On today’s episode of The RecruitingDaily Podcast, we have the pleasure of speaking with Frank Capecci III. What on? Well, the fact that purposeful culture eats perks for breakfast — i.e., culture versus benefits.
Frank is SVP of human resources, at Validity, the “most trusted name in customer data quality.” Tens of thousands of companies rely on Validity to improve client engagement and handle their customer data. Validity assists these organizations in making better decisions that deliver more contacts, strengthen sales and assuredly map continued growth.
Validity creates innovative products that yield data quality solutions to businesses globally. They offer email marketing and verification, as well as information unification and management.
The big questions we answer today: What is purposeful culture, and how do we create it? Where do perks play a part? Taking into consideration COVID and other changes we’ve faced over the past few years, how often should a company rethink and reframe culture?
There’s much more where that came from, as always. But you have to tune in to find out. Please let us know what you think in the comments.
Listening Time: 31 minutes
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Frank Capecci III
Results oriented human resources business partner with significant experience developing and executing business driven human resources strategies for high growth companies.Follow Follow
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 over complicated 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 .
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the Recruiting Daily Podcast. Today, we have Frank on from Validity and we have a fantastic topic. I know I say that a lot, but this is actually a fantastic topic. It’s Purposeful Culture Eats Perks for Breakfast and I think it’s fascinating, especially coming, we’re start-, out, technically out of COVID. But as we think about COVID and remote work and how we used to sell the office as the center of everything when we recruit, and even on the HR side, it’s interesting to now rethink what perks and what people actually need. So without any further ado. Frank, would you do us a favor, the audience a favor and introduce both yourself and Validity?
Sure thing. So, first off, thanks for inviting me to participate in your podcast. This is my first podcast interview, so we’ll see how this goes. As you said, I’m Frank Capecci, the Chief People Officer of Validity, which is a leading provider of data quality and marketing analytics software. We were founded in 2018 and since then have experienced some really dramatic growth, both acquisitively and organically, which as you might imagine, has some impacts on culture. Right there, we can talk about.
Validity is lucky enough to offer some unparalleled solutions that help customers optimize their email marketing efforts and enhance their CRM, data management and sales productivity efforts. All the things that make it easier for companies to do the right thing and follow ethical marketing practices. I’ve been here for just over a year. I joined about 3 months after everyone began working remotely because of COVID. So it’s been interesting trying to meet 300 new colleagues and build relationships all via Zoom. But luckily we have an amazing team here of passionate doers who are excited about what they do, and we’re more than generous in helping me come up to speed quickly.
It’s a really interesting time for Chief People Officers and CHROs and people that work on this side of the game because it’s, so many things have changed both societally and because of COVID and remote work, et cetera.
We used to look at perks, I mean, you and I would look at perks in a way of selling kind of, if it was an office culture or I owned an ad agency for a hundred years and it was fast. It was cool. It, we had all the stuff, the accoutrement that you would like, right. Imagine Mad Men but a modern version of Mad Men and it was a great place. Lot of fun, interesting things. Lunches, massages, this, all this stuff but it was all based on a box. And perks were added to the box and without the box or the dependability of the box, where do perks, where do they play or do they play, or do they play a part at all?
Sure. Of course they play, right. They are shiny pennies, they are tangible objects that people enjoy and value and companies are wise to pay attention to what their potential employees want and need and they certainly change over time, right? The current topic, as I think you alluded to in the pandemic or post-pandemic world is flexibility, remote work, people are re-evaluating what they really want from their roles and where they want to do it. And companies are re-evaluating what they truly need and can still get good work done. I think it’s interesting you were talking about the ad agency and the culture and it’s for sure much easier to create it in a box in the confines of an office where you have some kind of forced interactions.
But what I think is the underpinning of those interactions are the comradery, the connection, the trust and those things will always win out over any particular tangible perk for a bunch of reasons we can get into. And the challenge now is to figure out how to create those same set of connections and that inter-collegial trust when you’re not all in that box, right. I don’t think the mission has changed. It’s just the environment of it has changed.
That’s right. Yeah, it’s great that you mentioned that. People didn’t join the firm back then because of the pool table. They joined because there was a momentum, they felt like they were being a part of something. There was a mission vision that they really believed in. Maybe some of that was the executives and some of it was just, they just kind of believed in kind of what we said, which is, you had mentioned trust, which I think is a wonderful way to think of it. When we think of purposeful culture, I’d like for you to bring the audience into kind of the way you, the way that you think of what is purposeful culture and how do you create that?
Sure and I think it’s an interesting topic for lots of companies. I think it’s very obvious for people to think that companies who are doing medical research and curing deadly diseases or ending a pandemic, it’s really easy to see how those roles in those organizations might be purposeful but purpose can be assigned to a lot of different things and people can add value to the world through all sorts of careers. We happen to be in a very unique position where we are kind of pioneering some of the thoughts around ethical marketing and how marketers should interact with their customers and their customer’s data. We’re big proponents, that the more transparency customers have about how data is sourced and used, the better off we all are. And so that’s a big part of our purpose and some folks might argue it’s not the same as ending a pandemic or curing a deadly disease, but it’s, it’s vitally important to us. And we think it’s super important to, to the large marketing, marketers out there in the world.
When we have conversations with our employees and our candidates and we talk about what we do and how we add value, this tends to resonate with folks. Obviously, lots of people agree that people’s data should be sourced and used very carefully. It’s the folks who have a passion for turning that into a practical reality and finding a way to actually implement that and have it go forth into the world and be real, if you will, who tend to join us and who tend to excel because they’re on board with that mission. So I’m not sure if that completely answers your question, but it’s how we have defined our purpose and how we talk with people about how we add value and then how we see if they, they’re on board with that mission and want to add that value with us.
Well, first of all, I love that because it’s anchoring, right. It’s anchoring for both candidates in a recruiting process. So you anchor it there and just say, Hey, again, a great employer brand, both repels and attracts, right? And this is what we’re about. If you’re not about ethical marketing, just as an example, not to say that anybody would be about unethical, but maybe somebody who will look at it more in a gray way and it’s not as black and white. You’re obviously, this company has taken a stance and said, no, we’re going to do it the right way. And we’re going to, we’re not just be within the law, we’re going to be ahead and innovate and really, really, care, okay.
Some people are going to be on board with that, some people aren’t. What I love about that is that anchors and says, you’ve put something in sand and said, here’s where we anchored and join us or be, help us and be a part of us or not. And it’s okay, either way. If you don’t see that as a part of your purpose as an employee, or as a gig worker or somebody that works with you, great. Fantastic.
Exactly, exactly. And it is great either way, quite honestly.
One of the challenges of recruiting and there are, God knows there are all sorts of challenges, it’s a hard job. But the biggest challenge is finding a mutually beneficial match, right? So it’s a relationship between an employee and an employer and it has to be mutually beneficial and mutually rewarding or it doesn’t last very long.
So if you’re not connected, at least generally on the thought that this is an important topic and you want to get up every morning and go to work to further that mission or educating folks about that topic, it might last awhile and it might even be fine. It might not be disastrous, but it isn’t going to be optimal and it’s not going to be everything that it could be. So yeah, it’s okay either way for everybody involved, it’s either going to be a mutually beneficial match and we’re off to the races or it’s not and we’re happy to refer folks to other places where they can be successful and we can keep an eye on them from the sidelines. They’ll still be part of our extended network but they probably aren’t going to be part of the core team that helps customers do the right thing every day.
Great. When I think of purposeful, so I’ll put culture to the side for a second, when I think of purposeful, I think of three things. I think of consent, I think of feedback and I think of thoughtful, being thoughtful. So, for, when, when you’re thinking about being purposeful in your culture, how are you thinking about it? Those are just words that come, and concepts that come to mind for me. How do you like to frame it up for folks, new employees, candidates and people like that?
Yeah, so those are three great words and I’m not sure I would have come up with the same three, so I’m really interested in some of them specifically. I think the way we frame it for candidates currently, although now I might re-evaluate in the context of the three words you just said to be honest, cause a couple of them are catching my attention, it’s pretty interesting. We talk about folks who are passionate, who are doers, who take accountability, who want to move the needle, whether that be individually and independently or as part of a team with their coworkers. It’s, that’s how we kind of frame purpose. It’s not a bunch of people who sit on the sidelines. It’s not folks who tend to wait for someone to tell them what to do. And so these are the types of conversations we have through our recruiting process and what we assessed for.
If you are someone who tends to hang back or wait for direction, we certainly have roles here where that will be okay, but that’s not the majority of our roles and it isn’t necessarily how the culture operates. It’s a very active, dynamic, empowering place where people know what they need to do. They know what they own and they’re driving to get it done as quickly as possible. So it’s completely different from your three words, but that’s how we’ve been framing it thus far. Like I said, it could be under revision soon.
Oh, well, I, yeah. Our parents would have probably called that self-starters. You need people that are self-starters. They can come in, they don’t need, or they can obviously flourish when someone tells them what to do. But if someone isn’t there, if there’s ambiguity in what they need to do, they can still get things done. And so I like that. I mean, first of all, I like people like that because I just like, I personally, as just a personal, as a manager, I like people that can just, even in the face of massive ambiguity, still get things done. They can still, you know, they can actualize, they can still do those things. Some of that comes down to just a clear intent and great leadership. Where a leader is empowered somebody and said, okay, we got to go this direction or we’re doing this.
And then if there’s some ambiguity, they still know where they have to go. They still know what they have to do. And there’s not that constant micromanagement, which again, I think is on its way out in a lot of ways, at least what I’ve seen. People will flourish necessarily under that environment and in a remote environment, especially, I don’t think it works. So I actually liked the way that you all describe it. I like passionate. I like people that are self-starters. I like people that are doers and are action oriented. And again, you assess so they’ve got on one level, they’ve got the skills of what you need, so you can assess for their skills level. And if they do have those skills or if you need to train for those skills, you can, there’s a package, there’s a way to deal with that.
But it’s also dealing with the other part of their, maybe their personality or what makes them them, is these other things, are they passionate? I actually, when I hire, I look for three things. It’s passion. Ambition, ironically, I look for people that, that are asking the what’s next question. And I looked for intelligence because I’ve found, just as a personal manager, that I break when I’m not around people that are smart. Let’s just call it what it is. Both EQ and IQ. I need both actually, but… Do what now?
[crosstalk 00:14:32] I do think that’s motivating, right? If you are a passionate, ambitious, intelligent person, you want to surround yourself with others to spur that on…
That’s it, that’s exactly right.
… And force you to do more and better. You know, it’s always a really unfortunate situation if you’re the smartest person in the room, right? It’s not going to be a great learning opportunity or…
I’m in the wrong room, at that point!
You nailed it because it’s, I need those people to push me. And then while they’re pushing me, I’m pushing them. And again, that’s, every manager kind of comes to those things over time. They kind of figure out what works for them. So how often, when you think of purposeful culture, thinking we are in some transition with COVID and with all the things that are happening right now, we’re also dealing with some scarcity of talents, some skills, scarcity of skills, et cetera. How often do you kind of rethink culture? What I mean by that is years ago, it was at least given to me advice. The advice was given to me that you need to look at your values about every two years, just to make sure that you’re still on the same path or if you need to change something, like if something in your values has changed and that’s top down and bottom up, that’s everything.
And I thought it was, first of all, I just thought it was kind of a fascinating idea to kind of rethink your values every two years, conceptually, just kind of, well did my values changes, did our corporate values change. But culture is even more fluid. And then it’s, and it’s expressive too, right? So it’s fluid and do you hire and who gets promoted and then who flourishes and who leaves and all that stuff. So there is a fluidity to culture. So how often do you kind of check in to make sure that you’re still on the path that you want to be, or you want to change some things?
Yeah. So that’s an excellent question. I think it’s, it was great advice that somebody told you that to check in on your values every once in a while. And I think at first folks might cringe at that and say, my personal values don’t change that dramatically. As you said, their corporate values and in a lot of cases, well, they probably don’t change drastically. They are a tool to help you get toward a goal and if your goal has changed or circumstances have changed, it is wise to revisit them. And maybe they haven’t changed at all, but you don’t want to risk not having that touch point. I think culture, like you said, because it’s so much more fluid and it happens in such a different way, it’s not a defined corporate value where you can put it on a piece of paper, right?
We can describe culture, but we ended up describing what organically exists. And so whether you consciously pay attention to it every day, there’s something new about it every day. And in some cases every hour and if you have multiple locations and multiple departments, there are subcultures all of those.
So I think folks who do culture as a full-time job would say, you have to pay attention to it every day. Folks who do it as part of a broader job are probably wise to stay in good touch with as many folks as they can, hear what’s going on on the ground and then see how that culture might be evolving if it is. And if it is, in what ways. So right now, we’ve mentioned it a couple of times, the whole thought about not returning to an office full-time and what that does to culture and why people gravitate toward that. And have they thought about it from a perspective of not just what they might gain, but what they might lose, because let’s face it, there’s some of each, right. So I think it’s a constant re-evaluation or a constant observation with a periodic re-evaluation. Does that make sense?
A hundred percent. It makes sense that it also, again, I think that if you do this in a transparent way, you’re modeling it for people that just say, well, things do change and culture is, just like culture in America or broader mainstream culture, if you will. Tastes change and attitudes change and things like that. Well, we got to, we have to be aware of those things inside of our company cause if you’re not, you can be blindsided by them. I think that’s why some of the feedback and the pulse surveys and the technology that basically tries to keep an idea of what’s going on, I think that’s why those things flourish in organizations because it’s a way, it’s just one tool to then figure out, okay, what’s actually really going on.
How do our people really feel? Because I think that’s always or it’s historically been a leadership blind spot is, is being able to answer how, right now, which if you’re, morale wise, how do people feel? And you got to be able to, at this point you’ve got to be able, now you’ve got people working all over the world, you’ve got to be able to then render an answer and really feel strong, I feel pretty good about this answer. I feel like it’s based in data. I feel really good about this.
I wanted to ask you a question about on the recruiting end and specifically with Millennials and Gen Z and maybe their attitudes of purposeful culture versus perks. Again, I grew up in an era where, signing bonuses and all this other kind of crazy stuff that you would look at and then you would care about the recruiting process. You’d care about access to a golf membership and all of these, oh, this stuff that really doesn’t matter now. But I do want to ask about the folks that you’re recruiting and retaining. What do they think, obviously we’re going to pit these two against each other, both culture and perks. What are you finding and what are you discovering about their attitudes towards these two things?
Sure. So if I was trying to be kind of sarcastic or flippant, I would say they want both.
Yes, of course.
So, that’s kind of a comical… [crosstalk 00:21:19]
That just should say yes!
Correct. Yeah, exactly. Right. Yes is a complete sentence. I think underneath that, there is certainly been a shift from the days where folks went to work to earn a living. Now, folks certainly do that, but they want their work to be more aligned with their values. They don’t want it to be too separate. Work-life balance has come to mean a completely different thing where it’s integrated and you want work to be not just something that affords you a living and feeds your family, but actually accomplishes another sense of gratification for yourself. And that makes great sense. I mean, who wouldn’t want to balance that, especially considering how much time we all spend at work. I think the interesting thing, and I caution everybody, for about every generation. We can talk about what the common trends and themes are. Recruiters and companies would be really ill-advised to think that everyone who falls into an age bracket or a category wants the same thing.
And I think it’s super important to know what your company’s value proposition is. Share that with folks and learn what each individual through that recruiting process wants. Because quite honestly, to say that everyone in the category wants the same set of stuff is just, it’s inaccurate and it’s ill-advised so you need to pay attention to the trends because yeah, you’ll probably cover more bases for more people. And it is very clear that modern workers of lots of generations and lots of ages now that we’ve been exposed to the fact that work can mean more than just earning a living to pay my bills. There’s lots of folks looking for that regardless of the generation they fall into.
Yeah. It’s funny because generations are just waves that crash on a beach, right. And I remember very early on with Millennials, people up in arms and all this other stuff, they’re going to do this, this, that, and the other. I’m like, you know what? Give a Millennial couple a mortgage, two luxury vehicles, the kids in private school and it turns out they’re going to be a lot like you. So yeah, there’re subtle changes of course. But I do, I find, I did a study just recently with a bunch of new, fresh grads. So this, and it’s interesting because they do prioritize, wanting to join something meaningful. Like they want their work to mean something and yeah, they want to get paid and all that other stuff. So yes, to all that stuff, but they want, they want it to mean something, which is, it would definitely, it’s definitely different from how I approach work. When I first joined the workforce, I just wanted to get paid. I didn’t realize.
Yeah. Well, a lot of us didn’t realize you could expect more than that, right.
That’s what you were taught a job was to do all those years ago. So quite honestly good for them and everybody else who realizes that it can be more.
Yeah. It’s, it’s not an either-or. It can be both, right.
And that’s the great thing about work today. And, and that’s kind of one of the interesting things. I’ll be honest when I first was introduced to Validity and looking at a SaaS company and you’re sitting here saying, all right, what do you do and what value do you add? I’m not sure I would have on the very surface of it realized the kind of ethical underpinnings or the value that was there.
And so it was kind of a pleasant surprise to see, oh, this isn’t just about email marketing. There’s an actual underlying set of ethics and behaviors and practices that folks can feel really good about because it, it accomplishes something we’ll say good in the world. And so for sure, we lead with that in our recruiting and talk about how that’s a huge part of our culture, what we deliver to customers, what we do and I do think it resonates for folks who are looking to make sure their work has meaning or purpose. And again, like we said, if that doesn’t happen to be their specific, passionate purpose, we’ll, then can’t help that. But then… Yeah. For sure.
That’s right. It’s a filter. It’s a filter in and filter out, which is, again, what you want. You want, you had talked about match and looking for,you want the match to fit both parties. That’s ultimately the goal in talent acquisition and retention too. You’ve got to kind of always be looking at match and if it doesn’t match, that’s okay. It might, it might match at another future point. Sometimes I, when I talked to recruiters about this, I’m like, it didn’t hit this time. This, the first for whatever reason, they were in the running, then they were out of the running. You know what, a year from now, things could be completely different and they should be the exact person you should be recruiting. So just because it wasn’t a match this time doesn’t mean it’s not a match for the next position that you have.
And I think the better recruiters kind of get that innately…
… And understand that. So let me ask you, cause we are talking about perks in a way and there are some perks that just do, they do work and the employees do love. So while we’ve talked about purposeful culture eating perks for breakfast, which it does, there are still perks. And you mentioned it at the very beginning that you’ve got to listen to your employees, you got to find out what’s important to them and you’ve got to then fulfill on those things. What’s something that you discovered over the last year that’s a perk that’s just, it’s gained in importance for your folks?
Sure. If I have to limit it to the past year, without a doubt, it is wellness and mental health related initiatives. There’s no doubt that in the last 12 to 18 months, folks are more interested in that, they are more willing to talk about it and address it as an area of potential need, which I think is great.
Oh, my God.
And so we’re seeing that for sure, if it, I’m talking one year ago that has just come out of the woodwork, I’ve never seen it before.
And you and I, I am so thrilled about, because again, it was so taboo, pre-COVID, let’s say, it was so taboo to talk about these things. And again, some of the societal things as well with MeToo, Love is Love and Black Lives Matter is, it was hard to talk about these things, things were happening and again, work changed. On a Friday, we’re all working differently than we were the Thursday prior to that and mental health, it was so difficult to talk about with people at work. You can talk about at home with your family or anybody else, but just at work with your peers, now I find that it’s actually odd to not talk about it. You know? How are you doing, how’s your family, how’s everything going? Do you need anything? All that drips with empathy, I think it’s, I hope we don’t lose that.
Yeah. I hope not either. I think what we’ve discovered is there are a lot of people kind of suffering in silence, at least at work that we would never have known about.
And let’s face it. If someone doesn’t bring it up and want to discuss it with you, it’s not, unless it’s a glaringly obvious challenge, you don’t bring it up to them. But wow, what a difference it makes when someone feels comfortable, opens up about what was previously, something that was hard to talk about. And then it’s all just on the right path. It’s not instantly fixed obviously, but you feel better for discussing it, for having support and accessing resources that perhaps your company can either offer you or direct you toward. It’s a big deal right now.
I love it. And again, let’s just hope that we don’t go backwards. Slide, slide backwards. Cause I think it’s just a great way to think about work and to think about the relationship with, that we have with people that we work with. Again, suffering in silence, that’s not good for anybody…
… Whether or not they work for this or not. Let’s just get rid of the suffering in silence part. Well, Frank, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. This has been wonderful and I love the topic and we could talk about it forever, but both of us probably have other things we have to do today. So thank you so much. 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.