Tony Jamous
CEO Oyster

Tony Jamous is a tech entrepreneur and angel investor. He has made over 15 direct investments in global technology companies with a focus on developer tools, platforms models, impact, FinTech and HR Tech. Five of his companies have realized an exit to-date. Tony is currently building the future of work through his new venture Oyster, a distributed talent enablement platform that allows growing companies to tap into the global talent pool and offer their remote workers around the world a great employment experience.

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On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Tony from Oyster about the ever-evolving expectations of employees.

Some Conversation Highlights:

There are kind of two major barriers for employees. I see one is, it all goes down to our need of control, as leaders. So we want to control the experience that they need to have in the workplace in a way that we believe is right. And again, it’s about our own opinion of how work should be. We’ve seen that in the last few months, as you have the CEO of these banks saying, “Hey, we want everybody in the office. This is the way we’re going to do things.” And then suddenly you’re having 20% resignation happening [inaudible 00:11:02], and they would go back and revert on these policies.

So this need of control that is driven by this generation of leaders that were expected to know everything, to be elite, and then they acted in a way that is reinforcing their ego. And that’s that, in a way. They themselves are in the way. So what we approach here at Oyster is we try to build an egoless organization with our employees where it’s not about who is right, but about what is right for the business, for the people? How can you put the union at the center of that experience?

 

 

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Tune in for the full conversation.

Listening time: 26 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 RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Tony on, from Oyster, and our topic today is The Ever-evolving Expectation of Employees. I wanted to get a lot of E’s in that title, so I think we succeeded. But kidding aside, this is going to be a really, really wonderful show. Can’t wait to learn about Tony and Oyster. First, Tony, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Oyster?

Tony Jamous:
Hey, William, and hello, everyone. Thank you for having me on the show today. My name is Tony Jamous. I’m the CEO and founder of Oyster, a serial software entrepreneur and, since nearly two and a half years, a CEO of Oyster, which is a global employment platform.

William Tincup:
And this title, I’m sure it touches your heart. So, The Ever-evolving Expectations of Employees. Let’s just start with the basics. What have you seen that we’ve learned from the pandemic of their expectations that we need to take notice of?

Tony Jamous:
What happened in the last couple of years is… Actually, we call it the creative revelation. Essentially, a revelation that there are more important things than work that is important in our lives. And finding, having that flexibility that enable that work life balance that we are searching for has become an important need and benefit for employees around the world. That, for me, is what crystallizes what’s happening in the last two years, is that revelation that there’s something more important than work in our life.

William Tincup:
I love that. So one of the things, and we talked about pre show, it’s the universe is telling us these things, and if we pay attention, it’s there for us to then pay attention to and to put into actions. So on one level, we’ve got to pay attention to our employees and find out, okay, what’s changed? What’s important to them today, now, near term, et cetera? And then we’ve got to actually change things. We’ve got to actually meet or exceed their expectations. Let’s kind of play with both those first. How do we listen? How do we find out what is important to them so that we have an idea of what their expectations are?

Tony Jamous:
Obviously you have a number of engagement tools and feedback tools that organizations can use to collect granular feedback, but actually on an individual level, nothing is more important than this personal connection that you can create with your employees and your team, your direct team. Start there. And especially as we move towards a work that is distributed and not in the same place, it becomes part of your job as a manager or as a leader to connect with your team and check in on them. You want to check out on the work, obviously, but as importantly, you want to factor in, check in on them personally, how they’re doing in their life, what has changed, how can you make their work conditions better?

Tony Jamous:
For instance, in my work, I have what I call the heartbeat meeting, which is a 20 minute check-in connection with my team, on a weekly basis, my direct report, where we… It’s really about connecting with them and be present to them, and create that safety for them to share what is on their mind, and be at the service of them. That’s what I call the heartbeat meeting that I do over Zoom on a weekly basis with my direct reports.

William Tincup:
I love that. First of all, I just love that you do that and you give them the space in which to give you and the company feedback on how to make things better. I think when someone tells you something in a meeting, when someone tells you something that maybe you didn’t know, or a blind spot like, “Oh, wow. I wasn’t thinking that thought,” that’s cool. I think it’s easier for us as humans to consume that content, as opposed to, “Hey, this is just wrong.” To make it about whatever, we’re doing performance reviews on a monthly basis and people are just… They’re beaten. They’re tired. It is wrong. It is just wrong. It’s just emotionally draining. It’s hurting them. It’s not making us better, it’s actually hurting them. How do you deal with the content and the feedback that goes counter to what you think and what you believe? How do you deal with that content?

Tony Jamous:
You have to rethink these processes of performance management and collecting feedback. You want to insert increasing level of human authenticity. So what that mean, far more empathy, more predictability. You want to make sure that they know what good looks like, they have very clear expectations of what good looks like and where performance sits. You also want to… What we’ve done with Oyster is we’ve created pretty elaborate objective key result process that enabled us to very quickly to transition our culture to an outcome [inaudible 00:06:05] culture, starting from company goals, to team goals, to individual goals. And that enabled us to remove any stigma around presence. We don’t expect you to be available from nine to five, in that time spot. We want you to have an [inaudible 00:06:27] life, and we expect you to deliver outcomes, not [inaudible 00:06:30] in presence. That’s part of the foundation of working together, is having this clear objective and key results infrastructure.

William Tincup:
I love that. So one of the things as we put this show together, The Ever-evolving Expectations of Employees, I almost put “talent” instead of “employees,” because of the way that we think about talent now being fractional, gig, part-time, full-time, working all over the world. They might not be employees, but it’s talent that we deal with. So, want to get your take on that. First of all, not everyone is an employee, but they’re people that we interact with. The freelance agency that designs whatever, they’re just as important as a full-time employee. First of all, I just want to get your take on just talent and the way that we think about talent today. And then also, back to the subject at hand, is how do we deal with expectations of talent?

Tony Jamous:
If you think about what are the drivers of this move to a portfolio career, where we can consulting for multiple customers and having this gig type of work, it’s really essential freedom. People wanted to not be part of one organization, but probably multiple organizations, and they can be assessed on output and not on presence. What enabled us to do so in the last couple of years is that every employment can become more and more flexible and free employment. You don’t have to suffer the uncertainty of the gig work or contractual work. You can be an employee and benefit from a safe and a secure life-long employee experience while being [inaudible 00:08:29].

Tony Jamous:
And we’ve seen that. We’ve seen that at Oyster. We built an organization where we are in 66 countries, 500 people, all built in the last two years and three months. And we have engagement levels that are unheard of. We are top 3% of [inaudible 00:08:47] companies in engagement. We have a level of diversity that is representing the planet earth. So we’re 66 company, 60% women in the company. So that enabled us to create this environment where people feel they belong and they don’t have to leave this company to go and search for freedom. They are already free, being here.

William Tincup:
I love that, and I love the way that you’ve approached belonging in such a way of… You said something that I don’t hear most people say, “We’re all around the world and we want to represent the world,” which is a really wonderful. It’s a beautiful sentiment of thinking like, “Hey, the world’s big enough than male/female, or black/white,” or however you want to break that down. The world is many facets in your company. Because it serves the world, it wants to represent the world inside that. The sentiment behind that, I just absolutely love. I think it’s the way we should all approach things.

William Tincup:
What have you found… And not just with your clients, but you’ve built companies, so you’ve been around the block, so you’ve seen a couple things. What’s in our way? What’s the barrier to exceeding, meeting employees’ expectations? No matter how rapidly or how slowly they change, what’s been our barrier?

Tony Jamous:
There are kind of two major barriers. I see one is, it all goes down to our need of control, as leaders. So we want to control the experience that they need to have in the workplace in a way that we believe is right. And again, it’s about our own opinion of how work should be. We’ve seen that in the last few months, as you have the CEO of these banks saying, “Hey, we want everybody in the office. This is the way we’re going to do things.” And then suddenly you’re having 20% resignation happening [inaudible 00:11:02], and they would go back and revert on these policies.

Tony Jamous:
So this need of control that is driven by this generation of leaders that were expected to know everything, to be elite, and then they acted in a way that is reinforcing their ego. And that’s that, in a way. They themselves are in the way. So what we approach here at Oyster is we try to build an egoless organization where it’s not about who is right, but about what is right for the business, for the people? How can you put the union at the center of that experience?

William Tincup:
Let me ask you real quick, Tony, and I apologize for interrupting, but how did you… You didn’t pop out of the womb understanding control and egoless. So at one point in your career, at one point in your journey, you learned these things. How did you kind of come to grips with control? Because you’re a leader, you’ve been a leader for a long time. So at one point you’ve had to confront this particular topic. How did you do it?

Tony Jamous:
This company that I started 11 years ago experienced high level growth. We reach hundred million, first five years, and we took the company public on year five [inaudible 00:12:27] in the company. So there was a lot of moving parts, and doing hyper scale in terms of [inaudible 00:12:35]. And what I’ve realized over this five, six years period, is the more I let go what I think is right, and the more I let go my ego control, the better the business is doing, and the better people [inaudible 00:12:50]-

William Tincup:
You were choking your business with your control. You were choking it.

Tony Jamous:
Exactly.

William Tincup:
Not like you set out to do that. It was just inadvertently. You thought you were doing right, and when you flipped that switch and said, “I need to lessen my grip and let less control,” then you really unlocked the potentiality of the company, that was already there. And then it’s not just you-

Tony Jamous:
[inaudible 00:13:15]-

William Tincup:
… this is also with other leaders on your team. So it wasn’t just you, of course. But I love that. Okay, continue on. I’m sorry.

Tony Jamous:
I think the problem is also about this image, that we believe as leaders, we have to act in a certain way. Our society, and the way we portray CEOs and leaders, it’s not reality. So when we first come into the job as a first time leader, we have a certain idea about how we should be as leaders, and that’s misleading. So one of the things I’m practicing now is to completely let go what I think the CEO of Oyster should be, and let Oyster, the experience, dictate or intervene. For instance, I’ve never thought I’m going to be a [inaudible 00:14:06]. The company needed me to be vocal on social media around what is the thing called the future of work? How can you build that for? And I took that opportunity. That’s fine here. And so I had to let go what I thought a CEO should do and [inaudible 00:14:32] to that experience of high growth.

William Tincup:
You know what’s interesting is, we’re not taught that. We’re not taught that in school, anywhere, any of our educational institutions, this concept of egoless, which I absolutely love that phrase and a sentiment behind that phrase, and also not taught what you’ve learned through your journey, in terms of the CEO doesn’t have a position description outside of doing what’s best for the company, and letting the company tell the CEO what that is. And it changes, whatever it is, then the CEO can do that, or president can do that, chief operating… all of our leaders can do those things. We just have to lessen our grip.

Tony Jamous:
[inaudible 00:15:19] it’s not to be attached to the outcome. Accept that actually you might fail, and that’s okay. So not being attached to a specific outcome for desired results, that enable much more flexibility in driving this team to the end point, essentially, by having the least amount of damage and emotional strain on the team [inaudible 00:15:54].

William Tincup:
One thing I wanted to ask you, when you mentioned egoless, is this concept that a couple years ago was popular, was meritocracy, in terms of best idea. Best idea when it doesn’t matter if it’s the receptionist or someone that’s been in company 30 years or whatever the bid is, it’s just the best idea. And I know you probably studied that, as it was popular as well. What’s similar and different between egoless and meritocracy?

Tony Jamous:
I think it’s the same part of the pyramid of needs. I would say you think at the bottom, you have this egoless approach to leadership that creates safety, which is a second layer. And then when you have safety, then you start creating an environment where the best idea can win, because you’re reducing the fear that people that their idea didn’t sound correct. You reduce the fear of how they might look if they say something that they think is stupid. So it’s a pyramid on which you build. You start with removing yourself. It’s not about the leader to be right or wrong. It’s not about being right. It’s about creating space and safety for others to bring their self and their ideas and their creativity into the collaboration.

William Tincup:
I love that. I love that. So at Oyster, I wanted to ask you a question in terms of kind of unlocking both yourself, but also your customers. So what’s wonderful when interacting with a CEO like you is, you’ve got your company, and then you’re also dealing with the human potentiality of all your customers. So how do you help shape that unlocking the hidden potential or the best version of one’s self at Oyster, but also how do you kind of proliferate that idea and help your customers understand that that’s available to them as well?

Tony Jamous:
William, I have to say I do not hear your last question. Can you please repeat that?

William Tincup:
Sure, sure, sure. It’s a sentiment of unlocking the best version of one’s self. So at Oyster, how do you do that? But also, because you have thousands of clients, how do you do that and help your clients understand that they too can unlock potential or get the best version of every one of their employees?

Tony Jamous:
Yeah, that’s a good question. And it’s really around continuously improve the experience of our customers so that they can, in their turn, become better employer for ever more distributed demand worker. So what we do is we are obsessed ourself of being the best legal employer for these people around the world. What we do is we employ people on behalf of our customers being in local markets. So essentially, let’s say our customer found Mary [inaudible 00:19:12], she’s an amazing client, [inaudible 00:19:15], provide her with the safety and security of a full-time employment. They go to Oyster, they go to our website and our platform and they sign our contract, et cetera, and benefits, process of payroll.

Tony Jamous:
And so what we do every quarter, we focus on how can we be ourself, the best legal employer for Mary [inaudible 00:19:37]? How can we improve her benefits? How can we improve her compliance and legal confidence? How can we get her [inaudible 00:19:44] faster. By doing that, what we do is we enable our customers to be themself, a better version, a better employment for Mary. So the more we improve our platform, the more we enable our customer to treat people around the world more fairly and provide them with the safety of an employment experience that would otherwise not be the case if they hire them as contractors or [inaudible 00:20:15]. That’s how we think about it.

William Tincup:
I love that. I want to backtrack on the ever-evolving expectations. What do you see, if we can say post COVID world, what do you see the expectations evolving to? We’ll put on our magic hats and look at a year from now, what do you think… just even Oyster’s employees, even your own… not even your clients, what do you think we’ll be talking about that’ll be important to them?

Tony Jamous:
At the end of the day, it’s really this intersection between enabling them to have the life that they want to have, going back to this freedom, and that being living anywhere I want, having the balance between work and life, the flexibility to walk your dog in the middle of the day, or pick up your children from school. So from one hand is maximize that freedom for them, while the other dimension of it is how can you make that increasingly more successful, no matter where they are, with that flexibility?

Tony Jamous:
So you want to build in parallel the systems and processes and the way you work together to enable people to be successful, no matter where they are, in any time zone, and no matter what is their flexible they look like. So these are the two things that are increasingly important. And I would say overall, it’s also about being more thoughtful about pay. Pay has also increased in importance in the last few years, because of obviously inflation and increasing a lot of insecurity on the job market from certain sectors. So you want to be carefully looking reviewing pay more frequently and building [inaudible 00:22:23] that it’s fair and equal around world.

William Tincup:
I love all of that, by the way, just conceptually, I think you’re spot on. Last question. This is around the word “expectations,” in so far as how do we meet… Okay, that’s the basic. How do we meet someone’s expectations? How do we exceed their expectations? We’ve talked to folks a lot of the episode on their expectations change, which, okay, shocking, not shocking, but how do we also… And speak specifically for Oyster, maybe its clients, that’s fine, but how do we make sure that we don’t over-promise and under-deliver? Which is a consulting kind of a concept of you flip that, you under-promise and over-deliver, right? So once we know their expectations, and you just outlined some wonderful ones that we think that we’ll be dealing with more and more in the future, how do we meet, exceed, and not over-promise?

Tony Jamous:
How we think about that at Oyster is, we have a vision of how our organization need to operate. Actually we’re building an organization the same way we’re building a product. We’re using agile technology. So we have a vision, we know where we headed, but we are very open about that this is a journey, and providing obviously short-term view of where that journey takes us, but we want to make sure that everybody understand that this is always work in progress. And then we also want to involve people to co-create with us. For instance, when we started the business, or small organization, obviously it was easier to do, but we had everybody was a co-creator on the way we work together. That is one form of asynchronous work that is… We brand it as follow the sun now. Oyster, follow the sun. Essentially is have a vision where you’re going to go and ensure that people understand that this is a work in progress. It’s always work in progress. And thirdly is, engage people in being part of that co-creation process.

William Tincup:
Drops mic, walks off stage. Tony, thank you. I know you’re crazy busy building this business. Thank you so much for carving out time for us.

Tony Jamous:
Thank you for having me, William.

William Tincup:
Absolutely. And thanks everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily 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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