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The HR Scoop

Honest HR With HR-trepreneur, Anthony Vaughan

Season 2
August 24, 2021

Andrea Herron 00:01
Have you ever wondered how a company is able to offer unlimited time off or be a pet friendly office? Curious how HR leaders manage the well being of remote or essential workforces? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Hi, I’m Andrea heron, head of people for WebMD health services. And I’d like to welcome you to the HR scoop. On this podcast, I talk with other HR leaders to explore the world of unique employee benefits, and about the challenges of managing unique workforces. Because well being isn’t a one size fits all approach. Welcome, everyone, to another episode of the HR scoop. I am so happy today to have Anthony Vaughn here with us. He is the founder of the E one b two collective, which stands for employees first business second collective, and I absolutely love that. So welcome, Anthony.

Antony Vaughan 00:54
Thank you so much. How

Andrea Herron 00:55
are you doing great doing great. I think our listeners are in for a treat. We’ve got lots of topics to cover. And so I guess just to start, you know, I know that you are a huge HR self starter, you’ve got, you know, lots of irons in the fire, as they say. And I’m curious if you have you know, any perspective about, you know, those starting out in their HR career or thinking about transitioning in the HR profession, just given how much you have, you know, explored and helps people in that arena through your career.

Anthony Vaughan 01:29
I actually did a lot of talks at Sherm chapters in their graduate programs and their undergrad programs and a lot of universities. And so I think I think the first thing that I told them, I think what’s important is kind of honing in and figuring out who you are, who you want to be in this space. I think when you’re HR generalist, which a lot of folks probably will be in those early stages, maybe a recruiter, maybe I’m trying to think of some other roles here, this this, there’s some, there’s some titles floating around here, that pretty much means you do a lot of everything. And you’re really doing some paper pushing maybe some compliance, maybe some HR laws and policy work. There’s a contaning new side of this work that a lot of people at that stage are not privy to and that are kind of excited about which is more of the employee experience side that the business strategy side, those titles look like ahead of people or HR business partner, I think there are themes within those things that you kind of, in my personal opinion, wouldn’t be privy to early in the process. So I think my tip number one would be start researching and understanding a little bit about internal comms, internal communication, strategy, career mapping, elements of executive coaching, maybe even dabbling like neuroscience a little bit in human behavior, and an organizational psychology. And some of those terms, I think, maybe a little bit scary for just jumping in. But what you’ll realize is that once you Google those terms, read some blogs, listen to some podcast, analyze a few case studies, which are realizes those terms. And those aspects. And those best practices and strategies kind of get you into an entirely different part of HR, that’s a little bit more exciting. So just jumping into a lot of the compliance in general, generalist type tasks are key and important and are fundamental. But I think once you start getting into some of those other categories, it gets a little bit more exciting. I couldn’t agree

Andrea Herron 03:21
with you more, those are all the things I’m passionate about personally. And you know, you bring up a good point about internal communications, I think that’s something that people don’t think about when they’re thinking about an HR career, but we write a lot of communication and how you drafted in the tone in the field, really portray the organizational values. And so you know, even taking a communication or marketing class, understand how to connect to your employee population would probably set you apart if you wanted to go in the direction of the business partner or the people partner, whatever lingo we’re using these days.

Antony Vaughan 03:56
I could I couldn’t agree more, I think. And then you probably get another good point that I was kind of potentially going to mention, but I think it gets a little scary for folks. But I think, you know, let’s say you’re inside of an organization, and you’re a generalist, and you’re working on again, on a lot of compliance, a lot of policy work, a lot of other things. But internal communication strategy is interesting to you. You know, employer branding is pretty interesting to you, you know, how the organization thinks about career mapping and IDP and all these other things. If your organization doesn’t give you the opportunity to work on those things internally. I think what a lot of folks that I want to start seeing more of is being kind of scrappy, and entrepreneurial, and finding those companies that are willing to give you kind of whether it’s an internship, a shadowing opportunity, honestly just jumping in and kind of shooting from the hip and saying to an organization that maybe starting up some of these things. You know, I’ve researched and studied for six months, I have a thought I have a perspective, which a modified come in and just try some stuff. Just try to apply some things and because I think the best, the best learning is either shadowing or experimenting and a real tip way. And I think the I guess a tip that I will give you, if your organization doesn’t want to give you those opportunities, it does not hurt to spend some time finding organizations that are free capacity that’s willing to allow you to jump in a little bit.

Andrea Herron 05:13
It’s great advice. And also, if you could work some of that in is one of those other responsibilities as assigned into your job description to show value and show that you are contributing and growing yourself. That just makes you a valuable employee. And there’s not much downside to that as long as you have a supportive manager or environment that will let you try that knowing that you may not get it right. 100%? Well, none of us do ever. But you know, especially when you’re learning there is certainly a learning curve.

Antony Vaughan 05:44
Exactly, exactly. I couldn’t agree more. Yeah. So

Andrea Herron 05:46
I’m curious. Okay, so that’s kind of the, you know, the entry level, we’ve been here a couple years, we want to expand and grow. And that’s very valuable. What about when you start to inch up towards the leadership realm, and I think that’s where a lot of people get hung up. And quite frankly, where a lot of us get hung up helping our own staff bridge that gap between mid management and senior management or leadership. And this is a completely different competency set. And I’m curious if you have any examples of, or if you’ve seen something that works to help people move more into that senior executive leadership realm after they’ve kind of mastered, you know, their domain of where they are?

Antony Vaughan 06:28
Yeah, so I promise, I assure you, I’m not going to do a hard hard plug, I assure you, but I am going to, if that’s okay, I’m sure. So I have a brand, it’s called Project 2030. That’s the only direct plug that I’ll get, alright. But the themes of that organization, I think, are really, really key and really, really important. So, for me, when I think about Project 2030, and I think about the themes that are in it, you know, we think about trying to help someone that’s been in the HR space for, let’s call it, let’s call it six to 10 years, right? You’ve had the generalist role. Maybe you’ve held an HR director role, maybe you’ve held an HR manager role. And now you’re starting to get to that point in your career, you need to start thinking about the C suite need to start thinking about the VP levels, you start thinking about the head of levels, right? There’s, there’s some areas within those roles that I think are really important to understand it’s a big gap. I think the first thing that’s really important to understand it to bake out is kind of finally figuring out who you actually want to be in this space. Right? So figuring out what’s going to be your sticker, if you will, because I think what a lot of people get confused is when you make the transition from a generalist, an HR, business partner, HR director, and things of that nature and start to kind of, again, creep more towards the VP level in the C suite level, I think they still have that mindset that that they need to know and be everything tangible. And that’s actually not the case, in my personal opinion. I think and I say this all the time. I think if you’re a CMO, CEO, CEO, CTO, and in this case, you know, would it be called a chief people CPOE. Um, I think they’re kind of like the person that is thinking about everything, and all things people. And I think your job is not to know everything tactically, your job is to have the relationships to be able to plug in at a strategic level. And your job is to know enough about everything, it’s I have a unique point of view about everything. But to have, I think a point of view that can go down a certain lane where that is your domain and your and your overall expertise. So I’ll give you a tangible example. If you genuinely believe that employer branding can bring significant ROI to an organization, it probably would behoove you at that point of your career to find an organization that is really thinking about ramping up, or employer branding initiatives or strategy for the next 18 months or so, consider that being your next landing spot in your career versus an organization that is calling a generalist type opportunity. They had a people type role, where really they want you to come in and do tangibly everything in all things. And so I think the punch line is this. When you get to that next level, you have to number one, in my personal opinion, again, you need to think about who you actually want to be in this space. Are you an employer branding guy or gal? Are you a DNI, guy or gal? Are you someone that really just loves compliance? Are you are you looking to do things and scale things that are HR global type level? Are you really big into looking at new management structures and new leadership structures and creating executive coaching programs internally and really helping a leadership be the big staple of the organization? I think at that point, you do have the luxury if you will, to start kind of nestling your way into the fun areas of this space, rather than I think being tangibly a practitioner and all things HR. I don’t know. I hope that makes sense.

Andrea Herron 09:49
It makes sense. And I have so much to say about this. I want to hear I love this because for one, go ahead and just decide who you want to be In the HR realm is a task into itself, right? Like you get into HR and like I want to help people. And then once you get in there, you realize there’s 1000 different ways to do that there’s comp, there’s payroll, there’s recruitment, there’s generalist benefits, business partner, I mean, there truly are so many tracks. So just getting to that layer of definition, and maybe dabbling around. So you’re well rounded, and you understand the basics is great. But once you find kind of where you fit, then it’s exactly to your point, like you kind of nail it, you know, in your first five, seven years of doing that realm of work. But then once you decide you want to go the next level, you have to find it in yourself, to have the confidence to put your experience out there, because what lights you up, and what brings you joy is contagious. And you’ve got to follow what feels expansive. And if you can align the projects, that extra work, the side hustle, whatever it is, that gives you the experience that you can then use to turn and direct your career. That is huge. And then if you can find a company that you know, values, the work you want to do, or if you’re able to influence if they don’t currently, you do have to look at how does this company value that people function, period? And then is there a room to influence that in the way that aligns with your values and how you want to contribute to the people function in that company? I mean, there is so much internal reflection in that. And I think that’s part of the reason we’re seeing so much, are they calling it the great resignation, or whatever’s happening with people switching jobs, because we’ve had that time to reflect a little bit over the past year and a half and do some soul searching in this area. But actually, taking it to the next level of incorporating some of this into your day to day and extra projects, is what we have to do to really find our path in the HR field, in my opinion,

Antony Vaughan 12:02
no, and I couldn’t agree more. And you actually touched on something that I’m also really passionate about, at that stage that we’re talking about. You must in my personal opinion, as you’re looking for those opportunities, have the confidence have the clarity internally, when you’re articulating to a CEO, CEO CTO, see, see, see, typically a CEO or some other things that are typically, you know, interviewing you at that point, having the confidence to kind of say, look, let’s like open a villa here, like, talk to me about how you analyze, you know, the people function. Talk to me about how you see my decision making bandwidth. Talk to me about you know, how you see budget allocation. Talk to me about how you see myself being able to build a team around me, talk to me about some of the things that you actually want me to tangibly and tactically jump down and do talk to me about some of the things you see me in kind of being more of a strategies within talk to me about my ability to have decision making bandwidth and power around looking at a manager looking at an executive and, and kind of saying to that individual, hey, look, you know, your communication style, your ability and lack thereof, to adjust a workflow to behoove an employee on your team, your ability to not live into diversity, equity and inclusion and kind of having that that ownership if you will, to be able to kind of put your foot down. Because here’s the thing, right? At the end of the day, my personal opinion, if you get to the poor, you’re a C suite executive in HR. And I hate when CEOs don’t give us the power to do this. You know what’s best in all things, humans more than any other person in the company. And I think it’s quite fascinating and interesting how you don’t see chief people, officers, or VPs of people going over to the CFO in the finance department and giving them insights on what they need to do. You don’t see them jumping over to the CMO and giving them insights on what they need to do. But I find it quite interesting how CMOs and CTOs and CEOs are always knocking on our door, giving their points of views or putting up red tape. And so you have to like call out those those issues, if you will, in the very beginning and say, look, let’s have a candid conversation about how this roll actually is going to be day to day operationally. And I’ll let you know if that behooves me. So kind of taking some of the power back is really important.

Andrea Herron 14:14
Everybody’s got an opinion

Antony Vaughan 14:16
about people. Yeah, that is so true. They do. Yeah, I

Andrea Herron 14:20
think those are really great questions to ask, really, if you’re going to move into any senior level role, even if it’s not at the C suite level, you know, give me an example of an accommodation that you made for an employee that was successful, and helped them to do their job better, but was different, or you know, give me an example of what you did last year to promote employee engagement and reward high performers. You can ask these questions and I somebody I saw posted this question, which I thought was great. If you were going to be in an interview to say what could I do to make you successful in my first six months to a year here? And I think that answers very telling because how much are they increased? separating the people function into the metrics, the scorecard the overall company performance? And do you have an actual ability to influence that? Or is it going to be more taking directions? And not really operating at that senior level?

Antony Vaughan 15:15
Exactly, exactly. All

Andrea Herron 15:16
those as bato. Yeah. Well, very, very interesting. And I know we could talk more about that. But I want to switch topics a little bit, because I know you also run a DNI, consultancy. And of course, this topic is very hot in the HR community, and really everywhere, and rightfully so. And it’s definitely changed over the past year, and hopefully keeps evolving and keeps getting better. So I’m curious in what you’ve seen, and if you have seen Dee and I come up in the traditional sense, or over the past year, if it has expanded more than just the classic, you know, gender and race components.

Antony Vaughan 15:57
Yeah. So I have a lot of thoughts on this. So I think, I think what’s happened? And I’m happy about it, right? I don’t know, you know, and this is probably not the right thing to say, but I’ll say it, I don’t know, I think some people make assumptions based off of those voices. So I don’t know if anyone can tell I am an African American, right. But I think being an African American, I am happy that I’m seeing things change, right? I am happy being someone that has a lot of women, as co founders, and partners in the companies that I’ve run and happy and seeing change on that side as well. I am happy and seeing things and folks that have different things happening from a gender perspective from from a race perspective. So I’m happy to see all those things happening. Very, very thrilled. And I’m happy to see those things changing. I think, though, what I’m noticing, though, is organizations are doing too much patting on their backs, if you will thinking that is enough. And thinking that is what DNI actually is, at a holistic level. And that’s just simply not true. I think if you open up the books before, you know, George foil incidents, and all these other things that I happen to think if you kind of go back, maybe 2017 2018, I think what you would have saw is, you know, diversity of thought folks wanting to actually be heard and having influence around from a decision making structure, and things of that nature. I think, you know, structure, no decisions and workflow design, and execution style, and background and education and where they grew up and what school they went to. And all these other things also fall underneath of the diversity Banner as well. And I think there are best practices and policies and infrastructure that you can put in to really capitalize on some of those areas as well. And I think we’ve forgotten about that. And I think we’ve gotten lost in again, just the race and the gender conversation, which again, I think is very important. And so I think moving beyond the number one thing that I want to do before I even get into anything tactical or really detailed, I just want to see folks raise their hand and just say, Yes, that is true. Yes, we got a you know, we got super excited. We wanted to make change, the world was on fire. But let’s now back up a little bit. And let’s also remember that there are lots of other things in the conversation of of DNI that that we even talk about compensation is another one as well. That was one that was a big topic in 2015 2016. That not really hear too much about that. Right? Right. And those issues are still there. And again, I think also, and I bring this up again, as well, you know, I think communication style and preferences from that angle. Everyone has different ones, I think leaders need to understand I’d be flexible and adjust based off of the team, and being able to have those one on ones and understand how Sally and Andrew and David prefers a communication style or leadership style versus the other six folks here. So I know I’m ranting now, but the punch line is like those other things that I’m mentioning are incredibly important, and actually show up in how a high performing team executes. And that can be that can be calculated and pointed back to the bottom line, and sales and things of that nature, you know, things of that nature and revenue, etc. As well as retention, as well as productivity and all those other things. So I know we can go in any direction you’d like. That’s, that’s my point of view on that.

Andrea Herron 19:23
Well, I agree with you. And I think a huge component of DNI that gets lost in the shuffle is the I see inclusion. And that can mean a million different things. But if people feel like they are included, they are welcome that their ideas matter and their voices are heard you’re automatically going to have more creativity, more productivity, more engagement, and just better team cohesion which impacts all of the things you just mentioned. And so I think as HR people, it’s tough because we want to you know, obviously put out the fires that we can and then also bad and have a more elaborate and robust strategy and also not lose the little things along the way. So I think if you’re a small team or a single HR practitioner, it can be really overwhelming, because we want to do the right thing. But there’s so many things. So I don’t know, if you had any tips, maybe for HR professionals with limited resources to make it, you know, easier for them to be inclusive and equitable in, in hire and retain a diverse staff or anything that you’ve seen, it’s really worked that’s not at the huge company scale, or even if you do, that’d be great, too.

Antony Vaughan 20:35
I would tip that it’s not easier, it’s actually harder. Is that okay? Sure. I don’t like easy, you know, so the name of my companies, like, you know, you called it out in the beginning, it’s he won, right employees first. But that actually means, and a lot of people pick up on this, once they work with me or us or team, whatever the case is. It’s actually really at the simplest level, putting employees first at a data level than that a prospective, prospective level. So what I mean by that is, and I literally mean, any policy, any product and service, anything you do as an organization, and my personal opinion, when you make a change, when you enact a policy, when you figure out a workflow, when you figure out a marketing or communication strategy, when you do anything inside of a company, I believe those that are actually doing the work, right, the employees, I believe their their perspectives and their opinions, you need to collect that data first. And take that data and allow it to drive about 80% of your strategy, because they’re going to be the ones that actually have to execute my personal opinion. And I think that’s common sense. But here’s what most companies do. Most companies have a perspective, they have an ideation, they have a strategy, they have a point of view. And then they go to the people and say, Hey, this is kind of what we’re doing. Oh, by the way, what are your opinions on this, and then we’ll try to take a little bit of data from that, and then maybe possibly make a few tweaks. So I just want to flip that on its head. And so I think the harder part of doing that is, in my personal opinion, not just a survey, but put out the surveys, because if you have an organization that can scale, but have those conversations with those internal stakeholders, maybe have some change agents inside of your organization, maybe you have a few folks that are representing the employees that are saying, hey, look, we are the voice of all people here, we have a really good pulse of what each team and department has and what their opinions are, you know, we want to we want to we want to let you know what our thoughts are. And so I think on a granular level, it’s it’s definitely surveys, but I think it’s also having some focus groups, having some one on one conversations, gathering that data, then taking that data and going to the heads of each department and managers and say, Hey, here’s where our people are seeing out in the marketplace. Here’s what our people are seeing out in the factories out with the customers out what the consumers, here’s what our people are feeling and hearing and what they want to actually do. Let’s utilize this data first, to make anything that we do in the organization better to do. So that’s I don’t know, I don’t know if that makes sense. But that’s kind of really what the employee first mindset is and what it looks like. And then Vice I think that I would give to try to help HR leaders do a little bit better of a job creating an inclusive culture.

Andrea Herron 23:22
Yeah, that’s, that’s interesting. And I think, you know, there is value in that. And from the focus groups, you know, perhaps there are employee resource groups that come of it, if you have a larger population, that they can have ideas that feed into some of the suggestions, you know, data trends are wonderful. And in HR, we have more data than we ever have before. And so use that data to empower yourself and the team to make suggestions and recommendations that are going to resonate because without data, its opinions. And so I think that’s where sometimes HR has struggled in the past is going to go we know these things to be true because we are talking to people we know the market, we’re hearing all the things as we do the grapevine but without having any data or metrics to support it, it’s a lot harder to get buy in from your team. So I think that’s excellent advice. And then what I like about what you’re saying you know, I see a lot of companies trying to check the box because they want to be able to say that check we did diversity and inclusion or we did you fill in any number of things that employers feel like they need to check the box on, blow up the box, you know, what actually matters? Forget the box like what is going to make people feel included in heard and like this is a place that they want to spend their time and energy. That’s where you need to focus and you don’t need to hire, you know a certain group or do a specific expensive survey or, you know, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It costs no money to listen in. So the more that you can be genuine, and try to meet people where they are, and hear what they’re actually saying, and not try to deliver a solution to them, but co create a solution, I think your company culture will be so much better for it than checking a box that says you did something.

Antony Vaughan 25:19
And let me give you an example of something that might throw you guys off. And this scare you know, I don’t use the word scare this, this surprises people. When I when I say this, you know, I want to see companies living the truth. If everything we’re talking about right now, you’re yawning and ignoring it. And let’s say a CEO is listening, let’s say, a head of a department system, right? Let’s say cmo system, whatever the case is, if any, if any of the stuff that we’re talking about just doesn’t, doesn’t really, you just don’t care, it doesn’t really matter to you personally. And in a business context, I’d much rather you stay right there where you are. And live into that truth for a second there. Don’t try to just check the box and put these and just throw money at what you think the world wants to see you what the world wants to see that you should do. Right? I want this to be authentic for folks, if you’re not ready to change, if you’re not ready to do any good work, then don’t do it. Right. That’s my personal pain. I know that’s probably a rare one. But because because employees, they can sniff out when you’re when you’re being employed. They like they just know it and they feel it. I’ll give you a tangible example. But it’s really what’s what people to do is go out into the world. And when you are trying to hire a diverse human being the coming to your organization, sit down for a moment with your team and articulate on a podcast, video, any format you want to do it, articulate what you are tangibly doing, and what your tangible perspectives and experiences are. That will mean a lot to that diverse candidate. Meaning like, what are you doing about having a diverse, you know, what are the policies that really behoove diverse, you know, human being inside of your organization? What are you doing, when there are, you know, cultural or sexist or racist kind of statements made? What policies are you having in place where you’re removing humans for those moments? Or you’re teaching and educating managers? What do you actually do? Right? Like, what are you literally doing? And if any of those things, the answer is zero and nothing, then please, at least communicate that via podcast or video to applicants proactively, so that now they’re not getting into the organization hoping and praying and wishing and looking around that something is going to be happening. And I know that may be very controversial, but the point of that is, at least live in the authenticity and truth. At least give applicants and employees that are diverse an opportunity to understand what you actually are doing. And rather you do that, then show me some data that says, we hired new, we hired eight new African Americans today. Tell me what you actually are doing for me personally. And then we can start on more authentic conversations. I don’t know if that was helpful. But that’s, that’s an example you really could

Andrea Herron 27:59
do. Yeah, and I think a main role HR could play in an example such as that. One is to do a needs assessment and really drill down and say, what do we have? What are we doing? I mean, that’s a wonderful place to start, because you can’t make changes or, you know, really state your your values in this area, if you don’t even have your mind wrapped around the things that are or aren’t going on. So I think doing an assessment and figuring out where you are, and then building out reasonable steps, even if it’s look at your website, do you only see one kind of person on it? You know, who is the interview panel? You know, who will this person be working with? You know, really considering the experience from a candidates perspective, and from a new hires perspective, can also go a long way, when you consider the whole package from the internal policy all the way through the onboarding experience.

Antony Vaughan 28:52
Exactly, exactly. Spot on.

Andrea Herron 28:54
Right. Well, I know we could continue this conversation. It is robust, and there’s so much to discuss, but for now, we are going to put you know, a pause on the end of that and close this session. So to wrap it up, I’m going to ask you the one question I asked all of our guests here, and that is to tell us something about yourself that most people might not know

Antony Vaughan 29:18
Oh, that’s funny. This is something that not too many people know actually, I listened to tons of different music but more than you know more I’ll give you some artists you know more than Drake you know, or more than Kanye West or more the I don’t know there’s there’s so many hip hop or rock or all these different groups that I love and ours that I love more than any of them you know, actually love the most I’ve never told anyone Coldplay. Let me let me give a shout out to dude, if anyone really like opens up the hood on Coldplay. They’re not messing around dude. And that dude, they’ve been kicking it for like I’m 31 now I remember eating Cheerios in you know, in the morning and watching a Coldplay Coldplay music video on MTV. They were crushing it. I think yellow card was a song. I don’t know, I could go on and on like, Coldplay. They don’t they don’t joke around it. So Coldplay.

Andrea Herron 30:17
Alright, you heard it here first folks. Anthony is a Coldplay fan. Well, they won’t anymore, thanks to this conversation. So thank you for sharing that. And thank you for being on the podcast. It was really, really great to hear your perspective. So thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you for listening to the HR scoop podcast. Please take a moment to rate and subscribe on Spotify, Apple, Google, or directly at WebMD health services.com/podcasts

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