls and I've listened in on a couple of them and given the managers feedback of like hey, how do you how do you actually sell a candidate and get them excited through this process? What are some things that you can be doing differently? So, again to what you had said, Shane, of how instead of coaching the reps based on what they're saying and seeing, you know, for us to really use going the other thing that my business partners do is, like if they've got someone that maybe the manager says, Hey, this person's training towards a performance improvement plan, like well, to look at like how often are they going in and listening to this reps gone calls? How often are they providing coaching? Are we giving these people like that? We're saying aren't performing the support that they need and there's a manager doing what they need to do. So we're actually leveraging our product through some of that. Interesting. So, are you recording the coaching conversations? Like, do you do one on ones? You Record in the coaching conversations, but you can go into the call and see the feedback that the manager is actually put in. So for reps, like hey, so and so, can you give me feedback? Here in the managers providing that feedback, you're actually able to see that interesting. Yeah, giving the ideas of our own for our own platform actually. And then and on the it's been cool on the recruitings, like I've been tagged in. Hey, see and you can you take a listen to this nippet. Like you know what was feedback here and then you I can see what upieback I gave. I'm able to see the feedback our VP of sales gave to the manager as well. So it's like we're able to actually collaborate through the call...

...itself. So basically are saying that all the other companies should use gone using a line. Just going to be so proud of you, Sandy, but I mean we've been powerful. It's been really powerful and it's taky because it's a product. You know, there's people are already using it, so it's not like hey, here's this other HR tool. People are you know we're putting in place. I think the other thing, I think any other. Yeah, I think the other that we're just experimenting with, and I'd love both of your perspectives on this, because I'm sure you'll have lots of great insights that I could probably walk away from having learned a couple of things. Is We're trying to we are right now or piloting it or launching it next week, like reimagining performance reviews, you know, and trying to take them. Shane, whom we were talking ahead of this call like of humanizing the experience for employees and I think taking it out of like this is an HR process and, you know, very formal, to like putting the employee at the center of it and like what's in it for me? Why should I be looking forward to this? And we're really like saying, like, Hey, we're going to challenge conventional wisdom, which is another one of our values, and say, like we're not, we don't do ratings, this isn't a formal review process. This is a check in on how you've been doing and then develop a conversation around where you want to develop. And I'm just curious that what you've seen around that, because I feel like that's one area of like what we do that's just right for innovation and change. Well, that was one of the things that we really struggle with when we when we came out with a review product a couple of years ago. Almost the universal experience that people would have, whether you're a manager or an employee, I think the most common word, I am was dreaded. When as certain with reviews and it was that kind of dehumanizing process. Our own review products, to be clear, not our but ratings caused issues as all sorts of manager bias and implicit bias that you have to deal with and all that. So we wanted to create something that was going to be very employee centric and would kind of maybe disarm people, people in a perspective, all also letting people know, well, this is to replace reviews and be like a review. So we actually called it the best self review. The idea was that the the review was for the purpose of helping the employee on their journey, as a checkpoint in being and becoming their best self on the path to be peat performance. For some people that was a little bit too much, though. So you know, it's really interesting trying to meet the market while also being progressive and trying to break the roles and something we've had to learn it. So, but, but really, I think that that bad idea of reframing the review for the employees benefit and a conversation that's as much forward looking as backward looking and provided providing them the necessary feedback to make whatever improvements are critical for them in their next next phase their career. I think it's both the the framing of it as well as the the process structure itself. That makes it work. And you know, another big problem with performance reviews is there typically, you know, once a year and they're always they're generally tied to compensation, and so it's really hard to actually set as us out performance from comp yeah, when comp is a part of the equation, people always go to, okay, how do I game the system to get the maximum compensation from this, and it kind of gets it away from actually having a more sincere coaching conversation, and so that's why we recommend more frequent than once a year and then also of getting in questions that are really are looking at what does this person really want? What like you know, yes, let's look at how did you do on your okay ours, how did you do over the last quarter, six months, and reviewing that and what are the lessons they're in but then also looking forward, what impact do you want to have on the company? What are your strengths are? Are you able to leverage your strengths on a regular basis in your role? Yeah, and so it really is a reframing it from this is a HR mandatory function that basically is going to deside whether we cut you or give you a raise, and into...

...this is a coaching conversation with your manager for you to be able to do the best work of your life. Yeah, and to have an extraordinary career. And it's just amazing the difference in those because then you can actually you know, and of course there has to be trust and rapport built with the manager for you to really actually be get into the nitty gritty of the truth of what's really going on and where you really are stuck and what your opportunities for development are. But we do, you can get that. That's when you know performance reviews can actually be a transformative experience for employees. Yeah, I love the framing of like how can you make this like the best work of your life? Yeah, a couple of thoughts. As you said that one is to go back to where we started earlier on the values, talking about like how or the what, like you achieved your ohkare is one of the things that we're trying to anchor on to reinforce our operating principles. is also the how, like how did you do it right? But I'm curious. One challenge that I think I've seen in the past and you know, we'll see how this plays out at a conks for launching our first cycle in a couple of weeks. Is I think sometimes in employees, when you're talking about like you wanted to be the best work of your life, and this is around coaching, the conversation automatically goes to like, so, is this how I get promoted? Right, like, how is this is like this is a path to promotion. Conversations here is how you d couple that or like or like what your thoughts are around that, because that's been a challenge we've I've encountered in the past before. Well, I mean I think the part of it is it's why we need more frequent conversations around performance, because when it's only once a month, once a year, maybe twice a year, it's of course, and if you're not having other career development conversations outside of that, of course people are going to be looking at finally, I am able to have a you know, a conversation and one on one with my manager that isn't just about my tasks and transaction. An old dynamics between us and and so you need to have more frequent conversations around career growth and performance reviews. Sometimes that's a good place for career growth conversations, but also you should be separating those out so you can actually leave performance as a as a pure conversation. And but you need to create other avenues for career growth compassessment so that they don't just get bundled in. Because, look, we're all self interested to some extent. Of course I'm going to be looking for how do I get promotion? How do I increase my social status? How do I increase my income? And that's you know, that's not a flaw of human beings, I think. I think there can be an enlightened self interest that we bring to the table, but we but you need more dynamic conversations. You can't bundle it all into one and expect that to be something that really moves the needle forward on somebody's competencies and behaviors and performance. Yeah, yeah, I completely agree with that. And then we're also playing around with competencies quite a bit too. So, you know, so we have our core values, you know, being become your best self, cultivate, relational mastery, do the extraordinary, create customer transformation or are for core values. And then so each of those we create competencies have specific behaviors that are actionable and able to be trained on and coached upon. That we are also then including in some of our own best self reviews so that we can really be getting data around what's our competency level and our values? Yeah, and actionable in sight the really improve them. That's fantastic. And then actually even further than also kind of very being very clear. What does it look like at a manager level, of directional level, of a VP level, so people can understand like, Oh, I'm here and then I want to be there and then here are the things that I need to improve on in terms of the competencies and be able to exhibit certain behaviors and skills and outcomes. What are the talent matrix competencies look like for a VP level versus a director, versus an associate, so the people can have understand Oh, that's what...

...titles actually mean, that's what is expected in these in these different bands of leadership. Yeah, I think doing that work early on is so important. I think oftentimes organizations wait until you get larger rate to look at at a yeah, one, having that leveling framework is important for pay and pay equity, but too for people to really understand like what are the competencies of this role? Or if someone gets promoted, you go yeah, that that makes sense because I see them operating in this way versus it being, you know, ambiguous. So I do think that's really important in some of the work we're doing right now. Yeah, that's a it's a complex problem right, of like how do you create transparency around these things but not be over the transparent? But then when you aren't transparent, you know, people naturally come up with stories. So it's yeah, and I think the other complexity is, you know, when you're small and growing, some of those definitions and competencies change, right what it means to be a director at a hundred person organization, it's quite different than a two thousand person organization. And how and evolving those you know, those definitions as the company changes is another area of complexity. Yeah, I was actually going to backtrack really quick because you had mentioned and talked about, you know, evolving those those levels is as the company grows. But also, you know, it sounds like you either revisited your values or kind of set them later in the state, in the or what are you called them cultural yeah, reading principles, I think operating principles are pretty principles and you had some some people come in and do an assessment of what size? Did you do that exercise and where they replacing previous values or princes? There weren't any values in place at the time, is my understanding. But so it was you know, we knew the company was growing quite significantly and wanting to make sure that we had a North Star of culture is what drove that, and so it was right. It was before I join. So I want to say the company was probably about a hundred employees, give or take, at that point when the the values were, you know, put in. That framework was put in place. We will discuss it as an executive team from time to time of like do we see ourselves continuing to live these values? Do we need to amend and so that those are active conversations that we have as we see the culture evolve. But we haven't done a refresh since I've been here because I think we feel like they still represent the essence of gone. Yeah, that's great. Yeah, I think that a lot of people think they should be set once and never ever, ever change. You know, our view is that they should rarely change, but they should change. If, if we're restant, we started our values I think when we were I don't know, six people in a room and then we reset them about a year ago, moving down from ten to four. That really encapsulate in a lot of the original essence of the values, but made them more actionable and more relevance to who we'd become. Yeah, I definitely agree with them and I think ideally, if they are in the North Star of your culture, they don't you don't change them every year, every two years, but I think being conscientious of the fact that they're not static and there might be times where you need to revisit you know, we've had some of those conversations of you know, we put our DI programs in place for the first time last year and we've had conversations around do we create an operating principle around that, and we said is, we're not living it quite yet, like we're making stride, but like if there are our values and our operating principles are defining the way in which we work together. Right now we've got some work to do before we add an operating principle around that. But, like we've you know, definitely is every year kind of or it's a probably every six months reflect on how are we as an organization and are we still upholding our values, and then do we need to to do some work to refine them or tweet them? Yeah, okay, so it was a you know, we're recording this in March two thousand and twenty one, quite a while, twelve months, it was, you know, I mean, I don't care who you were or are, there was probably, you know, coming out of this with some scrapes and bruises and some...

...you know, it was a really tough year and I you, I don't think traumatizing is overstate like. Yeah, it's not an inaccurate way of saying that. There's some collective trauma, yeah, from this past year and a lot of grief, a lot of change, a lot of illness, a lot of you know, I mean we survived a pandemic. Yeah, and how are you thinking about emotional renewal? You know, how do we how do we help our people come out emerge into this spring, you know, where we've just entered spring and were in the middle of mass vaccination and there's a temptation of kind of some normalcy returning. And are you thinking about how do we how do we kind of have emotional renewal with our people? We are, and maybe I'll step back to say before we even started thinking about that, the a lot of the conversations we were having last year is how do we support employees because I think for the first time in so many ways, like everything that was happening outside of work bled into work and in a more profound way than we ever saw right. And so that mental health and well being support, like where is the like probably five years ago, you don't talk about mental health and wellbeing like that felt, you know, like at the forefront of all of our conversations in every single all hands that our CEO had through most of last year started with it was like HBO is his Format Health, mental health, physical health, like, you know, destigmatizing some of those things that we say we don't talk about business in the operations. That was kind of his his format. So we invested in mental health benefits for our employees and talked about it frequently and even as an executive team to say like Hey, I used it for coaching or therapy, to make sure that there was that collective sense of like we all need help and support right now and it's okay to ask for it and so you know, and we're here to provide that. So I just want to have that at a backdrop because I don't know, you know, I think every organization handle last year a little bit differently, but that was really important for us and I think you can't have that renewal or you know, if you don't have that basis of support and in the background. You know, I think so much is I'll be transparent. It's all happened so quickly. Like a month ago we would have said like we don't even think we'll be back in the office again until January of next year. And now also there's this light at the end of the tunnel and we're just starting to have those conversations. is to like what is that that look like? And I think one of the things that we've been discussing is the equity of the experience. Right, we know there's going to be some people who get vaccinated and, like we've been talked about, how do we come together and some celebratory way to like kind of like book and this and this, be able to hug each other again, right, and rejoice in and maybe there's a ceremony around like let's let's you know, we can more in the past, but let's move forward. There are going to be some people that still just aren't ready to participate in that and that aren't ready to for whatever their circumstances is are, and so a lot of our conversations have been around like what is that equitable experience look like? So those who maybe are styling into that session through zoom feel that love and feel that connection, and so I don't have an answer to it yet, but I'd say that's where a lot of our conversations are stemming. And knowing that, like, we're not all going to be running out of our homes to get together. There's going to be, you know, two groups of people and there's going to be different appetite for what that looks like and trying to meet people where they are. It's going to be really important for us. And to that point, I'm actually hiring someone and that is their role. So we're investing in that. Like I have a director of employee experience and engagement and like their soul mandate, we opened up the role like late last year, their soul man. It is going to be around that specifically of how do we now usher into this this next phase that we're in, and do it in a really meaningful way? Yeah, you know, we so we've been doing annual company retreats every year for the last eight or nine years and it's such magic to come together in person and then this year, of course we couldn't do it, and so we are like all right, and I begrudgingly accepted the task of doing a virtual retreat. was like...

...all right, yeah, you know, there's like fairly skeptical and you know, I mean as I got closer, I was like, Oh, this might actually go well, and it worked so well. Yeah, I was like wow, yeah, there is. There is those same feelings of love and connection and tribe that that we can create in person, and so I'm actually, Oh, cool, I'm now going to do I'm still going to do the annual retreats, but the in person retreat but also, halfway through the year, do the virtual retreats as well. Yeah, we have the same thing. I was like, oh my gosh, three days of zooms, like what is this going to be like? It was so engaging and, you know, we even had some people say like this was better than any on site global kickoff I've been a part of, because there was, you know, just be able to have that connection with each other. I think the other thing, Shane, that is top of mind for us is we've doubled in size last year and we've added almost a hundred people this quarters. Being very conscientious of when we do come together, like sixty percent of our team members will never met each other facetoface and it'll be like the first day at college, you know, like I don't know everyone. This is intimidating, and so we've talked about like is there some sort of like re onboarding that we do to bring cohorts together and like, you know, create that that connection so it doesn't feel like such an intimidating moment. I think for those that were here before March it's going to be so exciting and even for them it'll be different. But if you join last May and you're like, I don't know most of these people, really trying to think about how we create that it like, you know, that sense of comfort as we all come together again. Yeah, yeah, so, you know, exciting challenges. I mean it's great to hopefully have this behind us and start planning ahead for in person cut togethers and our team and Israel there are, you know, a few months ahead of us. Like ninety five percent of the office is vaccinated. So they did a picnic like in the little pods, and I saw pictures of it yesterday. I was like, oh my gosh, I can't wait for us to be able to do that again. I mean the whole experience really teaches me that part of what you know, one of the real rewards of work is human connection. Yeah, and we just we can't minimize that, you know, and I think we've taken it for granted at times, but the magic of human connection is is truly prices. It isn't. I think it's what kept a lot of us going through what was a really difficult year last year. Like the way I saw our employee support each other and be there for each other like was so magical. Right. And when that any and that, I think that's the gift of a healthy culture, you know, because it can go oppositely right, you know, like like when you hate your colleagues and it's toxic and you are just constantly feeling unsafe in your Lizard Brain is on. Yeah, it's an alert. It's such a destructive experience as equal to how good and healing and supportive a good experience can be. Completely agree with you. So, Sandy, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you just what a rich, dynamic conversation. Just really appreciated all of your perspectives and this conversation about how do we pave the way for a better world of people, ops and culture and, you know, hr taking on new roles inside of companies. If anyone listening has any follow up questions or just wants to stay connected to you and follow your work, where can they find you? I don't do a lot of social media, so my kids will be free. You can like rule number one of mental health is cut social media. Yeah, you can find me on Linkedin. Love to connect and yeah, that that's the platform where I hang out. Thank you, Sandy. Great to connect and you guys have built such an extraordinary company and culture, so always great to hear. Yeah, thank you for having me. We'd also love to thank our producer, sweet fish media, our guest coordinator, Sidney Lee, who's also my ea and just all around complete Badass. I don't know what I would do without Sydney. David Mizzney, who also helps produce the show and is...

...the executive producer, and, last but not least, all of our fifteen five ours who really make this possible, and thank you for listening. Fifteen five is the only evidence based people and performance platform for highly engaged and high performing organizations. Strategic HR leaders in all industries use the platform to win by improving communication, up leveling their managers and increasing company wide engagement. Learn more at Fifteen Fivecom you've been listening to HR superstars stories from the front lines of HR and people ops. Be Sure you never miss an episode by subscribing on your favorite podcast player. If you're listening on Apple PODCASTS, we'd love for you to leave a thoughtful review or give a quick rating by tapping the stars. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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