Billd’s Head of People Ops, Francisco Michel, discusses the importance of goal setting and KPIs being tailored specifically to each individual employee while keeping the company’s overall goals in mind. Francisco shares his plans to revamp the EMPS survey in the future. Next, Francisco shares his favorite ‘hat’ to wear, how he defines and manages his abundance of responsibilities, and his hopes for the future of Billd. He even delves into how his interview process at the company inspired him to make changes to it when he started, how he selects employees and the importance of having grit. Francisco also shares his belief that a start-up creates opportunities and implores listeners to work for one at least once in their career. So, tune in now to hear more and to find out why “Happy people produce and happy people stay!”
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[0:00:53.0] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson and you’re about to hear the best in the biz, Talk Talent to Me.
[0:00:58.9] RS: here with me today on Talk Talent to Me is the director of people operations over at Billd, Francisco Michel. Francisco, welcome to the podcast, how are you today?
[0:01:07.5] FM: Thank you, I’m doing very good.
[0:01:08.7] RS: Glad to have you here, we have overcome all manner of chaos and mania and power outages and flooding where you are in Texas, so thank you for sticking with me and kind of going the distance to get this show done.
[0:01:21.3] FM: Of course. I really appreciate the flexibility, so.
[0:01:23.9] RS: Yeah. I mean, I’m just here to get the content. So you’re the one who is really making an effort, I do appreciate it but so much go into. Thanks for being here again, let’s talk about Billd a little bit. Could you maybe share about the company and then we can get into your role as well?
[0:01:39.7] FM: Yeah, absolutely. So Billd is a FinTech startup that services the construction industry. Really, we’re a company that focuses on payment solutions to help the subcontractors out. We like to be the champion of the sub because no one else ever focus their attention on the sub, they always go for the big GCs or the multi-million-dollar companies. We like to go for those underdogs that wouldn’t be able to grow their business without a product like Billd.
[0:02:10.7] RS: Got it, and we are fresh on the heels of a handy little promotion, is that right?
[0:02:15.9] FM: Yes, yes, yeah.
[0:02:17.1] RS: You were the recently appointed director of people operations, so I suppose congratulations are in order.
[0:02:23.1] FM: I appreciate that, yes, I was recently appointed. I’ve actually had three different titles since I’ve been at Billd and I’ve been there a little over a year now. I started off as talent acquisitions, then I went to talent management and now, director of people operations. We originally were hiring for a head of people and with the search being a little bit difficult, finding that right fit in terms of culture, they said, you know, “Why not? Why not give him a chance?” so I’m very grateful for that opportunity.
[0:02:53.6] RS: Love it. How much is your job changing are you going to take on a bunch of more stuff or is this like, things you are already doing that are now codified?
[0:03:01.5] FM: Yeah, so I’m definitely going to be getting more responsibilities but some of it, I was already doing because it was a necessity. I’m a department of one so it’s all on my shoulders to take charge of and build it out as I see fit, of course, along with the guidance of the executive leadership team but yeah, I’m the one that’s driving the HR and people operations initiative right now.
[0:03:25.1] RS: Got it. So what’s top of mind for you? What are the things that you’re tackling right now or planning to tackle here?
[0:03:30.2] FM: Yeah, so the biggest project for this quarter is performance management. So we’ve recently implemented Lattice, a performance management system, which I highly, highly recommend for anyone that’s in the process of picking one out. Feel free to reach out to me and I can talk wonders about it but yeah, performance management is top of mind.
[0:03:50.6] RS: Got it. So out of the box, does that work pretty well or what kind of build KPIs or values are you sort of thrusting upon it?
[0:03:59.0] FM: Yeah, so out of the box, if you just want to take it out of the box, it will work just fine but for a company like Billd that doesn’t really exist out there, we don’t have the playbook of what success looks like. So we’re building it out as we go. One of the biggest things was, how do we set KPIs for positions that don’t really even exist out there? These are positions that are specific to Billd only and setting KPIs for an entire organization that’s never had them.
[0:04:29.1] RS: So what did you decide?
[0:04:30.8] FM: Yes, so the way I think we should choose KPIs, it really all goes to the company annual goals, so we like to cascade everything down. At the beginning of the year, we decide what are the goals that the company should tackle this year, every department is in charge of one of them and then it goes down to the quarterly key initiatives, so what supports those annual goals and then every individual contributor or manager should have two KPIs that support that key initiative for that quarter.
So this is an ongoing changing model, right? This also allows for goalsetting for individuals, for career development, for performance improvement, hitting that next sales that will take you to that next level. Yeah, that’s kind of been the format that we’ve built so far, yeah.
[0:05:25.3] RS: So yeah and the other thing is that they get to draw a straight line from what they do every day to what the company is trying to accomplish at high level, right?
[0:05:33.0] FM: Yeah, exactly. So what as an individual contributor are you doing to help meet those annual goals that we have set out. There’s a couple of different ways that we look at it. So obviously, does it line up with the annual goals, does it line up with the quarterly key initiatives? Can it be easily quantified? Will this drive influence or drive change?
Is it very simple to define, right? And we don’t have to overcomplicate things, right? Just make it simple, something that you can definitely measure, very easily because we are all busy, right? And yeah, so can it be measured both in a timely and accurate manner?
[0:06:13.0] RS: Got it. So the idea is that you have these high-level business schools, where does the company want to be one year from now and then, that is broken down into like, “Okay, if this is how each department is playing into that” and then, I mean, this is just standard sort of goalsetting, right? It’s like you take a big idea and then you break it up into small enough task that it becomes a goal, right?
[0:06:32.8] FM: Yeah, yeah. So within Lattice, we use goals tool for this. So like I told you, we do our company annual, quarterly key initiatives and then our KPIs, we actually call them measurables. So how can we measure the success of our quarterly key initiatives or the completion of it, right? And that’s where our KPIs come in.
[0:06:54.6] RS: What are your KPIs, Francisco?
[0:06:57.0] FM: Well, it depends on which hat I’m wearing at the time. Like I said, I’m a department of one but I’m in charge of both talent management, talent acquisition and people operations. I would say for talent acquisition, the things that matter most right now, because we’re in a high growth startup is time to hire, right? How quickly can I get these candidates to these managers and the right candidates from the get-go?
So that leads to the second one is the sourcing channel efficiency, where do I need to spend my money, right? Where am I going to throw all the money that I can so then I can get those high quality candidates? For talent management, I think, it’s really important to measure EMPS scores because that’s where you get real, honest feedback because it’s anonymous, right? And seeing how that score has grown has been tremendous.
I mean, when I started tracking at Billd, we were at a 45, which by EMPS standards it is pretty good and now, we’re at a 76. It’s been almost a full year now of tracking down on a quarterly basis and slowly, we’ve been incrementing that and really making our employees happy. I think that’s the main focus of it and turnover rate. I think that’s huge, right?
Where did we miss from the talent acquisition standpoint, from the performance management standpoint and what ended up causing this person to either leave or not succeed at Billd and be let go?
[0:08:25.2] RS: Got it, what are you asking people when the EMPS are based?
[0:08:28.5] FM: You know, we do it really, really simple. We have one question: “How likely are you to refer someone over to Billd and please state anything that you think we can improve on?” It opens up the door for a variety of answers. Some of them are really funny, we had a couple of responses about the bathroom situation in the men’s bathroom. We need more ventilation, okay, I get it.
Other stuff has been really, on the more serious note, like, “Hey, we have some serious process job stops or we need a lot more process improvement. Our technology is not up to where it needs to be to better serve our customer”2 and it’s an avenue for employees to speak honestly and give good ideas and good feedback.
[0:09:14.9] RS: You have this opportunity then because it’s coming to you but, say for example, there is a very legitimate concern about the product or what have you. This is a problem for probably a different executive but now, it’s up to you to what package and service that. How are you managing basically being the bearer of news, good or bad, to all these other execs?
[0:09:36.0] FM: Yeah, so with this specifically, it’s one of my favorite quarterly initiatives that I have to do, it is doing the EMPS survey and I do an EMPS survey meeting with all of leadership. So we have a group at Billd called “BAMF” for acronym terms, it stands for “Bad A MFers” and this is our leadership team, you know? Where we consider ourselves definitely high performers but it’s all of leadership essentially.
Anyone from direct to level and above is a part of this, we all sit down and I go through every department and we go through every rating, we go through every anonymous short answer that’s being listed out there. I compiled the top five things that our employees really like, the top five things that our employees really don’t like and monitor the trends, right?
[0:10:28.9] RS: Got it. I mean, this is one of those areas where I think talent gets to have a seat at the table because you are not just like handing it over. You could just forward the feedback email to VP of whatever but you have a chance to be like, “Hey, I’m seeing this come up, what are your solutions?” You get to be a part of the conversation, yeah?
[0:10:47.4] FM: Yeah, absolutely and I think having the meeting with everyone present, not just having it on an individual level, holds everyone accountable to the action items that we come up with based on the survey of responses at the end of the meeting.
[0:10:59.8] RS: Got it. Do you think you’ll extend the survey? Like, will you go beyond text field for all of your comments and referral likelihood?
[0:11:07.5] FM: Yeah, that’s one of the things that I want to revamp. There’s some other stuff that’s a little bit more pressing right now. We’re really trying to grow, so how do we manage individual performance of the KPIs, are really important right now but yes, my plan is to revamp the EMPS survey and make it more robust. Not to get so robust that it becomes more of a hindrance.
[0:11:29.9] RS: People don’t want to do it? Yeah.
[0:11:31.4] FM: Yeah, people just don’t want to do it.
[0:11:33.5] RS: Yeah, that is the constant thing. I’ll be like, “Yeah, it would be great if all of our employees would sit through an 80 questions survey but that’s just not realistic” right? They’re not going to.
[0:11:42.6] FM: Yeah, it’s not and that’s why I love the short answer. Like I said, it provides a lot of variation through the survey.
[0:11:49.8] RS: Yeah, of course. With designing the performance management and the KPIs, it’s sort of occurring to me how bespoke you need to be for all of the different people on the team because you can’t just be like, “Okay team, here are all of our KPIs” maybe the team, maybe you could but individuals all bring something different to the team, right? Like, Kyrie Irving isn’t assessed on his ability to get rebounds and nor should he be. So do you think about that? Do you think about how, like “Okay, every single individual needs different KPIs?”
[0:12:17.0] FM: Yes, absolutely because everyone’s contribution is different. Yeah, for like the similar roles like all the SDRs, it’s good to have consistency but for example, there’s no one else that’s going to have the same KPIs that I would have, right? Or, a business analyst or a senior analyst that’s specific just to finance and our funding rounds, right?
They’re not going to have the same KPI as the other business analyst for financial operations or what have you. So I do think it’s important to again, make it simple but what is really going to matter at the end of the day for this individual, what is going to show that they are a good performer.
[0:13:00.5] RS: And is that up to them, is it up to their boss? Who is deciding this?
[0:13:05.5] FM: So it’s a meeting that I have with both the individual and the manager. I like to go to the individual contributor first and I’ll say to him, “Hey, like, what is it, the number one thing that you’re always top of mind, always focus on or a number or a metric that you’re always trying to hit?” and I get their feedback and then I’d go directly with the manager and I discuss, “Hey, what is the definition of good performance for this individual? Okay, what are the two things that they do on a day-to-day basis that is going to direct performance and help complete or achieve our quarterly key initiatives that lead up to our annual goals?”
[0:13:41.3] RS: Got it. Do people generally give like an answer that you can turn into a KPI or how much are you pushing people?
[0:13:48.4] FM: I’m pushing people quite a bit. Some of them are like, “Well, it’s subjective” you know? That’s not a good answer, you know? This is where you really start getting into performance reviews. I’m like, “Well, when it comes time to review this person on their performance, how are you going to define what good performance looks like if you don’t have something to measure it off of?”
[0:14:09.7] RS: Right, yeah what gets measured gets improved and all of that.
[0:14:12.0] FM: Yeah, absolutely.
[0:14:13.6] RS: So you wear multiple different hats, what do you like the best? Are you going to kind of continue being a Swiss army knife or do you expect to specialize, which of these people ops, talent management, recruiting, et cetera, which do you think you’ll wind up focusing on?
[0:14:28.6] FM: I’m really enjoying the people ops aspect of it just in general having your hand in everything. I’d like to be more of a generalist. I don’t like to specialize even when I was doing just talent acquisition at the beginning, I was doing employer branding, let’s make the office environment more appealing or sexy as we like to call it for candidates coming in to interview. So I went out and bought a ton of furniture.
We bought our, we did all these things, rearrange stuff, it’s stuff that you don’t really think about as being valuable but it is, and where I see success and where I see job satisfaction is, “Did I make this a good place for this person that I brought here?”
[0:15:12.9] RS: Yeah, of course and so is that all wrapped up into people ops. I mean, I am asking because I feel like the responsibilities of even like a director of recruiting or of talent acquisition are just sort of seeping out in every direction and as you said, it’s not enough to just be really good at sourcing and sending emails or that piece, you also have to probably do some marketing, do some employer branding to attract the people you want or the turnover thing and churn.
Also, even though it is not your job like it affects you because you are the one who has to fill that. So I just see all these ways that things in the org touch talent and you kind of have no choice but to try and take responsibility over it unless you want to hear about it later. So I’m just like, what is the delineation here? How do we even draw a circle around all these responsibilities?
[0:16:01.2] FM: It’s something that I have been asking myself. I’m like, “How do I define what really are my job responsibilities?” and at the end of the day, when you are in a large corporation, it is very easy to specialize, right? You can stay in your lane, you are basically on the manufacturing floor conveyer belt, you are stepping into process.
At a startup, you really get to learn a lot not only about yourself but a lot about what other departments do, how everything works, how it needs to be built and learn how to accept your failures and the misses that you have because you don’t know everything and you are trying to build the plane and flying it at the same time. So I don’t have an answer for that, there’s just so much to do all the time and I think that is just one part.
[0:16:51.4] RS: Yeah and that is the opportunity of you being at an early stage as you sort of do everything by necessity and not be like, “Oh, I’d like to try doing blank” it’s like, “No, you are going to try it whether you like it or not” because that is just the necessity but that is kind of how you figure out what you like. That was my story too, I was sort of a Swiss army knife of marketing and I just decided that, “Oh, I’ve done live events, I’ve done paid search, I’ve done product marketing, I’ve done all of it and my content is my favorite, so let me just do that” right?
I think in a larger organization, you might spend a lot longer figuring that out just because you’re going to have less opportunities to do weird and different things.
[0:17:29.3] FM: Absolutely and I always tell everyone, take a chance on a startup at least once in your career, you’ll learn a lot. Either you’ll learn that startups are not for you or you’ll learn that, “Hey, I can really do more things at a startup and discover new job opportunities within that” like you said, you discovered that content is your favorite. I’ve kind of discovered that people operations as a whole is my favorite. It used to be just talent acquisition, I was all TA.
[0:17:57.8] RS: I do fear though like as the company grows, people ops would be a separate function than TA, right? You will probably stop doing the actual recruiting.
[0:18:06.6] FM: Yes, I will. At one point, I did hire a recruiter because we’re an organization of 85 employees and in two quarters between her and I, we hired 55 individuals, so it was massive growth very quickly, which was super exciting to see. We had to purchase new office space and all of that, so seeing that growth was tremendous but now I lost where we’re at, where the hell I’m at. I don’t understand yet.
[0:18:35.7] RS: No, it’s okay. I mean, I was basically going to ask like do you expect that the TA function will at a certain point no longer be your purview at all?
[0:18:43.8] FM: I think even though I won’t be doing the actual role itself, I will still always, like I told you, I like to have my hand in everything. So I would still be overseeing it and I will be tracking more of the candidate to hire to the first 90-day experience. What does that look like, right? Are we providing the best resources? Are we providing the best services? Are we providing the best service to our managers? Essentially, these are our internal clients.
[0:19:13.6] RS: Yeah, I’m just asking because I’m wondering like will you still get to scratch that itch and then I don’t know if there’s an answer to your point earlier of like, what is the actual ideal delineation. There is just so much overlap between all of these jobs, I think ideally, you probably have a handful of folks who are just constantly in collaboration with one another because they are kind of if you break out people ops and HR from TA, they’re inextricable. They affect each other too much.
[0:19:39.8] FM: Yeah, they really do. I mean, one has to rely on the other. It’s all an ecosystem. It’s an ecosystem of the employee experience, you can’t have one without the other. So I think I will scratch that itch every once in a while and take on a role that I’d like recruiting for. For example, I love recruiting for account executives. They’re really energetic on the phone, really get the conversation going. So every once in a while, I will probably do like a really senior AE role if TA were to not be solely under me anymore.
[0:20:12.2] RS: Yeah, that’s interesting because of course, they are salespeople. They have the gift of gab, they’ll take that call but that strikes me as it could be frustrating too because are they actually interested or are they just savvy and they know to pick up the phone when someone calls to offer you a job? I am curious, how do you navigate that? How do you figure out someone that actually wants to join you?
[0:20:30.3] FM: Yes, you know, I really just – the main thing is get to know them. I want them to give me the real them not the sales person pitch from the get-go and I don’t do like the typical questions like, “What are your three strengths?” or “What are your weaknesses?” I’m like, “Tell me about a time where you really had to overcome something very personal to you” and I’m like, “We’re going to get real personal. It is going to get a little uncomfortable at times but just bear with me and trust me.”
I’m trying to make sure that they are a good fit for us and if immediately, I usually can tell within the first minute or so of the conversation if this is going to be a good fit, I could likely say, “Hey, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me but I don’t think that you’re the right fit for us at this time and I don’t think that you would end up being happy here.” It’s that radical honesty within the phone screen, that’s important.
[0:21:22.7] RS: Yeah and so, what is the answer you’re looking for there? Is it if they can’t go there and can’t be honest if they are just going to have their sales mask on? Is that the situation where you’re like, “Okay, you wouldn’t be a good fit here?”
[0:21:33.1] FM: Yeah, exactly because you have to be able to argue well. I think is the way we put it in leadership is we argue, we push back, we challenge each other until we come up with a solution at the end of it. So if you can’t take your façade down, you won’t be successful here at Billd.
[0:21:53.3] RS: Got it. How vulnerable do people get? Does this turn into therapy pretty quickly when you’re like – I’m thinking like if you ask me what is something you overcame and you are not allowed to use work as an example, there is not a non-vulnerable answer to that I don’t think.
[0:22:06.4] FM: There really isn’t, so you really get to see how just closed off people are. Yeah and people sometimes get really personal, I’ve had someone actually cry on the phone because of it and she was like, “Man, I really needed that at the end of the day.” So she appreciated it, she –
[0:22:25.0] RS: Then you’re like, “I don’t think you’re a good fit” click.
[0:22:26.9] FM: Yeah, I’m like, “You’re a good fit, you can be vulnerable.” So yeah.
[0:22:30.9] RS: Got it but I do feel like, I mean, if someone didn’t want to answer that, isn’t that reasonable? Is that like, “Hey, I just met you. I don’t know if I want to get into the skeletons in the closet here. I will give you a work example” like that could surely be acceptable, right?
[0:22:43.1] FM: No, absolutely. That can be acceptable however with sales individuals, it is all about personality and a drive to win. So they will take those barriers down in order to win.
[0:22:56.4] RS: Right, if they think that it will make them a better candidate, yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah.
[0:23:01.3] FM: So it all starts building on each other, it’s this whole little cycle within the personality, that profile that we look for because that is ultimately what we do is we look for someone’s personality if they’re a good fit for that role. We don’t focus just on the metrics, right? We want to make sure that you are the right personality fit and we do that through the culture and next assessment, are you a good personality fit for the role instead of your job behaviors because that’s what’s going to drive happiness. Happy people produce and happy people stay.
[0:23:33.3] RS: What if someone’s life has been just an uninterrupted glide path of success with zero adversity? Can they just say that and be like, “Yeah, I have lived a very blessed and charmed life. I don’t have an answer to this question.”
[0:23:47.0] FM: Then they’re not a good fit. One of our core values is grit and people that have always had it easy don’t really understand what that’s like.
[0:23:55.2] RS: Yeah, that’s fair. The rest of the part with the interviewing in AE is like I do feel there is that [inaudible 0:24:02.5] that charm, you need to be good in sales but at a certain point, it is just such a scoreboard, right? So you can really get into like, “Okay, what is your OTE? What are your billings? What are your biggest accounts? What are examples of the upselling? There is a point out of which it’s just very cut and dried as opposed to I think some other jobs, there is like a little more nuance in whether they can do it or not.
[0:24:21.5] FM: Yeah, I think that is why they spent such a long time trying to find me essentially. I think they interviewed a total of 30 candidates. I went through six different rounds of interviews, one interview lasted six hours. I was exhausted at the end of the day. I was like, “This first order of business, I am going to change up this interview process” but it was hard, right?
Finding the right fit because I was the first person related to HR or people operations and I was ultimately going to be hiring the people that we’re going to develop the culture of the company. So they wanted to make sure they had the right fit there and I think I’m a great fit for Billd. I think I’m what they needed at the time, so yeah.
[0:25:06.7] RS: Yeah, there it is. Well done striking those six-hour interviews from the process and of course, you’re a good fit for Billd, that’s why you’ve done so well there. So Francisco, we are creeping up on optimal podcast length here, so at this point I’d just say, hey man, thank you so much for joining the show with me. I really liked chatting with you today.
[0:25:23.3] FM: Same here, I really appreciate it.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
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