NextGen Featuring Ralph Barsi

Ralph Barsi: Attracting & Developing “A Players”

If you have ever worked in an environment where you are celebrated and not tolerated, you know it increases your productivity, profitability as well as overall engagement and loyalty to your company. Learn how Ralph Barsi of ServiceNow approaches attracting and retaining early career "A players".

Ralph Barsi is the VP, Global Inside Sales at Ralph Barsi leads the worldwide sales development organization at ServiceNow. Ralph regularly speaks and writes about sales and leadership and is recognized among the top inside sales leaders in the technology industry. He publishes most of his material at

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - Attracting & Developing "A Players"

Welcome to the Next Generation Rockstars 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: 00:14
All right, so today's episode of the Next Generation Rock Stars podcast. I interviewed Ralph Barsi of service now out in Silicon Valley and man, he brought it to this interview. So you need to go ahead and just get your pen and notebook ready because you're going to have to take lots of notes. Ralph really believes in developing that early in career college. Uh, and, and he doesn't just believe it and say these things. He actually is doing it in the trenches like day to day. And he gives you some really practical and actionable steps that you as a leader can take and implement within your company today or your team today. And I think that leaders who have been leading, you know, who are brand new leaders, leaders who've been leading for 20, 30 years, I mean, this is some really good stuff that Ralph brings to this interview. And I really hope that you really listen and take it all at.

Amanda Hammett: 01:07
I in fact loved this interview so much that after the interview I asked Ralph like, Hey, can we do around too? I really wanted to talk to him about mentoring. That was the original reason I reached out to him was to talk to him about mentoring because I personally know some of his mentees and they are killer and we'll talk a little bit about them during the interview, but man, we didn't even get to it. I mean we just didn't have time so I expect to hear more from Ralph Barsi just beyond today and I hope you enjoy this interview.

Amanda Hammett: 01:40
All right, welcome to the Next Generation Rockstars podcast. I have an amazing guest for you today. His name is Ralph Barsi and he is my service now, so let's all welcome Ralph, welcome to the show.

Ralph Barsi : 01:51
Thank you so much Amanda, how are you today?

Amanda Hammett: 01:53
I am fantastic working on a little bit low level of sleep, but otherwise great.

Ralph Barsi : 01:59
Oh good to hear. Good to hear. Well, I'm looking forward to talking with you.

Amanda Hammett: 02:02
Me Too. So this has been a long time coming. You were actually nominated to be on the show by two people. One was a rock star that I had on season bond Morgan J Ingram, who is if anybody watched the show last season, you know, Morgan knocks it out of the park every day. The second person will actually be on the show next season for season three and her name is Nicola and I don't want to give anything else away about her, but she's awesome.

Ralph Barsi : 02:29
She is.

Amanda Hammett: 02:30
So let's hear a little bit about you Ralph.

Ralph Barsi : 02:34
Sure. Hello everybody. My name is Ralph Barsi. Today on the global sales development leader at service. Now we're a cloud computing company. We're based in silicon valley. We started 2003, 2004. Our focus was on servicing it departments and streamlining the workflow of help desk environments. But over the years we've really evolved into servicing all business units in the enterprise. So essentially our technology digitize those workflows and makes the experience of fulfilling reclass pretty smooth and simple. My job in service now is to oversee roughly 200 what we call atrs or account development reps. They have a two fold objective. Number one is they drive revenue pipeline for the company by booking qualified meetings for our field organization on their second objective is to become our future sales reps for service now. So we really drive a revenue pipeline as well as a talent pipeline. And it's a blast. I've been here just about four years. I started here in Q four of 2015 and it's gone very quickly. As you can imagine. prior to that I have a little over 20 years experience close to 25 now in sales. The first half of my career was spent as an individual contributor, whereas the latter half has really been leading and scaling sales and sales development teams.

Amanda Hammett: 04:08
Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, one thing that I know about you in the sales world that I'm actually gathered from, you know, looking at sales organizations and, and associations, but also the people that are really influencing the market, is that when I'm talking to those influencers in particular, those younger influencers, I'm like, well, who are you looking at? Who are you following? Who, who's mentoring you? And low and behold, it is Ralph Barsi.

Ralph Barsi : 04:35
Wow. That's flattering and humbling. Thank you. I hope I'm adding value to the marketplace. I appreciate it.

Amanda Hammett: 04:42
I would say so. I would say so. So, um, so let's talk a little bit about your role and how you see it. Because I would assume, and I'm making an assumption here and let's clear, clarify this for the audience, but particularly when you're driving that talent pipeline for service, now you're looking primarily at early career, correct?

Ralph Barsi : 05:04
Oh, sure. For the most part we have a relatively young group of atrs and when I say on, so if it helps, I'm 48 years old today. And so young to me is between 20 and 30. And that's largely the demographic of our account development reps. They're relatively early in their career as well as that service now. So we feel that, you know, the leaders here, we feel this time is precious and it's finite and it's a, it's a privilege to be able to develop the skills and the competencies and the accusation that these future salespeople and leaders need to succeed. It's quite a project and exercise, but we're blessed and excited to be the ones to do it.

Amanda Hammett: 05:50
Okay. I love this outlook. Because I know that so many people struggle with the attraction of young talent, but also keeping it. I don't, I think that they're missing a few important foundational items. One is really getting that attraction piece correct, but also the people who are leading them, once they're there, they need to be the right people. So let's talk first a little bit about how do you go about attracting the right talent?

Ralph Barsi : 06:22
Sure. So of course, Amanda, there's different levels of talent that we need to attract. And I'm really happy we're talking about the word and the whole concept of attracting. I think a lot of companies and teams who struggle with finding talent are focused on pursuing that talent. They chase people down, they spray and pray their job descriptions all over the internet and they just hope great candidates come in. Instead, they need to reverse that whole process and they need to focus on them. And I don't, I don't usually say that I'm usually talking about focus outward versus inward. This is different when you want to attract top talent, you have to keep in mind that a players want to play for a player. Coaches, yes. And they want to go to environments where they are celebrated, not tolerated, and they want to learn while they're in these companies so that they can add value and be the best versions of themselves in the workplace.

Ralph Barsi : 07:24
So you as a leader, you really need to focus on what's that bad signal that you've just cast into the sky for people to learn more about. You learn more about your team, learn more about your company and your industry. You know, what's your branding effort like whether it be on Linkedin, whether it be out and about in the marketplace. Can we read some of your content? Can we see you on Youtube? Can we learn about you as a leader to make our decision and discern whether or not we even want to apply to a job on your team at your company? And I think a lot of leaders, I don't think I know a lot of leaders really miss that they are out there focusing on their own brand for whatever reason and top talents going elsewhere.

Amanda Hammett: 08:11
I would agree with that wholeheartedly. And one of the other things that I see in, you know, maybe you agree with this, maybe you don't, but a lot of companies especially, and I don't understand this in a sales organization, but they rely on HR completely. Yes. The machine. And I'm like, I don't understand if your numbers depend on the talent, why aren't you driving this process?

Ralph Barsi : 08:35
Exactly. I mean a lot of, I mean a lot of leaders with all due respect are heads down driving the revenue that they're primarily responsible for. And also people have a hard time writing content, being on youtube, appearing on podcasts like this one because there's maybe a, an inherit fear that they're going to be disliked by the marketplace. So a lot of people out there feel that what I'm doing right now is very self-serving. It's all about Ralph Barsi when it's the complete opposite. I'm just trying to shed light and expose the good things that we're doing at service now, particularly in global sales development, in hopes and with an intent that top talent out there is going to say yes, that's the type of team I can add value to and I can also learn from how do I get there?

Amanda Hammett: 09:28
Absolutely. I would agree with that wholeheartedly, but I would like to add that additionally, I think that other leaders can learn from you whether they're in sales or not. I think that this is something that every leader at any level needs to hear.

Ralph Barsi : 09:43
Awesome. That's even better. Great.

Amanda Hammett: 09:46
All right. So let's talk a little bit about, um, you've done the work. You've done the background work that you needed to do to attract that talent into you and you get in this new early-career employee. What happens from there?

Ralph Barsi : 10:03
Sure. So a great question. A lot of it has to happen preemptively before they even come in. So during the recruiting phase, you have to, first of all, think about the job description that you have out there in the first place. You know, what's the size of the job description? It's okay to have a long job description if it's a killer copy, you know, and it's enthusiastic and compelling and informative and has calls to action where someone can't wait to apply. So think about the verbiage you're using. Think about what audiences that, that verbiage will resonate with or not. So be very mindful of the language that you're using. I mean, for example, some companies who are looking for people to come in and just crush quota, that's going to appeal to a much smaller audience than

Ralph Barsi : 10:56
Then words that would say, hey, come here and grow and develop in your career, sharpen your skills and your competencies. Be surrounded by people who have very high standards and want to move the needle from a to B. That's way more exciting and compelling than the former verbiage. So think about that kind of stuff. And then when they do come in the door, hopefully by that point, during that recruiting phase or interviewing phase, you've all really already talked about the well-lit career path that's ahead of them. If they put some skin in the game in this very role, you know, if they, if they really optimize and maximize the time they have in the role they were hired for and really work to master that role, knowing that it's going to carry them forward in their career and more opportunities will surface the better they do in this existing role.

Ralph Barsi : 11:49
You have to have those types of conversations very, very early on. And then of course when they come in the door, you got to teach them, you know, specifically for sales development reps, the average tenure is maybe 15 to 24 months as an SDR, ADR, BDR, whatever you want to call it before they're up and out into hopefully in other business function within your own company, and even if they go elsewhere, leaders have to recognize that, look, everybody on your team today is eventually going to be an alum of your team. So when they go out into the world, whether it's in your company or elsewhere, they're going to be representing you and they're going to be representing your team, your brand, your company up from the time that they worked for you. So you want to put your best foot forward so that they learn enough to go on and pay it forward down the line. And remember you and the time that, that they had on your team and all the great insights they learned and the experiences they had while they were part of your team. And you want those little reflections and rep represent representations of view out into the world doing good versus the opposite.

Amanda Hammett: 13:04
I just have so many questions.

Ralph Barsi : 13:06
It's right. I mean I'd like to talk about it all day. Say you're in dear to my heart. It's really important.

Amanda Hammett: 13:13
I think that this is super, super important. I think that one of the things that really struck me about what you just said was that about really taking in developing that, you know, first time, you know, this is their first job out of college or university or whatever. That is a hard leadership role and a lot of people are not well suited for that role. And I was wondering if you could share with the audience. What kind of characteristics, what traits would you say would be somebody who would make a good leader for someone who is just right out of college or university? This is their first maybe the second job.

Ralph Barsi : 13:52
Someone who would be a good leader would have a fabulous attitude. They're enthusiastic about the work they're doing and life itself. They walk into a room and they light that room up. They don't suck the life out of it. They see the good in everything and you know, they stay in the sunlight that said they're living by very high standards, high standards that they, they themselves set for themselves versus standards I'm going to set or anyone that I work with is going to set a, they work harder on themselves and they do on their job. They are selfless. They are humble. They are teachers and coaches. They love the people that work with them and for them, they see everybody on their team two years out and they picture them as already successful account or successful team leaders or successful business owners five, 10, 15 years from now.

Ralph Barsi: 14:58
And they understand that in this little pocket of time that they have, they've got to give those people the best up from their experiences. You know, their best insights so that those people can, can go on and pay it forward later. It's attributes like that that I look for when I'm hiring leaders. And then there's the flip side. We're running a business, so you have to have an understanding of the outcomes we're after, how we measure our progress against those outcomes, how to be decisive, how to have intestinal fortitude to sit at a conference room table with a bunch of type a executives who also have numbers to hit and understand that there's a many times throughout your day that you must detach from the emotional aspect and the sunshine, beautiful time that we have here. Developing people to get to work and to understand the performance indicators that we're measuring against, et Cetera, on how you're making a contribution to the business. Let's not lose sight of the business side of things as well.

Amanda Hammett: 16:05
Of course, and that's the whole thing that makes everything move and continue. You can't continue to develop people. There's no business that you're putting them into. So...

Ralph Barsi : 16:15
That's right. So I find myself referring more and more to Ray Daleo his principles and what he speaks about in that book and what his philosophy is, is that you have to almost see yourself as well as your business or your team as a machine. And you are an engineer that simply operates that machine gene. And oftentimes that machine's going to break down in certain areas. Certain parts of the antigen are going to become faulty and you have to be able to identify those faults or gaps and you have to build systems that allow you to look at problems as, oh, we've seen this situation before, we have contingency plans in place based on our experience. So we're going to pull a lever a, lever B, Lever C and we'll get through this thing. No problem. Versus completely freaking out at the gap or the fall and going, oh my God, all hell is broken loose. We're going to slide off the rails here at any moment. It's really just having the wherewithal and the understanding of going, okay, this is a quick little recalibration or modulation that we need to make. And we're back on the rails and we're heading north again. It takes leaders like that to be at the helm.

Amanda Hammett: 17:33
I agree with that. I agree with that and we've all had leaders in the past, or at least I'll speak from my own experience where any tiny thing goes wrong and they are just losing their mind. It's like, how did you get in this role? Really?

Ralph Barsi : 17:46
We've all, unfortunately, we've all been, well, most of us have been exposed. Those leaders in, I avoid them and people like that at all costs. All of a sudden, all of a sudden I'm getting blamed and all of a sudden I'm being berated in front of others and it's just, it's such a whack way to lead people and in fact, over my career, I've kept journal notes in a document that I've kept for many, many years now that I add to on a daily basis on what not to do as a leader. So when I've been exposed to crummy leaders, I've written it down like, hey, Barsi don't do this. Don't do that. Approach it this way. Do the opposite and I'll refer back to it more often than not to just remind myself, you know, how, how you're coming across. You've got to be very self-aware of, of the brand and, and how and a persona that you're showing up with on a daily basis. Because whether you like it or not, you are setting an example and people are taking note. Whether they tell you or never tell you, you're setting an example. So set the best one you can.

Amanda Hammett: 18:51
Absolutely. You know, that's funny you brought up self-awareness. I was actually with a sales team just last week and we did a self-awareness exercise where there's like 400 sellers and you know, you, they have different categories of impression. Little Post-it notes that they had to go write one word and their impression of another person. So somebody, they work with, somebody that they know but don't work with directly and then someone they have seen in the halls but don't actually know what is their impression of that person. And it was funny because people were very like, oh, everybody said I was quiet and shy and I'm not at all. And it was just like, well, what, what are you putting out there? Because it's not just the people you work with, it's your clients, it's your higher-ups. It's everybody. What are you putting out there?

Ralph Barsi : 19:37
Yeah, absolutely. And it's that it's duly noted that, you know when you walk into the workplace thinking that everybody knows something that you don't, or everybody carries a little nugget of value that you can learn from and grow from. It just, it completely changes your perspective on the people you work with. You start to see yourself as really a member of a team that you need to make a contribution to and add value to. And it's just, it's a game changer. Once you realize that, that people likely know something that you don't or have gone through something that, that you have it and are just a little wiser than you think they are. Yeah, it definitely makes a difference.

Amanda Hammett: 20:18
It does. So I'd like to switch gears just a little bit and I'd like to talk about, you mentioned this briefly earlier, but I'd like to talk about those career development conversations.

Ralph Barsi: 20:31

Amanda Hammett: 20:32
When do you start having them? How often do you have them? What walk us through, what, what that looks like for you.

Ralph Barsi: 20:39
You start having them at the very beginning of the relationship. So for leaders on the front line, for example, with sales reps or sales development reps, it's important to earmark a one on one per month or per quarter. I recommend maybe once a quarter where we actually talk about, you know, personal and professional development. A lot of the other one on one should focus on day to day operation, et Cetera and getting to the goal. But early in the relationship, you know, have the rep do a self-assessment, have them talk about and literally write down, they could share what they'd like or just share excerpts of this exercise because it's personal. But what are your short term, midterm, and long term goals? How do you define short term versus midterm versus long term? Short term could be two to four weeks for some people you know, or they could be six to 12 months.

Ralph Barsi: 21:34
It's important to identify what they mean by short, mid and longterm. Because a lot of sales development reps, six to eight months into the GIG, they're approaching their leaders asking about getting promoted and it's way premature. It's way too early. There's still a lot more development and experience and time that needs to pass in order for them to incubate if you will, and really become masters of the role they're in and add way more value in future roles. So identify what those time frames are and then ask the person in this self-assessment, hey, who do you admire in the world professionally or personally? Who do you want to emulate? Tell us why. What characteristics or attributes to those people illustrate on a regular basis that you want to model that's going to give the leader a really good understanding of, you know, how this person ticks what this person likes, dislikes, what they're trying to accomplish or who they're aspiring to become.

Ralph Barsi: 22:35
Another thing in the assessment is, and there's really, there are four questions. It's like, you know, what are your career aspirations? Short, mid, long. Who Do you admire? Who do you want to emulate? That's number two. Number three is what do you need to learn and work on to get where your going and then lastly, how can our company, how can me, how? How can we, how can I, how can others around you really help you get from here to there and you'll realize more often than not that, like you said, college students coming into the workplace. They have no idea what north is to them or where they want to be in five years or why they want to be there. A lot of people, especially in the sales world, they'll come in and go, I just want to make money. I want to make a ton of money.

Ralph Barsi: 23:21
Okay, well that's a trigger then for the leader to ask. Awesome. That's fabulous. Let's fast forward. Let's say the stars have aligned and you've earned all the money that you want to earn. What are you going to do with it? Now the leader's going to get a really good understanding of is this a person who's trying to care for alien parents? Because if somebody who wants to get married, do they want to invest in properties? Do they want to run their own business someday? Do they want to donate to a charity? And you know, put forward a philanthropic effort to do better in the world. Once they've got that money discussion aside, they can really get to the root cause of why they want the money in the first place, right? So I highly recommend doing those assessments, sharing them very, very early on and then doing, you know, periodically start, stop, continue exercises, Amanda, you need to start doing A, B, C you're not getting out there and networking enough. You're not on the phones enough. You're not falling on your face giving yourself enough experiences where you have to get back up again and dust yourself off. So do that. Here's where I think you need to stop doing. Here's what you need to continue doing because you're awesome at it. Like, let's get after it, let's go get it. And I think discussions like that pretty simple, not that difficult to have they just need to happen and they need to be put on the calendar to happen or they will not take place.

Amanda Hammett: 24:43
I think that that's, that is a really good point. They need to be on the calendar and almost like a standing appointment quarterly or monthly or however you do it. Because they're so easy to get, Oh, you know what, I've got to take care of this. And they're so easy to get pushed aside and then you don't ever do it. But especially in that early career, things are shifting and they're learning so much about themselves as who they want to be as a professional, who they want to be as a person, where they want to go. That that is shifting and changing and evolving quickly, much more quickly than at other points in your career that the leader really needs to be there to kind of develop and guide that. And if you're not doing it, you don't know and you're losing them basically

Ralph Barsi: 25:27
100% oh and keep in mind, as we just talked about, most of the people that are coming into the sales development world are recent graduates. So what does that mean? They have been on a schedule for their entire life. That's like semester-based. You know, they finish a class, it's onto the next class. They get graded in that class and they move forward after one year they go to the next grade. And so they've been on this cadence their entire life and they come into a company and a company is like, oh dude, you're not getting promoted for like two years. That is an unbelievable news to them. And they really have to adapt and you know, recalibrate how they're approaching their day to day work because they're just not used to that. So create an academy so that as soon as they come in, they understand that there are six month time frames where they're going to learn A and they're going to learn B, then they're going to learn C and over those six months timeframes they're going to be graded in this academy, for example, at service now we have a global sales development academy that's broken into guessing what?

Ralph Barsi : 26:34
Six-month chunks and we call it liftoff, launch an orbit, and by the time you're in the final six months or even a six month period after that, you're learning the competencies that are going to make you successful in the next role. So you're learning about the t's and C's of contracts. You're learning negotiation with high-level executives and committees who are making decisions at big companies. You're learning how the legal process works when lawyers red line clauses in a contract and what that means. You're learning about the time that it really takes to close a deal, especially in our world, in the SAS B2B world, selling into the enterprise sales cycles could be two years long. So you have to understand all the components and mechanics of moving a deal over the line. There's a lot of studying that needs to happen, and so we incorporate that into our academy.

Ralph Barsi : 27:33
Secondly, we talked about this at the very beginning of our call today. Mentoring is critical. You have to have a coach or a teacher that's not the direct manager that can have those offline conversations with you. How are things going? Hey, if Amanda shows up like this, don't take it too seriously. This is probably why she's responding like this. Instead, focus on this. So we built a global sales development mentorship program here as well, where we have account executives and solution consultants and people from other business functions volunteering to mentor our Account Development Reps. It's a two-way street. The arts have to put, frankly, more skin in the game because what you put into it is what you're going to get out of it, right? But nonetheless, relationships are created that last way beyond the mentorship program. You make friends in the process and people that you'll probably lean on throughout your career. So it's a joy to watch, but it's so important to share that with other leaders that may not have stuff like that in place in their own organizations.

Amanda Hammett: 28:38
Absolutely. And I think that for some reason I think mentoring programs have, you know, they were put into place for a lot of companies, but they were in a lot of ways I feel over-managed. They were very, they were too systematized and it didn't allow for that organic growth of what that individual needs. And you know, what they can do together as a mentor, mentee. You know, I worked with one company and it was just very like, okay, on this meeting you talk about x on this meeting, you talk about why. And I'm like, but that's not what she needs. So what is your philosophy when you're mentoring someone? Let's say that you want to mentor me and that would be great. And I'm just, what would be your philosophy forgetting that relationship going and how would you judge on what do we need to talk about? What do we need to work on?

Ralph Barsi : 29:29
Sure. We would, you and I would first need to establish, okay, Amanda, how are we going to communicate with one another? Is it going to be like this where we're looking at each other, right? et Cetera, et cetera. How often are we going to communicate? I'm extremely busy. I'm sure you are too. So to avoid and mitigate any, you know, email, tennis back and forth, trying to figure out dates and times when you write to me, be very specific. Yes. Give me multiple-choice questions that I can just tick the box on and we can move forward. Let's see. Be Mindful of your writing. So if you're, if we agree that we're okay with texting one another, again, ask a question in the text so that it evokes a response. Otherwise, it's just information for me to read. When you're emailing me, made sure, you know, just like we tell sales development reps when they're prospecting into big accounts, you know, have a subject line that tells me what this email is about.

Ralph Barsi : 30:36
Make a brief, concise, break up your paragraphs, get into the detail of, of writing. You talked about, hey look, there's a lot of companies out there and I couldn't agree more that systematize this and that. It's very robotic if you will. However, if you really want to elicit that organic relationship, it's okay to preface a form that you're going to send the mentor and the mentee. If you're the owner of a mentorship program and you might want to say, hey, here are some guidelines that we've seen work in the past for people who are having a hard time getting started. You may want to do this, you may want to do that versus do this, do that and let people kind of figure it out on their own. Those are just a couple tips. Again, this is another one we could talk about all day.

Amanda Hammett: 31:22
It is, and unfortunately we are coming to an end of our time and I feel like we need to have a part two for this and start this whole conversation on mentoring because it is such an important part of developing particularly young talent, but I think it's valuable across across the entire employee life cycle. But Ralph, I want to thank you so much. This has been incredibly insightful. I took lots of notes today, but I want to thank you so much for sharing and being willing to share with others you.

Ralph Barsi : 31:54
It's my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me, Amanda. I'm always open to a part two. If you want to pin that on the calendar, we'll make it happen.

Amanda Hammett: 32:03
I'm going to take you off on that. All right, well thank you guys so much for joining us with Ralph Barsi today on the next generation rock stars podcast and we will see you in the very next episode.

Amanda Hammett: 32:14
Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the Next Generation Rockstars, 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, 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 Rockstars show up just for you.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Featuring Travis Dommert

Travis Dommert: How Developing Talent Adds to Your Bottom Line

Long term profitability and viability are not driven by your strategy or your technology. It is driven by your people. If you are looking for long term profitability and viability, take care of your people. Learn from Travis Dommert, Jackson Healthcare on how investing in your people will drive profitability for your company.

Travis Dommert is the Talent Development Executive at Jackson Healthcare. Jackson Healthcare is creating an unparalleled environment where great companies thrive. It fosters companies that are preferred partners and employers of choice, all while doing meaningful work and impacting communities locally as well as around the world.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - How Developing Talent Adds to Your Bottom Line

Welcome to the Next Generation Rockstars 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: 00:14
All right. This week's episode of the Next Generation Rock Stars podcast, we talk about developing talent, specifically a lot about developing leaders, and I get this question a lot. I'm always asked, you know why? Why should I spend more money to develop my people? Why should I invest to give them skills so that they can leave me? And I always feel like that's such a short-sided way to see developing your talent because first and foremost, we know that next-generation talent if you're not developing them, they're gonna leave and go somewhere where they can be developed. That is one of the big things that they're looking for, but even further than that is Travis Dommert from Jackson Healthcare shares with us in this particular interview is that it's so important to specifically develop your leaders to really pour into them because they can make or break the employee experience for the rest of your employees. So tune in. I hope you take lots of notes and meet Travis Dommert from Jackson Healthcare.

Amanda Hammett: 01:16
Hey, and welcome to this episode of the Next Generation Rock Stars podcast. I have a super amazing episode today. I have Travis Dommert from Jackson healthcare. Welcome, Travis.

Travis Dommert: 01:28
Hey Amanda. How are you?

Amanda Hammett: 01:30
Doing Super well. So you are in Atlanta and I was looking at all these great places to work lists and I was like, man, I'm going to showcase somebody from Atlanta. And so I reached out to you. So thanks for agreeing to be on the show.

Travis Dommert: 01:4
Oh, it's awesome to be with you. And you're right. It's rare that you find somebody like in your own backyard to talk to that, you know, maybe could, could be a local expert. So, um, I'll do my best.

Amanda Hammett: 01:55
Perfect. Well, I know you're going to do awesome. So why don't you tell the audience a little bit about you really quick?

Travis Dommert: 02:01
You know, I think about the different hats that I wear and um, you know, I start the day, each day as a husband. So I've been married for about 17 years, coming up on 18 this year, and then dad a have five kids and so they're all school-aged and life is really full on that side, you know, and then I go to work every day and I get to work at an absolutely amazing place. I'm at Jackson Healthcare, as you said, and I've got a dream job. My responsibility is for talent acquisition and learning and development and it's getting to kind of live out a professional and life passion that I discovered way too late in life. But I'm just glad I found it. Nonetheless, I started out in engineering and ended up working with people but all rooted in the same idea, which is I'd like to know how things work. It's just, I didn't realize until years after business school that I'm learning how people work would be so fascinating.

Amanda Hammett: 02:59
That's a really cool little movement on your career because a lot of people go into engineering thinking, this is my path for life. But that was a very interesting movie made I'm kind of curious, could you tell us a little bit more about what encouraged that move?

Travis Dommert: 03:14
Sure. You know, ultimately it was I think trying to be successful. So I started out in truly hardcore engineering. It was manufacturing engineering and I could say I didn't fall in love with like a machine shop floor. And I thought deep down, like I really, I love cars, I'm passionate about cars and airplanes and so I got to go to work in the design center at Ford Ford Motor Company when I was in college and it was really cool. The only thing that was troubling was I also grew up outside of Dallas, Texas and I thought, I want to live back in the south.

Travis Dommert: 03:50
And they were very candid. They were like, you know, all roads in the auto industry, in the United States, all kinds of left back here. And so that caused me to pause and just think, you know, what else might I be interested in? And at the time it was taking off. So I pursued a career in IT consulting, which eventually led me to implement software and systems and realizing that there were some keys to successful implementations. And namely, it was that it actually had the backing and the buy-in of the user. And if you made the user's life better and you somehow help them succeed, then maybe your software project would work. And if somehow you, even if you had the most amazing software, if what your software did was make our client look or feel dumb, funny how they'd have a really hard time supporting it and learning to use it. And so we started realizing like, wow, people are really at the core of how everything works. How do we get people on board with what we're trying to do? How do we help people grow? And anyway, several career Epiphanes later I ended up working 100% in the people business, which is in staffing and then eventually in HR and development.

Amanda Hammett: 05:01
I love this little journey that you took and I think it was a really important multiple steps along the way. Where you woke up and you saw these little Ahas and then they've all added together. I know that in my career I've had multiple Aha moments as well that have brought me to where I am. So that's fascinating. So in all of this journey that you've taken so far, I would imagine that you have had the experience of multiple different types of leadership. So how did that experience shape your own leadership style?

Travis Dommert: 05:32
That's a really good question. yeah, we actually do an exercise at the kickoff of our leadership program here at Jackson Healthcare and one of those exercises is for people to just think about the best person they ever worked for and write down an adjective or an attribute or a characteristic of that person on a little post-it notes and then we go put them on the wall. But we group them into four areas and is their IQ. And another one is their emotional intelligence or how they made you feel. Another one is their subject matter expertise. And then we've got like the other bucket. If you can't figure out which three of those go into, you put it over there. And Gosh, the first time I did that exercise several years ago, you know, I immediately thought about one person who I worked for who always had a smile, always asked how I was doing.

Travis Dommert: 06:23
Would always thank me, like at the end of every day or every week, like, thanks so much. You know, so glad you're here. And he said it more in probably the first six months I worked for him that every other person I'd ever worked for combined. Wow. And I thought, you know, we went through really hard times. In fact, I worked for him in 2008 as the bottom fell out in the market. And you know, the last thing I would ever do would be to do something that would hurt him. Like I wanted him to be successful. I want it to make the company successful. And anyway, you know, I've, I've experienced a lot of people with other styles. And somewhere the undercurrent was, however, it looked, however, it felt, whether they were charismatic and extroverted or they were quiet and technical, you can tell are they for you or are they for them? And if their thoughts and actions felt like you were there to help them achieve whatever it is they were trying to do, it wasn't as great of a, you know, experience. So anyway, that's really informed a lot of how we do things here throughout our company.

Amanda Hammett: 07:32
I love that experience that you had. I mean, I know that anytime you have experience with a leader who is just like, you feel like a cog in the wheel, they don't make you feel human. The last thing you want to do is give your all. And so this guy obviously showed that he cared about you and he thought that you were important and what you were contributing was important and he made you feel like human. You had that human to human connection that we're all hard wired looking for. Yeah. That is amazing. Yeah. So I'm guessing this is a kind of leader that you would have run through walls for.

Travis Dommert: 08:06
Right, absolutely. And you know, it's interesting that we're talking about next generation leaders. And I think this is really relevant because when I look at the next generation leader is somebody who's relatively early in their career, they haven't had a lot of bosses yet. They haven't had a lot of maybe, career, experience, but most importantly, they haven't gone through a lot of hard times yet. Where a job just stinks.

Amanda Hammett: 08:30

Travis Dommert: 08:30
And every job is called a job, you know, for reason. There's work, there are parts of it that are just hard. And if you feel like somebody has for you, it can really change the nature of that really hard thing to something like, this is something that we have to do, I've got to solve this problem as opposed to, this isn't any fun anymore. And I think the best thing for me is to, you know, hit the road. So anyway, I think it makes people incredibly more resilient as well as grateful and ultimately more successful.

Amanda Hammett: 09:02
I agree. I agree wholeheartedly. You know, in my own consulting practice, I have found when I brought in, been brought into a company and I go in and I'll interview people that have left, why did you really leave? Why did you really leave 94% say their boss, direct boss? You can't argue with that number. It's just the way it is.

Travis Dommert: 09:22
Yeah. And that insight is really what's driven the last like two years of my career here at Jackson and I moved from one of our operating businesses into corporate HR and was really looking for, okay, in an internal HR department, what is the number that really matters? Like what is the metric that we're trying to move? And we have a wonderful company and we've got a relatively low turnover for our industry, but nonetheless, we still lose people who we don't want to lose.

Amanda Hammett: 09:50
Of course. Yes.

Travis Dommert: 09:52
And anyway, predominantly they you know, they leave when they either have some falling out or they just don't feel cared for. They're not set up to succeed. And so as we were working on our leadership program, you know, I kind of kick it off this way. I tell people, look, you don't have to be the greatest boss ever. This is good news. As the boss, as the leader, you just have to not suck because if it sucks to work for you, I'm going to, I'm going to look elsewhere. But you need, you do need to know what it's like to be a bad boss. And so a lot of the program, I mean, yes, we want it to be great, But the big thing is like understand how to not be bad.

Amanda Hammett: 10:33
Yeah, absolutely.

Travis Dommert: 10:36
Sometimes it just makes it a little easier. They're like, okay, I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to be the perfect presenter. I don't have to be the most brilliant strategists. So I have to help. I have to have people feel that I care for them. What's, I have to know what it's like to be on the other side of me. And anyway, so a lot of it's about the soft skills.

Amanda Hammett: 10:56
A hundred percent when I'm coaching those young early in careers, I'm always like, look for a good boss. Good bosses will make or break your first job every time. So, okay. Now you already talked a little bit about this, but I really want to deep dive into this a little bit more. Do you ever feel pressure as you've moved up the ranks in HR? Do you ever feel pressure from the board or higher-ups from you to really, hey Travis, don't focus on the people. Focus on the numbers. That's what we need to move. Do you ever get that pressure and how do you respond to it?

Travis Dommert: 11:31
Yeah, I have. I have not had that pressure here because there is a deep end sort of fundamental belief that the people do drive the numbers. That the numbers are a lagging indicator of highly engaged people who are equipped to be successful, who feel appreciated and engaged in their work and who are committed. And, and there's even more beyond that because we, you know, we know research shows that if you want somebody to be highly committed to their work, it's more important that they understand who they are than that they understand who you are. So all the way from the top down, it's about are we helping people really understand who they are, how their job matters. How this, this job and the things that we do impact them, their community. I mean it's very, very missional. And it's very aligned to people.

Travis Dommert: 12:17
That being said, that's why I'm here. I have worked elsewhere where we had a very explicit conversation, with someone who said, make no mistake. You are here to make money. If you cease to make money, you cease to have a purpose. You're also here to make it as much money as I believe you're capable of. So if for some reason I think you're not giving your all, even if you make more than somebody else, that's not good enough. If you are not delivering as much as I think you can, then essentially you're stealing from me. And I was given permission, fire any person that you feel is not giving 100% because that's what he's paying for like a hundred percent of them. And that's if they cashed that check and they don't give 100%, they're stealing fire them. And it was one of those painful realizations that I think we're on a fundamentally different wavelength, you know, so you've worked at communicating through it, you know, tried to really make a business case. And I think a business case can definitely be made if you really, really care about money, care about your people. If you want to make major profits you have to at least at times take a long-term perspective. Gosh, short term thinking and focusing on profit, and not paying attention to what drives it. Yeah. It's so ironic that it can just kill a company. Kills a team.

Amanda Hammett: 13:48
Yes. And you see it all the time. All the time. Now let's talk a little, let's switch gears a little bit and talk about this next generation of talent. Millennials, Gen z, are now matriculating into the workforce. How have you seen them change and influence the workplace?

Travis Dommert: 14:09
So one caveat and my only caveat is that we don't really speak the generational language here. So we don't refer to millennials. We don't refer to Gen z on a daily basis. I absolutely understand that generations are influenced by the context in which they grew up and the stuff their parents were going through when they were young and things like that. So I'm not saying that it's not a real thing. I think there are parts of it that are the real thing, but essentially I would say, young people.

Amanda Hammett: 14:41
Yes, absolutely.

Travis Dommert: 14:43
But 200 years ago, we're still visionary, excited and enthusiastic. Possibly, you know, impatient, young people and anyway.

Amanda Hammett: 14:55
Have on older generations even then.

Travis Dommert: 14:57
That's right. And they want, you know, everybody wondered, are they ever gonna buckle down or are they ever gonna whatever, you know, you fill in the blank.

Amanda Hammett: 15:05

Travis Dommert: 15:05
So, anyway, that being said, do I see value? Do I see an impact of the younger people in our company versus those of us who are now getting a little bit farther along? Absolutely. And it's just, it's energy. It's an absolute demand for authenticity. Yes. Um, because they're so connected because they're so tech-savvy, because they're, I won't say fearless. Some of them are definitely not fearless, but at least more willing to leave because they believe that you're a hypocrite or go online and tell everybody, you know, they can hop on Glassdoor, Yelp, whatever, Facebook, wherever it is, and just say, this place is just full of liars.

Amanda Hammett: 15:51
Yeah, absolutely.

Travis Dommert: 15:52
Then it raises the bar, you know, it raises the bar for behavior, for sticking to your values, for whatever you think you know is right. You better be doing it every day if you screw up. That happens. I mean, we screw up all the time. I screwed up, but it's like, you better be the first one to say, hey, that was my bad. What else? I don't know. I think the other thing is collaborative and so I had a very young team a couple of years ago and it just wasn't acceptable to say, okay, this is what we're going to do. It was like, wait a minute, we haven't talked about that. Can you really help us bring us along? Like where did you come to this decision? Were there conversations behind the scenes? It's funny, I thought behind the scenes sounded so negative and then I started to realize, no, they might use it.

Travis Dommert: 16:41
They may say it like, Hey Travis, we actually had a conversation behind the scenes. And here's what we talked about and here's what we think is the right thing. But even behind the scenes was like somewhat transparent. Like, Hey, we talked about you when you weren't here.

Amanda Hammett: 16:54

Travis Dommert: 16:55
We're just telling you, you know, we think we've got to slow down and go back and get everybody's input on this. Okay. You know it. And what I found was, Gosh, you take just even a moment, take 10 minutes at the end of a meeting, or five minutes at the front of the meeting or something and be more collaborative. And the changes had a tendency to last and just people would buy in. So people will start telling me why this is really important. I'm like, yeah. All right.

Amanda Hammett: 17:24
Absolutely. Well, I mean, when they're part of the process, they're there. Think more like owners and so there's more responsibility when you're an owner.

Travis Dommert: 17:32
Yup. They're going to buy it.

Amanda Hammett: 17:34
Absolutely. So let's talk a little bit about the recruiting process. I know that you are heading up some talent acquisitions. So how are, you know, next generation, how are you guys going after that younger generation in the workforce?

Travis Dommert: 17:48
Yeah, a sort of two-prong strategy. Most of the people who come to work here are through referral and that's fantastic. I'd love that to be everybody. With one exception and that is that, you know, nobody knows everybody. Even though collectively we might, we could definitely miss out on amazing talent and people, you know, they move to places like Atlanta. We have, you know, I'm not a transient city, but we definitely have a flux of new talent who comes in and, um, so anyway, for those folks then we're trying to, you know, be intentional in reaching out digitally. But the number one thing is making sure that people know about what opportunities exist here. That they, that it's easy to refer people. You know, we track our referral metrics probably as closely or more closely than we do, you know, some of our other marketing and recruitment activity.

Travis Dommert: 18:40
So those are probably the two primary channels. Um, and then the other thing you know is actually just doing good. The company has done good for a long, long time, but it was only a few years ago that they actually started, um, capturing videos and sharing stories internally about the amazing things that our associates were doing in the community. And the idea was like, oh, hey everybody, did you know that this team did this? And it was kind of a feel good thing internally. Well that was the very first thing people turned around and they started posting externally.

Amanda Hammett: 19:14

Travis Dommert: 19:16
And it's so amazing because it ended up changing really almost our whole brand strategy. It would be much more around market intelligence about what's going on in healthcare, what physicians think. And now it's much more about, it's absolutely missional that Jackson Healthcare is about having a positive impact on people in the world. And how do we improve the lives of everyone we touch. And so when you get to share story after story, now suddenly we have people coming to us saying, I don't care what job it is, I would like to work there because you believe in what I believe in.

Amanda Hammett: 19:50
Absolutely. That is awesome. I love that story. I would love to actually dig some of those videos up and share them myself. That's pretty amazing stuff.

Travis Dommert: 20:00
Yeah, go to our youtube channel. There's a bunch of them out there now. They're awesome.

Amanda Hammett: 20:03
Wonderful. So let's talk a little bit about, the learning and development, because I know through my own experience, through season one of this podcast, all these high performing millennials, they always said, you know, I need to be able to stretch. I need to consistently learn. So how are you guys feeding that need for knowledge?

Travis Dommert: 20:24
Well, yeah, it's pretty insatiable. And that was an interesting fact that I picked up at a seminar event earlier this year was that you know, the number one desire of, and this particular event, they said millennials, but I would say again, next-generation leaders, was learning. So we do that in a number of ways. Traditionally we had like curated curriculum. So we've got classrooms here. Everybody has access to take classes and they are encouraged. They're put on career paths where it's like, okay, these are the six classes that you should take this year and next year in the year after and whatever. And so Jackson Healthcare University helps fill that need internally for our folks. But I was looking, you know, we've maybe offered 30 different classes in the last 10 years and now you look online, it's a massive learning platforms and you realize, okay, there are also thousands more.

Travis Dommert: 21:19
And now, you know, we're trying to tap into that. So for the last two years, we've been developing a partnership with linkedin learning. Have a sense linkedin bought Lynda. Um, and so now that's another channel. We encourage people for more real-time and continuous learning, microlearning. If somebody brings something up in a one-on-one, you know, you're a quick search away from saying, Oh wow, maybe got to watch this. We're using something called tone networks. Um, that's a little bit more focused on women in leadership and development. That's, that's curated for them. And then we also anybody who gets to the point of managing another person, um, it doesn't matter what your age is. Then you're going to go through our leadership program and that's a really awesome immersive experience. And right now we're putting every single leader in our company through this three months program, which has been terrific.

Amanda Hammett: 22:20
That's pretty cool. So what would you say has been the benefit of developing your people?

Travis Dommert: 22:30
I think it's becoming part of the culture. I mean, I think the end benefit that that company would see and that, that we will be measuring, ultimately it's going to impact tenure and it's going to impact performance. But the way it looks is that people are grateful. People are building relationships. They're just more effective day to day. So they spend more time actually delivering value to whoever they work with or for, and they spend less time in conflict. And not surprisingly, we don't actually make anything right. You know, like many companies today, we're a service business, so we build relationships. Most of our learning and training is about, okay, how do you deal with humans? And by the way, you are one, you know, it's messy.

Travis Dommert: 23:23
So I tell people on their very first day of work, you know, it's a matter of minutes. I hope it's hours or days, but it might be minutes before somebody hurts your feelings or worse, you hurt someone's feelings. So what are you going to do then? And the temptation is going to be, I'm going to quit. Like I'm going to get rid of the bad boss or the bad teammate or whatever. And it's like, no, no, no, no, no, that's not, that's actually not what you should do. If you really value learning and growing and being a better person, here are some tools, here are some techniques and when you lean into that rocky relationship or those misspoken words and you do it effectively, you end up becoming closer. And so now this person you thought you wanted to get rid of, you actually love them a little bit because you see their words and you know and suddenly you're closer. And so I think the other benefit is people are just closer. Like I see more hugs and tears here than any place ever by far that I've ever been. Somewhere along the way I know that has business value because I know that they're learning the same things to develop relationships and help people outside the company.

Amanda Hammett: 24:33
Yeah. You want to build a community among the people that you work with day in and day out. That's awesome. I love to hear the tears and the laughter and all that good stuff. That's what I listen for when I'm observing at companies. I'm walking around them listening like what are the conversations like? What's the tenor of the conversation? Is there laughter? Are they talking outside of just work talk? And that's one of my judges of like, okay, this is, I know it's weird, but for me it's about building community and are these employees enjoying being together? So yes.

Travis Dommert: 25:07
Yeah. We actually, we joke about there being a tier quota. We don't get enough people crying, you know, we're not doing our jobs. They're just, we're not reaching them. And let's, let's all stop being fake here. We've got to get down to what do you really, really care about? And man, when you get somebody who can't talk, you're like, okay, we got there with you.

Amanda Hammett: 25:30
I love this. I'm the tier quota. Okay.

Travis Dommert: 25:34
Don't let that out.

Amanda Hammett: 25:38
So Travis, what would you give, what piece of advice would you give to a first-time leader? This is their very first time leading people. What would you do to set them up to succeed?

Travis Dommert: 25:49
I would give them the advice we start a lot of our programs with, which is that there may be some of this job as a leader that you like. And there may be some of it that you don't like. There may be days when you feel good on, there may be days that you feel bad. Don't worry about any of that. If you're going to play the role of leader, it's not about you. So don't worry about your style. Don't worry about how you look. Don't worry about what you sound like. It's not about you. If you will look at what do people need from you and you offer that to them. They need encouragement. They need direction, they need support, they need love, they need forgiveness, they need purpose. If you just keep asking yourself whether you've never let anybody or you're really seasoned what does this person need me and try to offer that up. Okay. I think nine times out of 10, you're going to be successful.

Amanda Hammett: 26:51
That is such a fantastic answer and honestly, I can't think of any better way to end this episode. So Travis, thank you so much for joining us today.

Travis Dommert: 26:59
Awesome. Thanks, Amanda.
Thank you.

Amanda Hammett: 27:02
Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the Next Generation Rockstars, where we have discussed all 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.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Featuring Kat Cole

Kat Cole: Why Resourcefulness is Better Than Experience

Having skills and experiences listed on a resume doesn't mean that an employee is going to be successful. In our quickly changing market were what was in fact only 6 months ago has changed drastically; resourcefulness is far more important to have.

Kat Cole is the COO and President, North America at FOCUS Brands. Focus Brands is an American company that is an affiliate of the American private equity firm, Roark Capital Group, that currently owns the Schlotzsky's, Carvel, Cinnabon, Moe's Southwest Grill, McAlister's Deli, Auntie Anne's and Jamba brands.

Share the LOVE and TWEET about this episode.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - Why Resourcefulness is Better Than Experience

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 you are in the right place.

Amanda Hammett: 00:14
Hi, this is mean to him and it at the millennial translator and today I have a super amazing and just chock full of information interview for you. I had Kat Cole who is the COO and president of North America for focus brands on the show and on the show she talks about so much information that I really think that you need a notebook before you started and on this episode or if you're listening while you commute, you're going to definitely want to come back and listen to this one a second, maybe even a third time because it is just that chock full of information. In fact, she might even want to teach a leadership class for MBA students. It isn't that good. So hope you're tuning in and we will talk to you soon.

Amanda Hammett: 00:54
Hi, this is Amanda Hammett and today we have a very special guest for next-generation rock stars. Her name is Kat Cole and she is the COO and president of North America for focus brands. Now you may not be aware of focus brands, but I know that you know their products, things like Cinnabon and Auntie Anne's and Jamba juice just to name a few. So Kat, welcome to the show.

Kat Cole: 01:17
Thank you.

Amanda Hammett: 01:18
All right, so Kat, tell the audience a little bit about yourself.

Kat Cole: 01:21
Sure. I run a large company called the focus that is a franchise or in license or of some of the world's most famous food franchises from the fun for you indulgent brands like Cinnabon and Carvel to the lunch and dinner brands, kind of more family concepts like Moe's and McAlister's and Schlotzky's all the way to the healthier side of the spectrum with Jamba Juice. I've grown up in this business since or versions of it since I was 17 years old. I started out, uh, as a hostess at Hooter's restaurants. I became a waitress at 18. At 19. I started opening franchises around the world. By 26, I was vice president of the company doing 800 million in revenue, help grow the company around the world, which was an amazing experience. And then left to become president of Cinnabon at the age of 31 and helped turn that company around out of the recession, grew it into a really fantastic global multichannel brand, and then moved up as the company grew and became group president of the licensing division.

Kat Cole: 02:34
And then the role that I've had for the last two years, as president and COO of the company. I am a mom of an 18-month-old. I am almost six months pregnant with my second, married the love of my life several years ago. And so just sort of like many people juggling it all. But part of my role is I manage presidents, the president's report to me in the company. But the way we build businesses is by hiring talent that is, it's seriously multigenerational. And so I get to not only have, I typically am the youngest person in the room at almost every stage of my career, but really get to see and experience and mentor and develop people of all generations and certainly the largest influx of those being a millennial and Gen z and to various positions and levels throughout the company. So excited to cover this topic.

Amanda Hammett: 03:34
That is awesome. I'm so excited. So let's backtrack a little bit on your history real quick. You mentioned opening international franchises at the age of 19. That is an awful lot of responsibility for a 19-year-old and a lot of people would probably be like, that was a crazy decision, but I think it worked out well for Hooters. I think that they made a good call there. But you also open multiple, you know, new franchises in new countries and new cultures. And I would imagine that that did something to your leadership style because you were working with one group one month and then six weeks later, a completely new group. What did that teach you in that process?

Kat Cole: 04:17
What's interesting is when you, when you are traveling to a new place with a new culture and a new team, what you learn very quickly, what I learned very quickly is that I was the only common denominator. And so if things went well consistently, I could probably take some credit for those things going consistently well. But if things were not going well consistently in an area, I probably also needed to take responsibility and realize that likely had something to do with me. And the first time I opened a franchise when I was 19 and I was in Australia certain things went wrong, but a lot went right that certain things went wrong. And I thought, oh, well that's just because the concept is new. Well, that's just because, they don't know. And then the next country I would have a similar observation.

Kat Cole: 05:17
And then the third, you know, on the third country, which was actually also the third continent, I realized, you know, there's probably something I could do differently to create a different outcome. So that was the first thing is that that experience was a brutal yet beautiful leadership mirror that most people don't ever experience because they get comfortable. People learn your style. They say, well, oh, that's just her, right, that she doesn't mean that people learn you and you learn them. And so you can get away with having less than stellar leadership behaviors and communication skills. That's awesome because people give you room. They learned that you're pretty much a good person and so they figure it out. But when you have to be amazing over and over and over again with teams you've never met, it really does sharpen the skills of building trust and communication and giving clear direction and building teams.

Amanda Hammett: 06:15
Absolutely. So let's talk a little bit about that idea of building trust because that is something that I see as an underlying issue in almost any company I go into consult with or talk to or anything, is that they take it, they make the assumption that they have it, but they don't always have it. So what does trust look like for you today in a working environment?

Kat Cole: 06:39
You know, I think it's, I don't know that it's changed much over time. Certainly, there are some fundamentals. Yes. One is people feeling safe. Yes. And whether that psychological safety or emotional safety or physical safety, um, but the underlying belief that at a minimum I'm not at risk, you know, that they, that I'm safe is important. And in I think that might be a nuance that is more prominent in today's world than maybe a decade or two decades ago.

Kat Cole: 07:21
And so that's one foundational component. The other is that I understand and can anticipate in general things that are going to happen, set another way. People around me do what they say they're going to do. And so, and that's also connected to psychological safety. Because I believe I'm not putting myself at risk because you've given me evidence that I can depend on or rely on or use the word trust, you or the environment or, or what is said. And so that's the second component. The third is just this element of care. And one of the ways when I was opening stores around the world that I learned to build, to build trust was I would bring donuts and coffee. And that may seem silly and it's not being. It was, it was demonstrating through my actions that I thought of the team, um, first thing in the morning.

Amanda Hammett: 08:27

Kat Cole: 08:27
I didn't have to show up and say, hey everyone, I thought of you today, right? I showed up early, I got the restaurant ready, I brought coffee and donuts. That alone says I care about you. I'm thinking of you. I don't want you to be distracted because you're hungry. I want you to be delighted because there's a surprise for you. So all of those things are incredibly important in building trust.

Amanda Hammett: 08:51
Absolutely. And that one small act actually I'm sure, showed your employees, hey, she doesn't just say she cares about me. She actually does. And this is how she demonstrates it. So I think that's wonderful. So why don't you share with the audience your general idea? You don't have to get into the nuts and bolts of it. But the general idea around developing next-generation talent.

Kat Cole: 09:12
I think there are a few pieces that are important in developing next-generation talent. One is being candid with, um, with them to make sure they see and understand any behaviors that they might be displaying that are distracting from their potential. So it's just, it's candor and that helps someone learn lessons sooner than they otherwise would through longer and more painful processes and mistakes. So that's one way I think about developing the next generation of talent. So it's the, what can you do for yourself and then what can I do or what can we do for you? So on the, what can you do, are you self aware? Yeah. And if you're self-aware, are you then also aware of how to address it? So if something you're doing or saying is, is problematic or suboptimal or holding you back or unintentionally distracting from your professionalism, if you acknowledge it, do you know what the counter behaviors are to address it?

Kat Cole: 10:30
So that's a big first step, helping next-generation talent. The second is on the, what can I do, what can we do? So, giving them exposure to many unique learning opportunities, bring them into a piece of a meeting so they can see it and get perspective. Challenge them to do research on other areas of the business that round out their mindset and their perspective around the business. Put them with new teams regularly so that they have to feel, uncomfortable in a productive way because that builds confidence. Yes. So drives learning. And then the third piece is literally giving people a chance not haphazardly. I have a business to run. I have investors and franchisees and I can't randomly stick people in positions, but certainly when I see potential, if I've given them exposure, if they are very self-aware, if they're good learners and they're comfortable with iterating their behaviors, they deserve a shot.

Kat Cole: 11:39
I mean, I was opening restaurants at 19. I was a vice president at 26. A lot of people gave me a chance and you can't remove that piece from the equation. But I was also a calculated risk. They gave me a chance, but I, so many behaviors that suggested that even if I didn't know something, I would have the grit, the resilience, the resourcefulness to figure it out. So when you see people like that, no matter the generation, whether they're much older or much younger, give them a shot because it's better to have someone like that in a role than someone you just think has the experience but isn't resourceful and isn't scrappy and get stuck very easily. And in today's environment with such dynamic shifts happening in every sector, resourcefulness is a far more valued skill than experience, purely because it's really more important to have the right questions than the right answers. Because if you had the right answers for six months ago, they're not right today, most likely. So those are some approaches that I take to developing the next generation of talent.

Amanda Hammett: 12:49
That's amazing. I mean, that's just, I think that that's what every young employee needs to be looking for is a leader who is thinking the way that you're thinking. And I, I appreciate that and I love that. I'd like to pivot just for a quick second. I still speak at the university and college level frequently. Um, and one of the things that I see and hear and experience from them is this anxiety around their career path and having it all figured out. And I would say that your path has been, nontraditional and I love it and I think that it's something that should be celebrated. But I'd like for you to tell our younger listeners about, about your path.

Kat Cole: 13:36
Sure. So one I agree, I do a lot of speaking with colleges and universities and I sense the same thing from men and women. We're a little more with women but I don't know that it's a new dynamic. I'm assuming that people who have sort of matriculated through college and they're nearing graduation I would, no, I dropped out of college when I was 20, but, that they start to feel a lot of pressure for what am I going to turn this education into, especially if they are in premiere or Ivy League schools. And there is a tremendous amount of the perfection paradox being around people. Um, and so, um, so for me, my story as one of many examples out there of non-traditional pads, you know, I grew up as the child of a single parent.

Kat Cole: 14:42
We left my dad, he was an alcoholic. I helped raise my sisters. I was the first person in my family to ever get into college. I was electrical engineering and computer sciences, major psychology of women minor and then, but I had to work to pay for school debt or loans wasn't even a topic. It wasn't even available. I mean I know some people had them, but I didn't have access to it and so I had to work to pay for everything outright. And that was working in restaurants, as a lot of students do. One out of two actually. And so what was unique is that I really was so proud that I was the first person in my family to get into college and I believed I was going to become an attorney, but I was going to get the engineering degrees and then go to law school and become an attorney, maybe a patent attorney or some type of a lawyer for a large corporation.

Kat Cole: 15:38
That was my fuzzy dream that was inspired by, I dunno, television shows, and teachers and things like that. And, but then I started training new employees as a waitress in my home restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida. And then I started traveling to open restaurants and realized I was very good at this kind of complicated thing. Much more easily than others were. And, and so I was 18, I was 19, I was 20, you know, I'm traveling around training teams, hiring employees, training managers, and I, myself had been an employee in those situations. So I had learned from good managers and from bad managers. And I just realized that I was pretty good at it. I didn't think I was perfect. I didn't think I knew everything, but it was obvious that I was naturally good at it. I was fortunate to be put in a situation where I could feel that I did more with less effort than others in this area.

Kat Cole: 16:39
And I think it's important for people to tune in to their energies and to pay attention when they have those moments, no matter what it is, whether it's playing an instrument or being a nanny or you know, working with kids or education or whatever, that you pay attention and you go, wow, I'm, it's not being conceited. It's saying I'm recognizing I'm pretty good at this and I have barely any experience and I love it. Yes. and so that was the feeling I had when I was opening franchises and training employees. And I've got a lot of feedback that also suggested that. And so I leaned into it. I kept saying yes. When the company said, well, you go travel. When they said, well, you go travel to Australia, I'd never been on a plane and I did not have a passport and I had never opened a restaurant in my life.

Kat Cole: 17:28
But I said yes. Not because I thought I wasn't delusional. I didn't think I knew how to do that. I was confident in my ability to ask for help and to take risks. And so I bought my first plane ticket, flew to Miami, stood in line, got a passport, expedited and left a few weeks later to Australia. And I thought it would never happen again. And I made up my classes and then they asked six months later, will you go to the same thing in Central America? And then several months later, will you go do the same thing in South America? And eventually I was leading these teams, not just a member of the teams, but I was also failing college. So I dropped out of college because I was literally failing. I was never there. It wasn't like I wanted to leave college. Right. Mom was very upset.

Kat Cole: 18:11
But I then got a job offer to move to Atlanta and work in the corporate office as a 20-year-old overseeing all employee training. So I said yes to that and I moved up as the company, you know, as the company grew, I grew and joining growing company matters because there is disproportionate opportunities, especially for people who might have less experience. So I moved up. But all through that process of moving up as a young corporate professional, I was volunteering my time for community organizations. I was volunteering my time for industry associations like the National Restaurant Association and the Georgia Restaurant Association. And those things brought me connections, the additional leadership experience in the nonprofit sector, which is an important layer of leadership. And it helped me have confidence because I was dealing with so many different scenarios. At the same time, I was working on fundraising initiatives for the nonprofit that I would come to work and work on training new employees and launching a new menu item.

Kat Cole: 19:14
And it made my skill set very robust, very fast. And that combination of my day job, my nonprofit side hustle, um, really helped round out my skills. And I was a vice president at 26. As I mentioned, the company was doing 800 million in revenue. The CEO passed away. Suddenly the whole executive team almost turned over. We owned an airline. We sold an airline. I mean it was a bananas period. But I was learning and learning. I knew it was my currency and I stayed there and that company for 15 years, but every three years it was like a completely different company. And every two years I had a different job. Yes. So it was, it was perfect for me and it prepared me to be the president of a large enterprise. But there's a lot of things that are non-traditional in there.

Kat Cole: 20:10
And everybody has their paths. And I guess because I, I didn't sit in a college environment waiting until the end with this huge weight of what will I do next? I jumped right into something because I had a compelling alternative. But if you don't have a compelling alternative, stay in school, like finish the degree because it's one of the greatest enablers and privileges in the world. But I had a compelling alternative that happened to come my way to keep opening restaurants around the world. I did later go back and get an MBA. So I have a masters without a bachelor's. It is rare but possible for your executive MBA program. So I have further evidence that I deeply respect higher education, but I also follow my own path and I don't, a lot of people like to say, wow, you're clearly so ambitious. I've never been ambitious. I'm not by the technical or typical sense of the word. I've always been very positive and opportunistic. And so when an opportunity came, I was ready because I was working my ass off and then I jumped in and said yes. So that was a bit more my path. That's not everyone. Some people are big planners and say, I want to be a CEO. And then they work their way back. And that's an amazing way to plan your future as well. Just give yourself the flexibility to make exceptions when opportunities.

Amanda Hammett: 21:30
Yes, I agree. I agree. You know, the one thing that really are the two things I really took away from your story is that you will three, okay? The learning was, was number one for you always, but you are always well willing to take risks, which a lot of people would have shied away from some of those risks that you took. But the third thing is that you might have had some missteps here and there, but you figured it out and you kept on going. And that's important. So that's grit, resilience, it took everything. That's awesome. All right. So Kat, when you think about young talent, so again, millennials, Gen z, what do you really think about their abilities? Because they're in the media. In Corporate America, there's a lot of talk of doom and gloom. It's not what I see and it's not what the numbers are showing me, but what do...

Kat Cole: 22:20
First of all, it's millennials and Gen z, if you put them together, I might have my math wrong, but it's probably close to half of the population. And so I don't know how you could even talk about a group that large as having any defined set of characteristics. Yes. That are any different from hue, like humans. So that's always really interesting. Even the millennial generation alone is so massive that there's clear evidence that um, sort of the younger millennials, that are closer to gen z or the earlier half, uh, and elder millennials to use the fabulous comedian, Eliza's stands up, words elder, millennial, are closer to Gen X. I'm millennial so I'm on the literally, I'm on like some studies, the few studies that include 1978, you know in a millennial. Then I like those cause I get to say I'm a millennial. But I'm a cusper me too and I certainly relate to both. And so that's my first opinion is talking about such a giant swath of the population as, and then trying to define their characteristics is a bit of a fool's errand. What I will say is that, and what has always been true of every next generation coming into the workplace is that they are critical of the generations that have preceded them because they are dealing with the downside effects of whatever their parents and their grandparents as a generation produced. And that's always been true always. And that's not new. And so I don't find it particularly unique or concerning or difficult. I do believe that because Gen z and the younger millennials are true digital natives. I've never known a world without an iPhone at, you know, as even a child or other types of technology have not known a world without the Internet.

Kat Cole: 24:38
They are quite possibly the most resourceful generations, um, that we've seen to date because of the abundant access to information to them. It's just like, of course, I can find that out. Of course, I can research that. In fact, when I meet a younger professional that isn't resourceful, I almost told them to an unfair standard where I'm like, what do you mean send you the link? Google it. Like what, why would you tell? I just had, my husband was telling me a story about a younger person who, you know, was asking for somebody to send a link and they're like, why wouldn't you just Google it? It's so weird to hear a young person asked for that. If it's something a 50-year-old should ask for not a 19-year-old. So they are in general more resourceful. And so the question is how to leverage that. Um, certainly because technology is the first filter. There are other downside effects. Things like low confidence, impostor syndrome because of the Instagram generation and comparing their day to day real life to someones, highlights and posts. So that's very real. It's a very real psychological component and the trade-off for all the upsides. And it, and when I find older generations saying the younger generations or that described them as, what about me, you know, it's all about the that's a bit shaped by the fact that everyone is kind of a celebrity in their own worlds through a social media platforms. And so I just, it is the creation of their environment. And so I'm also not critical of that. I just wonder how to leverage that, how to use that.

Kat Cole: 26:29
So resourcefulness there is a bit of a celebrity, everyone's an influencer in their own way. And so again, how do I, how do I use that? And then yes, there is there does tend to be less experience in deep interpersonal conflict and interpersonal interactions. There aren't the typical coping mechanisms that earlier generations absolutely came about naturally because they did have to deal with everything face to face, voice to voice. And so that's absolutely true. So there are upsides and there are downsides, just like with any generation.

Amanda Hammett: 27:03
Absolutely. That's wonderful. So I would, I would say that you're a rock star. I mean, I'm just going to go out there and say that, but how do you identify someone else who is a rock star or potentially has rock star abilities that maybe have not been uncovered?

Kat Cole: 27:18
I look for grit and resourcefulness. I mean, that is because if someone doesn't have that and they're a rock star right now, they won't be in a different situation. They're just a rock star because they've, um, they, they know the environment so well or everyone, they, they've done one thing incredibly well and there's nothing wrong with that. But if, if the question is what is a rock star? A rock star, it's not someone just being singularly amazing, But rather on the, on the business side, someone who I could put an on four different teams on three different projects and because they know how to ask the right questions, treat people with respect, collaborate, they have the courage to speak out and speak their mind. And these are super translatable. Rockstar attributes that will allow someone to be relatively successful in most scenarios. I don't expect the impossible if anyone, not even of myself.

Kat Cole: 28:24
But certainly, those are the things that I have learned are the hallmarks of someone who could be a rock star. I was just meeting with a team member in our office yesterday who wanted to talk about her career and what she was thinking and what was next for her and truly, and it's such a pleasure when you can give someone this feedback. I said, you I know I could put you in several different situations and maybe even a few different departments and you'd probably be able to figure it out. And that means the world is your banana, you know, you're going to have so many options and that's not the case for people who haven't figured out how to navigate diverse environments. So that's a bit of what I think our rock is, right?

Amanda Hammett: 29:13
That's, that is so right on. Absolutely. I think that's what every leader really needs to be focusing in on is just not looking at the resume, so to speak, but really looking at what are those qualities that this person has. So, all right, so what I have in what I deal with a lot are leaders who come to me and they're frustrated and they are exasperated and they are pulling their hair out. And again, it's back to these, I don't get these kids, these millennials are worst. Bless them when Gen z really hits full force into the workforce for them. But what advice would you give sitting in your office to an older leader who was really struggling in that way with a younger employee?

Kat Cole: 29:56
So I start with the same approach that I would with a younger employee is first, what can you do differently? And then what might they be able to do differently? And so on the, on the look in the mirror, the first conversation is if you are older, gen x or a boomer, you made these kids this way, right? You raised them, they grew up in your environment, you and your people did this. So take credit for the good. Take responsibility for what you don't like. It's the truth. And so I like to start first with empathy. Understand that they've grown up in an era of Columbine and the recession and on the heels of storytelling of nine 11, like they, you know, they're exposed to a lot big corporate enterprises.

Kat Cole: 30:52
I mean the financial crisis. Tumbling their worlds and their parents' world. There is a reason they inherently mistrust and there is a reason that there is a general overwhelming mistrust of larger corporations and more traditional leadership. And so just start there. Like, I get it. And so I have to actually combat that because I can't undo personally as a leader or I will tell this mature leader, let's say they're a baby boomer, you can't undo two decades of programming. You can't. And so you just have to empathize and understand that leads to so many behaviors. It leads to believing that there has to be a better way, which is a positive thing. It leads to them not wanting to hitch their wagon to a company for too long because all things come to an end.

Kat Cole: 31:51
So just understand it's not disloyalty. It's just a belief of the natural cycles of things that they're faster and shorter and they've seen big companies that were prominent in their early years go out of business by the time they're out of college. I'm so all big things don't last. And in fact, they're paying very much attention to why those things don't last and believe that doing things differently will lead to a different result, rightly so, I believe. And so how do you, you know, harness that. So that's my first piece of advice is to take some accountability and have some empathy. The second piece of advice, however, would be now that you have accountability and empathy for them or the behaviors that you're describing how can you educate, inform, support, and develop? So at anytime, I hear older leaders say, well, they just don't understand the business will anything teach them, right?

Kat Cole: 32:52
If they don't understand, you just called out and identified the problem, sit down with them and show them where the breakdown of a dollar goes. [inaudible] but a dollar in sales just come in. What happens to expenses? what is leftover and then where does that need to go and where does it not go that they might think that it goes, use, get them to be on teams where they're dealing with very real problems in the business. So they can't just live in a world of theory. Those are the things that good leaders can do. And so the third is kind of the summary of those two is don't spend too much of your time complaining because then you're not being a great leader. Spend your time doing something about it. And yes, of course. Just like there are boomers and Gen Xers that aren't capable of certain jobs and skills. There are millennials and Gen z years that are not the right fit for certain roles, but don't, don't broad brush, you know, an entire generation or age group. That's foolish. Just as I would never do that to you know, the person who might be asking for the advice.

Amanda Hammett: 33:54
Absolutely. All right. So let's, let's, you mentioned this just a second ago, but let's kind of hone in on it for a second. What have you found to be the benefits of focusing in on developing and educating your team, your workforce?

Kat Cole: 34:09
I mean, development and education do two things. One, it's more and more important to every generation that's younger. So it's a retention tool in and of itself, just ongoing learning and education as a reason to stay somewhere. The second is, of course, you're building capability in your internal team and not having to hire the experts from the outside. That is both a smart financial decision as well as a good cultural decision because you have someone who can grow up within the company and credit the Organization for their learning and development and then demonstrate those the newly honed skills with that learning and development and inside the company to benefit the company. And the third is it just provides perspective and perspective leads to calm, a calm comes across as maturity. Maturity helps counterbalance some of the natural traits that might show up for them as a young person.

Amanda Hammett: 35:06
Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the Next Generation Rock Stars where we have discussed all 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.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

NextGen Featuring Kayla Woitkowski

Kayla Woitkowski: How to Build a University Recruiting Team From Scratch

As Baby Boomers retirements pick up the pace, companies are now facing questions on building the pipeline of next-generation talent. Learn Kayla Woitkowski of @SAS on how she saw this need within her own company and then spearheaded a drive to create a university recruiting team from scratch.

Kayla Woitkowski is the Sr. Manager, University Outreach and Recruiting at SAS. Leading a team that is responsible for developing, executing & maintaining strategic student outreach, recruitment, and programmatic efforts to meet the demand for hiring the next generation of student and early-career talent at SAS.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - How to Build a University Recruiting Team From Scratch

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: 00:13
Today, I have a great, great conversation. Just share with you. I talked to Kayla Woitkowski who is the head of the university recruiting at SAS in North Carolina and they are a privately owned company but they are consistently on the great place to work list pretty much every single year. And there are about 40 years old and they are a software company and they're doing some really very cool things, but what they're really doing that's really cool is they're using their own social innovation and their own initiatives on data for good to help them recruit students at the university level. So listen in and learn a lot from Kayla Woitkowski as she shares with you how she built an entire university recruiting program from scratch.

Amanda Hammett: 01:01
Welcome, Kayla.

Kayla Woitkowski: 01:03
Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Amanda Hammett: 01:06
I'm really, really excited to talk to you, just to get the audience a little context on how I came to be with you today. I was invited as a guest to the great places to Work Conference of 2019. It was awesome. I sat in on a session led by someone from SAS on of social innovation and he was phenomenal and she was showing all these wonderful things and he talked a lot about a program that you guys have called data for good. Which I'm so looking forward to talking to you about and sharing with everybody because I think, but that's how I was, kind of put around to you how I got to you originally and you and I just had a conversation and I thought that you had some really interesting things to share with the audience about university recruiting. So Kayla, why don't you tell us a little bit about you.

Kayla Woitkowski: 02:02
Sure. Wonderful. Well, again, thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to share a little bit more about university recruiting. It is, in every way, shape and form. My passion of really a little bit about me is I actually studied human resources and business administration at North Carolina State University and uh, back in college, you know, and setting human resources. I found the field to be incredibly broad. There's so much that you can do in human resources from leadership development to training and development to recruitment's compensation, all the different areas. So, yeah, in college I ended up having quite a few different internships. I was a little crazy and actually had six different internships. I know it's a little crazy, but it was really through those various internships that I kind of tested and tried out different areas of HR and one of my internships back in 2009, which is incredible to think it's been a decade.

Kayla Woitkowski: 02:57
But I was working at BMW down in South Carolina. Yeah, right there off of I 95 probably seen it, hired to be kind of more of the training and development in turn. But I found that the amount of time I was spending doing my actual work, it wasn't enough to fill my day. So I ended up talking to the recruiter that recruited me and said, hey, I have a few extra hours of time. Um, I would love to hear more about this field called university recruiting. So she kind of pulled me over to do some work to help her and it was in that moment. Then I found my passion. I think there is nothing more empowering and inspiring than helping students really find and land that very first job out of college. And really since that point in time since 2009 I've been, now I'm working primarily in the technology field in all aspects of university recruiting.

Kayla Woitkowski: 03:54
So, um, prior to being a SAS I was at a company called Netapp. They do data storage headquartered out in California and spent some time out in the silicon valley helping to do some university recruiting out there. And now has been fast for about five years helping to build and grow our university programs here. So that's a little bit just in brief about kind of the professional side of myself, but personally, I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and that ended up down here in North Carolina for college. I was a first-generation college student, so scholarships brought me down to North Carolina and allowed me to stay more personally I suppose expecting my first child in September. So I suppose the important pieces about myself.

Amanda Hammett: 04:40
Awesome. Awesome. Well, interestingly enough to note, and this was not planned by any stretch of the imagination, but you actually know a guest from our first season.

Kayla Woitkowski: 04:52
Yeah. Yeah. So it's one of that kind of multiple lines of connection. Honestly, I would be surprised if she even remembers me, but she, I did go to high school the same high school that I did just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. I have an older brother, so she was in the same great as my, as my older brother. And I believe she was very involved in cheerleading along with some of my girlfriends. So yeah, it's a small girl.

Amanda Hammett: 05:17
Yes, absolutely. So for those of you who watched and followed along on season one, that was actually skewed. So she was from the beam, she was just a dynamo. So yeah. All right. Okay. So let's get back to SAS though. You guys actually had a very interesting situation come about. Actually, it's not that unique right now in corporate America. I feel like it's something that more companies need to start addressing and talking, talking about. And I think that you guys have done a really great job of addressing it head on, but you guys found herself in a situation where your workforce was older, a lot older.

Kayla Woitkowski: 05:58
Sure, sure. Yeah. And you're exactly right. I, it's, it's a common problem now, and maybe not a problem, but a business circumstance that's taking place on corporations all across the world with the baby boomer generation. Historically, having been the largest generation in the workplace and obviously now approaching retirement age and starting to kind of vacant positions that it's creating a lot of gaps in skill. It's creating a lot of gaps just in the sheer volume of employees at organizations. And although it is something that every organization is facing to your point at SAS, it was perpetuated because we are very fortunate to have a corporate culture that has been a year over year names as one of the best places to work in the world. And we have an incredibly low turnover rate for the technology industry. And for that reason, a lot of people have spent their entire careers here at Vassar.

Kayla Woitkowski: 06:57
And so now we have the circumstance where we were kind of foreseeing that a large population of our workforce is eligible for retirement and we have this need to really build the next bench of talent that really was going to help take our workforce board into our next 40 40 years for 40 years software or a 40-year-old software company. So at the time that I joined SAS, actually I was coming over, as I mentioned from a company called Netapp there at Netapp. I was one of 11 doing university recruiting. So we had a pretty built out university recruiting function and then came to SAS and quickly observed that there wasn't a university recruiting discipline necessarily and teams. So I saw this as a fantastic opportunity and honestly, just the stars aligned that there was a true business need for us to be proactive about identifying and recruiting strategically the next generation of talent for our organization. And that's, you know, I just came in with a passion and desire to want to build and grow. So we did it. We really took this as an opportunity to build and create a university recruiting team from the ground up. And that was about four years ago, back in 2015 now, four years ago. Actually, that would be four years ago, 2015 in this June. So, mmm. Yeah. So that's how we addressed that problem.

Amanda Hammett: 08:24
Very cool. So tell me about, I assume that when you took this to higher ups and we're building this business case, right? You know, what did that look like? I mean, what were the age ranges that you were facing currently and, and what kind of skills did you know that you were going to have massive losses in?

Kayla Woitkowski: 08:42
Yeah, it really, the way that we approached it with leadership is that one, we already had a fairly substantial intern program that at the time, you know, we, we weren't capitalizing on the talents. So at that time, we were converting to full time in about the mid 30 percent of interns were actually receiving full-time offers. And the industry really tries to target more closely to 60 to 70% of their interns receive the full-time offer opportunities. So really started first with we have a program where we're not seeing the complete return on investment, so we know this talent is strong, we're getting them over the course of an entire 10 to 12 weeks. Why not take this talent, assess their skills and give them full-time opportunities. You're going to get so much more insight and data on these candidates over the course of an internship then you would potentially during an interview process.

Kayla Woitkowski: 09:36
So that was kind of piece one yeah. Was let's capitalize on this intern program that is already in existence. Let's, let's make it bigger. Let's make it more strategic. Let's make an experience for these students, students. And then too, a lot of what we brought to leadership was more so industry benchmarks around what other organizations of our size and in our industry we're doing in terms of the university recruiting at that time given some of the experience out in the bay area, there were some contacts that I was fortunate enough to make during that time that were leading university recruiting programs at the likes of Facebook and Linkedin and Twitter and some other organizations and them were generous enough. You'll find the university recruiting field is very open and people who are willing to give information and you know, benchmarking with them, finding out that, you know, a company like Linkedin and Facebook who has exceptional brand awareness because they're consumer more consumer branded products. They were having university recruiting teams to the size of 35 to 80.

Amanda Hammett: 10:36

Kayla Woitkowski: 10:38
Yeah. That is out there really driving. Their brands on university campuses and, and helping to recruit that top talent. So it was really taking that benchmarketing market data and saying, here's what our competition for talent is doing. If we're doing nothing, we are not securing our future with top talent. So it was more so around the opportunity that was being lost. Maybe not so much at the time around looking at the workforce Democrats graphics in great detail. There's more than we need to be doing more.

Amanda Hammett: 11:11
Absolutely. That's wonderful. I'm really glad that you saw that opportunity and you seized on it. And especially I know that they are as well, that you saw this whole that was very entrepreneurial of you and to address it. So let me ask you, as you guys have started to change the methodology here at and who you're attracting, what changes have you guys had to make internally as well, whether it's through benefits, whether it's through internal coaching, whether it's through whatever, what have been some of the big changes you've had to make culturally as a company?

Kayla Woitkowski: 11:52
Yeah, it's a real question. And one of the major things that we've had to do is I partner very closely with somebody that leads more of the learning and development aspects of human resources. And we have built now very well built out programs that are more for training and enablement. So when these individuals come on board, come day one, we joke and say you're going to go through an entire additional semester of college except it's going to be specific to SAS. So we call these programs our SAS academies, depending on the job that the individuals being hired into this learning and development team has built out. A fantastic curriculum that kind of takes them through every aspect and competency of the role that they're expected to have in order to be successful day one on the job. So it's a matter of if we are trying to kind of fill a skill gap that experienced hires are vacating, we can't expect Scott college students that come out of college and have all the skills to be successful.

Kayla Woitkowski: 12:55
You know, the universities do a fantastic job building a kind of theory. And a lot of times a lot of hands-on practice, but it might not be in our technologies. That may not be the way that we sell our products. It may not be the way that we expect to treat our customers. So a lot of that we need to invest, we need to invest in these students and make sure that they're getting all the skills necessary to be successful. So that has been a huge investment of the organization and has been to create and build out these Sass Academy programs and we've definitely had to completely flip on the backside. The way that we recruit, you know is a typical traditional recruiting model, at least at the time that the team was being built. I mentioned briefly about sex is workplace culture. And we're very fortunate to have kind of the best place to work culture.

Kayla Woitkowski: 13:44
And for a while, there is an organization we were resting on that to be our form of attracting talents here in the local area that it works exceptionally well. But when we're talking about the top talents across the entire nation, we wouldn't show up on university campuses and we'd hear SAS, you know, a semester at sea or a SAS. Yes, shoot SAS shoes as airlines. We were getting all sorts of things people did not know who we were. And when we have a lot of employees that have been here for their entire career and have been here since inception, I think the idea that we needed to brand ourselves as an employer of choice was lost. Some completely flipped on the backside that we need to sell the candidates. We need to be active and engaged and we need to be present and we need to be you know, investing on, in our outreach.

Kayla Woitkowski: 14:40
And so we completely flipped our model instead of what you would call traditionally in the recruiting world, maybe a post and pray where you post a job and pray you to get this out in. We had to our entire, I profess to be more strategic to pick schools that made sense for us to have a plan of how we approached the talent on our camp. On our campuses and I make sure that we had brand recognition and a brand that made sense for our target population. You know, we have paid for daycare here at SAS. We have some so many wonderful benefits, not what this generation cares about, but we do have fantastic programs that help with the young professional network to help build the community of these individuals. We have work that is meaningful. So we had to do a lot of work and understanding what is our value proposition and how can we make sure what we're sharing to the candidates aligns with what they're seeking.

Kayla Woitkowski: 15:37
So while we didn't create these massive benefits shifts than changes in program, what we did is we pulled out the areas of our benefits that made sense for this population and we made sure that we have the right marketing materials, handouts, campaigns, and luckily we have fantastic partners here within SAS that help us in our HR communications and marketing teams that help us build and of what is this messaging so that, you know, our go to market strategy in recruiting these students actually aligns with their desires. And Luckily we had a lot of things in place that does, I'm kind of line up with what this generation was seeking.

Amanda Hammett: 16:13
You know, I'm really glad that you brought that up because the sec actually segues into your data for good initiative that I want to really talk about and talk about as not only a selling point but obviously, it's doing a lot of good around the world. But actually, why don't you take this one?

Kayla Woitkowski: 16:32
Okay. I will do my best. You heard it from the expert at the conference that you were at. So there was no way I will do it, the amount of justice that that Isa would, but. Really at Sas, we are using our analytics products in ways that are really helping humanity and we've been doing this since we were founded in 1976. There's nothing new to what we're doing. Our products are being used to, you know, help, rescue endangered species and track them and make sure that we can't proactive plans so that endangered species are being protected. We have different plans and all across the country that is helping with human trafficking and tracking the incidences and seeing if there are any trends so that we can combat human trafficking in the future. We have different ways that we're helping police forces. I have the right data in place so that if you end up, you know, arresting somebody or pulling them over on the side of the road instead of letting them go connecting databases so that all of the other data sources that could say, no, this person actually needs to be behind bars.

Kayla Woitkowski: 17:43
So that person actually gets to be behind bars and really helping the safety, our communities. And I say that we've been doing this since 1976 because it really is ingrained in everything that we do is analytics. Data analytics is really the power and the driver of a lot of the change that the world needs. See now and in the future. And all we've done is we've started to tell all these stories and we started to tell these stories in a more clear, concise and direct way that we find that we can talk about the ways that we're helping some of the largest banks in the world, you know, fight fraud and look at risk analysis situations. But when we tell those stories, so when we tell those stories that really do talk about saving the lives, um, individuals or, you know, helping to make the world a better place.

Kayla Woitkowski: 18:43
Yes. That not only does that help people wants to use our products more, but more than anything, when you think about recruiting, that's why I love working here is I know that the work that I'm doing, I'm hiring individuals that are working on this meaningful work to make the world a better place. That helps everybody see the bigger picture as to what they're doing. So, you know, the state of for good initiative it's a, it's a campaign but it's a campaign who bring together the stories of what we've always and doing and just being a little bit more intentional about telling all of the ways that our products are doing amazing things around the world.

Amanda Hammett: 19:23
So I will put in the show notes, links to some of the videos that are online that are showcasing the data for good initiative and some of the work that you guys have been doing. But I will tell you from my own personal experience this was my first introduction to what you guys were doing and these videos gave me chill bumps. I mean, whether it was working with the Red Cross during the earthquake in Nepal and how to get resources to help these people and save lives and, and, and continue to help them move further along, down the path that they needed to go so that they could get out of that immediate dangerous situation. It was just you guys pulling together what you already have and just giving it, Hey, red cross, here you go, let me, let me do this for you. And I feel like that's really what humanity incorporation should be doing together is just helping people. What can we use, what we're already doing to help humanity?

Kayla Woitkowski: 20:20
Absolutely. I'd love to tell a quick story that I ended up showcasing or not, but this was one of the first exposures to data forgot that I ended up seeing in working at SAS and now that I'm expecting my own child, even more, Howard Hughes Story. But we have a video internally obviously if it's external too if so I'll send it to you to include in those links. But in short, we actually had an employee who got in front of all the software to tell the story on how she was pregnant with her very first child and she went for her 20-week ultrasound, which is typically where you find out if it's a girl or if it's a boy. And at that ultrasound found out that her child had actually had a stroke, while she was in gestation. So, you know, you can only imagine all the the panic and fear that comes to you as a parent and thinking I was just going to find out the gender and now I have this information that I have, I don't know what to do with.

Kayla Woitkowski: 21:18
And she goes down to tell this story about how, you know, immediately she started testing and got the results when she got the results in the form of lab reports, the lab reports for Britain in SAS, that's programming codes. So this was at Baylor a hospital. Baylor is one of the SAS users. And what these results told her was her plan of what she needed to do immediately. And then day one, once the child was born to ensure that the child was going to be able to take her very first steps. And in the video, she again is onstage in front of all the software developers and she goes on to then have her daughter walk on stage and you know, perfectly happy and healthy and um, you know, you just, you watch this and she's, she's telling the developers that the work that they do matters.

Kayla Woitkowski: 22:13
And if it wasn't for this work that she was doing that she doesn't know if her child would've ever been able to take their very first steps. And I'm, the only reason I can get through it without tiers is that I've seen the video now hundreds of times. But, yeah, it's, that's meaningful work that is working, you know, the software developers every day can think that they're just creating a program or that they're just writing some scripts, but the work that they were doing, I saved this child's future. One of our very own employees. So again, just a matter of finding those stories and telling those stories and making people understand and see the wine, the impact has been what has been so fantastic about this whole kind of data for good initiative. If you will. That's powerful.

Amanda Hammett: 23:03
I mean, I don't even, I think that if everybody could make that tie into what they do, I think that the world would work in a very different way in the workplace would be a very different place to be. But that is so incredibly touching. I mean, I bet every software developer had new fire lit after that.

Kayla Woitkowski: 23:25
Absolutely. How could you not want to work harder when you know that that is the work that you're contributing to?

Amanda Hammett: 23:31
And that is just one story, probably millions that they have a touch that they don't, they're not aware of.

Kayla Woitkowski: 23:38

Amanda Hammett: 23:39
Okay. Well, let's switch gears before I cry. No, that was a beautiful story and thank you so much for sharing it and that's, that's looking for, um, all right. But again, no go crying, today man. So let's talk a little bit about if a company was looking to start a university recruiting program from scratch. They have nothing much like what you had what advice would you give them and what are some foundational things, pieces that you think that they need?

Kayla Woitkowski: 24:14
Absolutely. And there are, there are some critical components in order to do it right. I would say first executive buy-in is key and it really needs to start from the top. And the reason why that's important is one, you need to think very differently about how you workforce plan in terms of headcount. And this can be very challenging for a lot of corporations. So traditionally for recruitment, you have somebody vacate a role or you identify a business need kind of point in time and then you kind of filled that need. Now some organizations are a little bit more strategic and proactive, but I'll say for probably about 90% of organizations, that's just reality of how you function in order to do university recruiting, right? You have a window of opportunity, especially if you're recruiting for business talent. If you're recruiting for computer science, talent analytics, talent, talent right now where the market is extremely hot and these students have opportunities, a lot of the big four accounting firms, the big things that are really the ones that have moved the needle to a point where students are seeking jobs.

Kayla Woitkowski: 25:17
A lot of times, well in advance, at least the semester before they graduate and that period of time from about September to November prior to graduation. So these are even for those graduating in May, September 10th, November is when students are receiving job offers and when they're accepting job offers. And if you aren't effectively able to plan ahead with your needs and you're not recruiting enough period of time, you are missing out. University recruiting is extremely different in that if you think about it, these students, I think the most recent article I read from USA Today said every computer science student, there's going to be 10 vacant openings for every one computer science student. There's and opportunities that are available for them too. Consider, so how do you make yourself stand out? How, how are you going to be the one in 10 that they select? And especially when you're going up against large consumer brands and you know, not everybody has the right brand recognition as some brains better just kind of in front of students every single day.

Kayla Woitkowski: 26:25
So if you're not, they're at the right period of time and you're not there with the right value proposition for students, you're going to miss out. So it takes pre-planning, it takes executive buy-in, it takes working on the headcount planning in advance. It takes being able to make offers in that period of time and really having a strong employer brand and knowing what is true to you and being able to articulate that to students. So when they are looking at their 10 opportunities in front of them, they genuinely and authentically know what makes your organization unique. And I want to put an emphasis on the word authentically. You know, it's okay if your environment isn't the type that has ping pong tables and pool tables and you know, all of these things that, you know, startups are able to offer. Some of the large tech employers are able to offer it.

Kayla Woitkowski: 27:15
That's okay. And what you have to offer you have to think about what makes you authentically unique and different and then finding the students that truly want what you have to offer. So that's a big piece. Make sure your intern program is solid. I think that is kind of step one. Your intern program is an exceptional way to recruit talent early, keep them engaged and give them an opportunity to get exposure to your culture, to wow them. To really have programming that makes them say that was such a great experience that I don't want to consider other employers. And the great thing is you can have interned as early as we hired them in high school, so we start engaging them before they even go to college. Yeah. And we do find that some of our high school interns stay with us from, you know, their senior year of high school through all four years of college and then they come to our full time and that doesn't even give other employers the opportunity to engage and recruit them.

Kayla Woitkowski: 28:12
So make sure that the intern program is solid. I do want to go back to kind of that outreach component. So how you're actually engaging students on a university campus. So it is so critical. And you know, one thing that I think is a misconception is we're in this era of digital transformation. I feel like you hear it all the time. How are you online? How you present online social media. This Gen z is so connected, they're the connected generation. How are you getting in front of them in the ways that they, they want to genuinely, the right way to get in front of students is still very traditional. To be present on a university campus. Nothing goes further than a handshake to meeting some study face to face, to providing mentorship opportunities to really truly engage students. And you can't do that at 4,500 universities across the United States.

Kayla Woitkowski: 29:10
I think there's 4,500-degree granting institutions across the United States. So pick which schools make sense for you and then go deep, you know, be the employer of choice on that campus because you're there multiple times a semester, you're ascending alumni, you're sending people that are going to represent your culture well and give that face to face connection. It goes a very long way. So I would say those are kind of the key baseline components to be thinking about is what is your outreach strategy? What is your messaging? How is your intern program being and are your executives and is your workforce planning type to a point that you're going to be able to execute when you're building this plan?

Amanda Hammett: 29:49
That's really super solid. I mean that's, I feel like something that someone could easily take and say, okay, we're starting from scratch. We have nothing but this is something we'd like to tackle. But what I thought was most interesting and I think that was most people are going to latch onto is that last piece about the outreach, the in person face to face. And it is so important. Yes, they're very technologically savvy. Yes, they are in their phones all the time. But face to face, human being to human being connection is where it's at. I mean we are hardwired that way. We create that in a neurobiological sense. And if you're just depending on students to read about you on your website or check out your social media presence, that's not getting the job done. That's part of it. And they will definitely check that out probably before you come on campus. But if you're not there face to face and like really impacting them in that way don't wish that...

Kayla Woitkowski: 30:49
Other employers are. And that's what it boils down to. And that's what makes university recruiting so unique is that you know, these students are looking for a job post-graduation and less if they're taking a gap year or something to that effect. They're looking for a job and they have every industry as an option. They have every organization as an option, hundreds and hundreds. You know if your company doesn't have a very profound and unique brand, they're not going and checking your website. You need to be in front of them. So how are you actively engaging? How are you present? How are you in the classroom? How are you at career fairs? How are you doing tech talks, how are you? We'll do interesting things like we'll go into the big open area on a university campus and host a yoga class and then we'll just have our signage there and we'll have students doing yoga on behalf of Sas because you know, health and wellbeing are so important to us as an organization.

Kayla Woitkowski: 31:43
And then that creates a buzz of diverse students in a downward dog over there on the half of Sas. And how are you being creative? How are you approaching students in a very different way?

Amanda Hammett: 31:54
That's excellent. I love that idea. I love that you're reaching out to them in that way. I have one question and this is more of a clarifying question for our audience for someone who is looking to start a program from scratch. Um, you said that November or September to November is when you're making offers. These are for students graduating in May. You've got it. What's the start date projected start date on something like that?

Amanda Hammett: 32:18
Typically, you know postgraduation so it depends if it's a semester schedule or a quarter schedule, but I would say anywhere from May 15th through until June 15th you'll find is pretty average. I will say I'm noticing a lot of the big four global accounting firms moving to September start date. Yes. I think some of that is one to law students, the ability to travel there is a big desire for that now and, and go for it. You know, the world is your oyster. That's the only time you were about to start working for the rest of your life. Might as well take that time. But to, you know, academic calendars vary across the globe. So September is a good midpoint so that you can really get people kind of all graduating at once to start dates in September. That's, that's fairly normal as well.

Amanda Hammett: 33:07
Okay, Perfect. Now I have a question for you. You know, doing what I do, I talk a lot to leadership. I talked to recruiting, I talked to basically everybody about millennials and Gen z and this, that and the other. But there is always that whole media buzz around and that discourse around, Oh, they're this or they're that. In your opinion, what are the big differences you saw university recruiting a millennial versus university recruiting a Gen z? I know we're early in Gen z, but still, what are you seeing?

Kayla Woitkowski: 33:46
Great question if you don't mind. I want to kind of talk briefly about the first part of the question just because I'm super passionate about this. So, I very genuinely feel that's generation is only a small component of what makes somebody who they are. And I took a fantastic training early in my career when I was at net app actually that was the generations in the workplace training and the entire train. And you know, the first half of it was yours, and I'm more serious, typical generations in the workplace. Here's what you know, millennials do, here's what baby boomers do, here's what, you know, gen x experienced. And this is how it shapes their views in life. And it was, you know, kind of just educational now right before lunch, but they had us do, was take a quiz and it was all of these characteristics and factors there is about who you are, how you prefer to receive communications.

Kayla Woitkowski: 34:42
It's a lot of good information. After lunch, what they had us do was plot a sticker into different generations with a certain color. The color was what your true generation was. Most people did not put their color in alignment with their true generation. How was the gen x? Even though I am a millennial and I just, I think that the year that you were born is only going to determine a small factor and there's so much more of that makes somebody who they are so and rants. But that's something that I just feel very, very, very passionately about. So I'm transitioning into kind of differences in what I've seen. I'll say it is fascinating being on university campuses right now in this era of, you know, podcasts. And what we're doing right now is you walk around and it's almost sheer silence because everybody has their ear pods are there.

Kayla Woitkowski: 35:33
Airports or your phones in and they're walking around engaging with content when t four seven and everything that they do. And that was not the case. You know, we're hurting 10 years ago on university campuses. Students were having conversations and yes, there was still some texting while walking and things like that. But just the engagement with constantly having inputs, I'm seeing that come through then to once they enter the workforce and the idea of how to keep somebody engaged in the workplace. And you know, I manage a team of seven and I think everybody on the team outside of maybe two or all, you know, either Gen z or millennial and, you know, I walk into the office, opened the door and I do see, you know, they have their air, their earbuds in and multitasking in their work and it's just, it's fascinating.

Kayla Woitkowski: 36:24
So you know, not to completely contradict what I had said earlier, but there is a little piece that makes employers needing to think a little bit more about their digital strategy. Now, you can't be everything, but I think it needs to be in tandem. You know, what's you're an on-campus presence, what is your digital strategy and kind of marrying the two so that you are connecting with those that are always connected. And there's a lot of fascinating tools that are out there in existence now where you can do some of that. Um, I would say also expectations around what they're seeking is way different. And I would say Gen z, the customization era where everything, they want things to be very specific to what they're seeking. I've never seen students have so much of a plan as they do right now.

Kayla Woitkowski: 37:11
You know, they know specifically what company they want to work for, what industry, what type of role because they're trying to customize an experience that is something that they are kind of striving to do. And that makes it more interesting. There's a lot of times where we have to kind of walk students back out of their idea of perfection, you know, walk them back out of, you know, have you thought about something different? Have you thought about, you know a large organization even though you want to go to a startup, have you thought about, you know, the, the pieces of Silicon Valley, high cost of living, you know, and helping kind of walk them back through kind of rationalizing through their desires for a job. We spend a lot of time with Gen z kind of explaining some of those things where I can't say that we didn't have to do with that with millennials, but we, we certainly have to do that a little bit more. So, um, those are some of the things that I'm seeing. The honestly, I don't see wild major differences between the two other than that connectivity. But in short, that meaningful work component was really important for millennials. Even more important for Gen Z. And making sure companies are authentic and genuine about their value propositions are to the big components I'm seeing.

Amanda Hammett: 38:29
I agree wholeheartedly. Okay. So when you are out there on campuses and you are, you know, recruiting and you're looking at students, how do you identify someone who is a rock star or who has the potential to be a rock star? What shows up for you?

Kayla Woitkowski: 38:46
Yeah, this is another thing. Gosh, you're asking all the questions that I just get excited with passion. Well, we talk about as a team here at SAS is a passion, attitude, and aptitude. When we're looking at students, a lot of times managers are saying they need to have this specific gill. They need to be specialized in open source programming. But then you take a step back and you say, students, what is going to allow them to succeed? Passion, attitude and aptitude. So passion. Are they passionate about the SAS mission? Are they passionate about what we do? Analytics, are they passionate about a thing? You know, you have all experienced those individuals that you meet that you're like, okay, oh right, I can't pull anything out of you. What excites you? Where are you passionate? So looking at that, that passion, the right attitude, willingness to learn, willingness to be coached.

Kayla Woitkowski: 39:43
Oh really? That genuine innate curiosity where they're asking more questions and listening more than they are wanting to share or tell or say what they know. That is a big piece of it as well. And the attitude glass half full can do attitude taking initiative, all of those pieces, all compromise attitude and an aptitude. Aptitude is, yes, maybe a certain set of skills, but we do look for past performance. We do look at how they performed in college. You know, I do think that if they have been involved in student organizations, they're well rounded, they're contributing back to their university. That means that they would come to SAS and hopefully want to contribute, do our culture and our ecosystem just as much as they are at the university and aptitude as well as obviously intellectual aptitude. So all of our interviews here at SAS have what we call a role-based activity where we actually do give them a component of what we'd expect them to do in the job and just see how they do. Instead of just asking behavioral based questions, how would you do something? Actually making them show that they can, they have the aptitude and ability to do the work. So passion, attitude, attitude is what we look at.

Amanda Hammett: 40:59
That's awesome. Okay, so let's talk to our younger audience for just a second. You have a college student and if you could talk to all the college students in the world today and you would give them some advice about how to find the right fit for them. It may not be SAS, it may be somebody else, but what? What do they need to be looking at? What do they need to be focusing on to find that right fit?

Kayla Woitkowski: 41:20
A couple of things and that's a daunting thing. It's so daunting we, it goes back to every industry, every company culture, every job that's out. How do you know what's right for you? A couple of things. One knows your big three. I had a professor back in college who when I was looking at different job opportunities, said Kayla, there are many components of the job and he actually gave us a list of all the students a list who's going to be your manager location. Hey, benefits work culture, working hours. There are a lot of aspects of a job. Do an inventory. What are all those various aspects of the job? And then what are your big three? What are the three things that matter most to you? And if you don't know, because maybe you haven't had an internship or maybe you haven't had the right conversations just yet.

Kayla Woitkowski: 42:16
Find mentors by mentors who are currently in jobs, who can tell you, Here's how working for a bad manager can impact your every single day. Here's how working for an organization that's a very cut throat. We're very lenient and relax. Here's how that could impact how you enjoy your job. Hey, and just work through those and talks to people and figure out what are the three most important criteria. If you want to be super analytical, wait for them, go down the list and actually do a numerical weighting based on what is most important to you. So that one, these job opportunities are flying at you and you're trying to evaluate, you have some sort of criteria to make a decision that's more than just a gut feeling and it's backed by some truth that you have first discovered within yourself. You've made that realization, here is what I want a job, this job matches up, this one doesn't.

Kayla Woitkowski: 43:14
And then it helps you evaluate a little bit more effectively. But I can't emphasize enough the importance of mentors. It was a mentor that helped me switch my major from accounting to HR. Thank God I married an accountant and I could not do what he does every day. So all you accountants out there, I am very impressed by all that you do. It was a mentor that helped steer me into university recruiting. It was a mentor that brought me over to Sas and it was a mentor that just recently helps me decide how I'm going to get a plan. And what I'm gonna do is I'm having my very first child. So mentors can help you through every aspect of your career, get to know you better than you know yourself and maybe make some of these decisions a little bit easier for you as well. Absolutely.

Amanda Hammett: 43:56
Well, I can't think of anything more wonderful to end on than that right there. So thank you so much for being on the show.

Kayla Woitkowski: 44:04
You're very welcome. Thank you, Amanda.

Amanda Hammett: 44:06
All right, everybody tunes in for next week's episode. We've got another fantastic guest. See you then.

Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the next generation stars where we have discussed all recruiting and retaining that next generation of talent. So I'm guessing that you probably learned a tremendous amount from this week's rocks 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.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

NextGen Featuring Fran Katsoudas

Fran Katsoudas: Building High Performing Teams

Employee retention is on the minds of every leader from the C-Suite down. But what if the conversation about #employeeretention is focused on the wrong things? Learn from Fran Katsoudas, Chief People Officer at Cisco Systems as she shares the importance of being more proactive and designing programs that bring out the best in your employees thus making them want to stay and become high performers.

Francine Katsoudas is Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer of Cisco. As the leader of Cisco’s People Strategy and Human Resources Organization, Katsoudas is helping to accelerate Cisco’s transformation through leadership, attracting and retaining the best talent and building a culture of innovation. A major priority for Katsoudas is focusing on how Cisco wins in the talent marketplace while creating a compelling employee experience.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - Building High Performing Teams

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.

Hi and welcome to this week's episode of the Next Generation Rock Stars podcast. I am your host, Amanda Hammett and I am thrilled to have you today. Today's episode is a really special one because I am sharing this episode. It is a joint interview between myself and my husband, Gene Hammett, who is the host of the popular business podcast "Leaders in the Trenches". And together we had the opportunity to sit down in person and interview Fran Katsoudas who is the Chief People Officer at Cisco Systems. Now, one of the most interesting things that came out of this interview and trust me, there were multiple, but just the focus on developing leaders in the way in which Cisco is doing it and trust me, they are doing it in some really innovative and different ways. There were a few stories that Fran shared during this interview that both Gene and I were really taken aback and just awed at how they're approaching developing their leaders. So I think that this is something that each and every leader should think about and take notes from because Fran is, she's a leader, she is a pioneer. She is looking at developing teams. She is looking at developing individuals for 75,000 employees around the globe. And she is doing a fantastic job. So I hope you take lots of notes. And here is Fran Katsoudas with Cisco Systems.

Gene Hammett: 01:43
Hi, this is Gene with leaders in the trenches. And also we have Amanda.

Amanda Hammett: 01:48
Hi, this is Amanda Hammett and this is with the next generation of rock stars.

Gene Hammett: 01:51
If you don't know Amanda's my wife. So, she's been on the podcast before and episode 100 but we have a very special guest today. We have a friend cut us with Cisco. She, I will let her introduce herself because the title is not that hard. It's the chief people officer, which is much easier to say the chief human resources officer. Fran, tell us a little bit about you and who you serve.

Fran Katsoudas: 02:16
Okay. Yeah. Thank you so much. So that my title changed about four years ago and I think that's part of the shift to really focusing on people and experience. And so, I think the people that I serve are all of our employees at Cisco and I take that incredibly seriously. I think it's one of the most amazing jobs. And in my role, I'm helping to hopefully create amazing careers for 75,000 employees.

Gene Hammett: 02:42
I think it's a much better title.

Amanda Hammett: 02:44
I do too. I think that it really reflects the culture that you guys have built at Cisco.

Gene Hammett: 02:51
I, you know, I'm going to let the audience know a little bit more about my research and you too, Fran. The key thing is I study growth companies and I over 300 leaders about what's the most important thing to grow. Is it a customer first or employee first? And 94% of smaller companies will say it's employee first. So I probably know where you are on this, but where do you, where do you rank in that?

Fran Katsoudas: 03:13
Okay. Yeah, you know, this, um, these things go hand in hand. And I, and I think if you asked the question, uh, five or seven years ago, the 94% could be customer first. It could have been, right. I think now all of us realize that when you take care of your people, they take care of the customer and they do the right thing, not only for the customers but for the community as well. And I think that's a little bit of the shift even for large companies like Cisco.

Gene Hammett: 03:38
Well, we're talking to you because you made the list and how many years in a row have you made the great places to work list?

Fran Katsoudas: 03:45
So we've been on the list for 22 years.

Gene Hammett: 03:49
Okay, that's, they put people first.

Amanda Hammett: 03:52
Apparently yes, very much so. I mean, 22 years. That's amazing. And I, has anybody else ever reached that pinnacle?

Fran Katsoudas: 04:00
I do think that there are a few other companies that have. But you know, I'll tell you because I feel it's important to say in 22 years, we've had some really phenomenal years. I think the highest that we've been is number three. And then we had years that were more challenged. And we talked about this the other night. We were at number 90 at one point. And so it's been fascinating for us to be at those numbers and with each year and every level of recognition. I think there was a question around what do we need to do? And sometimes that's been harder and sometimes a little east.

Gene Hammett: 04:36
Well, I want to direct our conversation into a topic that a lot of companies are struggling with it. This is big companies, medium-sized companies, small companies, and that's retaining key employees. So this is, you know, other words retention. Why is retention so important for business today?

Fran Katsoudas: 04:53
Yeah. Cause we know there's nothing better than having amazing people in teams. And so I think we all talk about retention because we don't want to lose that. And especially when you have something that's working, it's just so critical. The other thing that we recognize, there are really unique skills that are out there and from a technology space, skills are changing. Like the life of skill at this moment is becoming shorter and shorter. And so I think that's an element of why we talk about retention.

Amanda Hammett: 05:22
So Fran, in your journey of all of these 22 years on the great places to work list, I would imagine that over the years you guys have put on some key projects to really help you retain that talent and not only retain it, but also rescale it as those skills change.

Fran Katsoudas: 05:40
Yeah. It's interesting because I hesitate a little bit when I think about retention because there's something about that that if you're not careful, you can be on your heels a bit. And so rather than putting in retention programs, what I want to put our amazing programs that allow people to be at their best. And for every employee, they have some very unique things going on at work and at home and there are different paths that we have. And so I feel like our job is to architect these potential paths for people. There was a point probably about seven or eight years ago where I was spending so much time talking about retention and I don't think it was the right dialogue. What I needed to be talking about is how do we help people be at their absolute best? How do we help them work on teams where they feel like their work is having a tremendous impact. So that's a little bit of the shift that we've been through.

Gene Hammett: 06:37
It seems like that's more of a shift from retention is like kind of a reactive to what's going on, whereas you're getting more proactive.

Fran Katsoudas: 06:44
That's what I should have said. Yes,

Amanda Hammett: 06:46
You did. You did. You said that.

Gene Hammett: 06:49
A key question, you just came off the stage great, conversation kind of panel of what Cisco is doing, um, to move forward in the next 22 years. But you mentioned a project and I don't know what it's called, but you ask employees about what do they love and what do they loathe. So how often do you do that and why do you do that?

Fran Katsoudas: 07:10
Yeah, so there's a technology that we put in place. I think it's almost three years ago that Marcus Buckingham created, um, ADP recently acquired this company. And so every week, um, we go on our phones, there's an app that we have and we share our priorities for the week. We share what we loved and what we load from the previous week, and then how we feel about whether or not we're really. Really working in a way that demonstrates our strengths and then the level of value or impact that we think we're having. And it's something that candidly will take me about five minutes. Um, I do it weekly and Chuck Robbins, our CEO reviews my check-in and then he'll provide feedback. And so if you think about it, at its core, what it's doing is it's allowing us to quickly connect on the work. And then there's something a lot more powerful as it's giving chuck insights through what I love around what really fuels me as an employee.

Fran Katsoudas: 08:07
And then what I load, which was those things that drain. And I think as our role as leaders is to really do more of the love and help our employees on the load side of the house.

Amanda Hammett: 08:16
And I will say that I, you know, I've worked with some of your leaders and they have all had that exact same response to, to that APP and to that feedback on a weekly basis and that they really have enjoyed being able to see, okay, where am I missing ball, where can I help my people more? And I think that that's a major cultural just benefit that everybody's enjoyed.

Fran Katsoudas: 08:37
That's so funny Amanda, because um, everyone's different. Right? And so, as a leader, you start to understand your people in different ways. Like there are some members of my team where they rarely put anything in load. So when something is there, I need to get to them. I need a call them, I need to meet him cause I know there's something really heavy for them. So it's kind of fun because as leaders I think you get to know your people and I would never expect that they use at the same way. I think that's wonderful. But we learn a lot.

Gene Hammett: 09:07
It was good. How often do you do it?

Fran Katsoudas: 09:09
I probably do it three out of four weeks, so I will sometimes, if I'm traveling I'll miss a week or if I'm with chuck, but we ask people to do it at least. We try for weekly, at least every other week. And it's just a powerful way for us to connect.

Gene Hammett: 09:26
I want to be clear about this cause for, and you talked about you filling out this and you report to the CEO. Um, but how many thousand people are actually doing this program?

Fran Katsoudas: 09:35
Yes. So we've rolled it out to all employees around the globe. Now I'll tell you the number I, I really, really care about. Um, when we first rolled it out, we were seeing employees enter their information and we could see that in some cases a manager wouldn't read it. And that's pretty heartbreaking. Like, think about it. You go through this, this exercise of putting in your priorities you love and loathe and you're probably like sitting there going, I'm not going to say like, what are they going to say to that? And we worked with our leaders and now that rate is 92%. So 92% of the checkins are red. And we know that for the 8%. Sometimes they're red after the week. but that's really important. I call that the attention rate. And it's a question around our leaders paying attention to our people.

Amanda Hammett: 10:20
Absolutely. And that's one of the biggest things in my work that I see with next generation talent is that they want to have their voices heard. And this is a wonderful, beautiful, almost immediate way to do that.

Gene Hammett: 10:32
I'm going to switch the conversation a little bit. Back to my research. I study fast growing companies and one of the core factors of that has been, um, transparency and the word I actually use because a lot of these fast growing companies or adamant about it and as they use radical transparencies, and that's what you guys said on stage. So what is radical called transparency in terms of leadership?

Fran Katsoudas: 10:55
I think it's sharing what's not working. I think it's sharing those places where you perhaps did something wrong. I think it's just driving an honest discussion sometimes. I think it's actually more about the listening part for us from a senior leadership perspective in January of this year. And it was important to us. We wanted to kick off the year again with, with a signal of what was important to us. We actually shared with all of our employees at a company meeting, we do the monthly, all of the employee relations cases that we've had for the first half of our fiscal year. And we shared with them, you know, cases like cases around bullying and harassment, cases where perhaps I'm, someone felt like they were not being heard. And then we shared with our employees what we had done as a result of those cases. And the response to that, I think will drive more transparency from our employees in their own stories. And it's funny, I've had situations where I'll get out of the elevator and employee will say, Hey, that story that was real. Like I've had that happen to me. And so that's a little bit of what we're really pushing towards. Cause I think when we have that will be better as a company in every way.

Gene Hammett: 12:09
Follow up question. That is a lot of people are interested in transparency and some people are committed. What would you say to those people that are just merely interested?

Fran Katsoudas: 12:17
Well, I get it. I get it because it's hard. It's really hard. And um, we were just on stage with Mark Chandler who is our general counsel at Cisco and he's an amazing partner in that because I think what you have to be willing to do is understand that in some cases, transparency will lead to more conversation and work to be done. But the issues are there. Um, and so I would say that the faster that you can address the issues, the more that you're gonna be able to move on. And so I think we have to move to committed in this regard.

Amanda Hammett: 12:55
So I'd like to switch gears a little bit. Um, something that came up on during that panel was brought up by Amy Chang. Um, but it's something that I've actually seen also in heard from the leadership that I've worked with is the caring, the culture of caring that you have cultivated. But Amy's specifically said it comes from you directly and your team and it trickles down. And I love that. And so I, I'd like to, I'd like to know a little bit more about what benefit do you feel that that's given not only to you and your team, but also overall to your 75,000 employees?

Fran Katsoudas: 13:28
Well, she was very kind. I mean, it really does start with our CEO, Chuck Robbins. I think he's someone that in every engagement you see his passion and caring. Um, and it comes from our employees. And I'm a big believer in this magic of when things happen at the top and then throughout the organization, a lot of times I refer to it as the sandwich. Um, when we were doing work in August, identifying our principles as a company, we went around to, all of our employees around the globe are to focus groups and, um, what came out is they feel that we're a caring company. And so one of our principles is all around how we give of ourselves. I think, you know, my team sets a tone, which I absolutely love and I, and that's something I'm incredibly proud of and I think they do an amazing job. What we work really hard at is how do we connect the business strategy, um, to everything related to culture and people in organization and at the same time be there for one another.

Gene Hammett: 14:36
How do you transform leaders to really think about an increased to caring?

Fran Katsoudas: 14:43
I think leaders need to see it in action. I you know it's really hard. I mean, I think we've all been in situations where perhaps you see someone saying something on the stage and you think, hmm, I don't think that's really how it is. Right? And there's nothing, there's nothing worse than that. Um, and sometimes I feel really fortunate. I, um, I started at Cisco in the contact center. Um, I came in early in career and I answered phones. I remember talking to like 80 customers a day about their technical issues. And I think sometimes when you start at a company at a very entry level, you see so many different types of leaders, um, and you see some really good examples. So the first thing I would say is that leaders have to see it role model at, at every level in the company.

Fran Katsoudas: 15:32
And there can't be an exception and you have to call it when there is, which is incredibly hard. And you have to teach something that we've done recently. It sounds really funny. We've brought actors in to a leadership class and we've had the actors hand an employee a card that says your employee is talking over everyone in a team meeting. Go. And basically you have to have a conversation where you're helping your employee understand that that's going on. And so these are real life experiences. And so we're trying to coach and help and talk through as much as we can and make it real.

Amanda Hammett: 16:08

Gene Hammett: 16:08
That's pretty interesting. I've never heard of...

Amanda Hammett: 16:10
I have literally never heard of that.

Gene Hammett: 16:12
That's bringing actors.

Gene Hammett: 16:24
So let me take this one friend you talked on stage about some work you've done on forming of teams and what makes good teams. I've read some studies from Google as well. I'm sure you've probably read these as well. What can you tell us about best teams?

Fran Katsoudas: 16:44
Yeah, so for us it was really fascinating. We went out to the business about three years ago and we said, identify your best teams. And they identified about 97 teams across the company and we studied the 97 teams and then we studied a control group of 200 teams. And sure enough, we could see a difference. And, and honestly we didn't know if that was going to be the case or not. And so the delta that we saw was in three key areas on the best teams. We could see that employees were playing to their strengths and when employees play to their strengths, there are a lot more creative, there are a lot more productive. So it's pretty amazing for us. The second thing that we saw, and I think this was in the Google study as well, is that on teams where teammates feel like, hey mate, my teammates have my back.

Fran Katsoudas: 17:30
There's a big difference from a safety and trust perspective, that's incredibly important for growth and innovation as well. And then the last thing that we saw is on our best teams teams were aligned on how they were gonna win together. They, they had some shared values as it relates to where they were going. And so those were the three differentiators between the best teams in the control group. And then that became really the philosophy for a lot of what we do from a teams and leaders.

Amanda Hammett: 17:59
I think that, I think that that's really important, especially from my perspective with the young talent, is that finding those good leaders, because that is one of the things that I coach university students to think about is really look for that good first leader. That person that can really help you play to your strengths are figure out what your strengths are. Because coming out of college you may not know exactly what you're good at or you may develop new skills. And being with a leader who can help you do that and can guide you is beautiful. It's wonderful.

Gene Hammett: 18:27
So, Fran, we've been guiding most of these do questions is, is there something that we haven't asked you about that you feel like really would improve the employee experience?

Fran Katsoudas: 18:38
You know, there's something I'll share with you that we're focused on at the moment. And it's something where we're learning a lot and we're developing and there's this, um, there's this belief that we have in something called conscious culture. And the belief set is that when you have a conscious culture, every single employee is a leader within the company. And every single employee's conscious of their role in shaping the company and shaping our culture. There there's three things that we're focused on within this. The first is the environment. This is why, by the way we shared the employee relations cases because we want to have a really honest dialogue around the environment. The second pillar is all about the characteristics and the behaviors. And this is where our principals live. And then the last piece is really around what's your day to day experience. Cause I think if you have amazing principals, but again, your day to day experience is different. That's a big problem. And so for us, that's going to be our focus, but we're doing a lot of experimentation and pilots and we're learning. And it's something that we'll be happy to talk about in the future as well.

Amanda Hammett: 19:47
That's really fantastic.

Gene Hammett: 19:49
Well, we're gonna wrap this up. I one final question. I've heard a lot today, something that I don't hear much in a corporate setting, which is a mindset. I have heard this from my beginnings of becoming a coach. It was like, I guess nine years ago, and I didn't know what it was before that because I was sort of an engineer and I, you know, just get the work done and that's the kind of leader I was. But when I, when I went through this, I realized that the way I was thinking had a huge impact on what I saw and what I did and how I engaged. So what do you do to talk about mindsets and how do you work with your leaders on that?

Fran Katsoudas: 20:30
Yeah, I do think it's incredibly important. You know, one of the things that we do is we talk a lot about servant leadership and I think that's how you start to shift the mindset because basically what you're saying is that as a leader you are in service to the people around you. And that is such a different Lens than get the work done. One of my peers, she did this first and I loved it. Maria Martinez, she showed an org chart and she was at the very bottom of the org chart. And that's a great example of how you start to shift mindset by just signaling no, no, no. Okay. All of the people that I support, they are the important folks in this. And so there are things like that that I think are incredibly important. And then again, yeah, I think just being willing to have conversations that make us think to ask questions that'll make us really pause. I think those are all elements of how you change a mindset.

Gene Hammett: 21:22
So this wraps up a special episode of leaders in the trenches and the next generation rockstars.

Gene Hammett: 21:28
Thank you Fran for being here.

Fran Katsoudas: 21:29
Thank you.

Amanda Hammett: 21:30
Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the next generation Rockstars, where we have discussed all 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.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

NextGen Rockstars with Matt Schuyler

Matt Schuyler: Leading 5 Generations in the Workplace

How do you manage over 405,000 employees worldwide that represent 5 generations in the workplace? According to Matt Schuyler, CHRO of Hilton, you do it by developing leaders who understand and can bring out the best of everyone, regardless of generation.

Matt Schuyler is Chief Human Resources Officer of Hilton, one of the largest and fastest-growing hospitality companies in the world, with more than 5,500 hotels, resorts and timeshare properties comprising more than 875,000 rooms in 107 countries and territories, serviced by over 410,000 Team Members. Under his leadership, Hilton has been recognized for its exceptional workplace culture, earning the highest honor on the 2019 Fortune Best Companies to Work For® in the U.S. list. In addition, Hilton has been recognized as a World’s Best Workplace and a Great Place to Work in 18 countries.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - Leading 5 Generations in the Workplace

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: 00:56
Normally I do my all my interviews via zoom, but we had the opportunity to sit down when I was invited to be a part of the guest's media at the great place to work for 2019 where Hilton hotels were honored as the number one greatest place to work for 2019. So Matt and I had a wonderful conversation about the recruiting and developing, but also about the differences between the five generations that we have in the workplace today. And what does that mean for leadership? How does leadership have to evolve? And really just, you know, what, what do we need to do in order to, to make each and every generation at work happy and productive? So listen in on what Matt has to share with you because he has got some great nuggets to share. Enjoy.

Amanda Hammett: 01:51
All right, so this is Amanda Hammett and I am the host of the next generation rock stars. And I am here today with Matt Schuyler, who is the CHRO of Hilton hotels. Welcome to the show, Matt.

Matt Schuyler: 02:02
Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Amanda Hammett: 02:04
So, Matt, you have a tremendous honor, and this is actually why I'm sitting down with you because Hilton is the number one greatest place to work in 2019. Is that correct?

Matt Schuyler: 02:14
We are pleased to be ranked and humbled to be ranked number one best company to work for in the US by a great place to work and fortune this cycle.

Amanda Hammett: 02:21
That's amazing. So you and I had a couple of conversations earlier about what I study and that is millennials and Gen z and the whole next generation of talent. So tell us a little bit about what you guys have at Hilton as far as your makeup of generations.

Matt Schuyler: 02:37
Yeah, we are just, right now, passing the 50% mark with respect to millennials in our workforce globally, we have over 405,000 team members under Hilton flags around the world. We track, of course, the demographics associated with that workforce just passing 50% certain parts of the world, though we're well above 50%. In fact, Asia is a great example where we're, 80% millennial in our workforce serving our guests in our Asia Pacific region.

Amanda Hammett: 03:05
That's amazing. So one of the things that I'm really interested in is how this rising generation of millennials has affected the way you recruit and the way that you retain your employees

Matt Schuyler: 03:17
Deeply. In many ways. the way we recruit, the way we engage, the way we retain, the way we motivate and teach have all changed, I think as a result of this generation called millennial who have entered the workplace with technology as a backdrop, high expectations with respect to the impact that they'll make it, the workplace as well as the work they do and with a high demand to learn and grow in their careers, uh, as part of the workforce. So that's, in many ways driven, our programs and initiatives over the past, I'd say four or five years as we start to leverage technology that they've become accustomed to using to help them learn, grow, develop as we've created jobs that we think will be compelling for them for the long run. And as we've worked to engage them in more meaningful ways, in a broader purpose, that we provide to society as a whole and our local communities where we do business.

Amanda Hammett: 04:20
That's amazing. And I know that they really appreciate that. Now let's talk a little bit about retaining them because a lot of what I hear from companies is that millennials are job hoppers. But how do you see that and how have you combated that?

Matt Schuyler: 04:32
Yeah, I understand the sentiment and certainly, I think it's born out of what I mentioned, which is a, there's a deep desire in this generation to Kenny's. You learn, grow, develop, and limited patients. We all live in now the age of service in a moment. And so if I want something this afternoon, I can get it this afternoon. That's different than previous generations. Uh, and so when you lift and shift that to the workplace, if they, this generation of worker, the millennial doesn't see a line of sight to the next opportunity, they will certainly be vocal about it first and foremost. If nothing comes of that vocality they'll choose to leave or move onto something else. Yeah. They will seek out leaders who will help them grow their careers and more meaningful and potentially fast-paced ways. It's not, extreme when you think about it in light of what's happening societally where the world is just moving faster. We have access to so much more information now and so do they internally. I have often said that it used to be that leadership traded on the currency of tenure and that's just not the case any longer because anything, I know technically you can look up in an instant using your mobile device. And so we now believe that leadership must trade on the currency of connecting dots and help to enable the workforce to achieve its objectives and goals. And this resonates with the millennial population. We believe.

Amanda Hammett: 05:55
That was wonderful in the wrapped up very nicely. The question that I was going to ask about how are you helping your leaders to really leverage those millennials?

Matt Schuyler: 06:04
We are just being open and authentic about the fact that for the first time ever, there are five generations in the workplace. Each of those generations has bespoke expectations. But the core underlying tenant of each of those generations interestingly is the same. They want to may have meaningful work. They want to contribute, they want to learn, they want to grow, they want to develop, they want to have some fun. The difference that we see with the millennial generation is just, it's an accelerated expectation set relative to those same goals. They expected faster. They're not willing to wait years and years and years, sometimes decades to achieve those goals. We don't find this to be a bad thing. We think it's helping us sharpen our instrumentation. Yep. And we think it's making us a better employer, which is helping the entire workforce. So this isn't something that we're doing just for millennials. The work that we're doing now to accommodate the new expectations we see in the millennial generation is helping the entire workforce.

Amanda Hammett: 07:00
That is amazing. And every millennial and Gen z is probably going to hear this and a lineup and want to come work at Hilton.

Matt Schuyler: 07:06
We would love that are welcome. We welcome all and we've got great jobs, so we'll look forward to that.

Amanda Hammett: 07:11
Oh, wonderful. Matt, thank you so much for your time. You are amazing and congratulations on your big accomplishment with great places to work.

Matt Schuyler: 07:18
Thanks for the opportunity to share about it. Appreciate it.

Amanda Hammett: 07:21
Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the next generation Rockstars, 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.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

NextGen Featuring Rick Sbrocca

Rick Sbrocca: Helping Employees Become the CEO of Their Lives

Company leaders often fear developing employees only to have them leave. CEO & Founder, Rick Sbrocca takes a different approach to employee development. Rick offers all employees a program he created called "CEO of Your Life" where he encourages employees to not only develop professionally but personally as well.


FREE Download "Fillable CEO of Your Life PDF"

Rick Sbrocca is the Founder & CEO of Spiritus Solutions. After summiting the Fortune 50, Rick became an entrepreneur successfully building multiple companies. Now, having transitioned the core operations of his most recent venture, Rick provides professional services to select clientele.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - Helping Employees Become the CEO of Their Lives

Welcome to the Next Generation Rockstars 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: Hi, this is Amanda Hammett. I am with Rick Sbrocca today and Rick is one of my leaders who was nominated to be on the show because he is doing a phenomenal job of developing the next generation talent and really leading them up into that, those next levels of their career. So let's welcome Rick to the show. Thanks for being here.

Rick Sbrocca: You Bet. Good Morning Amanda. Thank you for having me on the show.

Amanda Hammett: No worries, no worries. You know, honestly, when I put out the call to have guests on the show, I went to people that I trust and people that I have worked with before clients, all those different people. And Joe Doll, I was really hoping he would nominate you and he did. So I'm so happy to have you.

Rick Sbrocca: Awesome. I'm sorry, I'm happy to be here.

Amanda Hammett: Well good. So why don't you tell the audience a little bit about you?

Rick Sbrocca: Sure. So from a business perspective, I started my career after business school, Corporate America, focused on that season for 17 years and had a very successful run to a global leadership position of various business units that were successful. And then my family and I moved from southern California to Northern California to change up our quality of life. And we founded a new company named spirit solutions and it turns co-founded another company named five 11 enterprises and they are focused on helping companies and individuals grow and the high tech space. And that's where we really changed it up. Amanda, when I was in the corporate space working for Fortune 50 companies, the focus was always primarily on the customer as it should be. And when we did our own thing, we decided to conduct an experiment and to make the team members the priorities. So we set a vision statement that put forth, we would create an environment where talents flourish and that was our priority with the values tied to the acronym team for trust, empowerment, accountability and mentoring. So obviously without trust, you can't do anything. We focus very much on empowering them with the right professional development plans and onboarding, holding them accountable through dashboards. And then we're early adopters, leaders in professional mentoring, which really has made the difference in our business. So that's a quick summary of our background and where we're at now.

Amanda Hammett: That's awesome. I want, you know, I know a little bit about five 11 seasons one we had Denay from five 11 on the show and she was phenomenal. And again, she also was on the show because of Joe Doll. But the way that she talked about the culture and the support that she got a growing professionally, you know, since day one has been, it was something that you, you could just tell was special, not just to her, but just, it's just special and it's different. And I really applaud you and Joe and the whole team over there for, for building this up. He is somebody that probably looking at her resume, she told the story. I mean she was slinging pizza and when she came to work, Joe saw something in her and chat.

Rick Sbrocca: I think the CEO, so he played a major role in that. Yes. You know, our DNA really is predicated upon that vision statement and we took a radical move forward to state that our objective is for the team members to accelerate in all areas of their life. And if we're not doing that in this workspace, then we're failing. Oh, of course, they have to take personal accountability. So that's a very powerful statement and overall, not in all cases, but overall it's, it's been successful. And, and Denay is a perfect example of that. She was delivering pizzas to us on Friday afternoon and we saw really a deep intelligence in her and critical thinking, although her, her IQ hadn't been developed in her confidence. So we took a risk on her and her ascension from pizza delivery person to sales development rep. Now two data analysts really quadrupling her comp is the greatness of the workplace. I mean, that's where we spend most of our time and Harvard Business Review and nailed it where they stated the battlefield is talent, period. It's about recruiting, training, retaining talent.

Amanda Hammett: Absolutely.

Rick Sbrocca: So that's our focus.

Amanda Hammett: Absolutely. That's phenomenal. So let me ask you this. Let's, let's look, take a little look back to your days and the fortune 50 worlds. Um, and I would imagine as you were coming up yourself that you probably witnessed other forms of leadership, other forms of development if you will. And how did that shape own vision for what you wanted in spirit is in 5/11.

Rick Sbrocca: Sure. Thank you. So I was very blessed to have a couple of great mentors that I could go to that taught me how to mature because I always had the talent and the skill, but it was a matter of maturity and managing well to fulfill that, that destiny. So that was, that was the challenge and the solution to the mentors regarding my specific managers and leaders. I saw many examples of what not to do, what to do. And I really break it down into two areas. Either an abundance mentality or a scarcity mentality. And there were those managers that really believed that their team members were infinitely scalable. And if they helped you grow, the tide would rise and everybody would grow with them. And those are the best environments. The opposite of that was scarcity mentality that I've been given this unit of power and control and I'm going to hold onto it very tightly and keep people in their place. And then that limits personal growth and company grows. So those are really the two experiences I had and obviously adopted the if we grow people and surround ourselves with people that are smarter, brighter, better versed in certain areas in ourselves we'll do much better as leaders.

Amanda Hammett: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I agree with that wholeheartedly. Actually, my company did a study my partner Gene actually works and studies hybrid companies and he focuses on the ink 5,000, and he has studied them significantly and they have all come back and said, it's employee first. We focus on developing employees and they'll take care of the customers 91% of them said that.

Rick Sbrocca: Can't be that.

Amanda Hammett: You can't. Wonderful. So as you were coming up in your own leadership, uh, in, in these fortune 50 companies, did you ever feel pressure from higher-ups or corporate boards or, or anything like that to focus more on the numbers and delivering performance versus, you know, developing your people?

Rick Sbrocca: Yeah, absolutely. At the end of the day it's about the numbers and, and hopefully, the metrics are well balanced. I liked the Drucker institute scoreboard that they keep a card that they keep around financial health, employee health, customer health innovation, and social responsibility. So hopefully the numbers are balanced within that context. I was in the sales marketing channels area, so typically there was a quota and you know, when it got to the end of the quarter, sometimes we had values free moments where we had to focus on getting the number and that's what it was about. And over time, as I became more confident in myself and my own character, I made certain that I was honoring relationships and results and that they are not mutually exclusive. They're jointly exhausted and that has served me well.

Amanda Hammett: Perfect. Now, what about, you know, you've had quite a long career so far but you've seen the influx of millennials, now you're starting to see the influx of Gen z and to the workplace, you know, what influence have they brought into the workplace? What changes have you seen and what do you, what do you predict going forward?

Rick Sbrocca: Sure, great question. So I operate on a universal code regardless of the generational big man. And that is that everybody longs to feel and be significant and that every human being is infinitely scalable. So I start with that precept and from there really seek to be truthful and authentic and real and to listen and then to find the common vision for, for excellence. So without is the foundation. I've discovered that it's more important than ever to be very open-minded and to listen carefully as we started hiring millennials. And that's a very broad age range now. Yes, in 23 and 38 and there's a lot of factors within now regarding the country of origin, socioeconomic factors, gender, creation, diversity, etc. So I don't want to over homogenize them, but I have found them to be absolutely delightful and inspiring.

Rick Sbrocca: They're extremely energetic. They're extremely bright, they're tech-savvy, and they're not settling. They want to change the world for the better. They've been through some economic downturns. They have been through situations where the families have always stayed together and they have great ideas. I think it's a disservice for us to be wrapped up, not us specifically, but the space in this word entitlement. I don't, I don't really see that at all. I see that as a leadership responsibility to teach a process that they would come regarding their, they're great ambitions in there. They're phenomenal energy and work ethic that we would, we would meet that with our wisdom on what's the process look like and teach the process and engage in multigenerational mentoring where we're listening first and then responding and together we're moving the ball forward. So they've taught me to be a much better listener and how to, to work together regarding Gen Z. We're starting to work with them more and more.

Rick Sbrocca: I'm in. This isn't based on scientific research, it's, it's our experience. I'm finding them to be equally high potential in a different way. Seem to be focusing more on a conservative approach of job security and a career path. Mentoring is very important, not quite as radical. If I can use that term about changing the world and changing things that aren't right. They're looking to create a strong, stable career path and lifestyle at 10. Again, we're having to listen very closely to them and understand where they're coming from. Handshake is their professional community. They did a survey, very interesting in the top five. Gen Z is asking for mental health resources at work. So I think that's an important trend you're asking about where I see it going. That's an important trend. Google did a study a few years back entitled Aristotle, and it was about cultural development.

Rick Sbrocca: One of the findings was psychological safety or trust in the workplace. So a couple of the trends that I see and that we're helping to shape our, our number one, what I would call humanistic influencers. So we hear about AI and ml over and over and over and that's awesome. I'm, I'm fully for that. I think it's also going to create info versus reserve funds of humanistic influencers that are important to merge with the rise of A.I For our best overall success. And it goes back to talent. At the end of the day, this is all about talent, so I find that to be very fascinating. The other one that we focused on as we've discussed them and Israeli life-work integration, Apple hired me a while back to talk to them about work-life balance because one of their managers, it's said, this is a quote that the sheer velocity and ambiguity, that business is breaking down our people and it's spilling over into their personal lives.

Amanda Hammett: Absolutely good.

Rick Sbrocca: After this work-life balance thing, we found out it was really a myth. You know, there is no work-life balance. It's a series of sprints and recoveries. It's a sprint sprinter, Ethan, and so we've developed our own content around life-work integration and work has certainly crept in through our life. Has it not?

Amanda Hammett: Oh, for sure. For sure.

Rick Sbrocca: Very important. Now that we give equal respect and integrity to live being honored within this new growing, changing, dynamic workspace, what we focus on that very much what we call a complete life victory. We prepare professional development person. This is all voluntary per the team members desire to state their overall goals around getting out of debt. Right. We're in relationships or whatever it may be. And we found that if we can tap into that, because Gallup's found approximately 70% of the people really aren't highly engaged at work. So, you know, that's unacceptable. Why is that? And people are going to have to do certain jobs that they may or may not like, but if you can tie it to their burning passion for moving their life forward, then you have a win-win together. And that's what we see is a major trend and a major differentiator.

Amanda Hammett: Right. Absolutely. Well, you know, I think you've touched on this a little bit, but I'd like for you to be pretty specific right here. you know, why don't you tell the audience a little bit about your program, the CEO of your life program and how that has really affected your, your leadership style. And you know, you've definitely touched on it, but let's, let's be very specific with, with the audience on this.

Rick Sbrocca: Sure, Well, when I was in a corporate position and rising rapidly work was my priority and I was doing an excellent job at work. However, I was not doing an excellent job managing my other priorities in myself by my spirit, my soul, and my body, my family, etc. And through that painful lesson, I learned the importance of what we call complete like victory. So we teach complete lie victory through workshops to our team members. These are off hours and we typically, you're getting 98% attendance. And it's about really maximizing your purpose, your life, and your work together as CEO of your life. That you're accountable. It is a meritocracy. And here's the operative word, Amanda. It's processing. A lot of people are understanding why. Yeah. But they don't know the process to really understand where they're at in life.

Rick Sbrocca: You know, we, I don't want to get too deep into this, but we have heredity and environment, which we can't really control. But then we have our response-ability response table or what we can't control. So we're helping a lot of people just process things even are very focused on them. Speaking with professional counselors to let it go, burn, burn it down, whatever is holding you back, here's your future. And then from there then we can set goals around what we call a life echo system. It's not a balanced wheel, it's an always changing ecosystem. And then we taught them to go through setting goals, plans, resources, and how to actually achieve results. Yeah, that's what the core curriculum is all about. We've put over 400 people through the, through the program, their graduates and I mentor many of them. And for the people that do the work for the people that work the plan, it works. And we've, yeah, we've seen some miraculous transformations from people that were desperate. They've gone to a very high level of earning and that's secondary. That's important. But it's secondary walking in confidence and economic empowerment and feeling significant and then being able to raise a family in a strong manner and then support your community. And so work is vital and were runs on the fuel of talent and it's becoming much broader in the sense of our responsibilities that we're seeing today.

Amanda Hammett: Yeah, I would agree with that.

Rick Sbrocca: Will help that talent stay engaged.

Amanda Hammett: Absolutely. Yeah. So let me ask you this if I understand this correctly, you said that this is something that you offer to your employees' free benefit. And to me, that's a tremendous value. I mean, that's almost something you can't put a number on as far as what that's going to teach them and allow them to set up for themselves if they do the work moving forward for the rest of their lives. I mean, that's, that's tremendous. yeah, that, that is really tremendous. I really don't even have words around that. That's a tremendous benefit beyond the normal salary. And vacation time and health benefits, those things. I mean, that's a tremendous additional benefit that most young people probably aren't aware of or even thinking of like this is a possibility that a company could offer this to me. I'm going to have to figure this out myself. So that's wonderful.

Rick Sbrocca: Yeah, it's, it's, it's our responsibility to meet them where they're at. And especially Gen Z, they're coming in. It's the first generation fully raised on technology and there are some great positives from that. There are also some challenges around maturity and communicating and listening and processing this avalanche of information every day and how to sort it and then how to move to a maturation path. So we're not caught in the Peter Pan Principle. Right. And I think a lot of companies allow their workers to stay in and it, it's not a solid, healthy longterm for the individual or the company.

Amanda Hammett: No, it's, unfortunately, it's not. And it fuels and an additional retention issue for these companies, which is expensive. Exactly. Not to mention productivity and all that good stuff. So it's a machine that feeds itself, so, yeah. All right. Well, what would you, I would imagine that there has been some sort of financial benefit to that you found through developing your employees in this way or are in developing them. And another way that maybe you haven't mentioned it, have you found there to be a direct correlation between their development and the bottom line at the end of the quarter, at the end of the year, things like that?

Rick Sbrocca: Absolutely. There's a, there's a strong specific ROI case around this type of leadership and first and foremost, it relates to the customer experience. Yeah. And we receive incredible feedback from our prospects and customers even when they don't do business with us because our team is engaged, it's energetic and they care. They're not robots making their calls and just trying to hit it hit a quota. And that matters more and more the marketplace has become numb and certain areas because there's been so activity around selling things and we're adopting a very personalized approach to that in a very respectful approach. So the first Roi is in the net promoters scores the NPS scores that are indexing the norm. And I think that's number one. And then number two is in pure profit, our retention rates are of the talent are exponentially better than the benchmark competitors we have and in design in different cities because you know, the cost of training somebody in losing them straight away and on average our team members are attained to a multiple of two to three x her the per the norm.

Amanda Hammett: really?

Rick Sbrocca: Yeah, that'd be perfect. It's huge. And I think the other metric that we don't have is, is the quality of their work while there while they're working to be excited about going to work, doing a great job, which takes a tremendous amount of energy. But the Roi case is absolutely there. And I believe corporations are starting to realize that HR is vital. I know they realize this because I read the human capital trends research and it's important that we accelerate our adoption of, of programs like ours to help the employees succeed, which in turn will help the company succeed.

Amanda Hammett: I couldn't agree with that more. And just going back to your, your client base, I happen to know one of your clients and him, he was actually the reason I was introduced to Joe Dell, to begin with, and he just raved about your, an SDR rep about how good they were and just how vital they were. And he was raving not only to me but to a group of other people about how good they were. And actually, Joe was a little like embarrassed for a moment because he was just going on and on about how great.

Rick Sbrocca: Grateful to hear that.

Amanda Hammett: All right. So let me ask you this. I know that you have millennial children of your own yes. But you also mentor a lot of people as you've mentioned. So if you could only give one piece of advice, just one thing, um, to early career. So somebody who's been in the workforce less than five years if you could give them one piece of advice about their career, what would it be?

Rick Sbrocca: It would be focused on dynamic, personalized learning that they would, they would prioritize that not just through their formal academic experience and their onboarding, but every single day because things are changing that much and there's a technology that can help us through micro learning platforms, etc. But I believe it's very important if I was starting out to focus on that, to dedicate a percentage of the week to formal learning in my space and then more importantly to listen, listen, listen to my team and to also study other companies that are doing well on how they're treating their team members. And I would suggest under this umbrella of active dynamic personalized learning that they would establish multigenerational advisory councils. So they would have team members that they're managing other seasoned wise leaders in the company that would, that would collaborate around what needs to get done. And we've seen great, great, great results in that area. Chip Conley is really a thought leader in this space of multigenerational mentoring. It's, it's so simple yet, I don't know why more companies don't invest in it and do it well, I can tell you some stories that will blow your mind when you go offline. But that's what I would focus on learning but in a very creative dynamic, personalized way that that orchestrates different resources.

Amanda Hammett: Excellent. That's a great, fantastic answer actually. Perfect. Perfect. So I would like to share with the audience something really quickly. Rick has been really generous. He has offered to give me a copy of his CEO of your life program, which is phenomenal. I, he's told you a little bit about it today, but I feel like that's probably just scratching the surface. And in turn, he is actually allowing me to share it with you. So there it is right there on the screen. So if you are interested, we are going to have a link below where you can go ahead and snag a copy for yourself because I don't know if your company is offering anything like this, but if they aren't, you guys need to get in touch with Rick and see about bringing it to your company. Well, Rick, thank you so much.

Amanda Hammett: This has been such a pleasure. You know, I feel like you and I are really in line with a lot of the ways that we see things and I'm just, I'm really, I feel very fortunate to have met you even though it's been through the screen, but still, I feel very much.

Rick Sbrocca: Okay. Take care.

Amanda Hammett: All right. See you guys in the next episode up. Next Generation Rock stars. All right, so I hope that you took lots and lots of notes just like I did during that interview with Rick Sbrocca of the spirit of solutions. Rick shared so much in that short amount of time. I think one of the biggest takeaways though for me was his CEO of your life program and that program, he is just, he's using it to develop his people not just in their professional life but also in their personal lives and so that they can grow very holistically and hopefully eventually that that means long, long term retention.

Amanda Hammett: That means higher levels of productivity, which of course were salts and higher levels of profitability. And Rick has been gracious enough to offer that to me so that I can share it with you guys in this audience of I do hope that you click on the link below and you download the CEO of your life program. But more importantly than just downloading the program, I hope that you actually implement it because implementing the program is where it is all about it. That's where life change happens. That's where the increases in, in your happiness really in your life. That is where it happens. So you've gotta be willing to change to make those big leaps in your life. Well, thank you guys so much for joining us for this episode of Next Generation Rockstars. Keep listening for next week where we will have another phenomenal leader who is helping to develop the next generation of talent. See you then.

Amanda Hammett: Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the Next Generation Rockstars, where we have discussed all 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 Rockstars show up just for you.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

NextGen Featuring AlanCherry

Alan Cherry: Company Culture is More Than Beer in the Fridge

Employee development pays long term dividends. However, most companies only focus on developing employees at certain levels. Learn how creating a culture where developing employees at ALL levels can change an entire community.

Alan Cherry is the Director of Human Resources at rPlanet Earth. Human Resources Executive with over 25 years of global Human Resources experience gained in Europe, North America, and the Asia Pacific. Serial start-up offender and car guy who loves working in high-technology, automotive and manufacturing industries.

He is also the Senior Director of Human Resources at Tesla Motors. He built the HR and facilities functions from scratch. Today there is a team of 20+ full-time recruiters, global mobility capability, a solid Compensation and Benefits function with expert Employee Relations capabilities and a comprehensive Facilities and Construction department.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - Company Culture is More Than Beer in the Fridge

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.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

NextGen Featuring Ben Wright

Ben Wright: How to Hire Next Generation Rockstars

Rapid growth as a company can be challenging...but growing over 39,000% brings its own set of headaches. Learn from Ben Wright, CEO of Velocity Global on how they only hire 10's.

Ben Wright is the CEO, Founder at Velocity Global, LLC. #4 on the Inc 5000. Proven leader with an exceptionally strong focus on client satisfaction. Significant experience with building and growing organizations, enhancing brand awareness and capturing market share.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - How to Hire Next Generation Rockstars

Welcome to the Next Generation Rockstars 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: Hey, this is Amanda Hammett with the Next Generation of Rockstars. And today we have Ben Wright with Velocity Global. Ben, welcome to the show.

Ben Wright: Great to be here. Thanks for having me, Amanda.

Amanda Hammett: Oh, no problems, no problems. So you are actually a guest on my husband's show. My husband's show, is Leaders in the Trenches, and he really digs in and studies the Inc 5,000 and after he interviewed you, he was like, he needs to be on your show. So tell us a little bit about you, Ben.

Ben Wright: A little bit about me? Oh my gosh. I'll try to keep it to a little bit. Founder, CEO of a company called Velocity Global. We're headquartered based in Denver, Colorado. , blessed, average. Dan said to be on your husband, show leader in the trenches because we, we built a company that's, that's grown really, really quickly. We ended up number four on the Inc 5,000 last year, which is pretty amazing. I'm still kind of have to pinch myself every time I say that. Uh, but we've got a really incredible team. , husband, a father of two kids, Ted and Seven. , and I don't know what else to tell ya that occupies just about all of my time.

Amanda Hammett: Well, that's a lot. I mean, just being a CEO and a founder is a lot, but a CEO and a founder who grew, yeah, 39000% or over 39000% in three years. That's full, that's more than a full-time job. So congratulations to you.

Ben Wright: Thank you.

Amanda Hammett: All right. So wonderful. Wonderful. So a couple of things that I wanted to dig in and get to know about you, is that okay?

Ben Wright: Yeah.

Amanda Hammett: You guys, in order to grow that fast, you've really got to feed a machine, but you've got to have a machine that is made up of phenomenal people. So where do you find these phenomenal people and how do you get them in there to velocity global?

Ben Wright: Yeah. A great question. , any organization, the dad kind of has grown as we have, has to feed that machine with people. We are a technology-enabled service. There's nursing. So that's particularly the case with us. , we're not just a dyed in the wool technology solution that has this incredible scale where you achieve a certain size and then, you know, you can grow, grow, grow, grow, grow without having to add as many people to the organization. , and so han capitals big for us. And so getting a feeding the machine with candidates and the right people and getting the right people on the bus is huge, particularly for an organization like us. , and, and we've, you know, we've taken the approach since day one of the organization. Uh, literally the very first person I hired who is now my COO, Kevin, the name of Rob Crabtree took the approach from day one is that, uh, you know, we want to make sure that we get the very best people in the mix organization.

Ben Wright: And every company can say that. But we took the mantras that we only want to have penned. , and so if, if we are out there and interviewing and talking to people, typically in the last question we asked ourselves is, you know, is this individual attention? Uh, and if not, despite how much we like them, we'll take a pass and we'll wait until we can find that, that that grade standard comes in. We have passed on people who honestly and objectively are probably tens, but may not actually be tens in our system as well. And so there's, there are multiple angles to it. , and, and frankly, I think for us, it as odd as it may sound, it doesn't have all that much to do with your, the very specific details of your professional experience in terms of kind of the exact roles that you served or are Kennedy accomplishments along the way. It's more sore about who you are as a person. , your ability to learn, your ability to analyze information, to assimilate information, to really be a team player. And can I have a sense of where do you want to go in life? That's all been a pretty good, pretty good Gbo for us.

Amanda Hammett: I'm pretty good Gbo. Okay. Wonderful. So when you're putting people through this process, you mentioned it's not all about what's on the rese, which I think is phenomenal. It's, I think it's really more about culture versus specific skill. , so are you guys relying more on the softer skills or those abilities or how do you judge those softer skills? Let's start with that.

Ben Wright: Yeah, great question. So we've got, we've got a whole process that we put people through. And it's interesting. I was, I'm just happy to be on kind of glass door the other day and right notice that a few folks have kind of interviewed and apply with us and it didn't get past that first phone screen and couldn't figure out why the heck we weren't. Yeah. Talking about their rese. And I kind of got a chuckle out of it because that's on purpose and I'm sorry to those folks who applied and didn't get past that bed first round. But we really start out talking about you know, what makes you passionate. What are the thing is that you are most proud of, you know, what are some low points kind of throughout your, and really kind of understanding and painting a picture of almost kind of what it means in a quick 30-minute conversation about what it is to be you in a professional setting?

Ben Wright: And that's where it, that's where you either you're either onto the next round or you're not, uh, beyond then in future rounds we do actually start going into kind of the different roles that you've had over your career. But honestly, we don't focus as much about really the blocking and tackling of what each individual position entails. It's more about what did you learn? How did you work with other people? Uh, you know, how, how did you work with your boss? How were you as a manager? How were you as a peer? When you were in those positions, you know, what did you gain the most satisfaction out of? And, and how does it all kind of weave a tapestry? And too, it's a what it is that you're going to do next and what makes you most passionate. And the perfect situation does, is we have incredibly passionate, incredibly intelligent people, who may not be able to articulate perfectly, but together we can come up with kind of, this is, this is really what this next step looks like for you. And when that fits into what we need as an organization, it's magic.

Amanda Hammett: That's, that's wonderful. I love to hear things like that. I love to hear when, when people bring that whole recruiting process in and make it magic. That's, that's amazing. So, hmm. What about when people are in the recruiting process or in the interviewing process and you're asking them these questions. Yup. Are you relying, and I hate to say this, but are you relying on exactly taking their word for it or are, how are you backing this information up? Let me, let me go about it that way.

Ben Wright: Yes. So, yeah, you know, we, I don't want to, I don't want to give us too much credit in case I, I think there's, there's a lot of people who do some really great things around there through an interview process. And I don't think that we are just completely, you know, off the grid genius in terms of what we do. But we do have a process that is really good about getting down to, okay, this is what you told me, but, but, but, but, but digging deeper, digging deeper, digging deeper, and then repetition, repetition, repetition, right? , I am a firm believer, that we can and should learn as we go through our careers. Right? , and the Times that are the challenging times, I'm the great times. Those are fantastic. And that's what we always want to talk about in the interview.

Ben Wright: Those are easy. Exactly right. But it's the, you know, it's the tough ones where we literally learned the most. And, and that's where you understand someone's character. That's what you understand their metal. And most importantly, that's where you understand them, not only how did they overcome, but what did you then take that to the next know? How did you take that to the next position and the next company? Right? And what are the learnings that you did from there? And my goodness, if you continued to kind of make those kinds of same issues in Saint Mary's, in Sanford stakes, , I hope that you learn at some point, but you're probably not going to be a good fit here, right? And come back when you, you kind of have that, that ability to be able to kind of incorporate and information. And then so, so all of that can of paint that whole picture. One of the final steps is absolutely talking to references and talking to people, , who you've worked with in the past and it's, yes, it's validating the job and the job description of the job requirements, but it's more so validating. Here's what, here's the picture that we think we've kind of painted about this individual and we ride, are we wrong? Help keep us honest on this thing.

Amanda Hammett: That's really, I, I love that you put that kind of care and effort into it. , it seems like, and I could be wrong, but it seems like you guys really take your time through the hiring process. You slow it down.

Ben Wright: Yeah, so yes, we are very, the way I describe it as we are incredibly purposeful and for studios, but we also move fast. So, uh, you know, we, we named ourselves velocity global for a reason. We moved fast in just about everything that we do. Uh, but we are in certain that we kind of purposeful and taking the right amount of time kind of through that process.

Amanda Hammett: I love that. Oh, fantastic. All right. I'm gonna switch gears a little bit. So I know that this is not this first round as a founder and you blew it out of the water. Congratulations on that. But before that, you have various other roles working for other companies. And I would imagine that you have experienced other forms of leadership and how did those shape who you became as a leader?

Ben Wright: Yeah, I often tell the story and, and I don't even know, I'd have to actually go back and do the math again because there's so many. , so take us to the grain of salt. But I think over the first 10 years of my career I worked for seven different companies. Some of that was my, of my own decision making. Some of it was, you know, market forces, like the company, was bought out. I was fired a couple of times, so that was not my choice.

Amanda Hammett: I appreciate the honesty here.

Ben Wright: Was pretty sure it, and I honestly probably deserved it in both cases, but the one where do you learn, right? What are you learning?

Amanda Hammett: You learned something apparently.

Ben Wright: because you tried to be hope. You too. , but I only raise that because you know, seven different companies under the first 10 years. I have lots of different managers, pods of different cultures and it's not how I would've scripted my career by any means. I would have scripted it really, really, definitely. But the silver lining is, it honestly gave me, you know, experience after experience after experience. And I was able to kind of look and view and absorb and say, here's the culture's, here are the themes, here are the personalities. Here's the direction. Here's the strategy that I love and here's the ones that I, that, that I really don't care for. Uh, and don't make sense to me. And honestly,

Ben Wright: In my opinion, that hasn't necessarily led to success in those organizations. Right. These things have held those companies back, these things ever really let those companies shine and grow. And so I really sort of took that collection of experience. You're not just in terms of cultures of organizations, but the leaders themselves. MMM. And there's, you know of them, of this, the seven different companies over the first 10 years, probably 10 or more, you know, bosses or leaders that I worked for in that time, you know, there's, there's probably two or three that really stand out, uh, as amazing. , there's four or five that were pretty middle of the road as far as I'm concerned. And, you know, there's a couple that I hope they, they really continue to grow and evolve as leaders and managers.

Amanda Hammett: So that was a very polite yeah.

Ben Wright: Because I'm certain there's, you know, there's probably somebody out there and maybe say the same thing about me and so I'm just hoping they would offer me that same grace.

Amanda Hammett: That's wonderful. So I am an expert on developing next-generation talent and I noticed just going through your website that you have quite the population of millennials. Do you have any Gen Z's on your staff when your team does

Ben Wright: What's Gen z? What's the oldest?

Amanda Hammett: Gen Z would just be starting to graduate from college. So the oldest would be around 22, 23

Ben Wright: so we do, so we did, we have, I couldn't tell you how many, but we have a handful of folks who are kind of just out of university, , in a handful of folks who are, who are interns with us, who are still at the university level. So, so yes, we're starting to get into that Gen z, but we do have quite a few, quite a few millennials.

Amanda Hammett: What would you say the makeup is of millennials versus everyone else?

Ben Wright: I haven't looked, but my gut says are the average age in our organization is somewhere between 28 and 30. Okay. Guy like me, that's at 42 is really dragging that mean up quite a bit. And there's a few of us there that are, you know, again really kind of do dragon that the dragon that numbers up. For better or for worse. I don't know if I like the fact that I did that, but it's just simply the fact. So you know, quite a bit. I, I would say that the majority of our, uh, of the team of our population is probably in that millennial group.

Amanda Hammett: Wonderful. Yeah. Well, I would imagine in such a fast growth arena, you guys really do need to rely on that millennial talent in particular. I mean across the world globally, it's going to be 75% by the year 2020 or 2025. Excuse me. But I'm glad to see that you guys have already reached that. A lot of the people I work with are already at 90%, so I'm not surprised by that at all. Not at all. So I'm all right. What, what do you think is the difference in the workplace or in the culture of a workplace now versus maybe when you first came in? Cause you're, you're a little, not much, but a little tiny outside of that millennial age range. I mean, just a little like, oh, I'm actually being serious. It, you know, it's more of a flow thing versus a hard date. So,

Ben Wright: Well, listen, when I started my career, we were in cubicles, right? I mean that in and of itself is, is out the door. You know, with us, the velocity global, we not only have a completely open office environment, nobody has, nobody has an assigned desk. , and, and that includes me. I don't have an office. I don't have an assigned desk, you know, we'd float. And it is totally wide open and there's, you know, there's space where you can sit at a desk there space where you can sit in the couches, you can set me at a huddle rooms, you know, it's this incredible use of space, which was so sterile when, when I came out and frankly I hated it, right? I'd go sit in my cubicle and it didn't matter how high the walls were and it felt like they were always ridiculously high.

Ben Wright: You know, you had to poke your head around just to talk to somebody and they're giving me this look like, why are you poking your head around the cubicle, the toxin, you know, the collaboration and the relationships and the bombs kind of bogus. This, you know, the millennial generation is, it is incredible and it's so powerful and I think it's an incredible boon to business because people care about each other. They know each other at a much deeper level that I feel like I did with my colleagues when I started my career. And that leads to it are really a much richer tapestry that allows you to kind of get stuff done. All right in a way you've never been able to do. , you know, and it's funny and it's ironic because we always read this stuff, you know, in the Internet generation and, and phones and social media and know these millennials are going to be able to talk to each other. I mean, it's ridiculous. It's wrong, right? It's absolutely wrong. They are, they have deeper relationships and they communicate at a, at a much deeper level than you, the than I was ever able to do. We get early in my career.

Amanda Hammett: Wow. I, that's a that's quite an accolade that you just threw out, so I appreciate that. That's wonderful. So, all right, let's talk a little bit about developing your employees because as we mentioned, a lot of these are on the younger side. You've got some interns, you've got fresh out of university all the way up the to late thirties, early forties. , what is the development path look like for you guys? Is there a set in stone? Everybody goes through this or is it more individual? How do you guys go about that?

Ben Wright: It's individual. It's very much individual. So what we do at velocity global is we have this thing called an employee development plan. EDP. and while not required, we strongly encourage everybody that goes to the process and its symbol and it's one page and it's, you know, what are my goals? and we encourage people to not think about it from a velocity, global perspective. Think about it in terms of a personal and professional perspective and almost going to take the philosophy where will thing out of the equation, what do I care about, what I want to do short term, medium term or long term. And we know that coming out of the interview process, but then once you're on board, we, we create the CDP together. Yeah. We make sure that we understand what that is and then we updated on a periodic basis because the best that we can understand from employee's perspective about what really makes them tick, really made some h.

Ben Wright: And frankly, what gets them the most passionate and an alliance. And that alignment can change and it should as you go through your career, but, but what aligns with what I want. I really want to do what I really want to accomplish. Okay. We take that and then we take a look at kind of the goals of the business, right? Where are there holes? Where do we need, you know, kind of future leaders, where do we need, you know, where do we need gaps that people are going to have to be able to go in? So it's a run this machine as you say. And then we make that alignment. And it's not, you know, it's never perfect. But the closest it gets to perfect is when both sides are being really radically candid with each other. , and went on the company side.

Ben Wright: We're saying this, here's the honest to God, the truth about what kind of this role in this direction looks like and the demands that entail. And, uh, you know, and this is why I think you can or potentially are not [inaudible] yet ready to do this job. And then on the individual side, you know, it's a two-way street, you know, our colleagues have to be ready and willing to be really open and honest like this is, this is what I want to do. And you know, the conversations that I honestly love the most is when that really doesn't have a current company Lens on it. When they say, you know, in five years' time I really want to go start a not profit or whatever the case may be. Right. Yeah. Perfect. I'm going to be really sad to lose you when that time comes, but now we know and so we can together create this directional flow that will help get you ready for that while at the same time help us accomplish the goals.

Amanda Hammett: Okay. That's amazing. I love that. That's so I'm, I'm almost me, I have so many questions and things I want to say. I love that because I think that so many people are afraid to say, this is my five-year goal, this is 10 years where I want to be, and I know it doesn't align with my company's goals. And so they keep that in and they're like, oh, I want to be a manager. I want to be a director by that point when really that's not what they want. But if you're using that as a, as an ability to not only teach them and to be able to leverage those skills in the meantime, but also prepare them to leave you, that's something you don't, you don't see a lot of. And I love that you guys are doing, I love that you're offering that to, to your employees, because one thing that you probably haven't thought of but that I'm immediately thinking of is the fact creates loyalty too.

Ben Wright: For sure.

Amanda Hammett: Absolutely. And that's something that I always hear. Millennials aren't loyal employees, their job hoppers, but if they love what they're doing and they know that you're supporting them, of course, they're going to love it and they're going to stay. That's great.

Ben Wright: Yeah, Bingo. Certainly, no surprise. Couldn't have said it any better myself, Amanda. But, uh, that was, yeah, perfectly captured. And you know, you've gotta, you've gotta walk the walk with a philosophy like this. , and what I'm really psyched about it is, you know, in a few weeks we're going to celebrate our five year anniversary as a company. And I believe that we have batted a thousand. We have every single case, , walk the walk as it relates to that, that, you know, we will work with you if you're willing to open up and kind of work with us. And, and we have never, there have never been negative consequences of someone has ever opened up and said, this is my five-year path. Right. And so, so the data has proven, just think about us as an organization that we have shown you can, you can open up right. Not Everybody has the courage to do that. And I get it. And sometimes we come with prior professional baggage, right. And you can't stop that, but all we can do is give, you know, obviously, try to create the right culture and environment ourselves. , and then my hope is that everybody sees that, hey, this is actually a really great way to get people to buy in, to be a part of a team, to remain loyal, but also, you know, create that goodwill and help them get to that next stage in their career, whether it's within this company or not. And so the navy then goes forth and become the leaders that we all hope they'll do.

Amanda Hammett: This is, this is an amazing and beautiful conversation and I'm sad that it's almost over and I don't even know so many other things to ask about. So. All right, we touched on this a little bit, but let's be very specific here. If you had an early in career employee come to you, And I don't know, are they saying, are they going, I don't know, it's up to you. What would be the one piece number one piece of advice that you would give them

Ben Wright: Early in their career employees.

Amanda Hammett: Early in their career? So they've been in the workforce full time, less than five years.

Ben Wright: Okay. So the advice that I would give to them is, and this is, I'm kind of thinking back about my own path is that have a plan, right? Have a plan and work would be, I mean, give your all to that plan, right? Give you all that plan and give your all to whatever it is that you're doing. And you have to do it every single day, right? You really can't, you can't take days off. Don't get me wrong, you need to take days to sharpen your ax. I'm not saying that when you come to work or when you're following that plan, you gotta, you know, you got to suit up and show up every single day when you're doing that and be purposeful about it. , because that's what kind of builds the right habits to get there and have that plan, but yet, don't be so headstrong and you know, heads down about that plan that you miss the incredible opportunities and promises as they come. You know, again, if my own career path is, is any sort of example, there've been a, there's been several instances along the way where opportunities were presented and if I hadn't been paying attention and if I hadn't been willing to take the leap, you know, just like kind of this current, you know, organization that I'm running today, it would have been a very different path. I'm sure it would have been great, but you know, you gotta be willing to take that plunge when the opportunities come.

Amanda Hammett: That's great advice. Very solid. All right, one last question. This is something I'm asking all of the leaders, what is your favorite leadership book?

Ben Wright: My favorite leadership book. And that's tough to only name one, but I think it's probably the five dysfunctions of the team. Okay.

Ben Wright: Ah, yeah, you pull it off the shelve. Yes. Yeah, it was plugged. yeah, it is just, it is so quick. It assembles it. It is so well written. , and into those lessons you just, you just see, you can take with your time and time and time again. It just came up in conversation with some of the executive team yesterday.

Amanda Hammett: Oh, I love it. I love it. Well, this is actually the field guides, so if you haven't gotten nice, try that one out too. I'm writing this down. , well, wonderful. Thank you so much Ben, for being on the show. Thank you for sharing and being honest and really sharing with the world about how awesome the culture is at velocity global, but also about what you guys are building. I think that that's really amazing and important and so thank you for sharing with us.

Ben Wright: Well thank you. It's an honor and we're hiring, so come check it out.

Amanda Hammett: Right. We will link to the hiring page for velocity global, which obviously I think it's a pretty awesome place to be if you make it through the cuts. So thank you again and we'll talk to you soon. It's a pleasure. Thanks so much. Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the next generation Rockstars, where we have discussed all 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.

Amanda Hammett: 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.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

NextGen featuring Horst Schulze

Horst Schulze: Excellence & Joining the Dream

In a world where "good enough" is the reality, learn how Horst Schulze, Co-Founder of the Ritz-Carlton, goes against the grain seeking out Excellence in each employee.

Schulze's professional life began more than 65 years ago as a server's assistant in a German resort town. Throughout the years he worked for both Hilton Hotels and Hyatt Hotels Corporation before becoming one of the founding members of The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company in 1983. There Mr. Schulze created the operating and service standards that have become world-famous. His principles are both versatile and practical to leaders of every age, career stage, and industry.

Share the LOVE and TWEET about this episode.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - Excellence & Joining the Dream

Welcome to the Next Generation Rockstars podcast. If you are trying to figure out how do you recruit and retain this next generation of rock star talent while you are in the right place.

Amanda Hammett: Hi, this is Amanda Hammett and on today's episode of the Next Generation Rock stars, we have Horst Schulze says he is the co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton. Now I think we all know and love the brand of the Ritz-Carlton. They are known for their excellence in everything they do, customer service, their food, their beverages, their rooms, they're beautiful properties, but it's not just excellence in those things. It's excellence all behind the scenes with the people that are there. A Horst actually walks us through how that idea of excellence was really brought into his life as a 14-year-old working as a busboy in a hotel and how he carried that with him and some lessons he learned along the way. But I think what you're really going to walk away from his horse ideas around developing people and learning those lessons and taking them on with you throughout your career. So join us for today's episode and take lots and lots of notes.

Amanda Hammett: Hi, this is Amanda Hammett with the next generation rockstars. And today I have a phenomenal interview for you. I Have Horst Schulze say, ah, he is here with us and he is going to tell us all about his ideas around leadership and developing next-generation talent. Horst, welcome to the show.

Horst Schulze: I'm glad to be here Amanda.

Amanda Hammett: Wonderful. Wonderful. So I know a lot about you because I have this little book right here. Um, but I would imagine our audience may not know a lot about you, so why don't you share with us a little bit about yourself?

Horst Schulze: Well, it really starts when I left home when I was 14 and started working, I bought a hundred miles away, a hundred kilometers away, an awesome busboy in the best talent in the region. That's why a Honda phenomenon, Sabine from home, they're living with the kids in a dorm room and working and learning the business slowly and was quite lucky. That's why I refer to that time. I had a huge mentor at that time when I was very, and it's accessible to information very young. Do you understand? I was 14 and had a huge man that was the Maitre d of the hotel. He impacted my life dramatically.

Horst Schulze: In fact, the first day I met him, he said, now there by other kids who started the same day, no. Yeah, guys don't come to work to just work, come to work to create excellence. And that was kind of impact that mid traumatically throughout my life. Now at that time of went over my head, frankly that's not, and for by on one, what does excellence and washing dishes and dishes and cleaning floors. But however he kept on staying with that theme and he presented himself as a human being of excellence and work workout excellence. So you could sooner or later, after a couple of years working there, I could connect to that very clearly and could, you could feel it, you could see it. And he impacted my life and from down, I've worked in the top hotels in Europe. I mean truly you had that at the very best hotels in Europe and in Switzerland and France.

Horst Schulze: And hold on, hold American Lion, England, Germany. And then I came to the United States in 1964 worked, worked in San Francisco, Chicago, worked for Hilton or for Hilton, Dan Hyatt. And finally, when I worked for hired, I was, I started as a director of food and beverage for a hotel.

Amanda Hammett: Right.

Horst Schulze: They came director of rooms, became a general manager, regional vice president, over 10 hotels, a corporate vice president, 65 hotels. When somebody offered me to come to Atlanta and start a new hotel company, I was not very interested in that because I had my golden handcuffs and everything you want. But they kept on offering me the shop and slowly at Treme start developing what I would do with the new hotel company. That dream started to control my total, totally controlled by the vision. I started the job, gave up my, the handcuff and Arizona, all my friends and everything and moved to Atlanta to start a new hotel company. A year of that coming to Atlanta, we opened our first hotel, which turned out the Ritz-Carlton Bucket, which doesn't exist anymore. But that is the beginning and I live 20 years later, nearly 20 years later and Ritz Carlton had become the leading hotel company in the world. Absolutely. And many countries, four continents. That's my story.

Amanda Hammett: So I will say that when you do think of excellence, so you manage to thread that through the entire, the entire company.

Horst Schulze: Yeah.

Amanda Hammett: Wonderful.

Horst Schulze: I think so as thing, so that was my whole purpose and I have and dismayed with deans and of course I'm new, the project and we all are, are the, are there is salt of influence of many, many people with a, with a major influenced by this gentleman and this gentleman, the Maitre d just hard us think excellence and not work more hours, but while your work, instead of painting a wall, pin the painting and that was kind of his mantra and, and you cannot help it, you're so young. You, you adopt some of it. And of course [inaudible] Ritz Carlton, that was the whole thinking. I could not, I saw him in front of me saying, create excellence.

Amanda Hammett: That's amazing. That's really amazing. How that one story of mentorship has shaped your life and the trajectory. So let's talk a little bit more about that. I would imagine that throughout your career that you've experienced, you know, other forms of leadership besides this one.

Horst Schulze: Yeah, sure.

Amanda Hammett: How did that go into helping your style of leadership that you would go on to develop?

Horst Schulze: Yeah, there are many people who have impacted me that way and I can look, and if you're lucky, you have got people who impact you. If you're lucky, you're dumb. And that's really it because the effect is we are a result of that. And it had some great leaders and I remember that the president of, of Higher Ed who was affable and what was fun was relaxed but didn't compromise who was, it was a friend. Right? But didn't, that didn't mean you compromise. I remember a gentleman by the name of Colgate homes, we'll absolutely be precise, communicated. It showed a future to our own, showed us why we do things, not just for the function of the day, but for results in the future, et Cetera, et cetera. So a lot of impacts. And I had a, a mentor I've been on right after I finished my apprenticeship as a young man and gender men who reminded me to, to, to come to work. Also asked a gentleman to act rides, to behave right, to, to understand your work in a place where a certain amount of certain type of customer comes to trust yourself to those people, et cetera. So different in pumps in different learning moments in life is what formed me. Right or wrong. That's who I am.

Amanda Hammett: Of course, of course. Well, fantastic. Now, especially on as you grew through your career, did you ever feel pressure from your bosses, maybe from a board when you were at the Ritz Carlton or any of those positions that you've held that you really had to focus on numbers and not on really, because the way I see it as you're developing people, did they want you more to focus on numbers and profitability versus just the people will do what they gotta do?

Horst Schulze: Just to curse of today. That curse exists forevermore. And, and what is a serious mistake that is for organizations, but your organization can tell and cannot have it, tell it your organization is pressured by investors, by Wall Street, et Cetera. So look at a dollar. Consequently, the organization measures and identifies success by the dollar, the mansion. There's the headquartered in Chicago and it's a hotel or a business. Doesn't matter what it is. I of course report to hotels or hotel thousand months of eight. How does Chicago headquarter evaluates the leadership in that hotel? Nothing but the bottom line.

Amanda Hammett: That's right.

Horst Schulze: And yet at the same time, if I'm down and the vape, I can really impact on that. But that bottom line by cutting and my services to the customer by not painting anymore, by not cleaning so much for taking the flowers away and so on. Sadly that's the same thing but, but excellence. That's the point about excellence. Excellence concentrates on the things that make money and not under money.

Amanda Hammett: Yes.

Horst Schulze: That is the difference. And that's what I tried to show everybody. Let's concentrate on our product concentrate what the market ones and do that superior to the competition that infects, we'll create money on the end.

Amanda Hammett: Absolutely.

Horst Schulze: And that's not how things are measured today.

Amanda Hammett: Unfortunately, you're correct. Yes, absolutely. So Horst what would you say the difference, because how long have you been working since you were 14 so quite a while. What would you say the biggest difference is that millennials have brought into the workplace.

Horst Schulze: You know, that is why in my opinion it's widely understood and I've worked with them. Now mind you, it's not that I'm applying to them. I work with them quite a while. The millennials ask the questions, which we would have liked to ask, but they're afraid to ask this, say the milling and said, what's in it for me? Yeah, we were wondering what's in it for me. We would have liked to know, we would have liked to ask the question of why and the Millennials and says why. And you know, this is kind of fascinating, but because Adam Smith of course, who rode belts of nations 300 years ago, when you wrote another boom of which incidentally was more proud and in that book he studied the human being and he came to the conclusion 300 some years ago, came to the conclusion that human beings cannot relate to all this and direction. Yet what do we do? We give orders and direction. He said, human beings can relate to objective and motive and that's what the animal in its want to know. What's the reasoning, what's the more devoted and what's in it for me? So it really is not new. It's only newly expressed and we're not used to it. I all leadership like me, I'm not used to, we're not used to it. All of a sudden the young person comes in and says, why? So what? What's in it for me? We would have liked to sentencing, the same thing, but we were afraid.

Amanda Hammett: Absolutely. I agree with that answer wholeheartedly. Wholeheartedly.

Horst Schulze: The other things, of course, the medallions, it as a market, as a customer, the millennial, it's, it's really the same thing. They mainly the millennials say, do it my way. [inaudible] do it my way. Nope, you're not your way. No, your way. The businesses way but I wanted my own way and we went also Ribet willing to subordinate two, the producers, what they produced to us missing too, even though we would have liked to have a different the millennials said I take the hamburger, but I won two slices of cucumbers on a sort of one.

Amanda Hammett: Yes.

Horst Schulze: Do it my way. And that's really the differences and you can expand on that, but it's all the same.

Amanda Hammett: Absolutely. They, they very much appreciate that into individualized attention. Whether it's at work or whether it's as a guest. Absolutely. Exactly.

Horst Schulze: Yeah.

Amanda Hammett: You absolutely. Absolutely. So let me ask, how did this influence millennials coming into the workplace and coming in under you? How did that influence the way that you lead them?

Horst Schulze: Well, I had come to a conclusion much earlier anyway that, eh, I don't want people to come to in my organization to fulfill the function. [inaudible] I want them to join my tree, my objective. In other words, I was almost willing to go higher, join me. And that's what the and then that millennials want to do, but have the knowledge what that chosen. But or because organizations still say, join me and then they say, go to work and, and make the speech about we are a team. [inaudible] we are a team. That is, it is ridiculous team speech. But a team is a group of key people who have a common objective. Yeah. And that's what a millennial wants to know. What's the objective?

Amanda Hammett: Yes.

Horst Schulze: And, but the boss says, we're a team here. No, go to work.

Amanda Hammett: Yes, do what I said.

Horst Schulze: You know the team, unless you on the understand the objective and the motives of the organization, I always believed that because I grew up through the ranks.

Horst Schulze: I want you to know that I was up north. I was afraid to ask, but when I was started and Scott and I met very clear, I want people to join us. I wonder if you have an orientation maybe explained fully who we are, explained our three, invited them that showing the dream and then told him, told them our motive for this dream and connected our motive to death. For example, one the girl you want opportunity, we wanted to be on that. You want to be respected it Cetera, et cetera. So I didn't change my approach. I know that because it was deep in me and, and I said, boss, I look back. That came from, I came from being a busboy. I wrote as weight and as a coconut from this, I have done the work our employees do. I know the pain and I know the pleasure of it.

Amanda Hammett: All right, so you are, what I just heard is that you are a man way before your time.

Horst Schulze: No, I know I don't know what that, yes, I was probably a little bit before everybody, but then when many, I was not the only one. Let's understand that. But it's the course I grew up and I had the right influences. I was influenced by the right people and the head of the ride experience. I didn't fall through the ceiling one day and say, Hey, I liked those hotels. I'm the president of. I had worked myself through it. So I know the pain of the employees and I and it was very good. And some of my leaders in the past told me vaping and gentleman, but never cook home set, you know, employees who wanted to do the job do better work better than the ones that have to do a shop. Absolutely. So it's very symbol. So knowing that I have to look back and say, all right, how do you want to be a child? If you feel part of something you say it all is very simple. I also like the, I read the old philosophers and even our sense people, people in order to be fulfilled in life, have to have the excellence of purpose and belonged to that purpose. So why would I hire employees for the function? I hired them for the purpose and let them feel a part of it. Absolutely.

Amanda Hammett: So let me ask you since you just brought this up, let's, let's talk about this hiring process and the recruiting process. Yeah. I mean if you're hiring them for the dream, how do you communicate that through a job listing or how do you communicate that to them, to a wider audience of potential employees? How do you communicate this?

Horst Schulze: Probably to the listening part of it through the first and interview. Okay. To the first interview by the, and by the way, I'll say clearly I identified the processes clearly in my book how to do that. And uh, it is sort of the first interview, invite them to join an organization. Make it clear. Don't just come here to vogue, come here to join us to function, which you fulfill. I why? Why would I hire people? Trust for the function, right. Did, did come here to fulfill a function for its purpose to accomplish a certain goal, which is if you're creative leader, you determined if that objective, the long-term objective is good for all concerned is my objective, is my train good for the Organization of course. But the investments [inaudible] for the, for the customer, for the employee influence society as a whole. Once I determine this, my objective is good for all concerns. I build my systems so that everybody joins me in that objective. So a hire you for my objective, not the function because you see the chairman which was sitting is fulfilling a function. But I'm hiring human beings. Right? We know since Aristotle wants to be part of something. Yes. So I'm offering that on, of course, I made it very clear The function has to be fulfilled better than the competition fulfills it so that we can accomplish our dream.

Amanda Hammett: Right. Okay, that's wonderful. So let me ask you this. You obviously came up through the ranks starting as a busboy. Um, and, and I feel like I, I'm guessing here, I'm going to put words in your mouth for a second, but I would assume that you got a lot out of that development process. Coming up through the ranks and it has influenced who you've become as a leader, who you've become as, as a co-founder. It's influenced by everything. Yes. What would you say is the benefit today of starting at the bottom, at the busboy, at the whatever and working your way up? What would be, what would you say to someone today to try to a young person trying to tell them, hey, join us in this dream. I need you to start here.

Horst Schulze: Yes. Well, yes, I would show him, show him all have, obviously that is a Korea, no matter on what level you are going to start. It's quite simple. In fact that career [inaudible] it's a guarantee. It's a guarantee that we have a guarantee. Don't you have a current, a career? If you take any trip that you're in, I can give you examples of people that started as a dishwasher. There's one very close by over here. The manager ended in a Marriott over here, but you know in Atlanta. I remember when he was oriented in the first Ritz-Carlton. I was still running that hotel. He was a dishwasher, a refugee from Nairobi.

Amanda Hammett: Really?

Horst Schulze: It was a dishwasher, but what he did is exactly what I met my career. He was a little better than hours. We didn't come five minutes late. He came five minutes early, maybe ask them to do something. He didn't say, why me? He said, I'm happy to thank you for letting me doing et Cetera, and said, Ron, he was excellent in every shop they had soon after. He was excellent as additional sham, the room service manager, ours can. I have them work for me and it became the best room service with them and soon the banquet manager said, can I have them worked for me? Everybody wanted him because he was excellent at what he was doing. That's the story. That's the story. I, that's my story. I wrote as room service that in the Hilton in San Francisco when the cam first United States and I made the decision that I will be the best after I real. After somebody got promoted ahead of me and I realized that person is served at a little bit more than me. I came to work tired in the morning, sometimes five minutes late because I was young, was partying, and then I didn't get a promotion.

Horst Schulze: Now first as thought stupid management by didn't I get the promotion and to every few months. Of course, it taught me a few months to realize the other guy disrupted more. He said when he was told something, he didn't say, why me? Is that I'm happy to, and that's when I made the decision. I will be excellent and average shop category that I will ever have and I've consequently had a career just like eBay, the Manitoba, then the Marriott who was nothing but promote along because in every job he was excellent. He came to work to be excellent and not just fulfill the function. That was his decision. That decision can be made if you're a millennial or not a millennial.

Amanda Hammett: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I agree with that. I'm curious, how old were you when you were passed over for that promotion?

Horst Schulze: 24 I was a room service waiter.

Horst Schulze: It impacted my life. Totally impacted my life. I suddenly now no manual. I wanted that promotion. I didn't get it. Of course I knew it was the best waiter there, technically I was good when I was in a funny book up in the morning, but when you come in, come in every day and they look a little tired and sometimes you lead and the other, the other guys, every morning there are a few minutes early and says front the good morning. And that was a difference. And when I saw it, I saw something beautiful. I looked once I've taught me a few months mind you have called me a few months to overcome my ego, my ego, or in the stem, it's not me. Obviously, in about suddenly, I looked at my hand and there was a key to success. That's from now on. I'm going to create excellence now all of a sudden. And as so in front of me, my first made a deal saying to me, I told you, come to work for excellence. I saw him, I saw it in front of me and I said, this will never ever happen to me again.

Amanda Hammett: And it did. There you go. It was a wonderful learning lesson for you. Sure.

Horst Schulze: Hopefully we all have those lessons or we all have them. But if you recognize them or not, that's the question.

Amanda Hammett: That is the question. That is the thing. You have those opportunities to learn, but do you take it as a learning experience or do you take it as a, Oh, that's, that's not why.

Horst Schulze: Why not be planned? Somebody [inaudible] and player management, which I did for a few months. Of course, something that makes you feel bad that, but it doesn't get you anywhere.

Amanda Hammett: No, it doesn't. It sure doesn't. So wonderful. I'm glad that you have that experience for sure. So, um, I think you've touched on this a little bit, but I want to really hammer this home, especially for our younger audience. What advice would you give an early career employee? Is it coming to work five minutes early or is it?

Horst Schulze: Well, it is so it's the same words. There's nothing different. If you're starting in your career, be excellent and what you're doing standout. I recommend this to my children. I have four daughters. I urge everyone to go to work five minutes earlier, be heavy. When you walked a road, make a decision. It was used to decide. Make a decision that you like to get shot. You know, today, half the people in the, in any given job go to work happy and the others are pretty happy.

Horst Schulze: What is it? It's a decision. It's not a feeling. Control your feelings. Make a decision as a chop protected. Be early, be happy if you have extra roping given, gives you a chance to learn this. Be Excellent today, every day for day. And you will get rewarded. The rewards will come. Oh, it takes much too long before somebody recognizes. I know it takes much longer, but it will be recognized. It will be rewarded. The rewards will come. The reward is in the future. And you're working for the future young people.

Amanda Hammett: Absolutely. I think that a lot of times it's hard to, I have been guilty of this myself as a young employee. You know, you see the frustration today. That's what you're living in is this today and it's hard. It is hard to look beyond that and say, okay, what it can be in six months.

Horst Schulze: Exactly. So yeah, exactly. And so it's so important to it. I'm, I'm at a point, once I had done the experience and for God's, the message from my first met with excellent, I infect them for years wrote and my on my mirror, their shape in the morning, go to work for excellence. I had to remind myself so that I wouldn't to live away from it. I had to manage myself. We have the manage, we have to be leaders of ourselves first before we are leaders of others and wait to be led by artists. The most important form of leadership is self-leadership. Lead yourself to excellence. Have a vision for yourself and commit yourself to implement the steps that get you there. And I'm focused on it that that is where the pain comes into focus in because you see, you find excuses, you find apologies that make you feel good for a moment but doesn't take you anywhere. The only division takes you somewhere. Have a vision for excellence.

Amanda Hammett: All right, I love that. I love that actually. So you know, if something popped up in my head when you were just talking just now, what would you advise someone who is, when you're looking to promote people, say you're looking to promote somebody to lead a team. What's more important to you that they are a rock star as an individual contributor or they understand they have a better understanding of how to lead people?

Horst Schulze: Well, I have a better understanding of how to lead people. However, contrary to what everybody says it, leadership can be learned. Leadership can be learned. Some people said that porn, it's not true. And there is, I have seen creatively the crib leaders that I touched on earlier, they had all totally different styles. It's not the style leadership is in my opinion, the understanding that the objective of the organization must be of excellence for all concerned.

Horst Schulze: If it lets out one, one of their constituencies, if you, if you will. It's not good leadership. I have to have to think if, if my company here is an objective for my company and if I do that as a, as a leader and set the objective and see something beautiful, it has to be beautiful. It's not something that you can do. It's something you wish to be. I said out before the first Ritz-Carlton, I came here, I took that job because I wanted to create the best hotel company in the world. Yes. That was my dream and when I hired people I said show me for that. There are some of the lovings of us. We don't even have a hotel you're talking about like that. But that's the dream. Once I understand this stream is good for all concerned, I want to underline that it's not a train for you only it's self-constraint.

Horst Schulze: No, it must be good for all concerned and then align your people behind it and hire people for it. Align everybody behind it. That's leadership to see something beautiful and how people on a journey to that destination help them and management is that to do what? To help them to get there but not compromise. You do not compromise. That's because of the moment that compromise if my vision isn't created one and good for Arkansas and soon the moment when a compromise, I'm going against everybody, I can't do that. Done my direction is clearly a set.

Amanda Hammett: That's wonderful. So I actually, I think that we should end on that note because you had so much wonderful, so many wonderful things to say about development and talent and excellence and of course excellent, right?

Horst Schulze: Yeah. In the book, [inaudible] all pretty clear how to go on a kind. Of course, I can not detail everything here, but I think it will be oh of volume for young people particularly.

Amanda Hammett: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for your time and thank you so much for being here.

Horst Schulze: Amanda, great to be with you.

Amanda Hammett: Thank you.

Amanda Hammett: Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the Next Generation Rock stars, where we have discussed all 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.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.