My guest today is Nir Leibovich. He is the co-founder and CEO of GoCo.io, a company that offers award-winning modern software for small and medium-sized businesses to manage their people. It’s an incredible platform, and Nir is on the show to talk about everything related to human resources, technology and small and medium-sized businesses.
What especially caught my attention is his idea that we should pay attention to the neural networks in our organizations. Nir’s mission is to eliminate manual HR processes so that professionals can focus on higher-priority tasks and create a better company culture.
“We are really passionate about helping people ops or HR team members automate their workflows and their day to day so they can focus on growing happier, healthier, and more productive teams,” says Nir.
Punk Rock HR is proudly underwritten by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is a B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head over to thestarrconspiracy.com.
What Are Organizational Neural Networks?
One of the biggest HR conversations right now is about the possibility of recession and how employers and HR should respond. But Nir also points out an overlooked effect of the Great Resignation — “the musical chair game” of people switching jobs has caused damage to what he calls an organization’s “neural networks.”
When employees leave, you aren’t just replacing a name or skill set, Nir says. It’s more like incurring trauma to the organization’s neural pathways.
“A little bit about neural pathways: The way they become stronger is over time, they connect repetitive actions and experiences,” Nir says. “That’s what really strengthened them. … But when you lose a key hub in that, all those connections are now broken, and they have to reform themselves. Think of it like refinding new ways to do what they did when they used to go through that neural pathway.”
It’s about relearning and reshaping how things are done in the organization. Replacing someone to handle daily tasks is just one challenge. “What we can’t find is that same person that also, on the side, helped 12 other resources when they had a question or when they were stuck, or when they just needed to vent about a customer that just had a rough day,” Nir says.
The additional challenge for organizations is that rebuilding these connections will take time, just as it takes time for neural pathways to develop and strengthen.
How the Ideal Talent Profile Strengthens Organizations
HR should be more than creating systems and processes or automating and digitizing functions. How can HR professionals ensure that they are going beyond that and actually strengthening and supporting everyone in the organization?
“I think the first thing is to realize, OK, we do not need to keep panicking. I think we’re on the tail end of that Great Resignation,” Nir says. “But we do need to take a hard look and analyze into what has happened with that departure and the new hires, and the neural networks that have been potentially damaged.”
Nir points to an idea borrowed from the business side — the concept of the ideal customer profile. For HR, this idea manifests as the ITP, or ideal talent profile. The ITP considers the overall culture, what traits are necessary to succeed in each role, and how HR would think differently about who to keep and who to hire.
“So be selective, only hire those who raise the bar of criteria and requirements. Make sure you get your leadership and other team members involved in that conversation. This should be a conversation. And go from there,” Nir shares.
This means not keeping people around who don’t serve the long-term goals, because you’re also not serving those employees’ long-term goals. And for new hires, onboarding and touch points need to be more deliberate and intense so that the organization’s neural networks are built back up.
“I cannot overstress the importance of taking your onboarding to the next level. And I will be the first to admit that we ourselves are still far from perfect there. And we’re constantly, constantly trying to iterate towards it,” Nir shares.
Being Intentional With Neural Networks
The second component of what Nir calls “doubling down” with neural networks is with your existing talent, the ones you’ve identified as matching the ITP.
“Leverage them as your hubs and pillars to be the magnifier and the multiplier into those new connections,” Nir says of experienced employees. “And work that back into the new hires and onboarding so that you can strengthen those neural networks faster. That’s how we think about it, at least.”
The good news for HR professionals, Nir says, is that companies are looking to them to lead. “I think if you’re in this industry right now and you’re not capitalizing on that dynamic change to elevate yourself, to elevate your voice, to be that agent of change for that culture and that organization, you’re doing yourself a disservice because that opportunity is here and available.”'We are really passionate about helping people ops or HR team members automate their workflows and their day to day so they can focus on growing happier, healthier and more productive teams.' ~ @Nirl32, co-founder of @gocoio. Tune in to #PunkRockHR! Click To Tweet
People in This Episode
This episode of Punk Rock HR is sponsored by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is the B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head on over to thestarrconspiracy.com.
Hey, everybody. I’m Laurie Ruettimann. Welcome back to Punk Rock HR. My guest today is Nir Leibovich. He is the co-founder and CEO of a company called GoCo. They offer award-winning modern software for small to medium-sized businesses to manage their people. It’s really a cool platform.
And Nir is on the show today to talk about all things related to human resources, technology, small to medium-sized businesses. But he’s got this idea that we should be paying attention to the neural networks in our organization. When I heard that, I’m like, oh, I got to hear more about this.
So if you’re interested in geeking out about the way people get stuff done and what happens when people leave an organization and how disruptive that can be beyond the org chart, well, sit tight, and enjoy this conversation with Nir Leibovich on this week’s Punk Rock HR.
Hey, Nir. Welcome to the podcast.
Thanks for having me.
Oh, gosh, I’m pleased to have you here. Before we get started, it’s a tradition on Punk Rock HR to have the guest tell us who they are and what they’re all about. You want to do that?
Sure. I would love to. So I’m Nir Leibovich. I’m the co-founder and CEO here at GoCo. We’re an all-in-one HR platform that covers everything you need to manage your employees, onboarding benefits, payroll time, talent management, the whole gamut.
And really, our mission is to eliminate manual HR processes so that you can focus on the higher tasks. So in a lot of ways, we are really passionate about helping people ops or HR team members automate their workflows and their day to day so they can focus on growing happier, healthier and more productive teams.
I love it. Well, a lot of times when people talk about small and medium-sized businesses, they have various definitions. Right? This can be all over the map. What do you define a small to medium-sized business as? And where do you operate your best?
Yeah. That’s a great question. I think for us, the sweet spot is somewhere between 25 and maybe up to 500 or 1,000 employees. But we see one to 20 employees, as well, and all the way up to a few thousands. But we try to focus and up optimize for that sweet spot in-between.
And I feel like those are the majority of companies around the world, right? Not every organization is a behemoth organization. And when you have an HR leader or a people ops leader in a small business, they’re really wearing a lot of hats. Is that correct?
Oh yeah. That’s our typical customer. Juggling a lot. Wearing a lot of hats. Typically, HR department of one or two or few. Rarely a big corporation with too many specialized roles.
So you’ve been privy to a real change in the world of work over the past couple of years, especially when it comes to the small- and medium-sized business owners. So what’s happening in the world of work? What’s different? What’s new? What’s surprising?
I think a lot about this. The way I think about it is, take a step back and look at the macro trends of the last couple of years. There’s just been a significant impact to businesses and HR teams worldwide. But really, especially in the SMB space, where you typically do wear a lot of hats. And all of a sudden, you’ve just earned yourself a few more to go along with it.
And so the way I think about it is a little bit of a cause and effect of what has happened. If you would humor me, let me give you a couple. From a causes perspective, we’ve experienced a pandemic, obviously, and things like the Great Resignation and so on. And what that has done is it has caused HR teams to go from asking for that spot at that executive table to having every executive in the company turn their heads and ask them to navigate through these more difficult times.
And so everything from thinking through the wellbeing of the whole human. We’ve gone from just thinking of our team members as people that show up to work to, now, people that have complete lives with physical and mental health, and their home and their work blended together.
We’ve thought about adjusting business operations and productivity to a more remote and flexible-heavy world. These are all things that fall on their lap, along with the Great Resignation and talent wars. So you’re asking a lot, a lot, a lot from these HR practitioners out in the SMB world to carry all of these extra responsibilities.
With that came a lot more elevation of authority and a bigger voice, but you’re definitely asking a lot of them.
And how are they doing?
I think before talking about that, I think about the effects of what’s happening. You’ve got people ops that are looking to adopt ways to become more efficient because now they are worrying about the wellness and whole human. And now they are worrying about operating in a more remote environment.
And now they are worried about how to compete in a market with really tough, high resignation, as well as a tough competitive market to get new talent. And what you’re really seeing is them looking to become more efficient.
And so we, of course, are a bit biased being an HR tech company. But not just us, the entire category, is seeing a significant amount of HR departments strive to adopt more technology. And what used to be a nice-to-have now is becoming a must-have.
What used to be, “Yeah, one day I’ll digitalize my entire HR department.” Now, you have no choice. You don’t even get to see the new employee you’re onboarding. Or you don’t even have access to your file cabinet if you wanted to.
And so there’s a big trend of digitalization that’s happening, and that is helping them become more efficient and focused on those higher-value tasks. But with that, at the same time, what I’m seeing is a lot of panic around talent retention and combating the Great Resignation that just happened.
Scrambling to find new talent and thinking about how to retain that talent, how to engage that talent. That leads to a lot of high rise in comps and being more competitive, meeting new work expectations of our talent today.
And in some ways, unfortunately, I think even lowering some of the criteria and the requirements that they would otherwise uphold higher in trying to bring in the right talent. I don’t want to say the right talent. I mean the right fit for them, a mutual fit that would be successful for them and the talent. Where before, they might have been a little bit more careful. And now they’re lowering that bar a little bit.
Well, a lot going on. And what I hear you saying is that it’s up and down for HR professionals who are trying to manage all this chaos, all of this change. Some are doing it well. Some are really struggling. We know the answer to that.
I think one of the more interesting things in the marketplace is that, now, people are talking about what’s next. And a lot of people are, in my opinion, trying to talk us into a recession. I don’t know that that’s going to happen. I have a lot of faith and confidence that we can do some things to avoid it.
But I wonder what you see as next for the active HR professional. What are they thinking about? What are they going to deal with? What are some of the trends that are front and center for these hard-working people?
I think whether we have a recession or not, obviously, I don’t have that crystal ball. And few do, if any. But I do think that we could maybe more confidently say that we’re at least on the tail end of the Great Resignation.
We’re not seeing, at least by the data, the flock of people leaving every single day. I think the musical chair game has kind of hit its peak and is probably on the downside. People are looking around and saying, “I’m going to stick around if this is a good place for me. This is where I want to be for a little while.”
But I think what we’re not talking about is the collateral damage, if you will, of all of this musical chair play that just happened. I mean, we look at our teams, especially in SMBs, where you’ve got a lot of generalists doing a lot of different positions. And we think about, OK, we just lost so-and-so in client success, or we just lost so-and-so in sales, and we just lost so-and-so in marketing.
And what we often do is we think about it as, oh, OK, so who’s going to do day-to-day tasks that they did? Who’s going to lead the initiatives that they were leading? And can we find qualified candidates that could have the skill sets or the competencies and the experience to do that?
And honestly, in a lot of ways, you’re going to end up finding, oftentimes, a better hire for that position than you had. And a lot of reasons for that is because you’ve now become a lot more knowledgeable on what it is that job requires. And there’s really phenomenal people out there. But what we’re not talking about is the neural networks that have been lost within that.
I love where you’re going with this because it’s about connectivity. It’s about relationship. It’s about understanding who has power and how to get things done. All of that is disrupted when you lose people within that chain of communication.
And suddenly, the person who is kind of like the central node of activity or knew how to get something done, they’re gone. And now we have to almost remap our way of operating in an organization. So that is tremendously detrimental. And you’re right. I don’t think people are talking about that. Why not?
It’s a question I’ve been asking a lot. It seems so organic for us to think about it. We’re all humans ourselves. So why aren’t we thinking about the rest of the human connections that are happening inside of organizations?
I’m a big fan of analogies. And I like to think of losing someone is more than just losing one more skill set inside of a big system. It’s really a lot like incurring trauma to your brain, where you’ve got neural pathways that have now been damaged.
A little bit about neural pathways: The way they become stronger is over time, they connect repetitive actions and experiences. That’s what really strengthened them. And that network becomes a lot stronger as they connect to more and more — sort of like an infinite permutation of that.
But when you lose a key hub in that, all those connections are now broken, and they have to reform themselves. Think of it like refinding new ways to do what they did when they used to go through that neural pathway.
Yeah. Like with a stroke victim.
Exactly. I think that’s what happens in organizations. We experience that trauma. And we just see it as, oh, there’s 35 new tickets a day and nobody’s answering them.
That’s not really the problem. We can find someone to answer the 35 tickets a day. What we can’t find is that same person that also, on the side, helped 12 other resources when they had a question or when they were stuck, or when they just needed to vent about a customer that just had a rough day. And now they don’t have that outlet.
So there’s just an incredible amount of impact that goes far beyond just losing that headcount. And so back to your question, I think that’s what we’re going to be struggling with because we’re, in a lot of ways, having to repair and rebuild those neural pathways, that neural network within our organization. And it’s going to take time.
It doesn’t matter how great of a hire you got. It’s going to take time, experiences and lots and lots of connections that they will be forming over time.
Well, I like talking about this as the cost of and the process of doing business. Right? If this is a reality that we need to deal with, we should be having more conversations around it.
I wonder how we set organizations up for success. In the past, we thought that creating systems and processes was the way to do it. And even automating and digitizing, that’s the way to set up HR for success. But what else could we be doing to make sure that we’re really strengthening the organization, making sure that we’re supporting people in their development and their growth?
So I can share how we think about it, and that might be helpful to your audience. I think the first thing is to realize, OK, we do not need to keep panicking. I think we’re on the tail end of that Great Resignation.
But we do need to take a hard look and analyze into what has happened with that departure and the new hires, and the neural networks that have been potentially damaged. And I think the way to do that is to, first, really analyze and ask yourself — we like to call it our ITP. It is borrowed from marketing, where they call it the ICP.
The ICP in marketing is your ideal customer profile. Well, we think of it as your ITP, your ideal talent profile. And that’s a combination of your culture and just what makes one succeed in different roles and so on.
But we think about it as, take a hard look at your current organization and ask yourself, is everyone here the right ITP? If I did not feel panicked through this resignation, who would I have kept longer? Who would I have hired differently?
And what you’ll find is that you might have folks on that weren’t the right fit, and you knew it, but you just never wanted to let them go because you were in survival mode. And you may also find that you hired a lot of people that maybe weren’t the right fit because you were lowering those bars. You needed butts in seats, for lack of a better word. And you did what you did.
So, I think, start with that. That’s really important. Take a really hard, retrospective look at that. And then make sure that you’re now setting yourself up for long-term success with that.
So be selective, only hire those who raise the bar of criteria and requirements. Make sure you get your leadership and other team members involved in that conversation. This should be a conversation. And go from there.
And then don’t hold on to those that don’t serve your long term, or more importantly, you’re not serving their long term. I mean, this should be a mutual relationship, and you got to be honest with it. So, I think, that’s where you start.
And then once you’ve landed on where that is, that’s when I think you’ve got to double down on strengthening those neural networks because now you’ve identified the key players or the people that you do think are a part of your ITP, or you’re looking to hire those ITP. And what you really have to do is double down on that.
So what does that mean? Doubling down on what?
So, doubling down to strengthen those neural networks, for me, means you take those new hires, and you start becoming more intentional about their onboarding experience. That’s just thinking about what they need to know from a knowledge and skill set perspective — but really thinking about that neural network and how you strengthen it.
Really thinking about what other areas of the organization they will impact. And how do you streamline that process so that they have those touch points as early as possible? Develop those relationships as early as possible. And really just be intentional about that.
I cannot overstress the importance of taking your onboarding to the next level. And I will be the first to admit that we ourselves are still far from perfect there. And we’re constantly, constantly trying to iterate towards it. That’s number one.
And number two is, with your existing talent, the ones that are already there, the ones that you’ve identified are ITP, you have to be more intentional with how you identify those high-impact players and develop them to be that multiplier of your organization.
Think of it — back to that neural network. Those that have been there for a while that are your tenure, leverage them as your hubs and pillars to be the magnifier and the multiplier into those new connections. And work that back into the new hires and onboarding so that you can strengthen those neural networks faster. That’s how we think about it, at least.
Well, I love all of that. As a CEO of a company that is growing rapidly, especially now during this crazy time, I wonder what you think leaders want most from HR. What are they looking for?
I can’t imagine that it’s very different than what I’m looking for. And hopefully, after hearing this podcast today, they’ll be thinking about it a little bit differently.
But at the end of the day, it’s going back, taking a hard look, identifying your ITP, doubling down on your onboarding experience. Getting really, really good at that. Engaging your best and brightest, helping them develop. And helping them become the hubs and the multipliers into the rest of the organization to really rebuild those neural networks.
And making sure that you’re helping them skill up and level up on how to lead themselves, others and the business. I think that is by far the most highest priority that an HR team can focus on right now.
You want to know what I think?
I would love to know what you think.
I think leaders want HR to have answers to questions before they’re asked. What do you think about that?
I think that’s every person. I’d love my wife to know every question I’m going to ask and I already have an answer for it.
Yeah. But I think there’s an interesting expectation. And I think HR is up for this challenge. I think every time, in many organizations, we have a new hire and we open up a req, it’s like reinventing the wheel, right?
Or every time there’s something going on, a leader comes to HR. And I think leaders have rightfully been trained during the pandemic that HR is going to come to them. And they want more of that. HR is not waiting anymore. HR is going to show up and tell you how it gets done.
And I think that kind of basic training during the pandemic, like, we’re going to tell you how to do remote work, we’re going to tell you what’s going on with COVID, kind of set a new standard. I don’t know. What do you think about that?
I cannot agree more. We did a slide during the pandemic and talked to the entire team about that. It’s back to the — HR have been, for years, decades, asking for that seat at the table. And now the table’s flipped upside down on its head, on the floor. Every executive is looking at HR.
And I think if you’re in this industry right now, and you’re not capitalizing on that dynamic change to elevate yourself, to elevate your voice, to be that agent of change for that culture and that organization, you’re doing yourself a disservice because that opportunity is here and available. We’ve been asking here for so long.
And let’s go. Let’s capitalize on it. Let’s change the way people think about HR because, boy, if we can help HR be the agent of change in workplaces, we can make extremely productive and happy workplaces. And that is a chance that we all owe to ourselves to take our best shot at.
Well, I love your passion for this industry, for this field. And I know you’ve got really great resources out there for seasoned HR leaders, emerging HR leaders. So tell us a little bit more about how GoCo serves that community.
Yeah. I would love to invite you to come to GoCo.io and go to our blog section. I think our team is best in class in coming up with thought leadership material. We hear it over and over from the community that we’re putting out really thoughtful, actionable, practical material out there. So I would really invite you to start there.
And we put on a lot of great webinars with phenomenal thought leaders. We try to make it far less about our product and services because we think that stands on its own two feet and speaks for itself. And what we really are trying to do is empower and enable the HR community. So by all means, please stop at GoCo.io and check out our blog.
Amazing stuff. Well, listen, Nir, if there’s one thing you want to leave us with today, what should we be thinking about?
Think about those neural networks. I can’t stress that enough. There’s so much more that’s going on in your organization than just the open reqs that you’re trying to fill. There is an entire organism there. And if you don’t feed and nurture it, it will not feed back the business. So give that some thought.
Amazing. Well, thanks again for being a guest on Punk Rock HR.
Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
Hey, everybody. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Punk Rock HR. We are proudly underwritten by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is the B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head on over to thestarrconspiracy.com.
Punk Rock HR is produced and edited by Rep Cap, with special help from Michael Thibodeaux and Devon McGrath. For more information, show notes, links, and resources, head on over to punkrockhr.com. Now that’s all for today. And I hope you enjoyed it. We’ll see you next time on Punk Rock HR.