5 Ways To Identify And Retain Top Talent with Livia Martini Of Gympass & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Gympass Human Resources Hiring Strategies

Hiring based on cultural fit and talent is a tried and trusted method I have come to rely on. I have found it to be far more beneficial than employing the best coder or the best marketer out there.

Asa part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their recruiting and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Livia Martini.

Livia Martini is the CHRO at Gympass, the world’s leading corporate fitness provider. Livia joined the Gympass team in 2017 as the Head of International Operations. In her current role as CHRO, she oversees a global team of over 800 employees across 14 countries. Prior to Gympass, Livia worked at management consultancy group McKinsey & Company in Sao Paulo after receiving an MBA from Harvard. She started her professional career in investment banking at Banco Santander. In addition to an MBA, Livia also holds a Bachelor in Economics from Brazil’s Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Livia has a lifelong passion for tennis and has recently found joy in running and spinning.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always had a passion for working with people — motivating them, developing them, making sure the right people were solving the right challenges. However, I had not yet had an opportunity to look into talent acquisition and development through a truly strategic lens. About a year ago, we changed part of our structure at Gympass and I asked to speak to our CEO. I asked him point-blank: can we create a truly strategic and business-oriented HR structure, in which we will ensure we make the best decisions for the people and for the business to achieve amazing results? His answer was yes. And with that, I jumped at this opportunity!

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career?

When you are working with people, there is no shortage of interesting stories. One of my recurring “nightmares” is that in every single market, we have moved into offices that seem too big for us, thinking we would grow into them over time. We have managed to outgrow every single office we have ever moved into in less than half the time than we initially anticipated. Technically, this is a great problem to have. But, when your company is present in 14 countries, it feels like looking for a new office is always on the to-do list. The lesson here is that as an HR leader, it is important to have flexibility in every aspect of a business’ operation so that your team can be nimble enough to give the right level of support and acceleration.

Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?

Currently, our main priority — which is equal parts exciting and challenging — is to make sure the entire organization and our people are prepared for the accelerated growth we have been experiencing at Gympass. We have been focusing on developing our people and ensuring we have succession for our key positions so that we can promote and relocate people according to their interests and career aspirations.

Wonderful. Let’s jump to the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?

Here are my top tips for identifying the best candidate for the job.

  1. Hire for cultural fit. Hiring based on cultural fit and talent is a tried and trusted method I have come to rely on. I have found it to be far more beneficial than employing the best coder or the best marketer out there. Those candidates might be amazing at what they do, but if they don’t gel with the rest of the team and aren’t willing to tackle and solve tough problems with a smile, I know that it’s probably not going to work out in the long run.
  2. Tell candidates the reality of our day-to-day. We’re a fast-growing global company actively expanding. Exciting? Absolutely! As a team in a well-paced environment, we are always looking to optimize our processes. Therefore, it is important for the candidates to realize that competencies like resilience, flexibility, ownership, and execution are critical for success at Gympass. After that, it is imperative to guarantee that the candidate is motivated and excited to work in this kind of environment.
  3. Ask tough questions. When we ask difficult questions, our goal is not to set candidates up for failure by putting them under so much pressure that they would give wrong answers. Instead, we want to assess the extent of their knowledge, their ability to think quickly on their feet and demonstrate how their previous experiences can make a difference at Gympass.
  4. Have candidates demonstrate their skills in a situation they will encounter at Gympass. Hiring a product manager? Have them whiteboard a problem relevant to your product or service while also explaining how to manage senior stakeholders at the company. A salesperson? Role-play a situation in which they have to demonstrate they can empathize with a potential client to sell a complex product by focusing on the positive impact for the company.
  5. Ensure candidates believe in our company mission and vision. Our best candidates are people who not only understand our business model but also can relate to our mission to defeat inactivity. We look for talent who are fit for the role at hand but also able to grow with us.

Really valuable! With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

Finding the best talent is always tough, especially when you’re reaching out cold. The best advice that I can give is to stand out by reinforcing your purpose and values.

  1. Make your purpose known. There is no denying that companies with a purpose attract better talent. Defining why you do what you do will help motivate candidates who share your vision to join your team. At Gympass, our mission is to defeat inactivity, and we make sure every single one of our employees knows this and is prepared to shout it from the rooftops.
  2. Leverage your own talent. When you have outstanding employees that are engaged and happy, they can be a powerful tool to connect with other A-players. At Gympass, we encourage our employees to network within their respective fields by describing their day-to-day and generating followers to create a smoother path for our talent acquisition teams to reach out to those candidates.
  3. Craft your email subject line with care. Initial contact is the most crucial step, so it’s imperative you nail the first email you send. The average office employee receives 121 emails per day, so make sure your email stands out and catches the prospective employee’s attention. Wouldn’t you open an email that says “Join one of the world’s fastest-growing wellness companies to help defeat inactivity”? That’s exactly how we approach people to start a conversation, keep it short, succinct, and impactful.

Makes a lot of sense. What are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?

We know that our employees want to make a difference for people around the world and are motivated to continue to see results as we continue to defeat inactivity. Equally as important is the fact that we see that employee retention is directly connected with employee engagement. Because of this, we constantly survey our employee base and take action based on the results. Three of our main strategies to create an engaged employee base are:

  1. Culture and Values– Culture is one of the most important aspects in retaining great employees, especially when the company is facing significant changes. This starts with simply being able to clearly articulate what the organizational culture is. At Gympass, we strongly believe that our values make us unique and set the tone to a great inclusive culture. “Diversity”, “Ecosystem Mindset”, and “Constructive Collaboration” are three of the main pillars that reinforce this. We also value bringing relevant results to all of our stakeholders and doing it as one team.
  2. Talent development– Promoting from within not only provides a clear path to greater compensation and responsibility, it also helps our team feel that they’re valued and a crucial part of the company’s success. Working at Gympass presents an opportunity to learn quickly with autonomy. This creates career possibilities where you can progress in a “non-linear” path and experience challenges that you never thought you could. You define your own destiny.
  3. Pleasure beats pressure- This is something we strongly believe in at Gympass not only for our clients and fitness partners, but also for our employees. Most of us at some point will experience some form of pressure at work, but if we aren’t having fun and enjoying the task at hand, then what’s the point? Making our team feel appreciated and calling out a job well done publicly will always help boost morale and help create and nurture a culture that supports one another. Praise and pleasure are very closely associated, so always make sure you’re connecting the two.

Great tips. In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends and share what this might look like?

A company’s HR department is a crucial cornerstone in the success of any business. Therefore, keeping up with the latest trends isn’t just important, it’s mandatory! That said, there’s no “one size fits all” solution for HR leaders. A lot of our work depends on what is important for our specific team.

At Gympass, we’re making a shift towards being more proactive about our employees’ health. This includes creating ways to incentivize our people to be more active, social, and to lead more sustainable and balanced lives.

Additionally, to reinforce our culture as a company within the tech industry, we are instituting processes to aid a more agile, multifunctional team by increasing company-wide training and development sessions.

Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?

We have many ways of demonstrating our team’s value, that isn’t necessarily linked to monetary spend. Beyond offering competitive salaries and benefits to bring in talent at Gympass, we’re also creative in how we recognize merit within the team.

One of our methods is an internal group called “Change Makers”, which exists within our Product Development team. This group takes a look at surveys that measure engagement and defines solutions to help us optimize processes. This helps make everyone accountable and gives HR visibility into what we can do to continue to make Gympass a great place to work.

Something else unique to Gympass that increases value for our employees is directly related to our mission, defeating inactivity. We organize ongoing fitness challenges that provide rewards at multiple levels, encouraging employees to be physically active with coworkers from different teams.

Most importantly, we acknowledge milestones and make sure to celebrate company-wide successes accordingly. Recently, we had our seven-year anniversary and celebrated this throughout all of our offices. We also have monthly meetings with the entire team to show off recent results, reinforce key strategy initiatives and celebrate wins. These events always have a theme to help keep things interesting.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The movement I want to inspire in the world is the same as Gympass — to defeat inactivity. This is why I am here today, living the best and happiest years of my life. Shockingly, 3.2 million people die every year due to the effects of physical inactivity. The cost of healthcare is increasing worldwide but the focus on preventative care and health is still very low.

However, I have a personal reason to have this as “my” movement. I always played sports growing up. This gave me the best experiences and best friends I have, and enabled me to live a healthy life. My grandmother has also been very active throughout her life. She is now 85-years-old and goes to the gym more often than I do — she is very fond of pilates, weight lifting, and swimming. Earlier this year, she underwent major surgery — always a risk at her age — but her procedure was particularly complicated. In only 15 days, she was released to go back to her normal life. Both her doctors said it was only due to the active life she had been leading up to the surgery.

Your grandmother is impressive! As a former college hockey player, coach, and physical educator, I can definitely appreciate a movement like that. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” This might seem cliche, but it speaks to me on many levels. This was the motto of an NGO I used to lead and to me it means:

1) Lead by example to inspire others to do the same.

2) Start anything by changing or improving yourself.

3) Anyone and everyone has the power to do good.

Love that. Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?

I am very inspired by strong women who are influencing the world around them for the better. I would love to meet Serena Williams and Simone Biles (great female role models in the world of sports. I am also a huge gymnastics and tennis fan!), Michelle Obama (for the fights she chooses to fight, and the way she has raised her girls), Melinda Gates (for her leadership in the nonprofit world), and Marissa Mayer (for her amazing career in tech).

Thank you so much for sharing these valuable insights with us today!

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