Episode: Anthony Onesto


Anthony Onesto has scaled multiple teams size 30 to 2000+ over his 18 year career in HR. He has a background in HR and technology, and has worked with growing companies through WorkXO and Smartup.io. 


What problem was Smartup IO trying to tackle?

  • The interesting thing about Smartup is that we took the position that an organization had knowledge within it already.
  • A lot of times when you sit in an HR leadership type role, you believe that the organization needs X,Y and Z. You need to fill a gap. But we were rethinking was that content creation is super difficult, resource wise, but there is content already within your organization. Everyone has expertise.
  • We encourage people to take the knowledge they have and push it externally. Publish on Linkedin, etc.
  • Smartup helps share the knowledge internally as well.
  • People are so excited about the stuff they do on the side that’s hidden behind titles. All the things i’ve done as an HR guy that has nothing to do with HR. We can share that as well.

What else did you do?

  • My last year at Razorfish, I made a service about design thinking. That had nothing to do with HR, but you wouldn’t know it if you were just looking at my title.

If you look at a company that’s growing, where do you see the role of HR going as different tools emerge?

  • It’s always been about having people interact form a human perspective. The whole idea is to be more human. How do we make organizations run better?
  • Hr got bogged down for years by the tactical HR stuff.
    • The tactical stuff is really easy. You just google. But once you get into the specifics of business goals and attracting technical talent to our organization that’s been traditionally creative, how do you do that?
    • What we’re doing is taking the tactical stuff that bogs us down on a daily basis, and the HR can become more strategic. (from a human perspective). What’s the best type of team for us, based on this data?
    • We need to get geekier, but also back to human. How do we create custom HR solutions around the individual?

Where’s the balance for a midsized company that doesn’t have all the data points?

  • HR has formerly been company centric. It needs to be employee centric.
  • You have to start thinking about everything in the office from a human perspective.
  • If you’re a manager stay close to your teams and observe. That’s the data. It doesn’t have to be hard data, it can be observations.
  • There’s too many PHDs in HR. We spend all this time theorizing about organizations, but they’re existing already.
  • It already exists, just observe a little more.

Where does AI come into HR and attracting the best talent?

  • AI is going to have a huge disruption on the work force.
  • There are a few areas of philosophy you can subscribe to: AI isn’t going to do anything, AI will destroy the world, or the middle of the road–ai will help by doing the things I don’t want to do myself.
  • Mobile applications took a while to evolve, that’s where AI is going to land.
  • AI will displace people, but it’s going to be better. Machines will help us get through resumes faster.
  • You cannot put your head in the sand if you are an HR leader. This is the future, and it will apply in your organization.

How do you come up to speed on this stuff?

  • I don’t like reading 30 page excerpts on this stuff. I like doing stuff. I saw the opportunity of AI in human resources, so I went ahead and made and AI bot.
  • Fast forward Labs is a great resource

Where does the secret sauce come in for the human side of things?

  • There are some basic steps. Once we start taking the tactical work away and free up people’s time, you have time to return to the human piece.
  • AI will help you make the best decisions for how to interact with people. – what time of day does your employee receive feedback the best?
  • If you have the right intent – I care about getting you better at what you do – then just have a conversation. Find out what your employee’s hopes and dreams are.

The more human side of things can’t be replicated with tech…

  • It never will be.
  • Sometimes you get bogged down in the how, but not in the why.
  • At the end of the day, if you have good intent then you’ll always do right by the employee.


HR – Human Resources

AI – Artificial Intelligence


Human centric

Design Thinking


Relevant links





Edward Deci – http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/