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HRExaminer Radio: Episode #132: Jason Lauritsen

On January 4, 2016, in HRExaminer Radio, by John Sumser

HRExaminer Radio

HRExaminer Radio is a weekly show devoted to Recruiting and Recruiting Technology airing live on Friday’s at 11AM Pacific

HRExaminer Radio

Guest: Jason Lauritsen, Director, Best Places to Work
Episode: 132
Air Date: November 25, 2015


Jason Lauritsen is a talent strategist and innovator who will challenge you to think differently about talent and the workplace.

A former corporate Human Resources executive, Jason is today the Director of Best Places to Work for Quantum Workplace where he leads a program that collects data from employees at over 6,000 companies each year to identify, celebrate and promote some of the best workplaces in the world.

He is the co-author of the book, Social Gravity and some people may know him as the tall, dancing guy with Talent Anarchy.



Audio MP3




Begin transcript

John Sumser:                        Good morning and welcome to the HR Examiner radio show, I’m your host John Sumser and today we are coming to you from rainy Occidental, California. We’re all doing the happy rain dance, because it’s been dry here for a long time. Today we’re going to be talking to Jason Lauritsen who is the director of Best Paces to work at Quantum Workplace where he leads a program that collects data from 6,000 companies about engagement, where the best workplaces are and like that. Good morning Jason, how are you?

Jason Lauritsen:                  Good morning John, thanks for having me, I’m doing great.

John Sumser:                        Yeah, so introduce yourself to the audience.

Jason Lauritsen:                  Wow, so in short I’m frequently described as a Workplace Evangelist, I’m a culture geek. I do a variety of things, I think I’m kind of a very … I’m a classic sort of Gen X careerist in that I do a lot of different stuff. I’m a recovered HR executive, I spent 10 years, or almost 10 years leading corporate HR teams. I am a professional speaker in so much as people occasionally pay me to talk about stuff in front of people. I talk about talent and leadership and that sort of thing. The people … In that realm I also, those that maybe track or heard of talent anarchy will know me as the tall guy. I do some speaking with my buddy Joe Gerstandt and I’m the tall guy that does some dancing and makes people dance once and a while as part of our speaking.

Then directly, you mentioned the Director of the Best Places to work with Quantum. I’m kind of the advocate for great workplaces and telling the story on how the best places to work do it and celebrating those who do it really well for their employees, so I do a lot of different stuff. That’s the short version.

John Sumser:                        Got it, got it, so how did you end up getting here. I’m sure you didn’t wake up in the 5th grade and go “what I want to be when I grow up is a guy who does a bunch of different stuff around HR.”

Jason Lauritsen:                  Yeah, that’s for … I don’t think anybody does, I was just having that conversation with somebody yesterday, nobody finds their way here directly. Honestly, the path was kind of crazy, I was … In school I was good in math and science so my grandmother told me I should be a doctor so that stuck in my head so I went to college to be pre-med. Then figured out along the way that I didn’t really care for that work. Got done with college and wasn’t really sure what to do next, had some degrees that I wasn’t really interested in using all that much other than my minor in philosophy which turns out is the most interesting and useful studying I did, probably.

I took a career test at the career office that told me that I should go into sales. I went in to sales and I wash highly money motivated at the time. Sales lead me eventually to search business, being a headhunter. I got pretty good at that but I realized it wasn’t the headhunting I loved it was the … I fell in love with the dynamics of how people and organizations interact, and sort of the impact of leadership and the impact of relationships. That’s kind of what set me on this path to get me here today, that’s how I ended up here. Then a whole bunch of … I just ran into a bunch really awesome people along the way that unlocked doors to opportunities and I tried to take advantage of as many of those as I could.

John Sumser:                        What a great story. What a great story. What’s the current job?

Jason Lauritsen:                  Today, you eluded to it earlier, my current job is as the Director of Best Place to work at Quantum. We are a 12 year old HR tech company. We build predominantly, we build tools that help organizations turn employee feedback into impact. Employee engagement tools and some other sort of employee feedback tools, exit, that kind of thing. What my job is and actually part of our story, all the way back to the beginning is we used our employee engagement survey tool to be … We sort of got connected with the best places to work with a publication that wanted to do a best place to work program. That first program turned in to what is today 48 different programs across the United States.

We provide … we’re essentially the research partner that powers these 48 different best places to work programs. We collect data from employees at these organizations, we analyze that employee data to determine who ends up being named as finalists in best places to work. Then we use that data , we do analysis to determine insights and kind of understand trends of what’s happening in the workplace, we use that to inform our other work. We also use that data as normative and comparative data for our employee engagement products. If you’re doing an engagement survey with us you can compare your results against the best places to work in your industry, by your size, by all sorts of different slices. My job is to make sure that Best Places to work machine keeps going. Then the other part of my role is really kind of being … I’ve sort of grown into the role of being chief advocate, I guess. I do a lot of speaking, telling the story of our products and our work and our passion. Kind of getting out and telling the Quantum story is also a part of what I do everyday.

John Sumser:                        Got it, got it, big job, big job.

Jason Lauritsen:                  It is, it’s fun.

John Sumser:                        Let’s just back up and go one more time through what Quantum Workspace is and what it does. You’ve got a piece of it, what’s the whole picture?

Jason Lauritsen:                  The whole picture is our core product is our employee engagement survey platform. That’s the core product, we’ve been doing that work for years. We’ve predominately our sweet spot is partnering with organization in the, probably on the low end I would say 100 up to 5,000 employees is kind of ideal. Although we have clients that are bigger or smaller, everybody does. We look for clients in that size space who believe that they can win on the strength of their culture. Then we help them connect to employee feedback in a way that helps them strengthen and build and grow and evolve that culture. Employee survey, we also have a couple other products. We have a platform called “Goal Post”, and with in our Goal Post platform is essentially we, I mean John you know this was why I was excited to come to Quantum 2 years ago, I’ve been for 5 or 6 years one of the voices railing against performance appraisals, traditional performance appraisals and how ridiculous it is.

I came to that work when I was till doing my HR executive work, internally we’d done some analysis and proved that it’s completely pointless. The work that we were doing, and wasteful, so we replaced it. Well I come to an organization that Goal Post is part of is our way of trying to answer and provide an alternative to this broken performance management process that we’ve been perpetuating for years. Within that platform is a tool for performance, for goal setting, and goal communication. A tool for peer recognition, a tool for what we call performance conversations, it’s kind of what we’ve been talking about for a number of years.

Performance conversations, more meaningful conversations between the people who need to be talking about performance and removing the arbitrary and subjective number from that. Then also the latest addition is a feedback platform that allows employees to initiate feedback cycles. These are non-anonymous, non-scored feedback cycles, so you get real meaningful. That’s Goal Post, that’s our answer to meaning feedback platform to drive engagement. Then the other product that I think is kind of cool is one we call “Why go?” Which is our answer to how you fix the problem or the issue that our exit interview data historically is garbage. This is a … What we call a social 360 tool, that we created a platform that says, “Hey if you’re going go get exit data, fine, go ask the exit-tor for some feedback.”

More importantly ask the people that are still on your payroll that worked most closely with that person for some feedback about them. Why did they leave? Was this a regrettable loss? Should we have prevented it? Could we have prevented it? To get some real … it’s essentially kind of a stay interview masquerading as an exit interview to get actually meaningful actionable data out of our exit interview process. It’s pretty cool, pretty cool approach there. That is what we do broadly.

John Sumser:                        If I were to spit that back to you I would say that Quantum Workplace, you understand that the overall organizations performance is everything that every employee does plus a factor, maybe we’ll call it social today. I’m not sure that’s right but there’s a factor that is the aggregate of all of the people who work inside of the organization. You’re trying to get at that picture with a variety of tools that pulse individuals in pursuit of that larger view of the organization. Is that fair?

Jason Lauritsen:                  Yeah, I think that’s fair and I think that we view the most direct and powerful resource toward making that happen, the voice of the employee. I think our goal everyday is to turn the voice of the employee into actionable insight that can be used to create that alignment, get better performance in a way that feels good to employees.

John Sumser:                        Okay, so one of the things that I’ve been wondering about performance management systems is back to that same idea. If you add up all of the behavior of all of the people in the organization you get a way to describe 80%, 75%, I don’t know of what the organization actually does. How do you get your arms around the rest of it?

Jason Lauritsen:                  Tell me the gap of the rest of it being what? Tell me a little bit more of what you’re asking about.

John Sumser:                        Let’s say you have a department and the department is all of these individuals with all of these goals. The department also have reputation, it has things that create and decrease friction for everybody inside of the department that don’t really show up in performance inside of the department. They may or may not show up as the way the people feel about the company but the department has substance. Each of the members of the department is influenced by the department and the department influences each of the individuals and their ability to get things done. Even the ability to think about things to get done. When I think about tuning organizational performance, this is science fiction for most people so I’m trusting you to run with this a little but. There’s something about the organization that is bigger than all of the members of the organization, so if you got everything about all of those members it doesn’t add up to the whole story.

Jason Lauritsen:                  Yeah.

John Sumser:                        The question is how do you manage that additional piece, because that’s really where the equity of the company gets built. Everything else is just transaction.

Jason Lauritsen:                  That helps, I appreciate the additional context. I think that’s what we call culture or whatever we put a name on, that’s what we want to call culture. I think it’s why culture is so elusive and hard to wrap our hands around. I do think some of the hardest work that we have to do, or that we try to do in HR. In leadership, is to make the invisible visible in a way that helps me make decisions or helps me understand the group I’m a part of, helps me find greater clarity, I think we approach that in a couple of different ways. One is that I think we’re sort of counter-trend. For years and years we’ve wanted to reduce everything to a number, a specific metric, so like in a performance appraisal I can build in all this different stuff. I can build in competencies and value assessments, or assessments against company values and all this.

At the end of the day the employee is waiting to for the number, and I hear the number and all the other context is lost, the meaningful exchange, the conversation and the growth of understanding is lost somewhere in there. I think what we’ve been trying to create, and this is a long journey. I think a lot of us in the HR tech space are changing this, is how do we get back to meaningful, human to human conversations or interactions that reviles some of this. That provide context for employees, so I think that’s why there’s such a fascination in why … I think there’s really value in the peer to peer feedback and recognition platforms. Because it’s really telling, when you can create a platform that allows me to recognize you for, “Hey I saw you do this and I think that was really cool, or meaning full for this reason.”

You start to pay attention to what’s being recognized and what’s being talked about and who’s talking about it. You start to make visible I think some really interesting insights about what’s valued or what’s perceived to be valued and who’s valuing those things. That’s an example of I think when you create a place for that to happen, encourage it, get out of the way, and then listen and pay attention, you start to see some of that evolve. I think then you meat that with, at least with what we’ve done, we experiment on ourselves all the time, but internally at Quantum. Then meeting that with some sort of lose suggestions or ideas about “Hey here’s a way to connect this feedback back to values for example. If these organizational values are something we really espouse or really care about, when I’m providing you that feedback, providing you that recognition, do I see that through the lens of these values that we say are important or critical.

I don’t know if that’s a perfect … If we had a perfect answer to that question John, I think we would be, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation, we’d be off in Aruba hanging out on the beach or something. We’re struggling with it, we thing that that’s part of it. Is it’s bringing the conversation, the context back into the process. Because the context is where the really meaningful stuff is I think,. There’s also a layer of skill that needs to be put on top of that and what do you do with that context? How do you create meaningful context? How do you listen and pay attention, and take action on it? I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s kind of …

John Sumser:                        Yes it does, yes it does, that’s great. I went to this user conference maybe a month ago and it was a user company that sells the ability for employees to say thank you to each other.

Jason Lauritsen:                  Okay.

John Sumser:                        These systems are out there, their kudos passed around the organization. What was really interesting is that this organization used that tool on itself, so the room was full of very high energy, very happy, very smiley people who have been thanked like nobody’s business over the course of their careers.

Jason Lauritsen:                  Sure.

John Sumser:                        I got wondering right, so it was intense. It was intense to be with those people and I got to wondering if there aren’t different kinds of enhancements that you could do to culture, That was like driving a fast car at the read light. That’s what it was like to be in that room with those people. It was high performance to match the capability. There’s also other great high performance organizations that run in the middle of the gearing, in third gear, that don’t even go to fourth or fifth gear.

Jason Lauritsen:                  Right.

John Sumser:                        The question is how do you categorize cultures like that or do you?

Jason Lauritsen:                  Yeah, I don’t know that, I think that’s what we … We have this  kind of love/hate thing going on in the industry right now. There’s this narrative about culture fit. About how on the one hand we’ve been trying to hire for culture fit or talking about that for years. Then there’s a camp saying, “well culture fit is actually what’s preventing diversity hiring” and that’s a discussion for a whole other day but I think that’s the million dollar question. Is how do we know what’s the right culture? I don’t know, I think that culture in so many organizations happens as opposed to being intentional and I think that’s the … To think that we actually control culture is naive, but to think that we can shape culture, that we can be intentional about what we reward and how we reward it. I think is important and understanding, becoming a student of human beings, my guess is that the business [inaudible 00:20:25] It’s also if you’re in the business of thanks and you’re giving thanks and it’s a sales organization, that kind, they need to be running that way.

Where as if I’m an accounting firm or a legal firm. Like if I show up to my law office and that’s how they are, that’s going to freak me out. They have to find where the right, what’s the right kind of culture. That’s doesn’t mean that thanks isn’t important. Even if you overdid thanks in a law office, chances are the manifestation or what that looks like is going to be different. Because you’ve got a lot of introverts, you’ve got a lot of people who chose to do that work because they’re not … Because that’s the kind of work, they like sitting in front of their computer for 8 hours a day.

Sometimes I think this is a personality and stylistic thing and we don’t look at the whole picture of that sometimes. I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s how I’ve always thought about this. I think if your intentional and you understand your business, you can calibrate it correctly for what you need to get done.

John Sumser:                        I guess, yes that answers the question, I also will disagree with you modestly there.

Jason Lauritsen:                  Okay.

John Sumser:                        I think what I saw at this meeting was you can give your culture too much Red Bull. The equivalent of too much Red Bull, so you get the energy levels hyped up beyond what’s useful. That’s means there are correct interventions that you can make with culture and we’re just in kind of a primitive state with it. It’s not just an unfolding, although I got to tell you that when I look at culture what I see is the founder’s personality, is expressed for the life of the entity.

Jason Lauritsen:                  Yep, often, I think that’s true.

John Sumser:                        Often.

Jason Lauritsen:                  Yeah I think that’s right.

John Sumser:                        We’re right on the edges of catagorizing and being able to do thins, but we are at the stage that helaing was in England in the 17th Century, barbers, sharp objects and a lot of bleeding.

Jason Lauritsen:                  Maybe so, I think the founder personality link to culture is what you get when you’re notoverly intentional about culture. I mean there’s an intention in that but we key off, that’s the cultural cue that we have. In the absence of doing something different about it. It manifestst itself naturally over time. I do think that makes perfect sense. The thing that I don’t know, to your point and your push back, I think is interesting, I don’t know what right culture means. If that organization is over-hyped, it might have been exhausting for you, but if they are producing the results and getting the outcomes that they want, I don’t know if that’s right or wrong. I don’t know if the over-hyped, over-thinked culture is good or bad for them. I think that’s the subjectivity or valuation of that culture is hard, it’s hard to understand. I think you’re right, I think this is going to be very messy as we sort this out. I don’t know if there’ll ever be a definitive right answer.

John Sumser:                        I’m sure there’s something to that. Who’s the target customer for your stuff?

Jason Lauritsen:                  I think it that, I mentioned earlier that I think we tend to like to play with, what I’ll call kind of the mid-sized organization. I think ideally it’s probably the 500 to 5,000 employee organization, if I have to be very … Talk at a high level, it’s that organization. We connect in with organizations who are real serious about culture, that are serious about, they want culture to be part of how they differentiate, how they drive results. They understand that and they’re investing in it. We tend to be a really good fit for them, for those kinds of organizations. We find large organizations that meet that criteria, we find smaller organizations at times that meet that criteria. The size restriction isn’t always there, but that’s where we find our kind of our sweet spot to be.

John Sumser:                        Got it, got it. We have blown through our allotted time, what should I have asked you that I didn’t get to?

Jason Lauritsen:                  What should you have asked me? I don’t know. Maybe what … I don’t know, the things I like to talk about are always sort of future, future facing, what I’m really excited about for next year and I think there’s a lot of disruption in our space right now, but I also feel really optimistic that HR, I think in general is getting more comfortable in questioning what’s always been done. I think there’s more room for question, there’s more room for experimentation then there’s ever been. I think that’s exciting for all of us, particularly those in the tool building business. I think for everybody in HR trying to have impact that’s a really cool place to be.

John Sumser:                        That’s cool, so is there anything you want to be sure people listening to the show take away?

Jason Lauritsen:                  The thing is my kind of … My advice to HR professionals, whenever I talk to them, this is probably true for anybody,  is know why you do what you do. Ask questions, if you’re taking actions that you’re not sure why you’re doing them or you’re not sure what process like, “Why do we do it this way?” Ask those questions, break it down and find out, because just in that quest to answer that question you’ll find clarity, you’ll find better solutions. I think hold your vendors to that standard, if people like me and Quantum and everybody else, if they don’t understand why they’re doing or why they’re recommending what they’re recommending, then I think I would find a different vendor to work with as well. I think it’s just a good standard for us to have of ourselves and of each other.

John Sumser:                        We’ve been talking to Jason Lauritsen, Jason why don’t you reintroduce yourself and let people know how they might get ahold of you.

Jason Lauritsen:                  Well, the easiest way is I’m at Quantum Workplace, so the best, easiest way and most reliable way to find me is If you want to look me up just Google my name, I’ll spell my last name it’s Lauritsen if you don’t have it in front of you, Google me you’ll find multiple ways to connect with me there. If you want to talk, I’m a connector, I love connecting to people so if you want to talk about anything we’ve talked about today or you want to talk about industry reach out. I love to connect, I love to hear from people.

John Sumser:                        Great thanks so much for taking the time to be with us. We’ve been talking with Jason Lauritsen who is the Director of Best Places to work at Quantum Workplace, one of the big thinkers in the industry. Always a pleasure to spend time with you Jason.

Jason Lauritsen:                  Thanks John, I really appreciate the opportunity.

John Sumser:                        It’s great, so thanks everybody for tuning in and we will see you after Thanksgiving. Have a great weekend, bye-bye now.

End transcript

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