Ron Storn's long track record of successfully scaling companies with world-class people and culture organizations. After growing Lyft through 2017, Ron went on to lead the people function at two notable high-growth and operationally intensive transportation & logistics companies: Zume and KeepTruckin.Follow
On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks with Ron Storn on from Booster, to learn and get tips for building a world-class HR team in 2022.
Some Conversation Highlights:
So pre-COVID, what was the playbook for what made a great HR team?
Culture was always very critical for me and how you build culture. And pre-COVID, it’s very important that you still live the values, but it was easier to do because you were in-person and you were in an office type of environment. So it was easier to make the connections to make sure that you collaborate in a certain way. I think from a framework of an HR team, it was still hire, grow, keep, meaning you bring in the right talent. How do you develop the talent? And then how do you make sure that they’re engaged?
So let’s move to post-COVID, how do you an organization going forward?
The playbook is still being written as we talked about. But what I foresee, there’s a number of trends. And the biggest trend that I see is the wellbeing of your workforce. In the past, the wellbeing was very much health-oriented, physical-oriented. But I was talking with some of my peers and then the way that you’re thinking about it now is that if people are your number one assets, how do you ensure that their emotional wellbeing is taken care of? Their career wellbeing, their financial wellbeing, all of those things, we really didn’t even think about pre-COVID. And so when you’re building a company and building an HR infrastructure, it’s really important that you have a culture of wellbeing and a culture of development because people are going to join and stay in a company that they feel they can grow with, that they can connect with and they can do their best work.
Tune in for the full conversation.
Listening time: 28 minutes
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Music: This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live podcast where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three-year-old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Ron on from Booster, and we’re going to be learning and getting tips for building a world-class HR team in 2022, a question that is keeping everyone up at night, both recruiters, HR, senior exec board. This is going to be a really, really fun conversation. So Ron, would you do us a favor, the audience in favor and introduce yourself and Booster?
Ron: Well, thanks, William. I really appreciate being on this podcast with you. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while and glad it’s here. And so I’m Chief People Officer at Booster. I’ve been with Booster for a little over six months. And so Booster started in the mid 2000s or mid 2010s. I actually knew Frank, the CEO when I was the HR leader at Lyft. He was introduced to me, and he had this concept about going to work workplaces to fuel cars while people were working.
Ron: So customers like Facebook and Cisco was how the company started. And that went really well all the way until the pandemic. And as you’re aware with the pandemic, no one went to work, so no one needed to be fueled at their workplace. So the company pivoted to addressing the fleet issues. And since then, we’ve developed over 300 plus clients on the fleet side where we’re actually doing the Amazon trucks, they actually deliver packages during the day. Well, where do they go at night? They go to a yard.
Ron: And so what we do is, we have customers that we go to the yard, contact list fuel all of their vehicles. So it’s say saves trips to and from the gas station as well as the labor cost. So it’s very much a sustainability play as well as a cost play for a lot of our customers. And so we’re now on the forefront of really expanding, not only the fleet area, but what other types of energies are we working towards, renewables, hydrogen, biofuels and then EV as well too. So I joined at the precipice of us becoming a large us company, eventually global and excited to share some of my thoughts on how to build HR within this framework.
William Tincup: I love it. I love it. So pre-COVID, what was the playbook for what made a great HR team? Because you came up through the ranks and you could assemble a team if someone called on you and said, “Hey, need you to assemble a team.” You had a playbook of exact the things that you’d want personalize it to the industry and to the play of course, but yeah, you had a playbook pre-COVID. Give us some general themes of what was that playbook like for you, especially pre-COVID?
Ron: Sure. Culture was always very critical for me and how you build culture. And pre-COVID, it’s very important that you still live the values, but it was easier to do because you were in-person and you were in an office type of environment. So it was easier to make the connections to make sure that you collaborate in a certain way. I think from a framework of HR, it was still hire, grow, keep, meaning you bring in the right talent. How do you develop the talent? And then how do you make sure that they’re engaged?
Ron: And so tools that you use in pre-COVID environment varied from office to office based on some of the flavors in the certain locations and the types of teams that you’re dealing with. And so in the cup design I was with, I was successful in giving a roadmap to how business can work with HR and HR not just be an afterthought, be a strategic partner, because if you think about it, people are your biggest asset. So whatever decision you make, there’s a financial component and a people component. And if you build HR that is business-focused, then you’re really going to help accelerate the processes and the programs and the roadmap that the teams need.
William Tincup: So let’s move to post-COVID. So first of all, I love the framework of hire, grow, keep, and I obviously see that being a theme that probably gets expanded and revised in terms of remote work and hybrid work and all these other fun things that we’re going to be dealing with. But let’s move out of COVID. I know we’re technically still in COVID, but let’s just imagine a world where we are post-COVID and offices open up and we are dealing with hybrid workplaces and workforces and all kinds of things like that. What are you looking for and what are you talking with your peers about, say best practices, it’s probably not the right way of thinking about it, but just how you want to build the organization going forward?
Ron: Sure. No. And the playbook is still being written as we talked about. But what I foresee, there’s a number of trends. And the biggest trend that I see is the wellbeing of your workforce. In the past, the wellbeing was very much health-oriented, physical-oriented. But I was talking with some of my peers and then the way that you’re thinking about it now is that if people are your number one assets, how do you ensure that their emotional wellbeing is taken care of? Their career wellbeing, their financial wellbeing, all of those things, we really didn’t even think about pre-COVID. And so when you’re building a company and building an HR infrastructure, it’s really important that you have a culture of wellbeing and a culture of development because people are going to join and stay in a company that they feel they can grow with, that they can connect with and they can do their best work.
Ron: And so one of the things that, from a leadership framework standpoint, you really have to make sure that you invest in leaders that know how to operate in both worlds, in office world and in a remote world. And it’s tricky because people have become accustomed to, during COVID, to all be on an equal playing field. So you don’t have like water cooler tops conversations where a person that’s remote is missing out.
Ron: Now, when you have this hybrid environment, you have to try to ensure that you still build a culture and a framework that people feel equal playing field and they have opportunities. So a culture of trust and transparency of no surprises, that you hold people accountable for making sure that you have the right frameworks in place to do their best work, and you want to focus on impact over participation.
Ron: So one of the things that I’ve developed within my own HR team is making sure that what are the key drivers for our organization? So we have a very complex organization where we have corporate workers and we have Field Ops, and more and more, being last mile of delivery and last mile e-commerce and everything. Companies are moving towards having these dual types of workforces.
Ron: So how do you bridge the gap on impact and development? And so the way that I’ve been thinking about skills, critical skills, upskilling, re-skilling, that’s going to be very big in this new post-COVID world for all companies. And so the way that I think of this development is like puzzle piece, in that you have to develop pathways for both corporate and Field Ops. And it’s not up out. It’s more jungle gym, but you really have to meet people where they’re at.
Ron: So the way that I am looking for talent development managers play a critical role in this, in that you can create plans that employees own their process. They own their development, work with their managers, assess where they’re at and where their gaps and what learning opportunities do they need in order to pursue their dreams. And a lot of this is based off of manager. So manager training, manager guidance is going to be crucial.
Ron: So the way that I’ve been framing this is, career development is like an engine where there’s two pieces of the engine. One is giving people an opportunity, and the other is taking that talent and growing. So if you can take opportunity, match it with talent, it creates a sum of its greater than its parts. And so this is going to be the career contract that each company and each HR team is going to make with their organizations. And so I think that is going to be one of the key things going forward of how you develop and retain your talent.
Ron: Another piece is inclusion diversity. We’ve thought over COVID that that is a critical part of everything that you need to do. I’m a big believer that it has to start at the top. Being inclusive means a lot of different things. It means that not only your background, your companies that you worked with, the skillsets you have, but you have to drive that and understand that best companies, best teams have different types of complimentary skills, complimentary backgrounds so that you are a full organization. And I think a lot of companies just focus on the recruiting piece of it. They want to hire diverse folks. But then once you hire them, if you’re not inclusive and you don’t include them, that’s even worse.
Ron: The way that I think about it is going to a dance. So you get invited to the dance, meaning you get hired into a company, but then when you’re at a dance, no one asks you to dance, meaning you don’t integrate really well. And people lose sight of that. And I think this pretense and this thought process is going to be very paramount in how you build your people team to have a focus on diversity, working with affinity groups and people of the organization to make sure that you’re meeting the needs of every group. And you want it built collaboratively. So it’s not just a top down thing. It’s both for bottom up and top down, and you focus on how you can make people comfortable and meet the business needs.
William Tincup: It’s interesting that you bring up, first of all, DEI, but also some of the pay equity issues that we’ve dealt with historically. You and I could have a separate podcast about pay equity, and deal with some of the things that historically have gone on.
William Tincup: But I heard a story the other day that I thought was really fascinating around company matching programs for ERGs. So basically, you put to time into something, they put dollars into it. And I thought that was a fascinating way to not put money behind, both the affinity groups as SIGs groups, but also ERGs to put money behind them to get wind in their sales as well.
William Tincup: So I want to get your take on that. But also as you think about that, I want to get your take on the importance of employee communications because you mentioned transparency and it’s something we’ve learned through COVID. And all of our experiences through COVID is the rise of the importance of employee communications. And so what do you see that look like in 2022? So first thing on the ERGs and SIGs? And what you think about that concept? And the other is question would be along the lines of employee communications in 2022.
Ron: Sure. No. With the affinity groups and ERGs, I agree with you. I think that budgets and dollars and alignment to really uplifting everyone’s identity and contribution to the organization is going to be very critical. I’m a big believer that you need an exec sponsor for each ERG and then you align them with a budget to work on, well, what’s important for that group? How can they feel more impactful in the organization and outside in their personal lives as well too? And so I really do like that concept. We’re in the early stages of building that out. We’re working with a third-party called Matheson. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them.
William Tincup: Oh yeah, of course.
Ron: So they’ve been a great partner with us and we’re going to be going deeper into some of the other initiatives in that, but that they’ve also talked about what you just suggested as well. So I thought that was really interesting.
William Tincup: Oh, that’s cool. That’s cool. So employee communications, what did you learn through this process and what do you think it becomes in 2022?
Ron: Well, I think we have so many different vehicles now. You have email, you have Slack, you have even workplace types of collaboration forms. I think you have to be, again, you have to meet people where they’re at. So think about our situation. We have drivers who really aren’t as advanced in technology as our [inaudible 00: 13: 13] workers. So they have remote tablets.
Ron: So thinking about like text messaging for communication for them is probably a better means than doing slack or doing an email. So you have to understand the audience that you’re working with and then gear your communications to how they best consume it and how they can best understand it. So I don’t think it’s going to be a one-size-fits-all, but I think you have to tailor it to the organization. Obviously slack engineering groups, they work in that over and over again. They’re like other different types of tools.
Ron: So I don’t think there is… Like for us at Booster, we’re still in our early means and working with our comms team to how we can really advance our messaging. One of the things that we’re actually going to be doing for the HR side, every two weeks, we’re going to come up with our top three things on my mind or HR is focused on, and then we’re going to broadcast that to the company in various forms so that people are aware how we’re thinking about building an organization, how we’re thinking about caring about people. And we’re going to start doing across the board as well too.
William Tincup: I love that. I absolutely love that. So early in the pandemic, I had a conversation with a CHRO out of San Francisco and she told me, “Here’s what I’m learning about myself, but also about my team is that we have to be radically flexible about everything, things that weren’t flexible before. Everything is on the table.” And I’m like, “Well, do tell which is like learning pathways.” We have these real not rigid, but set in stone ways that people would come in and how we would onboard them and all this stuff. She’s like, “Everything. It’s all up for grabs. Everything is flexible because we’re learning.” And this is month, two, maybe month three of COVID. So it was really early on.
William Tincup: But I wanted to get your take on just the concept of, as an HR team, the concept of flexibility because we haven’t historically that I wouldn’t say that’s a word we would use to describe ourselves. And again, I wanted to get your take on 2022 and how we incorporate flexibility.
Ron: Absolutely. I have a couple of other words that I use for my team too is like agile, another word for flexibility is resilient too because there’s so many things every day. And more so now than before too in HR, there’s so much context switching. You’re helping develop an org design for one minute. The next minute you’re thinking about how can you scale technology on trucks from an HR standpoint too? What’s privacy related? What’s not privacy related? So you have to be very flexible, agile, resilient in everything you do.
Ron: So the individuals that I want to bring on to my team are people that can navigate that the gray. There is no really black and white anymore. It’s all gray, it’s all contextual. So you have to have empathy. You have to have smarts. You have to be open to hearing both sides of the equation. And I talk about our field ops. So our drivers are critical to our business. And so previous to me joining, it was very tough to get at drivers. And so we had to come up with like, oh my God, what is a way… We’re going to lose… We’re we’re not going to succeed as a company if we can’t have the supply to meet our demand.
Ron: So how can we be creative and figure things out? So we got to brainstorming. And one of the things we came up with was build our own academy, CDL academy. So taking non-drivers, taking them through a process. And after two months, then they’re qualified to actually work on as a driver, giving the energy that we need to our clients. And so what we found was that people really valued us to investing in them. It makes people feel more connected to the mission, connected to the company. And it just one example of trying to be resilient, agile, and figuring out in these times where it’s so difficult to get the right workforce, to get engaged workforce, you see turnover, people leave between 12 and 18 months.
Ron: My thought process is, if you can be creative, you can have this career journey. I think the turnover of 12 to 18 months is in your job within the company. You can move from one segment to another segment. So it increases your tenure and your happiness, but it’s all done under one umbrella versus moving around. So hopefully that answers what you were thinking-
William Tincup: Oh, absolutely. 100%. Again, I love the way that you framed up the flexibility becomes a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but you look, again, meeting with the audience, meeting your employees and candidates where they are and fitting around what they need at that particular, and then growing with them. Because again, your model that you… Playbook that you’ve used in the past of hire, grow, keep, you’re going to use a similar framework going forward, but a lot of the plays are changing.
William Tincup: Right?
Ron: Exactly. Exactly.
William Tincup: So take us into what you think 2022 does with hire, grow, keep for you?
Ron: Well, with the hiring side, really it’s opened up to the whole globe.
William Tincup: Okay.
Ron: In the past, it was very rigid. And I think from a skillset standpoint, the skills are still there, but what we’re doing is we’re trying to see, well, what types of roles can be work in an isolated situation where you’re working at home, you’re not in an office? And what types of roles you need in an office? And so what I have found is, people are more productive at, at home unless you are working with some physical or you’re early in your career. So I’ll give you an example.
Ron: So if you have a hard work component, it’s really hard to have a team test things out when they’re all working on their own homes. You need some type of collaborative space to do that. So you have to understand and define what roles and be remote and what you can’t. And so recruiting has to be very focused on this role could be anywhere and this and this other role has to be in a location where you have some collaboration there. So that’s really [crosstalk 00: 19: 42].
William Tincup: We’re quick on that, Ron, just to, sorry to interrupt, are you finding that candidates want to know or have some certainty around remote, remote forever hybrid back in the office? Are the candidates driving some of those conversations?
Ron: 100%. Yes. People want to know what is your policy? And the other trickiness too with recruiting now is what is your policy regarding vaccinations, right?
William Tincup: Right.
Ron: Do you prefer vaccinations or not? And we’re still evaluating it and trying to figure that out. But yes, those are the two things that candidates ask. And then the third is compensation. So if I live in Iowa, am I going to be paid Bay Area salaries. And so for now, what our philosophy is, is we’re trying to make sure that we pay people for the value that they’re impacting on the organization. There is a little bit of geo-difference in compensation, but we feel it’s pretty fair. It’s not as widespread as some of the other benchmarks are out there. So we’re trying to be more consistent across the board, but we’re still having some differences between Bay Area and some other locations that are more… The cost of living just is so lower than the Bay Area.
William Tincup: Do you think that there will be, not just for all, but again, we’re thinking more broad for the folks that are listening, pay that’s associated for remote versus pay that for people to come into the office because we’ve seen in read articles about people getting bonuses to come into the office. Do you see that as a one off or do you see is a trend?
Ron: I think it’s a trend right now. I don’t think it’s going to be a trend that lasts though.
William Tincup: Right.
Ron: I think there’s going to be some equilibrium. And I think some people are using that as a perk or compensation to come into the office because I still think a lot of the founders and CEOs feel that if you’re in an office, there’s more rigor and there’s more regulation around work. And slowly that’s going to devolve because I think all of the employees are going to mandate, and they can mandate that work can be done anywhere. So these perks are not going to be enticing enough and you’re not going to get the talent you need just by giving perks. And so I think it’s a short-term type of trend, but I think in long-term, that’s not how it’s going to be.
William Tincup: Got you. Got you, got you, got you, got you, got you, got you. So learning the grow part and the learning paths, what do you foresee the needs of the candidates and then the employees? What do you foresee that they need to hear from us in terms of growing their skills and growing them as people? Because you mentioned wellbeing at you really set the table with wellbeing at the beginning with physical, mental, financial career, emotional, et cetera. So growth can not just be skills or hard skill. It could be soft skills, it could be growth in other ways. What do you see that looking like for you and also just larger for other HR leaders?
Ron: Yeah, I think the key is, is that it’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all. I think you have to meet people where they’re at and what journey to they want to be. In the past, you’ve creative journeys for people and people and employees had to go along that same journey.
Ron: Here, it’s like, I think, first of all, we don’t really understand all the skills and all the characteristics that our employees have. It’s pretty clear that even though we recruit them, we bring them in, they have a resume, we don’t understand their full skills. So I think step one is to really index and understand what everyone brings to the table, and be very open-minded because as companies grow, they’re going to focus a lot more on projects and initiatives and they want to bring the best group of people together to focus on that initiative. So having the skills-based understanding of what employees do to align to projects is going to be a way of working in the future.
Ron: The other piece, though, is, a lot of people don’t really know what they want to do two years from now, but they want to have opportunities to work on impactful things. So if you provide an environment where teams are more fungible. So for instance, say there’s an operations person. Well, maybe they can do a short stint in a sales organization. So if they’re operations, they’re seeing some of the things that work and don’t work. So when you’re talking to a client, you can give them more clarity on what it means to be a client of this organization and what the operational infrastructure’s going to look like.
Ron: So I think giving people different types of tracks and different types of opportunities is what people are going to expect. And then people can make their own journey. Oh, I do like this. I don’t like this area. Even in some of the companies, even at Booster today, we have some of our best recruiters. Some of our best sales people came from a driver community or came from a different part of the organization. And so we’re going to see more and more of that.
Ron: I always get stuck with this fact, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this William, but Salesforce, 85% of their open recs are filled by internal people. And that’s because they have a better understanding of who their people are and giving people opportunity to grow that. That’s a crazy fact. I don’t know if you’ve heard that though.
William Tincup: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Actually I know one the town acquisition people over there and it’s true. And again, some of that’s momentum and some of it’s, they’re the market leader and there’s a lot of other things in there, but they do a fantastic job of growing talent.
William Tincup: And so let me ask you… Okay, so last question is it’s going to be an interesting question in terms of, you’re talking with your peers, you’re standing in front of a webinar, a group of your peers somewhere, hopefully somewhere nice like NAPA, and you’re giving them advice on stop, start, continue. So the framework that a lot of people use in terms of, okay, for 2022, and we’ll even go to 2023, stop doing this, start doing this, continue doing this.
Ron: That’s a great question. I think from a stop standpoint, I think stop trying to have everyone fit into a box, that will not work. You have to be agile, you have to be resourceful and resilient. And I know still a lot of companies do that. I think from a start standpoint, it is very, very critical that DE&I is not just recruiting. You have to have a mindset through the organization. So it starts at the top. It’s not just meeting a metric. It’s actually being very open, honest, and transparent and bringing your organization along. That’s critical to start doing.
Ron: And from a continuing stand is continuing to really change how orgs are structured. You want to have more of reflate structure. You want to have more of a structure where people feel like they have an opportunity to have impact. And I think we started doing this a little bit before COVID and now it’s really accelerated. And I think creating programs and tools for people to really own how they build orgs and how they grow into orgs is going to be crucial for 2022 and beyond.
William Tincup: Love it. And so we could talk forever. And because we got content forever with this particular topic, why don’t we make sure we circle up at the beginning of 2021 and see what we learned from 2020 or beginning of 2022 and see what we learned from 2021? Ron, thank you so much for carving out time for us and the audience.
Ron: No, thank you. I really enjoyed it
William Tincup: Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.