Episode: Michelle Jacobs & Matt Hertig

Michelle Jacobs & Matt Hertig of Alight Analytics

Michelle Jacobs and Matt Hertig from Alight Analytics discuss the importance of hiring for values to maintain a flourishing corporate culture.

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Outline:

The company has been around since 2007 and is located in Kansas City, MO.

What are the origins of the company?

  • Michelle: began in advertising, and then moved to the corporate side of the world. Two backgrounds were good for helping understand what to do and what not to do as a manager. What motivates people, what doesn’t. How to treat your employees and reward them for hard work.
  • Matt: 15 years in the corporate environment. Got to know Michelle at American Century. It’s about how you learn from your experiences. Managing and leading people is something we have both enjoyed. We wanted to do things differently. We treat people like adults and are upfront. Our job is to facilitate your success. Not everyone is successful in that type of environment, and that’s ok. We can’t be everything to everybody.

About 30 people now. What were things you did off the bat that shaped the culture?

  • Matt: being real with people about expectations. I don’t know that we did a fantastic job as leaders…when you’re an entrepreneur there’s not a handbook for that.
  • Michelle: and just because we’re good at marketing analytics doesn’t mean we’re good managers out of the box.
  • Matt: We have six principles that guide our identity. Those are part of everyone’s review processes that we go through. We started to form a leadership team around us, recognizing different talents and perspectives. The leadership team helped establish those guiding principles.

How did you make the principles a real part of the business?

  • Michelle: it is our review process. Those guiding principles are what people are gauged upon. It’s not Matt and I handing down those guiding principles, it comes from every single employee. They decide if they want to have that kind of culture or not, and we see it come through. Those guiding principles come to the top of what people like about working at Alight.
  • Matt: we developed those by having everyone at the organization talk about characteristics we wanted to be known for as an organization. We sat there with a whiteboard with everyone. We guide new employees through them. Starting a company is not easy, and I would say the same thing for culture. We don’t own the culture, everyone owns the culture. And everyone has a role in holding others accountable.
  • It would be a lie to say that we’ve always been perfect.
  • We can make it non-qualitative and go back to the grounded principles for evaluation.

What caused you to delay putting those in place?

  • Michelle: getting to be larger. When you’re small there isn’t a question of what you’re all trying to accomplish. Once we put a leadership team in place, Matt and I weren’t working with everyone at the office. That was when we realized that not everyone got to see what was important to us. Then we got to understand what was important to the others as well.

What have you guys learned apart from the core principles?

  • Michelle: there’s so many. Having processes in place. Sometimes you forget about the system when you’re going 90 miles an hour. Looking at people’s personalities is important too.

How do you maintain your culture as you guys grow?

  • Matt: We need to invest more time being invested in the culture. Less time doing and more time leading.
  • Michelle: People who have been with us for a few years, they feel like this is the best environment we’ve ever had at the company. You would think it would be the opposite as we grow.
  • Matt: You don’t wake up one morning and say we’re going to have a good culture today! You need to just gain momentum. When we changed our interview process to be more diligent it helped us add the right kind of people.

What does it mean to work on culture?

  • Michelle: We empower people to do their jobs. We are not in any way leaders that are trying to tell people what to do. We hear repeatedly that that’s what makes our culture what it is. When people are happy like that, it naturally feeds a great culture.
  • Matt: We don’t look at the people here as employees, we’re all part of the same mission. Everyone gets frustrated with family, that’s no different than the person that you’re working with. If you’re frustrated with someone, don’t complain, just go talk about it with them.
  • Michelle: you can have all of the best happy hours, ping pong, beer fridge, but at the end of the day that doesn’t make people happy or make them stick around. You need to figure out what they need. Our people need to be challenged.

Last pieces of advice?

  • Matt: Be patient, you can’t do it by yourself.

Topics:

Principles

Identity

Culture

Leading

Leadership

Interview

Mission

Corporate

Agency

Relevant Links:

https://www.alightanalytics.com/