Redefining HR: A must-read for forward-thinking people people

Productive hiring manager working from apartment

If you don’t already know Lars Schmidt, it’s time for a proper introduction. He’s a seasoned talent acquisition pro (so seasoned, in fact, that he remembers calling up candidates from a landline) heading up the boutique executive search and talent advisory firm Amplify. He’s also an active contributor to the HR community. You may have encountered his work through HR Open Source (inspired by the open source software movement, this global collective of HR practitioners regularly share their tips, tricks and templates), his regular column in Fast Company or his podcast. His new book, Redefining HR, aims to share Lars’s groundbreaking work with an even wider audience.

In the book’s foreword, Katelin Holloway, then a partner at Initialized Capital, writes that "his punk-rock people philosophies have had a significant impact on the HR industry.”

Punk rock and people philosophies – can these concepts really coexist? The answer is a resounding yes. Lars takes the old, stuffy, buttoned-up image of HR and shakes it up by bringing transparency, vulnerability and even a little irreverence to the mix.

Redefining HR brings together voices from throughout the people industry. Practitioner spotlights and case studies help show these concepts in practice, so you’ll walk away with actionable ideas to try out at your company. Let’s dive into a few examples to give you a taste of what you’ll discover when you read the book.


Building a company for everyone through DE&I

One of the first chapters of the book, “Building a company for everyone,” addresses diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Lars writes, “It was important for me to cover this topic early in the book before getting into some of the other core elements of HR, like recruiting, learning and development, analytics and so on. The reason? To build modern HR and people capabilities, we must embed inclusive approaches, and mindset, throughout our people programs and initiatives.”

Lars begins by introducing a glossary of several DE&I terms as well as a brief history of US employment laws and how discrimination has been a part of the workplace. Next, he invites us to look at the systemic inequities that still define the world of HR today. He shares some data from Namely’s HR Careers Report that shows the gender and ethnic background of HR professionals based on their 2019 survey.

Gender:

  • 71% Female
  • 27% Male
  • 2% Non-binary

Ethnicity

  • 65% White
  • 12% Asian
  • 10% Latinx
  • 8% Black
  • 4.4% Two or more
  • 0.7% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
  • 0.2% American Indian

Reflecting on this data, Lars writes, “To address some of the issues that favor those in power, we need to understand and own our past, then commit to antiracist agendas that proactively target some of the programs that have supported inequity in our companies.”

You’ll also hear from numerous thought leaders and practitioners who share some of their challenges and successes. Michael DeAngelo, former Chief People Officer at Pinterest, describes his work with former Head of Inclusion & Diversity Candice Morgan. Pinterest was the first company to publish their DE&I goals publicly and earned a shoutout from President Obama as a result.


Building for scale – thriving through hypergrowth

In the startup world, “double-double” refers to doubling your headcount in one year and then doing it again the following year. But if that phrase makes you hungry for a burger from In-N-Out, Lars is right there with you.

Hypergrowth – whether it’s double-double or some other permutation – can be a thrilling experience. But it can also be exhausting and frustrating, especially when teams don’t take the time to build sustainable people practices.

In the “Building for scale” chapter, Lars shares several stories from the field. You’ll meet Colleen McCreary, former Chief People Officer at Zynga. Colleen shares how Zynga went from 130 employees when she joined to 4,000 employees at the end of her third year. And while there were moments when she doubted her ability to tackle the challenges of hypergrowth, the support of her CEO and board helped her continue to thrive. You’ll also hear from Katie Burke, the ubiquitous Chief People Officer at HubSpot, who describes the role of empathy when scaling your business (especially when it comes to setting up offices in multiple time zones).

This section also features case studies that dig into specific aspects of hypergrowth, like how Delivery Hero committed to building a people-centric foundation and how NextDoor created a consistent and focused onboarding program for all new hires. You’ll learn about the exact steps these companies took as well as some of the impressive results their programs have generated.


Transformational recruiting – putting relationships before results

Of course, no HR book would be complete without discussing recruiting. Lars kicks off this chapter with an anecdote from his own professional experience. As a recent college grad, he joined a technical recruiting agency called Pencom Systems. Surprisingly, Pencom put relationship-building first. Lars recalls a training session that urged recruiters to help candidates find the best possible offer, even if that meant encouraging them to sign with a competitor. Lars writes, “Looking back, it’s clear that the foundation of learning the domain, valuing long-term relationships over short-term gain and understanding the importance of doing the right thing would become foundational pillars of how I operated in the space.”

Citing the fact that 47% of CEOs feel talent-related concerns are their most important business problem (from the Greenhouse 2019 Workplace Intelligence Report), Lars explains that the business value of recruiting is clear. “You have very little chance of success as a business without the ability to attract and hire great talent.”

In this chapter, Lars seamlessly blends the strategic and tactical. He makes the case for employer brand while also making it clear that this does not mean ping pong tables and cold brew on tap. He shares tips for writing job descriptions “that don’t suck” and taking a more inclusive approach to recruiting. Lars also explores candidate experience and how recruiters can take on a more advisory role to their hiring managers.


How are you redefining HR?

Many of the topics and stories in Redefining HR will feel familiar because Lars has tapped so many forward-thinking people in the HR space, including numerous Greenhouse partners and customers. While Lars shies away from using the term “best practices” (he prefers “proven practices”), his book is full of inspiring anecdotes and actionable steps you can take at your own company. It’s clear that Lars doesn’t just want readers to think about redefining HR – he wants them to go out and do it.

Get the transformational book, Redefining HR, today.

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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