Abby Hamilton
Chief People Officer LiveIntent

A master of the art and science of recruiting and human resources, Abby is passionate about how culture can both power business objectives and carbonate kombucha.

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On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Abby from LiveIntent about supporting working parents from within.

Some Conversation Highlights:

Working parents have a lot of questions right now about rushing back to the office, and the flexibility that the pandemic created, but also the trust that it was forced really quickly and early on. So part of my question and part of the discussions we have at LiveIntent is, “Do we need to rush back to the office?” And where we landed on was a no, not at this point in time. We’ve shown that not only parents, but individuals, can be trusted until there’s a time where they can’t. If there are performance issues, you have those conversations. But the flexibility of parents being home, even now, I get to have breakfast with my kids. And I didn’t when I was in the office five days a week. I get to join them a little bit earlier for dinner, which is a great thing.

And prior to the pandemic, my camera role was full of pictures that were taken by the caregivers of my children during the day. And now I have both. I have photos that are also taken by me, that weren’t just Saturdays and Sundays. But maybe it’s a funny moment of breakfast. And even for me as a parent, I recognize how fleeting these moments are. I wish I realized it when I was really in it, when my kids were like six months, one years old. But this goes so quickly, and so embrace the time I have, and just the flexibility of being home to even go out at lunch and say hello to them, has been very, very incredible for me. And so flexibility would be number one, I would say, if we can continue to maintain it. I recognize not every business can, but when you can, give it.

Tune in for the full conversation.

Listening time: 21 minutes

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Music:
This is Recruiting Daily’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 Recruiting Daily Podcast. Today, we have Abby on from LiveIntent. And our topic today is a topic that is just something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time. It’s supporting working parents from within. We’ve all been through the same two plus years of hell. And we’ve all seen what it’s done to families, divorce rates, and all kinds of schooling from home and things like that, so it’s on everybody’s mind. Even if you don’t have kids, it’s on your mind, because it’s impacting you in some way or shape or form. So Abby, before we jump into the topic, would you introduce both yourself and LiveIntent?

Abby Hamilton:
Absolutely. I’m Abby Hamilton, I’m the Chief People Officer at LiveIntent. We are a global organization headquartered in New York City, about 250 employees sitting in the ad tech, MarTech space. But my other identities are also wife and mother to two children, one six, the other three, also known as Spider-Man at this point in time. He will only address as Spider-Man. And when you call him Parker, he says, “No I’m Spidy”. So those are-

William Tincup:
You got to call him Peter Parker.

Abby Hamilton:
That is my life.

William Tincup:
Yeah, I got it.

Abby Hamilton:
Yes. But when you tell him he’s Peter Parker, he says, “But Peter Parker’s a human.” So call him Spidy.

William Tincup:
Fair enough. You know what? I like that he has a sense of who he is, so all right, done.

Abby Hamilton:
We’re going with it.

William Tincup:
Yeah, at this stage, you just roll with it. So you, over the last two plus years, this is actually, this has really hit home because it would be one in three-ish, plus or minus. Right?

Abby Hamilton:
Yeah. Yeah.

William Tincup:
My kids were older during the start of the pandemic, so not quite self-sustaining or self-sufficient. I had to set up their Zoom stuff, but outside of that, not much. But all my friends had younger kids and it was daily talking to them down off the ledge.

Abby Hamilton:
Yeah. I was in the phase of what other parents call “in it.” Absolutely living it every day and still doing so.

William Tincup:
You’re Vietnam. You’re in the weeds.

Abby Hamilton:
Front lines.

William Tincup:
And you didn’t sign up, turns out, to be a teacher. I mean, you obviously, you went to school. And you’ve had a career, you’re doing all kinds of great stuff. And teaching, you’re probably good at it. Most HR people, there’s some tangible skills in HR that do kind of cross over into teaching. Okay, cool. But not full time.

Abby Hamilton:
No, definitely was not prepared to juggle being a chief people officer, educating my children, worrying about their wellbeing, along with the wellbeing of my workforce, and just general care of my home and kids, in addition to trying to fit in some self-care and mental wellbeing for myself in all of that. So it has absolutely been a very interesting two plus years. One of which has completely changed the way we work, in the way that we have to support our parents at work too.

William Tincup:
That’s awesome. So programmatically, you’ve seen this from both sides, both what you’ve felt and then also what you needed to provide for the company, for your employees. So it’s probably hard to kind of delineate between the two, what you needed in that particular very early stage in the pandemic, and then we’ll kind of get into now. What was the recipe? How did you start down the process of, “Okay, what do working parents at the company need, similar or different than what do I need?”

Abby Hamilton:
I actually think part of the superpower was embracing that I didn’t have to delineate it. Because I will tell you as a working mother, my whole career, or even thinking about becoming a mother, I was really afraid that I was going to be judged by being a mom, that I may not progress as quickly, putting my deepest, darkest fears out there. And even at the beginning of the pandemic, I remember very, very early on, we were hosting, we have town halls every other week, our company all meetings. And I was speaking as an executive.

Abby Hamilton:
I was talking to the workforce, talking to all the teams and here comes in, at the time, my three year old, busted in, needed mommy in that moment, and jumped into video, full blown conversation with me. And there was really nothing I could do to control it. Just had to kind of go with it. It was like the BBC dad moment. Remember that back in the day, when the kid busts in the background? That was my BBC moment. And I had to talk to my child, otherwise he was going to freak out, but also then come back and continue addressing the topic I was talking about.

Abby Hamilton:
I hung up from the call and I was horrified. Everything inside me was like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that just happened. That was so embarrassing.” And I got so much love and support afterwards. Laughing, “Oh, my gosh. That was great. Your son is amazing. Thank you for handling that with grace. You made me feel so comfortable if that happens to me in the future too.” And instead of that horror and shame that I felt inside coming back at me, I was getting love. I was getting support. I was getting care.

Abby Hamilton:
And that was one of the moments where this pivotally switched for me. And I need to be the person that helps normalize being a parent and working as a standard. And I am in a position of power to lead by influence and lead through example here. And I need to embrace that and actually lead from the front on this one. And so yeah, it was really, really tough, but I realized that it’s okay, and this is who I am. And there’s no longer work and life balancing, because that at that time we were in quarantine. But it was, this is the harmony of both. And sometimes my kids are going to show up on video and that’s okay. I found if I introduce them and move on, we all win.

William Tincup:
That’s exactly what I do. And I remember years ago, if one of my sons would’ve came in or came in while I was doing a webinar or something like that, I would’ve been, one of those deals. And now I, even during webinars, I had a webinar for Dubai. I was doing a, I think it was town acquisition bid. And VanEllis walked in, and normally they see me with a headset on, they know I’m talking to somebody. So he walked in. I’m like, “All right.” So I just gave them the headset, handed the headset to him. He was like, “Hey, my name’s VanEllis. How’s everybody doing?” You know what? We’re just going to go with this and let it go.

William Tincup:
And it was fantastic. The feedback coming back from that was like, “Loved seeing your son. It was amazing. That was funny.”” And you know what? We all need that. So I, first of all, I like that we see what’s going on in people’s lives. I like that empathy and kind of understanding of what people are going through. I hope that we, as we return to, I’m doing air quotes, you don’t see me, but as we return to the office, I hope that we don’t lose some of that. So as we progress the conversation through the pandemic and as it informs today, what should we be thinking about working parents as we move forward? Like, okay, what do we learn that’s cool? And then what are the things that they need as a go forward? What do you need as a go forward?

Abby Hamilton:
Yeah. And there’s a lot of questions right now about rushing back to the office, and the flexibility that the pandemic created, but also the trust that it was forced really quickly and early on. So part of my question and part of the discussions we have at LiveIntent is, “Do we need to rush back to the office?” And where we landed on was a no, not at this point in time. We’ve shown that not only parents, but individuals, can be trusted until there’s a time where they can’t. If there are performance issues, you have those conversations. But the flexibility of parents being home, even now, I get to have breakfast with my kids. And I didn’t when I was in the office five days a week. I get to join them a little bit earlier for dinner, which is a great thing.

Abby Hamilton:
And prior to the pandemic, my camera role was full of pictures that were taken by the caregivers of my children during the day. And now I have both. I have photos that are also taken by me, that weren’t just Saturdays and Sundays. But maybe it’s a funny moment of breakfast. And even for me as a parent, I recognize how fleeting these moments are. I wish I realized it when I was really in it, when my kids were like six months, one years old. But this goes so quickly, and so embrace the time I have, and just the flexibility of being home to even go out at lunch and say hello to them, has been very, very incredible for me. And so flexibility would be number one, I would say, if we can continue to maintain it. I recognize not every business can, but when you can, give it.

William Tincup:
I love that. So this rush back to office, I had a call this week and the guy I was talking to, great experience, fantastic experience, Microsoft, Starbucks, Expedia. Let’s just stop there, just great experience. And he said to me, he goes, “You wait. These technology companies are going to demand employees come back.” I’m like, “No way. This is crazy.” And so we go back and forth. It was a fun bit. And then the next day there’s an article put out about Eric Schmidt, a former Google executive talking about, literally, employees, they get more out of the at-work experience than the remote experience. And he forwarded it to me. And I’m like, “I just don’t understand. What are people not getting about how people would like to work in the future?” So how do you wrestle with executives or otherwise that want this return to office, or maybe a hybrid model that has some components of working in the office, versus employees, especially working parents, that want to work from home? They just have seen a better model.

Abby Hamilton:
And this is hard. But I see it as a pendulum, and it goes back and forth because I’m also not devaluing the importance of in-person collaboration. But does it need to be five days a week, all day, every day. That, I don’t know. I don’t know that it does. And we’ve seen that we can be successful when it’s not. But when we come together with purpose and intention, then that really works. In those in-person collaborations, we know that maybe technically you’re not getting as many PowerPoint presentations or Excel spreadsheets done on those days, but you are then focusing on your relationships with your coworkers, that you’re then taking back virtually. So I absolutely see the value in both, but I do challenge the need, does it need to be all in the office?

William Tincup:
First of all, I agree with all of that. And I think some of it just comes down to flexibility. Right?

Abby Hamilton:
Yes.

William Tincup:
Especially with working parents, one week’s really heavy, like next week’s really heavy for my youngest son. There’s all kinds of things going on that I need to go to his school for. So in that case, yeah, I’m going to fit work essentially around, VanEllis’s schedule. There’s other weeks where they don’t have stuff going on, or the stuff’s after school or whatever, and so I think thinking about working parents and flexibility. And there’s probably another third leg of that triangle, that’s where people thrive. Of understanding us, having a deep understanding and individually understanding where we thrive ourselves, because some people thrive in a remote environment, some people don’t.

William Tincup:
Some people will thrive in a hybrid environment. Some people won’t. Some people will thrive with massive flexibility and some people won’t. That’s just life. So how are you thinking about the next six months or year in terms of working parents and kind of, “Okay, all right. Let’s figure out the model.” What’s working, what’s not working? What also do you need to add, potentially add in to make them successful?

Abby Hamilton:
Yeah. And I think it’s being willing to keep trying and adapting, to your point. And some people absolutely do need that. So what we’ve done is we have moved office locations this year. The footprint, the size is smaller. However, we really prioritize the spaces to come together and collaborate. And there are individuals that want to go into the office five days a week.

William Tincup:
A hundred percent.

Abby Hamilton:
I’m not saying that that is not okay. They actually should. It is there. It is available to them. They thrive in that. They may live in a very small apartment in New York City. They may have roommates. They may not have an ample work environment, secure wifi, whatever it may be. Whatever their reason is, there’s a space for them to go ahead and do that.

William Tincup:
You’ll laugh-

Abby Hamilton:
It does come back to the flexibility.

William Tincup:
Sorry. You’ll laugh, I apologize for interrupting, but talking to people that are coming out of college, I don’t remember this because it’s has been that long. But folks that are coming out of college, they want to go to the office in general. They want to go to the office because that’s where they meet people. I’ve forgotten all of that stuff like that. Going out and going to baseball games and all of that other stuff, it’s like, yeah. So far removed from, but again, it gets back to that flexibility.

William Tincup:
I think that’s going to be really interesting for, I think executives and the board. I don’t think it’s going to be as hard from an HR perspective for us to think about it because we’ve had to deal with it for two plus years. But I think the sell internally is going to be really interesting to just say we’re just going to be really flexible. And the work, the outputs, managing to the outcome or whatever, yeah, we’re going to do that. If people want to take off that Friday and be with their kid, great, let’s celebrate that instead of punish people for that.

Abby Hamilton:
Absolutely. And we’ve been very successful. We have a parent’s ERG.

William Tincup:
Oh, cool.

Abby Hamilton:
And I’ve seen that really be a great ample area of support too, because the parents, as we’re all figuring this out together, no one’s done this before. No one’s parented in this fashion, that we know. So it was really helpful just to say, “Hey, here’s, what’s working for me. Here’s what’s working for me.” Or “You know what, today I’m doing my best just to hold it all together.” And be honest about that. Because I’m not going to have a clean house, happy kids, and be perfect at work all in one day. I’m constantly balancing and prioritizing. And there’s a group of individuals that is doing the same exact thing and making me feel like that’s okay, which takes off some of my self-imposed pressure to have it all together all the time. Sometimes, go to bed with the dirty sinks in the sink. It’s fine. The dirty dishes in the sink. It’s okay. Nothing broke. It’s okay.

William Tincup:
So you mentioned the ERG, which first of all is fantastic. If everybody that’s listening to this, if you don’t already have one for working parents, you should create one. I wanted to kind of ask you about kind of EAP mental wellness and burnout, as it relates to, how do we support working parents? Because we’re talking about supporting a lot of different groups of people and kind of getting their best selves, getting to a place where they thrive, et cetera. But we’ve also been through two plus years of hell. And so you’ve got a lot of mental health things, whether or not people know it or not, or are aware of it or not, or whatever. And you’ve also got a lot of burnout. So what do you see as kind of the future of how you want to kind of triage whatever you’re seeing in your own audience, in your own employees and get in front of that?

Abby Hamilton:
Yeah. I think it’s also making it, it’s not shameful to ask for help when you need it. Communicate with your leaders. Also, we do have an EAP. We’ve invested in the call map for everyone. I know that the meditation isn’t for everyone, but for those that it works for, helpful thing just to put on. I’ve even used it for bedtime stories for my kids just to help calm them down, which calms me down. And then we give $30 per month for wellness in general. And you can use that however you want. If you want to use that for your Peloton membership, or you want to use that for a massage, please go do it. You know what you need best. So I’m not assuming it’s a one-size-fits-all strategy for everyone. Very similar to what you were saying about flexibility of returning to the office, I think our own mental and physical wellness is the same thing. It’s not necessarily one size fits all, and we all need the same thing each day.

William Tincup:
I love that. So last thing is your hack that you’ve created for yourself. Because again, you’ve been through, yeah, with younger kids, I don’t want to imagine, and I can’t imagine. So I’m just going to go ahead and go that far. What’s been your hack? What’s kept you sane?

Abby Hamilton:
This is going to sound super simple, but going to bed. Sometimes I just need to prioritize my sleep, because I was finding early on, I was trying to do it all. I was trying to balance everything, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. And that was really impacting my body and my mental wellness. So how do I protect my sleep? How do sometimes I just go to bed so I can reset? And it doesn’t work every day. I’m not saying all that. But I’m saying sometimes it’s just, I just need to go to bed. Same as my kids. They freak out, they’re usually hungry, tired, or thirsty. Same thing is happening to me in my body. I’m hungry, tired, or thirsty. So can I go to just, just go to bed, and prioritize my sleep, prioritize my rest. And I found when I started to do that for myself and then get up in the morning and exercise, it really helped put me on a better trajectory, because then I could work all day. I could do the things I needed, because I found moments to prioritize me versus everybody else.

William Tincup:
Drops mic and walks off stage. Abby, this has been absolutely fantastic. And it’s such a great topic. And we probably need to revisit about every six months, because we’re learning.

Abby Hamilton:
Hundred percent.

William Tincup:
So thank you so much for coming on the show.

Abby Hamilton:
Thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun.

William Tincup:
And thanks for everyone listening to the Recruiting Daily Podcast. Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

Authors
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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