An important part of our culture right now is the development of people and trusting them to the point where we can develop them and help them learn, grow and experience new things that will help them long-term whether they’re with us or not.
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 Brian Wall.
Brian Wall is the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at LGCY Power. In this role, he is responsible establishing the company’s overall HR strategy, including creating competitive compensation packages, staff recruitment and retention, employment law, new employee orientation and On-Boarding, college relations and recruitment, HR policies and procedures and adverse impact and analysis. Prior to LGCY Power, Wall was a Human Resources Specialist with Questar Corporation. Wall is married and a father to 4. He graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in Business Administration and Management. Outside of work he likes to spend time coaching and playing sports with his kids.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In college I started off working for the local gas company reading meters while going to school. In college, my initial intent was to teach at the high school level and to coach the high school football team. I quickly realized that this course wasn’t the best financial path and changed my focus to business management with an emphasis on finance.
As I was finishing up my schooling, a position opened up in the gas company’s HR department and I decided to apply thinking that it would open the door to the corporate office and the pathway to a career in what I thought I wanted. I began working with the employment group and began interacting with employees throughout all parts of the business while getting to know the business better. As I worked more with people, I found myself liking the work, specifically the interaction with everybody and getting to know the company and understanding the different aspects of the business and how the people behind it drive the business. Soon I found myself moving into the recruitment side of things and then the compensation side and I was getting a broader sense and understanding of what HR really is and the valuable role it plays in the businesses ongoing success. I kind of fell into the role and found myself enjoying it and was fortunate to have good mentors that got me to where I am now.
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?
There have been a lot of funny stories over the years. I’ve had adult candidates come in with their parents to help them complete an application or coach them on the interview. Early in my career the industry I worked in required drug testing of all employees and it was common to have candidates not show up for their drug tests or to call with a confession and a request to postpone or reschedule the test.
The story that stands out most was a male job candidate that spent his entire interview hitting on my female colleague. At the time I was with a gas company and we were interviewing for a meter reading position. When the candidate came in, we went through the normal introductions and discussed the position. As we progressed through the interview, we got to the point where we open the interview up to questions from the candidate. Without skipping a beat, the male candidate looked at my female colleague and quickly asked a two-part question, “Are you married and what are you doing this weekend?”
I firmly told him that that it wasn’t appropriate in this situation. We moved on, but he was persistent and never gave in his efforts to hit on her. It didn’t’ matter what I said, he was determined to get a date with her.
Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?
We’ve got a couple projects we’re currently working on. That’s one of the things I love about working at LGCY is that things are always evolving. It’s a very fast paced, changing environment. For me though, the most exciting part right now is implementing a new performance management and engagement platform. Engagement has always been a challenge in the HR world and finding a platform that provides the structure but is still flexible enough to suit all managers and employees is difficult. We are currently working on a system that will get everybody involved and engaged from an executive level right down to the newest employee.
With the implementation of this system we feel that all employees will be motivated, challenging themselves, and growing while adding value to the company and becoming the best versions of themselves. The goal is to have a system that has flexibility to meet the needs of the business while allowing employees to be highly involved to determine what motivates them.
Fantastic. 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? Please share an example for each idea.
1. Clearly identify the position. When I meet with a manager that is in need of a new employee or additional staff, I work with them to identify the basic qualifications the ideal candidate needs to possess, including knowledge, skills, abilities and basic qualifications. These are the things we believe the successful candidate has to have in order to succeed in the job. Years ago, I participated in an interview where the business owner’s first question was, “Do you like to use Mac’s?” The candidate responded that he did and then the business owner turned to me and asked if I had any other questions? Too often, people aren’t’ sure what they even need or what their ideal candidate will look like.
2. Emphasis on culture. At LGCY we have worked hard to build and protect a culture that we are proud of. Throughout the hiring process we continually share the message of the LGCY culture. We are very transparent with candidates about who we are and the culture that we have, understanding that some candidates may not want and/or fit our culture, and that is okay. Our mission is to provide an extraordinary customer experience while becoming the best version of ourselves and helping others do the same. If we feel that a candidate is not going to fit the culture and not going to become the best version of themselves at LGCY we feel it is not fair to the candidate or the company to hire that person. Being transparent with candidates throughout the entire hiring process has been crucial for us hiring employees that will thrive in the LGCY environment, while allowing us to maintain the culture that has made us successful.
3. Manage expectations. Being clear and upfront about expectations is essential in the hiring process. This goes for the position you’re hiring for as well as the company and its expectations. These two should fall in line with each other. By being direct with a candidate about the expectations they can make a decision on whether or not they’re a fit or capable of doing the job. By asking specific questions to get an idea of what the candidates have thrived on in the past and if they’re a good cultural fit. In one memorable instance, a new employee came in and had the expectation that everybody in his department worked for him and he began assigning individual team members to perform various administrative tasks for him. The staff knew this wasn’t the way things were done and told him as much. He refused to change and eventually I had to tell him, “Look, we don’t do that. That’s not how it works here. So, understand, if that’s the way it’s going to be, it’s not going to work for you or for us. You’re going to be miserable; we’re going to be miserable so we might as well just part ways now.”
4. Clear measurables. It’s important to know how you measure success for the company and for individual positions. If you can communicate this effectively and help candidates understand how they’ll be evaluated it will give them the confidence they need to want to be a part of your company. For example, when I interview potential candidates, I explain that we have a goal system called the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that help us create alignment and engagement around measurable goals. I had one individual explain to me that he had never worked for a company that did anything like this. I’ve found that people want to be held accountable. They don’t want to get away with things or let things slide. They want clear deliverables and when they have them, they thrive. I could tell this individual was nervous when he heard about our OKRs. We hired him and he flourished and achieved more success than he ever had before.
5. Be Prompt. So often companies take a long time to make a hiring decision. Often, it’s because the company is large and there are a lot of approvals to go through. Early in my career my team and I identified the candidate we wanted to hire for a specific position. The candidate’s salary requirements were $5,000 more than what we had budgeted for. We all felt like it would be worth increasing the salary to bring the candidate on. The approval process to get the extra $5,000 took so long we ended up losing out on the candidate. He found another position that was quicker to meet his salary requirements. He accepted the position with the other company and contributed to that company’s success for a long time. People looking for jobs don’t want to wait around. The quicker you can be in the decision-making process and the more flexibility you have will enable to you to seize the moment and acquire the best talent.
The lengthy approval process some companies have in many different areas of their business isn’t talked about enough. Good to hear that brought up! What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?
1. Understanding what employees value. We do this through employee surveys, one-on-ones with their supervisors, open communication in staff meetings and a host of other initiatives we employ to customize the culture and our benefits to add value. We spend a lot of time, energy and resources on understanding our teams, and what they want and then implementing programs designed to meet those needs. For example, one of our employees is a huge Survivor fan. For years he wanted to apply to be on the show but always found reasons why he couldn’t, mainly related to being away from work for that long. LGCY encouraged him to go for it. He did and got on the show and won the grand prize. He said later that he never would have done it without the support of LGCY. While he was gone his team and colleagues stepped in and covered for him. This is the type of culture we fight so hard to protect.
2. Remaining competitive within the market. This includes but is not limited to compensation and benefits. You have to remain competitive; otherwise, you’ll never attain the levels of retention you want. It doesn’t mean you have to always be the highest paying company, but you need to provide the experience employees want so they’re not willing to shop for other opportunities.
3. Protecting the culture and being deliberate with our culture. We pride ourselves on this. We’re very deliberate with our culture. To the point of being obsessive about it. An important part of our culture right now is the development of people and trusting them to the point where we can develop them and help them learn, grow and experience new things that will help them long-term whether they’re with us or not. When people feel like they’re adding value to the company, and that they have a voice and that they feel like they’re part of something bigger than just their role, it adds a lot of self-worth and helps us to retain people. That’s probably as big as the other two is when people feel like they’re adding value and that people recognize the value they add.
Great tips. In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends?
It’s crucial. When people are asked about their jobs, they want to be able to say that they work for a company that is cutting edge and that is a cool place. Much of that is determined by the HR strategy and the way it’s communicated to employees and in recruiting. To remain competitive, people have to feel like they’re valued and that they’re contributing to a greater good and greater cause. The biggest way to do that is by staying up on trends, trying and implementing new strategies based on trends.
Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?
What concerns us more is breaking the bank on trust issues. For example, a few years ago we implemented a self-managed time off system. We survey our team regularly, so we know what’s important to them and what matters most to them. Based on these surveys, we knew what’s most important to our team is time off and maintaining a healthy work and life balance. We had other businesses ask us about this system and express concern that their employees would take advantage of the system and that it would end up costing them a lot of money. Our CEO has always operated under the premise of trust until somebody breaks that trust. We have empowered our team and found that the trust has been rewarded with a deeper commitment to helping the company grow and achieve its long-term goals and objectives.
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?
Building confidence in kids and in reality, people of all ages. So many people struggle with confidence and don’t truly understand their full potential. I don’t know exactly what the movement is necessarily, but I’d like to help people understand what they’re capable of and what they can achieve. I think this comes from the joy I find in coaching. When the kids I coach succeed that is so fulfilling to me. Unfortunately, far too often I think people hold back because of fear and I’d like to teach people how to overcome that fear of failure and teach them that winning little battles leads to conquering bigger battles which in turn leads to achieving true and lasting success. Even in failure you can learn and gain confidence and that’s something I don’t think people really recognize.
That’s wonderful. Fear of failure is holding so many of us back, especially our kids. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and share how it has been relevant to you in your life?
My dad always used to say that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. I’ve always been competitive and loved sports. Growing up I was always the shortest kid. I wasn’t the smartest guy, the tallest guy or the biggest or most handsome guy, and while I had some athletic ability it was apparent right from the start that my mindset and desire were what would set me apart. I achieved some level of success in athletics and it was a direct result of the fight and desire I had within. Now, in the business world, it’s the same concept. With LGCY Power, I don’t think anybody would have expected us to start the company and be able to take on some of the solar giants that are out there, but in just over four years we’ve become one of the largest privately-held solar sales companies in the country. I attribute that to the collective fight we all have within us.
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’d like to have lunch with Nick Vujicic. He was born with Tetra-amelia syndrome which means he’s missing all four limbs. Growing up he struggled with mental, emotional and physical issues but overcame them and has learned to do the things he wants to do and leads a very active and productive life. Nick had every excuse not to try. Additionally, he’s become a motivational speaker and shares his story with others to help them realize that life is about choices and attitude and to inspire them to take advantage of all of life’s blessings.
Thank you so much for sharing these fantastic insights with us today!