Referrals are everything. Your network and your employees are the best evangelists for your business and rewarding them goes a long way.
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 Chessa Eskandanian-Yee.
Chessa Eskandanian-Yee is the CEO of LeaderEQ. LeaderEQ is Artificial Intelligence-Based Executive Coaching led by Mother-Daughter Duo Chessa Eskandanian-Yee and Katherine Eskandanian-Yee. Leader EQ aims to inspire constant improvement for business leaders and their organizations.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Absolutely! Having been raised in the talent acquisition business, I watched my mom who is the founder of an executive search firm, coach her clients and candidates on a daily basis. Whether a candidate was transitioning to a new career or going to an interview, she was their sounding board as well as being there for her corporate clients when they were experiencing pains from growth or setbacks in their businesses. I understood the value of coaching very early on and was fortunate enough to have had many influential teachers throughout my life. From Ms. Workman who was a role model and my philosophy teacher in High School to Dr. Mosley, my advisor at Smith — they continuously pushed me to be a thinker and realize my potential. Coaches are a necessity and my goal was to make that accessible and create a platform that would also provide the best possible coach/coachee matches.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of our daily rituals is to exercise with our trainer and yoga teacher. They both serve a different purpose and have different approaches. In one of our sessions with my mom’s yoga teacher, she proposed a new pose — Shirshasana. My mom took one look at her and said “there is no way” to which she responded: “Katherine, your body is a Mercedes Benz — you just need to know how to drive it.” And so we did it with her help and guidance while falling and laughing a whole lot. When we finally achieved the pose, that feeling of overcoming the mental block was the greatest lesson of all. The power of mind over body — but also the guidance and encouragement of our coach were the effective tools to success — again, validating the purpose of our business.
Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company?
We are in the business of human capital. As such, behavioral science is an important pillar of our model. We are currently working on launching our app and improving the matchmaking algorithm. And, that’s about all we can disclose at the moment.
Sounds exciting! Now to the main theme of our series. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill? Please share an example for each idea.
- We are always on the lookout for talent — be it while shopping for cosmetics or shoes, at the gym or a concert or a party. People are at their best (or worst) when they are not in “the act.” We found our receptionist from Nordstrom’s while shopping for shoes.
- Referrals are everything. Your network and your employees are the best evangelists for your business and rewarding them goes a long way. Our behavioral scientists referred our current CTO to us.
- We take great care when writing the role descriptions. We want to insure that our mission is well translated in all external communications and that it covers all people regardless of their gender, race and orientations. We use a software where its goal is to take out biases from linguistics.
- We believe in maintaining a culture of inclusivity. As such, we make sure that all stakeholders have a voice in the hiring strategies and decisions, while keeping in mind that we don’t want to fall into the “hire like me” trap.
- We involve science: by requiring all of our candidates to take personality and cognitive assessments designed by our neuroscientist partners.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top ways to successfully attract and engage talent?
We are making a concerted effort to engage our audiences through communicating our message of cultivating empathy and raising EQ in the workplace, so ultimately we look for talented individuals who are passionate about our mission. In that framework, we provide:
▪ Unlimited coaching to our employees in the same manner we provide to our clients.
▪ Volunteer days so that our employees have the opportunity to pay it forward.
▪ Flexible work schedules — we believe people are more productive when trust is afforded to them.
What are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?
• Ensuring everyone is being heard, and that it is okay to fail so long as one takes responsibility and learns from their mistakes.
• All ideas are taken seriously.
• Building a safe environment where innovation and creativity is cherished.
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?
HR as we know it is evolving for the better. With the advent of many digital platforms, the operations and compliance arms can be easily outsourced so that HR’s focus is on culture and learning, and development initiatives to support talent acquisition and retention. An example of the impact on culture is workplace design and ways to create an environment where productivity and creativity are possible. The open space approach has backfired so the need to provide a personalized environment where people can work on complicated projects and concentrate is becoming crucial. Making learning tools available to all employees and not just the high potential individuals is another example. The role of HR should be impactful and not eventful. Less is more.
Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?
Meditation can have an altering effect on productivity and creativity. Creating a quiet room or a meditation room where employees can take time to breathe and decompress is invaluable.
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?
Coming from a family that values community service, I would love to dedicate the first Friday of each month as “Pay it Forward Day.” If this movement was in effect, it would give everyone the opportunity to practice random acts of kindness with their fellow citizens.
Absolutely love the idea of a pay it forward day! Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I cannot accept not trying.” –Michael Jordan
As an entrepreneur and someone who has taken a risk to build this company, that quote resonated with me. No matter what the end result, I am proud of our product, my team, and what we are trying to achieve, which is essentially fostering an empathetic workforce (and society); build artificial intelligence that will enhance the way we will work together in the 21st century and beyond.
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?
There are so many great individuals that I would love to meet and have a private lunch with. As an avid Golden State Warriors fan, it would be incredible to meet Steph Curry. He has cultivated such a noteworthy culture of team play, while also being a role model in terms of work ethics and social responsibility for both the team and the sport as a whole. He is an exemplary leader both in sports, but in means that also translate to the business world and beyond.
Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful insights!