2 - Work In Weed (Dot Com)


In our second episode, we're joined by the wonderful Lisa Raja, Chief of Staff @Vertosa - a cannabis infusion company - and we asked all the inappropriate questions we wanted: "Does everyone get high at the office?", "What is drinkable weed like?"... We talk people strategy, terrible company people experiences, and even sprinkle in some charity work on this one.






Release Date: JUNE 2022

[00:00:00] Female Presenter: Warning, this podcast is about the realities of working in People Operations. This is not a stuck-up PC compliance-based or employment law podcast about stuffy outdated HR practices. Shit will get real here and we assume no responsibility.

[00:00:16] Tyson Mackenzie: We had a strict no-alcohol policy, and everybody was like, "Oh, don't drink, HR is here." Meanwhile, I'm like mid-crack of beer.

[00:00:24] Alexa Baggio: So why are we enabling you by being like, "Oh, we'll make HR the bad person in the room and we'll let them fire for you?" That's cheap bullshit.

[00:00:31] Tyson: The thought of being in a large room with other people just gives me so much anxiety. I have become tougher.

[00:00:38] Alexa: If they're that disengaged before-- they're going to be badly disengaged at the office, just be sitting at their desk looking at Facebook, they're going to find ways to fuck off.

[00:00:45] Tyson: This is the People Problems podcast with Alexa Baggio and Tyson Mackenzie.

[00:00:53] Alexa: What's up, Tyson?

[00:00:54] Tyson: What's not up? [laughs]

[00:00:56] Alexa: Ready to do number two?

[00:00:57] Tyson: Yes. Let's do it. [laughs]

[00:00:59] Alexa: What's not up? Let's start changing the question to, "What's not up?" Did you know that most podcasts basically fail after the third episode? After today, we'll be like two-thirds of the way to--

[00:01:11] Tyson: -failure.

[00:01:12] Alexa: No. [laughs] Are you a glass half-empty kind of person, Tyson?

[00:01:18] Tyson: Clearly, not today.

[00:01:20] Alexa: No, we'll be two-thirds of the way towards at least not having totally failed. I guess most people give up after three episodes. It's a general--

[00:01:27] Tyson: Becoming famous podcasters, that's what we'll be getting close to.

[00:01:30] Alexa: Yes, exactly. Awesome. Everybody else-- I feel like that's in the zeitgeist. Everybody's become like-- either I have a podcast or I have an Airbnb property.

[00:01:39] Tyson: No, you have to have a podcast.

[00:01:40] Alexa: That's the two things everybody has now.

[00:01:42] Tyson: Yes. 100%.

[00:01:43] Alexa: Yes. Got to have a podcast, so we can check that box if for no one else, but ourselves. All right, Tyson, let's roll into our first segment, which is Pops in the News.

[music]

Front page of The New York Times today because things that are HR-heavy are never positive, the article that came out today is about Amazon, and it is called Power and Peril: 5 Takeaways on Amazon's Employment Machine. I'm not going to go through all five of the takeaways. I think they're all not surprising things coming from Amazon. The general gist is that Amazon hired an asinine number of people starting in 2020 when the pandemic picked up. In three months, they hired 350,000 workers, which is bananas, but the dirty little secret in the article is that apparently, they've been losing 3% of their hourly associates a week for quite some time, even before the pandemic, which is a turnover rate of 150% a year, so they're churning their whole hourly workforce, like one and a half times.

[00:02:51] Tyson: Should we just clarify though, this is for warehouse workers, right?

[00:02:55] Alexa: This is for warehouse workers. This is largely when we-- yes, this is not HQ. Also, the article is focused on one of their factories in the New York City area, or a fulfillment center, I guess you call it, called JFK 8, and obviously, everybody knows the Alabama thing with the unions which we could get to in a second, but long story short, they're like, "Amazon has been burning workers in the hourly fulfillment department." There are not that many people to fill these roles, which they also point out in the article, and I'm sure lots of people have heard about sort of the time off task and all this crazy monitoring that Amazon does basically trying to make employees robots, even though they're not robots.

[00:03:29] Tyson: Yes. Don't they literally monitor like how close you are to another person? Like if you stop talking--

[00:03:33] Alexa: They monitor when you go to the bathroom, yes, they monitor literally everything. It's very concerning, it's very like 1984, but it's also interesting because the last piece of this article talks about-- the number five is many of Amazon's most contentious policies go back to Jeff Bezos' original vision. He believed that an entrenched workforce created a "march to mediocrity" which is a quote by sort of a former long-serving VP who actually built the original HR operations in their fulfillment centers.

I guess in a letter to shareholders more recently, Jeff came out after he said that the union effort in Alabama had shown that "We need a better vision for how we create value for employees, a vision for their success," and he vowed to become Earth's best employer. Well, that's great as he gets on a rocket to leave for--

[00:04:20] Tyson: I was just going to say-- [laughs]

[00:04:21] Alexa: In the near future. [laughs] I mean, Amazon stepped in it. Great. Awesome. They've been doing that for a while. What are your thoughts, Tyson?

[00:04:30] Tyson: Yes, look, honestly, I don't think I've heard any positive feedback from folks that have worked at Amazon through my network or even just generally what we hear in the news, honestly. At this point, tracking people to the point where they can't stop and chat is so beneath us as humans, and I think he also mentions that article, something along the lines of assuming that people are inherently lazy, and I'm caught up on the warehouse worker thing because I'm curious, like, is he treating the warehouse workers in a similar way that he's treating the developers and the folks that are working on the strategy behind the scenes in HQ?

[00:05:09] Alexa: That actually comes up in number four because he's like, "60% of our fulfillment workers are people of color," and they're actually apparently, based on this article, 50% more likely to be fired for productivity misconduct or absenteeism issues. Not only are they treating the poorest of their workers the worst, they're actually disproportionately treating people of color-- it's like all the stereotypes around screwing up the diversity conversation, our number four of this article.

[00:05:39] Tyson: Honestly, I think this is such a good example of how being data-informed from a People Ops perspective can be so, so, so damaging because I think they're also saying, "Hey, if you stopped to chat, that's a ping against you and you're going to get fired." Using this data in a way-- I know that Amazon has very, very advanced data information and they track so much--

[00:06:04] Alexa: I believe they make you download an app on your phone when you start--

[00:06:06] Tyson: I wonder--

[00:06:07] Alexa: -so they can track you everywhere.

[00:06:08] Tyson: Does that app then have information about your demographics? I would love to know.

[00:06:14] Alexa: I'd be shocked if Amazon doesn't have that.

[00:06:17] Tyson: Right. I don't know. I think that this whole thing is just--

[00:06:20] Alexa: Let's be honest here because--

[00:06:21] Tyson: It's bizarre. It's bizarre that we're hearing about this sort of thing in 2021. They're talking about running out of people to work in their warehouses. Well, no shit, Amazon.

[00:06:30] Alexa: Literally not enough people in the United States or North America to keep doing this for more than a decade. They're going to run out of people, literally.

[00:06:37] Tyson: Nobody's going to want to work there, honestly. I think they said that the pay was decent. I think it said reasonable paying benefits--

[00:06:43] Alexa: They were the first large employers to go $15 an hour, they do decent benefits, but look, I've worked in that space for many years and that won't get you anywhere if the rest of this is this broken. I think what kills me on is this is like the Uber thing, everyone's like, "Oh, Amazon employees are unionizing," and I'm like, "You get a union when you don't empower your People Ops team."

You've clearly got people on the Amazon team that are trying to represent these employees, and if there aren't, then they just need to restructure in general, but I feel like you come up with these issues when there's basically a giant disconnect between what Jeff Bezos and his ivory tower full of steroids wants and what real employees in the fulfillment centers are asking for and what they need, and that disconnect really is the people team, so the question is what are they hearing that they're not getting any justification for?

It's like Uber. Uber ran into this also. It's like you've got drivers and all these people asking for these things and you don't have a successful channel to bridge the gap, and that's really frustrating. It's also frustrating to watch a company and multiple companies, or the zeitgeist of services and products, in general, these days be like, "It's all about customer satisfaction. It's all about the customer experience," but entirely at the expense of paying people a living wage, which means, in my view, and obviously, I'm not about to say that Amazon is an unsuccessful company, but you have a broken business model.

If you're building a business off of an unsustainable model of abusing low-wage workers, and by abuse, I mean like underpaying them, overworking them, tracking everything, this has to cause psychological issues. If you're in a fulfillment center with no windows, 10 hours a day, knowing everything you do is being tracked and being stressed all the time, that has to break somebody eventually.

I just get frustrated reading this because I'm like, "It doesn't have to be this bad." We didn't need the meteoric rise that we got with Amazon. I would give my packages an extra day if they're non-critical, just to make sure someone keeps their job and isn't being abused in the workplace, and I feel like a lot of consumers would do the same. The 48 hours, 24 hours is nice, but not if I know it's coming at the expense of 350,000 workers every year and a half. That's bananas. It's just heartbreaking.

[00:09:00] Tyson: Yes. I hope that that thought process is mimicked by other people, but one thing that I've really heard about Amazon is it is so customer-centric that not only do employees go to the wayside, but also the people that sell things on Amazon get gouged. It really is designed to please customers, which I think a lot of folks love because they love convenience, but I know for me, it's just like anything else you do, you have to be intentional. Yes, Amazon is convenient, but is there a different platform that I might consider using considering the fact that they're abusing their employees and all that other stuff that you mentioned?

As a consumer, you might opt not to choose a company like this. I feel as though a lot of folks are going that way with Amazon, similar to how you would-- When you're purchasing something from, I don't know, a small local vendor versus the big giants, and I think a lot of that came up this pandemic as well, a lot of people trying to support locals.

I think that some of this crappy-- although they're doing it with the customer in mind, this crappy treatment is what's going to start deterring customers who-- everybody knows this about Amazon, that they treat their people badly. This article just solidified that. I don't know. Again, I can't believe that they're tracking people like this.

[00:10:21] Alexa: This is just the front page of The New York Times being-- and all I want to do is be like, "It doesn't have to be like this. It doesn't. There's ways to make this better."

All right. Speaking of ways to make this better, we're going to make this episode a whole lot better by introducing our guest. Our guest today is Lisa Raja. She is the chief of staff at Vertosa, which is a company that makes the active ingredients for infused cannabis products. All kinds of fun things to talk about there. Prior to her shift into people, Lisa was a relentless entrepreneur with over 20 years' experience in fashion, retail merchandising, and business development, so not a traditional people background, which we love.

Lisa hung up her fashion hat and launched TRADEMOMS, a marketplace empowering mothers to capitalize on their skills as a currency, and amidst it all, she developed a line of small batch skincare, Anaya Lily, a passion project that actually led her into the cannabis industry. She's been featured in both local and national press including KTVU Fox News and Oakland Magazine, and she is a self-proclaimed open book. Welcome, Lisa.

[00:11:17] Tyson: Welcome.

[00:11:17] Lisa Raja: Thank you so much. I'm very happy to be here with you ladies.

[00:11:21] Alexa: Yes. We're excited to have you. You want to bash Jeff Bezos or anything real quick or--

[00:11:26] Lisa: Yes. I had to hold my breath a few times and throw up in my mouth a little. It's shocking that they--

[00:11:31] Alexa: What was the worst part for you?

[00:11:33] Lisa: Well, all of it. [laughs] It's shameful at this day and age that that's where we're at. I just feel like with everything that's in the news and everything, all the books that we're reading and how woke we are as a country, that this is how we're running things. It's unacceptable that--

[00:11:48] Alexa: Well, it feels a little bit like maybe we're even too woke about some things and not worried about this kind of stuff which is fundamental.

[00:11:55] Tyson: I was going to say--

[00:11:55] Alexa: These are people's livelihoods. This is a day-to-day environment that these guys are walking into that is just clearly like soul-crushing.

[00:12:04] Tyson: I wonder how woke we are. I still question how woke some people are when it comes to this stuff. I still think that a lot of people, unfortunately, they'll choose that next-day shipping over a lot of these issues which is concerning.

[00:12:18] Lisa: Or how woke they think they are. To tell you the truth, I don't know, and maybe people just turn a blind eye and you feel like it's not your problem until it's on the front page news, and maybe then you can take some responsibility.

[00:12:29] Alexa: I would argue everybody reads this and goes-- other than people like us who care about this stuff, and goes, "Yes, but I still want my packages tomorrow. I still want that thing, a toothpaste by tomorrow at noon."

[00:12:39] Lisa: Unless their whole team is just like, "We're done, we're out," and just piece that to the whole thing, then maybe there's some room for change.

[00:12:46] Alexa: I think the craziest thing is like, they're literally going to run out of people. They're going to have to move their fulfillment centers every three years. 350,000 people every year and a half, that's no joke, so a lot of people.

[00:12:59] Tyson: I think where I want to bridge this conversation with this is going back to how woke people think they are. I think one thing that really has started to piss me off is social media and how it's super easy for people to just post something, change their profile picture to have rainbow colors because it's pride month, and really don't do anything else to back that up. I want to talk about that if we can. Alexa, am I allowed to just [unintelligible 00:13:26]?

[00:13:26] Alexa: You're a-- yes, a total non-sequitur.

[00:13:28] Tyson: Can I talk about this?

[00:13:28] Alexa: That's the best thing about being a co-host is you can just talk about whatever you want to talk about, and I'll just go with it.

[00:13:32] Tyson: Because it's been a month and I think a lot of stuff is going on right now. I know in Canada, we're celebrating Indigenous Awareness Month. In the States, I know it's Pride. We also do pride in Canada in June, although it's technically supposed to happen in November, but I'm seeing a lot of companies showing up saying that they support whatever it is that they're saying they support, but I want to know, what are you actually doing?

How are you changing policies? How are you actually making an impact on these marginalized communities? Because I think that a lot of companies are in this place right now, where they're doing a post on social media and just checking that box and not doing anything else. Lisa, I'd love to hear what you think about that.

[00:14:15] Lisa: Yes. I have been saying this since I've worked here, when it comes to people and cultures, that it starts from the top, and if it's important to management or the executive team, then the pay-it-forward trickle-down effect resonates with the whole team. You are hiring people that believe in that mission, and I'm fortunate to work for a company where that is so embedded in our company ethos and who we are.

For example, this Saturday is Juneteenth and it is a company-wide holiday for us. Falls on Saturday, so Friday is off for us. In addition to the newsletter and the social postings and whatnot, it is very much a part of what I consider ongoing curriculum in our company. It is conversations in our all-hands. It's articles that we're sending out of where we can all volunteer locally because volunteering is also a big part of our ethos and who we are as a company, but putting our money where our mouth is or our actions, lead by action, right?

Our out-of-office responder on Friday will be-- a paragraph where she went-- what Juneteenth is, why it's important to us, why it's important to cannabis. It's not just an internal action, but it's also an external where if you're reaching us, we're observing the holiday, it's important to us, and this is what we're doing about it. Like I said, it's about starting from the top and then having that trickle down and making sure that the people that are coming on board, when we go through the interview process, feel empowered and passionate about not just cannabis, but all the things and lives that it touches and incorporating that in our day-to-day.

[00:15:49] Alexa: Yes. It's unfortunate because it's effectively-- it's like the social media version of virtue signaling. That's basically what social media created, is this concept of virtue signaling, it's like, "Oh, look at me. Mine's rainbow too. I get it. I'm woke." Really, there's been so many articles about this recently. Actually, someone on my team was just sending one around about basically how this has all just been corrupted by commercial interests. It's now just like you have to be with these things, so you can sell more shit that's rainbow-colored.

[00:16:17] Lisa: It's another campaign.

[00:16:17] Alexa: It's another campaign and that's sad, but what I really loved about what Lisa just said is the idea that you have an ongoing curriculum. One of the things I get really frustrated with, and I certainly do not need to go down the diversity rabbit hole on this conversation because I want to talk about cannabis because there's plenty going on in that industry, but I do think one of the things that people often get wrong about the diversity conversation is it is not about virtue signaling. It is not about quotas and comparisons and objectifying people and all those things.

It's about education. If you have employees who don't even know what Juneteenth is or don't know why we would celebrate it, it's okay to just start there. That's more than most employers are going to do is educate you and make you aware and maybe even pull in some people from your employee base or your community to teach something about it or teach something that's related to them and their history.

There's just not enough inclusion through understanding. There's a lot of just like, "Ah, rainbows, we're down with the gays. Yes, come buy our stuff." "Okay, guys. Thanks." We do that with everything now. It's not just this stuff, like humans, we just shortcut all this stuff now, which is a little alarming, but they'll like-- "Rainbows for rainbow sake/buy more of my stuff." It kills me. Anyway, Lisa, go ahead.

[00:17:40] Lisa: I agree. All-hands is something we do weekly and it's been really important for us

[00:17:46] Alexa: How big is your team?

[00:17:46] Lisa: -through pandemic and having-- We are at 25, and being able to connect-- well, face to face, you know what I mean? At least being able to see each other once a week and not just talk about business at hand, but taking these larger topics and putting it in front of our team and having those that identify with certain topics more closely being a part of the conversation and sharing how certain situations and certain policies affect them personally and knowing that we are a tight-knit team and frankly care about each other so much, it makes it more real and understandable and relatable, makes us able to empathize more.

For us specifically, cannabis, it is in such an infancy stage, we're in the Wild, Wild West. The way we believe in what we think is that cannabis is for everyone and the way for it to get to everyone is for everyone to feel included in the mission. It's like if we understand what people are going through and we understand our differences, that is how we can spread cannabis and the benefits of it to everyone. As I said, it's like, it is who we are on the top, so it just makes it very natural to have that conversation.

[00:18:57] Tyson: It keeps it human as well, like understanding people and understanding people's stories. You have, it sounds like, a really tight-knit team, and putting a face to diversity is sometimes super grounding for execs. I'm not sure if your executive team is diverse or not, but oftentimes we see these whitewashed executive teams, and they're just preaching, "Diversity is important to us," but I don't think they're putting a face to that.

[00:19:24] Alexa: A token panel.

[00:19:26] Lisa: Yes, I have been told many times as I'm interviewing people coming to the company, it's like, "Oh, we looked at your team page and we were blown away." We don't look like, I don't know, whatever Corporate America's supposed to look like or what people think it's supposed to look like or what the top tier is supposed to look like.

[00:19:42] Alexa: How about what it used to look like? Because I think everyone's trying fundamentally to change what it currently looks like.

[00:19:48] Lisa: Yes.

[00:19:48] Alexa: Thankfully.

[00:19:49] Lisa: Yes.

[00:19:49] Tyson: Getting better, but I think they still say that the average CEO is 6'2", White, male. It's that specific.`

[00:19:55] Alexa: Yes. It's going to take a little while. It's not going to be an overnight thing, but at least we're talking about it now. I would like to see a world where eventually we talk about this as much as we talk about people's hair colors. Who's ever said there's too many redheads on your board? We're just going to get to a place where eventually the world looks like the world and it's unavoidable and people are in the right places for the right reasons. We're definitely not there. Yes, not yet. We can all hope.

Speaking of which, Lisa, very interesting to have you with us today because I would love to learn-- you're from the tobacco, firearms, and alcohol world. Porn and drugs is about the only other two highly stigmatized industries we could possibly get. If we've got one of the five with us today, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts, just your personal journey to cannabis, and then a little bit about maybe what are some of the stigmas that just in working with people in a stigmatized industry that other people don't see. Obviously, okay, it's not legal everywhere, blah, blah, blah. What are some of the stigmas of working in cannabis?

[00:21:05] Lisa: Yes. I came into cannabis because-- Frankly, I'm from Texas. The way I grew up, cannabis and cocaine or heroin were the same. I'm also not a spring chicken. At least back then, it was not good. Had you asked me three or four years ago if I would be in this industry, there's no way. As you mentioned earlier, I've been making creams and oils for quite some time now for my own purposes.

When things got legalized in California, I'd heard, "Oh, if you put some CBD in your cream, it's like Icy Hot and it soothes your muscles," and I'm super holistic. The way I was raised, my mom would always give me some leaf or herb or something to fix whatever the ailment was. I was really intrigued by what could go into my cream that would actually heal me. It's a plant and it grows in the ground. I'm like, "It can't be that bad."

That visit to the dispensary was mind-blowing for me. I spent nearly 4 hours there learning about all the ailments that cannabis can heal. Epilepsy, Parkinson's, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, so on and so forth. In that moment, my life changed, and I was coming to the end of entrepreneurship. My career has been one of an entrepreneur for quite some time and it was winding down. I knew if I was going to switch careers, I was going into cannabis and I made a hard left and here I am.

The thing I noticed that is-- when people are like, "Oh, you work for cannabis," it's like, "Tsk, tsk," for a second. What brought me here is the healing power of the plant and that it does heal sleep, anxiety, stress, pain. It's a fact. Whether or not you're attuned to it or not, it is the fact that it does that. That is something every human on the planet is dealing with in some capacity. Everyone's either stressed or has some anxiety, has something that hurts, can't sleep at night, and the power to be able to spread that is very important to me personally, but what I think people think about when they think of cannabis is someone getting high or smoking a joint in the corner, and it's like, "Oh my God, I'm not that person."

[00:23:12] Alexa: I always think of cars full of money because you guys can't use the federal banking system.

[00:23:17] Lisa: Oh, totally. Totally. Smoke in the car--

[crosstalk]

[00:23:18] Alexa: Armed guard everywhere. That's what I always think of.

[00:23:21] Lisa: Yes. It has such a--

[00:23:23] Alexa: Cheech & Chong kind of connotation.

[00:23:25] Lisa: 100%.

[00:23:25] Tyson: It is so different in Canada. Our natural is basically a marijuana leaf. [laughs]

[00:23:28] Alexa: You guys wanted to stop and legalize forever this forever ago.

[00:23:34] Lisa: Exactly.

[00:23:34] Alexa: We Americans don't like to ever admit that we're not number one, but we are definitely not number one in this category, for all kinds of silly, ridiculous reasons.

[00:23:45] Tyson: I think even though in Canada, even before it was legalized, there wasn't a lot of stigma around it, you would probably run into people [unintelligible 00:23:53] smoking weed-

[00:23:53] Alexa: Because Canadians are too nice.

[00:23:55] Tyson: -more often than you would like a cigarette.

[00:23:57] Alexa: That'd be taboo.

[00:23:59] Tyson: Well maybe that's why we are nice.

[00:24:00] Alexa: Maybe, yes. There we go. Chicken or the egg, I don't know.

[00:24:03] Tyson: We already discovered the healing power of marijuana.

[00:24:05] Lisa: Yes, It's like, "Oh, that cannabis has made everybody--" [crosstalk]

[00:24:07] Tyson: We feel good in Canada.

[00:24:08] Alexa: Figured it out. There we go. Maybe you just have to recruit from Canada more, Lisa.

[00:24:13] Lisa: That's the thing. [laughs]

[00:24:14] Alexa: Can I ask you about that, Lisa? You have a great story in terms of how you found cannabis and your own personal story and healing and that sort of thing, but do you find the folks that work at Vertosa have similar stories, or does everyone there smoke weed? Am I allowed to ask that? I don't know. I'm curious.

[00:24:32] Tyson: This is People Problems. There are no boundaries.

[00:24:35] Alexa: I've got to know.

[00:24:38] Lisa: I think there was there's only two of us that did not come from cannabis but had reasons why we came to it. Like I said, for me, it was the healing power. For her, I think it was a lot of racial and social injustices and whatnot. For the most part, every single person here strongly believes in the power of the plant. It's funny, it's always a question I ask in an interview, which I feel very comfortable asking it because I didn't come from cannabis, so there's no bias here. This is an industry where you need really strong committed people to push the purpose forward. If you don't really believe in the magic of what the plant can do, it's a long journey, and we're going straight uphill, and the ball's really heavy. You have to be able to do that, and if you aren't ready for it, then I feel like this may or may not be the right fit for you. Yes, everyone--

[00:25:30] Alexa: That brings up an interesting-- I feel like especially at a company your size in your industry, if you're not into it, why are you at a 25-person company in cannabis? It's interesting because I think there's always a couple of axes with which you can think about talent, you can think about ways to add talent to your team, which is you have the axes of industry experience, and you have the axes of skill base. "You're the best--" whatever, digital marketer in all of the United States, or whatever. That would be like, "Okay, you check the box for the skill." There are certain roles, I feel like, where it's really easy to be like, "Okay, you have the right skill, we can teach you the industry," but this may be an instance where it's almost like you have to have a belief in the industry and the mission and the skill is almost secondary.

I'm obviously not proposing that you guys take anybody who's like the bush league in terms of talent for that. It's almost like a non-starter if you're in a stigmatized industry, especially one that's as nascent and as-- not unregulated, but unexplored as cannabis is at this stage. Do you ever just blatantly screen out for that, or is it more like you just take each person with their individual experience?

[00:26:41] Lisa: Honestly, I take each person with their individual experience. I will say that most people who come to us, it's far and few between that anyone has ever come that is like, "I've never heard of cannabis," or, "I would never touch it," or, "That's so weird. Can you hire me for the digital marketing role?" That has never happened. I think there's some intrinsic-- people are seeing in our company, it's like, "I can be myself. I can do what I normally want. I can be a shade of brown. I can be from the LGBTQ+ community," all of it can be--

[00:27:10] Alexa: Drugs unite us all.

[00:27:11] Lisa: Drugs unite us all. [laughs] There you go.

[00:27:14] Tyson: I would challenge though, that I think any company can learn from that in terms of, you might have the skill, but to really be successful, you also have to align with the purpose. That's what really brings up the fields when it comes to working. It's not just about you can be the best digital marketer ever, but that you care so much about what your company is trying to achieve, and obviously, cannabis is an extreme example because cannabis comes with such a stigma, but I think any company can take a lesson out of that and saying that you have to be aligned with the purpose.

[00:27:47] Lisa: Yes, specifically-- look, I have worked where I took the job for the title or for the salary in my past. That is not enough to get you up in the morning anymore, at least not to me at this age. There has to be some purposeful connection to what you're doing, whatever it is. If you're selling toothbrushes or toilet bowl cleaners, or whatever it is, there has to be a reason why that gives you purpose.

The reality is, specific to cannabis, we have all the same jobs that any other company has. I need an accounting guy. I need a marketing person. I need a CFO and I need an executive assistant. All the jobs are there that would be in any industry. Yes, to your point, having connection to what you do every day-- because in a startup company like we are, it's not just enough to come for just a regular old job. There's a lot that happens in the day-to-day and having passion for what you do, it's very much a part of getting through the day and the workload and enjoying the people you work with and all that kind of stuff.

[00:28:49] Alexa: It's a funny story. Seven years ago, maybe a little less, I had this idea that cannabis-- Obviously, I wasn't the only person was like, "Oh, cannabis is going to be federally legalized in the States," but I bought the URL workingweed.com because I was like, "People are going to need to recruit for these highly stigmatized jobs. So I'm going to build a recruiting platform around the idea that you can work in weed because there's going to be all of these jobs that come out of nowhere." I still own-- it's just me just trying to pitch you on buying my URL, Lisa. If you want to buy workingweed.com--

[00:29:20] Tyson: You're not one of those people, are you?

[00:29:20] Alexa: If you want, I have the URL order-- Not to the extent that you might think. I do own far too many URLs.

[00:29:25] Tyson: We were just complaining about the people that took our URL.

[00:29:30] Alexa: We were just complaining about the guy who stole our Instagram handle and I wish him well.

[00:29:37] Lisa: All emerging industry URLs, you know where they are.

[00:29:40] Alexa: Yes, I'm hoarding them.

[00:29:41] Tyson: Oh, Alexa.

[00:29:42] Alexa: They're in my GoDaddy account. Anyway, I originally was like, "People are going to either be drawn to this or they're not." You're either going to be like, "I have a skill set and I'm willing to do it in an industry that either I understand or I'm willing to go to because there's going to be opportunity there." So, yes, I bought workingweed.com for $11 five years ago, and I keep renewing it because I'm like, "Someone is going to buy this from me."

[00:30:06] Lisa: $20,000, $100,000 here comes.

[00:30:08] Tyson: What would you pay for that? I need to get a market reference point here.

[00:30:12] Lisa: Priceless, priceless.

[laughter]

[00:30:14] Tyson: Lisa, with that connection to the purpose, is turnover a problem for you at Vertosa, or do you find that folks are-- Because there is that emotional connection even just from what I've heard from your story, does that result in more people sticking around and being really engaged in the work that they're doing?

[00:30:35] Lisa: Yes. That's such a good question because we're two and a half years old, or just a little over two and a half years old. The amount of one and two-year employees that we have, I always joke that I think people who go to start up are a little bit crazy, just a little bit because you keep going back for that. Aside from being self-employed, the only other places I've worked are in startups, and oh my God, that turnover in those companies. I have seen such crazy things happen and I'm like-- it sounds like [unintelligible 00:31:05]--

[00:31:04] Alexa: Pause, let's start with one of those stories. Let's double click on that, please.

[00:31:09] Tyson: We need to hear the stories.

[00:31:11] Lisa: Literally in a nine-month period, I have seen a company acquire a company and then fire the entire team in front of everyone.

[00:31:23] Tyson: Publicly?

[00:31:23] Alexa: Wait, like brought everybody into a room and was straight out of a movie, like, "You're all fired"?

[00:31:27] Lisa: No, they fired them, and they all walked out.

[00:31:29] Tyson: [unintelligible 00:31:30] getting fired.

[00:31:31] Lisa: Not quite as bad but almost.

[00:31:34] Alexa: Why are companies so bad at this stuff?

[00:31:36] Lisa: I don't know. I was hired at a company that's no longer around to run a department. I had, I think, four people underneath me. When we did the holiday party, I came back and I walked in and all my teammates or the people I was managing were sobbing and something happened. I walked in and they're like, "We let the whole team go including you," because they just-- I'm like, "You think you could have told me before you fired my employees that they're not coming to work tomorrow?" Or given us the heads-up like, "Hey, we're changing course. We're going to shut this department down. So, start--" Anything.

[00:32:16] Alexa: There are so many-- I want to say-- well, first of all, I feel for you, that's terrible, but also, I'm like, I've heard so many horror stories of stuff like this, where people just cannot get their shit together and do this well or do it humanely. They just go like, "Oh, it's hard and ugly, so I'll just like rip the band-aid off, and I'll fire everybody's sitting in the conference room at once."

[00:32:39] Tyson: No, no, I have a question. If you were to be fired, would you rather be sitting in a room full of people where everybody's getting fired at the same time and you know it wasn't something personal against you, or just a one-off meeting where it's just you and you're getting targeted for being fired?

[00:32:54] Alexa: Obviously, the former.

[00:32:57] Tyson: You'd want a one-on-one?

[00:32:58] Alexa: No, there is nothing worse than when you get-- I've never had this, but I've had people do it to employees where you get the-- like, "Hey, can we chat tomorrow at 9:30?" No context for the meeting. It's probably someone more senior than you normally talk to and you're like, "Oh, what is this meeting? Uh-oh." That's also not the awesome way to do it, but it doesn't bother me more than when they make HR sit in on a meeting. That's a different story though.

[00:33:26] Tyson: Or HR have the meeting by themselves.

[00:33:28] Alexa: Oh, yes. That's also not--

[00:33:29] Alexa: I've been that person before.

[00:33:30] Lisa: Yes. That's no good. I've also had someone tell me in an interview in front of the ballpark that when they do well or go big, I will be able to buy a nice house and they'll be able to buy the ballpark. Sadly, I took that job.

[00:33:44] Alexa: Wow that's what we call a red flag, Lisa. [chuckles]

[00:33:49] Lisa: Yes, I was young and dumb.

[00:33:51] Tyson: Was it a white male?

[00:33:53] Lisa: Surprisingly no.

[00:33:56] Alexa: I was going to say douchebags come in all shapes and sizes, Tyson. All shapes and sizes.

[00:34:01] Lisa: This one was not tall or white but was a douchebag.

[00:34:07] Alexa: There you go. Douchebaggery does not discriminate sadly.

[00:34:11] Lisa: No, it does not.

[laughter]

[00:34:13] Alexa: That's much I know to be true. Yikes.

[00:34:18] Lisa: Not good.

[00:34:18] Alexa: Not good. What other crazy shit have you seen?

[00:34:22] Lisa: Let's see. When I was relieved of my duties, I had a CEO cry in my-- She let me go and they cried at my exit.

[00:34:35] Alexa: Oh, that's--

[00:34:37] Tyson: That's the worst.

[00:34:38] Lisa: Yes, I've seen a lot of weird things. To your question earlier on turnover, the fact that we've had so many people here for one and two years, and no plan of anyone leaving, at least not that I can tell right now, I'm so humbled by that. It's pretty impressive.

[00:34:57] Alexa: What do you want for your industry in terms of hiring practices and people policies? What are the things in your industry that you either think are an opportunity because it's a new industry, or that you are most looking forward to doing as you grow?

[00:35:14] Lisa: Yes. You guys mentioned it a bit before on sharing knowledge. I think through sharing knowledge, not just on the things that we touched on earlier but general cannabis knowledge and the benefits, and normalizing it so that more people with interesting skill sets, more people with knowledge to share it with us come into the fold. They are attracted to this industry and want to be a part of it, spread their experience and expertise, and help the industry grow at large.

Being able to spread the knowledge is where I feel like we actually open up the doors to bringing in more great candidates to come in and work for the industry. Then that in the end will propel it to everyone. Leading through honesty.

[00:35:58] Alexa: Lisa just really wants a lot more people to get really high so that they come work in the industry.

[00:36:04] Lisa: It's code. It's code. I was hoping you'd read between the lines. Everyone, just get high-

[00:36:08] Alexa: Everyone just get high-

[00:36:09] Lisa: -all the time.

[00:36:10] Alexa: -and Lisa's job will get much easier and recruiting will be a stench.

[00:36:13] Lisa: Hug each other. [laughs] Yes, hug each other.

[00:36:15] Tyson: Wait, do you have a policy on that at work? Is that a thing when you work in the cannabis industry?

[00:36:20] Lisa: Well, I don't know about other companies. We do have something written in our handbook about-- Look, we have clients that come in, and tasting is a part of the process. If you're looking to make a beverage and we infuse the beverage, you want to see if it tastes this way, or that way, or whatnot. Quite often, and even with our own client samples that come in, it's like, "Did it taste good? How did it go?"

No one's sitting, going into their car, rolling up the windows, and getting high. At least no one that I've seen, and we have a small enough group where I see who's going in the cars. [chuckles] That's not happening, and no, we don't encourage that, but you know it--

[crosstalk]

[00:36:54] Alexa: Okay, so you're not hotboxing the conference rooms, but you are potentially-

[00:36:59] Lisa: There's some tasting.

[00:37:00] Alexa: -digesting.

[00:37:01] Lisa: Yes. [laughs]

[00:37:01] Tyson: Weed-tasting. Are there weed sommeliers?

[00:37:05] Lisa: Oh my God, that's a really good question.

[00:37:07] Alexa: There has to be.

[00:37:07] Lisa: I don't know. There possibly--

[00:37:09] Tyson: Is this a job?

[00:37:10] Alexa: There absolutely have to be.

[00:37:12] Lisa: Because the flavor profiles, the strains, the terpene levels, that there is probably-- I've never met one-- I would assume that is a thing.

[00:37:20] Alexa: Tyson just gave you your next best marketing campaign. You're going to create--

[00:37:24] Lisa: Is there a URL for this?

[00:37:25] Alexa: Oh, I don't know, but I'm going to buy it while we're talking.

[00:37:26] Tyson: Alexa, Lisa needs your URL. [laughs]

[00:37:29] Lisa: Get on to GoDaddy, girl. Get on to GoDaddy. [laughs]

[00:37:31] Alexa: weedsomms.com.

[00:37:37] Lisa: Sommweedy.

[00:37:37] Alexa: Yes. Sommweeds. Yes.

[00:37:42] Lisa: Sommweeds.

[00:37:42] Tyson: I feel like it could be another podcast, weed-tasting.

[laughter]

[00:37:50] Alexa: Are there any other things that people have to go through because you are in the cannabis industry, like extra requirements, or extra hiring protocols, or drug tests, or any of that stuff?

[00:37:59] Lisa: No. We have not implemented that so far. I think a lot of it-- Maybe I'm taking too much credit for our teams, just the interview process, the hiring process, and reference-checking and whatnot. I think doing anything beyond that-- because frankly, we support Last Prisoner Project, and we've hired and would hire people who have been incarcerated for cannabis crimes.

[00:38:22] Alexa: Tell us a little bit about that program for people that don't know.

[00:38:24] Lisa: Yes. We had a woman who runs actually our Instagram Live on Thursdays. She was imprisoned for cannabis crime for 87 months. She's an incredible human being. Her story gives you goosebumps. She's still with us now, like I said, running our Instagram show. Part of this industry and the craziness is that it is a legal business where people are thriving and making millions and millions of dollars and-

[00:38:56] Alexa: A bunch of people are rotting in jail.

[00:38:58] Lisa: Yes and a bunch of people are rotting in jail, you're exactly right. We want to be a part of helping those that are coming out have a place to go for a job. Hiring those people, not discriminating against them for whatever their role it was in that "crime" but having the space, time, and interest to bring those people on into our organization. Last Prisoner Project very deeply supports those people that have been wrongfully-- oh, not wrongfully, but just have been a victim of cannabis crime, and helping them to rehabilitate and come back into the workforce.

[00:39:31] Alexa: A victim of old times.

[00:39:33] Tyson: That's such a good example of actually walking the walk, though. That is a company that's actually doing something that matters and makes a difference to people.

[00:39:42] Alexa: Tyson, way to bring your non sequitur full circle. Good work.

[00:39:46] Tyson: I'm making a heart in the air for those that can't see. [laughs]

[00:39:49] Alexa: Good work, Tyson. I think that's awesome. If people want to support that cause, is that something they can donate to, can learn more about? Is that?

[00:39:57] Lisa: Yes, most definitely. lastprisonerproject.com, I think, is the official URL. There is a place to donate. There's a way to volunteer, and frankly, if anyone wanted to reach out to us, or to me specifically on making a connection the woman that is running that Instagram shows her name's Evelyn LaChappelle. She has her own foundation now called 87 months, which is how long she was incarcerated for-- Again, I can't say enough good things about her and her story and her desire to be a part of chair-changing that narrative she's an incredible human.

[00:40:30] Alexa: That's awesome. That's very cool. When did you guys introduce that as part of your mission? Was that early or was that after you guys got further along?

[00:40:36] Lisa: No, I've been here for a little over a year and a half and she was hired before I was--

[00:40:41] Alexa: Oh, awesome.

[00:40:42] Lisa: This is very much a part of who we are.

[00:40:44] Alexa: That's awesome. Yes. That's very cool.

[00:40:46] Lisa: We're a very fun and interesting bunch.

[00:40:49] Alexa: Who gets high in the conference rooms all the time. Just kidding.

[00:40:52] Lisa: Yes, with the doors closed. We'll get you high too If you want to come over.

[00:40:58] Alexa: Say no more, boo. I'm over here. Like, oh, do I have any pre-rolls left? I don't know.

[00:41:03] Lisa: Come over. You want to drink it?

[00:41:04] Alexa: [unintelligible 00:41:04] Lisa some good ones. You know what

[00:41:07] Lisa: Come on over

[00:41:07] Alexa: I was just talking about this with someone else. I have never drank it. I've never had drinkable CBD or weed or THC before. I'm assuming you guys do and CBD, right?

[00:41:19] Lisa: Yes, we do both, and beverage is less--

[00:41:22] Alexa: Easier or less easy to control than gummies because gummies will get you.

[00:41:28] Lisa: Yes. Gummies are tricky.

[00:41:29] Alexa: -based on Tyson's face, I know she can agree.

[00:41:31] Lisa: Yes. I frankly would never have had a gummy or any gummy that I've had in the past. I would not ever do it again based on my experience because it's like an hour and a half goes by and you're like, am I? No, I'm not another one. Then all of a sudden you're eating potato chips in a corner and start.

[00:41:46] Alexa: Right. Falling around on a sidewalk.

[00:41:48] Lisa: Not good. Yes, not good. If you get a fast-acting gummy, which we make literally in like 10 minutes or 15 minutes, like the onset it's there, but the beverage experience is an amazing experience. Frankly, I'm saying it humbly like we have knocked that out of the park. That it's fast-acting, it tastes delicious. You can have it in a coffee or a sparkling water or a coconut water or "wine", which is not really wine, but it's a wine that's alcohol's been removed and then it's been-- That experience is actually great.

The beverages taste amazing and the onset comes on very quickly and you can microdose it and just have two and a half milligrams. It's not like you're so high that you-- It's like having a couple glasses of wine or glass and a half of wine-

[00:42:35] Alexa: Minus the hangover.

[00:42:36] Lisa: -that's calming minus the hangover. It's a really lovely experience.

[00:42:42] Alexa: Awesome.

[00:42:43] Lisa: I recommend it.

[00:42:43] Tyson: Do you stock that in the fridges, in the office kitchen?

[00:42:46] Lisas: It's funny. When samples come in, our clients send things or drop things off, there are things in the fridge, but it's not always fully stocked, but I wish-- I need to make that happen-

[00:42:55] Alexa: Well, if anybody sends you too much-

[00:42:57] Lisa: -fully stocked

[00:42:58] Alexa: -you've now made two [unintelligible 00:42:58]

[00:42:59] Lisa: I'll call you. I see you, girl. I'm going to call you.

[00:43:03] Alexa: If anybody sends you too much, I am happily taking surplus.

[00:43:07] Lisa: Or if you're in the neighborhood, you should come by and then you can--

[00:43:11] Alexa: Where are you guys based?

[00:43:11] Lisa: I'll save some-- We're in Oakland.

[00:43:13] Alexa: All right. Well, when we're in San Francisco later this fall, I'll have to hit you up.

[00:43:17] Lisa: Yes. Well, then you definitely should come and visit.

[00:43:19] Alexa: Yes. I love it.

[00:43:20] Lisa: I was going to say something interesting about HR people and all that whole wide gamut of stuff is it's interesting how I have been having conversations recently around showing the value or the worth of people, not specific to cannabis but just in general and that to me has been a very challenging place to be because I can visually see how this department affects a company.

Aside from being a thousand-person company, you're like have metrics on retention and this, that, and the other that are so maybe more tangible on a smaller company, like to look at metrics on how HR is growing and benefiting the company. That to me has been an interesting hurdle to climb, to illustrate so that people see the value of that, whatever your industry is.

[00:44:14] Alexa: Illustrating the worth of the people function?

[00:44:15] Lisa: Yes.

[00:44:16] Alexa: Tyson, what do you think about that?

[00:44:17] Tyson: I'm over metrics. I think you're all right. Honestly, I think that people in HR get so caught up on metrics, like the example from Amazon, that they just don't know what to do with it. It's like the engagement survey. You get all these percent answers back and nobody does anything with it. I think when you have a small group of people and you can see tangible actions, like some of the things that you've already shared, it's so much more valuable than just tracking a data point that has no context behind it.

I think that there's a huge push for HR to legitimize itself by using data because people trust data points, but there's so much flaw in that. I think being able to show tangible actions and success factors, like the fact that you have folks that are working for you that are committed to the purpose and they're engaged in what they do, and they're creative is just so much more valuable. On a small scale, with a smaller company, you can see a lot of that because you probably know everyone, you know what everyone's up to there's chance to have that connection with people. In larger companies, we start leaning on metrics more, which I think dilutes the value sometimes that HR can provide, because we are using metrics in a way that's either not helpful or just actually harmful.

[00:45:39] Lisa: I think that's a very interesting point. I brought it up. You actually tied the loop [unintelligible 00:45:45]

[00:45:46] Alexa: She did it again.

[00:45:46] Lisa: Stemming from the beginning of the conversation. You had mentioned metrics and part of me is wondering like, "Well, hey, if they were monitoring it from the beginning, would they have had a better growth?" Now maybe it's like, you've overdone it at the end, and now you're tracking bathroom visits. That's insane to me. How does a company specifically when you're smaller or startup or whatnot, and as you grow and your trajectory might be maybe not Amazon, but something on the way to Amazon, how do you show the benefit in a way that's healthy?

To your point, yes, it's true. For me, it's very tangible. I can see it. I can feel it, frankly, but as you become a hundred-person company, in order to carry that same touchy, feely, warmth that we have now, but not track someone going to the bathroom, what is the right way, or what have you experienced in that realm?

[00:46:37] Alexa: Let me step back here for a second, because one of the things I find that people are always talking about is-- you're right, you're both right. This is probably the most talked-about thing I've seen in the last year. Probably because everybody got pulled away from the office. All of a sudden they're grasping at straws for ways to say what their team is doing because nobody has a very good handle on it when everybody leaves the office, although I'd argue, they don't necessarily have a good handle on it when they're in the office.

It's like, why metrics? If you go back to the stigma around this whole industry, not cannabis, but people and HR they're largely looked at as a cost center. The history of HR is like, you're just a cost center. You just ask to spend money and you don't bring any money in. That's first and foremost, incredibly broken stigma because I would argue that if you have the right people, they are directly bringing dollars in like if you have the right sales team, you have the right marketing team, and you have the right customer success team, they really are bringing in dollars or at least preserving dollars that are coming in.

First and foremost, it's like, okay, so now we have to tie this. You have to justify our jobs. Then you look at like, okay, well, it's really hard to tell if people are happy by just beating them with engagement surveys. I think engagement surveys get way overused. I also think they're full of survey bias. I think you just get the same people telling you the same things over and over again, but then you look at groups that go like, "I need to justify why this line item, which is our people, which is almost always top three most expensive line items on a P and L is this being optimized?

Are we optimizing the people we have for the functions that we need?" That is in and of itself hard to measure. That's a very lofty idea. It's like, if I could take the revenue we bring in and perfectly optimize my personnel line item to that number to make sure that it is not any higher than it should be, or maybe lower than it should be, and we're underperforming because we're, underinvesting in our team. How do you break that apart into a comfortable dashboard?

The answer is you can. You have to use some qualitative, some quantitative, and some just EQ. It's one of the reasons why I wax poetic all the time about people who get into this industry really need to be screened for EQ because if you walk into an office, you can spend less than 24 hours there and know if people are happy. You can know that, you can see it, you can feel it. If you can see it on a big level, small level. You can generally get the spidey senses pretty quickly about if people are happy. You can pick up on what they're saying. You can see how they're interacting with their managers.

People who are in this profession have to have EQ because that is the spidey sense that's going to make you dig into some of these other things. We talked about this on our first episode. We got to talk about this stuff on a managerial level. If you're expected to justify everything you're doing across every group, that's a tall order versus we've clearly got an issue retaining, I don't know weed scientists, I don't know what roles you hire for, but I'm just-- [laughs] Clearly I never got any further than just buying the URL workand weed.

We're struggling with, we can't find good scientists or we can't find good sommeliers or whatever, going to be my next URL venture. You can dig into that on a data level. You can say, how many candidates are we bringing in? What sources are they coming from? How far are they getting through the process, which people seem to be shutting down the most candidates. You can drill in on a smaller level. It is really hard to tell a story with numbers when you are across lots of functions and lots of people.

feel like that's a lot of why people just go like, "No it's retention. We'll just boil it down to retention." Your culture and the health of your personnel is a lot bigger than just your retention number, which I would argue is actually a-- [crosstalk]

[00:50:27] Tyson: You need to understand which of those metrics-- No, 100% and which of those metrics are important to you. For your company specifically, is retention meaningful? It might be because the people that you have there are committed, firmly, like it's a tight-knit group where there's a strong culture, but not every company can use retention as a good metric, because I know a lot of people that-

[00:50:50] Alexa: Amazon sure can.

[00:50:50] Tyson: -will stay with a company forever.

[laughter]

[00:50:53] Lisa: I was waiting for you to say that.[laughs]

[00:50:55] Tyson: No, but Amazon has the opposite problem, at least the people at Amazon are leaving. What a lot of people have in their companies is presenteeism where people stay and they're unhappy and they're doing nothing. Think about metrics that are more meaningful, like thinking outside the box, like, is it creativity? How do we measure that? It's not just about-

[00:51:14] Alexa: Is it new project creation? What are the characteristics of things you're trying to build a company around that matter? I'm going to venture to guess you guys are a growth-stage startup. You're trying to grow very quickly, which means retention is actually a terrible metric, because you're just going to hire too quickly to get it right. In a perfect world, if someone is not the right fit, you got to get them out of there. Being like, "Oh, we'll lose a bunch of employees," it doesn't matter. We just have to make sure we ultimately find the right ones and find them quickly.

[00:51:44] Tyson: Scaling quickly is hard, honestly. You have to be comfortable with change and you have to be comfortable with change in culture. You can't expect that the culture that you have today is going to be the same culture that you have a year from now as you double, triple, quadrible in size.

[00:52:00] Alexa: Yes, I think you got to pick a couple things at the higher level and go, "Where can I be quantitative? Where can I be qualitative? How can I tell the story on a high level?" Then only try to double click on the data when it's like, "Okay, we've identified an issue that everybody sitting around this table is circle the drain on." Like, "Let's double click on this one," versus, "Well, let me just tell you this magnificent story with all these data points that tell you exactly why everyone is so happy, and what everyone is doing with every moment of their time and--"

[00:52:30] Lisa: I have a lot of percentages to show you.

[00:52:32] Alexa: Yes, what does that tell you? Great, do you know how to divide things? Congratulations.

[laughter]

[00:52:40] Lisa: Take the top and divide it by the bottom and then you get.

[00:52:43] Alexa: Exactly. I used to have a statistics professor that would tell me like, "You can tell any story you want with statistics, you just have to pick the right ones." Which basically is a way of saying there is a number and a stat for anything you want to say. To Tyson's point, it's more about interpretation and it's more about are you focused on aligning the things you're trying to accomplish with a business, with the things that are really important to your team now that you want to remain important, and then the things that-- You're going to have to give up on some stuff as you get bigger. It's just the truth, but is it the right stuff, and are you focused where you can control things. It's definitely not easy and that's why, like I said, shout to other people ops people because it is a thankless job to tell these stories, especially as you grow.

[00:53:32] Lisa: So true.

[00:53:33] Alexa: Especially as you grow. All right, with that, I think I am going to move us to our final segment, which is people problems.

[music]

[00:53:50] Alexa: Lisa, this is a listener or a pops member question that we want to get your, and Tyson's thoughts on. No right or wrong answers. Just a peer asking peers question. This one is from Karen and she says, we're hoping to implement an HR/employee support plan that helps HR discover and fulfill employee needs, sound familiar? As well as use the feedback we've received to shape company policies and programs. What practices and programs have helped you in receiving employee feedback and strengthening the relationship between employees and HR?

I think her question is more about what have you done to basically get good feedback from people, and then what are you doing to strengthen their relationship with you? Open question.

[00:54:30] Lisa: I have an answer, I'm not sure it's the right answer. A couple months ago, I started what we call or what I call culture club. Even though that makes me think of Boy George every time I say that, maybe I'm aging myself, but whatever. It's called culture club and essentially it is a person or two from each department in our company. We sit down together and talk about the initiatives that are really important to us as a company, but other things come up similar to the question that you asked.

I'm running it so there's bonding between HR and the things that we represent. It brings in team members to discuss-- I can push my agenda forth on what I think is important to the company, but I felt at some point this only works if there's buy-in and interest from the entire company or at least a voice from the different departments. That has been a really good way for us to connect, get to know each other better, and then to get--

[crosstalk]

[00:55:21] Alexa: Sorry, just to clarify, you have people from different departments around the company sit down and basically tell the organization what they're working on and why?

[00:55:29] Lisa: Not work that they're working on as far as their workload, but initiatives that we want to jump into as a team like volunteering opportunities, mentoring opportunities, community service.

[00:55:37] Alexa: Oh, cool.

[00:55:37] Lisa: The things that are part of our value system. There's a lot of other dialogue that is around HR that populates because-

[00:55:44] Alexa: Cultural initiatives, got it. That's awesome.

[00:55:46] Lisa: Yes, cultural initiatives. It could segue into, I think, deeper conversations that are more, "HR-related" as opposed to cultural initiatives.

[00:55:55] Tyson: HR is a dirty word around here, Lisa. [whispers] It's a dirty word.

[00:55:58] Lisa: Okay, people, HR people. You know what I mean.

[00:56:01] Alexa: [unintelligible 00:56:01] the exhaustion in your voice, "The HR people." Whatever. [laughs] Tyson, thoughts?

[00:56:09] Tyson: I think that the question is asked in an interesting way. It says, "What practices and programs have helped you in receiving employee feedback and strengthening the relationship between employee and HR?" I repeat that intentionally because I think the crux of this is strengthening the relationship. I think that you don't need a survey.

You don't need any of that shit, but if you are a strong people operations, HR person, you will have strong enough relationships with the employees that you work with so that you know what the feedback is. They come to you, they share. You have regular conversations with them and they're open to sharing. I think so often because HR is such a dirty word, people are like, "I don't want to talk to that person because they're going to put it on my permanent file or make a record against me."

I think that if you're really truly effective as a people operations specialist person, whatever we want to call them, I think that you need to have strong relationships, not just with the executives, managers, leaders, but also with the employees and really have a pulse on what the hell is going on.

[00:57:12] Alexa: Not every time we are getting HR out of firing people, but I digress. [laughs]

[00:57:16] Tyson: Honestly, as an HR person, I feel like I have to be there when people are getting fired because I want to make sure that they feel good, they feel supported because unfortunately, it's hard to trust leadership with a lot of those decisions. I would fear that like this-- I have created strong relationships with people and I want to make sure that they feel as though they're being treated like humans and that goes to receiving feedback or anything.

I don't know. I just think that the strengthening relationship and making sure if you're HR at a company that you're actually seen as a human and you are there when they're having fun social events. You're integrated in the client business group that you're working with and that you're not just someone that's showing up to the termination meeting.

[00:58:05] Alexa: That's why I love your culture club, Lisa. I hope people can take something away from that as an idea because one of the things I have often seen as I've worked in different companies and startups and sometimes been the de facto head of people because we didn't have one yet.

Which is a different story is that there often is a disconnect between, not even policies and procedures, but more so just decisions the business is making and people who are especially younger to the company or younger in career just don't have the context for why those decisions are being made. If you can be the voice that's like, "Look, I understand why this is unpopular, but I need you guys to understand from a business perspective why we made this decision and what we considered in making the decision."

I find that you create a very different relationship with people where they trust that they may not always like the decisions that get made, but at least they will be informed as to why they were made. When they are informed as to why they are made, assuming you're a company that took your team into account as you considered various things, they're very rarely going to feel like it's you versus them. You're never going to create this relationship that's--

Everyone on this podcast knows the sound of a disgruntled employee. You can pick it up. You can smell it from a mile away. That happens because people start to drift away from an understanding of collective motion forward because they haven't created a relationship where it's like--Not only does Lisa sit everybody down, whatever twice a month or however often you do it, and say, "Here's initiatives we're into and why and supported by other executives and parts of the organization." Also, like, "These are the things we want to do and why. We are considering these 10 things. We ultimately decided on these two for these reasons."

If you just are like, "We're doing these two things and I'm implementing it tomorrow." Then, you lose a lose a lot of the magic of teaching people around the process and letting them go like, "Okay, at least I know you're thinking about it," right? At least I know and appreciate that you didn't make the perfect decision for me but I'm not the only person here. You made this decision for X, Y, and Z reason. I so often find that people teams forget the why, and often because they are being told by an executive like, "Don't tell people this. Don't be so transparent." I think that's such a miscarriage of policy justice [chuckles] to not walk people through it.

[01:00:29] Lisa: I loved what Tyson said about humanizing this department, right? Instead of it being that department that's in the corner that only comes out when something catastrophic, or bad, or ugly happens but if we're integrated into the actual development or if the thought process like, "I'm part of the whole team." and, "I'm part of making things sing." I joke about being the camp counselor here like Dear Abby and then I have people telling me stuff. I'm like, "Well, I'm surprised you told me that, but thank you for sharing."

[crosstalk]

[01:00:57] Alexa: That means you have set yourself up in a good place, right?

[01:01:00] Lisa: Yes, and so as we grow, I hope that our people/HR whatever that is, stays in a very approachable manner as opposed to it being the dirty little secret in the corner somewhere.

[01:01:11] Alexa: Well, you just hot-box your office and invite people in.

[laugher]

[01:01:16] Tyson: I think of when there's a huge win I had this amazing experience because usually HR when good stuff is happening, you just start hanging out in the background and you're doing all the good stuff in the background but then the leader gets to show up and do the big announcement and they get to take ownership of all the hard work that HR put into something in. I think how I know that I was successful in building those strong, trusting relationships with employee and HR was that even in a situation like that where the leader owned the final communication of really great, positive news, I had employees come and thank me because they knew that somewhere behind that I was involved.

[crosstalk]

[01:01:54] Tyson: Again, being close to them and understanding what their concerns are and acting on it. Don't just ask for sake of asking. You actually have to do something with the feedback, right? That's another thing I love. Lisa, your example. It sounds like work that the culture club is putting out is actually relevant not only to the company but to the interests of people, right? It's actually solving for something, it's not just, again, going back to that, "checking the box" exercise, which so many times engagement surveys end up being.

[01:02:27] Lisa: Yes.

[01:02:28] Alexa: Well, engagements surveys.

[01:02:30] Tyson: I'm so anti-engagement survey it's not even funny. [laughs]

[01:02:34] Alexa: I love it. All right, Lisa, any parting words or things you want to impart on the world before we wrap it up here?

[01:02:40] Lisa: Well, I wanted to say thank you for having me. This has been amazing. Lovely chatting with you both, today. I feel like those who get to do what we get to do are really lucky human beings.

[01:02:50] Alexa: I like that.

[01:02:51] Lisa: I'll leave it at that.

[01:02:52] Alexa: Awesome, thanks for being here.

[01:02:54] Tyson: Thank you.

[01:02:55] Lisa: Thank you for having me.

[01:02:55] Tyson: Thank you so much for being here and trusting us. [laughs]

[01:02:58] Alexa: And sending us samples.

[laughter]

[01:03:01] Lisa: In the mail, in the mail. Except for--

[laughter]

[01:03:04] Alexa: Yes, can you even send via Federal Post? I don't know, anyway.

[01:03:06] Lisa: Well, I was going to say [unintelligible 01:03:07] but I'm like, "It's Cali, so." [chuckles] I can drop off, okay. I can't put it in the mail but I can drop it off.

[01:03:13] Alexa: Just put it inside-

[01:03:14] Lisa: Not to Canada, though.

[01:03:14] Alexa: -a cereal box or something.

[laughter]

[01:03:17] Lisa: Nope.

[01:03:18] Tyson: Smuggle it in. [chuckles]

[01:03:20] Lisa: I'll drive it over the bridge.

[01:03:21] Alexa: We're an HR podcast that just breaks the rules.

[01:03:23] Tyson: Just throw it.

[01:03:25] Alexa: Breaking all the rules.

[01:03:26] Tyson: [chuckles] We can't even cross the border.

[01:03:28] Lisa: Yes.

[laughter]

[01:03:29] Alexa: All right, ladies. That's a wrap. [music] This episode was executive produced by me, Alexa Baggio with audio production by Elle Brigida of Clear Harmonies. Our intro music was also done by the wonderful, Elle Brigida of Clear Harmonies. You can find more information about us and future episodes at peopleproblemspod.com or follow us at

[01:03:45] [END OF AUDIO]


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