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How Companies Identify Talent with Elizabeth Hart of Axon & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Axon Human Resources Hiring Strategies

People are what make dreams a reality and as an HR professional, it’s my job to match the dreams with the dream makers.

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 Hart.

Elizabeth joined Axon in 2019 and is responsible for leading the company’s global people organization. Prior to joining Axon, Elizabeth was the CAO for Trax Group, a SaaS-based startup, and spent 5 years at Bloomberg LP. While at Bloomberg she held a variety of global roles including Interim Recruiting Lead for Asia, HR Leader for the Industry Verticals, and Chief of Staff for Bloomberg Government.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?

I fell into HR, rather than starting there. I majored in Business Administration and Pre-Law at the University of Mary Washington. It wasn’t until I worked as a paralegal during college that I decided that career path was not for me. After graduation, I sought guidance from a recruiting agency and explained my conundrum — I had a Pre-Law and business degree but wasn’t sure what my career options were if I didn’t want to pursue Law. By the end of that meeting, they hired me as a recruiter and I’m so grateful that they did. It’s a profession I truly love. I am passionate about helping change individuals’ lives while helping grow organizations.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?

When I commit to something, I give it 150% of my effort. I gained this mentality as an avid equestrian, where we trained rain, snow or shine. It’s easy to see this work ethic translate to my career, as I usually arrive at the office by 7 am, if not earlier.

A few years ago, I moved to Hong Kong for a new position at Bloomberg. I was extremely excited to be in a new country, eager to learn and dive into helping the organization locally. On my first day, it was pouring rain. I didn’t think about it very much as I got ready. After all, I was never bothered much by the rain from my riding days.

Being new to the country, I wasn’t sure how to navigate public transportation or hail a taxi. Despite the weather, I decided to walk to work. Upon arriving, building security informed me that the city had shut down and no one was working due to the black rainstorm, which I learned is the heaviest rain warning the city issues for flooding danger. They locked everyone safely in the lobby until the storm passed hours later. This experience taught me to slow down and take the time to understand my surroundings.

Wonderful. Now let’s jump into 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?

Sure. We use a variety of techniques to source highly qualified talent from within and externally. Our goal is to build an unmatched team. We find talent in various ways. Here are some of our top resources:

1. A company’s mission and culture are a potential applicant’s first impression of the brand. Ensure that your website and any public collateral clearly communicate company values and heritage.

Axon’s mission resonates with changemakers and high achievers. It’s what helps us find passionate, resourceful, and brilliant talent. Together, we solve big societal issues by providing law enforcement with less-lethal weapons and technology that captures truth and provides transparency for the public.

2. Have an accountability system for hiring best practices. ACEs (Axon Chief Evaluators) are reviewers responsible for ensuring each hire raises our bar for excellence and embraces Axon’s mission, vision and values. The HR team’s goal is to identify and hire colleagues that bring something unique to Axon. We strive to hire people that can outperform others working on the same level, which helps our company thrive. ACEs holds our interview team accountable throughout the hiring process to meet these quality standards.

3. Re-evaluate Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) strategies to ensure they are as inclusive as possible. Axon regularly partners with D&I networking organizations, like WomenHack, Girls in Tech, and DevColor, to build stronger relationships with potential applicants in the community while raising Axon’s brand awareness. More than that, these organizations provide valuable feedback and ideas to help strengthen our commitment to inclusion.

4. Incorporate assessments into interviews for technical interviews. Axon uses HackerRank, a technical assessment, and remote interview solution, to analyze the technical aptitude of our engineering and software development applicants. This enables our team to review strong points and areas for improvement early in the hiring and onboarding process. We use the data to assemble diverse teams, composed of employees with different backgrounds and strengths.

5. Don’t forget to look tap into existing resources. When any position opens up, we first evaluate if we can promote from within; some of our brightest talents is already part of the Axon team. Employees undergo regular performance reviews and often climb the ranks from junior to mid and senior-level positions.

With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

We nurture the culture we want to exist and know that it will change with time. I mentioned earlier that in addition to making the bullet obsolete, Axon is dedicated to eradicating racism and excessive force in the justice system. We realize that in order to make this happen, we must start from within. Our leadership reflected deeply on how the company can do better and is resolved to improve our D&I hiring strategy and to include D&I data in performance and compensation reviews to emphasize the importance of inclusion. The consistent emphasis helps foster a more inclusive, open culture. Another way we intend to do this is by expanding our Affinity Groups to ensure their voices are more pervasive.

Axon’s mission is a life philosophy. Protecting life is a real and actionable mission. It draws in serious applicants who are excited to join a team of experts in driving technology for the greater good of society. “Everyone gets home safe” is more than a slogan, it is our mantra and those looking to impact the justice system to better serve our communities know we have the passion, motivation and resources to bring these visions to fruition.

Our engineering and applications experts take pride in the fact that their individual efforts can be seen in the team’s software and hardware solutions. Potential candidates are drawn to the opportunity to have their fingerprints make a direct impression on customer solutions.

We strive to go above and beyond the typical compensation package.
Axon is relatively small but mighty. With approximately, 1,600 employees, we feel it’s incredibly important that everyone has a seat at the table. Innovation is what drives us and we know our table must consist of more than our leadership to grow our ideas and thrive as a business. We’re dedicated to making sure our employees have a voice and feel valued.

We recognize that we must also offer a competitive compensation package beyond the typical salary, retirement and health benefits. In addition to accessing Axon’s stock, which has growth potential for higher gains, we’ve rolled out social groups and mental health support initiatives. For instance, Ginger links employees to mental health support 24/7.

What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?

1. Axon’s product development is driven by empathy. Some of our engineers have shared that they enjoy the experience of collaborating directly with customers to tailor our solutions for them. By eliminating departmental silos, Axon team members collaborate across talent pools and all levels. These strategies not only make employees feel appreciated, they also drive deep and meaningful value into our work.

2. We are a team-oriented organization. We overcome challenges together just as we celebrate and recognize successes. Our leadership understands the importance of true collaboration and fosters team building across the entire company, not just within the same departments. Axon hosts team trips to break down barriers between groups and as a way for employees to build closer cross-department relations. Axon’s annual Grand Canyon trip draws employees from around the world to meet and connect in person. We also have Axon Ski Day in Seattle, which many of my colleagues look forward to attending for the great company, fun activities and a beautiful environment.

3. Axon recognizes individuals for their accomplishments. Each year, we recognize our top sales executives with our President’s Club. We also host the Aspire Awards for non-sales employees. Both award programs recognize those who excel in their roles and uphold Axon’s values to the fullest.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

With Axon, I believe we can bridge the divide between communities and law enforcement through our technology. We want to provide greater transparency for the public and help drive reform within law enforcement. Body cameras will capture the truth and provide transparency. Live-streaming video feeds will increase the safety of officers and their communities by putting eyes directly on life-threatening and use-of-force situations in real-time. VR empathy training will better equip officers to de-escalate a situation before acting.

The movement we want to inspire is one of racial reconciliation and hope and transparency between law enforcement and communities.

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

“You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make that dream a reality,” Walt Disney.

People are what make dreams a reality and as an HR professional, it’s my job to match the dreams with the dream makers.

We are very blessed to have 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?

This might be the toughest question to answer because I would not refuse lunch with very many people! I’d love to sit down with Melinda Gates. Her drive is awe-inspiring and her dedication to social good through her philanthropic efforts is something to be applauded.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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