Welcome to the next generation Rock Stars podcast. If you are trying to figure out how do you recruit and retain this next generation of rock star talent or you are in the right place.
Amanda Hammett: Welcome to today's episode up Next Generation Rock Stars. We are featuring Alan Cherry who is the head of HR and a company called rPlanet earth, which is doing some phenomenal things for the environment. I'm really excited for you to hear all about them, but not just the environment as a whole. Actually rPlanet earth is doing some really cool things too in a very disadvantaged part of la where they are based, where their plant is based. Uh, so you'll definitely have to check that out. But one of the things that Alan and I talked about was his experience being in HR for some major startup companies, companies like Tesla just to name one that have really built cultures and he's played a major and pivotal role in building these cultures of working with really smart, talented people.
Amanda Hammett: But also what is that like and how do you find that? So he talks a lot about, about company culture. He talks a lot about some, maybe some red flags for you, younger listeners who are looking at getting a new job or your very first job. But he also talks about leaders and what they need to know and how they need to build their own skillset so that they can really get and retain that top talent and actually how to motivate that talent and keep them moving forward. So check out this episode. I think that you are going to love it. Alan is just a wonderful, wonderful guests. Um, and yeah, to see you at the end.
Amanda Hammett: Hey, this is Amanda Hammett and this is the next generation rockstars. And today I have a super special guest. I have Alan Cherry of our planet earth. Alan, welcome to the show.
Alan Cherry: Thank you so much. I'm delighted to be here.
Amanda Hammett: Well, wonderful. Wonderful. So Alan, I have already given a little bit of an intro to you leading into this, but why don't you tell the audience a little bit about yourself?
Alan Cherry: So I'm a long time a HR professional who's worked been fortunate enough to work for a number of the very smart companies. I've always chosen to follow a product or a passion as I think you just are more motivated when you do that. So I've worked for companies that have been part of fortune's 500 great places to work. I like Greek cultures. I like great people. I like working with smart and talented individuals.
Amanda Hammett: Fantastic. Well wonderful. Don't we all like working with smart and talented in jury trials.
Alan Cherry: Whenever possible. Yeah.
Amanda Hammett: It makes the world a little bit easier. All right. So, since you are in the position of really helping a company shape their culture by bringing in their people, why don't you share with us a little bit about your general ideas around company culture? Like what are you, what are you looking for? What are you looking to shape and learn each time?
Alan Cherry: So I think with company culture there is no magic one that you wave and you have a beautiful culture. I think it's the actions and behaviors of every individual every day that makes the culture. So when you, when you're in a startup, as I have been in many companies and I am here and there's, you know, five guys around the kitchen table talking about what we're interested in, it's at that point that you get them to align with the ideas that building a culture is about finding individuals one by one and telling them a story, getting them to buy into a vision of what we're trying to create. And finding people that share your values, people that share your passion because you, as you grow, you're never going to be in a position where you can totally control the culture. If you think about it, every time you double the amount of people you have, that's half as many people again, who don't share the original culture of the founding five.
Alan Cherry: So you keep doubling the numbers. You have to have people that actually buy into it and are aligned with it and we'll pass it on. So it becomes a kind of self propagating a deal here. And that's what we're looking for. We are hiring individuals with a similar mindset, you know, and it can be as dumb as, you know, people who pick up trash on the way and people who shut the door, people who treat each other respectfully. People who just want to be part of something special.
Amanda Hammett: Yeah.
Alan Cherry: And then elevate their game in order to do that. And that is what builds a culture. It's not about giving free snacks or buying company lunches. That's not the culture at all three, you know? So I think it's a very much down to the individuals that you hire. And if you bring in the right quality, the right talent, they will create the culture for you.
Amanda Hammett: Fantastic. All right. So that's really some interesting things that you had to say about company culture. I love that because I think so many people are wrapped up in this idea of I need to provide ping pong tables and beer in the fridge and things like that. And that's fine if that's what you want, but it's not about that. It's about that.
Alan Cherry: It wasn't that proven in the great crash of 2001 where all these startups and incubators had as you say, pool tables and beer in the fridge and no business, you know, I mean you have to start with a good business plan, a good idea. You have to have individuals that can talk to the story and then people join because they believe in what you're doing and they're passionate about it. That's what makes great business performance. Not beer in the fringe.
Amanda Hammett: I agree wholeheartedly. So let's talk a little bit about your ideas around um, developing and leading next generation talent. I mean you, you spend a lot of time in the trenches and the looking at recruiting and looking at bringing in those people. So what is your idea around that? How do you see that for a company?
Alan Cherry: So the, what we practice here and what we talk about here is that learning and development is available to everyone. It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter what job you do. I work closely with the managers every day to ensure the messaging that's going out to the employees is that everybody can learn, everybody can grow and there are opportunities to build a career plan and to get the development to that you're seeking in order to get a more responsible job and to move on in that way. So, you know, a lot of people only think about exempt professional employees when they think about learning and development. And that's just not there in my mind, the right way to go about it. You know, we have people here who are, you know, Allie Page sweepers and cleaners and we get good retention because we give them an opportunity to learn and grow an opportunity to, you know work up to a forklift driver to go from a forklift driver to a machine operator to go from a machine operator to a supervisor or a lead to get some professional help. In terms of developing your relationship skills, how do you build a team? How do you motivate employees? You know, pretty basic skills, you might argue, but a lot of people, you know, they didn't go to school and didn't go to university like the professional people, but they still want to learn. And I think we, we feed that beast.
Amanda Hammett: Right. Well, I mean just to your point, their eyes on, you know, the differences between people that went to university and that didn't, you know, some of the people that did go to university, they may have learned some of those management and leadership skills, but actually putting them into practice I have found sometimes is a, there seems to be a block there.
Alan Cherry: Absolutely. No, I mean I, some of the worst managers I've seen have been the most educated, you know, so it's, it's not a question that education makes the person and they're all you know, popped out like great managers. They think they're great managers because they've got an MBA. Actually they're horrible managers because they haven't got any of the soft skills that I would value. Yes. I think that management is a, you know, is a contact sport. It's really about getting in close, talking to people, building relationships and coaching them, coaching such an underrated you know, a skill. People tend to think that you're going to do some fancy a, you know, career planning and you're going to talk about sending people on a program. And really 99% of what you learn is on the job day to day, being coached and on and actually understanding the value of what you're doing. It's not about going on a program.
Amanda Hammett: I couldn't agree with that more. I think that that's a really valuable and valid point there. Oh gosh, I have so many things that I, now I'm all like, oh, I need to ask
Alan Cherry: What was interesting. Let's talk about that. The important thing here is to say that, you know, what we're trying to do here and it's the first time for me is to do something very different with a whole range of people that typically a lot of, uh, you know, high tech professional HR people don't really come into contact with, which is that are, you know, that our array of people from the very lowest level, you know, cleaner sweeper kind of person up to the professional leaders and to try and be a beacon in the community for doing things better. You know, we're in a very disadvantaged area here. You know, typically we wouldn't be the kind of company with the kind of jobs that you would see in this area. And so we're trying to prove that it's possible to do the, you know, the holy grail of being successful in business with a great culture that treats people properly and that we believe everybody will respond to that message saying, we're working with the local community association, we're working with homeboy industries who have previously incarcerated people and they just like everybody else want to actually do better. They want to learn and grow and they want to build a career. So we're offering something that's very, very different in this area to a range of people. When we found that the take up, the interest, the passion is there across the board.
Amanda Hammett: I agree. So what I want to point out and for the audience here is that our planet earth is actually located in an area of La that is, you know, disadvantage. It's not the, it's not the, you know, palm tree lined streets that when you think of La that you think of, I mean, this is a very disadvantaged area. This is the socioeconomic area is just
Alan Cherry: Not immigrants. Second generation immigrants who are very close to poverty, a number of people sleeping on the streets. You know, this is, this is, this is not the high tech Silicon Valley areas that you see on the, in the press every day or on the news. But we're fighting a different battle here, but it's one that we've chosen to, to take on one that I believe we're winning.
Amanda Hammett: Absolutely. So I'd like for you to share with the a little bit more. And you and I had a previous conversation about this and I just, I love what you're doing. Um, so I would like for you guys to share with us, you know, what, what is the whole idea around recruiting? How are you guys going about making a shift in that, in that area? And not just a shift economically in that area, but also in the people that live in that area. How are you affecting?
Alan Cherry: We're basically reaching out to a lot of different people in many different walks of life. And my belief is that there's no one single program that will bring you all the people that you need. So we do work closely with the local community association. We do work with homeboy industries. We put banners on the side of our building. We do all the basic stuff that would, uh, you know, attract hourly pay people who are not looking on, you know, one of the social media sites to find their next position. So that's where we get our kind of a more basic level people. Then we also talk to the a recruitment agents. We have a group of recruitment agents that work very closely with us who have been to the plant to done a tall, they understand our positions, they understand our culture, they know the kind of talent that we're looking for.
Alan Cherry: And then right up to the more senior professionals, the professional engineers, um, and the leadership positions, we work either with agencies or we would post positions ourselves. We run on an interesting website that explains our business, explains after philosophy. And I think that's where the connection comes. And you do find that everybody, you know, from the very lowest level, right the way through. We'll have access to a computer these days. We'll find our website and we'll read what we've written and they'll buy into the vision that we're doing something good for the community. We're doing something good for the environment. It's a job that even if even at the lowest level is satisfying because you understand the vision of the company, you know, removing all the plastic from the oceans and removing plastic from landfill, giving people an opportunity to have end to end closed loop recycling where in essence a used bottle can become a new bottle again is something that will change the way that we recycled plastic and the way we think about plastic. So that's really the vision that we sell and it resonates with people.
Amanda Hammett: And it sounds like it resonates with people at all levels.
Alan Cherry: Yeah. Right across the board you'll find, you know, almost everybody has a story. You know, very often I get some guy comes in, he's going to be a, you know, a machine operator and I'm talking to him about why he's interested and he says, my daughter says we have to do this. And then that's the truth. You know, maybe some of the older people that we have don't quite get it, but certainly their family doesn't, their kids do. And the kids have told them, you should do that. It's really important, and that's really, it's the truth. It is really important. And what we wanted to do in HR is to make it important, not just because of the passion and the vision of the company and the business success, but also because we can be this beacon in the community and we can prove that you don't have to have dirty low paying jobs just because it's a tough area. You can bring a progressive professional environment into this area and be successful in business and give people the opportunities they deserve.
Amanda Hammett: That's amazing. So let me ask you this question. When you're interviewing or when you're looking to bring in someone new at any level and they're considered young talents, so 30 and under, What is it that really stands out to you? Is there a specific character trait? Is there a specific skill set? I don't know that you're looking at that makes you go, that person's going to be a rock star and they're going to be very successful here?
Alan Cherry: Yeah. I think you know, whether it's a millennial or anybody else, there's, there's this, the similar kind of themes that play here. You know, I really liked to talk to somebody that has a plan, somebody that's thoughtful about why they're picking the companies they're working for, why they're picking the managers that they're going to be working closely under. You know, why are they picking this company? Because it has learning and development because it has a good culture because it has a good vision. You know, we're looking for that energy, that passion, that thoughtfulness. And I think they're on a trajectory that you can see all the way through their career. You know, they didn't just do a, this school and this type of education because it was kind of fun. They did it because they thought about it and they knew where it would fit in as part of the building block of their career.
Alan Cherry: And so when they go to take their first or second and the third job, you can see that they're mindful of where they're headed and they're confident of their approach. I also like to see a little humility. You know, one of the biggest things that trips people up is arrogance. You know, people who are, they have a great education. They're definitely on a great trajectory, but they're not right for us if there are arrogant and not right for us if they think just deserved, you know, we want people to still have that little bit of hunger, have that passion, have that burning in their eyes that they're looking for something and they're appreciative of the opportunity. And they know they have to prove themselves.
Amanda Hammett: That's fantastic. I really do agree with that. Arrogance is the downfall of some of the greatest people in the world or, you know, so
Alan Cherry: Let me know if you, if you're comparing cultures, you know, you can see, you know, cultures build and grow and do excellent work at attracting and retaining and making performance. And you can see, uh, you know, other cultures that completely, squash that. And he's normally where you have very strong, very aggressive, you know, arrogant leaders who basically pushed down on the people and they believe poor performance is gained, you know, by the stick rather than the carrot. And it's been pretty well proven that yeah, you can get some short term gains if you Talenti but you're not going to do it long term. People will figure it out and they'll go and work somewhere else. And I think the thing that I'm really thankful for millennials for is that they basically pushed back on that kind of management and background of the company and they've said, no, we're actually, we're not purely, you know, driven by money. We're actually looking for satisfying careers in companies that are trying to make a difference in the environment. We want to do better for the world. And it can be accused of being a little soft, but I don't think that's anything near as bad as being a little too hard. So I'll take a little soft every time. Thank you.
Amanda Hammett: Thank you, Alan Cherry, that was quite an endorsement from you. Um, so let's, let's talk a little bit about this and you, you kind of alluded to this in the last answer that you gave, but I would imagine through your career you've been at multiple startups, you've been at some wonderful companies. But I would imagine that you have witnessed and experienced on your own some other different forms of leadership, different styles of leadership and how did that actually shape your vision of the kind of culture you want it to help create and also your own leadership style?
Alan Cherry: Yeah, I've seen some, I mean, at a certain point you, you turn around in your career maybe when you're like mid career and you think, well now I've worked for four or five companies, I've seen a range of different cultures and management styles and I've seen varying degrees of business success. And you start to, if you're thoughtful, put together, where would I like to work? What would be my perfect company if I had that dream to do whatever I wanted? And you're playing off usually between business success and a great culture. And it's almost as though people tell you those things are binary and you can't have both. I'm a bit of a dreamer and I do believe you can have both. You know, I don't want to work for a great company that's totally unsuccessful, but neither do I want to work for a totally successful company that's miserable to work for.
Alan Cherry: I think you've got to find that happy balance in the middle. And I think with the right leadership and the right employees and the culture that you're building, you know, one employee at a time, then I think you do create that culture that is both a driven, a successful business, successful company with a great culture does treat people well. It doesn't mean you give people an easy ride or a free ride. We're not saying that at all. We're actually saying you're going to get challenged every day. You're going to get pushed to do more. You're gonna get driven to sign up the bigger responsibilities and to do more with your life and your career. But we're not, you know, we're not going to relent at all on that side because that's what leads to great business success. And we're looking for people that stay the course, not people that come in and do nine months and then quit. We want people that will stick with us. We want people that are in this for the long haul and they'll seek, seek out the kind of companies that have that longer term vision and they'll be successful and they'll stay with those companies and they will learn and grow and they will develop much better skills and have more satisfaction.
Amanda Hammett: So let me ask you this, and this just totally popped in my head when you were talking. What is your take on failure at work?
Alan Cherry: So I mean, failure is it, that's like saying, you know, what are your weaknesses? You know what I mean? And we turned weaknesses and we say that there are no weaknesses. There's only development, you know. And this, the same with failure. Failure. Usually a council, it could be business failure or it could be failure of a personal nature and is okay, use good. If you, if you learn from it you can go to a startup. And I've been at a startup that had a great vision. It had a great product, had incredible technology, but it was technology chasing a market and the market didn't really exist. So we were kidding ourselves and telling ourselves how wonderfully clever we are on we're to develop this product, to have this technology, have all these smart people. But really we were diluting ourselves because there was no market there.
Alan Cherry: So the learning was great. You know, you can be as smart as you like. It doesn't matter if there's no market for what you're selling, you'll never be business successful. You know, this is like the difference between if you're old enough to remember Betamax and DHS, you know, in the different a recording systems, you know, Betamax was actually a much better system, technically much better, more advanced than VHS. But it didn't when VHS won because the market wanted achieve the lighter, softer, more available system. And so once again, you know, the learning comes through every time that you have to have alignment with everything that you're doing. So an individual can learn and accompany can learn. And when you choose the place that you work, when you choose the, uh, the company with a product or a technology, you have to ask yourself that question because it will obviously influence everything you do when you get to that company.
Amanda Hammett: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. So let me ask you this. What would you say has been the biggest influence or shifts that you've seen in the workforce as these younger generations have come on as millennials have come in and now we're starting to see genex come into the workforce? What shifts and changes are you seeing?
Alan Cherry: So I think there is a shift in terms of, as we've kind of alluded to earlier, that, uh, you know, you see the younger people come in and on one hand, one side, they're exactly the same as every other generation. And there's a bunch of really smart ones as a bunch of really hard working ones. There's some people that are still finding their way and there's some people that have given up. And that's the same in every generation. I think the, the millennials and the gen x people have started to shift the world a little in that they're pushing back on some of the accepted ways of working which were very old school where, you know, you have to come in on this hour and you have to leave at that hour. You can't really do anything else unless you come to work. You know, working from home means you're a slacker.
Alan Cherry: I think those notions are changing dramatically where, I don't know what the latest number is, but I think they said something like 60% of people work at home at some time during during the month or the week nowadays. And I think that is a much greater degree of freedom for people. And I think you'll find, not that they will abuse it, but they will actually respect it and perform better because of it. Whether they're able to raise a child, whether they're able to take a job with a longer commute because they don't have to go every day, you know, it gives so much more flexibility to the workforce. Then also we would thank that those new generations for pointing out that you know, satisfying, meaningful work that actually is valuable to the community and the environment and the world is actually a really, really good thing. And people will be so much more passionate and hardworking about it rather than just taking a job that pays well.
Amanda Hammett: Yeah, absolutely. And it's not a, it's not a pipe dream. It actually can be reality.
Alan Cherry: And actually the, once again, the two things come together. If you find something that's really meaningful to you, you work hard at it, you're successful on it. And guess what? The world likes it as well. They buy it and we're all successful. So you can have both sides of the house. It doesn't have to be business success or a great culture. It can be both.
Amanda Hammett: I agree with that. I agree wholeheartedly. So what I see a lot of leaders struggle with is making that connection. They may be at a company, that has a great vision and is doing good in the world, but they're having a hard time making those connections for some of their employees that maybe aren't on the front lines and doing the cool innovative things. They may be, you know, sweeping the floor or you know, doing payroll or something that's maybe not quote unquote exciting and innovative, but they're having a hard time making connection as to why that's important. So what would you say to a leader who's struggling with that?
Alan Cherry: So again, it's really back to the, the fact that it's, you know, talking to the individuals every day in every way. You know, management is not an end of year writing of the review. And I'm a manager, no management does every day in every way. And it's, it's a, it's like gardening, you know, you want, you have to wait and feed every day. You can't just go and do the garden. We do weeding on once a month. It doesn't work like that, you know? And I think that's what good leaders do. Good leaders know. They have to, build a relationship with that. People they have to, you know, before they tell them something, they have to ask some questions. You know, what's going on in your life, where are you today? How are you feeling? You know, because we all live arrange of different lives. You know, where the worker, where the, where the father, where the sun, where whatever, you know, there's tons of different pieces to our world and we don't all show up every day completely brimming with passion. And that's not the reality of it. Sometimes we needed a little pick me up. Sometimes we need you to put an arm around my shoulder. Sometimes I need a little bit of a kick to get me going. You know? And all those things are the right answer at the right time.
Alan Cherry: So I think the good managers, good leaders, they take that responsibility and they explained to people that, you know, they, they look at the bread crumbs and they joined the dots for them to show that, hey, you might be a sweep for today, but do you realize if you did that job really well in three months, you might get the next job, which would be a forklift driver. And then you're taking the bales of used plastic and you're putting them into the recycling so that we can grind them up and we can make them into new plastic structures, which means we don't have to bury them in the ground or throw them in the ocean. That's why it's important.
Alan Cherry: You can make those connections that every level with every different job. And I think the good managers will engage their employees. You know, I mean an engagement and motivation are very different. You know, I can beat you with a stick and tell you you're motivated to do the job, but if I engage you, you do that yourself. You provide the motivation and it's worth three x me motivating you. And that that's where the good managers go. Yeah. Hey, sweeping the streets in whatever is maybe not the most exciting job, but it has a career element to it. Think about the skills that you could learn. You know, we would send, we send our people at that level, they go on English training, so they're going to basically develop their language skills so they can be more effective in the workplace. You know, there are a lot of things you can learn. They come to our toastmasters club and learn how to communicate better. You know? So yeah, maybe the cleaning and sweeping and driving forklifts, but they're still doing some skill building which will be useful in the future.
Amanda Hammett: I love that. And you know, one of the things that I think that Millennials have done a good job as really pushing back on that leadership style. Because when I early in my career join the workforce, I worked for Fortune 50 Company and the leadership style was very much like, you do this because I told you to do this. There was no guiding, there was no coaching, there was no nothing. It was just get it done. I don't care how it happens, just do it. And so now I think that that's one of the things that Millennials have done is they have really pressed that issue and required managers to grow from just get it done to actually empathetic heart more heartlab like we're human to human connecting here at at work and this is what we need to do to accomplish a goal together as a team.
Alan Cherry: Absolutely. If you hire the right people, then a good manager, a good leader would never want to just tell you what to do because the, the, the trick of of leadership is I will tell you what needs to be done. Yes. But you to bring the creativity and the passion and the involvement into how it is done. Yes. And we can discuss the standard to which it will be finished and I think that's where the interest is and the young people that I work with or are so passionate and so hardworking and so enthusiastic about what we're doing and how it is impacting the world. They love coming to work in the morning and doing that whole, whether it's as you say, a payroll manager or a junior engineer or a technician, you see the same responsibility, the same pickup that you get in, in any level of work. And it changes the way we actually get business performance. And I don't think, you know, the old school manager who tells you what to do and tells you how to do it looks over your shoulder every five minutes to get anywhere near the same result that we see.
Amanda Hammett: I love that. So let me ask you this. What advice would you give for any young talent, any young employee or are actually for anybody for that matter, as you're looking at as they're looking at companies that are out there interviewing, they're looking for a new position. Are there any red flags that would just tell them, hey, that that culture is not great, that's going to be toxic. You're not going to be happy. Is there anything that just really stands out to you?
Alan Cherry: It's terrible. I think I, when I teach interview skills and I'm teaching my managers, I say to them, you know, I'll teach you all the skills and then at the end of the day, the most important thing I'm going to teach you is trust your gut. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right? Yes. If the person is interviewing you, feels aggressive, feels controlling, discusses this is what you will do. This is how you will do it. You know, it's an automaton speaking, and I think that tells you far more than anything that they've actually told you. You know, the words they can say can mean anything, but the way that they say the relationship, even in an interview, that they build, the messages you got as you walk through the front door, as you talk to the receptionist, as you walk through the offices, as you sat down in the interview room, you're picking up signals all the way along do not ignore those signals. You will know if you're in a good company with good energy, you will know if it's a company that has a vision and a business that interests you, if you don't follow your passion is only going to be a job, right? And then you could be successful but not really successful. It'll never be satisfying and successful and therefore you'll never really get your dream job.
Amanda Hammett: All right. So Alan, what is your favorite leadership book of all time?
Alan Cherry: I didn't really have a favorite, but I liked sacred hoops, um, by Phil Jackson, which I, uh, I know nothing about basketball so I put my arms up there, but I liked the fact that he, he was able to take very strong minded individuals who, uh, extremely, uh, passionate veering into arrogant and basically show them that they would never achieve anything unless they could work with others and collaborate and build a vision together and then go execute. And that's the, an incredible metaphor for business in that you will never achieve anything if you think you're going to do it all on your own. You know, business is a collaborative sport. There is nothing we do here that an individual does completely on their own to be successful. They're always working in a team and they're always part of a successful company.
Amanda Hammett: Wow. I so I have nothing that I can add to that. So thank you very much Alan, for being here.
Alan Cherry: Thank you. It's been pleasure.
Amanda Hammett: Thank you. All right, audience. Thank you guys so much for joining Alan and I and we will see you in the next episode.
Amanda Hammett: Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the Next Generation Rock Stars where we have discussed all about recruiting and retaining that next generation of talent. So I'm guessing that you probably learned a tremendous amount from this week's rock star leader and if that is the case, don't keep me a secret, share this episode with the world, but really share it with your friends, with your colleagues, because they also need to learn how to recruit and retain this next generation of talent because these skills are crucial to business success moving forward. Now, of course, I want you to keep up to date every single week as we are dropping each and every episode. So be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast platform of your choice, and you will see the next generation rock stars show up just for you.