Employee Experience and Winning the War for Talent with Nick Mailey

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On today’s podcast, we have the opportunity to speak with Intuit HR executive Nick Mailey. He shares with us his insights on building not only a brand, but a “work brand.” How do work brands influence the types and levels of talent that an organization can attract?

Why is that so important in today’s world of talent deficits? Nick expresses a need for a culture and a mission that’s meaningful to future employees—and a data-driven plan to make these future hires aware of these important facets of a business. Nick’s expertise highlights what new and existing companies can do to facilitate an engaged, loyal workforce with high mobility.

Show Highlights

  • 1:00 How do you create an environment that makes workers want not only to join the company but also to stay? How does storytelling play a role in this?
  • 6:30 “Powering Prosperity” How has Nick Mailey used research in the workplace to understand how well people recognize Intuit? How is this relevant to the brand and, more relevantly, employment brands? Why is it important to have a purpose and a more mission-driven focus?
  • 9:30 How do you expose potential employees to what working for a company would entail? How do you convey the experience and culture? How does the data support the methods Nick shares?
  • 17:30 How much are “Follow-Me-Homes” part of Intuit culture? How is this a testament to the power of stories? How does this story build a higher degree of commitment to the cause of powering prospering? What percentage of Intuit employees don’t know that story?
  • 27:00 How does Intuit bring a candidate into the company after having exposure to the brand and its mission? What is the interview process like? How was it developed? How does Nick coach candidates through this process to help them get ready?
  • 36:00 How does Nick leverage leaders and their stories within Intuit? What is the purpose of a “talent magnet?”
  • 40:00 What is the importance of highlighting the challenges in a story, especially for leaders? How do the twists and turns of a story humanize leadership?

Guest Information

Nick Mailey is an HR executive who leads Talent Acquisition at Intuit, a Most Admired Software Company that also ranks among Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. A passionate talent executive with over 20 years of experience leading recruiting teams in Silicon Valley, Nick is enthusiastic about driving business results by attracting awesome talent.

Nick’s expertise is in developing creative recruiting strategies, assessment methodologies and innovating recruiting solutions. He focuses on cultivating highly engaged teams.  He encourages his team to develop creative and innovative solutions to solve problems.

Nick received his Bachelor’s degree from Temple University and his Master’s degree in Organizational Development from the University of San Francisco.  He’s been recognized by HRO magazine as an HR Superstar and one of the Top Talent Acquisition Leaders in Industry today.

You can find more information about Nick on Linkedin:


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Blue Jean Presence: Commanding the Room from a Bean Bag Chair

Today is the day. You’ve got your first meeting with your new team, and your manager has asked you to share your perspectives on what you’ve observed as some strengths and weaknesses of the team’s processes. And to make it even better, the meeting is being led by the Chief Technology Officer. It’s only been a week on the job but you’re getting to meet her and share your impressions on how the team can improve.

This is the best job ever! You grab a quick cup of coffee at the company café, lace up your Allbirds and head off to the meeting. You’re the first one there so you pop in your AirPods and browse Amazon for a few minutes to see what you might want to buy with your first new paycheck. People slowly trickle in and you nod to Karen and Zack, who work on your sales engineering sub-team.

As the meeting starts, you kinda zone-out a bit. This meeting is on your calendar for a full hour and your manager is walking the CTO through a coding error that caused a product delay last month. Your manager let you know this morning that he’d introduce you towards the end of the meeting, so you’ve got some time. You get a text and check your phone as the meeting drags on. Your friend Tony wants to try the new microbrewery after you get off work. Sounds like fun!

All of sudden your manager is introducing you and asking you to share what you’ve thought about the team’s coding process. You get ready to speak when you notice the CTO has a hard look on her face. She gives you a dismissive glance and then proceeds to answer emails while you walk through the observations you prepared for the team. You just started speaking… you don’t understand what went wrong!

After the meeting your manager pulls you aside to let you know that you didn’t exactly show up well in the meeting. Defensive, you immediately look down at your jeans and t-shirt and start to worry that maybe you didn’t dress the part. The CTO was wearing a suit…maybe you were supposed to as well?

Dress codes fluctuate between cultures. The truth is, how you come across to your co-workers goes far beyond tucking in your shirt or choosing slacks over blue jeans. While your wardrobe choices can make a statement in and of themselves, the reality is that clothing only highlights the Presence you carry with you into a meeting or convey across the shared-desk space to your co-workers.

In order to attract and retain talent, top companies have almost made job perks cliché. Free Starbucks coffee, beer on tap with foosball and ping pong tables in the break room, and colorful, creative shared workspaces across the building complete with bean bag chairs, nature wallpaper motifs, and maybe even a slide or two. Yet, one of the most common gaps we see young professionals make in company cultures that promote a relaxed corporate environment, is that being comfortable in your workspace does not change how others experience you and take you in.

Let’s go back to the team meeting with the CTO. When your manager gave you feedback that you did not show up well in the meeting, you immediately thought he meant how you dressed. And that’s a pretty typical response. Many of us have grown up having to “put on our Sunday best” or been told to “dress for success.” But the reality was that CTO never had a problem with your dress code. She had a problem with the signals you were sending to her and the rest of the team throughout the meeting. It wasn’t your blue jeans, it was that you were checked out during the meeting.

And that’s a real problem workplaces face as they seek to make employees feel more comfortable and relaxed in their workflow. The mantras of “do it on your own schedule,” “take as much PTO as you need,” or “bring the dog to work,” so long as you get the job done, are great! But what can often get lost in the use of these new amenities is that, yes this meeting is taking place in bean bag chairs, but that doesn’t mean the expectations of being present and being engaged have changed.

Regardless of your wardrobe, the signals you send in meetings, whether you’re the center of attention or a participant in the far-off corners of a jam-packed room, matter and the impressions they give to your co-workers, managers, and senior leaders can stick around longer than you might think. That CTO doesn’t come to your team’s weekly meeting very often. It might be another three months before she sees you again. So, for the next three months she’ll remember you as the newbie who was more interested in plans with Tony than their new team…if she remembers you at all.

Presence is a funny thing. So often we hear people think about it as something that only matters once you reach a certain level in your career or only if you’re constantly presenting in front of a large audience. But the truth is that each of us has a Presence we put forth regardless of if we’re in a three-piece suit or a faded polo. You can command a room just as easily from a bean bag chair as you can from across a mahogany board room table. And while that may seem unlikely, it’s easier than you might think.

Keep in mind how powerful the impression the CTO formed in our example was. You may not always be the most important person in the room, or even have a defined speaking role in a meeting. But when it’s time to solicit buy-in, report out on an initiative, or lead a small team meeting, being present and being engaged goes a long way. Even if you don’t say a single word in a meeting, if you’re an active participant in your body language, your attention, and your energy…it will be remembered!

The more comfortable and independent we become in our work settings, it can be tempting to think that grey concepts like our Presence or how we come across to our colleagues don’t matter as much as they used to. But it’s actually quite the opposite. With teams working at different hours, working remotely, and colleagues moving around more frequently than ever before, our windows for connecting and influencing across an organization are smaller. And this means the impressions you make today just might pay dividends down the road.

If you’re interested in learning more about our take on Presence and Personal Brand, check out our Open Programs.

How to Take an Idea from Conception to Startup with Christian Ries

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On today’s episode, we’re chatting with first-time entrepreneur Christian Ries about storytelling, professional entrepreneurship, and pitching to investors. Christian can attribute much of his success to his growing storytelling abilities and customer-focused approach. Learn about his techniques and evolution as he tells us his story today, from the very first thought that sparked JonnyOnIt.

Show Highlights

  • 2:00 How did Christian come up with the name JonnyOnIt? What’s his background?
  • 5:00 How has the business done so far? How has putting the customer first impacted that? How does Christian see himself compared to serial entrepreneurs and how much does he need to learn?
  • 7:00 Is there more to successful startups than the big three—great dea, funding, and ability to tell a story? How important is it to articulate your message well? How hard is it to work with investor audiences? Should you expect particularly difficult questions when telling your stories?
  • 10:00 How did the concept of having perspective from actual realtors impact investors? Why is it so important to show investors more than just a good product? Why do you need to first understand your customer?
  • 12:30 Why should you look forward in an investor pitch more than tell them what you’ve done already? How should new startup founders limit explaining their track records?
  • 14:00 Should you tell the same story to investors as customers? Should you focus on everybody?
  • 17:00 How has Christian’s story changed over time? How did it progress from “how” to its current, engaging form?
  • 24:00 Stories that are remembered and repeated are the most powerful. What is Christian’s experience with this regarding investors, large audience speeches, and other entrepreneurial events?
  • 29:30 What’s ahead for 2019? Who is involved in Christian’s team?

Guest Information

An established entrepreneur and proven leader in the sales and technology industry, Christian Ries does what he says he’s going to do. In just under a year, he has not only founded and grown his home services business—JonnyOnIt—but has expanded it and has continued plans to increase its geographic footprint in 2019 and beyond.

JonnyOnIt is a mobile app that instantly connects homeowners (in real time) to hundreds of home service providers, like electricians and plumbers, saving both parties time and money.

Driven by original thought, interpersonal skills, and technology orientation, and with an extensive background in marketing, sales, and project management, Christian possesses a unique talent for integrated marketing and brand voice development. He devises strategic initiatives, builds efficient and cohesive teams, and inspires progress using a modern, hands-off leadership style.

You can find more information about Christian on Linkedin:


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STUCK IN THE MIDDLE: The Tug on Product

A few years ago, we were asked to work with a product marketing team to strengthen stories and case studies that they were using to illustrate the impact of their products.

As we began our homework to learn the value their products delivered to customers, we quickly discovered we were learning more about the features of their products than their value to end users. And after a few more conversations, we saw the gap we were really solving for. Sales teams weren’t using the product materials provided; the leader hoped that we would help product marketing position stories to make the products more compelling. And, we did.

But along the way, we got curious about why the marketing materials were so feature focused. And that’s when we realized that the marketing group was really a product group. And, they were getting their insights from the product developers. They were positioning features because that’s how engineers talked about value, and they were missing the customer value and outcomes.

It’s a pattern that we’ve seen repeated in many companies since then.

Product teams often find themselves in the role of the middleman. They’re a step away from customers as they work with sales teams and a step away from deliverables as they work with engineers. Somehow, they’ve become the “go to” group to answer for everything.

And, that’s challenging. Sales gets frustrated because product causes delays. Engineers get frustrated because product causes changes.

Product managers spend most of their time with engineers who are building to a road map. But they experience most of the friction with the sales team. And while friction isn’t easy to navigate, the product group needs the sales group. They are the voice of the customer and provide the best insights and perspective on customer outcomes.

But what makes sales teams great at customer insights can also make them tough as the internal customer. They sign product up for a lot of things that aren’t doable. Sales doesn’t always understand the implications of what they’ve agreed to with a customer, so they commit time without a deep understanding of trade-offs. Or, they pull the product team onto customer calls so that product can personally commit to the request and the timeline.

And, many product managers do commit. Because, after all, their salespeople are good at selling. They can get you to buy into the need and the customer promise with ease. Next thing you know, the product manager has a “to do” list that’s longer than a child’s holiday wish list and about as likely to be delivered on.

And, that’s when product gets caught in the middle.

Because the next conversation is with the engineering and technology teams. And, they want to talk about that growing list of requests. Engineers call out the amount of time required, the misalignment with the overall roadmap and the conflict with bigger initiatives and priorities. Sometimes, the engineering teams refuse to take more on. And, now the product manager will have to go back to sales and communicate the delay. The tug of war begins.

And, that’s how product gets stuck in the middle.

It’s not an easy role to navigate, but it is a manageable one. And as we’ve continued to work with product teams, there are a few rules of engagement that we’ve coached them to consider…

Recognize the Gap

Sales and technology will never think alike. They are opposite ends of the spectrum. And, they don’t have to think alike if they have product in the middle. But they do have to value the perspectives of each other, and that’s the communication role that product can play. Get both perspectives into every conversation. When you’re talking to sales, make sure the conversation moves to HOW we’ll do things. When you’re talking to technology, make sure the conversation begins with the WHAT and WHY for the customer.

Clarify the Outcomes

Sales is a good friend to your customers. But they don’t always challenge the request. We see many technology groups backing off customization in order to deliver speed. Challenge the sales team to understand the outcome and the impact to a customer. Sometimes what they’ve been asked to do won’t deliver as much as a customer may think.

Identify the Trade-offs

The customer is king, but they don’t always rule the whole court. See above the details and call the tough questions. Technology is right about trade-offs. On the roadmap of development and delivery, when one thing moves ahead something else falls behind. Sales doesn’t always participate in this part of the conversation. Keep them in the loop and give them a better understanding of what is falling behind.

Solve Together

Product should have the megaphone in the tug of war. You have to win together and that comes from solving together. Think through the options and then give both groups the sound bites that help explain a delay to a customer or a change order to an engineering team.

Communicate Often

Product managers have become communication managers. And, it’s going to take repetition to keep everyone on the same page. The discrepancy between sales and technology is what needs to be done and the best way to get there. Once they agree, solidify the agreement with consistent communication and help them share it with stories and examples.

When product teams strengthen their role in the middle, companies see tremendous benefit from clarity of thoughts and alignment of priorities. If we can help your product team manage the role in the middle, we’d love to share some of our learnings with you.

Call us when you need us.