bars
times
February 24, 2020

Episode 4: Kelli Dragovich, Chief People Officer of Looker

Available on:
← Back to Handoff Podcast Page

Podcast

Description

On this episode of The Handoff, Dan chats with a special guest: tech industry HR veteran Kelli Dragovich. Kelli has worked in Silicon Valley for more than 20 years, and in that time, she’s had a front row seat as the tech industry has experimented with new employment models and has embraced the new ways that people want to work today. She chats with Dan about the trends she’s seeing, her advice for healthcare leaders and why she thinks keeping flexible workers engaged starts not with policies but with the company goals and culture. 


Kelli has a long track record working in a variety of people operations and HR functions at fast-growing tech companies, and is currently the Chief People Officer at Looker, a business intelligence software and big data analytics platform. At organizations like Yahoo!, Intuit, Github and Hired, she’s worked to create policies that hire and support flexible and non-traditional employees.

Podcast

Transcript


Kelli, welcome to the program.

Kelli:
Thank you, Dan. It's great to be here.

Dan:
So Kelli, tell us a little bit about yourself. What's your background? How'd you get started into different roles that you've had and work your way up through the HR ladder?

Kelli:
My background, born and raised in the Bay Area and really got into tech slash HR pretty early, about 20 years ago with the passion and the interest to basically mix together people and business. I think it's fascinating organizational behavior and just growing teams and how we work together and collaborate. So that's really what drove me into being in the people space within tech itself. So jumped in there after grad school and built sort of my career Intuit a long time ago and was there for over five years, amazing company. And then went over to Yahoo after that. So between Intuit and Yahoo kind of tacked up the first 10 years of my career and just worked with all different types of functions across both companies, all different geographies, global roles. And just again, really fell in love with this job within the tech space.

Kelli:
And about after 10 years, moved on to basically the rocket ship startup early stage company space which I just love to death, that just versatility and just the chaos and the intensity of these early stage companies that are growing their teams, their businesses kind of all at the same time and the complexities and the challenges that brings. So then building people teams and being a head of people in companies like Hired and Looker and GitHub for awhile. And I just love it. I love building authentic cultures, I love hiring great talent and seeing them do different things and helping facilitate that. So I've been at Looker for about a year now and an amazing product and an amazing brand and an amazing culture.

Dan:
Yeah, that sounds like an amazing ride.I just finished watching series six of Silicon Valley and there's a couple episodes about their head of people in that series. Do you ever use those tactics?

Kelli:
Yes, people ask me why I do this job and I said," I do this job because of Toby in The Office."

Dan:
I love it.

Kelli:
That's why I do this job.

Dan:
It's so funny.

Kelli:
So funny.

Dan:
That's great. So tell me your experience with kind of the flexible workforce. I know at Hired, you were bringing in flexible workers and full time workers into tech companies. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with that flexible workforce?

Kelli:
Yeah. I mean, I think the flexible workforce is a really broad term, right? There's a lot of different variations underneath that, right? And so when I think about flexible workers, I'm thinking about anything from temporary contractors to longterm part time to advisory or consultant type work, subject matter experts that come in for a period of time, short or long or permanent. Also geographic flexibility, there's a lot of remote workforces now and so I think about flexible workforces in a wide array. I had a lot of experience with that over the years, especially the last, I would say plus or minus eight years.

Kelli:
This has become a huge trend, a hot topic in tech specifically. And really looking to those kinds of senior mid-level, senior level people who really are seeking more flexibility, especially later in their career, GitHub was a company where we were 75% distributed, right? People kind of working out of their homes across 35 states, 21 countries-

Dan:
Wow.

Kelli:
A whole another level of flexibility. And we partner with a lot of people too, right? I hire partners or firms or vendors that are, again, these professional subject matter experts, they come on to help us with anything from marketing to HR stuff, right? To legal stuff. And I think that's becoming a much wider pool as well.

Dan:
Yeah. Have you noticed a trend to more work at home, flexible workspace, flexible hours, flexible PTO over the years or has it remained kind of consistent?

Kelli:
Yeah, no, it's really spiking. Again, I think the last five years, if you kind of look at it. 20 years ago, when I was at Intuit, no one talked about it, right? I mean, you were at the office every day. You accrued vacation time. It wasn't talked about. People didn't feel right working from home, et cetera. But especially, again, in the tech space, Silicon Valley, I think you're seeing a ton of companies just taking the position of flexibility is almost table stakes now. I think if companies are not offering flexible work schedules or work from home options, PTO now is not accrued for most companies. It's kind of be an adult and take what you need and be accountable. A lot of these things are just assumed now and I think that's really just spiked, again, in the last three to five years, which is pretty intense.

Dan:
Yeah, it's definitely interesting. I came from Kaiser Permanente, a huge corporate organization with lots of benefits and PTO and all that kind of stuff to Trusted which had flexible PTO and all those types of things. It's been interesting to see the dynamic and the shift in mindset. So are people turning down jobs? Do you see people turning down jobs if they're forced to come in?

Kelli:
Well it's interesting. I don't think necessarily turning them down, but they will not even have the conversation or seek out these companies, right? If they're not there.

Dan:
Yeah.

Kelli:
And you're also seeing this trend towards transparency, right? So if you go on company websites, career sites, if you go on Glassdoor, I mean, people are not shy about what they offer anymore. You don't have to go through a full interview to understand the benefits, right? Or the perks. And I think that's becoming more and more out there, right? With social media and just the the communities and the social networks, a lot of brand is out there as well. Companies are known for certain things, right? That look has a certain brand. You kind of know what they've got. Looker has a certain cultural brand and a lifestyle working here and you're seeing a trend of that becoming more and more out there with technology and all those pieces. What I have seen is a lot of culture shock.So I'll see people like you, Dan, come to Kaiser into a Looker and be like, "Oh my gosh."

Dan:
Yeah, like, "What do I do?"

Kelli:
I don't know what to do with this.Is this real? What's happening? And so there's a lot of that as people are jumping from industries healthcare into these really kind of left wing tech companies. The other trend I'm seeing lastly is that people, and this doesn't have to do with necessarily age or where you are in your career because I've seen a lot of millennials come out of the gate with this, is they're declaring they don't want to work to death. A lot of humans now are like, right? We're killing ourselves. The American way. We're working 18 hours a day and work life blend is becoming more and more and more. And so you're seeing people who are highly skilled demanding and the ability to, again, work at home. Leave at 2:00 PM for a kid's soccer game, work from their cabin because they want to get away.

Kelli:
And so a lot of this is happening. And that's where you get the flexible workforce because they don't want to be tied to a job where they have to spend 10 hours in an office and four hours commuting.

Dan:
Right. And yeah, that nine to five is kind of out the door now.

Kelli:
It's gone.

Dan:
And it sounds like people are looking for cultural fit, which I think is actually a really good way to find work, is, you used to kind of go find the local job and you just worked there and you kind of put up with whatever happened there because it was what you had-

Kelli:
Yes.

Dan:
And you just stayed there with your pension. And now you can kind of pick and choose and there's so much information out there that you can find the cultural fit, the benefit fit, the flexible workforce fit that meets what your life is. And hopefully, it leads to a more sustainable workforce and a happier workforce and counteracts all the things you said. That American way, that we just drive ourselves nine to five until we can take that one week a year of a vacation. It seems kind of crazy.

Kelli:
Yeah. And companies are actually building products around this now, which is crazy. So it's not just like a recruiter calls you and you come in and you're talking about the perks and the benefits. I mean, you can literally get that information matched to you in a matter of seconds versus 10 hours of conversation or interviewing or research, right?

Dan:
Yeah.

Kelli:
Platforms, whether it's a Hired, whether it's a platform's called Stelaris ,which is a great hiring platform. You literally can check boxes, not just on the job you want, but literally the flexibility you need, the culture you're looking for. And so these things are becoming more and more streamlined before you even talk to someone.

Dan:
Yeah. And I'm sure it helps the worker find that out, but the company being able to find that fit instantly. I mean, you don't have to go through 50,000 interviews to kind of assess someone's culture and see how far down the road they can do canned responses to questions they already know.

Kelli:
Sure.

Dan:
And I think there's a lot more resources out there.

Kelli:
Yes.

Dan:
Do you see any risks associated with hiring a more flexible workforce? I mean, there tends to be a lot of benefits for the employee, but it seems like the organizations themselves kind of put themselves at a little bit of risk for having such flexibility.

Kelli:
I'd say two things on that, Dan. One, I think the risk is more, you said this earlier, which I agree with, the mindset of the company, right? And so even in these really progressive tech companies, the default when you're opening a role is always full time position, right? No one starts with, "All right, great, we need a software engineer. Is this going to be full time? Are you open to flexible or part time?" No one starts with that. It's just assumed that it's full time. You open up the role, you open up the locations, right? I don't think we take enough time to be like, hey, what's moveable? Is the geographic location movable? Is the flexibility movable? Which actually opens up the candidate pipeline laws. So I mean, that's one thing is I think companies need to start setting themselves up better to hire flex workers, which will mitigate some of that risk. But I do think there is. I mean, I'll be honest. I think a flex worker, whether it's a work from home or work remote or part time or this or that. I mean, I do think there's another level of, it's almost a skillset, right? A comfort in knowing how to work like that. I think the communication has to be really strong. I think you have to trust that person to be accountable and responsible and again, communicate well because they're not in the office for eight hours a day with a manager looking over them. They're almost a free agent and they're doing their thing and you're trusting them to do that. And so I would say that would be a pretty straightforward risk is interviewing for that. Because you don't want to bring on, right? A flex worker and then all of a sudden you don't, never see them, never hear from them.

Dan:
Right, right.

Kelli:
So I think there's that as well. Which is hard, because there's not a website to go to for great flex workers.

Dan:
Yeah. Right.

Kelli:
We're not there yet. It's word of mouth, it's networks, it's someone you know, it's a great candidate that for full time role, they can only do flex and so you make an exception. That's how these things happen versus I go to bucket A for full time candidates and I go to bucket B for flex. We're not there yet.

Dan:
Yeah, yeah. The same is in healthcare. And I mean, Trusted's trying to change that. But the history is we need a flexible worker, let's find the warmest body closest that can start the fastest and not linking all the things we talked about around culture and skill and passion and all that kind of stuff. So it's been interesting. Do you see, from your perspective kind of head of people, what are some policies or some buckets of policies that have helped keep flexible workers engaged? I mean, so we had a debate the other day in our company around what is allowable from a remote perspective. How far away from the home base do you have to be in order to be able to commute in only three days a week instead of five and that kind of stuff. Do you have some recommendations around policies that have been useful for engaging that flexible workforce and keeping that fairness between people that come in and be flexible or out in the remote space?

Kelli:
I feel like there's no right answer for that one.

Dan:
Right.

Kelli:
That's a really hard one. I've been doing this 20 years and I haven't seen a company figure it out and every company I've been at or have heard about has struggled with this. In my opinion, I wouldn't start with the policy. I would start with the company, right? What is the goal? What do you guys trying, like at Trusted, what are you guys trying to build? In what timeframe? What does that product roadmap look like? What do you need to get that done in that timeframe? Great, then let's back in to who we need to hire. What skillsets do we need? Where does it matter? And then try to pull out all the stops. What are all the options we can look at to hire those skillsets as fast as possible. Is it flex workers, or this or that.

Kelli:
And then be honest with the company. Sometimes, I'll be honest, engineering is easier to have flex and work at home and remote more than HR people because you're in it and you're working with people. Or sales who has to be on calls and go to customer events. So I think the notion of making this equal necessarily, I think flipping that on its head and really thinking about this is, well, what is right for our company and our culture? And not trying to kind of shoehorn or cannon like, "Oh, 50 miles away, two days." I mean, that will just backfire.

Dan:
Right. Yeah. That's a good point.

Kelli:
Yeah. And someone once told me, a mentor of mine, it's kind of crazy when you start to have policies to manage your policies. It's interesting. And it's-

Dan:
Meetings to schedule meetings.

Kelli:
Meetings to schedule, right? Now we're back to The Office.

Dan:
Right, exactly.

Kelli:
When you're having these things, it's like, oh God, a double negative kind of situation. I think the best companies I've seen work on the notion of principles and trusting people and when you're creating things for the 2% that will break the rule, that's where you start getting in trouble with the 98%.

Dan:
That's a great point. And I 100% agree with you. I think I even made that statement at one point in my career. That policy seems really crazy. It's only going to stop the one person that's not doing this right. Why are we writing a whole document on this? And now everyone's held accountable when they were fine doing their work and meeting the outcomes and goals and now we're punishing them and now they're disengaged.

Kelli:
Exactly.

Dan:
And you've actually hurt the company more than you've helped it.

Kelli:
Absolutely.

Dan:
The tech industry is probably the furthest along as far as embracing flexible workforce and consulting workforce and just all those types, Per Diems and half time and full time and all that, remote. Do you have any advice for healthcare as they enter that realm? One of the thesis's that we've been playing with is that hospitals will never ever be fully staffed with their own full time employees ever again, just because the workforce is changing. And so there's this idea of a mix of, you're going to have some core staff that are there, but eventually, you're going to have this flexible workforce that's coming in and out based on demand and skill and need and things. Do you have advice from the tech industry that healthcare could maybe look into or follow?

Kelli:
Yeah, I was thinking about this earlier and I mean, each industry is different. And it each brings its own challenges. And I could argue that tech is the easiest for the flexible because, right, you have a computer and you can take it anywhere, take it 30,000 feet up on an airplane or you can take it to China. You can literally do a lot of things from a lot of places. I think healthcare, specifically, is harder because it's a patient in a bed at a hospital and that's different. But on the other hand, I applaud starting to iterate and evolve. I just read an article on burnout in nurses. And in tech, I'll be honest, we have this saying. If something screws up or if someone screws up, we kind of joke and say, "Look, we're not saving lives here. It's fine. It's software."

Dan:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Kelli:
But in healthcare, you are saving lives.

Dan:
There's a different risk level there.

Kelli:
It's a different risk level. And I wish health care was even ahead of us in setting themselves up to enable this kind of more flexible workforce. Because I was in the hospital 18 months ago with a surgery. And if I knew that yeah, nurses, all the staff weren't getting two hours of sleep and working two days straight, I do believe they'd be more focused, happier, less burnout, less stress. And I think that, I know it's a lot of work. I can just imagine, it gives me hives to think about setting that up. If you're a hospital administrator or in HR in hospitals, I get that. But even baby steps to try and do that. But I think that business case in healthcare is there, right? Because burnout decreases, assuming that attrition decreases, that your costs go down and rehiring and training. Patient care goes up, brand goes up, people want to go to the hospital, [inaudible 00:19:20] revenues going to go up.

Dan:
Yeah, right.

Kelli:
So even if it's piloting. My advice would be, I know it's hard. Take one team or one department and pilot or try some things, run flexible schedules, workforce, et cetera. And try to work through some of the complexities and then you can scale that out and replicate it if it works.

Dan:
That's great advice. And I think you hit it on the head, which is, it's all the stuff we talked about earlier too, which is, you want to build a culture around your workforce and support it with resources. Whether that's food, like the cafeteria at Google or something as simple as just allowing different types of scheduling that's out of the norm that might fit people's lifestyle better. I think piloting something is great. And healthcare is not very good at piloting. Well, they're very good at piloting, they're not very good at spreading. So at Kaiser, we used to have a phrase called pilotitus. We could pilot anything all over the place. But actually turning it into production was kind of hard. But I think it's that fail fast. And this is a low risk thing. Making your employees happy, it benefits them.

Kelli:
Totally.

Dan:
So try it out and see if we can make things better.

Kelli:
Yeah, my sister-in-law is a nurse. I hear it, about the burnout, et cetera. I mean, one idea, I don't know if Kaiser or whatnot would do this, Dan, but take a Silicon Valley high tech, whatever leader. The CEO or even a chief HR officer and infuse them into a Kaiser. Even if it's, have that be a pilot. Throw me into Kaiser and be like, "Okay, well let's try to architect this thing and break it." And try to get some different minds in there across the different industries that have kind of cracked this in different ways. And talk to people because the best things we do now, we can't do anything at tech and these companies without doing it with the employees now. You have to talk with them, crack it with them, have round tables and ask them. And so I think the other thing I've seen in healthcare sometimes is a lot of times, right? The managements creating something and rolling it out. But try to do the tech way of bottoms up-ping it and trying to create the solution with the employees.

Dan:
So kind of wrapping it up, we've been talking to a lot of different healthcare leaders about what they think flexible work and they immediately go to the Uber model of a flexible gig worker. And I'm curious, because you said you were in the hospital recently with a surgery. How do you feel about having a gig workforce in healthcare? I mean, if nurses were all quote unquote Uberized or physicians were Uberized. So almost on demand. Does that worry you or excite you? I don't know. What's your perspective?

Kelli:
Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I'm not sure it's that black and white of a question, right? I think it would depend if it was a heart surgery, that'd be a different deal than it's a normal outpatient kind of situation where yes, maybe someone could come in on demand and it's very clear and non-complex of what they need to do and there's low risk. I think, especially in healthcare where you're dealing with people, I think it has to depend on the type of operation, the risk with that, how much that nursing or hospital team has to know about that situation. Because it's not just the surgery, it's the person plus the surgery because there's always that nuance to an individual. So it kind of scares me, the more complex you get. But I think, again, people used to think about, when they hear flexible, they think of like, oh Christmas contractors.

Dan:
Right.

Kelli:
Come in and fold this. And that's not necessarily what flexible means anymore. I think it's growing a lot. And I think flexible workers could actually be the best employees because they're looking for something that works for them in their lives and there's not a lot out there that can actually solve for that. So if a nurse found that with a hospital, they would stay forever and they would come on every three months. And so I'd kind of work it like that, versus on demand for a health event.

Dan:
Yeah. No, that's a great point. And I think what we keep pushing back against is, the Uber model works because anyone can drive a car for the most part and it doesn't really matter.

Kelli:
Yes.

Dan:
But not everyone can do that heart surgery or take care of that type of patient or have that skill set for that need. And so I like how you frame that, which is flexible isn't this on demand necessarily, but it's this different way of scheduling or three months on, three months off. Some other way of this workforce, rather than three twelves in a row or whatever the tradition has been.

Kelli:
Totally. What do you want to do? What works for you?

Dan:
Yeah.

Kelli:
What are you interested in? And try to get a bunch of those because you can make that work. Why would they leave? You'll never lose anyone. That's the best deal. But yes, it's not driving a car. And I would think a lot of these nurses, white collar professional people, they wouldn't really want to do that.

Dan:
Right.

Kelli:
I wouldn't really want to sit at home and then say, "Oh my God, there's an HR issue blowing up. Go to San Francisco."

Dan:
Yeah, you don't want to do that

Kelli:
But it's different when you're in a car. And you're like, yeah, I do this when I want. It's a different deal. So I think I'd be much more strategic and zoom out and try to create a system with that versus an on-demand nurse.

Dan:
I love it. That's such a great point and a great way to finish off the episode. Kelli, where can we find Looker? Where can we learn more about it? And can you give just a little overview of what you guys do?

Kelli:
Yeah, Looker is amazing. So we are headquartered in Santa Cruz, California with offices all over, San Francisco and New York, Dublin, London. We're about 1,000 people now. We are an analytics and visualization platform that's literally the best and easiest data analytics kind of database query ever. Anyone from HR to marketing to sales to engineering can use it to run their business, create real time, right? Stats, graphs to the second to run your business, make decisions. And so we use them at Hired where I was before Looker. It's just a phenomenal company. Just got acquired by Google, so we'll be going into the Google Cloud team, which will be exciting because we'll be a part of the Google Cloud Suites. But just an amazing company, great culture and look us up, we're hiring.

Dan:
Awesome. Great plug Kelli and Trusted Health uses Looker as well.

Kelli:
Amazing.

Dan:
Yeah. So it must be good if we're using it. Kelli, thank you so much for your insights. We really appreciate it. I think the outside perspective into healthcare is so valuable for our leaders to understand and you bring some really great points around culture and flexible workforce in a different light than I think I've heard in my meetings with healthcare leaders across the country. So thank you so much for your insights and we look forward to continuing conversations later.

Kelli:
Yeah, ditto. Thank you for having me.

Dan:
Thank you so much for tuning into The Handoff. If you like what you heard today, please consider writing us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. This is Doctor Nurse Dan. See you next time.Dan:

Thank you and welcome to the Trusted Community!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.