How to Adapt Core Values for Business Growth
HR leader Christine Kaszubski traces the roots of her HR career back to her childhood in Michigan, as the daughter of two entrepreneurs. Her parents taught her that business is about relationships. Every new deal, campaign, and initiative should be approached through the lens of the people who make it happen.
Today, Kaszubski lives that philosophy as Chief People Officer at Pindrop, an information security company that helps people detect fraudulent phone calls.
On a recent episode of The HR Superstars Podcast, Kaszubski shares her journey with Adam Weber, from working for the Ford Motor Company to finding her niche with tech startups.
A spotlight on organizational culture
Kaszubski spent her early career in more traditional automotive and quick service restaurant industries — the world of tech start-ups was an unexpected twist. “If you would’ve told me I’d be in the tech or the startup world when I started my career, I would’ve thought that that was crazy,” she says.
But Kaszubski quickly found herself drawn to startups, intrigued by the opportunity to build an HR function from the ground up. “To really shape the direction of a company in my opinion is priceless. It gives you such great pride,” she says.
Today, Kaszubski is on her fourth startup, a journey that has given her a unique perspective on how to unlock a company’s core values. To her, the first 90 days are crucial.
Kaszubski always starts by setting up one-on-one meetings with executive leadership and people operations team leaders. She also seeks out employees she calls “culture carriers” – engaged members of the workforce who actively embody the company’s culture. Uncovering who is a culture carrier requires HR pros to seek recommendations and, again, spend their initial days at the company listening.
How strong core values help a company grow
Kaszubski has seen firsthand the power of core values — their potential impact on both the employee experience and the bottom line.
“Core values provide a company with a shared vernacular, a shared vision, and a shared understanding,” she says. Shared values build accountability and trust, giving everyone a framework to understand and anticipate each others’ behaviour. They also help businesses find and keep people who want to be part of its unique culture. But, the best company core values don’t come from nowhere, nor will they flourish on their own.
Kaszubski shares these tips for unlocking core values and keeping them strong.
- Regular check-ins: “There’s nothing wrong with pausing to reassess your core values,” says Kaszubski. Change is inevitable! Core values should reflect the current reality of the business, not just the principles it was founded on.
- Activate values with recognition: Kaszubski describes this strategy as “identify and reward.” When employees exemplify core values, make sure they get a moment of recognition. This helps encourage behavior that reflects those values, and shows others
- Elevate culture carriers: When employees have strong feelings about core values their enthusiasm becomes a priceless resource. Kaszubski recommends meeting with these culture carriers regularly.
- Hire with core values in mind: Making sure a candidate is a cultural fit is essential for keeping core values alive, says Kaszubski. It also helps ensure employees are happier and feel more connected to their work.
Building a strong company culture takes work
Kaszubski finds that people challenges at a new organization often fall into two categories — resistance to change, and trouble with scaling.
In her experience, the HR function tends to be last to mature, playing catch up to other business units. “You have to mature that function at double the rate and speed of the rest of the organization,” she explains.
The second challenge comes with implementing change. Kaszubski finds that employees can be resistant to changes in HR, precisely because the function touches every aspect of how people work. “Changing the way that people interview, changing the way we hire, changing the way that we evaluate how we spend our time can be scary for some,” she says.
Kaszubski has a solution for both these potential challenges — education. “We owe it to our leaders to make sure they have the skills and tools they need to deliver what we’re asking for. We have to teach them how to evaluate talent. We have to teach them the right way to interview,” she shares.
Another insight from years spent in People Operations? The importance of sharing the why behind any organizational change. “We owe it to people to explain,” Kaszubski says. “Why will this look different? What’s in it for them, and how will this benefit the company?”
From HR to people ops — the evolving role of CPOs
HR was built on foundational practices — payroll, taxes, and legally protecting an organization. But over the years, Kaszubski has seen that core function grow to include a more strategic, and no less valuable, focus on ‘people operations,’ which she defines as the “building block on top of HR.”
This is the part of HR that is agile, adaptable, and reacts to the changing needs of businesses. Kaszubi saw people operations come into its own during the pandemic, when HR had to step up to the plate and create playbooks for the unexpected.
To navigate the unexpected, and bring people operations to the fore, Kaszubski recommends cultivating a network of HR professionals in a variety of fields. “If you’re private, know a public company CPO. If you are all remote, know somebody that’s in person,” she says. “That network of yours is so essential.”
Tools for a values-driven HR function
Tools like 15Five are a natural fit for Kaszubski’s people-first approach. People are an organization’s biggest asset — to manage them empathetically at scale takes organization and dedicated systems.
15Five’s engagement, performance, and training tools were created to do just that, offering frameworks to collect, store, and analyze how employees are doing over time.