Punk Rock HR Episode 122:
Today’s guest is Damon Klotz. Damon has spent his career working at the intersection of people and technology. He’s held roles as an HR Consultant, Digital Strategist, and he’s the co-founder of a men’s mental health charity. He joined Culture Amp as an early employee where he grew their community to one of the largest in the world and scaled the company during a time where the employees and customer base grew by over 2500%. But what I want you to know about Damon more than anything is that he believes that businesses can be a force for good in this world.
I have known him for over 11 years, and a lot of people mistake optimism for naivete. But here’s the deal about Damon, he is savvy, he understands how to build relationships, he understands the world of work. And yet, knowing how nefarious the startup scene can be, and knowing how crazy the world of work is, he still believes that people are good that human resources can make a difference. And then when it comes down to it, culture first really matters.
In this episode you’ll hear:
- The story of how Damon and I met.
- What Damon sees when he looks out at America.
- What Damon’s company, Culture Amp, is doing right now in the marketplace.
- His beliefs about culture and what culture truly is.
- Damon’s thoughts on the future of HR leaders.
WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU LOOK OUT AT AMERICA?
I think people of color and black people in America are a lot more visible, but they haven’t had the same opportunities. For me, I’m coming from a place of privilege as a straight white male. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities in my life. I’ve been able to get a college degree and people don’t question me when I’m operating in society. And I’m trying to use the platform and the privilege that I have to amplify the voices and the stories of other people now because there’s been enough privilege in my life that I don’t need any more access. So that’s something that I’m super conscious of, and still on a very long journey of education.
CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU MEAN BY CULTURE?
I think it is a set of beliefs, expectations, structures, and intentions around how a group of people decide together, that’s actualized through behaviors, and I think it can exist at an organizational level. I also believe culture can exist within a team and within a small project as well. We spend a lot of time talking about what we do at work. I believe we don’t spend as much time focusing on how we’re working. Who were the people who were in the room? Who are the people who are not in the room? Who are the decision-makers? Why are they decision-makers? How are we going to make decisions? These are all the things that make up a culture of a team, culture of a project, and culture of an organization. But to me, it’s around your expectations.
ARE YOU PESSIMISTIC OR OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE FUTURE?
I would like to believe that there’s a future out there where leaders are willing to unlearn, to be vulnerable, and to have conversations about topics when they’re not topical. A leader who’s looking at the dynamics of their team or the things that are playing out not because it’s on the front page of the news right.
WHEN YOU LOOK OUT IN THE WORLD OF CULTURE AND HUMAN RESOURCES AND CORPORATIONS, WHAT WORRIES YOU?
What worries me is HR continues to be a profession that gets stretched so many ways and being asked to show up in so many different situations, many of which we’ve never been trained in. Such as, we aren’t trained in public health care policy. And HR leaders around the world have been trying to work out what their restrictions mean for their employees. And, we’re all looking to advance ourselves, advance our career, advance the profession. To do that, there’s an element of having the breadth that allows us to be in many rooms. And then there’s also the need to be super-specialized and to be an expert in things. I worry that as the world becomes more complex, as society continues to test us in all these different ways that will we get stretched too thin.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF HR IN THE EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE?
This COVID situation has exposed both our strengths and weaknesses from a cultural standpoint. It’s provided us with opportunities to think about how we address policy changes and how we approach things differently. It’s given information and incentive to HR leaders to take them over the finish line on things that they’ve been trying to influence in their organizations. We’ve also discovered the notion of valuing people and the importance of the work they do. Executive teams have had to communicate more and find ways to connect. Now is truly the time for HR to double down, champion people, and start to invest and do some things differently. HR professionals can help their leaders move from traditional to modern leaders. They now have the opportunity to step back and address some things they haven’t gotten to before.