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EP 1: Erin McCann, Senior Vice President of People Operations - SevenFifty

Podcast Transcript

James Mackey  0:00  
Hey everyone. This is James Mackey and welcome to talent acquisition trends and strategy podcast powered by the minds at secure vision. This podcast explores the TA trends that are changing the industry. Let's go.

This is James Mackey, and welcome to Episode One of talent acquisition trends and strategy. And I'm here with Erin McCann, Senior VP of people at SevenFifty. High and thanks for joining us today.

Erin McCann  0:22  
Hi, thanks so much, James. Excited to be your first guest.

James Mackey  0:25  
Yeah, absolutely. And would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?

Erin McCann  0:28  
Sure. I'm currently the senior vice president of People Operations at a company called SevenFifty. We are innovating in the beverage alcohol space by shortening the supply chain issues that have long plagued the industry since the start of prohibition. And I'm responsible for everything related to the people at SevenFity. Hiring, career development, onboarding, retention strategies, how we hire, how we pay inclusivity and diversity efforts. And I currently have a team of four folks who I'm pleased to manage. 

James Mackey  1:01  
Very cool, very cool. And so when we asked you to join the show, one of the things that you mentioned you're really passionate about is building inclusive communities. And I wanted to see if you could tell us a little bit about that.

Erin McCann  1:10  
Yes, definitely one of our passions at SevenFifty, it was really important to us. As we started to hit more of a growth phase, we were about 50, folks in 2020. And now 115. And entering that period, we were doing a lot of hiring, we really wanted to make sure that our population mirrored the population of New York City, which is where the company was founded.

So in order to do that, in order to get to that diversity piece, we realized we really needed to focus first internally and create a community where all different walks of life would be welcome and feel like they had a home. So we really put our intention into building a team that was genuine and kind of hospitable. We created several employee resource groups, where they folks have safe spaces, affinity groups, and we also built out equitable processes for doing career development and career management and compensation reviews. So that folks had equal access to opportunities once they walked in the doors of SevenFifty.

James Mackey  2:09  
That's great. So for, let's say, for growth stage companies, right, that maybe want to start doing more of this, but they don't really know where to start. What are like, maybe we can go through the top three things they should be thinking about when it comes to inclusion, equity diversity strategy, and maybe if we could break it down into a few actionable steps for them?

Erin McCann  2:28  
Sure. Yeah. So I would say the first thing is just acknowledging that everyone has room an opportunity for improvement. And there's always things that we can do better to support the people that are within our organizations, the earlier that we can start building out some equitable, inclusive practices, the better. So I would say, for growth stage companies, whether you're 10 15 20 50 100 150, any point is great to start earlier, the better. So thinking about how you're first rewarding folks, because we want to access and give equal opportunity to promotions for folks, regardless of race, gender, creed, etc.

So how are you paying people? How are you sharing your salary bands, we believe in a more transparent process at SevenFifty. So we have bands for every single role in the organization that are set to market. And they that means they're fluid. So like when we hit this crazy, great resignation, which meant that a lot of companies increased their base salaries by 20%, we could also make that fluid and give raises off cycle because we realized that the talent market was changing. But we did that in a way that was across the board, not just by one manager's view of performance. So how are you equitably rewarding, folks, that's one place to start. And two is considering how you're hiring. So folks who are of color may not feel comfortable, for example, having a first zoom call, because they want to be able to have a phone call so that they're not judged right away by the color of their skin.

So considering how you might increase that comfort level for folks of color, throughout your hiring process, whether that's starting with a phone screen, whether that's giving an option for a take home test, whatever you can do. We also partner with greenhouse, which is our applicant tracking system, and they send out emails saying what are your preferred pronouns? How would you like us to refer to you? How do you pronounce your name so that internally, our hiring managers, and our talent acquisition folks can address folks the right way from the very from the very outset? The third thing is like, consider the language that you're using.

So one thing that you'll hear me say a lot is folks, we intentionally get rid of the term guys, there was kind of this general view that guys addressed a whole bunch of people in a room when in fact, you're cutting out at some 50 60% of our population when you're referring to that. So we have a Slack bot that if someone posts in a Slack channel hey guys, it says, Hey, all guys

As a gender term, here are some other things you can use to refer to people, whether it's folks or team or all or whatever. So just a couple small things that everyone I think could try, which will mean that when you start to go out to these diversity, job fairs, or some of the sites that are open for diversity hiring, you can point to the efforts that you've already made as an organization. Otherwise, it's going to be very clear that those efforts aren't genuine. And you're just trying to hire diverse population of folks without understanding why that's important to your company.

James Mackey  5:30  
Yeah, absolutely. And I think at the end of the day, it all comes down to just having a really healthy people first culture, culture, that empowers everybody. And I was actually curious to ask you, because I know, in your background, prior to your current role, you had experience in customer success, customer client experience, and I think that really does translates quite well into creating an amazing people first culture. Because at the end of the day, it's like, if you can create an environment where everybody can thrive, that's not only obviously very much so aligned with our values, but also, it's just, it's going to produce amazing outcomes for the company as well. And you know, it's just a great thing all around.

Erin McCann  6:12  
Yeah, so having a non traditional HR background has helped me fun, you know, outside of just being able to use sales skills, like when we do calls like this, you know, there's this, I learned how to present on a call from my sales background and HR folks, or people operations and talent acquisition folks are selling every single day, you're selling a candidate, you're selling a team on a process that you have to roll out, you're selling, you know, an individual who's not getting that promotion on why it's okay to not get that promotion, why it's not their time, there's a lot of sales that goes into human resources and people operations.

So the other thing is having empathy for so many roles that we're hiring for, and the backgrounds of folks and the jobs that they're doing also gives me a really interesting insight into how they're thinking about their own career development. You know, whether it's a BDR, I've done that job, it's like, okay, let's talk about the challenges that you're going to face. And I can kind of coach managers through that, as well. Or if it's a marketing person who's just getting started, like, what kinds of opportunities are there for growth within the marketing sector, and where are your passions, and we can coach managers through that process.

At SevenFifty, we are very values first, I helped create the first set of core values two months after my start at SevenFifty. And they're still with us today. And we use that a lot in how we give feedback and how we hire and how we promote. And we also use them and how we reward at the end of the year. So we have career maps for every role in the organization. So folks can say like, I'm a junior level BDR what are the things that I need to do in order to get to a very senior level role from a core perspective, like the core work I do, from a teamwork perspective? How I collaborate with others from an execution perspective, like how my project managing, and then also we rate on a values side of things? So like, how am I allowing others to share their ideas? How am I moderating? Am I attributing ideas to the idea owner? Or am I hearing your idea and then sharing it as my own? Which obviously, would be against our core values? And also, doesn't it you know, increase that inclusivity that folks are really craving a company?

James Mackey  8:16  
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I think, you know, that's definitely translates for us as well. Just creating, making sure that everybody has access to opportunity knows exactly what they need to do to advance within the company, and how we treat people and treat each other, we make very clear from the initial interview process that we're we're employee first. You know, we we take care of each other. And we really believe that that's going to allow us to create an environment that does actually produce incredible experiences and outcomes for our clients as well. But you know, the focus is on our people. And that's definitely been a huge driver. And, you know, when you take that approach to business, too, you also see things like, from a town acquisition perspective, you also see, you know, referrals start to skyrocket when you take care of people, and you put them in a position where they feel appreciated, heard, and they know what they're accountable for, and how to continue to advance in their career. They're ultimately going to bring more people to the organization as well, which in this market, you know, everybody has jobs posted and everybody is, is out there recruiting. But to the extent that, you know, your employees are proud of where they, you know, they can feel really proud of where they work, and they want to share that with their with their network and, and the people they work within the past is a huge, huge advantage for companies that are that are willing to do the work to actually put people first

Erin McCann  9:37  
There's a pro and con to referrals, where if you have a very diverse population of folks already in your organization referrals are wonderful because they have a diverse set of networks that they're within. If you don't have that diverse organization referrals can almost make it harder to create a diverse population of people. So doing that, again, very early on and having intention behind how you're hiring from a diverse population is really important as you grow, because otherwise it gets much more difficult as you scale it backwards.

But I would also say like for those folks who are doing talent acquisition, having that data and saying, you know, we have x NPS score at our organization, we have career maps for every roll, your manager will be able to objectively rate your performance at your end, based on a series of criteria. This is how we pay, being able to have that information for your talent acquisition folks will set them up for success and be able to increase your close rate when it comes time to offer because you're, you're in this market where candidates are comparing offers, if one offer is like, here's your base salary, I've no idea how I got that.

And another is like, here's our compensation, full about philosophy. This is where we set our band levels. This is how we do that this is where you fall. And this is why in order to increase your compensation, these are the things you'll do within your role to execute so that you can see why you're getting that promotion, it's not ad hoc, which again, eliminate some of that bias that can happen when we think about rewarding folks.

James Mackey  11:02  
No, that's a that's a great point. And you're right, the sooner that companies can start to implement this, the better. Because the more it spirals, the further you get it within your forward in your growth, the harder it is going to be to actually make the changes you need to within the organization.

Erin McCann  11:17  
Yeah, so things get socialized very quickly. Even if you're at a 30 person company and going in at 100 people making a change to how you're doing things is much more difficult than if you're doing it when you're just starting out.

James Mackey  11:28  
Yeah, absolutely. And like what we do for it, yeah, at secure vision is where providing RPO solutions to growth stage companies. And what I tell the team is, you know, half the battle is pulling people along, and the bigger the organization, you know, the the more the more challenge it is to actually get people to go along with the plan and to implement the change that you need to see within the organization. So, yeah, it's definitely definitely worthwhile to get started earlier rather than later. And I think this actually leads us to the the third item that I want to discuss with you today is just how to build out the HR infrastructure for growth stage companies.

You know, let's say for starting with earlier stage companies, maybe around 30 50 employees starting there, like the first year, right, when they're starting to scale to 200 500 person plus organizations, what, you know, what are the biggest challenges or holes that you see that they could fall into, from an HR perspective? And how do you kind of build process around preventing, you know, preventing companies falling in these holes?

Erin McCann  12:31  
Yeah, but I'm fortunate to have started with a company as employee 13, when I was sore, and then at some 50, I started when we were about 40 individuals, and, you know, obviously have grown from there. And I would say like similar but different when you're 13 people, you have such a great opportunity to come in and say like, again, this is how we do things I'm going to set up, you know, structured recruiting. That's one thing that I would suggest that any newly minted people operations person at a startup or if it's the CEO, in some cases is managing those first hires, start with an ATS. And use that regularly because you're going to start to introduce biases. Otherwise, if you're just hiring the folks that you really like on a first phone call, start to get some scorecards invested in like a greenhouse solution for example.

I would also say like we've been on a PEO at SevenFifty, since we were started, so we're on Justworks. And from an HR perspective, having an all in one solution for benefits in payroll is really critical, because you don't want to have to bring in in house benefits and payroll folks at this early stage. It's just like one thing you don't have to manage. And as a distributed organization for us, it just makes sense to have someone else doing the taxation for all of those folks, as you get to about 250. That's kind of the tipping point where you want to consider bringing those people in house and also benefits providers because your cost savings, the cost benefit of a PEO starts to dip. So it's one thing I would recommend early stage like five people just get on a PEO, it makes your life so much easier. Most people probably already know that at this point.

We also started to do performance management fairly early in both in both orgs when we were recently interviewing some executive level folks, and I was sharing our people infrastructure. They're like, Oh, you have way more setup than we do. And we're a 300 person company, which was intentional. We wanted to start doing career maps, and very standardized mid and mid and year end feedback reviews, and engagement survey data, like using data to really inform the decisions that we were making was really important for us. And investing in tools to help us to do that early on was helpful.

James Mackey  14:36  
I actually wanted to ask you about PEOs because, you know, I think that's something that a lot of companies, I say a fair amount of growth stage companies are using a PEO but a lot of them I don't think really understand the value. But I think particularly now that a lot of companies are remote first culture and you have employees distributed throughout the entire United States. It's becoming even more and more necessary because it's just from a compliance stand point as well, you really need somebody, you know, some type of resource that can assist if you're hiring employees and all these different states

Would you say that it's pretty safe to assume like, Hey, if you're a growth sales organization, you know, let's say 50 to 200 employees within that range 90% certainty, like you should probably just go with a PEO. That's, that's essentially how I'm leaning. And that's one of the things that I'm advising my clients because they're starting to get to that point of scale where they're starting to get overwhelmed with all the onboarding and compliance. 

Erin McCann  15:31  
Yeah, I would say there's no reason not to, like there is no in my opinion that the cost benefit analysis of weighing a PEO or doing things in house is pretty obviously pointing to the fact that a PEO is going to be a time saver, a legal advisory, say her so you don't have to like call your legal team every time and maybe you don't even have that you're like calling your brother's friend who's an employment lawyer or whatever, which isn't going to be a long term solution either. Using a PEO solves a lot of those problems. And there's some really great ones out there we personally use Justworks. Sequoia is also one that we've investigated, because they have a solution where you can kind of navigate off of a PEO onto their more long term, large scale solution. So that's another option. But whichever is you choose from my vantage point, the most important thing is that it's very user friendly. It's easy for your team. Like Currently, we have a team of folks who help do like compensation changes and things like that. The UX is really nice. And also for new hires, the visuals are easy to understand. So how are you pre boarding folks? And are they getting those emails? And what do those look like? Because that's the first impression that you're sending to the new newly hired person.

But also like, Yes, from a compliance perspective, we have folks in Florida and California, and there's two different employment laws. And you know, the folks in California get remote remotely sent like email sent PDFs of compliance posters related to minimum wage and health insurance, because it's a different loss out there than it is in New York or Florida or Illinois. So having to manage all of that if you're the only people operations person, or one of two is nearly impossible. Yeah. And if you're setting, you're setting yourself for some real legal challenges that are extremely costly, so better to invest in something like a PEO, which will save you a lot of heartburn in the end. 

James Mackey  17:18  
Yeah, absolutely. And just from an employee experience perspective, too, I mean, people are gonna know if it's put together really nicely. And a lot of effort and thought has been put into it specifically for their situation where they live, versus if it's if you're if you're not able to provide people what they need, based on where they live, people are going to feel that they're going to notice the difference in the onboarding experience. So I guess my so your team is working with Justworks. I'm curious why you decided to go with adjust works, which is for my understanding is maybe a lighter PEO. When it comes to implementing some of the the playbooks and employee handbooks and these types of things. They'll provide advisement, but a lot of that that heavy lifting, still is in house from what I understand, versus let's say, like a triad or an Insperity. What would you say to executive leaders, people up operations leaders that are making that choice right now between going the Justworks route versus a potential I guess, you could say they're like a full services PEO.

Erin McCann  18:17  
So I'll be candid, I didn't choose Justworks. It was like the solution when I started at SevenFifty. But I would not change it. I was out, we use TriNet at costura. And it was fine. I think that the level of service that I've experienced with Justworks has been higher than the than the level of service that I experienced with with TriNet, like they have just works does have employment counsel that you can lean on. So if you have kind of a sticky situation, they can give some advisement. And they also just have a suite of benefits that I felt were more human focused than like a TriNet. So they offer one medical 100% paid for every person that signs on, they were doing CitiBike memberships, ClassPass memberships, they had a lot of ancillary benefits that seemed to be really appealing to the startup community that we were hiring in from. And that's going to be a differentiator between you and another person hiring you. We've also never had any issues from like a payroll perspective, which Justworks like everything has been very clean. Their support team has been great. Like, I, I have felt like Justworks is a full service solution.

James Mackey  19:22  
Okay. Very cool.

Erin McCann  19:23  
That's my that's just my perspective. And that's my experience. I'm sure that everybody has different experiences using TriNet and Insperity or Justworks works. But we've, we felt like the pieces that we wanted to customize for the organization, the handbooks, we wrote all of that ourselves, because we felt like it was important for that to reflect us and our values. So that was something that we wanted to tackle as a people team versus having a third party do that.

James Mackey  19:49  
Sure. Absolutely. I mean, that's in that's a you know, I I agree with that. Because to some extent, like yes, you need to bring in expertise to make sure that you have the right resources in place to be compliant to make sure you're creating a great people first experience for new hires. And also you do need, you still want to own some of that process in house to make sure it's done in a way that does reflect your values. And it's I think that that's definitely a healthy middle ground.

Yeah, one of the things that we're seeing that's becoming a lot more popular, these sites like Deal, or, allowing companies to more easily hire internationally.

Erin McCann  20:24  

James Mackey  20:24  
I'm curious are is your team started starting to work in more international hires into the roadmap, given how much easier it's becoming? Or what are you? What are you hearing out there? Do you see more people doing that?

Erin McCann  20:35  
I definitely do. I mean, that is one downside with Justworks is that we can't do payroll for anyone that's not in the United States. So if we were to go through the route of like, working with folks outside of the US, we would have had to go to a different site to have them paid. So we, we have had some conversations about using like outsourced help from outside of the US. But we haven't talked about like hiring anyone from France who would work in France, and we would pay them from the US because it would mean setting up an entity there. So we personally have not investigated in the short term, outside talent.

James Mackey  21:10  
So that's, that's actually something that we're starting to get into. Now, we do have a subsidiary in Romania, that we actually we built. But we're also we're starting to look into hiring in South America and in Canada. And to do that, I think the provider that we've landed on is And the rate varies depending on the country. But I think it's like a charge anywhere from like 200 to $600 a month per employee. And they will they basically the way these companies work from my understanding is they essentially created entities and all of these different countries. So they they do act as the employer on record. And when it comes to whatever benefits or perks that are that people are looking for through employment in those countries, they're able to offer those as well. So we're going to give it a shot, and we're actually going to be starting to push for more hires internationally.

Well, hey, I just wanted to say thanks, once again, for joining me here today. This was a ton of fun. And I let's definitely keep in touch. And we can do this again, hopefully six months a year from now.

Erin McCann  22:13  
Yeah, thank you so much for inviting me. I hope I gave your viewers everything that they were hoping for. But it also happy to answer questions if folks on the call wanted to reach out to me directly on LinkedIn, or whichever way they find me is totally fine. 

James Mackey  22:25  
Absolutely. And thank you for everybody tuning in. This was episode one of talent acquisition trends and strategies we'll see you next time.

Thanks for listening to the talent acquisition trends and strategy podcast powered by the minds at secure vision. For more info on us, visit us on our website at

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