In the latest episode of High Growth Matters, we spoke about the past, present, and future of HR — and the importance of philanthropy, mentorship, and work-life tradeoffs with Nancy Connery.
Nancy began her career partnering with Marc Benioff to build two key divisions at Oracle Corporation, including the company’s first philanthropic venture. Marc later recruited Nancy as Salesforce’s fifth employee. As founding VP of HR, Nancy helped fuel Salesforce's remarkable growth by building its industry-leading HR infrastructure and personally recruiting more than 650 hires globally.
In 2007, Nancy founded Connery Consulting, the premier human capital consultancy that partners with the fastest-growing tech companies of all time. She also co-founded OpenComp, serves on multiple boards, and is an active philanthropist and mentor in the community.
This blog has been adapted from that conversation and covers:
- The future of HR and its evolution in tech over the last few decades
- Words of advice and wisdom for first-time startup founders
- The importance of giving back through mentorship and philanthropy
Don’t miss the full episode: The Nancy Podcast: The Past, Present & Future of HR, Philanthropy & Mentorship
Where HR has been and where it’s going
For the last decade, HR was focused on hiring and spending available capital on developing employees. But, according to Nancy, the world of HR is changing.
There’s been a considerable shift away from general spending that has required HR teams to buckle down and invest capital very precisely. Of course, hiring and development are still vital to a business’s success, but the existing HR environment requires a more intentional approach to hiring, retention and employee development.
“There’s even greater importance in developing the folks you already have and ensuring they stay,” Nancy says. “When you lose your employees, that is a cost. Investors don't want to see you spending right now.”
According to Nancy, the future of HR will continue on a similar trajectory, particularly regarding hiring. She predicts HR will slow down and take more of a visionary approach to hiring. Rather than filling positions with people who are a good fit today, HR will need to focus on who they believe will align with the company five to ten years later.
“There’s also a newfound appreciation for work ethic that will evolve in company cultures,” Nancy says. “We’re going to be a part of what we’re building rather than being entitled to it.”
Words of wisdom for first-time startup founders
Having worked with hundreds of startups and successfully founding an HR tech company, Nancy has noticed trends across many industries that enable her to coach and guide first-time founders.
1. Surround yourself with the right people
Building the right ecosystem of people on all organizational levels is crucial in the already-challenging environment of start-ups. “You can have a great product, but if you don’t have great people in your company to build, sell and market, then you don’t have what it takes to succeed,” Nancy says.
Creating this ecosystem will look different across start-ups, but there are a few ways to determine whether someone is a great fit.
“You’ve got to find people that will empower you yet challenge you simultaneously,” Nancy says. “Understand your strengths and weaknesses, then build a team around you that fills in the voids.”
Many first-time startup founders also make the mistake of failing to utilize the talent of others. “You’re only as good as the people around you,” says Nancy. “Don’t let yourself feel threatened by others' talent.”
Finally, culture should be a primary focus when building your ecosystem, according to Nancy. You should ensure that your values align before bringing someone into your startup.
2. Spend responsibly and raise capital with intention
As a founder, you’ve probably raised capital. It’s crucial that you spend wisely, according to Nancy. It’s also important to accept investment carefully.
“As you're raising, think about the long term. Are these people you want by your side throughout the journey?” Nancy says. “Don't just take the money to take the money, and don't just spend the money because you have the money — build a good plan, build a good team, and execute well.”
3. Never become complacent
Thinking about the future is important, even when you’re experiencing success. While it’s okay to slow down and pause momentarily, first-time founders should always keep focused on moving forward, according to Nancy.
“When you hit a milestone, celebrate and have fun,” she says. “But then ask yourself what’s next? That will really benefit your growing business.”
Giving back through mentorship and philanthropy
Mentorship and philanthropy offer immense benefits for causes and organizations alike.
Nancy began her journey in philanthropy at Boulder, where Nancy taught underprivileged students. She later had the opportunity to help form Oracle’s Promise, which brought technology to disadvantaged students in education, and then Connery Cares, concentrating both monetary and time donations to causes important to people within the organization.
Nancy also says accepting and offering mentorship each plays an essential role in the success and growth of businesses and individuals. They can become part of an organization’s DNA if implemented correctly.
While donating to causes that matter to you can make a huge impact, philanthropy goes beyond dollars, Nancy says. “There’s the idea of giving your most valuable resources — time and experience.”
Nancy offers insight into successfully incorporating mentorship and philanthropy into your business.
1. Start early
While it’s never too late to start giving back, incorporating mentorship and philanthropy into your business from the beginning can have many benefits.
“When you bring it in from the beginning, it becomes part of who you are as a company,” Nancy says.
2. Lead by example
Committing to philanthropy and mentorship requires values and goals that can’t be tacked on or taught to existing employees and partners. But, without genuine commitment from leadership, efforts will not be fruitful across the organization.
“If your executives are not embracing it, involved, passionate and leading, it won't necessarily be successful,” Nancy says. “Leadership must show that it is a crucial part of what you do.”
3. Lower the barriers to entry
More employees will get involved in philanthropic efforts when it doesn’t require significant money or resources to get started.
“Whether it's your time, money or whatever it might be, cast a wide net and make it easy for your employees to be involved,” Nancy says. “Then it becomes a natural part of your company.”
Nancy offers a treasure trove of advice for HR and startup founders. If you enjoyed this post, you’d appreciate our conversation, where we take a deep dive into the topics covered here today and beyond. Take a moment to listen to the full High Growth Matters episode. If you like what you hear, please consider leaving us a rating and bookmarking the podcast to be notified each time we publish a new episode.
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