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“Focusing on the company bottom line is important of course, but if leadership prioritizes employee happiness everybody sees better results.” with Joe Riggione and Chaya Weiner

I think there is generally a lack of infrastructure to support career development and workforce potential. At work, people want mentorship and resources that are specifically tailored for growth. Focusing on the company bottom line is important of course, but if leadership prioritizes employee happiness everybody sees better results. And, if you think about it, […]


I think there is generally a lack of infrastructure to support career development and workforce potential. At work, people want mentorship and resources that are specifically tailored for growth. Focusing on the company bottom line is important of course, but if leadership prioritizes employee happiness everybody sees better results. And, if you think about it, working at a company is a little bit like being in a relationship: if you’re not feeling valued or being heard, you’re going to try to get those things elsewhere.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Riggione. Joe is co-CEO and founder of True Talent Advisory, a global platform of human capital products and services with offices in North America, EMEA, and APAC. He is responsible for setting the firm’s strategic direction and overseeing the management of its subsidiary brands.


Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always enjoyed listening to people’s stories and understanding what makes them tick. In this job, it’s critical to be innately curious because you’re lining up asks and expectations. You’re also figuring out what people may need for further growth so if you don’t have that innate interest, you’re missing a big part of what makes people successful in this world.

Additionally, when I went into the recruitment industry, I started learning about what keeps talent owners — Heads of Talent, Chief People Officers, CHROs — up at night. When you repeatedly hear the same types of stories, there’s a problem that needs solving. Along with my co-CEO Brad Stadler, we realized there is a better way to approach recruitment and talent management so we are now focused on revolutionizing an old, traditional industry.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Our approach to building our own team has turned out to be one of the most interesting aspects of our business. Unlike most competitors, we don’t hire based solely on skill and experience. Instead, we look at the whole human being first. We care more about whether someone has a high EQ and will be additive to our culture. We then give them access to commercial opportunities, focusing less on sales numbers or revenue targets. Early on, our clients could tell that we are listeners, problem solvers, and collaborators. The market has responded very positively so True Talent Advisory grown quicker than expected.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Synthesis is one of our brands that’s doing really exciting work. We use elite military methodologies to show how psychological analysis can transform an organization.

Our product Synthesis for Scale is a perfect example. Using leadership and performance attributes defined by the organization, machine learning determines where employees fall on the high potential spectrum. The overlap of both leaders and performers is the “synthesis nexus” — that’s where the company should be investing and developing its people.

Synthesis for Scale is solving several problems. First, talent owners save time and money by identifying top employees who may be at high risk to leave because a) they’re not given enough responsibility or b) have greater earning power elsewhere. Second, this tool identifies the outliers — those who may need more attention and career development in order to be nudged closer to the nexus. Third, when companies need new people, talent owners usually look internally first. If they don’t have the right skill set already in-house, they’ll go out and look for it which is an expensive and painstaking process. The better answer is to look inside your company. Synthesis helps companies retain quality people and provides employees a chance to grow. We’re very excited about this product.

According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high? 
 I think there is generally a lack of infrastructure to support career development and workforce potential. At work, people want mentorship and resources that are specifically tailored for growth. Focusing on the company bottom line is important of course, but if leadership prioritizes employee happiness everybody sees better results. And, if you think about it, working at a company is a little bit like being in a relationship: if you’re not feeling valued or being heard, you’re going to try to get those things elsewhere.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

All of these components go hand in hand. An unhappy workforce creates high turnover which means you never get consistency. Consistency in the workplace is key because it keeps you from repeatedly starting over with new hires. When you have employees who know what they’re doing, are good at what they do and are happy, they’ll be more productive. If you have several employees who check off these boxes, there’s a better chance that your company will be profitable.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

  1. Share a mission that inspires and allow your employees to shape it.

We started our firm because we saw the need to transform and modernize the human capital space. By bringing on employees who are equally innovative and collaborative, we foster a culture where people can test ideas and solve the challenges they love to work on.

2. Offer flexibility and autonomy.

With greater preferences for remote work and unlimited PTO, employees are more self-governed. The leadership dynamic is clearly shifting from “command and control” to distributed autonomy. Trust your employees to decide when and how they work best. As a result, productivity soars.

3. Grow your employees.

Lack of growth is the #1 reason people leave their jobs. Invest in training, mentorship and coaching. We retain great people by offering them development opportunities and programs that facilitate knowledge sharing, offer career growth strategies, and provide support in their daily work lives.

4. Provide opportunities to drive change.

Create and engage employees on key initiatives that will drive organizational change. We have task forces dedicated to diversity and inclusion, culture, and client-facing best practices that all help get people involved beyond their day-to-day responsibilities.

5. Don’t fear vulnerability.

Be honest about what you know and don’t know. Lend an open mind to people’s ideas. Admit when you’re wrong and quickly course correct. We do our best to lead with these principles and encourage others in the firm to do the same.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

In addition to being open minded as I mentioned earlier, I think it’s important to hold people accountable for their performance. If you hire high quality, smart people, you can let them have a real “you own this” mentality as long as you hold them accountable and have high standards. I am a team player, but I expect a lot from our people. I want them to have the ability to share concerns but also have the latitude and confidence to solve problems themselves.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

As a businessman, my dad used to say, “work hard now and relax later.” He certainly worked hard but he passed before he got to enjoy retirement. This taught me to find balance now, in the present. It’s a life lesson that I put into practice every day as I focus on both my career and personal life and we instill this in our employees as well. We have employes who are CrossFit coaches, spin instructors, and even an audiobook narrator. We want our team to have the freedom to manipulate their schedules to maintain those interests because if your personal life isn’t on track, your work life isn’t on track either.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I often think about the John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” It reminds me that we can make all the great plans for the future but at end of day, we’re still human beings dealing with other human beings. We’re all emotional and unpredictable, which sometimes derails even the best-laid plans.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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