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TecHRseries Interview with Ian White, Founder, CEO and CTO at ChartHop

Communication tools like Slack and Zoom have enabled a smooth transition to increased remote work models during the Covid-19 pandemic and these platforms have helped employers and teams collaborate better. But, employees need more than just regular check-ins on tasks during this challenging time and this requires a shift in how processes are built and which HR Technologies are adopted to support new workplace trends. Ian White, Founder, CEO and CTO at ChartHop shares his thoughts:

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Tell us a little about yourself Ian…we’d love to hear about some of your biggest career highlights (and learnings in leadership!) so far!

I’ve always been drawn to the intersection of technology and people, and it’s what led me to study computer science and theater at Brown University. I ultimately decided to pursue the technical route, but my theater experience prepared me to be a better team leader and communicator.

In 2008, I joined Business Insider as their first engineering leader and architected the platform. From there, I co-founded Sailthru in 2010. We grew from two people to 200 and $100K to $20M in three years, making Sailthru the 29th fastest-growing company on the Inc. 5000 list.

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By the time we reached 50 people or so at Sailthru, the early processes started to break down, and I learned the value of organizational structure the hard way. In order to scale with purpose and create a place where talented people could do their best work, I needed to be able to understand and empower my team.

I spent days pulling information from our HRIS and sharing pivot tables in Google Sheets, but I knew there had to be a better way. That’s when I began building the platform I wish I had: ChartHop.

How did the idea for ChartHop come about and what are some of the upcoming add-ons and features or other innovations that you have planned for the platform that you can share about with us today?

We’re living through an era where technology is reimagining the way that people get good work done, and the enterprise technology market has never been bigger.

Throughout my career I’ve used seamless collaboration hubs and low-code tools to visualize the real-time state of my servers, but when it came to the people side of business, those processes were all manual. ChartHop changes that by taking the busy work out of organizational planning and giving business leaders the data they need to make better decisions.

The pandemic has uncovered flawed processes surrounding strategic planning, remote work and diversity initiatives, just to name a few. And with organizations under more scrutiny than ever before, many are realizing they can no longer rely on default, low-tech solutions to push their companies forward.

ChartHop is the kind of platform I believe all business leaders – from CEOs and HR executives to middle managers – can benefit from, in order to make proactive, intentional decisions.

For example, we recently announced our new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) offerings. We believe tracking diversity numbers from day one empowers companies to build foundations rooted in equality, so we’re offering this tool as part of ChartHop Build, our base package.

At a time where teams are globally distributed and working from home (in many cases), what kind of technologies and tools would you say can give a more optimized view of the company’s processes, alignment, structure etc with the aim of helping multiple teams  stay on the same page and collaborate better?

Keeping teams aligned on business goals, productive with their daily work, and engaged with their colleagues are all critical to achieving daily, weekly and quarterly goals.

Communication tools like Slack and Zoom can be used for day-to-day interactions, but remote teams need more than just check-ins to stay connected. On my team, we use tools like Notion for streamlined documenting and Clubhouse for product management and road mapping.

We’ve decided to be a remote-optional company forever and now have several employees who have never met in person. With ChartHop, every new hire is able to see our company’s structure, how it’s changed over time, and where they fit into the big picture – we can even see our coworkers’ personal KPIs, strengths, learning interests, and spoken languages.

This level of visibility is rare, but we believe it encourages team members to be more accountable, empathetic and intentional – even when remote.

Given the trends that are slowly shaping the new normal, what are some of your thoughts regarding the new kinds of tech and tools that will start becoming a priority for global teams? And why?

When you look across a business, each function and department is seemingly more data driven than HR, but why?

HR leaders need access to more technologies that automate processes and help HR teams become more efficient and productive.

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Especially as remote work dominates the workforce, continuous performance metrics will allow businesses to stay agile. Access to technology and data-backed performance insights will replace quarterly or yearly review cycles. And continual tracking of employee sentiment will allow leaders to more quickly determine which employees need the most support, where there may be recurring issues, and who is ready to take on more responsibility.

At ChartHop, we do weekly 1-1 meetings with direct reports and store insights from our meetings in our platform to track over time. Since we can’t see each other in person, it can be harder to tell how people are feeling, so this makes our virtual check-ins more productive and helps me spot trends I need to address.

What are the top 5 things you would tell B2B / Tech companies as they prepare for the next normal? 

  1. Now that we can’t see each other in the office every day, it is critical that business leaders have an easy way to access and visualize their people data – to make better decisions about organizational structure, employee experience, and DE&I initiatives.
  2. Working from home has transformed the workforce forever, and organizations must strengthen company culture built for a distributed workforce.
  3. Being open about your organization’s past and present gives employees the context they need to better understand how they can contribute and succeed.
  4. COVID-19 showed the fragility of rigid annual planning. Companies must embrace continuous workforce planning that builds flexibility and resiliency.
  5. Intentionally planned diversity initiatives matter now more than ever – we must empower leaders to take action toward real change.

Given the changing workplace trends that Covid-19 has forced everyone to adapt to, how do you see this impact the overall company structure in terms of workflow, alignment, distribution of tasks? How do you feel the ongoing pandemic will change how tech companies start shaping their teams?

You can’t take the in-person model and slap a virtual sticker on it. Instead, organizations need to build workflows and team structures that are customized for remote environments.

For example, when working through big, strategic problems, email and Zoom sessions aren’t enough. You need platforms where everyone can collaborate and workshop potential solutions. This also helps alignment because once you centralize the work, you can assign tasks, manage approvals, agree on a game plan, and ensure everyone is working off the latest data.

How would you advise companies to enhance their overall work culture and experience using a balance of traditional practices and new technologies?

Repetition is critical to effective communication. Technology can be a force of repetition by giving people access to data that can be viewed anytime they want or need.

I’m a big believer that transparency and context create trust, and trust is essential to building a positive work culture. This starts from the top down. When executives cover up bad numbers, conceal shifts in management or deliver confusing and inconsistent messages on organizational goals, people fill in the gaps with their own assumptions, which are often worse than the reality.

But when leaders provide the full context around what an organization is trying to achieve and where it currently stands, trust and accountability flourish.

A few general thoughts / tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?

Now that organizations can’t use cool office spaces and catered lunches to attract talent, recruiting tactics have fundamentally changed. This is good news for startups who didn’t have the means to compete with tech giants’ extravagant office perks.

With the playing field leveled, HR leaders of all company sizes will have to put their mission and culture front and center to attract talent. People want to be a part of organizations that are solving important problems in our world and share their values, and it is up to HR to explain how candidates can play a leading role.

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ChartHop

ChartHop is the world’s first organizational management platform empowering leaders and team members alike to see the past and present of their organization and design its future. The platform automatically builds fluid, data-driven views of a company through real-time updated org charts, custom reporting, and headcount planning tools that boost efficiency and transparency across teams.

Ian White is the Founder, CEO and CTO at ChartHop