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Mike Volpe, CEO at Lola.com talks about learning how to drive employee engagement at TINYcon 2018

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"And I love TINYcon as an event because it's a whole conference about how to drive better employee engagement, which will help make it easier for you to attract the right talent and retain that talent. "
Mike Volpe, CEO
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Employee Feedback at Your Fingertips

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Transcript

So I was really looking forward to TINYcon. It's a fantastic conference. The people within your organization are the most valuable asset, and to have an entire event dedicated to employee engagement and figuring out how to have really happy employees is just a wonderful opportunity to learn. So as a CEO, I know that the people within your organization are the most valuable thing you need to worry about. And I love TINYcon as an event because it's a whole conference about how to drive better employee engagement, which will help make it easier for you to attract the right talent and retain that talent. And to have an opportunity to spend that time and really dive into those issues with a dedicated event is fantastic, so that's the real big reason why I think TINYcon is a great event. So when you're recruiting and hiring, I think a lot of companies want to find people that are a good cultural fit. I think it's important that you make sure that you're not doing that based on gut feel or whether or not you like the people. I think you need to figure out what are the core tenants of your culture and then decide in advance what are the questions that you can ask to see if people hold those same values. And I think it's a good way to think about it so you end up attracting people that are maybe more diverse and different from your average employee but still are in alignment with what your core values are. Continuous employee feedback is essential. You know it's the famous quote is that "sunlight is the best disinfectant." So I feel like as CEO, you need to be really open to employee feedback and willing to accept it and just take it head-on. And if you do that as a culture, it gives you an opportunity to continuously improve. If you hide from customer feedback, your product and your customer experience is never going to get better. And if you hide from employee feedback, your employee experience and your ability to recruit and retain great talent is never going to get any better either. If I were an employee that was going to approach a CEO and suggest to them that we figure out a way to get more employee feedback, the key thing I would point out to them is that we don't hide from customer feedback, and therefore we shouldn't be hiding from employee feedback even if it's negative. And I would also tell them that as CEO, you should want to know all the things and all the feedback, even if it's negative. Because hiding from it, you're never going to be able to improve it and it's going to end up coming back around and hurting you in the future. You're going to have surprise departures from employees. You're going to have people that are really upset. It's going to impact your recruiting because unhappy employees don't do a great job of recruiting. They're not going to typically refer people. They're not gonna show their best face during interviews. So it's really going to come around to hurt you. And the only thing you do as CEO faces the bad news as quickly as possible. One of the hardest things to do is to address an employee who is maybe performing relatively well but is a bad cultural fit. One of the things that's worked well for me in the past is on all employee reviews and feedback sessions to have both a portion of it be job performance-related, but also a part of it be culture-related as well and to give employees very direct feedback on both dimensions. So hopefully it's not a surprise and hopefully, you can give people some coaching on the things that they can work on and improve to fit better with your company's culture. But if you do get into a situation where someone's gotten that feedback, hasn't been able to adjust, and fit in with the company's culture than unfortunately, I think the right thing to do, even if they are a really strong performer, is that you need to make a change. I'm a new CEO, and one of the things I had to do was work with the team to understand what is the culture today and what is the culture that we want. And I think it's important to know that the culture that you talk to your employees about can be partially aspirational. It shouldn't be grounded in fantasy land. It has to be based on what the company is today, but I think it's actually very good if there are some things in there that maybe you're trying to aspire toward. And I think what we've tried to do with Lola.com is establish our culture and talk to our employees about the things that, yes, we are today, and also some of the things like the changes and improvements we need to make as part of our culture as going forward too.