70: Investing in Your People – Alisa Spector Angelo

by | Nov 7, 2021

Succession
Stories
Podcast

70: Investing in Your People – Alisa Spector Angelo

by | Nov 7, 2021

How can employers retain people in the face of The Great Resignation job market phenomenon? Alisa Spector Angelo is the Owner and President of Compass Business Solutions, an HR consulting firm that takes a people first approach in driving organizational performance. Listen in as Laurie Barkman and Alisa talk about why it’s more important than ever to put your company values into practice to drive retention and foster a healthy and productive work environment. Be sure to hear Alisa’s actionable ideas of what you can do today to ensure the future success of your people.

Listen in to learn more about:

  • Refreshing your pre-pandemic core values to match the current business environment
  • Key human capital concerns as we navigate remote, hybrid and back-to-the-office work setups 
  • Recruitment strategies for today’s labor market
  • Showing your people you value them through re-recruitment
  • Spotting potential culture-killers in your organization

Show Links:

Compass Resources website

Laurie Barkman on LinkedIn

Podcast website: SuccessionStories.com

Transcript:

Alisa Spector Angelo is the Owner and President of Compass Resources, a consulting firm that drives organizational performance– they’re business strategists who love the people side. They provide human resource operations, training, and executive coaching expertise to clients across the US. Alisa is a sought after confidant to business owners and leaders to help them address challenges that they’re facing. That’s why I invited her for a conversation about trending people topics. She emphasized the importance of core values, having a purpose driven mindset, and taking care of your team. Be sure to listen to Alisa’s actionable ideas of what you can do today to ensure the future success of your people.

Laurie Barkman:

Lisa, welcome to Succession Stories. You’re an entrepreneur, and you’re focused on the key success factors of your clients: its people, the human capital side of business. It’s such an important topic now and always. There are so many trending people topics to pay attention to, from talent wars, to employee engagement to wellness, the well-being and stability of our teams is really under threat right now. For our future success, a lot of topics like these will resonate with our audience, because it’s business owners, its executives, it’s anyone that’s managing teams. I’m so glad to have you on the show. It’s time to talk to a people expert, “What can we do?” So welcome.

Alisa Spector Angelo:

Thank you so much for having me, Laurie.

Laurie Barkman:

Let’s start with you. Tell us about you, tell us about your firm, Compass Business Solutions.

Alisa Spector Angelo:

Sure. We’re a HR consulting and leadership development firm. We like to say we’re everything about people. Our mission is to create work environments where people thrive so that means, how can people come to work no matter what format it’s in? Are they remote or hybrid or on site? How do they come to work and be able to be their best? My background is sports, you’ll hear me weaving in a lot of things about sports, but I feel that the head of people should be like the head coach of a team and so our goal is to work with our clients to figure out what’s their strategy? What’s that win look like for each client? Then here’s your talent, here’s your team, who should be on your bench, and how do we build this team so that they can come to work, be their best, perform their best, meet your strategy, and again, what’s that championship for each one of our clients?

Laurie Barkman:

Pre-pandemic is a phrase we’ll use just as a time setter.

Alisa Spector Angelo:

Oh, yeah.

Laurie Barkman:

Pre-pandemic, we’re still in it, and hopefully, we will be out of it at some point. But when people are listening to this and thinking about that, what that felt like and what that time was, to the time when we all had to switch gears very quickly and we basically went from a percentage of total working population working from home from 25% to more than 60%, overnight, were some of the numbers that I’ve seen. That’s a dramatic change in a relatively short period of time and on top of that is all the dynamics of what that means to work from home, whether it’s technology, whether it’s family. So if you were going to talk about what clients are sharing with you, if we say, “Okay, what are the trending topics,” you’re a confidant to them, they ask you for advice and counsel separate from the core services that your firm provides, you talk with them one on one as a key advisor, what are some of the things that they are bending your ear about?

Alisa Spector Angelo:

Definitely about people. So we know that there’s this tsunami that’s going to happen with people turning over our organizations. We’re under the microscope in the worst parts of this pandemic, and you’re right, we’re not through it, and I think we now have to realize this may be the way that we operate for quite some time. So while things were under the microscope, our employees were looking at us. We can have all these great core values in our employee manuals, on the walls, but they’re looking at us in crisis to see, really, what are our values? So a lot of employees are saying, “You know what? That wasn’t so great. It wasn’t so great how my employer handled this and so as my kids go back to school, as things start getting a little more comfortable for me, I’m gonna start looking,” so we’re seeing a lot of turnover in certain amounts of our clients. There’s the general burnout that is happening, especially with our healthcare clients, and in the hospitality industry that’s even more ratcheted than the rest of us that have general burnout from everything that we’ve been through in this last year and a half. So the idea of talent and re-recruiting strong talent, and what do we do with our talent who doesn’t want to come back into these beautiful offices and building spaces that we’ve created for them? What do we do when they come back? Are we okay saying, “You have to be vaccinated?” What’s our policy going to be? What’s the government policy going to be on this? There’s a lot of things swimming around in our clients’ minds right now and we try to navigate that with them.

Laurie Barkman:

Yeah, and ultimately, it’s all about risk and also about the balance with the workplace dynamics. Let’s unpack some of that, you just talked about some really important things so I want to circle back to them. The first one you mentioned is values.

Alisa Spector Angelo:

Yes

Laurie Barkman:

I always try to ask this question. We can cover this on the show in this way, I say, “How have your company’s values helped you make tough decisions during the pandemic?” Or it could be at other times, but at this juncture, that’s what we’re asking and I love the answers, because the companies that have articulated values that are strongly woven into their culture are not making it up on the fly. They are able to use those values to help them make tough decisions and there’s multiple examples of that from folks I’ve spoken with. Have you encountered clients that really have not articulated their values and said, “Oh, well, now is the time,” and you’ve worked with them on that?

Alisa Spector Angelo:

unacceptable behaviors in your organization so whether you call them core values, high performing behaviors, competencies, we use all these terms, depending on how we want to customize it with the client, you really need to have those values be instilled in everything from the way that you’re recruiting talent. Do they fit those values? So that we’re not having to train people on values, they’re coming into our organizations that way, and then are we recognizing when they are exhibiting those behaviors or not? Are there appropriate rewards and recognition when they do? That is the way that we look at how we build these core values. 

With many of our clients, including ourselves, they should be guiding every single behavior that you’ve done throughout the pandemic. Even if you’ve had to furlough or had to downsize your team, for example, one of our core values at Compass is care, that’s not just caring about the product that we’re providing to our clients, but the way that we care about our team and each other in crisis. So how are you caring for them, even if you’ve had to make hard decisions, those values should guide how you take care of people, as they are in your organization, as they transition out. What we’re finding a lot too as people start really thinking about their values, and how do they move forward from here, because they’re getting feedback from their team because people are leaving, or they’re not happy that they need to do a core values refresh. So we’ve done several of those to say, maybe your core values were the right values leading into the pandemic, but the world has changed so drastically. What now do you need to have for your strategy behaviourally to make sure that you achieve that? So those might be very different behaviors that differentiated you pre-pandemic to now where we are at this time.

Laurie Barkman:

Core values refreshed, I like it. The second thing you brought up was turnover. So hiring and turnover or people, it’s so fundamental. If we don’t have the right people on the bus, it’s hard to move things forward. This is a headline I see all the time and even when I’m walking around, and I go to a restaurant, so I see it virtually on LinkedIn, ‘We’re Hiring’, shoutout to Jazz HR and companies like them that help companies recruit great talent, but it’s difficult. It’s really difficult to find people. What strategies are you hearing from clients or are you helping them create these strategies that are working? How are they finding different sources of talent these days?

Alisa Spector Angelo:

There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, we agree with Jazz HR, we’re a channel partner. We’re very proud to represent them. But an applicant tracking system is what we call ‘post and pray’. That’s not going to work in this kind of environment, and you have to remember that even approaching the pandemic, we were at one of our lowest unemployment rates going into it. So labor was scarce and we were already sensing that talent was going to be an issue. Now you have all the other factors that have accelerated in our workplaces and so now, our clients are saying to us, “We’ve tried to post and pray and we’re not even getting any hits, no resumes coming in whatsoever.” 

So at Compass, we have done more retained searches in recruiting than we have in our two decades of existence. What we’re finding is our clients are trying to do it, and it’s not successful, and they need additional help. So yes, you do need to do very strategically, how do we make placement of ads? We also really think that where we add value for our clients is in that job posting. The job posting is your brand, your marketing piece, this is where you have to put your marketing hat on and say, “What’s the kind of talent that we want?” How is that reflected in the way we’re posting these jobs? 

We worked with a small healthcare client in this region that’s competing for nurses and you can imagine in this environment, how hard that is, and we work with this individual because when this leader in the organization speaks about the organization, you get goosebumps. The job postings didn’t reflect that. So we kept saying, “Nope, try again. Nope, let’s revise it,” and we finally got to where we thought was really telling their story and all of a sudden, they’ve been able to hire nurses. So it’s really incredible, something that people just whip up on a board, how important and critical it is when there’s so much noise in the market.

The other thing is expediency. This idea that you can wait around and run people through 17 interviews, and people are going to be okay with that, again, this is an employee market, not an employer market. Employees are saying, “We don’t like the way things have been going on, we have more power than we’ve ever had at this stage,” and so they want to move quickly. They want to know that they’re working for a decisive, agile organization. So we have our clients really streamlining. It doesn’t mean that you’re not vetting appropriately, you’re doing it very quickly. When you think about the hospitality industry, that should be part of your recruitment process. Like, if you were the concierge for your company, how would you treat someone? It’s really about looking at the process and being ready with offer letters in hand immediately at the end of that interview process. Then some clients, our tech clients, if it’s not like within 48 hours, the entire process, I guarantee there’s somebody else that’s going to do that in 48 hours, get all the right tech people involved in the process, get the right leadership, looking at culture, whatever assessments they’re doing, and within 48 hours, people will have offers in hand. That’s the speed in which we need to move through the recruitment process. Again, having a solid recruitment process, you want to be able to vet appropriately for culture, those behaviors we’re just talking about, and technical; making sure that you can move quickly with decisions.

Laurie Barkman:

People are making choices, as you said. They maybe have always thought about a new opportunity and seeing that, or maybe they’re dissatisfied with where they are for some reason and so that movement, you talked about the phrase “re-recruiting”, what does that mean to you?

Alisa Spector Angelo:

That means… we spend a lot of time talking to people in the recruitment process, where they’ve been, where they want to go, “What are your goals,” and we forget to do that frequently within our organizations and we spend all this time looking at new talent, and forgetting about the talent that we still prize within our organizations. So a lot of it is how are you taking care of your team so they can take care of your customers, your clients, your patrons? That is the role of leadership. We’re big Simon Sinek fans, but this idea of taking care of people who are in your charge not having them do it the reverse, so what are you doing to take care of your team? How are you seeing how they are? We have some recruiting questions that we share with our clients in facilitating those conversations. Where are your team members?

There’s a lot of things going on simultaneously as well so maybe you do have a high performer, but they, through the pandemic, have said, “Is this really what I want to do? Is this my purpose?” We’re seeing a lot of that. We’re also seeing a lot of people who sacrifice so much, maybe family, children’s activities, the hours that they worked, and overnight, they were furloughed or let go and so there’s a lot of like, “What have I been doing? I dedicated all this part of my life to an organization and a job that I thought was so important, and it’s gone.” So even if they’re now working with another employer, or they’re still with the same company, for a lot of people, the pandemic has made us really reflect. We’ve had a lot of time. We’ve had a lot of time to do things we haven’t done, besides making the banana bread, just sit back and say, “Is this what I really want to be doing for the rest of my life?” So you’re going to have those issues with your team members to begin with. But also there’s going to be people that are feeling not valued in an organization. We want to make sure re-recruiting shows them how much we value them.

Laurie Barkman:

I like that word, re-recruiting. It’s smart. I saw some statistics from the Gallup Poll, and I think this statistic has been around for a while, but it’s important to underscore two things about it. One is the measurement itself and two is what it’s saying to us. 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. Years ago, we used a Gallup tool when I was running a business, and so I’m familiar with this Gallup Poll, and there’s a lot of questions that go into it and so finding this statistic and honing in on it is really a pre-pandemic statistic and so I can only imagine how this has gotten exacerbated for companies. That’s why re-recruiting is so important. Because they’re already in your organization, from the talent development side of things, from a cost and time perspective. I’m going to use the number 5x – I’m sure that’s conservative – it will cost us 5x more than retaining someone so it just makes good business to do it. It’s also just inherently the right thing to do. I’m laughing at my notes, because as we were talking about these core themes, I think I made up a new word.

Alisa Spector Angelo:

[Laughs] Let’s hear it.

Laurie Barkman:

Well, you said turnover, so I wrote turnover and I think you said burnout, and I didn’t write burnout, I wrote burnover. [Laughs]

Alisa Spector Angelo:

I love that. We’re coining it, we’ve got to trademark that.

Laurie Barkman:

Trademark right now – burnover. So it’s this pressure of the turnover and the burnout, obviously one maybe leading to the other. As we think about that, and how we’re online all the time, I saw this other word, remote working e-presenteeism. Have you heard this word? 

Alisa Spector Angelo:

No, what does that mean?

Laurie Barkman:

It’s referring to us being overworked and overwhelmed, and just feeling the need to be virtual all the time and maybe you can relate to that. I have a household where I’m online all the time, my husband is online all the time for work, and at night, we just want to turn it all off and step away. But maybe there’s people feeling like it’s really hard to and so that becomes this e-presenteeism, “I got to be online all the time,” and that’s not sustainable. Again, if our workers were already feeling not engaged prior to all of this, and now they’re online, and they’re feeling this, how do your clients address this? How are they helping to rectify this situation?

Alisa Spector Angelo:

We’re talking a lot about engagement, and so when we think about engagement, some of the data that we rely on is, is there a purpose in your organization? What drives people to wake up every morning and work for you? Being able to express that purpose, it’s very easy, for example, in healthcare, or some of the nonprofits we work with, they have these amazing missions, so the purpose is very forefront. If not, we work with a large steel manufacturer nationally, you might think that manufacturing steel is the purpose. Well, it’s not. It’s about the steel that’s going into our infrastructure, it’s the steel that goes into our military equipment, and so how we are really protecting our troops when we’re making steel? You have to be able to… we worked once with a gymnastic school, and they thought that their purpose was to teach mastics, and their parents told them, that’s not what we bring our kids here, we bring our kids here because you’re helping in their development, so they realized they were in the child development business. 

So first, you have to figure out a purpose, then you have to work with your team in figuring out what’s the content, what is the work that they love to do, and aligning that, and we do that through the recruitment process. We do that through the recruitment process, and then we’ve got to let them go. We hear this all the time, people don’t like to be micromanaged. We want the support when we need support, but we also want to be trusted as adults. 

The last piece of engagement is, we have to show to our teams, “We care about you.” We worked with another organization that said, “Oh, we’re this great big family business,” but when you looked at the schedules on the plant floor, maybe they were a family business, but the poor workers on the floor couldn’t see their families because of scheduling, so we worked with them to get rid of that challenge to make scheduling appropriate, so there could be some work-life balance. There’s all these different factors going into engagement, and taking care of your team members. But the with the burnout, it really is about what are you doing to take care of your team so that they can perform their best and so if you know your team members well enough, you’re going to know that they’re having difficulty with boundaries, on Zoom or whatever platform, they’re working too much, and it’s our job as leadership to work with our team to support them and help them to develop those skills or to check in on them and making sure that they’re okay to provide the right resources. So again, I think a lot of it is up to us as leaders to do our jobs.

Laurie Barkman:

Is this the everyday check in or something more formal, like a survey or something quantitative or?

Alisa Spector Angelo:

Well, I think all data points are really great. There are some clients that we have that have it frequently, you don’t want to, again, get people, “Oh, I got another one of these on my phone,” they’re really not engaged in doing it, because it’s overkill so you want to have the right cadence. But I think, even when we talk about performance management in organizations, people always come to us and they’re like, “What’s the great technology to use for performance management?” And I always say, “It’s this. It’s being able to talk to your team on a daily basis.” So even when you’re checking in, and if they’re virtual on Zoom world, or Teams, whatever, is to ask them, “How’s everybody doing today? How are you doing today?” Picking up the phone, talking to people on your team, but then there’s the formal checkpoints, so that’s really looking at – I call it the what and how performance. The ‘what’ is like the technical goals, we use objectives and key results at Compass so it’s a very quick cadence. Every quarter, we’re making sure that people know, on our team, what’s the most important thing for us to be doing, and we’re checking in and we’re seeing how people are doing but also the ‘how’, which is the behaviors. Again, I think in a lot of organizations, too, what we find is that we focus on, are we getting the work done, versus how are we getting the work done, and if you don’t have that type of culture that is supportive, then you find that there’s just this, we call it toxic environments, or unhealthy environments where people don’t feel safe in the work environment, and so again, why those values are so important, how we work together. Because your colleagues have a lot to do with your day, your customers have a lot to do with your day, so again, working as leaders to make sure that we’ve touched all these different checkpoints, to make this a holistic employee experience. That’s healthy.

Laurie Barkman:

I love that. So if we shift gears a little bit and move into solutioning, if there were three things that you want to leave our audience with, to think about, what would those three things be?

Alisa Spector Angelo:

That’s a good question, Laurie.

Laurie Barkman:

Action oriented, what would be the three actions that they should consider?

Alisa Spector Angelo:

To look at your recruitment process from the eyes of a recruit not from the burdensomeness of the leaders or the people involved in the process. This is where you have to disconnect, and all of a sudden try to go through your process from beginning to end and think how you would feel as a recruit growing through that process? I think the other really critical piece is, are you living your values? Have you even established those for your organization? As I said, our clients, including at Compass – we try to do internally what we’re working with externally with our clients – the microscope has been put on our cultures during this crisis. Because again, when we’re in crisis, that’s really how we behave. Are you happy with that performance? Or do you need to adjust? So I’m all about, “Get out of the blame game, work on where you are, do a self evaluation for your organization.” If you need to make adjustments, make those adjustments, and then take care of your team. So, what are you doing on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly basis to keep your team engaged and not overwhelmed?

I think some leaders also have difficulty when people are not in front of them, and that is one of the biggest issues that we’ve been seeing with our clients. There was a really good Harvard Business Review article that came in my feed this morning with some really impressive statistics about how people do not want to go back to the office. We have a lot of leaders that are incredibly resistant about that, and it’s really about the leader. Why are you not tooled to trust your team? Either you’ve got the wrong team members in place, or you don’t have the leadership skill sets to be able to lead from a distance to be able to give purpose, make sure the content is aligned to someone’s expertise, giving them the ability to do their craft in a way that you’re supportive and caring, but not micromanaging. I started off my early career in a global organization so my CEO was rarely in house. A lot of us who have been in global entities have learned that because you can’t be sitting with everybody that you’d have to collaborate with. There’s certain leadership skill sets to do that. If you’re feeling panicked because your team wants remote or hybrid and you’re being, “Nope, we need to collaborate.” Do you? How much? What are those days gonna look like? Is everyone just gonna come back into the office and close their office doors, you know, and you’re gonna lose valuable team members? Tool your leaders to be able to handle this remote workforce that’s here to stay.

Laurie Barkman:

I love it. Those are great actionable ideas. Thank you so much for sharing. Is there anything else that I didn’t ask that you want to share?

Alisa Spector Angelo:

No, I just really think that… we were working with a potential client yesterday and in our conversation, every time they talked about all these aspects of the people experience, you could tell it was painful. I said to them, “Well, the good news is, we are business strategists, but we just happen to love the people side.” It’s a craft. A lot of times we go into organizations, and they throw the people experience to the finance person who has no background, or an office manager who doesn’t have a background. We worked with a FinTech company in New York City, where they took an individual who had been in an office administration role and made this individual into the chief people officer, without any background in the field, and I said, “Shame on you.” That is like taking someone who is doing accounting work and making them CFO for your company, would you do that? I know that HR gets a bad rap, because in many cases, it does deserve it. I agree with that. If you have someone in your organization who thinks HR is the police, or the principal, that’s not the type of HR that we practice. It should be about the head coach building this team, and that’s a craft, and so you need to respect it. If you don’t have it in house at the level you need, reach out to Compass or another consulting firm, to make sure that your business strategy is people first.

Laurie Barkman:

That’s smart. On that note, if people want to get in touch with you, Alisa, what’s a great way for them to find you?

Alisa Spector Angelo:

Well, they can come on our website, it’s compass-resources.com. If you go into our info page, you can email us right through there. Look at our team, we’re in every industry imaginable, including startups, small family businesses, all the way to global entities in excess of 40,000 employees. We’re so lucky we get to learn, I think, more from our clients than they learned from us; we see all these great best practices, and it’s our job to come to our clients and be able to customize those for them.

Laurie Barkman:

That’s fantastic. As always, I love asking people if they have a favorite quote, and you said, “Oh, yeah, I didn’t even think about it, I just have this one.” Have you had this favorite quote, a long time?

Alisa Spector Angelo:

Yes, I have. When we talk about self care and self management and leadership, a lot of times I’ll start off with this quote, and it’s from Lewis Carroll who wrote Alice in Wonderland, and it says, ‘if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.,’ so I’m big on vision. That’s my job as the leader of Compass to say, what our vision for our organization is, people can look really busy in an organization, I call it the spinning top phenomenon. They look super busy, they’re working all these long hours, you’re not able to put boundaries, they can’t get off the virtual platforms. They’re really not getting the work done to get to where we need to be, and that’s why as a former athlete, I’m so big on what’s the strategy, the championship, the win? What are the goals to get there? How do we celebrate after the game, and we don’t see a lot of celebrations, when we talk about the burnout thing, when we say we value you, that means celebrating the wins, and making sure that you do know what path you’re going down so that you can be successful.

Laurie Barkman:

That’s a great insight, and thank you for sharing that quote. I love that quote. I think our mission for today is we want to prevent burnover, so we have to help our clients do that. Thank you so much for sharing all of your insights, being with us today, sharing these actionable ideas, in addition to how leaders can spot some of these potential culture killers in their organization, and how to really care for their teams and help their people. Thank you so much for being here.

Alisa Spector Angelo:

Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

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