The future of work is here. Human capital managers are learning from and sharing with others on how to best navigate our changing world. Today, companies need employees with skills that didn’t even exist 5-10 years ago. Employees at all levels are required to make decisions on a daily basis as global competition heats up. Additionally, workers now expect greater transparency from their organizations.
Much of the world is now connected 24/7 and people frequently work outside of regular business hours. Employees expect more from their leadership and aren’t shy about asking for more. They feel empowered and, if the response is not satisfactory, they disengage then eventually leave the company to work elsewhere.
The future of work
How do HR managers and executives prepare themselves and their staff for the future of work with initiatives designed to attract and retain talent? It’s a tall order.
Enter A Modern Way to Work, with CEO Amanda Hudson, at the helm. The company is headquartered in Toronto, Canada and spread across Ottawa to Austin, TX. With the future of work imposing new challenges on those tasked with managing them, it’s no surprise that a new effort has emerged to recognize the efforts of human capital managers. Late last year, Work Awesome and The Workies hosted their inaugural award ceremony, recognizing Hudson and her team with a final round nomination for the “Best HR Team of the Year.”
The company guides organizations, largely through executive teams and managers, on how to work better together and work more effectively. They uphold the philosophy that “business problems and people ‘problems’ are inextricably linked[Office1] .” Grit Daily news was on the scene at DisruptHR NYC to interview Hudson and her team.
Grit Daily: Thanks for taking some time with us today, Amanda. Tell us about your path to being an entrepreneur today and how you’ve evolved since you graduated from Queen’s University. Cha Gheill to a fellow alumna!
Amanda Hudson: Prior to attending Queen’s, I completed a community college business diploma then worked in HR at a tech company. That role tapped my passions for tech, startups and HR. While there, we experienced hypergrowth and hired 150+ people in about a year. This was before the Linkedin Recruiter feature was available so hiring that many people was challenging.
In my next role at a non-profit, people were struggling with how to manage others, largely because they could not get to the root cause of the behaviors that needed to be changed. So, I created a leadership and management workshop and conducted training to address this need. While I was completing my MBA, I joined MathGames where ~75,000 students were on the platform each day. And, I was leading a huge digital transformation project at Seneca College to move students from in-person to online services which also involved data collection to analyze and solve for root-cause issues. It was that combination that triggered some new ideas and spurred me to create a business focused on data, employee engagement, people management and HR.
GD: What makes you a good fit for an entrepreneur and how did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
AH: Although I had full-time jobs throughout the bulk of my career, I was always doing side gigs and creating new opportunities for myself. My grandmother was an entrepreneur and my parents worked for themselves so that the spirit of entrepreneurship was instilled in me from a young age. Managing a team at such a high level at Seneca College gave me the courage and experience that I needed to fully venture out on my own.
GD: What prompted you to begin your company?
AH: I know this sounds a bit macabre, but I think it’s a good way to live by. Each time that I get on my plane, I ask myself, “If I crashed, would I be happy with how I’ve been living my life?” After Seneca College became comfortable, I felt that it was time to leave and pursue my own dream.
GD: I’m always interested in how people come up with the names for their company. How did you arrive at yours?
AH: At the time that you launch your business, everyone is pressuring you to define your niche, your company name and to articulate your plan. The funny thing is that I named it, then renamed it several times but none of the brands resonated with my audience. Then, one day, a client commented that this was “a modern way to work” and then poof, I knew I had it!
GD: Tell me about your funding journey. What stage are you at and how have you funded your startup to date?
AH: Because we’re focused on online training and consulting that has enabled us to be self-funded. Everything we’ve done to date has been through organic growth, word of mouth and without marketing.
GD: VCs always ask this question, so I will, too. How is your company different?
AH: We see ourselves as a consulting firm that leverages technology in every facet of what we do. We’re an all-female team, virtually distributed and we go deep into the root of issues that clients face. Most HR consultants lack this level of depth of understanding and don’t leverage technology the way that we do. Our focus is business first to identify the problems and approach it from a business knowledge angle then extract the issues around people dynamics. Our tools, skills and training enable us to help our clients work through these problems and position them for the future of work.
GD: Most of the entrepreneurs that I know get hung up pitching. What tips do you want to share with others on how to deliver a good pitch?
AH: I pitched for MathGames.com and other startups earlier in my career so I gained a lot of valuable experience. Since then, I’ve learned that you need to clearly define which problem you’re solving. Too many people cram in tons of data and other details that drown out the message. Another thing that I find interesting is that successful pitches leverage the historical success and failures of the founders and the pedigree of the advisors – I’ve learned that VCs value that.
GD: You’ve spoken about HR’s challenges regarding the field’s reputation, how practitioners are changing their job titles to People Experience Officers and such things and solving business problems through the lens of people. Are you seeing other transformations in HR?
AH: I don’t think that HR has made many gains in improving our reputation. Each university class that I teach opens with a question asking how many people have heard their friends or family complain about HR: this hasn’t changed in about a decade and it’s always around 70%. Startups and smaller companies are trending by hiring smiley, bubbly people to be Chief Culture Officers and whatnot but they often lack strategic HR experience. It’s a challenging job that requires having qualified people in the role. Understanding the depth and importance of people dynamics is underestimated. Entrepreneurs tend to want their teams to be “happy” which leads to making poor choices regarding who they hire for their HR lead. Having happy HR people is good, but you need to ask yourself, are those the people that I want at the table solving our company’s biggest issues?
We don’t shift the cultures for companies but we teach them how to solve problems. Our work is anchored by the quote below where a Blue Ribbon Commission identified that “problem-solving, over time, creates culture.” “Boards are responsible for the long-term sustainability and viability of the organization, and yet the issues most critical to culture have been difficult to measure.” ~ Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton
GD: You made a profound statement regarding the future of work, particularly for the field of HR, “We’re successful not by our doing of things, but by the people around us behaving in a certain way.” And how the book, The Shape of Design, has influenced your thinking on this.
AH: Ironically, the book has nothing to do with HR or tech but it forces you to think about problems and which theories you can apply to effectively solve them from an end-user’s perspective. The client or customer or end-user of HR’s work is essentially management plus employees, so we always think about the question, ‘What are we building?’ The world’s best HR teams build and develop systems for people until the dynamic is so fluid that they’ve worked themselves out of a job. That’s actually the right end goal to aim for.
[Office2] GD: Do you have a message for other aspiring female entrepreneurs?
AH: I work with many female entrepreneurs and they generally take a more holistic view towards problem-solving which focuses on deriving long-term value and extending sustainability instead of turning a short term profit. They are often made to believe that how they want to run their business is incorrect through people telling them it’s not the “right way”, do this not that and so on. Trust your intuition! You don’t need to expect a 1:1 linear payback or immediate gratification. Building a business takes time.
Images provided by Amanda Hudson.