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Future of Work

People Over Perks podcast ep. 8 – David Hanrahan, CHRO at Eventbrite

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People Over Perks podcast ep. 8 – David Hanrahan, CHRO at Eventbrite
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On this People Over Perks podcast episode, we have David Hanrahan. David is the CHRO at Eventbrite, a ticketing and event technology platform that helps businesses organize and sell tickets to events online. In this episode, we cover topics including the company’s cultural evolution, their approach to compensation and performance, what it means to be a great CHRO, and more.


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Full Episode Transcript

Andy Parker (host)

- Okay, David, welcome to the People Over Perks podcast. Thanks for joining us today. 

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Thanks for having me. 

Andy Parker (host)

- And so you've held key positions in a whole range of interesting companies: Electronic Arts, Twitter, Zendesk, and now Eventbrite as well. I'd love for you to kick off by painting a picture of your career history to date, and then how you ended up where you are.

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Yeah. Gosh when I was a student, I was really interested in psychology. I was interested in abnormal psychology, biopsychology, really just fascinated with the human mind. And later in my school tenure, I came across a class called industrial psychology and it was the psychology of the workplace, which I found really interesting, like I wonder how they apply these concepts actually in the workplace. And I had a professor say, ”there's these graduate programs and something called HR“, and I’d never heard of HR before and coincidentally, a lot of them in the U.S., or in the Midwest, where the automotive industry, and manufacturing really flourished, a hundred plus years ago, but then all sorts of labor management conflicts arose, the National Labor Relations Act sprang from those and these management programs, these MBA programs, these Masters programs were trying to give leaders for the tools to actually more progressively manage workforces.

And so that I went to a school in the Midwest and originally, going to get into more of the labor setting, so I started my HR career after school in a big oil, a manufacturing company, and in, actually, a manufacturing setting where we were doing contract negotiations and collective bargaining.

So that's a very different world than where I am now, I slowly gravitated towards a more creative sort of high growth, faster moving industries, which is new tech. And so I've really spent the better part of my career in tech, HR leadership roles; Electronic Arts, I love video games, Twitter, because I was fascinated with social media and Twitters rise and I was there during the IPO, and then gravitated it to Eventbrite, I've always been a fan of Eventbrite.

And you might notice these companies are companies whose product you can actually get your hands around. And I've always been fascinated by Eventbrite, I loved live events and Julia Hartz, the CEO, has been a really progressive CEO and is one of the very first CEOs to come out with a generous and equal parental leave policy in the United States, where that's been a big issue. It's actually being debated in our Congress as we speak. 

And so that's brought me here, to Eventbrite, where I've been for about the past few years. 

Andy Parker (host)

- Excellent. Thanks. And so you just touched on it there that Eventbrite is, obviously given by the name an event platform, but for those who might not be quite so familiar, can you give a quick introduction to what the company is?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Sure. So we are an events ticketing platform, and so consumers can download the app and find live events in their area searchable by the types of things that you like to do; live music, comedy, conferences, education, workshops, creators, so people who want to build a business, build an events business, host a music festival, can create live events and ticket them and market them on the platform.

And so we've got just countless events all over the globe. And so during a pandemic, live events obviously very disrupted. The rise of online events, virtual events has also flourished on our platform. And now we're seeing live events actually start to come back where there's been really good vaccine adoption and restrictions are starting to loosen. So that's us, when we're trying to bring the world back together through live experiences, which is a pretty cool mission to be part of.

Andy Parker (host)

- Excellent. And what stage is the business at? How many employees are you there now?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Well we just hit our three-year post IPO anniversary. So we're still kind of a team, relatively in a company maturity sense. We still have a lot of our growth potential ahead of us. We are just about 700 employees now. We'll probably continue to grow, hire another 150 plus people in the next 12 months. So we're in growth mode, but we're still early.

Still kind of a scrappy startup for the most part.

Andy Parker (host)

- Great. And, your role, Chief Human Resources Officer, how would you describe that in a nutshell?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Well, I'm trying to partner with the leadership team and partner with the rest of the company to adopt progressive practices that help us attract, motivate, and retain the diverse talent that we need in order to win, in order to accomplish that mission. So that's all HR and recruiting. But it's also trying to hold the mirror up to our culture. And I don't think of the CHRO role as authoring culture. I don't think that my job is to say, here's what the culture is. What I think of my job is to hold the mirror up and help the company understand, like when we're at our best, what does that mean? And then bend practices to 10X that. To make sure that we can actually achieve that cultural dream in terms of our values.

Andy Parker (host)

- Understood. And when we were chatting beforehand, you touched on the fact that you feel that Eventbrite is kind of going through a bit of a cultural evolution at the moment. Maybe you can tell the audience a bit more about that and what you're trying to achieve with that.

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Great question. Well, so there's been a lot that has changed at the company. And I would say if you go back the company had pretty major ambitions. And whenever you're a small, sort of relatively scrappy startup, you get enamored with shiny objects, you chase a lot of things. And so it's hard to focus. And, so, something that we struggled with years ago was a lack of focus. We said, we wanted to do this, but then we wanted to do this as well. And that was a cultural struggle. When the pandemic happened, we had this galvanizing moment around like, we need to focus so we can emerge from this stronger. We actually had to reset the business model. So we had a lot of changes in the company. Structurally, we had a big major reorganization, but also in the business model sense, we had to focus on a self-serve approach, as opposed to trying to account manage every creator to help them execute on their events, that's not scalable.

We have to create a technology that's so easy to use if you're a consumer or a creator. That the technology itself is how we win. And so that, in a sense is becoming more of a true tech company. Before the pandemic, only 30% of our company was in a tech role, engineering our product. And we're gonna end this year probably closer at 50%.

So, that's part of one of the cultural evolution pinned to the business evolution. Another part of it, like a lot of companies right now are going through a shift to hybrid working. So that's part of our cultural evolution, like a lot of companies. We were 97% in-office before the pandemic. And we've really adopted a flexible approach. Whenever the pandemic subsides, it's your choice, whether you want to work in an office or not. That is a cultural evolution that a lot of companies are gonna struggle with. It's gonna be a struggle for us as well. The idea of choice really presiding over, when and how you work, I think is the future of work. As opposed to the nine to five, 40 hour workweek. Which is really, came from the Ford Motor Plant, like the 1920s. That's something that’s gonna have to change. I think for a lot of companies, particularly tech companies. It's not gonna change for Ford Motor where you still have a manufacturing sense, but it's gonna change for tech companies. You don't have to work that way

in a software engineering sense. But back to your question. If you think about where we're at right now at this moment in time, back to that focus, the focus piece. We are trying to become a company that is both compassionate at our core, but high-performing. So if you look back to the policies that we've adopted and you look back to sort of interviews that our leaders have given over the past years, I think hopefully you would see just like, that's a company that’s really compassionate. Julia Hartz is a compassionate CEO. And that is in our bones. But a compassionate company has to also be high-performing. When you're a public company and you have shareholders

and you have stock and you have to perform, you have to execute. We have a three-year strategy now. We have a focused strategy in the business. We have to have a focused culture as well. At our core, at our bones, we'll remain compassionate. But I think the really interesting challenge is building muscles of high-performance and learning around those bones. And so like we evolved the business during the pandemic, we've also evolved the culture and the values. So now we've, just a couple of weeks ago, unveiled five new values that are going to really govern the culture of the company. They came from the employees themselves. They came from a lot of focus groups that we've had internally. Conversations with the leaders themselves. And I could talk about these. But these new values are kind of those muscles. They're really about high-performing and learning around the bone of compassion.

Andy Parker (host)

- That is super interesting. And so, do you have a kind of an internal definition of what high-performance means? Is it really adherence to these company values that you've now unveiled? Or is it something else on top of that?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Well, high-performance is exceeding your expectations, right? It's exceeding your own expectations as an individual. You think you can do something, but like, what if you actually exceeded it, you need people to kinda coach you and almost push you at times. So, I think I have a certain potential, but maybe others actually think more of me.

They say that you can actually perform better than that. You can exceed that potential. I think if we're high-performing, we're really unlocking the true potential of the people who come to choose to work for us. For however long that is. Maybe it's a few years, maybe it's longer. But high-performance is really unlocking the potential

of the organization and unlocking your individual potential. 


And so how do you do that? How do we unlock people's potential? You have to be highly motivated. And so this is a really interesting psychology and sort of phenomena to really grapple with as a leader. How do we create a really highly motivated workforce? It's not just, like, hey, work harder. And I'm gonna tell you,

you're not performing and you better perform or else you're out. Or you're not getting a compensation increase if you don't perform. Those are kind of like window dressing.

I think the really interesting thing is understanding the motivation of your workforce. And, you know, I'll speak for myself. When I'm a highly motivated, I'm coming up with new ideas. I'm like not even watching the clock, right. I'm like, on my laptop late at night and kind of still cranking through something because I'm motivated. I really care about it. I'm motivated. Maybe I'm doing something on the weekend. Not because my boss asked me to, or because I'm begrudging like, "Oh, I'm behind on my work. I'm gonna like do this thing on the weekend.” But you're just cranking through. Because you're motivated. You got great ideas. You're exceeding your expectation. You're unlocking new potential in yourself and thus new potential in the organization. So that, I think, back to your question, what is high performance?

It's a highly motivated workforce. And then that one that is then unlocking their own potential.

Andy Parker (host)

- Got it. And then, how do you, as the HR function then really try and support the business to unlock that potential? You know, perhaps, we can talk about some of these topics around performance management as a general theme. Like how do you tactically, within the business try and get the best out of everyonethroughout the organization?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Well, I think there’s some table stake stuff, which is not gonna sound new or interesting if you're listening to this, which is candor. Like actually have a workforce that talks to each other. And so if you're doing performance cycles, which we can talk about. Performance cycles and pay cycles. Like, hey, you're paid a certain way, why? Here's my view of your performance. There is this like lack of candor that exists in organizations that like abstracts that. And then leaves people dissatisfied of like, "I don't understand, my boss is not talking to me, I don't know why I'm paid the way I am.”, "I don't know why I haven't been promoted yet.” There's a lack of candor that exists there.

And so a big part of a high-performance organization is candor. And so we have leadership development program that we actually created during the pandemic. We call it Lead to Win. And all our managers go through this. A big part of that is like, how do we actually have breakthroughs with our staff and candid breakthroughs? And that's radical candor. This will be like not a new concept for a lot of people. But I think an interesting thing for us in terms of how we approach that is start with yourself.

Start with who are you? And what motivates you as a manager? What is your vulnerability? What are you good at? What are you not good at? And so we start with the sort of like, get to know you as a leader, then get to know your team, right? So it's a little bit of like Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid. You know, Daniel son wants to learn karate, but he teaches him all these other interesting, weird things about sort of tapping into his own, you know, humanity before we get to the learning karate thing. And so you gotta know your team. You gotta know what motivates them and what do they care about. And so there's interesting questions that we have. How are you really, really doing Actually wanting to know what is the psychology of this person who's been on lockdown for 18 months and is probably struggling with a lot of stuff.

Get to know that person as a human. So that you can actually have candid conversations. You can have a frank, real breakthrough conversation and we have exercises called

motivational pie chart, which one of my former bosses coined and shared with me, which I can talk about. But so there's the leader. There's like the kind of core table stakes. How do we actually get better at candid conversations? And then there's, I think for us in the leadership development sense, like actually understanding and knowing your team. And so like building an empathy as a way to get to high-performance. So empathy and compassion should be at our core. That's our bones. Let's not lose that.

That actually can be a pathway to high-performance. Having an empathetic organization can be a high-performance organization.

Andy Parker (host)

- Understood. And so you touched there about your performance cycles and about how these are table stakes. Maybe you can go into some details around that. What does the performance cycle look like at Eventbrite and how have you structured that?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Yeah, so we have a couple of concepts. There's one concept, there should always be continuous feedback, right? Like there should always be, when I have one-on-ones I'm getting a little bit of glimmer into how am I doing this week in this moment? Because there was just something that happened. We got to meet them where they're at. Just had a big project finished this week. I don't want to wait six months till my performance review to know how'd that go. I should be hearing about those things. And that's in our leadership development program. So continuous feedback. We also have quarterly check-ins, which are kinda light touch, to sit down and talk about my goals. What are my goals for the next quarter? What were my goals for the prior quarter? And my boss just gives me some coaching and some feedback on those. Do those feel like the right goals? Do those feel like they're off? A little bit of, sort of steering. And then we have, twice a year. So in the winter and in the spring. We have these kind of

more performance cycles. And a performance cycle is really the whole organization and leadership team. They get down to start talking together in these calibrations, which I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with. We get functional calibrations, engineering, product. And we have product managers join the engineering session. Get engineer leaders to join the product session, because they work so closely together. And the core there is like, I can in my own bubble, write some feedback for someone and say, "Hey, here's how I think you're doing.” But I need to get out of my bubble at times. At least twice per year to have really focused conversations with my hive mind, my brain

trust of fellow leaders. To say, "I think this person is doing really well. "I think they're ready for a promotion.” And then someone says, "Whoa, aren't you aware of how big a mishap they had on this project?” And they've totally, checked out and what's going on there? And so you have to have those calibrations. Some regular degree.

And we do those twice per year. And they're really helpful. They're helpful in reducing bias. You know, you can also look at bias in promotion processes and see are we promoting or not promoting demographics at unequal rates. 

And so anyways, back to your question. I think that's probably something that a lot of organizations are familiar with what I'm describing. Our whole thing is, do that and then do it consistently. Get better. The next time, get better at it, get better at it. Learn, do postmortems. How did it go? Because the hole at the core is like, I don't really wanna get super clever with the organization and kind of, throw like, "Oh, we don't even do performance reviews.” Like we're gonna get really clever with this.

Don't try and outsmart the organization with a really clever approach. Have something that is predictable and understandable. Oh yeah, that's simple, that's straight forward. Because the muscle building is less of building or reworking or redoing the cycle each time. The muscle building is just getting better at it. Better, each time we're having more candid conversations, we're getting better at this. It's feeling more crisp. The organization is less surprised by their feedback. And so that's the core concept for me.

Andy Parker (host)

- I love that approach to consistently iterating and consistently getting better with every cycle. I think that's super valuable to see. For everyone in the organization to see that growth mindset being applied to the organization as a whole so that they can then also apply it to themselves. I really love that principle. And then the next topic that I'd love to touch on is you were mentioning there about the calibrations around, is this person ready for promotion and having those discussions. And how do you approach that whole promotion and compensation philosophy at Eventbrite? And how is that tied to performance?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- So our compensation philosophy is similar to our performances. Like not, not trying to get super clever with this. You should be paid relative to the market. You should be paid… Like I should feel I've been paid fairly. And by fair, I just mean we pay, what you should expect in the market. For some roles that are hard to fill, we pay a little bit above market. But at the core of our compensation, is we have cash and equity and a rich benefits program. And so we're not trying to compete with Google to like pay more than Google. We're not trying to like say, "Hey, we can one up Google in order to land the talent that we need."

We're trying to pay relative to the market, in the markets that we're at. And we're in the US, we're in Argentina, we're in Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom and Australia. Primarily, those are our major markets for talent. And so we understand what the market is for certain roles. How they're paid, am I paid differently in Argentina than they do in the US, and which is definitely true. We try and understand the market. And then we try and structure competitive packages that are roughly at the mid point or above, depending upon the role. And then, the really core is, getting better, getting more transparent with that. Because I think what a lot of startups struggle with is the black box of compensation. So someone, has a Google sheet and determines the price for certain roles. And then the leaders know that, but the mid-level managers don't know that. The people who actually have to hire this person. Can you explain to me why I'm paying this way? I see the salary for the person, but I should understand this stuff. What a lot of organizations don't do, or they struggle with is like laying out the books, like, "Hey, here's the books. Here’s what we're seeing. Do you agree with that manager or leader?” We want the leaders to own the compensation. Not the BX team. If I'm owning it, I'm telling you, you gotta pay a certain way. You're not gonna own it as a leader. Then they'll say, "Hey, sorry, the BX team says you can only get this."

And so, you know, blame them. And then the leaders disown it. And then there's this distrust in compensation. So I think for us the concept that's important is education. So, educating managers, so that they can own it and talk to their employees about it. And then as best as possible, getting more and more transparent. We're not there yet on transparency. But my dream is that everyone sees the range for their roles and they understand. Understand, like why I’m at the middle of the range. Or I'm actually a little bit below the range, because I was just promoted into this role. And I haven't learned all the skills yet. And I understand that. And when organizations are not doing that, there's a ton of distrust. And despite how well you're paying, you might be paying great. But because the organization doesn't know it, there's all this distrust and there's this dissatisfaction that shows up in your surveys around compensation. And you're perplexed. Like, why is there so much distrust? We're spending a lot of money on compensation. It's usually that issue of transparency and education. Yeah. That's great. I love that thought around putting the ownership on the managers as well. And they feel fully involved in that process. 

Andy Parker (host)

-I think that's a really interesting thought there that many people can take away from this conversation. And one topic obviously coming off the back of the pandemic that all organizations have had to deal with is employee mental health. What programs do you have in place at Eventbrite to support employees with these sorts of areas?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- So this is a subject I’m really passionate about. I've spoken about it quite a bit. You know, there is a mental health crisis happening in society, certainly in the US and I think globally. Before the pandemic, incidents of mental health, anxiety and depression were skyrocketing. Particularly amongst certain demographics, millennials and young people. Just one very alarming stat, suicide rates for college graduates are three X today that which they were in the fifties. So suicide rates, three X versus college graduates of the fifties. And so it was already an epidemic. And then the pandemic happened and then we've seen anxiety and depression cases skyrocket in the pandemic.

Caregivers, having a serious mental health strain put on them as one example. And so we saw this and we were already thinking about it before the pandemic. And just one example, we had staff onsite at an event called the Gilroy Garlic Festival in 2019, where there was a mass shooting. And the mental health crisis was really being shone a spotlight on it for us. It was a galvanizing moment back in 2019. But we said, we need to start thinking about this. Like really seriously.

We adopted a platform then and there to have put mental health on demand in the fingertips of our employees. Our platform is called Modern Health. There's others like it. Why is that important? Because we saw, you know, at least in the US, such a difficulty in getting mental health support. In our healthcare system, in the US only one in 10 psychologists were accepting new patients at the time. So it's incredibly difficult to work with your carer to get mental health. And so people are bounced around. So getting that on-demand, I can get a therapist within 24 hours. My company is gonna pay for it. It was a really core part for us, but you have to think more holistically.

So during the pandemic, I think what we've tried to do is think more holistically about mental health. It's not just about a platform or one solution. And we also have to talk about it. So we have to acknowledge the strain that people are under from a leader's perspective. People wanna hear their leaders acknowledge how hard this is, and the strain. And ask and talk to their staff. So vulnerability. I've had conversations. I've had fireside chats, about struggling with my own mental health, during all of this. And as a parent with two kids. I've talked about this and I think people need to hear leaders open up and be vulnerable and then prioritize forums. So we've had leaders, a leader at our company whose name is Nick. He's an engineering leader. He's had what we call bright camps, which is basically like a lunch and learn on managing burnout, managing

and recognizing burnout. What are the tactics that we need to do? And what we've found is people wanna talk. They wanna actually talk to each other and share, "Hey, here's a strain, I've been really struggling with this.” Parents suddenly realized, "Oh, you're a parent too. You're struggling. Now we can kinda get together and we can talk. We can form a group.” And so for us, I think that sort of, the conversations have been really important. And also thinking about what other resources do people need. We're gonna start to develop and unveil some new resources for our employees, that are beyond just mental health, caregiving. Caregiving resources. Flexibility. Managers, indicating to their staff, "You should take time off for yourself. What time do you need to manage through this caregiving situation?"

We have a program called Take The Time You Need. And then during a pandemic, we also launched something called Bright Breaks. Which is, we recognize that we need to sort of break up the week. People are in more meetings per week during the pandemic. They're in like two and a half times more meetings per Microsoft report from the spring. The workdays are longer. So we need to break this up. How do we do it? We piloted something called Bright Breaks, which was the first Friday off each month. We'll all take it off. And that was like universally popular, did great things for people's mental health.

So now we have, as a program now, the first Friday, every month, the whole company takes off and to recharge and reset. People go swimming in The North Sea. Or they like reconnect with their family, go to the park, just to break it up has been hugely helpful.

Andy Parker (host)

- Wow,thanks for sharing all those. I think that obviously it’s a huge, important topic and it's so awesome to see companies like Eventbrite leading the way with implementing some of these programs. So thanks for sharing those tips. And I'd love to shift gears slightly to talk a little bit about your HR team. Maybe you can walk through the structure of your team. How have you built that up over time and what does that look like?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Sure. So my structure is, I've got a Head of Talent Acquisition and just joined the team, actually, her name is Myesha and she's fantastic. She's got a PhD in engineering and has been just a phenomenal engineer, a human that has more recently in her career, got into recruiting. So, I've got a head of recruiting, I've got a Head of Total Rewards, so it's all compensation benefits. I've got a Head of People Systems. I've got a Head of Talent Management, which is kind of the learning and leadership development and growth, the performance and engagement cycles. And then I've got a Head of the HR Business Partners unit. And so those are for me, really the core functions. And in this role, you tend to hear a lot about hiring. Like we need to hire, we're gonna hire more. We gonna hire faster, we’re gonna hire differently, employment brand, et cetera, et cetera. You hear a lot about compensation. We need to pay differently, we need to pay more or we need to pay, you know, adopt this new program.

And then, you have systems that have to back that up. You have leaders who need to enable that stuff and grow and actually own how to hire really well and how to pay really well. And then you have the face of HR, which is the Business Partners who tend to get all the questions. And they tend to be that the person who is like, manager turns too. So you have to have really good Business Partners. And so having someone really good at the top of each of those is really core. I've learned that. I've learned, like in painful lessons of just not getting it sooner. A really good person in each of those roles.

And then, you've got to have really good people in the recruiting team. In the Business Partner team that are the frontline for the managers or the frontline, for candidates, who are experiencing the company, from all these policies that you're creating.

Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah. Very cool. And obviously with the team that reports to you, how would you describe, the way that you want to be perceived as a leader? What are you trying to do to be the best possible leader you can for your team?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- I'm a horrible leader. No, I'm just joking. I joke, but I kind of approach my job as like, "I can always be better.” Like I'm never satisfied as a leader. I have a lot of anxiety about, am I doing everything right? Am I serving everyone really well? You learn over time that you can’t really serve everyone really well. You have to make choices,

strategies about choices. What are we gonna do? What we're not gonna do. But also leadership is about choices. There are things I'm gonna not prioritize right now. Because it will take a lot of time and it's gonna take me away from this other thing that's more important. But for my team, my direct reports, I try to be a servant leader. So I try to be like, kind of, what do you need? What feedback do you need? What tools do you do? What resources do you need? What's in your way? How do I remove that for you? And so I try to be a servant leader, which is my job is to make them really good, as opposed to my job is to tell them what to do.

My job is to like, push them and like, kind of like, gosh, work harder. My job is to enable them and unlock their potential. So I try and be a servant leader. There are pros and cons to that approach. You know, a con could be that sometimes I need to be more assertive. Sometimes I might need to push more, and I might need to be very didactic and say, "You need to do X, Y, Z, why hasn't it been done yet?” And so, there are cons to servant leadership, but I think the pros outweigh the cons. And that's what I try and be.

Andy Parker (host)

- Excellent. Yeah, I love that approach. And aside from servant leadership, do you think there's any particularly big differences between a good CHRO versus a great CHRO?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- So I think a great CHRO has to balance three things. This is a little bit of a Venn diagram. They have to balance strategy, relationships, and operations, or some people call it execution. So strategy, relationship, and execution. Sometimes you have a CHRO who's really good at the relationships, right? They like, they're a people person. That's why there's a meme of like HR people are the people, people. They like people. I got into this cause I like people and I'm a talker and I'm fun to talk with. And like, I love my Business Partner because they're just so fun, you know, whatever. Their relationships. And relationship is trust, respect, and communication. So that in itself is hard to master. You have to master relationships. You have to master strategy. And that's about, you know, we have to go in a certain direction. We have to change the culture of the company. We have to prioritize an approach that is gonna help us compete with Google, but not, make us pay more than Google.

And then execution is then delivering on that. You can come up with a strategy, but are you gonna execute on it? Sometimes you have CHRO’s who are good at one thing. They're the executer. They're like, I can just like, boom, boom, boom. Like we're knocking stuff out. But the strategies coming from someplace else. Or, they're the relationship person, but they can't execute or they're the strategy person, but no one likes working with them or they can't execute. And so a good CHRO has to balance each of those. And particularly know when you shift. I might be coming into an organization right now where I can't talk strategy because all they care about is the HR function can not execute. I don't wanna hear your ideas, David. I just wanna see you fix this and execute. Or they need to pivot into relationships cause there's distrust.

There's distrust between the HR organization and the business. So I need to really work on relationships. I need to go out there and talk to people and understand what's broken. What do you need? How can we help? How can we fix this? And so a good CHRO has to have all three of those. But balance, also when I'm kind of shifting a little bit more execution focus. When I'm shifting more toward strategy or relationships. But those are the three things I think can make a really great CHRO.

Andy Parker (host)

- Awesome. And so in addition to those three components there that make a good CHRO, do you see the role of HR as a function shifting at all? And like, are there any particular developments that you're really excited about in terms of the direction that it's heading?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- I do think it's shifting. And if you think back to the history of the name of the department, you can see this kind of, this shift in the name. It used to be called the Personnel Department. And then it was Human Resources and Human Resources is in my title, but it's like, it's kind of antiquated. Like a human is a resource. It's kind of like, thinking of it sort of like Taylorism type of thing. And that's kind of where it came from. It kind of came from Taylorism and then suddenly there's the people team, and like, "Hey, it's just really about people.” And now it's like experience, right? Employee experience. I think sales force's HR team is called the employee experience team and we call it Brightline experience.

And so what is behind that shift? I think it's like what’s behind the shift is, trying to get more and more progressive. Trying to move away from the Ford Motor Plant in the 1920s and how management thought of people and the relationship between leadership and then labor. And more thinking about our job is to unlock the human potential of this organization. We should be thinking about it as people inherently want to do good. They inherently want to perform. And we put things in the way of people. We organizationally put things in their way that prevent people from performing. That's a flipping of the view of performance of an organization. I think it's a flipping of view of the role as well. How do we unlock human potential? And part of that is getting much more scientific. Looking at data, understanding human psychology. We have to have systems that enable that.

And increasingly we have to have systems and data that are more real-time. The idea of doing a survey once a year, or the idea of I'm just gonna look at your compensation once per year. That's kind of antiquated. And I think we're gonna shift into knowing more real time, enabling data and systems and practices that are more geared towards unlocking human potential, and building trust and looking at employees as inherently wanting to do good, as opposed to looking at employees as like they're trying to game us, we gotta find ways to push them more.

Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, absolutely. And in addition to that data piece, are there any other particularly thorny HR problems that you wish you could kinda click your fingers and solve?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- That's a good question. You know, I think the idea of human connection in hybrid workplaces being heavily disrupted and not having really great solutions for it, I'll just give you an example. I was on a call with a bunch of CHROs the other day with someone from the government who was asking, like worried about mental health and thinking about workplaces. Workplaces can actually fuel the rebound of mental health. That was this person’s thesis in the government. And he's asking, what are you doing right now to kind of foster human connection to sort of alleviate the pain of the pandemic? And some people were talking about like, "We're trying to have Zoom happy hours.” And like that sort of stuff. I'm like, I'm definitely not trying to do Zoom happy hours. People do not wanna be on one more Zoom meeting. We wanna find ways to connect

them in their community. To actually have less meetings because there's two and a half times more meetings and we need to have less meetings and more impactful meetings. And particularly at your question, in this future we're heading towards hybrid work, we have a lot of remote working and people not going into offices as much. anymore. How do you create human connection amongst coworkers in that? It's not really a Zoom happy hour.

How do you do that? There are gonna be startups that try and solve this, that try and do, you know, interesting like little weird things that sort of connect people on Slack or whatever, but I don't think we’ve cracked that problem yet. How do we actually create human connection in this new setting that we're moving towards? I wish I could snap my fingers. Crack that one.

Andy Parker (host)

- Yeah, that's a really great one to solve. And yeah, I think obviously many companies across the globe, are also trying to crack that one. And so just one final question to wrap up from my side. Do you have any particular raw resources or books or courses or recommendations for our audience that they might want to check out that would then help them progress in their own career in the coming months?

David Hanrahan (guest)

- I do. And I should say that I got this from a colleague named John, John Foster, who is also himself, a CHRO. And we were wondering what's a really good sort of progressive book out there as kind of shaping some new practices in teams and companies. And the book is called Prime to Perform, and it's a Bookout. You can, you can get the download of it. So Prime to Perform is a book. It's a management book and I'm not really a big management book fan, but I've found in reading this, with each chapter, a new way of looking at everything from compensation, to performance management to leadership development. And so that's one I would recommend.I also gotta recommend, if you're not into books, but you're just more into Twitter. My colleague Lars Schmidt who runs a consulting practice he's got a fascinating Twitter feed and is always retweeting really and interviewing really prominent CHROs who are really progressive and stand up bite size sort of content which is great.

Andy Parker (host)

- Yes, absolutely. I saw he published a whole bunch of open source guides recently as well. So we'll be sure to link to those as well in the show notes.

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Definitely.

Andy Parker (host)

- David, this has been a fascinating conversation. Thank you so much.

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Thank you.

Andy Parker (host)

- And I hope that everyone listening will hopefully have some some great takeaways. And so thank you again for your time and lovely to chat.

David Hanrahan (guest)

- Thank you. Likewise.

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Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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