Scalable Recruiting & Culture

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People Spotlight:  Angela Roman Kuo, SVP People, VTS Inc.

As HR leaders take on larger roles within organizations, there has been a push for increasing focus on retaining top talent and improving recruiting strategies.

Whether re-strategizing at an established company or trying to scale processes at a fast-growing start-up, getting buy-in from the C-suite is not always an easy feat.

Meet Angela Romano Kuo, the SVP of People at VTS, Inc. Angela is a trail-blazer in the HR space.  Through her expertise, she has created intelligent recruiting processes that scale and built out cultures that improve retention.

Angela realized her passion for making connections with individuals and improving people’s happiness when she started out her career in client services and sales. She sought out to make a shift in her career and landed at a recruiting firm, utilizing her sales skills to attract and find top candidates.

From there Angela began her HR career at TheLadders.com. While there, the company grew from 40 people to 400. The organization was data-oriented, and since Angela was in charge of recruiting, she was tasked with creating a data supported recruiting process that could scale and would get buy-in from the C-suite.

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A huge challenge for those in people roles is putting data to people. How do you quantify individuals? When creating recruiting processes you need to streamline, be able to predict outcomes, and then collect data to tell a story on a person’s journey from applicant to new hire.

To start her process, Angela used ATS platforms (applicant tracking systems) and sometimes even excel spreadsheets when tapped for resources. Ensuring there was strong communication between candidates and the recruiting team has always been Angela’s approach to creating a strong foundation. Communication leads to trust and by communicating clearly with candidates, hiring managers and internal customers – being transparent allows you to run a well-oiled machine.

The biggest lesson Angela learned during this time was closing the gap between people analytics and the finance team.

You need to create a career-map for each individual that enters your company. By doing so you can predict their journey with analytics and prepare your finance team for what to expect in the future.

Aside from preparing finance for the future, you also need to make sure your process for recruiting and creating a culture can scale as you grow, regardless of whether it’s at a rapid or steady pace. After working at The Ladders, Angela continued her People career at SecondMarket and FanDuel where she established a great culture from all aspects of the employee experience – this included recruiting, onboarding, compensation, benefits, and learning and development.

Angela worked with the L&D team to create succinct surveys to collect data on the gaps in company culture. From her findings, she was able to improve the feedback process for individuals, improve manager training, implement a leadership development program, and help people map their careers.

When entering a new organization- don’t set goals that are “too big”.  Start by setting realistic goals for 45 days, 90 days, and then a 6-month plan.  Corporate culture can be improved by listening and applying employee feedback.

If you don’t listen to your people, you won’t know the root problems that need to be fixed. Create an environment where people feel comfortable to speak. 

Developing employee relationships is key for the HR team, so they may be supportive for them through both the highs and lows of their experience at the company. Get back to basics, have an “old-fashioned” conversation, to build the foundation for your team’s overall success.

A Place for People Leaders

Angela is also the co-founder of an HR group, established in 2013.  The group includes close to 80 companies, primarily in NYC.

While working at TheLadders, she attended SHRM conferences as a vendor. She couldn’t relate to the topics/challenges that were being discussed at the event sessions. Since a startup is a completely different animal, she thought, “someone should really start an HR group for startups in NY”. Fast forward several years to when she was working at SecondMarket, with Tanya Carroll, another HR professional, and they decided to give it a shot. They invited a few people from each of their networks and off they went!

They felt that there really weren’t any organizations that supported People Leaders in the startup world and as the head of HR in a small, growing company, it would be useful to have a network with other professionals to confide in. Startups often deal with first-time founders who want comparable info/data/insights, which can be tough when there isn’t a centralized resource. That was just over four years ago.  Now with close to 80 members, the group grows through referrals. They have a very highly engaged group of peers who share information and support one another. It’s a give to get model – you have to contribute and “show up”.

It’s something she’s really proud of and something that humbles her every day.

On that note…as a last piece of advice, Angela shared: Be humble, be human.

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