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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Hastings

Level Up Your People Strategy: CPO Jess Igoe Shares Her Playbook

Updated: Nov 6, 2023







In this episode of The Listen Perspective, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jess Igoe, an experienced Chief People Officer with a proven track record of helping tech startups build successful teams.


Episode Highlights:


0:41 - The importance of hiring self-motivated engineers

3:15 - Sales recruiting requires more planning and consistency

5:17 - Using psychometric assessments in the hiring process

9:47 - The power of probing questions in interviews

15:00 - Rebuilding company culture after redundancies

20:47 - Incorporating soft skills into career ladders

26:44 - Routinely communicating and updating career ladders

31:34 - Founders must model desired company values

35:00 - Adapting culture initiatives when challenges arise

40:27 - Boosting engagement in hybrid work environments

45:09 - Handling the transition back to on-site work

51:28 - Jess's key advice - know yourself, communicate your values, demonstrate them


We delved into the essential qualities to look for when hiring self-motivated engineers who can thrive in a fast-paced environment. Jess emphasized the importance of finding individuals who are genuinely passionate about tackling technical challenges and finding solutions.


When it comes to assembling sales teams, Jess stressed the significance of establishing a structured recruitment process with tailored interview questions. She advised conducting comprehensive reference checks to gain a thorough understanding of a candidate's accomplishments, not just relying on their resume. Additionally, Jess recommended incorporating psychometric testing into the interview process for sales hires.


During interviews, asking in-depth follow-up questions allows us to assess a candidate's adaptability as our company grows. Jess shared some effective probing questions that reveal a candidate's motivations and approach to change.


We also discussed strategies for rebuilding engagement after layoffs or redundancies. Jess emphasized the importance of communicating frequently and compassionately with both affected individuals and those who remain, ensuring everyone understands the future vision. She also stressed the need for managers to be equipped with the skills to motivate and support their teams during challenging transitions.


When it comes to career advancement, Jess warned against the common mistake of promoting individuals solely based on job titles rather than actual responsibilities. She provided examples of how managers can create career ladders using real workplace competencies. Jess also discussed how career ladders can be effectively utilized in onboarding, performance reviews, and development planning.


Preparing someone to transition from an individual contributor role to a leadership position requires self-reflection, executive coaching, and deliberately developing a wide range of skills. Jess emphasized that leaders should have a basic understanding of all aspects of the business.


To foster a desired culture, Jess suggested visibly celebrating company values, such as implementing a peer-recognition WOW board. Additionally, she emphasized the importance of maintaining regular one-on-one meetings and keeping motivational initiatives going during challenging times to sustain engagement and morale.


Jess advised bringing in dedicated HR professionals once a tech startup reaches around 50 employees to provide increased governance and support as the business scales.


In a hybrid working environment, ensuring engagement requires deliberate effort to foster connections both in-person and remotely. Jess recommended adjusting location flexibility if necessary for the business while clearly communicating the reasons behind the change.


Jess's ultimate piece of advice was to know yourself, exemplify the expected behaviors, and transparently communicate the vision from day one. This approach cultivates an inclusive culture that retains top talent as the company grows.


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