Episode 11

The Importance of Creating a People-First Company

Today we have Shawna Stewart on the podcast, VP of People and Operations at Railz Financial. Shawna is truly a people-focused leader, she has extensive background in psychology and organizational behaviour and experience involving performance management, full scope operational effectiveness, succession planning, employee engagement and talent development.

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It's this trend of quiet, quitting, right? Like, you know, do the bare minimum and, and, you know, keep your job, but you're not as engaged. You're just kind of like, I'm fed up, I'm tired, I'm burnt out. You know, I'm, I'm pouring all of myself into this organization and I'm not getting back what I, what I think I deserve or what I do deserve. Right? And then, um, you know, I can still get by with just doing a little bit less, right? Mm-hmm. I talked about the concept of having a, a soft life versus a hard life, right? You were like, I don't wanna have a hard life anymore. I'm tired of having a hard life. Let's move on. Let's have a soft life, right? And so I think for the people leaders, they're like perplexed. Like, why all of a sudden, what is this about? Right? And it's, you know, remnants of, of the pandemic remnants of, uh, you know, the great resignation. Not everybody was as brave to quit their jobs, um, in the, in, you know, during that, that wave that's still ongoing. So I think, you know, it's trying to understand like, what, what do we do wrong? You know, what do we need to do that's different?

In this episode

I’m so excited for you to listen to her episode because this one was packed with incredible insights, the common realities of today’s labour landscape and more. Not to mention Shawna shares her personal people-first approach and how that has helped her abililty to deliver and collaboratively support her employees and together elevate organizations.

Time Stamps

2:49 Rewards and Recognition

8:10 Investing in Retention

13:18 Soft Life vs. Hard Life

16:57 Quiet Quitting

19:42 Giving People a Reason to Care

22:06 Shawna's Journey

26:57 Deciding What Culture to Create

28:35 Creating An Inclusive Culture and Employee Lifetime Value

31:52 Learnings and Mistakes

35:52 Encouraging Feedback

41:17 Building and Scaling Teams in Uncertain Times

48:41 Trade-offs of a People First Organization

Shawna Stewart

VP of People & Operations, at Railz Financial

Guest Bio

Highly innovative and results-driven, Shawna Stewart is an accredited people-focused leader who possesses the fundamental skills and expertise necessary to help organizations achieve new levels of scalability and cultural advancement. As the VP of People and Operations at Railz Financial., Shawna brings to the table an extensive background involving performance management, full scope operational effectiveness, succession planning, employee engagement and talent development. Building on her background in psychology and organizational behavior, Shawna mixes her passion, grit and creativity to foster an employee experience that is inclusive, supportive and purposeful. Her people-first approach has helped her build a strong reputation in demonstrating that by delivering pragmatic, collaborative support she can effectively translate business priorities into executable strategies that lead to profitable, team bolstering outcomes.


Shawna (00:00):

It's this trend of quiet, quitting, right? Like, you know, do the bare minimum and, and, you know, keep your job, but you're not as engaged. You're just kind of like, I'm fed up, I'm tired, I'm burnt out. You know, I'm, I'm pouring all of myself into this organization and I'm not getting back what I, what I think I deserve or what I do deserve. Right? And then,   you know, I can still get by with just doing a little bit less, right? Mm-hmm. I talked about the concept of having a, a soft life versus a hard life, right? You were like, I don't wanna have a hard life anymore. I'm tired of having a hard life. Let's move on. Let's have a soft life, right? And so I think for the people leaders, they're like perplex    ed. Like, why all of a sudden, what is this about? Right? And it's, you know, remnants of, of the pandemic remnants of,   you know, the great resignation. Not everybody was as brave to quit their jobs,   in the, in, you know, during that, that wave that's still ongoing. So I think, you know, it's trying to understand like, what, what do we do wrong? You know, what do we need to do that's different?

Fahd (01:06):

Hello and welcome to the Unicorn Leadership Podcast. My name is Fahd Alhattab. I am your host. And this podcast is where we interview leaders, where we interview VPs of talent or people and culture on their journey of building high performing team, their journey of being an effective manager and effective leader. And more specifically in this episode, importance of creating a People first company. Our goal is to bring you the insights, the stories, the tools, the systems on how you can bring these ideas to your team, how you can create high performance team, and how you can avoid making the mistakes that many of our guests have, and that we have. This podcast is brought to you by Unicorn Labs, where we help transform managers into leaders that create high performing teams that help companies scale. And you can check us out at unicornlabs.ca. Today we have Shawna Stewart on the podcast.

She's the VP of People and Operations at Rails Financial. And Shawna is truly a people focused leader. Shawna has extensive background in psychology and organizational behavior and experience involving performance management, full scope, operational effectiveness, and succession planning, employee engagement, and talent development. I'm really excited for all of you to listen to her episode and this, this interview, cuz it's, it's packed full of incredible insights. And the common reality is of today's labor landscape,  and more. And, and Shawna shares her personal people first approach and how that's helped her ability to deliver and collaborate with her employees. We go everywhere from performance and feedback to rewards and recognition, to creating a learning culture and how that all comes together. The one piece I wanted to focus on for our introduction here is the piece around rewards. I think rewards and recognition and rewards and compensation are actually really difficult to get right.

Hear me out here. And it's one of the things that we talk about in the episode.   you know, a friend of mine shared, he said, Fahd, when I do really well at my job and I get all my stuff done, I'm rewarded with more work as an entrepreneur. When you get stuff done in your job and you get it all done, you're rewarded with perhaps better compensation, more time off, you have better capacity to your team. And it compounds, it builds over time. And I found that so interesting. It is so true that so often we reward our highest performers with more work. Perhaps sometimes we reward them with more challenging work, which is what they want, or a bigger problem or challenge to try and solve. But often time we make them pick up Slack from other team members who aren't getting their parts done.

And I want us to think about that. If we don't have a proper reward system, how are you rewarding folks who are, who are highly performing? One of the ways the startup kind of community and industry has tech industry has really tried to solve this reward problem is that they've given people skin the game, right? That they've said, okay, you wanna join a company, here's a base salary, and also here's some equity. Here's, here's some stock options. And if you really used the stock option to say, you've got skin of the game, your stock options grow when you grow with us. And we kind of sell the dream of, oh, we could go public and you could be a millionaire, right? Like, this is, this is kind of the, the dream that we sell in the startup world. Now that's a decent play, and I think it's moving towards closer to solutions around rewarded compensation.

But there are a few key problems that I want us all to be really, really aware of. And it's actually setting light in the problem. Recently, as we've seen companies start to engage in layoffs, something really interesting is happening to that compensation structure. Let's say you were getting $70,000 base salary and you got a $30,000 stock option,   when, when you signed vested over four years, let's say you were there almost for all four years. You're, you're, you're get, you're getting your stock options, and then you are one of the folks who are laid off. Now, when you're laid off, you are told, okay, well, you can buy your options, right? You can actually exercise your options and you have to buy them at the price in which you were given. So now that you're being laid off, you have to give the company that just laid you off money in order to keep your equity, which is likely underwater valued less because they're going through a layoff in which their valuation per stock might have dropped significantly.

And we saw this happen,   with Shopify we're, you know, significant amount of folks who got stock, their, their stocks are completely underwater. So you took a haircut on your main compensation salary in order to get stock, but now the stock is underwater. So you're leaving being laid off after three years, having gotten paid less every year, like less than your market value every year because you chose to take stock and now it's worth less. And for you to even buy it, you'd have to give the company that just laid you off money. There's a problem in that system right there, and it's gonna break. And sooner or rather than later, someone's gonna figure out a compensation system that is going to help us,   you know, really give people a chance to exercise that skin in the game. Because when we give employees skin in the game where they can earn more, when they do more, we know they succeed.

We do this really well with sales teams. Sometimes we do it well with marketing teams. Why can't we look at team bonuses as a whole? You know, compensation, bonuses, reward bonuses. Whenever you raise another round of funding team, people get bonuses. Their compensation should grow when you win, your team should win. When they work hard and they accomplish big goals, we should reward those goals. You have to celebrate the achievement appropriate to the size of the achievement.  You know, our, our our producer of our podcast, Sean here and I were talking earlier about how often at times in a a 10 year, you know, you've been with the company a 10 year and you get a pin and you're like, oh, congratulations. You get a $25 gift card to Tim horns in a pin. And it can almost be insulting because the celebration of that achievement is not appropriate to the actual achievement.

You've, you've, you've helped accomplish so much, and yet how you're being appreciated, how you're being recognized, how you're being compensated is not equivalent in that way. And so, I I, I don't have a solution for this. This is more a challenge that I'm putting out to all of you who will listen to this. I think we need a hard look at compensation and reward structures. And if we can figure that out, we can figure out a way to better engage employees and keep them there longer. And your retention will improve if you have a good compensation system that ensures as they grow, as they do well, they're pay grows and they're rewarded for the hard work that they have. We got into this wonderful conversation with Shawna about that whole system, whether it was rewards, recognition, performance feedback, and creating a learning culture. We got another quote here from her for you. Let's go there.

Shawna (08:10):

Here.   in terms of the risk of people leaving,   you know, you don't wanna punish . You don't wanna punish everybody for the possibility that like a few people might leave.   you wanna think about how you can invest in, in retention and, and invest in,   you know, people staying engaged and, and feeling like they're valued. And,   you know, I I came up with this concept of skateboarding, right? And this is just something that, you know, I made up. But, you know, it kind of, it kind of,   you know, rifts off of like, you know, you got onboarding, you know, you gotta get that right. You want people to feel confident coming into your organization. Like they feel like, you know what? I got a handle on what I need to do. I feel good. I've met the team, I've learned a lot.

I'm excited I'm gonna move forward. You gotta get that right. Then you got offboarding, right? So, you know, a few few people have left the organization. How do you minimize the risk of other people leaving? How do you minimize the traction of the net? Like your, your networks hearing about it and the market hearing about it, but no one's really fostering a, you know, a system that can help people stay engaged or, you know, a a a system that I've coined now as stay skateboarding. I don't know if it exists somewhere else. I didn't look it up. But,   you know, what, what does, what does that entail? And a part of that is understanding the value of investing in people, even if they end up on the offboarding side of things. The people that you do,   that do stick around, if you've done everything , you know, as right as you can, they will,   for those who do stick around, they're the ones who are actually bringing the value of the organization up.

Fahd (09:40):

Shawna shares so many different insights with us, and I love it because it's different concepts from skateboarding to employee lifetime value and softwares hard life. She's got all the terms down, but she's got these practical insights that come along with them to help us navigate what our employees are thinking about what your team is thinking about. Right? You know, we understand that quiet quitting really is a form of just employee disengagement. We also understand the larger trends that are coming with this, which is people recognizing that perhaps they don't want to work at companies where they don't feel that there's a good culture or there's purpose or where they're connected or they're being rewarded in, in a, in a economy of abundance, there's more choice. And so people will continue to make the choice that is easier for them than to be in the trenches and in the challenges. And so we get into this and, you know, talk about, she speaks about the importance of, of employee lifetime value and how investing in people impacts the bottom line and how we need to invest in the learning culture. The value of having a pe a people operations leader to be an organizational strategic partner, and the common pitfalls and trade-offs in pursuing a people first culture. So, without further ado, let's tune in to hear Shawna's brilliant insights and the shares she has with us in this episode.

All right, we're getting started. Hello, Shawna. How are you? Really excited to have you here with us today.

Shawna (11:11):

Hello. Thanks for having me on. Excited.

Fahd (11:13):

Thank you. Yeah. Shawna, you just told me something really interesting before we got on. You told me that you just spoke at Elevate and you had a fun topic at Elevate. A packed room, a packed house. As you were sharing some of your insights, tell me how was, how was that experience? Just get the ball rolling. How was that? Was it fun? You enjoy elevate, you enjoy the topic? What was your topic?

Shawna (11:35):

Oh, it was, it was a, a ton of fun.   I actually was joined by CEO of Wavy,   and also Loop PIOs, head of people, VP people. And,   you know, we had a, a really fun, fun topic, which was how to build culture when nobody gives a Yeah. So it

Fahd (11:54):

Gives a fuck. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,

Shawna (11:55):

Yeah. . So we, we had a, we had a packed house and,   we were like, do you guys care about this topic? Or are you just like, ah, they swore let's go.   but,   we, we really did unpack a lot and tried to be as tactically charged as possible. I can't even tell you how many things. I was like, you should do this, you should do this, you should do this. So, love having those pointed conversations with people and really engaging with the audience. It was, it was a ton of fun.

Fahd (12:18):

I love it. What do you, what do you think is currently, you know, top of mind for those who entered your session and they were there and they were there to listen, they had some questions in their mind. What's, what's the biggest questions people are asking right now that are in people and culture that are VP is the talent that are in this space?   what, what's top of mind for them right now?

Shawna (12:38):

Yeah.   I think, you know, for the people that attended, I knew that it was gonna be sort of a split crowd. I knew it was gonna be, you know, people who are in,   you know, the people space. And then there was also gonna be just like individuals who are also like, I currently don't care about my job, so what are you gonna talk about? You know what I mean? You know, it's, it's this trend of quiet, quitting, right? Like, you know, do the bare minimum and, and, you know, keep your job, but you're not as engaged. You're just kind of like, I'm fed up, I'm tired, I'm burnt out. You know, I'm, I'm pouring all of myself into this organization. I'm not getting back what I, what I think I deserve or what I do deserve. Right? And then,   you know, I can still get by with just doing it a little bit less, right?

Mm-hmm. ,   I talked about the concept of having a, a soft life versus a hard life, right? You were like, I don't wanna have a hard life anymore. I'm tired of having a hard life. Let's move on from here. Let's have a soft life. Right? And so I think for the people leaders, they're like perplexed. Like, why all of a sudden, what is this about? Right? And it's, you know, remnants of, of the pandemic remnants of,   you know, the great resignation. Not everybody was as brave to quit their jobs,   in the, in, you know, during that, that wave that's still ongoing. So I think, you know, it's trying to understand like, what do, what do we do wrong? You know, what do we need to do that's different? And I think it's just like, people do care. They do deep down, but you have to reinvigorate them. You have to really get them going again. You have to maybe, you know, do a rally cry and like get back together, talk to them, find out, okay, how, what's your intrinsic motivation now post pandemic? Cuz it's not gonna be the same as it was prior. Right? I think people have a little bit more,   appetite for what they want to get out of their life and, and that's fair. So how do we amplify their experience at work?

Fahd (14:22):

Yeah, I love that. I love, there's a, a few, a few, few pieces that you brought up here that I'd love for you to unpack a little more For me, soft life versus hard life are different for sure. We got some listeners who are like, wait a second, what does that mean? Or, you know, walk me through that. What, what people are choosing the soft life and and what does that, what does that look like?

Shawna (14:43):

Yeah. Rightfully so, right? Nobody wants to be be in the trenches anymore. You don't need to be in the trenches. In this day and age, we have enough technology that can help you,   you know, move forward effectively. You've got a lot of different ways that we've learned about human behavior that we can, you know, put in, put in place to, to make sure we get the most out of our experiences in interacting with one another and how we, how we actually work together. So when we hear, when you think of like, oh, you know, you think of your parents maybe like, oh, I had a hard life, you know, and like, you know, I don't wanna do that anymore. I don't think we need to.   so, you know, I've been hearing this concept more and more of people just like, let me take a step back.

I'm not saving any lives here unless you are, than you are. But most of us aren't saving any lives. And so it's okay for us to detach a little bit and think about, okay, what is the top priority for my life? Mm-hmm. .   and work kind of takes a backseat because, you know, there maybe the organization isn't really in tune with personal lives and bringing that into, you know, consideration when you are building your culture and working on how you can foster wellness and all of these other elements. People are very complex. And if you ignore that, then you're already, you know, you're already behind.

Fahd (15:57):

Yeah. Yeah. I I love that. I love that. I love how you've mentioned this. It's an interesting, interesting piece cuz I often talk to a lot of founders about how there's just abundance in a world of abundance that we're living in more today than ever before. To attract high talent, like really good talent doers, you are gonna have to change something. Cuz, cuz a a really good doer can go build an e-commerce store, build a, a side gig that can make them a hundred K plus, you know, doing X, Y, Z. Why am I gonna work for you? Why am I gonna work so hard for you? If I know that there's abundance in this world? I can, you know, I either, I, I can more easily create products I can more easily take down, go down an entrepreneurial route and actually,   you know, make similar, similar amount.

Why am I gonna work for 70 K in, you know, a year and have to show up to all of these things that you want me to do? It's, it's, it's, I think, really interesting that you've noted that. Cause I think with abundance comes the acceptance of why do I have to live a hard life? I can make my life a bit easier and I'm gonna find a way to do so. Cuz that gets us into this idea of, of quite quitting. And, and it's interesting cuz   a buddy of mine challenged, he said, fad, do you believe in the idea of like going above and beyond? And my initial reaction was like, yeah, yeah, we should go above and beyond. And he says, okay, but why am I not compensated for going above and beyond? Because I'm doing what I'm asked. If I do what I'm asked in a system as such as a business, should I not be able to thrive? Should I not be able to succeed? Why is above beyond the only way to actually, you know, succeed? Is that, is that a, you know, an expectation that we've set?   what, what do you say to employers who are, who are dealing with a lot of folks who are, who are thinking, I don't, I shouldn't have to go above and beyond. I should do what's what I'm expected?

Shawna (17:41):

Yeah. I mean, I think there's, there's a lot of different pieces you can pull from that and threads you can pull from that. But,   you know, I know, I think it's, it's a fair question, right? You know, you said, let's say KPIs is the way that you measure your team. If people meet those, those standards, that's it. Like what they've done their job, they've done, they've done the thing. But then, you know, maybe you've got a KPI in there that's, you know, overall performance where there's like, you know, they went above and beyond. They did a little bit extra. They're the first to answer these questions. They're the first to hop on these calls. They're very, you know, customer-centric. This is where it comes, where it comes to values, right? It's like, are they, are they walking and talking the values? Are they, are they exhibiting what we wanna say is a part of how we wanna work and serve our market and serve our customers and serve each other?

 so I think there's, there's there's components of that. And like, yeah, you could, you could meet, you know, and, and, and, and the standards there and be considered a B player. It's the, you know, every company needs be players. I'm not saying anything about B Player, but like, you know, I think it's, if there's a mechanism in place for people to be rewarded for going above and beyond recognized for going above and beyond, that's the difference, right? So if whether it's a bonus program that's clear cut, if you do these things, you get more money, or if it's an equity, you know, ESOP program, it's like if you do these things, you know, consecutively we give you more equity and you have more ownership in this organization, how do you make that very, very clear to people so they know that there's something that they're aiming towards? Yeah. It doesn't always have to be base salary, right? Mm-hmm. , there's other ways to identify as people. And if you wanna see, if you want people to do more, then give them a reason to Yeah. Give them a reason to care. If I have more ownership in a company than I'll tell you right now, I'm gonna care more. Yeah. Because I wanna be Figma, right? I wanna be on the other side and, you

Fahd (19:39):

Know Yeah. Other side of that 20 billion deal, like, yeah. Yeah.

Shawna (19:42):

Exactly. And it comes back to the point where you said, you know, people can work anywhere. Why would they work for you? So if you look at it as do your job or like, you know, you're lucky to have a job or that mentality that used to be here when people had a hard life, then you are going to be behind and you're gonna end up with all B players at your organization because you have set that as the status quo. But if you're looking for people who are charged up and excited and want skin in the game, then give them something to, to aim toward, and then they'll do more because they'll get more. Right. It's a give and take. Right? It's, it's really important to understand that you invest in them, they invest in you and so on and so forth. And it goes back and forth, right? If you don't want quiet quitters, give them a reason not to be quiet. Quitting.

Fahd (20:24):

Yeah. Yeah. Give them skin in the game. I like that. I so much, I, I think it's so un it's underappreciated how important I think rewards are.   and, and, and the reason for, you know, I think, you know, a buddy of mine,   who worked at the government for many years, government of Canada, he said, bud,   if you're an employee and you do really well, you're rewarded with more work. . If you're an entrepreneur and you do really well, you're rewarded by getting more compensation. You, you got paid more. You build your business, you compound. But as an employee, if you do really well, they're like, okay, well you have this more work to do cuz because buddy here and buddy there didn't get it done. And,   and, and that's so interesting, right? That's the, that if that's where our reward system is, that's where we're losing really good people.

Mm-hmm. , I, I like how you mentioned,   skin in the game. And I think, I think,   I think Shopify we're seeing some big changes there in the compensation structure. They announced some big changes, but they're trying to give more skin in the game, more stock opportunities in all their rewards and, and to get more of that ownership, even a company that size is still looking at equity,   and stock prizes instead of just cash. And I think especially our smaller teams, you know, we really gotta look at that. I, I I, I like how you've,   you've noted that, Shawna, that's really cool. So Shawna, we're, we're getting into all these ideas and I know we dove right into it. And I, you're quick on the ball and I love it how quick you are.   let's take it back and let's give folks a little bit about who you are.   where are you right now? So what position are you at with what company? Where are you working? Gimme a little bit of rundown of where you are right now, and then we're gonna go back into a little bit of your history and learn a little bit about how you got to where you are, how you got to some of the insights and how you've continued to push the envelope,   in your industry.

Shawna (22:06):

Mm-hmm. . Yeah. So right now, I, I'm, I'm in Toronto, so I'm staying in Toronto instead of Toronto. Sometimes.

On purpose, right? Just to be like, I'm, you know, I'm that person.   but I, I work for a company called Rails Financial.   and we are a tech startup two years young,   which is really, really exciting. And I've come out of,   an acquisition actually in my previous company, post Beyond, worked there for,   almost six years,   really trying to, to push, push the envelope there and, and had, you know, some skin in the game there. And now I haven't, I have an appetite for building. Yes. So I wanna, I wanna continue to, to build and, and, and see these, these companies grow and be a part of the core of that. So, so that's what I we're focused on. Right now I'm in FinTech was in MarTech before, so it's a, it's a curve,   learning curve for me, which is really exciting too. You, cause I just am a curious person. So really excited to,   to be in this space that's, that's emerging and, and, and really blossoming. And I think there's a lot of great potential here for, for Rails and other, other fintechs that are coming up.

Fahd (23:10):

That's awesome. That's really cool.   and so Shawna, where did you get your start? Where, so you grew up in Toronto,   you go to school in Toronto.

Shawna (23:19):

Yes. And

Fahd (23:20):

Yeah, what was, take, take me back to what was your university degree in? What, what got you into the startup world? The mess that, the mess that is the startup world, the chaos that is. Well, we know it as,

Shawna (23:31):

 yes. I'm a chaos chaser. So I, I grew up in Toronto for the, the beginning of my life. And then I moved out to, to Ajax,   to finish, you know,   middle school and, and, and     high school. And then I came back,   went to or I guess it's called Toronto, met U now.   but,   yeah, I took psychology in my, in my undergrad and, and you know, I, you know, I was thinking I'm gonna go into clin clinical psychology. That's what I wanna do. Post-grad. Did a few,   placements and realize it wasn't necessarily for me.   I think, you know, the idea of not being able to like, help people really improve greatly,   you know, was a bit limiting for me. I wanted to really like, be able to see people,   see my impact on people's lives and see them like, you know, grow.

And, and so I did a little bit more into organizational behavior.   and then I, I, I really loved it. I really liked org design. I really loved, you know, understanding the intersectionality of, of how,   you know, people come together and connect, but also how that works at, at, at work. That is so interesting. So I started going that, that route. And, and, and now, you know, looking at tech, tech startup wasn't necessarily where I was thinking I was gonna go, but knowing how much I wanted to manipulate data and try, you know, ab testing some of what I was learning and experiment and applying that in organizations, I knew that I would have a less red tape going into a startup environment. And I wanted to get feedback from the people that were working there. Cuz there, you know, there's millennials that are working there, there's, you know, gen X and, and so on.   and I was gonna be able to see sort of that, you know,   the ingredients of all that come together and see how that yeah. Really, you know, resonated with what I was trying to build. So,   started at, at, you know, into the tech space and haven't looked back since.

Fahd (25:22):

That's cool. That's awesome. That's fun. And, and, and you didn't always start in HR and kind of the people and culture space. Where, where did, when you got into the tech space, where were you originally?

Shawna (25:36):

Yeah, so I, I started in more on the operations side,   and you know, more so like just organizing, you know, how, how, you know, companies could, you know,   work together and, and come together.   also just, you know, the mechanics of, you know, office,   office, you know, setup and you know, how that all works and everything like that.   and in sales too, right? I did some sales. I was a BDR for a little bit, you know, I, I had a, I wore a lot of different hats everywhere I went though. , I'd found a way to do some hr.   and so that's how I was able to build up my experience. Cuz you know, it's like, oh, Shawna can actually help with this because she's done, you know, payroll before. You know, it's like one of those things where it was like mm-hmm. , yeah, yeah, gimme an opportunity. And I kind of carved my own way,   into the people off space and, and was able to, to, you know, see some traction there. So I got a lot of different, a lot of exposure to different industries and a lot of different exposure to,   different roles, which helps me in the role I'm in right now, cuz I can really empathize with people. Yeah.   but,   yeah, there's, there's been a lot of different,   navigations.

Fahd (26:43):

Yeah. Yeah. That's cool. So in, in, in that journey, you've been exposed to a lot of different cultures, a lot of different,     kind of,   systems and people where people are trying to create culture in different organizations.   do you have,   you have any story that stands out to you for when you realize like, yeah, this is the kind of culture I want to try and be part of, I want to create? Was there any moment for you that really stood out, that solidified kind of the path that you're on now and the kind of the, the philosophy and the vision that you're trying to build in the organizations you're in today?

Shawna (27:18):

Yeah, I think the, the biggest validation for me is talking to people, interviewing people, doing, you know, stay interviews with people that work at organizations, understanding why they're there to begin with and what would, what would help them stay. Like what would we need to do to have you, you know, some longevity in your, your experience here. And having that feedback loop has been so fruitful for me because it gives me one, it gives me pep in my step and motivation to like, you know, really do something great for these people because they are eager to see themselves grow in their careers and see themselves grow as part of organizations. But it also helps me empathize with 'em, helps me, you know, build these programs out and understand that the intricacies of, you know, like you said, different cultures working with the, you know, com completely distributed team, there's a lot that you have to think about,   where it's like even just, you know, what days they're not gonna be working right because of, you know, different,   you know, religious observance or,   you know,   different holidays and things that they, you know, that people need to,   you know, attend to.

And, and talking to people about those, those intricacies and just really having open candid conversations saying like, I don't want to encroach on anything that you believe in anything that matters to you. So how can we as an organization truly be inclusive? Be inclusive, isn't just hiring people who are different or diverse or, you know, it's making sure that they feel bold, that they belong, right? That they feel that the organization values who they are as an individual and not just the concept of having an inclusive team. So making sure that they, those people have a voice, have a seat at the table, that they're always being consulted, not just at the beginning when they're hired, but along the way throughout their journey. And the employee lifetime value is a metric that every organization should be looking at, because then you will understand how important it's to be in touch with your team.

Fahd (29:14):

Hmm. Interesting. Employee lifetime value. Tell for, for, for those of us who, who are new to that metric,   tell me what does that, what does that,   include? What does that encompass?

Shawna (29:23):

Yeah, so it's, it's really understanding,   you know, what, what investing in, in people can, can bring to your organization and how that has an impact on, you know, the bottom line, how that has an impact on how you're seen in the, in the industry, how you're seen in,   in the market.   you know, what it does for your employer brand, what it does for your, the way your customers view you.   you know, obviously minimizing, you know,   the amount that you have to invest in training people,   or retraining or, you know, hiring,   efforts and, and,   you know, there's a, there's a lot of different variables that go into to that, but ultimately it's kind of like doing a pros and cons list, right? So people,   who are not,   you know, organizations or leaders at organizations that are not necessarily people first because they don't see the value. Like, oh, the bottom line is what matters. But understanding how people connect to the bottom line is really important because if you really have a clear understanding of this metric, you will be like, oh my goodness, we need to invest in people. Because you would see how much it can impact your, your performance as an organization. You can have a top performing,   company and that will really change how you know your outcomes and, and get you to where you need to be a lot faster, but you have to have the right mindset.

Fahd (30:45):

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. . So really connecting, right? Understanding how people affect your bottom line. So really looking at the measures, and you can come up with a little bit of a mathematical formula here, right? In terms of, of the retention rate, right? Their cost,   their initial cost plus their retention, like their retention rate. Plus how they, how much they, they impact different areas to try and calculate an actual value for bottom line, especially for our CFOs who listen to this, right? And, and wanna, and an exact,   exact number to kind of understand their return on investment. That's really,   that's really cool. So, so,   what are, you know, so you're here today, you've had some experiences,   what are some of the, what were some of the mistakes? What were some of the like, you know what, we tried this, I did this thing, we had good intention, this mindset, but like, Hmm. Didn't work out, it wasn't a good return on,   employee lifetime value, right? Like, what are some of the, the traps, maybe the, the falls as, cuz whenever you're trying to innovate in an industry, whenever you're trying to push the envelope, inevitably you're gonna test and experiment things that don't work out. And, and what are some of those learnings that for some folks who are, you know, really trying to have those things in their startups for them to kind of watch out for?

Shawna (31:59):

Right? I think first of all, you should always be testing and experimenting and being innovative and, you know, taking risks, right?   one thing that we say at Rails is like, we have a day one mindset, right? So we may make a decision having like 70% confidence versus trying to get to that a hundred percent and seeing what we can learn from it. We may fall flat on our faces, but that's okay. There's a tons of, there's a ton of programs and systems that I've put in place that I've backfired or, you know,   haven't had the best traction or I've had people just say, absolutely not. That's ridiculous, Sean. I'm never doing that.   and that,

Fahd (32:36):

Gimme an example. Is there, is there a story

Shawna (32:38):

Okay. Okay. Okay. I'll give you an example. So I'll, I'll tell you an example that's going on right now. So,   you know, new to this, to this,   startup at Rails and, you know, we're bringing in,   you know, KPIs so that we can make sure that people know, you know, where they stand in terms of their performance. Because one of the, the pieces of feedback that I received when I was doing my listening tour was that people didn't know if they were doing well or if they were doing poorly. And that makes people really uneasy, right? They're making assumptions about their performance and there's some uncertainty. And what comes out of uncertain uncertainty is, you know, anxiety and, and,   you know, all of, all of the bad ,   you know, emotions that you don't want your team to be focused on.

You want them to be focused on what they're, what they're trying to build, right?   so, you know, bringing in a performance measurement,   system is, is something that can really help to alleviate some of those, those, those stressors.   but it needs to be a collaborative process, right? And so it has to be, Hey, what do the, you know, team leads think about this, you know, if I put something in front of them, how do we brainstorm? How do we get it right? You know, based on how we're our current org design, how does this make sense? But it also has to have some contributions from the individual contributors, do you think you can do this thing? Right? Does this make sense? Is this attainable? Is this measurable? Is this fair? Right? And so,   going through that exercise and really trying to implement it really quickly, because I started in January, I was like, gotta be January so we can get, you know, the full quarter view and then, you know, see how we can iterate on it.

 you know, maybe went a little too quickly and missed a few people mm-hmm. in the mix of, of doing this assessment. And now in Q3 we're talking about how we may need to tweak some of these KPIs so that we can have it be a fair system for people. And you know, when you're looking at two quarters have gone by and no one said anything, but people were upset, that's, you know, that's a mistake on, on, on our part to not go back to them and say, Hey, can you give us feedback on this? Hmm. As a new program that's been implemented, I wanna now have pulse checks. I wanna now know, do you feel like this is fair for everyone else? Not just the people who have now come to me and said, I don't think that this metric is fair. Mm-hmm. .   so really just taking a step back and being like, mm-hmm , I asked them at the very beginning and then I did stuff, and then I was like, I did the thing, but , now we gotta come together and say, does the thing work and do you feel good about the thing?

Right? So it's okay, you know, there were some grievances and there's, you know, we've talked it all out and we had, you know, emotions and everything, and now we're,   on the, on the right track to, to, you know, recenter and recalibrate.   but I would've loved to avoid that. Right? So just things like that, like when you are putting programs in place, use your feedback mechanism. Use your feedback. Even if you think, oh, I'm bothering people with so many surveys, or I'm asking people to, people wanna say yes or no or, you know, just at least get, get the feedback because you'll know how you need to iterate or if something needs to change or if you're doing a good job and you can double down on that. I can't express enough how much a gift feedback is in anything that you're trying to build.

Fahd (35:50):

Hmm mm-hmm. , I love that. And how do you encourage the feedback? Like, sometimes, sometimes people are quiet, right? Like they don't know if they, they, or the feedback is muddied with like, I don't know, maybe it's kind of okay, you know? Yeah, right. And you're not, you're not, you're not getting, you're not, you know, you seem like a fairly straight shooter. I can be a bit of a straight shooter, but we're where sometimes some people don't want to be direct in their feedback and they're kind of tippy toeing around it. So, so when you're implementing these kind of programs, how do you go about ensuring you're kind of capturing the feedback of the quiet folks who, who don't typically like to speak out?

Shawna (36:26):

You know, it's funny cuz I got feedback that,   we needed to, to have a foundation for that.   and one of the things that came out was, Hey, you know, I don't really feel comfortable to talk to, you know, my manager about, you know, things that I really get my workload or, you know, blockers that I have. Because once we get in our one-on-ones, you know, we just shoot the shit and it's, you know, yeah, it doesn't feel appropriate or I feel like, oh, maybe I shouldn't complain about this. Or, you know, and maybe it's not that serious. And then, you know, it builds up and then all of a sudden you're having,   you know, exit interviews and they're like, yeah, I just couldn't get it off my chest , you know, I didn't know what forum to use to talk about it, but I was so stressed.

 so what we've done is we've put in place, and I'll plug,   collage HR right now for this, but,   we've put in place check-ins with the employees can do prior to their one-on-one. So it asks, you know, five questions or you know, more if you wanna add in there, but it's like, what is, what are you working on right now? What's your workload like? Do you have any blockers? Do you have any feedback? What are your proud moments? Right? And that's, you know, whatever cadence your one-on-ones are on weekly or biweekly, they're able to say that upfront. You can respond to that. And then you have a very constructive conversation in your one-on-ones. What's really important for leaders to understand is at that meeting, it's not yours. That is not your meeting. That meeting belongs to your team, it belongs to your direct report.

And they should be leading the meeting. You may have something you wanna say, you may have feedback and everything like that, but use those kinds of mechanisms to provide that feedback and talk through what they wanna talk through because they share a lot more when they're able to get their ideas on paper and when they are encouraged to do so. Another way that you can get feedback to is through anonymous surveys, right? So after every town hall,   you know, quarterly review session, we do,   have, you know, employee satisfaction survey that's anonymous. So I don't know who's saying what, where it's coming from, but this is your stage, this is your time. Ask these questions. Haven't asked me anything, right? If you are having town halls, there has to be actual interaction with people. You can't just talk at them. So if, if it's a town hall or an all hands, give them the opportunity to ask questions ahead of time, anonymously, read those questions aloud and answer those questions.

Whoever the stakeholder is that it belongs to mm-hmm. , give that transparency to that organization. Especially if you're talking about startups that are, you know,   in a younger stage, you wanna make sure people have insight into what's going on in the business. And if they bring those questions to you, don't avoid them. Don't put them off. Don't say, oh, we don't wanna trouble, like, we don't wanna trouble you with that. We don't wanna trouble. If you have ESOP equity for your, for your team, that means that they are owners and that means that they deserve that information. So if you want people to have skin in the game, you want people to care, you want people to stop quiet, quitting, give them a reason to care, give them a reason to, if you're bootstrapped or if you're worried about runway, you can communicate that in a way that doesn't scare people away, but it also encourages people to step up, right?

We want you here. We're concerned about, you know, our runway, but we've got our eye on the prize. We are, we're gonna figure that out in the meantime. Let's maybe slow down on hiring, but I need, I need everybody locked in on this cuz we can get over this hurdle, right? Really, really show them like, you we're all in this together. We're all a part of this. We want, we want to come out on the other side.   so I think there's, there's a lot that you can do to just really bring the team together and through transparency, through good clear communication and feedback is a great way to, to kind of employ that.

Fahd (40:00):

Yeah. Yeah. I like that. Cool. Shawna, we've, we've, we've covered a, a few different topics now to try and answer the big question, which is,   how to build culture when nobody gives a fuck. I guess we're, we're kind of circling back to that. We talked about, we talked about rewards and giving people skin to the game and making sure that we're rewarding employees appropriately.   not just compensation, but additionally, you know, kind of really giving them a reason to work, a reason for them to, to, to, you know, to feel like they're saving lives or, or impacting something otherwise,   you know, the abundance will, will have people, you know, want the soft life, want the life that's easier. Why, why am I gonna break my back over something I don't really care about? And we talked about performance and you know, you talked about performance KPIs and, and the importance of having that,   you know, knowing where people are at,   and actually involving everyone in building your performance system.

 and then we got into feedback and the importance of feedback overall just in all pieces. Whether it's feedback on the rewards, feedback on performance,   and, and, and one of the overall measures that you gave us is to think about lifetime value of an employee and how rewards, performance, feedback all, you know, help actually increase employee engagement and ultimately increase the lifetime value of that, of that employee. So, so some really cool pieces here that are all kind of organically coming together, but if I take us back to that big question,   how do we create cultures,   where people are burnt out? How do we create cultures and, and get performance where,   you know, there's this looming recession for startups and we don't know what runway's gonna look like and whether we're gonna get another raise of capital and all these, all these kind of things that are looming over folks. What do you have to share for, for kind of the CEOs, VPs of talent who are building their teams and they're trying to scale their teams and this is the environment they're in. What should they be focused on? Because there's a lot of different pieces, got rewards, I've got performance, I've got feedback, I've got this, I got a lot of different pieces, how, you know, context is everything for sure, but what's, what's some of your advice on where they should be focused on?

Shawna (42:07):

Yes, I think for, you know, some of the smaller organizations that are looking to scale, number one, if you don't have a, a people ops leader, you're already behind the curb . Like if you have just like, you know, a generalist or someone who's just, you know, working on compliance of hr, then you're in trouble. You should really find someone who can, who can lead the charge on that who's, who's fired up about,   you know, making sure that they can help in that initiative. And, and also as, as someone who could be a strategic partner,   to, to, you know, the C-suite and, and to others on the leadership team. That's, that's, that's something that's really important to keep in mind.   another thing you know, is just making sure that you have an open forum for the team to come to, you know, the ceo to anybody who's on the leadership team.   whether you have to have an office hours,   you know, slack has, you know, open huddles now you can just sit there and, and people can come in and, and talk to you,   which is super creepy, but I actually am liking it

 but you know, give, give as many touchpoints as you possibly can, right? Because you know, when you're outta sight, you're outta mind. And that's not where you want, where you want your work to be when you're looking at scaling up or when you're looking at turbulence and how you're going to respond to that turbulence. You can communicate contingency plans, you know, be careful. , I would say,   on, on how much,   you know, details that you go into, but you can communicate that, hey, we've thought about, you know, salary freezes. We've, we've thought about hiring freezes. We've thought about, you know, whether we need to do a bridge raise or, you know, potentially do a down raise. You can talk about these things openly. And then also when you do, if it's with your, your broader group, make sure that your leaders are now talking to their teams individual.

Make sure they're talking about it in their one-on-ones. Making sure that they're reiterating because people aren't gonna, when they're getting the information for the first time, they're processing, when they hear about it again and they talk it through a little bit more with maybe their peers, they're processing again, more things are brought up. Maybe there's different experiences that are brought to the table that, you know, you haven't thought of cuz you haven't experienced it yourself. And then one-to-one, what do you need to understand? Well, if we do a down raise, what does that mean for my equity? That's a, that's a great question. Right? Answer that question for that person one to one. Or if, you know, there's a lot of people who are working at startups who don't even know what it means to have equity. That is something that is so it's, it's something that we overlook so much.

You know, I'm, I'm talking about like, hey, you know, I'm trying to negotiate hiring someone and I'm like, yeah, so we are gonna, we're gonna, you know, give you some more equity here and like, this is how we're gonna, you know, amp amp up our offer to you. And they're like, so what? Because they don't know, right? They, they, what do you mean, what does that mean?   so helping them understand like what it means to have ownership in an organization. Like be open with that. Don't assume people know what that is. Don't assume people know what a CAC ratio is. Don't assume people know what lifetime value of a customer is. Don't assume these things teach people, do, you know, provide education and, and, and talk to them, but also bring it back down to the individual level. Have that one-to-one experience.   and if you don't have leaders that know how to do that, have leadership training for them so that they understand how to articulate themselves when it comes to these tough conversations.

Fahd (45:21):

Yeah, I think you've hit a really interesting point here. You know, I think more than ever now people are attracted to startups. You got a lot of employees who're like, yeah, I want to go work for a startup, but have no genuine idea. All of the, the ne like the what a startup entails, how to think entrepreneurially, what, like, you know, they wanna work for a startup, but then they're like, yeah, I want more consistency. And you're like, well it's, we're build in the building phase. There's a lot of ambiguity actually. We don't know what we're doing. We're changing our product, we're changing our customer. And so really taking the time, not just teach about your company, but teaching about startup principles. Yeah. Right. I think, I think there's a really interesting piece that you've kind of hit on, right? You know, you're talking about,   you know, a lifetime value of a customer, c union economics, just like the basic stuff that you're looking at equity and how that works.

And even like the, the opposite side of equity, right? Here's, here's the thing with equity is, you know, sometimes individual employees will take equity cuz it's great, but not in a, in a, in a recession where the value of a company is now lower and now your equity's underwater. And so you gave up 30 grand every year on a total compensation of a hundred grand cuz you thought you were getting it in equity. But now it's worthless. And I think they need to understand both sides of it to make a really good educated piece because you wanna filter out the ones that are gonna be upset when that, how happens, you, you, you wanna filter out the ones who are not ready to take the risk too, as part of,   being in, in, in that team. I really like how, how, how you put that I think some startup startup education or even just start up fu   learning about that and our teams would be phenomenal.   yeah, it was cool. It got me thinking.

Shawna (46:58):

No, I think it's, I think it's important to understand that too. Like even like, you know, show them a diagram of like, the slope. But you know what, like, it's like, it, it can be,   a scary experience for a lot of people who mm-hmm. ,   have never been in the world of work before or maybe never worked for a startup before or maybe, you know, their previous job. You know, they surpassed that stage and it's like almost frightening to come back to a, a, the uncertainty.   but it's, it's okay, right? It's okay to talk about it and it's okay to, you know, just engage on that and, and not assume that everybody's got it all together.

Fahd (47:33):


Shawna (47:34):

We don't. Yeah,

Fahd (47:35):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Especially you get a lot of students, right?   a lot of our startups will hire new grads and hire young talent, right. To be able to,   help with,   building their products. So we've got some, some, some really interesting pieces here today and, and, and I want to kind of push back on one of them, Shawna, we've talked about a people first organization and I think anyone in this space will always be like, yeah, people first organization. I don't think anyone will be like, no, I don't wanna blow people first. Well, no one will say it out loud, right? Like, that's the, that's probably the truth, right? It's like, it's like saying, I hate children, right? Like, you don't say that. You just, you know, I'm just saying, you know, no one says that. You don't say I'm against that, right?

Some people, but when we say people first organization, the reality is that,   when rubber hits a road, there's trade offs. And, and I think when people agree to a people first organization, I don't, they, I think they agree to it in, in the idea of a value of like, yeah, I think people are important and I wanna put my people first. But when the trade-offs come and push comes to shove, what do those look like? What are the trade-offs that someone needs to understand when committing to a people first organization? And so for those that are pushing back and, and really thinking about those trade offs, Shawna, what are some of them that they should consider and really think about and understand in that short run? Some things might hurt, right? A people first organization is taking a bet on the long run of people investment, but in the short run, it's painful. And, and, and, and there are, there are,   you know, mistakes that happen along the way with the, with kind of the, the, the short run,  elements. So I'm gonna throw that back onto you here. Instead of me diving into my own rantare, how do you, you know, how do you balance those?   what should be, what should we be thinking about when you're thinking of the trade offs?  And we'll go from there.

Shawna (49:27):

Yeah. I think the, the biggest,   you know, pain points that I've heard in transitioning into the, this kind of people first mentality as an, as an organization where culture's concerned and values and so on,   is, you know, what if we invest in them and then they leave, right? That's, that's one that, that comes up quite a bit. And then also,   the,   resistance to listen to other people, , right? Because as soon as you become people first,   there's a lot of inputs that come from, you know, individual contributors that now need to influence how you move forward, what your strategic approach is.   what I say back, and those are the two main, main pain points. I'm sure there's others that are, you know, there are others. I know this, but those are the two main ones that I hear.   in terms of the risk of people leaving,   you know, you don't wanna punish .

You don't wanna punish everybody for the possibility that like a few people might leave.   you wanna think about how you can invest in, in retention and, and invest in,   you know, people staying engaged and, and feeling like they're valued. And,   you know, I, I came up with this concept of skateboarding, right? And this is just something that, you know, I made up, but, you know, it kind of, it kind of,   you know, riffs off of like, you know, you got onboarding, you know, you gotta get that right? You want people to feel confident coming into your organization. Like they feel like, you know what? I got a handle on what I need to do. I feel good. I've met the team, I've learned a lot. I'm excited I'm gonna move forward. You gotta get that right. Then you got offboarding, right?

So, you know, a few people have left the organization. How do you minimize the risk of other people leaving? How do you minimize the traction of the net? Like your, your networks hearing about it and the market hearing about it, but no one's really fostering a, you know, a system that can help people stay engaged or, you know, a a a system that I've coined now as skateboarding. I dunno if it exists somewhere else, I didn't look it up. But,   you know, what, what does, what does that entail? And a part of that is understanding the value of investing in people, even if they end up on the offboarding side of things. The people that you do,   that do stick around, if you've done everything , you know, as right as you can, they will,   for those who do stick around, they're the ones who are actually bringing the value of the organization up, right?

So,  the other, the other part of it kind of connects to it too, when you talk about the risk of,   you know, people not feeling like, or he listening to other people talk about whatever they think, you know, what their opinions are on how we should run a business. Like what do you know?   you know, it's really important, like, as you are investing in people, they're learning in real time. They're learning about what's going on in the market in real time, and they're gonna bring that back into the organization. And guess what? They're probably gonna inform you, right? You may be, ah, I'm talking to people about raising money and I'm talking to people about, you know, what, what's the next steps for our organization? You're, you're, you're so hyper-focused on this, this story that you're, you're, you're, you know, the message that you're sending and whatever the strategy was or is, and there's people who are literally like, you shouldn't do that anymore because I just learned over here that that's dead now.

And people are more focused on this. So, you know, you don't wanna miss out on those opportunities for your team to actually help you in be informed and stay up to date and stay,   aware of what's going on in the market. They can bring that information and those resources from external sources to your strategy, and you can move forward in, in concert together, in, in a more optimal way, in a more strategic way, in a way that like actually makes sense in real time. So I think, you know, limiting the opportunity for people to give feedback or limiting the opportunity for people to, to share their insights is actually hurting your organization. And the only way for them to get those insights is for you to invest in them, right? So it's kind of like, you know, it goes, it goes,   full circle, but,   you know, those are the two main pains that I hear and I'm like, let me talk you out of it right now.

Fahd (53:23):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's funny, you know,   one of the ones that you kind of touched on around the staff actually having input and what to do with that input, right? When you open that can of worms, you gotta be ready to deal with it, right? Because if you open up the can of worms and you say, okay, I'm op, I'm ready to receive input, and we want that input, and then you ignore it all and you don't act on any of it, then you've told them, well, actually don't care. Yeah. So we're just saying more people first, right?

Shawna (53:51):

Yes. I'll give you an example of a program that I put in place,   in my previous work. And   you know, at first I was like, I don't know, like, we'll see if people, if people do this, like, I'm trying to give them incentives. So it was called Learn to Earn. And basically what it was was, you know, you've got different levels of learners. This is all stuff I made up, right? The different level of learners, you've got Curious Learner, you've got the Risk Savvy Learner, and then you've got the Future C-Suite learner, right? And there's different ways that you can interact with this, this program. So the, the goal of the organization, let's say this particular quarter, cuz it changed each quarter, was to listen to or attend 50 webinars. And, you know, this is a team of 25 people. We're as collectively as a team.

We're gonna attend 50 webinars this quarter.   we're really excited. We've got monthly goals that we want to get to. And if we get to our, our goal at the end, we're gonna have a lunch. You know, and then also for the individual, depending on what kind of learner you are, you are going to get, you know, $15 or you're gonna get $25, or you're gonna get $50 and half of that's gonna go to charity, right? So, you know, the stakes are higher the higher you go. So the first one, you just, you know, you just attend the webinar, you share your takeaway, the end, $15 goes to charity, this is great, we're giving back, we're excited. And then you go risk, risk savvy, then you gotta have an action item. What are you gonna do about it? What you've learned? Mm-hmm. , how are you gonna put it into practice?

Leadership's gonna follow up with you. We wanna know how you've implemented it, we wanna see you wanna learn.   and then the C-Suite one is like, I've got an action item for the organization that I think we should explore, right? Taking it to that next level. And what I did at the end of that, we, we got it every time, which was great. What I did at the end of that was I created a report to show what areas of interest people had. So if it was like, you know, differentiation,   competitors,   making sure that we have, we're more customer centric, what are they learning about, right? What are people interested in? And that fueled what they were gonna work on in the next quarter by department and how we should have targeted, you know, moving forward as an organization and our strategic approach.

And then it just kept swelling and swelling and swelling. And we started to narrow in more and more on problems that we were trying to solve for the organization. And they were going out and learning about all the gaps that we had, that we identified in a needs analysis right before that . And they solved the gaps. And they, every day they were like, Hey, I know we have this gap in New York. I just listened to this webinar. And it wasn't even about the money, it wasn't even about the charity, even though it was great that we were able to do that, but it became something that people were really excited to do and we were able to tell a really great story at the end of it. So I think, you know, thinking about outside of the box of like, well, we're giving away money or we're giving, like, no, it's not about that. What they're bringing back is so impactful, can be so interesting and can really help move and propel your company forward,   when you're all collectively on the same page.

Fahd (56:44):

Yeah, yeah. You know, we often talk about creating a learning culture in the organization. And I think, Shawna, you exactly hit the nail on the head there, right? What do I have to do and what system can I put in place that both empowers people to solve the problems that they know exist, but also encourage a learning culture where people are learning? And I think along the way, we've kind of, you've kind of really answered the question of how we create phenomenal cultures. We, you know, we, we, we reward people so that they care more and we give them a reason to care. We help them know when they're doing well by checking in with their performance. We give them a ton of feedback. We give our managers tools for effective one-on-ones. And then finally, we set up a system for learning that allows us to really go all in on a people first culture.

Shawna, this was really fun. This was great. I took a lot away from it personally.   but you've shared,   so many,   wonderful insights. A nice few,   terms there. Everything from Stay Board to, you know, your, your future,   C-suite,   learning paths, ,   everything you've had to share with us. I'm gonna end it off here, Shawna, I'm wanted to tell everyone about you being a big Toronto Raptors fan, cuz I'm a big Toronto Raptors fan. So I just wanted, I wanted that little last shout out to had it my notes there.   I heard you guys had a, a big,   last company big celebration, big Toronto. When, when, when Toronto,   when to won the finals,   you took the day off and went to the parade. That's culture right there. That's . I'll

Shawna (58:10):

Show you in the background of my office here.

A trophy on my wall. I do not hold back. When the season starts,   everyone's just gonna have to get used to me wearing Raptors gear on every game

Fahd (58:24):

Day, on every game day. I love it. That's awesome.

Shawna (58:27):

You're gonna know when the Raptors play. So

Fahd (58:30):

That's it. Awesome. Thank you Shawna so much. I appreciate it. Thank you Shawna, for that amazing episode. We covered so much and you have such a, has such a wonderful kind of attitude towards,   the, the people and culture space, such innovative thinking and such a kind of new terms and new ideas of, of, of, of and challenging old systems and how we actually go about engaging our employees and creating a people first company. Thank you so much for all of those pieces, and thank you to our listeners. Thank you for listening all the way through. I hope you were able to take some really practical insights that you could share with your team and take your team and, and Hopely that, you know, as you go through all these episodes that you're actually seeing a transformation in yourself and a transformation in your team, and you're actually seeing those results.

And if you're seeing changes in your team, tell us about it. We'd love to hear some of the impact that this podcast is having. Some of our guests are having. They would love to hear about it. I would love to hear about it. So if you've got any stories, come share it with us. Maybe we'll get you on the podcast, who knows?   if you've got any questions, reach out to us and you can always find us at unicornlabs.ca and you can find me in all of social media channels if you just find Fahad al tab. And this is the question I wanted to leave you with today. We started off our episode thinking about rewards and recognition and incentives. And so I want to use that, that, to, to kick off this question, which of your current views would you change if your incentives were different at work?

Would you hold similar work patterns and similar views if the reward structure was different, in what ways could the reward system structure be made worse? And in what ways could it be made better for everyone to actually engage? And that's it for today. Thank you so much for tuning into our episode here in the Unicorn Leadership Podcast. You can find our show notes and transcripts at Unicorn Labs dosier slash podcast. And as always, if you like the content, share it with your team. Share it with your   company, share it with your friends, share it on social media, subscribe rate, hit the bell notifications. I'm gonna start saying that now more cuz it sounds cool. And you'll get notified when our next episode goes out. Thank you all for tuning in. This was the Unicorn Leadership Podcast with your host Fahd Alhattab.

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