We rely on our culture and core values as we recruit and interview potential new employees. That way, we have a strong baseline for who is a good fit professionally and culturally.
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 Kathleen Vegh.
Kathleen is the Director of Employee Experience at Hyland, a software company that develops software that enables organizations to deliver better experiences to the people they serve. Kathleen and her team are responsible for creating meaningful and unique employee experiences that engage, connect and develop the Hyland workforce in pursuit of increased employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started out as an intern at Hyland right out of college and from the start Hyland felt like a pretty cool place to be. I went through a few different roles over the years and then, in 2009, an HR manager asked me to have lunch with her. We discussed the opportunity to take over the role that focused on creating and maintaining our employee culture. And the role had a pretty intriguing title, Minister of Culture. I had never really seen myself in HR, but this role turned out to be the perfect gateway to a career I have truly enjoyed.
And as I thought about it more, it was actually a perfect fit. The most energizing and engaging part of my previous role was interacting with customers — but aside from our annual conferences, I didn’t get to do it very often. This was a chance to have a constant infusion of working with the people that my job was meant to support. I called her up the next day and said, “Um, I think this…I am in. I mean YES, I am in.”
I love getting to know people and understanding what makes them happy and engaged in life and work — and lucky for me, in the employee experience world that is an actual job
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career?
The first time an employee shared that they come to work every day because of the culture that my team and I have created, and sincerely and deeply thanked me for our work — that was one of the most rewarding and humbling moments of my career. We receive a lot of, how should I say “constructive” feedback, which we actually do love because it helps us become better and stronger as an employer. But when you hear that your work makes such a positive impact on a person, it’s inspiring and renewing.
Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?
I always love the energy that comes with new projects. There’s nothing like that feeling when you walk in the room and everyone is excited to be a part of this new idea — and you have a clear whiteboard staring back at you. Luckily, at Hyland, we are always striving to do things better and different and to do more for our employees so we find ourselves in that creative phase and fresh starts very often.
Just last week we kicked off a project team for an upcoming internal leadership conference. More than 500 Hyland executives, managers and team leads will come together from around the world to learn, collaborate and find ways to better lead their teams. It will feature special guests from outside Hyland, as well as subject matter experts from the company sharing their knowledge and experience on topics like coaching employees, delegating work, financial acumen and effective communications. The conference builds on our efforts to develop a leadership team that is visionary, innovative, and able to develop their teams effectively.
Sounds like a wonderful event. 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?
1) Ask for help! Employee referrals are one our most reliable and cost effective ways of finding new talent.Our employees can tap into their vast social networks online and in their everyday lives to find great candidates more quickly than we might be able to otherwise.We offer our Employee Referral Program that earns employees an extra $1,000 bonus for every successful referral.
2) Know that it’s a two-way street. We rely on our culture and core values as we recruit and interview potential new employees. That way, we have a strong baseline for who is a good fit professionally and culturally. We also make sure our candidates understand our culture, so they can also decide if we are the right fit for them. For example, our culture is one of constant innovation and change — so if a candidate prefers constancy, we probably aren’t a good match for each other.
3) Form strong partnerships. Our recruiting efforts are quicker and more effective when our recruiters and hiring managers are on the same page. Our recruiters work with hiring managers to create behavior-based interview questions — meaning they ask candidates for specific examples or situations rather than just opinions and ideas. This has proven over and over to better predict future job performance than traditional interviews.
4) Find multiple perspectives. We include employees and leaders who are in similar roles and who will work closely with the candidate into the selection process but aren’t necessary on the same team. This way, we gain multiple opinions and perspectives as we evaluate the candidate and so does the candidate as they evaluate us in return.
5) History repeats itself. We find it incredibly useful to look at what skills and attributes have made current top performers successful here and then work to apply those attributes to our new hires.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry?
1) Create a place where people want to come work. With a culture that stands out as welcoming, innovative, fun and growing, Hyland naturally attracts many of our candidates through our reputation as a great place work.
2) Focus on retention. That’s right — to attract the best talent, you have to focus on keeping current employees happy, healthy and engaged. Our strong recruiting pipeline is an inherent reward of making Hyland a great place to work.
3) Meet candidates where they are. If we’re hiring entry-level candidates, we leverage university partnerships and career fairs to get in front of them early. For more experienced candidates, that might mean we participate in a continuing education event or we offer to host an association’s meeting on our campus.
What would be your top 3 most effective strategies to retain employees?
1) Listen to employees. I don’t think there is anything more powerful than truly listening to people. It seems like such an easy thing to do because we are constantly hearing things — yet, it is so difficult to truly master. When you really encourage and accept feedback from employees, they feel valued and supported and the business moves forward in a way that’s best for everyone — employees, customers and the bottom line. Many times, it is in the moment that you truly listen with an open-mind that you unleash new ideas and perspectives.
2) Do meaningful work. The most powerful way to retain employees may be through meaningful work. That means two things. First, it means connecting how everyday work makes a difference in a co-worker or customer’s life, in a big or small way, so employees want to stay and continue that work. Employees who understand the positive impact of their work on their fellow employees, customers and the larger world around them are more engaged, fulfilled and productive. Second, it means matching interests and skillsets to business needs. Productivity, creativity and genuine happiness at work all come together when you do the things you are good at and enjoy most. Spend time finding out what that means for your employees!
3) Kindness Matters. Leaders should have a high-level of compassion for the people that work on their teams. Invest in getting to know them personally and professionally, and truly care about them reaching their full potential. Be kind, ask questions, get to know employees’ families when you can, and support them when life gets in the way of work. This kind of empathy leads to a better work-life balance and integration that increases productivity and engagement while reducing turnover and absenteeism. Plus, kindness is contagious! One kind act can create a domino effect that affects dozens of people across the company and creates a culture where folks are willing to collaborate and to help one another out.
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?
I think there is a balance between keeping up with trends to stay relevant and staying true to who we are no matter where the wind is blowing at the moment.
For example, there is a lot of truly meaningful focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace right now. For us, that’s not a trend that’s just starting or will trail off when the next big trend takes over. It has always has been and always will be incredibly important to us to get varying perspectives and to create a work environment where are all employees are comfortable to be themselves and share their unique perspectives.
Another hot topic in HR these days is “mindfulness.” This one is relatively new, but its impact is already being felt at Hyland. Mindfulness is the idea that you are fully present in the current moment — you focus on what you are doing right now and nothing else. Impossible. I know. Life is busy so this can be really hard. It seems like for many of us our minds are always racing through to-do lists, what’s coming next or what just happened. Recognizing the importance of providing mindfulness tools and resources for employees to be more present can have a real impact on your employees and the work they do. “What’s coming next will wait for you to finish what’s happening now.” I just made that quote up and it might not stick, but you get it. Mindfulness matters.
Mindfulness definitely does matter. Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?
Have a little fun at work! The correlation between humor and fun and creating a great place to work is nothing to overlook. Humor builds camaraderie, trust, collaboration, creativity and so much more. It also reduces stress, increases productivity and boosts morale. And, honestly, life is just too short to not be able to find some levity in the day-to-day at the office! I have always personally been very drawn to the light-hearted and comfortable atmosphere here. At Hyland, fun can be as simple as sending around a funny (and appropriate) meme to a small group (not the entire office) of your co-workers or heading to a happy hour a little early. Or, one of our most popular activities is a fun competition — our favorite lately has been paper airplane contests, but we’ve also done dodgeball, spelling bees, basketball shootouts, etc. Or, you can go big — every summer we plan an afternoon we call “Field Day.” Throwing it back to our elementary school days, it includes several competitions between departments like a three-legged race and hula-hoop contest. We sometimes have a couple injuries with this event because the competition gets the best of them; so the “without breaking the bank” part has a bit of unpredictability to it. Just kidding. Sort of.
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?
I would want to inspire a movement to say “thank you” more. They are two simple words, but they benefit both the giver and the receiver. Gratitude is scientifically proven to improve physical and psychological health, increase empathy and self-esteem, and even help you sleep better. I am more of a feeler than a scientist; but good to know it is proven. I just think the world would be a genuinely better place if more people paused to say thank you to each other more often.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life is too short” I know, I know — it’s not very unique, but hear me out. I am one of those people who wakes up in the middle of the night thinking of something that happened 10 years ago and can’t stop coming up with ways I should have done or said it differently. I am a worrier and over-analyzer. In those moments, I remind myself that life is too short — too short to live in the past, to worry, to hold on to things, to take yourself too seriously. There’s too many other great things to think about to focus too much on what I can’t change. I’ll tell you when saying this quote actually starts to work and I peacefully just drift back to sleep, but in theory — there is something there I just know it.
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 think I would see if my dad was free. Just recently, I was asking him for advice around an issue at work, and it was just what I needed. I had a moment where I realized that he has 45+ years of experience that I have never truly tapped into or asked enough questions about. Right before my eyes was a professional mentor I had never really seen before. So, it might be time to ask him more than just when he can babysit next. And doing that over lunch sounds lovely.
And if my dad were too busy, I would see if Barack Obama was free.
Thank you so much for sharing these fantastic insights with us!