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TecHRseries Interview with Julia Markish, Head of Advisory Services at Lattice

Julia Markish, Head of Advisory Services at Lattice shares a few tips and best practices to help businesses create stronger people and customer processes in this chat:

 

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Tell us a little about yourself Julia…we’d love to hear your journey through the years in tech…

My career has been a bit of a winding journey in terms of sector but has always involved one thing- organizational culture. I started noticing the power of culture early in my career at Walt Disney Studios, where I worked as an intern and saw firsthand the passion that people had for what Disney stood for, and the impact it had on the world. I saw it again at Facebook, where I worked on the Growth team — the most successful people there were the ones who were truly aligned with Facebook’s vision of making the world more connected. And then at Bain & Company, I recognized my own alignment with the culture — I felt like I could trust my colleagues with far more than slides and analysis. That’s also where I started connecting the dots on the importance of measuring employee engagement. I went into full swing with the culture-tech intersection starting at LinkedIn, serving as senior manager of global talent brand, and have continued that part of my journey ever since, focusing more and more on how to harness tech to enable the kinds of strong, healthy cultures that I’ve had the fortune of seeing first-hand.

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We’d love to dive into your day at work and role at Lattice…?

 My day is super diverse and quite full, to be quite honest. I’m trying to establish a new practice and team and figure out how we fit in with all of the Lattice stakeholders we have, as well as with customers. Thus, my time is split between growing the team, establishing best practices, and continuing to lay the groundwork for where to focus as we grow. I’m also trying to take opportunities to get to know our customers as much as possible. A typical day might be: work on a best practices document, meet with a partner about a joint project, chat with a colleague from marketing or product, get pulled into answering a question about our POV for a specific customer, and then interview a candidate to grow the team.

If you had to share 5 best practices to foster a balanced organizational culture in this new normal; what are the base points you’d share with tech companies? 

  • Create stability where you can. A lot of the world is unstable right now, and we can’t change that. But we can help create stability in other areas. It’s important to have a weekly all-hands meeting, even virtually, and provide a consistent cadence of listening cycles. I’d also recommend that CEOs send an email to the team every other week. Organizations should foster behaviors that give employees a sense of being there for them, and with them, every step of the way.
  • Overcommunicate everything. I once had a leader who said that until and unless the rest of us are sick of hearing what the company’s vision and goals are, he hasn’t done his job of communicating them well. Especially with many organizations working entirely remotely, the bar of communication becomes even higher; just because you said it over Zoom or put it in an email doesn’t mean that it successfully landed and sunk in.
  • Engage in organizational active listening. We’ve all heard of active listening, where you say back what you’re hearing from the other person, and engage in collaborative problem-solving when it’s called for. The same needs to be done at the organizational level! When you ask your employees to tell you how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking, you need to engage in the same kind of active listening.
  • Embrace wholism AND respect boundaries. Give space for folks to introduce as much of themselves to the corporate environment as they’re comfortable with. For some that may mean PJ days, and for some, it may mean having nothing but virtual backgrounds on their calls. Leadership must give permission by setting an example, and then met their colleagues where they are.
  • Enable your managers wisely. There’s a balance between enablement and overloading. Listen for what managers need and work on ways to provide them with it. They and their teams know better than anyone where they could use support.

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How are you seeing business lacking in their employee practices in this new normal; can you also talk about a few great initiatives you’ve seen HR teams in tech and B2B do to create better work cultures amid this pandemic?

In terms of what’s lacking, I see a couple of trends.

There are two main groups of people in the corporate setting who are burning the candle at both ends right now: HR Teams and Managers. We need to find ways to cut both of these groups some slack, or at least acknowledge the epic effort it’s taking to do their jobs. That includes acknowledging ourselves and engaging in self-care.

We see companies that want to pull back from processes right now, whereas this is actually the time to double down on them. Companies need to be giving folks guardrails for what is otherwise a very unpredictable ride. Set expectations, and then meet those expectations. In terms of some great initiatives to focus on instead: When there’s high uncertainty and little predictability, it’s important to keep up with (and respond to) employee sentiment. We’ve seen a lot of customers engaging with our Crisis Response survey, checking in with their employees and making real adjustments accordingly. I’d also recommend that businesses continue to run experiments and see what works for their people; so far, a couple of my favorites have been four-day work weeks and CEO AMAs (“ask me anything” Q&A sessions).

As HR leaders respond to the business needs of the new normal; what are some of the top thoughts you’d share with them when it comes to implementing HR Tech to drive business goals and strengthen policies keeping current challenges in mind.

There’s a yearning to do all the things at once. I should know…but any of our Implementation Managers will tell you that having a plan and doing one thing right at a time is the best way to get employees bought in and actually deriving value from your tech.

What are some of the top tech trends and in-demand skills you feel will dominate HR and HR Tech in the near-future?

People teams have been on a slow and steady rise over the last couple of decades in terms of their strategic importance. This year has seen a step-function increase in that trend. Suddenly, leaders are turning to their people teams and saying, “How do we keep our people engaged?” and “How do we keep our people productive?” Thus, my prediction, or maybe my hope, is that we have the opportunity to keep People Strategy in the spotlight of Business Strategy. And the first thing that that requires is having the data and analysis to back you up: people analytics teams, tools, platforms. For some companies, that in and of itself could be a significant shift. But for companies that are already there with people analytics, I think there’s another, more subtle shift that’s poised to happen. If you think about all the functions that have had a lot more experience with analytics — Ops, Marketing, Sales, Customer Care – all of these functions are dialed into how their function drives revenue-driving metrics: growth, profitability, customer experience. But the majority of HR metrics are about cost: cost per hire, cost of benefits. Even retention is typically thought of as a way to avoid the cost of hiring and onboarding someone new. But learning how to reduce costs is not business strategy, its business health – which is important but it’s not the same thing. So if I had a crystal ball, I would say that the next major focus area should be upleveling People data analytics that People Teams can use, similar to other functions, so that they can keep that spotlight and really drive their organizations’ strategy, not just health, beyond this year’s crisis.

Before we wrap up, we’d love to hear a little about the employee culture and experience at Lattice!

I am very happy to report that the culture at Lattice is as phenomenal as you’d expect. Three top markers for me have been:

  • Lattice operates from a place of humility and transparency. The two are very closely tied for me, because you have to believe you don’t have all the answers to share as freely as we do. People are constantly open to the possibility of being wrong, so they share what they’re thinking and ask “what are we missing?” “how can this be better?”
  • People care deeply about our customers, from our Customer Care team to our Engineers and in-between. It’s easy to find common ground for how to move forward on any initiative given the value we place on the success of our customers.
  • We live our values. There’s not a day that goes by without multiple mentions of one of our values in the context of our strategy, someone’s behavior, a decision we’ve made, etc. They’re in our feedback platform (Lattice, of course), in our Slack channels, in our all-hands meetings. They’re truly part of our DNA.

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Lattice logo

Lattice is a people management platform that empowers leaders to build engaged, high-performing teams that inspire winning cultures. With Lattice, it’s easy to launch 360 performance review cycles and engagement surveys, keep track of OKR/goals, gather real-time feedback, and encourage manager 1-on-1 meetings.

Julia has been at the cross-section of technology and organizational culture for the better part of a decade. Currently, she is Head of People Advisory Services at Lattice. Prior, she advised executives on organizational culture via her independent practice, Orca; She trained leaders on how to achieve clarity for themselves and their teams via Talentism; She trained and led discussions about Reinventing Organizations via the Teal Team, which she co-founded; and started and led the Employee Practice at Medallia, where she helped companies harness listening programs to engage their employees.

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