Workplace MVP: Erika Lance, Chief Human Resources Officer, KnowBe4
Recently named 2021 OnCon HR Professional of the Year, Erika Lane, Chief Human Resources Officer for KnowBe4, joined host Jamie Gassmann to discuss her career journey and share her experiences and ideas on hiring the right person for the job and the culture, holding the hiring individuals responsible for the quality and fit of that hire, and how KnowBe4 retains and supports their “Knowsters.” Erika also explains KnowBe4 initiatives like Project Restart, for workers stuck in careers they don’t enjoy, and Project New Start, for veterans and first responders who are changing careers. Workplace MVP is underwritten and presented by R3 Continuum and produced by the Minneapolis-St.Paul Studio of Business RadioX®.
KnowBe4, the provider of the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, is used by more than 35,000 organizations around the globe. Founded by IT and data security specialist Stu Sjouwerman, KnowBe4 helps organizations address the human element of security by raising awareness about ransomware, CEO fraud and other social engineering tactics through a new-school approach to awareness training on security.
Kevin Mitnick, an internationally recognized cybersecurity specialist and KnowBe4’s Chief Hacking Officer, helped design the KnowBe4 training based on his well-documented social engineering tactics. Tens of thousands of organizations rely on KnowBe4 to mobilize their end users as the last line of defense.
Forrester Research has named KnowBe4 a Leader in the 2020 Forrester Wave for Security Awareness and Training Solutions. KnowBe4 received the highest scores possible in 17 of the 23 evaluation criteria, including learner content and go-to-market approach.
The KnowBe4 platform is user-friendly and intuitive. It was built to scale for busy IT pros that have 16 other fires to put out. Our goal was to design the most powerful, yet easy-to-use platform available.
Customers of all sizes can get the KnowBe4 platform deployed into production twice as fast as our competitors. Their Customer Success team gets you going in no time, without the need for consulting hours.
They are proud of the fact that more than 50% of their team are women, where the average in cybersecurity is just 20% of employees.
Erika Lance, Chief Human Resources Officer, KnowBe4
With over 25 years of experience and prestigious awards such as the 2021 OnCon HR Professional of the Year Award and the 2018 Tampa Bay Business Journal’s People First Award, Lance is a distinguished leader in the Human Resources field. She has been promoted to chief human resources officer at KnowBe4 where she is responsible for leading the global HR team and developing new initiatives for recruiting, retention, company culture and diversity. Under her leadership throughout the last few years, the People Operations team has grown from 10 team members to over 50 team members in 11 countries across six continents. Lance is most well known for her radical transparency and her people-centric approach to Human Resources.
The OnCon Icon Awards recognize the top HR professionals and HR vendors in the entire world. Finalists were voted on by peers to determine the winners. Voting on finalists was open to the public and was based on the following criteria:
- Made a considerable impact on their organization and/or previous organizations.
- Made strong contributions to their professional community through thought leadership.
- Innovate in their role/career.
- Exhibit exceptional leadership.
“As HR leaders we’ve dealt with a lot of changes this year, and I’m sure there are still more to come,” said Lance. “The fact that we’re talking about and awarding the successes from this year just shows that we’re doing something right. We all adjusted to working from home. We all had to get used to this new way of life and hopefully we’ve all figured out ways to keep our employees happy, healthy and engaged while working remotely.”
Lance was recognized for spearheading new employee initiatives during COVID-19 pandemic to keep energy and morale high. Her leadership has directly positively influenced KnowBe4 and its employees.
R3 Continuum is a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. R3c helps ensure the psychological and physical safety of organizations and their people in today’s ever-changing and often unpredictable world. Through their continuum of tailored solutions, including evaluations, crisis response, executive optimization, protective services, and more, they help organizations maintain and cultivate a workplace of wellbeing so that their people can thrive. Learn more about R3c at www.r3c.com.
About Workplace MVP
Every day, around the world, organizations of all sizes face disruptive events and situations. Within those workplaces are everyday heroes in human resources, risk management, security, business continuity, and the C-suite. They don’t call themselves heroes though. On the contrary, they simply show up every day, laboring for the well-being of employees in their care, readying the workplace for and planning responses to disruption. This show, Workplace MVP, confers on these heroes the designation they deserve, Workplace MVP (Most Valuable Professionals), and gives them the forum to tell their story. As you hear their experiences, you will learn first-hand, real life approaches to readying the workplace, responses to crisis situations, and overcoming challenges of disruption. Visit our show archive here.
Workplace MVP Host Jamie Gassmann
In addition to serving as the host to the Workplace MVP podcast, Jamie Gassmann is the Director of Marketing at R3 Continuum (R3c). Collectively, she has more than fourteen years of marketing experience. Across her tenure, she has experience working in and with various industries including banking, real estate, retail, crisis management, insurance, business continuity, and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications with special interest in Advertising and Public Relations and a Master of Business Administration from Paseka School of Business, Minnesota State University
Intro: [00:00:03] Broadcasting from the Business RadioX Studios, it’s time for Workplace MVP. Workplace MVP is brought to you by R3 Continuum, a global leader in workplace behavioral health, crisis, and security solutions. Now, here’s your host, Jamie Gassmann.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:24] Hi, everyone. Your host, Jamie Gassmann, here and welcome to this episode of Workplace MVP. So, picture this, you have an open position, you’ve crafted what you believe to be the best written job description you could possibly write, and you’re now navigating the various candidates who have applied. As you comb through the numerous resumes, looking at the talent pool options who have expressed interest in your position, you identify some standout candidates that on paper seem to have most of the skills and experience you are seeking. The interview is scheduled and it’s time to meet the candidate in person.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:02] But how do you ensure you are asking the right questions to truly gauge if they are a cultural fit within, not just your organization, but the team they will be working with? Also, they may not have 100 percent of the skills and experience you are seeking. How much of the job description are you willing to accept as enough? Or which of the skills and experience are non-negotiables, they have to have them? These are questions that leaders likely face every time they venture into the hiring process. How can they create an approach to hiring or promoting within that not only ensures they make better hiring decisions, but that they are setting the employee and the organization up for a better chance at success.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:46] With us today to share her approaches that have delivered proven results to her organization is award winning Workplace MVP Erika Lance, Chief Human Resources Officer for KnowBe4. Welcome to the show, Erika.
Erika Lance: [00:02:00] Wow. Thank you for having me. That was an amazing intro. I appreciate it.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:02:05] And congratulations to you on your recent promotion to Chief Human Resources Officer. What an incredible honor. And I really like to have you walk me through your career journey and tell us a little bit about how you got to this role.
Erika Lance: [00:02:18] Well, I have a very interesting career journey. I will say it actually goes back to when I was very young. I’m not going to mention my age because of my fabulousness. But when I was younger, I had a job working in administration at a stock brokerage firm, and I had helped come through a couple resumes with them with no training. I do tell people this story that I actually got my GED. I didn’t finish high school. I just start working for my family when I was about 14 years old and didn’t go to college for this. So, I had an administrative job and did that.
Erika Lance: [00:02:54] So, when I was looking for my next job, I put on there that I did some recruitment. And that next job saw that and they’re like, “Oh, you know how to do hiring? You know how to do H.R.?” And, of course, I was like, “Yeah. Absolutely. I did all of those things,” which I had not. So, it was a little bit of trial by fire to do that. But I’m a firm believer that you can take on any challenge you want if you’re willing to do the learning and the research necessary to do that.
Erika Lance: [00:03:22] So, I’ve had a very interesting career that has then taken me from that moment of, maybe, overstating my resume a little bit to where I am today, which has been very, very fortunate. And I consider kind of an exception to the rule, generally, when you have that kind of background. But I was fortunate that they believed me and that I was able to rapidly compensate for that lack of knowledge to be able to move forward.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:03:51] It’s very impressive. And in addition to the promotion, you recently were awarded the 2021 OnCon HR Professional of the Year Award. So, tell me a little bit about receiving that honor.
Erika Lance: [00:04:02] That was super exciting. Why it was most exciting to me is, it’s voted on. People have to vote for you. Obviously, any award is voted on. But I mean, it’s not like a committee vote. Like, people sign in and vote for you. So, when I got nominated, I was super excited, so I let my Knowsters – that’s what we call our KnowBe4 employees – know that I was nominated, if they felt like they wanted to put in a vote. And then, I posted it on LinkedIn and also on Facebook.
Erika Lance: [00:04:35] And when it came time, they asked for us to have some speeches ready and I’m like, “Why are they asking me to have a speech ready?” So, I had a speech ready. And then, I went in there, like, they’re going through the categories, and I kept thinking I missed my name because they were listing a lot of people. And no, no, I received it. And, to me, it was just such an honor because it was voted on by people for me. And so, they think that I’m good enough to receive that award, which is really the difference you want to make as an H.R. person, is, you want to have that impact on employees, whether it’s current employees or former employees.
Erika Lance: [00:05:16] And a lot of the messages I got on LinkedIn and stuff when I had posted it was like, “I voted. You’re fantastic. Thank you for everything.” And there are people I don’t work with anymore, like they were at previous jobs and they were saying that. And as an H.R. professional, that’s the impact you want to have, is that, you’ve made enough of a difference in people’s lives. That something like this comes up and they’re like, “Absolutely. I’m putting your name in.” So, that was wonderful to me.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:05:43] Very amazing and validating that taking on that role so many years ago has really paid off and kind of created this incredible journey and opened doors and opportunities for you. That’s fantastic.
Erika Lance: [00:05:54] Absolutely.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:05:56] So, now, since you’ve been at KnowBe4, you’ve really grown your H.R. team quite a bit. And how have you supported your employees as you’ve gone through that growth? Because, obviously, growing departments and that change that can take place can kind of sometimes create challenging environments or challenging times. So, talk me through a little bit about how you navigated that.
Erika Lance: [00:06:21] Absolutely. One of the things that I’m a firm believer in is you have to build people to what they want to do when they decide what they want to be when they grow up again. Everybody talks about decide what you want to be when you grow up. I think we get to decide that a hundred times in our lives. We get to keep changing what we want to be when we grow up again.
Erika Lance: [00:06:41] And so, when I bring on people to the team – and I know we’re going to talk a little bit about this culture adds – is I find people that have backgrounds that can add to what the team already has, but really, really make sure my team is getting trained and certified, any mentoring or coaching that they need, so that I can grow people to grow up within the team. Because the institutional knowledge your team members get is so vital that they can just help with that.
Intro: [00:07:15] And I’ve been growing in 11 different countries, so we’re a global group. But that, along with radical honesty and radical transparency and making it super safe for employees to communicate. And when there are problems, if you make it safe for employees to communicate, they tell the problems instead of hoping nobody finds the problem. Which, unfortunately, some companies foster that, that you can’t put your arm up and say, “Hey, I created this problem and sometimes I don’t know how to solve it.” Because if they do that, they could get fired or something like that versus realizing everybody’s going to make mistakes. So, I really foster that environment.
Erika Lance: [00:07:59] And a lot of the people that worked for me, not only at KnowBe4, but in other jobs have been promoted up. And some have moved into other areas of the company to be successful there. I had one gentleman who moved from our employee relations and he’s now in our HRIS area because he loved the technology, love that, had all the H.R. experience. That worked out for me because, now, the person is working on our HRIS and IT knows H.R. instead of just an I.T. person who doesn’t know H.R. So, that’s what I do, is, I grow people because I want them to continue to expand and move up. But, yeah, we started with around eight, I think, and now I have over 60 in three-and-a-half years.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:08:46] That’s incredible growth. That’s a lot of hiring. And I’m going to touch on kind of your hiring process and kind of the approach that you use, but quick question on creating that culture of allowing people to own when they’ve made a mistake or create a problem. How do you approach that? How do you create that environment with your individuals? Do you do that by being transparent when you yourself make an error? Or is it through conversations you have with them to create that comfort level? How do you go about that?
Erika Lance: [00:09:24] Well, first of all, anything like that has to start at the very top of the organization. I’m very, very fortunate that Stu Sjouwerman, who’s the CEO of KnowBe4 and who I report to, does the same thing. If he makes a mistake, we have a morning meeting every morning with all employees, and he’ll own up right on the morning meeting if something happened and then it wasn’t correct. And we use the term extreme ownership.
Erika Lance: [00:09:50] We have a reading list of books for our company, and there’s one called Extreme Ownership that was written by two Navy SEALs. Amazing. And it talks about just taking ownership. If you’re over an area, you never throw your employees under the bus even if a mistake is made. It’s your area, you’re responsible for it. So, any mistake made beneath you, you have to own that mistake and resolve it correctly. So, we say extreme ownership there.
Erika Lance: [00:10:18] And the book, Powerful, by Patty McCord talks about radical honesty and radical transparency in your workplace. And so, we tell people that we start with that when they’re onboarding. We have a whole onboarding process that has a Welcome to KnowBe4. It used to be in-person. Obviously, COVID changed things. But we have a video now of all of us that they met in person giving our little tidbits of advice on things.
Erika Lance: [00:10:45] And I find the employees are waiting for another shoe to drop when they start at KnowBe4, because you say, “We have this. It’s safe. You can talk.” And their immediate thing is, “I’m not saying a word. I’m not going to say anything.” Because you’re so used to people going, “Oh, yeah. We have an open door.” But then, there’s another open door behind the person, and you go right out the open door, and you don’t have a job anymore. So, we show them by the actions that we take that it’s safe. We let it come up. We let it come up naturally.
Erika Lance: [00:11:16] Even if something happens and you go, “Hey, did this happen?” And they’re maybe a little skittish and going, “Yeah. But -” and they try to explain that. I always tell, “Stop. Stop defending. Just explain what happened. Okay. Cool. Do you have a solution for it or do you want some advice?” And then, the first time it happens, they aren’t fired and they aren’t on a disciplinary warning for something silly. Because we’re all going to make mistakes. I make mistakes. I started with, “Hi. I have a ton of major experience. I know what mistakes are.” But you have to be willing to go, “Okay. That happened. Let’s see if we can prevent it from happening again.” If it’s the same mistake over and over, that’s a different situation. But, you know, it’s Jurassic Park, we’ve got to make all new mistakes.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:02] Yeah. Absolutely. You learn from them is kind of some of the advice I give to my employees who are afraid to make that mistake. So, looking at your hiring practices, you have some best practice approaches that you use in navigating that process that helps you, especially within this level of expansion that you had. Can you share those with our listeners?
Erika Lance: [00:12:27] No. They’re top secret. Nobody can know anything. Just kidding. Of course. I believe in sharing knowledge. It’s a huge thing for me, because the more we share successful things in H.R., the more we can help each other expand an organization. So, how it works at KnowBe4 before is, we have, obviously, our expansion team, which are our recruiters. So, I’ll say the term recruiter, even though we call it something different, just so that everybody understands. And we also have the hiring managers.
Erika Lance: [00:12:53] The biggest thing is we created training for hiring managers that explain what their duties, what their role is in this. And one of the key components for both the recruiters and the hiring manager is that – I stated it and this is my firm belief – both of those people are 100 percent responsible for the human that they hire. So, if they hire them and something goes wrong or is off, we do a lot of look backs to go, “Was there something we missed in the hiring process? Was there something we missed in the onboarding? Was there something we missed in training? Like, how do we avoid not having that situation happen?” Obviously, if somebody had a family emergency and their mom was terribly sick and they had to leave, there’s no look back. Like, you can’t know that the mom was going to get sick. We’re not quite to that stage of Jedi mind powers yet.
Erika Lance: [00:13:44] But we could say that, if something goes wrong and the employee doesn’t work out, both of these guys are 100 percent responsible and they should be defending their choice to hire this. So, if either one of them don’t feel like this person is a good fit, they’re allowed to say no during the process. Either side, both the hiring manager and the recruiter, are both allowed to do that.
Erika Lance: [00:14:07] We also firmly believe in using – I call it – Spidey senses, because Spider-Man talks about it when his hair stands up on him. But if you get a gut feeling during the interview process, either in a positive way or a negative way, you can utilize that because sometimes that’s all you get. You can’t exactly pinpoint what the problem is, but you know there’s something wrong. The agreement is we stop the process and you just have to go, “I don’t feel like they’re the right candidate.” And it’s okay, we don’t have to justify the reason they don’t feel like it’s the right candidate.
Erika Lance: [00:14:41] But we go through a series of things, like, for a lot of the positions. First of all, we do not let our ATS filter for us. I think ATSs, which is Applicant Tracking System, is filtering your prospects based on 25 key words or phrases. You lose the humans in that. You completely lose the humans because a lot of people don’t know you have to write your resume to that. Or they go in and they write their resume to that, but they still might not be a qualified candidate. They just figured out the the glitch in the ATS matrix, so to speak.
Erika Lance: [00:15:17] So, we have them reviewed. We have sample questions – that’s usually the first step – about their experience in that particular kind of role to ask back. They have a phone interview with the recruiter to see how how they answer a series of questions and how the recruiter feels about them. And then, the recruiter will move them on to the hiring manager. And the next would be, potentially, a series of tests depending on the role. Like, our developers do a whiteboard test on some development skills just to see.
Erika Lance: [00:15:51] Because, obviously, resumes can say anything. I mean that evident by my resume previously. They can say anything, it’s just what is the actual experience that that person has. And maybe they’re not even saying enough about their experience on the resume because we’re not the greatest at teaching people how to write resumes in the world. I know there’s classes and people who write them for you, but this is an art form that isn’t always done correctly.
Erika Lance: [00:16:18] But they get a chance to do that, do a face-to-face, depending on the level of the employee. They might do a few more if they’re an executive and stuff. But we have key questions around being a manager. We have some trick questions about being a manager and stuff. But it allows the person to go through the process. And we also talk a lot about what the company culture is like.
Erika Lance: [00:16:41] One of the things at KnowBe4, for instance, is Halloween is a really big deal. Like, everybody almost dresses up for Halloween. We dress up areas. Like, this is a huge deal. So, we ask every applicant what their favorite Halloween costume is or what do they think of Halloween and stuff like that. And if somebody is like, “Oh, my gosh. It’s the worst holiday in the world. I think it’s so dumb, blah, blah, blah.” Regardless of anything else, they are probably not going to be a fit for KnowBe4. For them as well, because we do so many things that are like that, that are inspired by things and are fun and party like.
Erika Lance: [00:17:20] We used to do quarterly mingles before COVID, and we had a bowl, and a rock climb. Like, do you want to participate in these things if you seem to want to be very conservative or something? Maybe you won’t be a great fit for that or that team if that team is really playful. And I think it’s both the company and what is the culture of that team like? What do they like to do? We all have different managers. Some are, like, the very Care Bears kind of managers. And some are the very, like, let’s do a team sport kind of managers. And will they fit in with that as well?
Erika Lance: [00:18:00] So, I think you have to find people that our culture adds and culture fits, but you have to be very good at telling them this is what it’s actually like. Every one of our interviews, too, is, we’ll explain what the day-to-day is like for the person instead of very generalities. And the worst question I think you can say to an employee is, “We move really fast here. This is a fast-paced environment,” without defining what that means. Because if they go, “Oh, yeah, no. I’m really good in fast-paced environments.” And, say, you want them to do data entry and you go, “Well, you have to enter 200 files a day.” And to them, fast-paced is 50 files a day, you’re not going to have a fit for an employee. But you’re not going to know that because you didn’t ask them what that means, like what is it actually like.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:18:49] So, you’re kind of touching on it a little bit, that cultural fit. Can you define for the audience what you mean by that? Like, when you’re in that hiring process, what is culture fit?
Erika Lance: [00:19:03] For us, cultural fit is somebody who is looking for more than just a job. They’re looking for a place that they can grow and expand in, that they can be their own self in. And that they want to be a part of the team. And that’s a key part, does a person really want to be part of the team? Because all of our activity center are around a team.
Erika Lance: [00:19:30] Another thing is, we have metrics for every single position within the company. We do metrics on it, so we keep numbers. Are they fine with that? Are they fine with having the numbers thing? Are they fine with a very open work environment? Meaning, we have an open floor plan. Obviously, COVID, a lot of people have worked from home. But we have an open floor plan, are they comfortable with that? Are they comfortable with being held to a certain standard? Or how do they feel about, like, the fun part of the atmosphere? How do they feel about some of the activities? We do a ton of team building activities, whether it’s on a small team itself or on the larger sector area division of it.
Erika Lance: [00:20:17] And then, just kind of finding out where they feel they fit from a job standpoint or career standpoint within a company. Are they just there to punch a clock? They’re not going to be a very good Knowster. And some people can want to do that and it’s totally fine, but they’re not going to do well because the teams going to want to rally the teamness and they’re going to want to stand out, which can create in individuation for them.
Erika Lance: [00:20:43] And even if they don’t want the team thing, then the rest of the team goes, “Why does this person not want to be on the team?” And it can create a weirdness. And you avoid that by defining what that team is like and what are the fun things that you do and what is expected. And you’re expected to learn a lot. We’re constantly learning. We’re constantly reading books. Like, how do you feel about that sort of thing? Because if you’re going to be upset every time a new training course comes out, well, you’re not going to be a good cultural fit. This is going to be very stressful for you when these things come up. We have to do these courses.
Erika Lance: [00:21:20] “There’s another book to read? Waah.” Well, it sounds silly. I mentioned two books already. We have a reading list of about 20 books that are recommended. Not everybody has to read them, but some team do. Like, there’s a book called Never Split the Difference that was written by an FBI negotiator. And that’s something our sales team has to read. Well, if you’re like, “No, I hate reading. I’m not going to read.” You may have a problem when we have these books. So, it’s little things like that that can create great divides between areas.
Erika Lance: [00:21:57] And sales, we have goals every month. And you have to want to play that game of getting that goal. We have lots of fun things around that. But if you’re not into that, you’re going to not be a cultural fit or a cultural add.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:22:08] I love that you guys have very defined kind of cultural nuances that are important to the overall success of the organization. So, for other organizations, is there a way that they can train or empower their leaders to understand their own culture to be able to leverage cultural fit when they’re doing their interview process? If you were going to give recommendation for that, what would you give?
Erika Lance: [00:22:37] I would say get it defined from the top of the organization what the culture needs to be. Then, secondarily, train every single person in an executive or management capacity on what that is and how you do that. Meaning, if you have a process, like we have a process where our managers are responsible for their humans. H.R. does not do disciplinary actions. We assist and guide on how a warning needs to be written or said just because there are so many nuances, as we all know in H.R., about what is right versus what is correct for an area to be in.
Erika Lance: [00:23:15] But we have the managers for the discipline. They’re fully responsible. They get all the good and the bad with the people. But they have to understand how the overall management philosophy, aka culture, needs to run. How do we all agree and define those cultural points and then make sure everyone is adhering to them?
Erika Lance: [00:23:37] Like, we have a policy called Say It To Your Face. If you have a problem with somebody, you don’t get to go complain to somebody else. You have to say it to them. Now, if you don’t feel comfortable, you can ask for assistance to do that. But we really hold our employees responsible. We’re adults. And it’s very different, obviously, if you’re being sexually harassed or something like that, please report that correctly. But if somebody just said something to you the wrong way or sent an email that seemed snarky, go over to them and go, “Hey, Bob. Listen, I got your email and I don’t know if you’re upset or what, but can we talk about whatever this is?” If you don’t do that, it creates separation.
Erika Lance: [00:24:18] So, that’s like a philosophy we have. So, every manager, if somebody comes and goes, “I’m really mad. Sally said blah to me.” They’ll go, “Okay. Did you say it to Sally’s face?” That will come out of every single manager’s mouth because that’s how we operate. And if they don’t have the strength to do it themselves, we go, “If you want some help, we can help you. But if you just choose not to do it, then that’s on you.”
Erika Lance: [00:24:43] I think a lot of organizations have forgotten somehow that all of the people that work for them, besides when they’re certain, are adults. They’re adults and you should treat them like adults, but they should be responsible for themselves. And H.R. shouldn’t be this really scary thing that has to come thundering in to solve all these problems that can be solved with open communication. And so, we started at the top and then we filtered it all the way down through our training and everything, so that’s all the case. And it’s defined for the employees what’s expected. And if you treat them all the same way, you get sort of a lot.
Erika Lance: [00:25:20] I’m going to use the analogy of a beehive. If something tries to go into a beehive that will mess up the beehive, the rest of the bees will solve that problem. So, it’s not H.R. or manager that has to solve the problem. Because if somebody goes to somebody else and goes, “Sally said blah, blah, blah to me today.” They’ll go, “Well, did you tell it to her?” Because they know that that’s the Say It To Your Face mentality that the whole company has. So, you get less problems.
Erika Lance: [00:25:46] We have less than a one percent situation rate with employees at our company, which, to me, is unheard of to have that. A lot of companies have up to a 20 percent issue rate, whether it’s investigations or disciplinary actions and stuff like that. And I think it’s because they’re not putting the responsibility from the top of the organization down that everybody’s operating with a set of defined guidelines – not rules. People don’t like rules – and guidelines as to how the company is to operate. So, they can get in trouble even unknowingly because stuff can fester.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:26:23] Absolutely. Especially when you’ve got those conflicts that aren’t resolved directly with the parties that are involved in those conflicts. So, in looking at, you know, gauging somebody as a culture fit, why is that so important? You’ve kind of touched on this a little bit, but diving into it a little bit deeper, you know, what can happen to an organization when they aren’t hiring somebody who is a fit to that company? Productivity wise or financially, what might be some of the things that they may be experiencing now as challenges that they need to think about?
Erika Lance: [00:27:04] Well, I think the more a positions open, the more desperate a hiring manager or a manager of that area gets. I make the joke sometimes, it gets to the point where they’re like, “Can you breathe on a mirror? Okay. You’re qualified. Let’s go. Let’s do it. We just don’t want zombies.” The problem with that is that, if you bring somebody in to the company that is not a fit for the company, not a fit for that team, they’re not going to work out. So, depending on how long it takes us all to come to this realization or the great “I told you so they’re not going to work out,” you’re losing money. You’re not getting the correct fit for that position. So, you’re losing money with every second that person’s on the team.
Erika Lance: [00:27:45] Then, when they leave, with all the institutional knowledge or effort you put into them, you’ve literally just lost potentially tens of thousands to millions, depending on the position. Like, you take somebody who’s an enterprise level salesperson for your organization bringing in millions of dollars. And you’ve had that open and they’ve established relationships with consumers that somebody has to start again from scratch to do. That’s potentially millions of dollars out the door because you did not make sure that person was a fit for the team. Because a person who is not a fit for the team will eventually not want to be there.
Erika Lance: [00:28:23] They can also cause problems if there are personality conflicts. Because certain personalities – and not everybody has to be the same. This isn’t a lemming thing – will not work well with other personalities. It is just hello, human nature. And we all have that in even our family lives. As much as we all love family, there are certain family members that you’re like, “Do not sit next to Joe and talk about politics because it will end badly.” So, if you don’t find those personalities that it will go well and have the right view of how work should be, then, eventually, they won’t be there anymore. They won’t be happy.
Erika Lance: [00:29:08] You have to hope they do not create a huge problem on their way out in the form of investigations or whatever. Because if somebody feels slighted – and we’re talking a little bit about this earlier when we were talking about the conflicts with people – the moment somebody has a conflict with somebody or think somebody is bad, they put on a different color glasses and they’re not rose colored in the nice pretty way. They are different. Every communication then received by that person is in that vein.
Erika Lance: [00:29:34] So, even if it’s not intended to be snarky or mean or whatever they think, they’re going to be defensive and think it’s there and a problem can build and build and build. And if it builds in a certain way and the manager doesn’t realize what’s happening and all of this stuff, then you could potentially have a lawsuit on your hands because nobody knew that this cultural fit problem was occurring. And the person ends up saying they felt harassed or singled out or whatever. And by default they were because they weren’t part of the team to begin with.
Erika Lance: [00:30:11] So, it is so important that you have that piece, but that that piece is so defined for your organization. But you have to sort of put the rules. We have a policy we have in our handbook, which is the Welcome to KnowBe4. It was written by Stu on his whole, like, how KnowBe4 came into being, this is what it is. And then, I wrote one called The Common Sense Guide to KnowBe4. Like, here are the little things that you need to know to be a Knowster at KnowBe4 and to get you out of trouble. Those are the first steps to how to agree with things.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:30:45] Great. Great information. So, in talking about, like, they get desperate for hiring, as you’re probably aware, that some industries right now are really having difficulty in hiring employees for various types of roles, you know, trying to get that right level of experience, maybe that right of level of education based around how they’ve crafted that job description for who they feel is the ideal candidate. Are there things that they maybe should be looking at or considering maybe changing in that job description that might open up possibilities for a different channel of candidates or a different level of candidates that maybe they hadn’t originally thought would be the right fit, but maybe opens up opportunity for them to expand that candidate pool?
Erika Lance: [00:31:37] Yes. I feel a lot of times people write job descriptions like they write perfect dating apps, where you’re looking for this perfect person and they need to be X tall, and this built, and this kind of career, and you have chiseled jaw, and dark hair, and blue eyes. And like you’re writing a job description as if you’re looking for a unicorn. And fantastic for all the humans out there that write a job description or a dating profile and get that unicorn to show up.
Erika Lance: [00:32:06] But the problem is, you have candidates out there that are looking at this job description and go, “I don’t qualify.” Well, do you actually need all those things? Because if you don’t need the level of education, there are a lot of people that have experience that don’t have the education. And no offense to everybody who went to school, but sometimes those people are better than the people that have the education because they’ve been there, they’ve done it, and they have all the t-shirts from doing it. So, if you limit your pool to where you’re looking for only Pegasus’ and unicorns or whatever, dragons and unicorns – I can make a lot of fantasy analogies – if you’re only looking for that, then you’re going to have a hard time finding the person.
Erika Lance: [00:32:53] Also, you need to go look at hiring managers. You need to go on LinkedIn. You need to go out there and go to the different – like, there’s a lot of, for instance, developer meetups or salespeople meetups. There’s all these meet ups in the communities, H.R. meetups. Like, if you’re an H.R. professional, trust me, you can find eight million meet ups to go to, to be the H.R. professional. But you need to go as the hiring manager and find some people and look for your own humans. You know what you’re looking for, so go look for them as well. But you got to lower your expectations, not for what you genuinely need, but go what would lead to a good candidate.
Erika Lance: [00:33:32] And I’ll give an example. I have hired several people into H.R. that have done retail management experience. They’re not H.R. professionals at all. But guess what? When you do retail, like all of us who have been lucky enough to also do fast food and stuff, you get a level of patience and understanding with the weirdest things that can happen. And in your retail, especially if you’re a retail store manager – which they escalate a lot of people interior to the retail store managers – you have had experience dealing with pretty much anything an employee can do and come up with – you know what I mean? – to be a part of it. So, do you want to be an H.R.? Do you want to train? Because you’ve got the experience of being calm, cool, collective in dealing with some of the stuff that comes up from an employee relations standpoint.
Erika Lance: [00:34:24] It’s been wildly successful for me to have that because I was willing to go, “Let me look beyond what I’m looking for, for that person who does good customer relations, who does customer service.” What are other professions that do that where the person maybe didn’t have the chance, but you have this much experience dealing with customers. Are they a good fit? And here’s the thing, too, is you help somebody advance and change their career path. They are going to be some of the most loyal employees you ever have because of what the company has done for them to help them out. And it’s the right view. So, if you can take something different, do that.
Erika Lance: [00:35:09] And go look, part of your responsibility as an executive or manager is to go find your own people. Go find them, meet them, get them to apply, get them in the door because you’ll meet them and see if they’re qualified. You get to do a pre-screening with them.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:35:24] Right. Kind of looking for those transferable skills, maybe not necessarily the experience background, but experience around areas that could be applicable in that role. Very interesting.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:35:37] So, real quick, we’re going to just get a word from our sponsor. Workplace MVP is sponsored by R3 Continuum. R3 Continuum is a global leader in providing expert, reliable, responsive, and tailored behavioral health, crisis, and security solutions to promote workplace wellbeing and performance in the face of an ever changing and often unpredictable world. Learn more about how R3 Continuum can tailor a solution for your organization’s unique challenges by visiting r3c.com today.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:36:09] So, you had mentioned in a previous conversation that employers need to also look within the organization that there may be employees with strong institutional knowledge who might be afraid to speak up about movements and career advancement. So, what kind of tips or advice would you give to leaders to help them in identifying employees that are probably sitting there waiting to be asked to move up or waiting to be asked about their career and maybe aren’t quite as confident to bring that up in a conversation. What advice would you give?
Erika Lance: [00:36:44] I think it’s very important for managers to have one-on-ones around what the career path for the employees that are working for them is and what they want to do. And make it very safe that maybe they want to do something in another part of the organization. Another thing is, we have a dedicated career team. Team employee gets to interact with them. They get to meet the career person on onboarding. We have the career person has an entire part of our intranet that they talk about things. They have different seminars. They have also gotten with every leader and mapped out the career tracks for the person and where they end up needing to go and stuff like that.
Erika Lance: [00:37:22] So, like, what steps do they need to take? What knowledge base do they need to have in order to move up into roles? And we have a tuition reimbursement and a certification policy where we help pay for the certifications that the employees need. And we have training courses so they can train. And we believe employees should have about five hours a week to train, whether it’s on their own position or other things. And they can train so they can be ready to move into maybe the junior role in that area they want to move into. Or we have manager training. So, maybe they weren’t a manager before, but they want to move up into leadership, here’s a manager training and this is how you do it.
Erika Lance: [00:38:01] I think that we promote from within between 20 and 30 percent every year of people. We do that because those are Knowsters – that’s what we call them – that want to be a part of something bigger and help the organization. And because of all the knowledge they have, they just bring that to the next area. Like, my story in the beginning about the person who moved from my employee relations over to I.T, they took all that H.R. and KnowBe4 knowledge, so when it comes up to why does H.R. need this program this way? We don’t have to go through a back and forth. He is just going to go, “They need a program this way because A, B, and C, this is what they do with it.” That’s invaluable.
Erika Lance: [00:38:45] But guess what? I couldn’t hire that because nobody has done the H.R. in my H.R. area to know the answer to that question. And that happens over and over again. Plus, that loyalty thing, if you bring somebody up within your ranks of your organization, they know there’s a loyalty. Gone are the days where people are staying at companies to get the gold watch and the retirement fund and stuff like that. I say that all the time to younger people and they have no idea what I’m talking about when I say the gold watch thing, but it’s very funny to me. It was in the movie Speed. That’s gone.
Erika Lance: [00:39:20] We don’t have that anymore where people want to stay to retire at a company. If they want to continue to grow, they’re going to leave and then potentially leave and then apply back at your company. And they’re going to come back at a much higher rate and whatever, where you could have had them this whole time growing them up into that thing. It always makes me sad when I see somebody leave a company for another job that you have within the company. You’re just not willing to give them a shot and they’re super successful. It’s silly to me to lose that talent.
Erika Lance: [00:39:52] So, I think you have to remember to put those things in because every person who walks out the door, if you only even just lose their annual salary, that’s tens of thousands of dollars that walk out the door. Just pay somebody to help get them to a higher spot within your organization.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:40:11] Yeah. I imagine this approach that you’re describing about helping them with that career growth. It impacts retention in a very positive way within an organization. Well, in even just knowing that the support that you’re providing, even if they just want to have education but maybe are comfortable where they’re at, I can imagine that also can create some retention benefits, too.
Erika Lance: [00:40:38] Oh, absolutely. Yeah. You have to want to have those people be there, and it shows the employees. And then, they refer their friends that are very qualified. Like, they talk about it. How do you get a great place to work? Like, all the awards and everything like that, we’ve gotten a ton of awards. And I really love that we’ve gotten a ton of awards. But it’s because our employees were surveyed and they love working for us. We don’t get those awards just because anybody believes that. You can’t nominate yourself and somebody just look and go, “Oh, KnowBe4 is cool. We’re going to give them an award.” It’s based 100 percent on what your employees are saying and thinking about you. That’s how you create that part of the culture and that they want to work there. And then, you’re a best place to work and then you get more employees that want to work there.
Erika Lance: [00:41:29] You’re talking about earlier recruitment things, well, how about creating an environment that is so amazing that people are beating down the door to be a part of your company. That helps solve some of the recruitment things, not all of them. Trust me, there are still unicorns you got to find out there. But it makes a huge difference.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:41:49] Definitely. And so, you mentioned the advantages in creating a foundation that feeds future success of the organization. I think you’re probably touching on it a little bit. But can you share about how that works within the organization? And I think maybe you’ve already touched on that a little bit. But if there’s anything additional that you can provide around that foundation that you’ve created.
Erika Lance: [00:42:17] I think it’s, again, creating the foundation from the top. The very top of the organization has to have the same belief and understanding that the rest does. And then, define it and promote it, and promote it constantly. And constantly remind employees about the different parts. You can do word walls, you can do meetings, however you do that, letters from the CEO. I know at some points having an all company meeting is out of the question. You have one hundred thousand employees, you probably will have a hard time doing that. But you have it filtered through the managers. You make it so it’s scalable. But you keep it going and you do not change it. You enhance it.
Erika Lance: [00:43:02] Don’t change the rules on the employees unless you’re giving them a benefit. Because if you make it harder to do something, you’re going to lose some of that feeling that the company is on their side during the process. And, remember, it’s a team activity. I don’t care if you’re at the very top of an organization, you’re built on every single person that works for you and every single thing they’re doing.
Erika Lance: [00:43:28] I worked at a company previously that had a huge mailroom. And it was a document processing company for mortgages. And people would say derogatory things about the mail room. And I was like, “Hey, so the documents don’t go in or out of this organization without the mailroom doing their job correctly and on time. We don’t meet any deadlines without this part of the organization. So, before you berate or think less of this part of the organization, it doesn’t matter how many files you produce, if they don’t ship them, it means absolutely nothing.” And it was very eye opening when that actually got circulated what each of the areas do that contribute to the overall product.
Erika Lance: [00:44:19] And that’s true even in a company that, say, makes computers. If the place isn’t shipping them out correctly and the mailroom doesn’t want to do their job or they don’t care, well, it doesn’t work out. I mean, look, in the airline field, when all the mechanics go on strike, for instance, guess what? There is not a single plane flying because the pilots aren’t going to fly a plane that the mechanics haven’t done. Or if the baggage handlers say they’re not participating anymore, they’re going on strike. A baggage handler will stop the entire airline thing from going. It stops all flights from happening. And you can go, “Well, they just move the luggage around.” Well, guess what? Your plane is not taking off now because they just move the luggage around. So, it starts from the top, but has to filter to the bottom. And everybody has to understand that.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:45:07] I love that. Everybody plays a vital role. It might be a different role, but they are definitely key to the overall success of that organization.
Erika Lance: [00:45:15] Exactly.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:45:16] So, you mentioned in a previous conversation and I just wanted to share, it was just such a creative approach that for the diversity and inclusion, you have a program that you utilize where you are providing or creating opportunities for individuals. Where, maybe on paper they may not have the experience or the skills that are needed for the job. But through this program, you provide them with education and training that builds on those skills and experience. I think you mentioned something with kind of like a smart start or like a restart. Can you talk a little bit about that structure? Because I just thought it was so innovative and a great way to identify candidates that maybe would, typically, get overlooked or maybe not considered for a role.
Erika Lance: [00:46:04] Absolutely. So, I worked a lot with local high schools, helping with some of their career committees and stuff like that. And I found that a lot of times people coming out of high school, especially in underrepresented communities, they don’t always have an option. It’s not always an option to go to college. It’s not free. There’s not an option. And some don’t have the availability to do it. And they have to just start working. It’s the the snake eating its own tail. You want somebody to come into the area, but they can’t come into the area unless they have experience, but they can’t get experience until they’re let into the area.
Erika Lance: [00:46:44] And so, if you don’t go, “Okay. Wait. We have to break this cycle. This doesn’t work.” So, we have three programs that we’re doing, but the first one was called Jumpstart. And we’re taking kids that have either graduated from high school or gotten their GED that want to move into a technical type role but have no experience. And we didn’t expect them to have any work experience at all. Instead, we got references from teachers or volunteer groups they worked with or potentially religious leaders that they had that they maybe did some work with, that’s where we got our references.
Erika Lance: [00:47:23] And we’re starting from the beginning. It was supposed to be a program of six, we had seven because our recorder got very excited and hired more than six. But we were like, “Okay. Let’s do this.” So, they’re all doing really, really well. So, that’s our first program, where we’re bringing them in. They’re coming in at a slightly lower salary than our tier one tech support because we’re seeing if they can move up to that. But at the end of the program, which is within six months, is, they get to apply for one of our tech support positions. And they will get paid what our tier one tech support get paid, because we believe in pay banding for a position, not the person.
Erika Lance: [00:47:57] And the other thing they get is, if they stay with the program, we’re giving them a two year degree. They can get an AA or an AS. And we partnered with our local college to get that to happen. And it can be in whatever they want to be when they grow up. But we want to give them the opportunity to expand their life.
Erika Lance: [00:48:15] Similarly, we had a bunch of people that applied for this program that we’re doing things like trucking all their life or cashier or something. And I went, “We should have a project Restart,” which is people who have been stuck in careers that they don’t love, but they’ve just been stuck there because they don’t look like they can do anything else. And we’re going to bring them in similarly and move them through the system to give them a different type of career path if they want to. And that’s going to be in our technical area, our customer success area, or our sales area.
Erika Lance: [00:48:45] And we’re doing a project New Start, which is for people coming out of the military or first responders. Because the military – my daughter is a combat medic. She’s very fortunate. She got her degree in health care and a bachelor’s in science. But her husband, for instance, was an MP and he came out and he could go be a police officer or work in security. That’s all they trained him to do. They have friends that work in artillery. They can fire bombs and stuff like that, which is not a transferable skill, generally – unless you’re an action movie star – to the real life.
Erika Lance: [00:49:21] So, it’s an opportunity for them to, again, come into the workforce because they have valuable skills. They have a lot of stuff that they can present. They show that they can get education and they can meet with work requirements, but they walk out and go, “Okay. What do I do next?” And we feel that this is how you are able to increase diversity in your organization.
Erika Lance: [00:49:45] Because if you’re like, “I’m okay. I’ll hire a diverse college graduate,” that, unfortunately and very sadly, is not the biggest pool of diverse candidates that you’re going to get. It’s terrible that I can say that. I don’t like having to say that, but it’s true. So, we need to open it up and companies need to go, “How do I grow my talent? And how do I grow my diverse talent to move up within the organization?” Because you cannot effectively make a change in an organization unless you’re willing to go, “Where does the problem begin?”
Erika Lance: [00:50:21] And we’re also doing a lot of education initiatives in schools and partnering with schools, so that kids growing up know that there are alternative options to being a doctor, or a lawyer, or a nurse, or whatever you’re taught in school. Like, “Hi. This is cybersecurity. This is a whole field. Here are the options. This is what you can do to get into that field. Here are the steps.” Kind of like we talked about with the career path, give kids the steps so they know what to do. Because if you only go, “Well, you can go to college.” Well, if they can’t, you know, “Okay. What’s option B? Is there an option B for them?”
Jamie Gassmann: [00:51:01] Or go to college and not really quite know what to major in, and maybe get a degree in something that, when you get done, isn’t really what you want to do, which you see that happen too.
Erika Lance: [00:51:12] A lot. And a lot of people get degrees and things, that doesn’t mean you’re going to get hired. That’s a double edged sword. I had a lot of people that work for me in data entry that had business degrees and architect degrees and stuff. Because what do you do? Just because you have a business degree doesn’t mean you know how to do business stuff. Unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily translate.
Erika Lance: [00:51:37] Some degrees are luckier, like medical. Like, you go to business school, they don’t have a practical application set like you do when you go to medical school. They make you go do the things they’re teaching you. But business doesn’t do that. They’re like, “Here’s the thing. You’ve learned the things. Now, go. Fly. Be a bird.” And, you know, there’s a lot of falling out of the nest kind of situations that happen there.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:52:03] Definitely. So, thanks for sharing that about that program, because it just sounds like such a great innovative way of kind of thinking about the hiring process from a different perspective. And taking a different approach to getting potentially some long standing employees that can grow within your organization based on just being given that opportunity.
Erika Lance: [00:52:23] Absolutely.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:52:24] So, if you were going to give one piece of advice or piece of information that you want the listeners to be left with today, what would that be?
Erika Lance: [00:52:35] I think my main piece of advice I like to tell anybody is, you need to take ten steps back and actually look at every situation from a panoramic view. Because if you’re stuck in it and you can’t really see out of it, you’re never going to find the right solution to it. And you need to encourage others to take steps back, really look at the situation, and look at how you solve it. Not on an immediate basis, but how you come up with a long term scalable solution for the problem. And you have to be willing to put the effort in to make whatever that solution you come up with occur. And that’s part of being in H.R. It’s part of being a manager. It’s part of being anything.
Erika Lance: [00:53:22] Like the Jumpstart program we talked about, for example, we had to dedicate resources to make that happen. Well then, you need to do that, and be willing to do that, and be willing to put the effort into the one side for the positivity on the other. But I think if you don’t take steps back from a situation and look at what the best results will be, and the best result for six months, a year, five years from now, you do yourself an injustice by trying to do a quick solve to a situation or saying it absolutely has to be this way or else, because very little in life has to be absolutely to a solid.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:54:01] Great advice. So, you’ve shared a lot of great information. If our listeners wanted to connect with you further, what would be the best way that you would want them to connect with you?
Erika Lance: [00:54:08] LinkedIn is a great way to connect with me. I respond to my things. Please link with me. I won’t say put a friend request, but that’s not right. Different app. But do link with me on LinkedIn, Erika Lance, E-R-I-K-A L-A-N-C-E. And I’m at KnowBe4, and you’ll see that in my profile. So, please feel free to connect with me. I love helping people. So, if you have questions or need advice on anything or want to share something successful you guys have done out there, please do that. Because I think we all learn from each other. I didn’t just think of all this stuff. A lot of it is stuff over years of seeing people do things has caused me to be able to go, “Oh, that’s how you do that correctly.”
Jamie Gassmann: [00:54:53] That’s wonderful advice and exactly why we have you on the show today, because that’s what Workplace MVP is all about, is showcasing Workplace MVPs like yourself and the great work that you do. And thank you so much for being a part of our show and letting us celebrate you and your successes that you’ve had, for sharing your stories, and all of your great advice with our listeners. We really do appreciate you. And I’m sure your organization does as well, as well as your staff. So, thank you. Thank you.
Erika Lance: [00:55:21] Thank you.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:55:21] And we also want to thank our show sponsor, R3 Continuum, for supporting the Workplace MVP podcast. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in. If you have not already done so, make sure to subscribe so you get our most recent episodes and other resources. You can also follow our show on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter at Workplace MVP. If you are a workplace MVP or know someone who is, we want to know. Email us at email@example.com. Thank you all for joining us and have a great rest of your day.