Don’t approach employees or potential hires with HR jargon, people want real words as it relates to them and their role. Be honest with any employee or future hire and be clear on how you will operate together.
As a 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 hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Elizabeth Mye.
Elizabeth Mye currently serves as the Global Vice President of Human Resources at Intermedia.net, a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and business cloud email provider. Elizabeth has over 25 years’ Human resource leadership experience in high growth emerging companies as well as Fortune 100 national and international organizations in technology including technology consulting services, biotechnology, healthcare, and consumer products industries. Her focus and success stem from her ability to build scalable and practical corporate human resource solutions in high change, rapid growth start-up business environments. Elizabeth embodies her belief of speaking truth to power in her role leading Intermedia’s HR functions, and values authenticity and transparency. Elizabeth also has had a long professional music career as a classical singer, currently directs two choirs and is married with one daughter.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Unlike some of my colleagues, human resource was actually not what I set out to do in my career. Instead, I spent my early career as a professional classical singer, and only found myself pursuing a path in HR after years of my husband and other important people in my life telling me I had the qualities and drive that made me a perfect fit for the industry. Looking back, I was often chosen for leadership roles, directing choirs and teaching, in my early business management positions and eventually in my first HR role at Thinking Machines Corporation over 25 years ago. The combination of these experiences has made a profound impact on me, helping to establish and live the principals I follow and support by giving back and helping others succeed.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career?
Early in my HR career, I decided to do some consulting work to expand my perspective and experience. In this contractor role, I was chartered to hire 30 plus saleswomen across the US. It was a strategic decision by the company, as they felt that hiring strong, empowered saleswomen would give them an edge over their competition. After fulfilling the positions and leaving my position, the founder and CEO thanked me for helping them achieve their vision and told me, ‘We will take good care of the people you have hired.’ The care in which this CEO thanked me has always stuck with me. It’s a lesson that I continue to carry through my career as I look to help others find their calling.
Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?
Absolutely! There are many exciting new projects that I’ve taken on at Intermedia. Every year I have designed, developed and rolled out a new leadership and employee development training. The training is intended to teach our leaders methods and practices that support Intermedia’s core values, and then cascade the same information to our employees to create one unified voice. We celebrate individual values and experiences while creating one voice across the global company.
This year I also incorporated Agile Scrum into our training method to teach employees how to effectively focus their initiatives in a way that empowers them through self-selected role contributions while driving high execution and productivity. As part of this initiative, we have created ‘War Rooms’ using the Agile Scrum method for specific marketing and sales initiatives to support Intermedia’s growth objectives. This is helping us create one united voice across Intermedia and further promotes collaboration across teams.
That’s wonderful. Now let’s shift 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?
· Screen for skills and a demonstrated ability to successively learn. It is important to identify a set of experiences and examples that can show how a candidate learns and is able to adapt and evolve based on their learnings.
· Find out what drives your candidate. Establish a strong culture fit where the candidate demonstrates honesty, transparency and has the ability to work in ‘collaborative autonomy’, to drive results that are approached intelligently and with a critical eye in vetting potential risks.
· Conduct a lot of interviews. Seeing how a candidate responds during the interview process with iteration is critical. It provides a real-time way of seeing how the candidate responds, learns and adapts. This helps the candidate and company understand if there is a mutual fit and alignment.
· Provide access to e-suite including the CEO during the interview process. Allow candidates to interview with employees from all levels including the CEO. This will help you understand how the candidate interacts with executive leadership and also provides candidates with the opportunity to learn more about your company culture and build relationships with executive leaders.
· Conduct rigorous reference checks. While this might seem like an obvious one, references can often be overlooked. This is a critical step that can help fill in the gaps for any unanswered questions and can help seal the deal to confirm whether the candidate will be a good fit for the role.
Finding out what drives people is huge. With so much noise and competition out there, what are the top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
· Leadership and employee proactive networking matters. It is important to activate your employees to be advocates of your company so they can tap into their networks and speak to their experiences within the organization. Spreading these endorsements through digital channels or word of mouth can help attract some of the industry’s best talent.
· Build early career pipeline programs to help you identify potential candidates just starting their professional experience. At Intermedia, we have developed a Cloud Academy program that provides students in their second year of college with business training and skills. Not only are we contributing to the development and growth of these young individuals, but it also helps us identify the best talent early on.
· Pay attention to your Glassdoor rating. In the age of social media and digital connection, it is very easy for a company’s reputation to be tarnished if they are unable to meet the needs of their employees. Executives need to pay attention to their employees’ feedback, and Glassdoor provides an opportunity to gain greater insight into the employee experience and respond to any negative feedback that might dissuade other potential candidates from joining that company.
“Activate your employees to be advocates of your company so they can tap into their networks and speak to their experiences.”
Absolutely. What would you say are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?
· Offering lots of opportunity to learn. Provide employees with the opportunity to understand how they can make a greater impact within the company and how they can be involved and touch other parts of the business that they might be interested in. This includes shadow roles, informal learning and leadership development opportunities.
· Creating a culture of support, collaboration, and accountability. We spend so much time at work and it is important to foster a sense of community that unites employees to collaborate and helps a company achieve its goals. Businesses should help employees hold each other accountable and deliver results, all while having a little fun along the way.
· Invest in leaders to foster growth and mentorship. If you want to retain your employees, it’s critical to foster their growth and future within the company. This includes providing access across functional teams and opening opportunities for employees to learn from each other and progress in their careers. At Intermedia we’ve seen a high retention rate as a result of our 25 percent average promotional annual trend, as well our investments in leadership trainings which trickle down to the employee experience.
In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends? Can you give some examples of what this looks like?
Trends are a great foundation to understand what is going on in the industry. However, companies must understand that one size does not fit all. HR needs to stay up-to-date to appeal to varying perspectives, generational needs, new tools, techniques, legal changes and more, but that must also be balanced with an understanding of the needs of the specific business and people, including the end goal of the company, and what that specific company needs to reach success. By balancing these two perspectives, we can better understand where a company has the competitive edge and be forward-thinking in our approach. This can translate in many ways, whether it’s in setting up local meetups and special events to attract new talent or being more active on social media to attract millennials. There are many different strategies that can be implemented based on the trends that we are seeing in the market.
Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?
For companies looking to increase value to employees while staying under cost limitations, they can start with their culture, providing opportunities for continuous learning and access to leadership. For example, at Intermedia our executive leaders including our CEO, Michael Gold, have lunch with employees to ensure they are connecting and hearing their concerns and pivoting based on the feedback they receive from employees. This accessibility builds a collaborative environment that isn’t siloed, eliminates company politics and makes employees feel heard.
Accessibility can go a long way, I like that. 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?
As a way to pay it forward and implement my passion of supporting others to find their strengths, I would like to start something I call the ‘Teach Forward’ movement. ‘Teach Forward’ would be required as a corporate legal mandate for all companies (50 persons or larger) to teach our youth (school grade through high school) practical life and business skills. These companies would need to select high performing employees to become volunteers in local community public and private schools to teach a minimum of 40 hours per year up to 120 hours per year, based on the size of the company. Companies would receive a corporate tax break based on the total number of volunteer hours. This gives back to the youth of our future across all socio-economic categories and invests in the United States and global future.
More practical life and business skills are definitely needed in our schools! Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
‘Assumptions are the mother of all screw-ups’ …. As I’ve learned myself and as I continually watch people across all levels of the company, break-downs in understanding, communications and results stem from assumptions. Intellectual curiosity, and the ability to step outside of yourself and ask more questions without assuming that you know the right answer, always serves well to build trust and a better outcome.
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 would love to meet Michelle Obama. She is a strong woman who has persevered through an amazing life path and who just might be interested in helping me create the ‘Teach Forward’ movement.
Thank you so much for sharing these valuable insights with us today!