Anthony Smith
Chief Human Resource Officer Elements Global Services

As the Chief HR, Mobility and Administration Officer for Elements Global Services, it is Anthony's ambition to provide the foundation, tools and learning experiences to ensure we attract, inspire and retain the very best talent for Elements Global Services.

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On this episode of The RecruitingDaily Podcast, William speaks with Anthony Smith about how to rebuild trust with your employees, especially as we are recovering from Covid.

Anthony is the chief human resource officer at Elements Global Services and an expert in people-powered solutions. Tune in and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Listening Time: 24 minutes

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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:

Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today, we have Anthony on from Elements and we’re talking about how to rebuild trust with your employees. So critical topic, top of mind for pretty much everyone in TA and in HR and at C-Suite as well. So really good topic. Anthony, if you would do us a favor, the audience a favor and introduce yourself and Elements.

Anthony:

Absolutely. William, pleasure to be on here with you, and thanks very much for the invite. And to our audience, pleasure to be with you. As a very quick introduction, so Anthony Smith, CHRO here with Elements. I am not your traditional CHRO, I’ve had the pleasure of building my career across a lot of different facets. Starting off in investment banking, moving into human capital consulting with PWC, doing quite a bit of in-house experience. And now today, leading the overall global people strategy, along with our operations, client operations teams here at Elements, where collectively, we help other organizations globally scale and expand around the world through using our direct EOR, employer of record model and tech solutions. So very quick high level, but again, William pleasure to be with you.

William:

Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, let’s talk a little bit about trust and let’s talk about, kind of, obviously we’re probably talking about since COVID hit and some layoffs, furloughs. We had to go remote overnight, work from home overnight, a lot of chaos, miscommunication, et cetera. So what are some of your elements, pun intended. What are some of your kind of cornerstone things when you want to rebuild trust, or you feel like trust either needs to be recentered or you need to kind of reemphasize it? Where do you start with folks?

Anthony:

Yeah. And it’s really challenging, because each of us are just genetically made up differently. So trust for one person means maybe something a little different for another. So to take a bit of a one size fits all approach, I don’t know if that will work. But look, you mentioned COVID and the impact, and now moving towards this digitalization and virtual. I’m constantly reminded of that quote that, you can’t wire the world when you short circuit the soul. And as much as we have become so dependent on technology to help build these gaps in this new digital workforce, at the end of the day, we’re people, we’re humans. We crave connections, whether it’s an energy builder for us or an energy drainer, at the end of the day, we, as people need to have these connections.

Anthony:

Now, for me, the biggest thing with trust is just openness and transparency and I can’t stress that enough to my team. And you mentioned earlier with talent acquisition, and it’s funny enough because at the end of every interview I give, I always say, I hope it’s okay with you, but if you’ll allow me to give you both positive and constructive feedback for the betterment of you having an understanding of how you’ve can maybe better position yourself for any future interviews. But it comes down to creating in a trusted environment, where knowing that any discussion we have is with positive intent.

William:

I love that, and excuse me for interrupting. First of all, I just love that you do that. It’s consent, right? You’re asking, may I give you this feedback. It’s going to be both sides, if that’s okay. Candidates can say no. You’re asking for permission. They can say, no, I’m good, that’s fine. Or they can then take that on. I’ve also seen recruiters also do that bit, but then flip it and say, now, what could I have done better in this interview?

Anthony:

Yeah.

William:

Which is really, again, building trust, right. It’s like, okay, I’ve given you feedback. Okay. You know what? I’m not above it myself. What questions tricked you up? What should I have explained better? What could I have done better?

Anthony:

Yeah. Well, a super powerful question that we also ask is, do you, in the our interview, do you believe I have given you the opportunity to showcase your strengths?

William:

Nice. Oh, that’s good. That’s really, really good. Because if not, then that person can say, well actually, I really, I think I answered this kind of too fast. And what I really meant to say was… And one of the things I recently heard from candidates that I love, is candidates at the end of the interview saying, have you heard anything or seen anything today that prevents you from giving me a job offer? Which is a sale closing technique, which is, it’s actually fascinating because this actually comes out of sales 101, right?

Anthony:

Yeah.

William:

But they’ve brought it over into candidates, basically at the end of the interview going, Hey listen, now you got to go through a lot of steps.

Anthony:

Yeah.

William:

But is there anything that’s caused a red flag? And if, let me see if I can address it.

Anthony:

I love it. I think that’s fantastic.

William:

Isn’t that nice?

Anthony:

That’s good.

William:

So I like that you hit transparency, and it’s one of the things we, I think that we can carry that into a lot of different parts of the discussion around DEI and all kinds of different things like that. But I wanted to ask you about vulnerability and kind of authentic self, because you mentioned, Hey, one size isn’t going to fit all. There’s no cookie cutter. There’s no silver bullet. There’s none of that stuff. So stop. But letting people be their authentic self, that’s both sides and also letting people be vulnerable. And again, everyone’s going to choose to kind of to do that a little bit differently, et cetera. But what’s your take on vulnerability and the one’s authentic self.

Anthony:

Yeah. The vulnerability, I think we could sit here and talk an hour on. I absolutely love that. I love it when a leader stands up and says I failed at this. And it was really painful. But what I learned was I failed forward, I failed fast because what you’re then doing is you’re creating a culture to allow and tell your people, it’s okay to take risks. Just don’t take them too often or don’t take them to a massive scale. But when you have that leadership that goes up and says, look, I failed or I learned. And sometimes we have to pivot and we do it together. You’re creating that environment across your people to know, look, we don’t have to be perfectionist, but we have to be on a path towards perfection.

Anthony:

And I think that’s absolutely critical. It was interesting, earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to move and relocate overseas. And of course I was still a bit younger and my method to giving feedback, wasn’t where it should have been. And what I realized was whenever I would give somebody feedback, they would kind of clam up and I was trying to understand, well, why isn’t my feedback going through? And this comes back to the vulnerability and the positive intent, but it was really about, well, before I give you feedback, let me tell you why I’m giving you feedback. I think you have the opportunity to make a profound impact here. But in order for us to get there, this is what we need to do. And a lot of times we fall into that sandwich, telling somebody, I thought you did great here, then bam, I’m going to whack you with the hard feedback.

William:

There goes your knees.

Anthony:

Yeah, exactly. But your hair looks great. So don’t listen to every hard feedback I give you. So it’s really getting into helping understand people to know the positive intent. And I love the word vulnerability, I think it’s fantastic.

William:

So there’s this kind of historic bit with NASA in the ’60s and how they consumed failure. And in fact, how they celebrated failure. So every time they had a failure, they had champagne and cake. So when an engine blew up, they’d all go to the conference room, they’d all have a slice of cake, they’d all have a little bit of champagne. And you get right back to work. And the reason for that is they had to fail fast. And so, it’s kind of a historical kind of a bit, but how we consume failure and again, how we communicate failure, which I think, I love the way that you kept position at with leaders going, Hey, you’re vulnerable, letting people in on where you failed and what you’ve learned from it. How do we allow for that for not just leaders, but managers, employees, everybody?

Anthony:

Yeah. Well, I’m a big believer that we spend a decent amount of time here at work, but then we all have families around the world and this and that. And now, I am a proud father of three young kids. And my son, I just had a discussion with him about this last week, in sports. And it was, look, you never lose. You win or you learn and you have to constantly be in this learning mentality, but William, I’m also a big fan of the OODA mentality. And this was actually a military type of tactic, but OODA is observe, orient, decide, act. And it’s this continuous cycle, it never slows down. And it’s really about how do you continue to observe the situation, orient yourself, make decisions, act, but do it with speed or velocity, but with continuous learning. And I think any organization that is literally looking to be agile and pivotal, needs to really train their people on how to be able to do that.

William:

Love that. That’s a tattoo waiting to happen. How do we know when we are either losing or have lost trust with our employees? And then what do we do? What should be the first thing we do after that? Either it’s slipping and we know it’s slipping or it’s slipped and we’ve lost their trust.

Anthony:

Yeah. I think engagement, silence and engagement. When the room starts to get a little quieter or those discussions that you’re having, the one-on-one meetings, maybe there’s less being talked about, less openness. I think that’s a very clear early indicator. And again, I think this comes back to just dialogue. I think this comes back to me having a conversation. William, look, I noticed on our last discussion, maybe you weren’t as engaged. Let’s talk about that, is my perception off? And if it’s off, maybe help me understand maybe why I’m getting there. You’re starting to see more and more organizations move away from the annual engagement surveys and moving more towards either quarterly engagements or daily. Little popups when you start up your computer to say, how are you feeling today? Or did you feel like you made an impact yesterday? I think these constant little check-ins, as long as they’re not too heavy open dialogue and to me, everything starts around dialogue.

William:

So you mentioned engagement, so let’s stay there for just a second. Is there any analytics or metrics that you kind of keep your finger on or keep your eye on?

Anthony:

Absolutely. So, yeah, we actually just ran our most recent employee engagement survey here at Elements. And you always look at the full scope. What are we doing really, really well? And fortunately here at Elements, some of our top scoring was around trust and diversity, we scored over 92% on that. Actually, work-life balance was really good for us, which we were proud to see coming out of COVID. Some of the challenges that we have is really around roles and accountability, roles and responsibilities. And again, it comes down to communication. How we very clearly defining scope and whose boundaries are what, so there’s lot that comes out of those analytics.

Anthony:

We take a look at also a lot of predictive analytics within our talent dashboards. So we have some really cool virtual talent dashboards that really looked at predictive human data analytics, and then comes up with prescriptive solutions. So for instance, how do we predict who’s going to leave the organization in the next six months? What are those indicating factors? And then what type of prescriptive solutions can we bring? But I know we’re moving a little away from the-

William:

No, no, no. That’s what I was going to ask you about. I was actually going to ask you about stay interviews and what’s your take on stay interviews, but having some insight into flight and then being able to get in front of flight is, again, you’re rebuilding trust to some degree. If someone’s looking for something else or thinking about something else, to some degree they’ve lost faith, right? They’ve lost, whatever. And so rebuilding that, having some type of indicators, I think that’s great. Now you got to then do something good to repair that and rebuild that. So that’s one thing, but your take on stay interviews. I mean, first of all, do you like them? Do you think they’re effective, et cetera?

Anthony:

Yeah. I think they can be very powerful, if there’s action behind it. I mean, look, our people are incredibly smart and they’re intuitive. And they understand when it’s an HR initiative just to check the box, versus when there’s true intent behind it. And I think stay interviews can be an incredibly powerful force, as long as your people are seeing that the time that they invested to give you that stay interview is being used well, and you’re taking action afterwards. So I’m a big fan of them. Just make sure you get to work after you do it.

William:

So what is leadership? Not just their responsibility. I think you’ve kind of covered that and touched on that. And in terms of being vulnerable and conveying where they’ve failed and what they’ve learned, I love all that. But what do you do, again, in your career, what do you do when you hit someone that’s reluctant to understand the importance of trust with employees? How do you get them emotionally or intellectually? How do you get them over that hump?

Anthony:

Yeah. That’s a very challenging one. And fortunately, throughout my career, I’ve had very limited cases with that. Because I think overall, people do want to have that vision of leadership, of being this impactful leader, this visionary leader. And it’s really opening up to again, understanding why. Why is it that you believe this is not important? And to me, it’s a very simple approach of saying, and truly decoding the human in front of you. And what I mean by that is, well, what are your motivational factors and needs? Maybe you have somebody that is incredibly action oriented and results driven. And now they’re not going to necessarily get into that trust conversation because intuitively, maybe they don’t want to go there.

Anthony:

But if you frame the discussion and you bring it back to say, how much more impact, how much more results, how much more growth we will have through a trusted environment. Now you’re capturing their engagement, because you’re listening. It’s almost like that book, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, The Five Love Languages. We all give and receive love differently. So, and it’s most impactful when you’re able to communicate to somebody in their love language. And I think this comes back to exactly that, William. How do we now talk to somebody in their love language to then break down the barriers so they understand the message.

William:

So first of all, I love that, a great reference as well. And I’ve seen with leaders, where we talk about trust, vulnerability, communications, authentic self, all these kind of things together. And we talk about it under the guise of discretionary effort. Employees have discretionary effort. And that email that they get at five o’clock on Friday. Yeah. They can do it then, or they can do it on Tuesday. So that’s discretionary and, if for no other reason, then you’d like for that discretionary effort to fall your way, then that’s why engagement’s important. That’s why vulnerability, that’s why trust, that’s why all these are important. I’ve seen people actually talk with, and I won’t say the CFOs, because I don’t want to put, that’s not really fair to them. But I’ve seen talking to the C-Suite and even to the board of why these things are important, because I’ve seen a lot of questions. Like why is culture? Why are we still talking about it? Why is this so credible? Why are we spending money on this?

William:

And it’s like, well, there’s a reason we do these things. There’s a reason that we put money into these programs and it’s not just because we’re philanthropic. It’s that, and we wanted them to have a better experience, not go on Glassdoor and rail against us, et cetera. However, there’s also another reason and discretionary effort is of but one.

William:

Next question for me is, what do you think the responsibility of employees is here? I mean, we’ve talked most of it about what’s the responsibility of managers, the leaders, et cetera, in terms of rebuilding trust. But as you’ve already said, trust is a two way street. What’s their responsibility? Or what would you like to kind of convey and say, you know what, if you’re feeling yourself starting to slip, here’s some of the things that you should do.

Anthony:

Yeah. I loved, in one of my older organizations I had implemented what was called the talent deal. And this is, it was almost like a virtual handshake, that we are going to have as an organization and yourself. And what is our deal? As an employer, we are going to invest in you. We are going to continuously reskill you. And it’s not just for your sake, actually, it’s for the sake of the greater good of economies and local societies. Because let’s be honest, people are going to leave your organization and you have to understand that. Now, if you look at it so narrow minded, it’s going to be damaging. But if we look at it and I just had it. Sadly, I had somebody on my team recently, that’s a great talent, decide to pursue another opportunity.

Anthony:

And of course, after the stung went away or the sting went away, it was the reflective moment to say, well, here at Elements, we helped equip that individual with the proper skills and capabilities for them to go on and advance their career and move into another company. And to me, that’s part of that inclusive capitalism model. But when you take a step back, well, what is it that we expect? We expect that there’s a high level accountability. When we say we’re going to do something, we go and do it. And if there’s a reason why we can’t do it, I expect you to be able to raise that back to me. I expect coming back to this trust and this authenticity, that when we give feedback, it’s going to be given with positive intent. And we’re not going to complain just to complain, but we’re going to find solutions together.

Anthony:

So there’s a lot of different aspects to that talent deal. But I think the biggest thing that we as employers are looking for our people is, look, if there’s something that’s not right, raise your voice. Your voice is important. And we need you to make sure that it’s always in the room with us.

William:

And again, that’s building that trust. I mean, part of is allowing, giving them the consent and giving them respect and saying, listen, we’re not just asking you just for giggles. We really need to know, if something’s off, we need you to be an early indicator, if something’s off. And then if we don’t do something about it, then hold our feet to the fire and hold us accountable to that. Which of course, accountability, we probably could add another 30 minutes talking just about accountability.

William:

It’s funny that you mentioned the kind of the contract, the social contract that you built. I did that at one of positions I had, is we built a not cool list. And essentially, because most of the workforce is under the age of 25, we just basically built a list of, it’s not cool. And then statement after statement, it’s not cool to show up late to a meeting, it’s not cool to be unprepared for this, it’s not cool to throw grenades, all this type of stuff. But we literally sat around and talked about it, went through each one of them and then everyone signed it, everyone. From CEO, all the way down, everyone signed it and just said, okay, now that we all agree, these things aren’t cool. So now we don’t have to have further conversations about what’s cool and what’s not, these things are not cool. Okay. All right. And we’ll update it every year and make sure that the list is still relevant to what we’re doing.

William:

The last question I have before we go out, Anthony, is remote and building trust and the relationship because you and both come from a place where you’re in an office environment and everyone sees each other. You go out to lunch, there’s team building, there’s all kinds of different activities, you’re going to ball games. You’re not just building comradery, but you’re also building these connections, like you said earlier, and you’re in some ways building trust. What’s your advice to other HR leaders in terms of how they facilitate trust in a remote or work from home environment?

Anthony:

Yeah. It’s a challenge, for sure. What we have done, and what I believe we’ve done successfully here is, you just mentioned going out to lunch or maybe going to a happy hour. We, right off the bat, implemented digital happy hours within our organization.

William:

Oh cool.

Anthony:

Where in certain times, certain days during the week. And of course we had to say, okay, make sure your drinks are six feet or at least six feet away from your computer, we’re not ordering 200 new laptops tomorrow. But we used it, we had digital DJs that was playing music, responsible for the music, somebody else was responsible for X, Y, Z. And we created opportunities for people to socially connect. Because that’s it, when people feel socially connected to an organization, they stay X amount longer. So how do you develop social roots into a company?

Anthony:

We just got done, and I think one of my colleagues posted on LinkedIn not long ago, that we did a musical game with our people. Where we said, you know what, for the next hour, and it was the middle of the day, for the next hour, we’re not going to talk work. We’re not going to talk shop. What we’re going to do is we’re going to have fun. And they turned it into a musical game challenge. Now I’m tone deaf, so clearly I lost at it. But it was just opportunities to connect. And just because yes, you are virtual doesn’t mean you can still, you don’t have the opportunity to do that. You absolutely do.

William:

I love it. Anthony, thank you so much for your time and wisdom. You’ve given us a lot of nuggets and things that people can use tomorrow. So I absolutely appreciate your time in coming on the podcast.

Anthony:

Oh, it was a pleasure for me. Thank you, William.

William:

All right. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.

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William Tincup

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.


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