There are few better ways to improve your recruiting than by learning from industry leaders. Whether it’s reading quick nuggets of information on Twitter or sitting down with a 300-page book, learning from people who have been there and done it is a must if you want to make the most of your career — and your organization’s current HR efforts.
Thought-provoking, actionable insights await when you set aside time to read anything the 14 Silicon Valley CHROs below write.
Laszlo Bock is perhaps the most influential, respected and well-known HR professional Silicon Valley has ever produced. He built and led the HR division of Google for 10 years, during which time Google was named the best companies to work for more than 30 times and was recognized as an employer of choice more than 100 times.
His book, WORK RULES!, provides actionable insight into how Google became the leading tech talent powerhouse. Anyone looking to build a world-class team or create a unique company culture should read that one cover to cover.
Today, Bock is the CEO and co-founder of Humu, a startup that uses machine learning to drive behavioral change in organizations.
Barbie Brewer has more than 20 years of HR experience in Silicon Valley. This includes stints at Tiburon (VP of human resources), Netflix (VP of talent), GitLab (chief culture officer) and most recently Marqeta, where she is chief people officer.
As VP of talent at Netflix, Brewer managed an HR team that supported over 1500 employees. She also oversaw the opening of the company’s first international offices and helped the company grow from 20 million subscribers in North America to 100 million subscribers across the world.
Brewer is passionate about creating inclusive working cultures and challenging biases. She recently wrote a Quartz article outlining the importance of seeking situations and experiences that challenge our biases:
“If you feel men are better at engineering, attend ‘Women in Technology’ events to see all the amazing talent. If you feel that women are better at childcare, spend some time with a stay-at-home dad to see how great they can be. I tell my kids every day that if anything can be done, they can do it. We also need to tell ourselves that about people who are different from us.”
Diane Gherson is CHRO at IBM, responsible for the roughly 360,000 members of IBM’s workforce across 72 countries. During her 17 years at the company, Gherson has transformed IBM’s workplace culture, incorporated AI and been an external advocate for social issues.
But Gherson isn’t resting on her laurels. “Learning is the most important part of our organization right now,” she explains in an interview with Merryck & Co. As AI plays a bigger role in HR and the work of IBM as a whole, Gherson has torn up the company’s learning system and replaced it with a “Netflix-like experience” that is focused on getting employees ready for the future.
Robby Kwok is the SVP of people at Slack, a role that puts him in charge of global recruitment, people operations, rewards and program management. Unlike other senior HR executives at big tech firms, Kwok does not have your typical HR background. He came to Slack from Twitter, where he was on the business operations team. Prior to Twitter, Kwok was head of corporate development for Linkedin.
Kwok’s multidisciplinary background makes him well-placed to draw unique insights from the industry and offer tried and tested advice. Nowhere is this shown better than in his Slack blog post on staying productive as an executive. Based on his own experiences, Kwok recommends combining big strategies and small hacks to stay productive despite a busy schedule. This includes simple things like learning keyboard shortcuts to big-picture ideas such as scheduling time for thinking and organizing tasks around your own productivity levels.
Patty McCord was the chief talent officer at Netflix between 1998 and 2012. During her time, she was instrumental in building the unique, high-performance culture that helped to fuel Netflix’s staggering growth. She also wrote Netflix’s culture doc, which has been described by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg as “the most important document ever to come out of the Valley.”
McCord’s book, Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, shares what she has learned during her time at Netflix and elsewhere in the valley. Arianna Huffington calls the book “required reading for anyone who wants their business to thrive in the 21st century.”
McCord now runs Patty McCord Consulting, where she acts as an executive coach for CEOs and their teams.
Colleen McCreary is the chief people officer at Credit Karma, where she leads a team of more than 50 people and is responsible for global people operations. She established a new compensation philosophy, improved feedback tools and added more than 400 new people in her first year in the role.
Prior to Credit Karma, McCreary was CPO at Vevo, The Climate Corporation and Zynga — at the latter, she grew the company from 130 people to 4,000. McCreary was named one of the Bay Area’s Most Influential Women by the San Francisco Business Times in 2011 and 2012 while at Zynga. During that time, the company was named among the Top 10 Best Places to Work in the Bay Area in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Those awards shouldn’t come as a surprise. As McCreary discussed in an interview with Wavelength, she has spent a lot of time working out how Zynga could differentiate itself from Google, Facebook and Microsoft in order to attract the best talent. It’s not common perks like free meals that are the differentiator. Rather, it’s the sheer number of products the company works on, the fact that the company has guidelines rather than rules, and the internal marketplace Zynga runs that allows employees to change departments or projects quickly and easily.
Donna Morris is the CHRO and EVP of employee experience at Adobe. In this role, she has abolished performance reviews, expanded the company’s family leave policy and achieved global gender pay parity across 32 countries.
Morris has been interviewed a number of times for her opinions on HR. She is an avid Tweeter and a regular commentator on HR, women in tech and the industry in general. Risk missing out on her insights at your peril.
Tawni L. Nazario-Cranz
Tawni L. Nazario-Cranz is the chief people officer at Waymo. She previously held positions at SignalFire, Cruise Automation and Netflix, where she was CHRO for five years. At Netflix, Nazario-Cranz built on the work of Patty McCord, creating and leading the company’s organizational design as it grew into a global content creator.
Ellen Petry Leanse
Ellen Petry Leanse has spent more than three decades working in the tech industry. She’s worked with some of the world’s biggest and most influential companies, including Apple and Google. Most recently, she is the chief people officer at Lucidworks.
Leanse is the author of The Happiness Hack, a guide to hacking the brain to reduce stress, increase happiness and reclaim focus. She is also an instructor at Stanford, where she runs one of the school’s consistently top-ranked classes on skill elevation and mindset building.
Cindy Robbins is a president and chief people officer at Salesforce, which has been named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 10 years in a row. She is a pioneer of equal pay and has overseen Salesforce spend $8.7 million to address pay disparities so far.
Robbins explained the steps she and Salesforce have taken to close the pay gap at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference. This included why the company runs an equal pay audit every year. “Unless you have flawless systems and flawless processes, you’re going to have to run the audit every single year.” She also highlighted the impact it has had on the business. Since implementing the audit, the percentage of employees who think they are paid fairly has increased from 80 percent to 92 percent.
Beth Steinberg is the chief people officer at Zenefits and the founder of Mensch Ventures, a people and talent advisory firm. She has also held senior HR positions at Facebook, Brightroll, Nike and Electronic Arts.
At all of those companies, Steinberg has had to carry out a layoff at least once. It’s a process she’s learned a lot from. Sharing her advice with First Round Review, Steinberg highlights the four phases of a layoff, what leaders need to know about the process and what they need to do at each stage. “Layoffs are hard, even for a serial founder. If you don’t feel awful after one, you shouldn’t be leading a company.”
Brian Tippens is a VP and chief diversity officer at Hewlett Packard, overseeing a number of programs aimed at increasing HP’s diversity efforts, improving strategy and building better customer relationships. Tippens is a prolific blogger on his personal website and has published dozens of thoughtful articles in both English and Spanish. He also tweets regularly about diversity, recruitment and tech.
Janet Van Huysse
Janet Van Huysse is head of people at Cloudflare and was the first VP of HR at Twitter. She grew the social media giant from 90 employees to more than 3,000 in 20 countries during her time there and led people efforts through the company’s IPO.
In an interview with Glassdoor, Van Huysse lifts the curtain on Twitter’s HR strategy. This includes her thoughts on the importance of workplace transparency, creating a culture of fearless communication, what the company looks for in candidates and how Twitter attracts the top talent.
Van Huysse is also the cofounder of Tendlab, a consulting company that helps parents and organizations to unlock the power of parents at work.
Pat Wadors has almost three decades of experience in the HR space. She is currently CHRO at ServiceNow, was formerly CHRO at Linkedin for two years and is regarded as one of the leading HR figures in the world.
Wadors regularly shares her advice in leading publications. In 2016, she penned a Harvard Business Review article on how and why diversity efforts are falling short in tech. Wadors believes what’s missing from the diversity discussion is the “notion of belonging.” This led her to coin the term DIBs (diversity, inclusion and belonging), and in the piece she offers six ways for companies to instill a culture of belonging.
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