An interview with employee insights pro Claire Lew, CEO of

Listen to the full interview: 


Intro: The average cost to replace a single employee upwards of $5,000. And this does not even take into account the cultural implications of staff members being fired or leaving at will. Below is an an audio interview with Claire Lew, CEO of – an employee insights service and product for fast-growing and large teams. Claire has been working with hiring teams for over 10 years – providing her expertise specifically in the areas of internal communications and employee feedback. We could not have found a better expert to discuss the profound impact employee insights has on an organization, especially during periods of growth recruiting. Enjoy!


Alex: This is Claire Lew. She’s the founder and C.E.O. of Know Your Company. Know Your Company is a trusted tool by about a few hundred, I didn’t see an exact number, but I know you have hundreds of organizations globally. And what you do is you help them better understand their employee needs and overcome company growing pains.  And since we’re here to discuss tools, tactics and strategies, employers and hiring teams used to scale recruiting efforts. I ask where to jump on a quick call.  


Q: So let’s get into it, if you want to kind of go over what’s been happening with Know Your Company and maybe give just the higher level view of what it is and what you do.


Claire: Yeah absolutely. Well first of all thank so much, Alex, for having me here today. Really excited to be a part of it. Like you were saying my name and Claire Lew. I’m the C.E.O. of Know Your Company and yeah we’re a software tool that helps C.E.O.’s get to know their company better and create an open and honest working environment by helping them get honest employee feedback. And so what a lot of C.E.O.’s will often experience when they’re growing their company is when they had about fifteen, twenty, or twenty five people they realize, “Wow I don’t know my company as well as they used to.” And it’s a huge problem if you care about making sure you’re innovative about making sure that you’re solving problems and you start to think, “Wow I don’t know what people think about the benefits of the company or the direction of the company or what you know what recent changes that we’ve made.” And so what we do is, we simply ask questions or write questions in the right way at the right time to help the C.E.O. get that information that they usually don’t get, and then to be able to act on it. So that’s what we do. Yeah so we work with over fifteen thousand people who use our product every single day in about twenty five different countries, companies like European beat, Kickstarter, [inaudible 02:02 ] Humanity, Balsamic Help Scouts, a lot of tech companies but also ad agencies, retail companies, manufacturing companies, accounting firms, really every industry that you can think of. It’s really a tour bus just for a team and for a company that actually cares about getting to know people. So yeah, that’s, in short, what we’re about.  


Alex: Yes and where we, both have similar interests is obviously on the hiring team side. This is the side that is responsible for bringing on new employees that fit company culture and especially its tail you know when you’re growing fast it’s very tough to continue growing correctly. The people you hire, how you screen those people, and what happens post hire and how do you make sure that communication goes upwards and sideways and every which way so that everybody is aware of what’s going on and everything is copacetic. So now I just have three questions to ask you to get your insight into more strategies and tactics the teams use to efficiently grow their recruiting efforts as well as management post recruitment. So I want to get started with more of a P&L-related question –


Q: As you are well aware, C.E.O.’s and heads of departments must stay in tune with personalities and intangible needs of their new hires to retain quality talent. So I’d ask; what is the impact on the bottom line of limited knowledge and interaction with those new hires?


Claire:  Yeah, sure. I would just say its turnover, right. You lose money because you’re going to lose people and the cost for replacing a new hire, an employee. I think the last statistic I saw on it was around four grand at minimum but I’ve seen numbers range from it costs about four four thousand dollars to ten thousand dollars to replace a single employee. And I mean we’re not even talking about the cultural implications that happens when someone leaves a company and people start to think, “Oh I wonder why that person left. Should I be thinking about leaving?” You know, it’s just the fact of the matter is,if you don’t know what you’re hires are caring about, what their preferences are, what their needs are then you’re going to most likely lose them. And I believe the statistic that’s known by most folks is twenty percent of new hires leave within the first ninety days.


Alex: Wow.


Claire:  Twenty percent rate. That first ninety days is the time the window that you have. And of course you want to be consistent, not just be great in then your first ninety days as an employer, but really it is specially key that that on boarding process, that first ninety days, you are in tune, engaging and asking questions to those new hires.


Alex: Got it. Got it. I mean I would love to know just personally what types of teams would you say have the biggest need in some of the services that you provide? I mean, obviously sales versus development, versus product, versus accounting.


Q: Would you say there’s a specific team that really does, you know, does have a lot more impact of these turnover costs due to musculature fix, I guess you could say.


Claire: I would say it doesn’t it, it doesn’t correlate to or match up to the sort of domain of the team it’s all, it’s all about if that team is actually just taking the time to get to know their new hires. If they’re not taking the time, if they don’t genuinely care then those employees are going to leave. So it doesn’t really matter, you know, in terms of impact and where you’re going to see this sort of loss, what team it is. It’s just, are you actually caring and are you actually paying attention to those new hires? Who could be anything; could be accounting, it could be design, it could be sales.  


Alex: Got it. Perfect and that backs into the second part of the question.I’d ask, is there a strategy recommend department heads or C.E.O.’s use to ensure they stay in tun with these numerous new personalities coming in at scale? Any specific strategies or tactics?


Claire:  Definitely. So the three reasons for why a new hire is going to leave your company in the first ninety days, if you’re not paying attention. There are yet three different parts sets. So the first is, there’s a mismatch of expectation. So a new hire walks in the door and they go ,” Huh, this is not exactly what I thought it was going to be.” Or, “I wonder if they’re going to have me do this, because this project is actually what I had more in mind or I thought my responsibilities would include this.” So there’s this mismatch of expectations. So how do you overcome that as a C.E.O. or as a manager? The key is you have to ask questions to figure out what are those expectations and where are we falling short on them. A lot of times a C.E.O. and manager assumes that the job description that they put out is enough, or whatever onboarding process they have in place is enough. In fact, Gallup, I believe found that eighty eight percent of workers thought that their own onboarding process was terrible.  So, yes so, it just goes to show there’s this mismatch of expectation which you then cause the new hire to leave because you’re not asking those questions during that onboarding process and it’s not enough just whatever you’re doing just to what that run. You’ve got to ask questions to figure out what are my new hires expecting and where are we falling short. So that’s number one. Number two, to make sure that your new hires you’re getting to know them. Oh sorry, number two for why new hire leave, is because of lack of training, right. So a new hire will come in and they’ll say, “Oh wow.  I don’t know how to do this, but no one here is supporting me.” And what we’ve actually found through Know Your Company is when we ask the question to thousands of employees, “Is there anyone in the company you’d like to apprentice under?” Ninety two percent of employees said yes there’s someone in their company I’d like to apprentice under.  So this idea of learning of training and learning from peers is significant. Again, over ninety percent of employees, whether or not they are even new, are craving to learn from someone else in their company. So you think about supporting your new hire and making sure you’re really knowing them and making sure they’re not going to leave within that first ninety days, making sure you have that training, especially from peers. So having an apprentice program or a mentoring program would be really, really beneficial. And then the last thing, Alex,for why a new hire will leave a company is because they’ll feel unwelcome. And so when you think about trying to make sure that a new hire is going to want to stay with you, making sure that they are socially connected in some way,and feeling like they have things in common with their fellow team members is often overlooked. And a lot of companies, they try to do this in more, sort of one off ways, right. So they might do a happy hour or maybe they’ll takes a new hire out to lunch during the first week. But that’s a one time situation, right. It’s a one time event. They go to lunch that one time or they go to that one happy hour and that’s it. What’s the continuous means of connection for this new hire to meet new people and feel more welcome in the company? So what we actually do with our software product with Know Your Company is, we actually ask a weekly question every Friday that is on something fun and non-work related. So a social question like ,”What’s your favorite breakfast food or did you, you know, did you ever have a bad haircut as a kid?” And so by asking questions that are not work related for new hires it’s an amazing way for them to feel included in the company and the more included they feel the less likely they are to leave.


Alex: Ok, great.  So expectations and possible techs from onboarding and training. I like the idea of apprenticeships and maybe, maybe matching new hires with someone a little bit higher up, more seasoned in their, in their own group or organization. And then sort of connect with anything you can do to kind of make sure that they’re getting involved in the social aspects of their team right off the bat.  


Claire: Yeah, got it.


Alex: That’s wonderful, wonderful.


Claire: Got it.


Alex: Ok great.  And, same question. In portion of Know Your Company’s value propositions, helping ensure hiring and leadership teams are placing candidates with good culture fit to prevent costly misfires.


Q: So what is one process, strategy, tactic or tool you leverage or recommend in conjunction with Know Your Company to help them with this dilemma. So the dilemma of being specifically around culture fit and any tool strategy or tactic in conjunction with know your company.


Claire: Sure. Well, I think if you’re trying to figure out culture fit for your new hires and making sure that, you know, for any prospective employee, they’re going to be a good fit. It’s all about the questions that you ask, period. So we are software, we live by a very simple philosophy which is that, the only way you get answers if you ask a question. The only way you figure out if your potential employee is going to be a good culture fit is bad to questions that you ask. And it’s not just sort of any old questions, right. But it’s really making sure that these are quality questions. So the specific strategies that I always recommend when you’re asking questions for new hires is the more specific the better, right. That’s the first thing, it’s got to be a specific question. The second is, “Are you asking about past experiences instead of things that they actually can’t put a real situation to?” So when you’re trying to assess for culture fit, and understanding what people, you know, real values and motivations are. It doesn’t do any good to say, “How would you handle the situation very prospectively?” What’s much more helpful is to ask them, “How did you handle the situation, right? Tell me about a time when you handled the certain situation.” Which is a very common interviewing technique so that’s not, you know, rocket science anymore but I think it’s really important to point out that you want to make sure that the questions that you’re asking is really based on rooted in some real time event, right. And then the last thing is just making sure that your questions are all lining up to the actual value that you’re looking for, right. So I think in hiring it’s often very easy to make sure or to overlook something. Oh sorry, to hear something that someone says, get excited about it, and totally over look at there’s something else that you should have asked more about, right. It can be easy to say, “Oh this person is a good culture fit because they like tennis and I love tennis too.” Right. But what does having a similar hobby have to do with whether or not they’re going to have aligned values in your organization, right. So, there’s a lot of literature and strategy out there that you can definitely do research around, outlining what are those values mapping up and writing out specific questions that line up to reveal what those values are, and making sure that the person who you’re asking these questions to is sharing specific examples in their answers to map out and match up to those values. So I think it’s all in the questions. The magic is always in the questions, Alex.


Alex: Yes. Got it. Ok so in the right questions, specific questions, the quality of the questions, the timeliness of the questions, and making sure those questions have a real tie back to the culture fit. Not just general questions about who the person is, but really really kind of how it interacts and kind of correlates with the culture of the company. So that makes total sense.


Q: Is there any one example that you have where it’s working well in practice. So this could be specific organization or just a specific scenario you’ve witnessed recently or asking those right questions is working really well.  


Claire: Yeah absolutely. I mean in all the hiring that I’ve done, that personally been the case so we just most recently hired a new chief technology officer out in San Francisco and we had over four hundred people apply for that position from all over the world. And if you can imagine you know to first of all sort through all those resumes, get it down and we end up interviewing probably a batch of twenty or so narrowed it down to maybe five and takes one.  You know, how you do that and how you can discern whether or not this person is going to be a good culture fit, it’s all, it’s all in the question.


Alex: Yeah, perfect.  And then just one final question. I believe there’s only one part to this question. So the last question here is kind of a nod to hiring teams you’ve seen doing it very well at larger scale. So, you know, a hiring team may have just closed around and needs to bring on fifty one hundred, two hundred plus people in a short period of time.


Q: Was one thing one aspect of each of these hiring teams worked alongside, what is one thing that they all seem to be doing to achieve fast and quality hiring during large growth stages? And if you could touch on maybe any specific tools, processes, strategies that they use in conjunction with whatever the answer is to kind of make sure that they’re growing well at scale and keeping those good culture fit coming in.  


Claire: Sure. So the companies that I’ve seen that hire really well, especially when they’re going through big growth periods are the ones that know exactly what they want. And their entire team is on the same page for exactly what they want. So this is, I mean there are so many companies that do this, one that comes recently to mind is, there’s a company called Rent the Runway which is popular actually, rental service for women for renting out dresses. And their engineering team, they have no a shared Google Docs where they go through and they make it incredibly clear what they are looking for. This is like, you know, for someone who I’m going to write as this interview process, these are the displayable attributes, awards and things that they’ve done and said that are going to show that this is the kind of person that we need. So they’re just really, really clear on what they’re looking for what they want and I think a lot of companies and think they know where hiring managers think they know what they want but when you actually break it down, it’s what does that look like what is being proactive look like, what are some of the things that they would have done in the past to show you that they’re proactive? You’ve listed out what those potential events could be, right. So instead of vague generalizations, “Oh I want someone who is friendly, I want someone who’s motivated.” What is, what is friendly look like? What is motivated tangibly look like? Being really clear about what you want and getting, making sure your entire team is on the same page with that has been the key difference of what I’ve seen teams hire successfully.  


Alex: Great, great. I love, I love the culture guide example. I mean I’ve worked on a number of teams that had different ways of putting together, you know, the culture guide. And I like the idea of everybody kind of chipping in to that culture guide, instead of just the C.E.O. or leadership coming up with what they want as a culture guide and just letting, letting the team to use it. I think, I think that’s really interesting. I’d love to see that actual culture guide, if one exists that’s out there that’s been collaborated on by a number of people maintaining that would be very interesting.  So great. yeah.


Claire:  I think the Rent the Runway one is out there [inaudible 18:23 ] is out there. I feel Strike also has one off the top of my head. Yeah, so.


Alex: Yeah, great. Well, this has been, this has been great. I’ve got some great notes here. This actually gets transcribed immediately and emailed to me which is wonderful so. All for that. It’s really great so I’m going to see what I can do with this and then, yeah definitely. If anything else comes up, anything I can do for you, let me know but otherwise I’m wish you the best of luck and continued success and I will be in touch.  


Claire: Thanks so much Alex.