Jane Garza

Jane Garza is a start-up People veteran: ex Etsy and Nobl and now HOP at Quince. We chatted about the importance of creativity, making sure a team understand their purpose and the challenges of building employee loyalty and motivation amidst layoffs.

Jane Garza-1

Cecily Motley: Jane, it's great to have you. Could you start by telling us about your journey and how you've approached your role in HR?

Jane Garza: I've had a long career in HR, both in house and in the consulting space. I think the thing that has been consistent in my approach to work is creativity. I was always known as someone with a plethora of ideas. That's probably what makes me different from a lot of traditional HR. I'm trying to look at the function as a product function and spend time thinking about where we can apply creativity and new thinking rather than an operationally driven approach focused on process - I’m obsessed with the purpose of the process; I refuse to accept “ it's been done like this before” or “because it's best practice”.

CM: In your experience, what stands out as your most significant success in motivating a team?

When you actually get a team to work out in the open, in a very trusted way, it’s magical. There is a lot of wisdom inside an organization at every single level in every single corner. The aim should be to scrape it all out and put it in the open.

So, for greatest success, my headline would be “collaboration”. And I don't mean "Slack" or "Meetings" what I really mean is creating that magic space where quick thinking open teams, that can be transparent with one another, exist.

CM: That’s the Valhalla isn’t it

JG The dream! Doesn’t get more fun than that.

CM: Reflecting on your recent experiences, especially at Etsy, what have been some of the most challenging aspects of motivating teams at scale?

JG: At Etsy, I had such a range of team sizes. I had a team of two for a long time. And then at one point I had a team of 20. And with all that comes a lot of change; prioritization, deprioritization.

I think one of the easiest things to get in the way of a team's success is the “why”. People need to know why they exist in a certain form as a team and what would happen to the company if this team didn't exist.

This needs to be crystal clear - and that’s not necessarily a 'one-year goal' or 'short-term plan'.

It's one thing: why do we exist? If things keep getting deprioritized or budgets keep getting lost or things shuffle that starts to become fuzzy.

That's the number one thing around motivation: everyone must have a shared perspective on why their team exists and what they’re trying to accomplish.

The second thing is - what do we want to see progress around in the short term?

And thirdly...I'm trying to think about how to put the third part of this into words. Basically, I think people really want to do great work. And often, there are things that add friction to their ability to do that.

That usually means my goal is to figure out what someone is very good at, and where are they being held back. I picture it almost like a highway. I want to make sure employees are either on the highway or on the ramp getting onto the highway. Not on the off-ramp or about to get stuck off road. That's the constant calibration I'm thinking about.

I'm also always thinking about the five factors of a high-performing team from the Google Aristotle survey; how are we creating psychological safety? Is there enough trust on this team that someone could raise their hand and voice a concern about a direction that we're headed in? Can someone disagree with me? Do they feel like they can depend on one another?

If I asked you to get something done by end of day Friday. Do I know I don't have to ask you again - i.e. do you have clarity of purpose and a clear role such that you understand your 'job to be done' within a bigger picture?

CM: I like this point about the bigger picture

JG: It’s key to apply context. You can’t answer “is this person a low performer or a high performer" without it. The reality is, all of us can probably be all of those things depending on what's surrounding us. Do they have resources or a boss that's growing them? Do they understand what they're trying to accomplish? That's been a big unlock for me in the last few years.

CM: What do you think is the one thing that you need to get right in your role as a leader in the people space?

JG: AS HR leaders we've built all the checks and balances. We know the laws, we have a process, we have a handbook. The thing you want to get right is not “what is our exoskeleton or legal framework” but “what are we doing and why”, and constantly redirecting people to that.

CM: Interesting, I sometimes think it's because the function has shifted quite dramatically, quite quickly, and there's a lot of legacy stuff that comes with it, and unless you're really ruthless about “why” you can't weed it out.

JG: I think you just gave me like a little more clarity on my thought: in most companies, if you ask an employee, what does the CFO do here? or what does the Chief Product Officer do here? It's very clear.

When you ask what the CHRO does, it varies a lot.

And I think it comes back again to the why; what is your team tasked with? If this team didn't exist at this company, what would be the gap?

HR has spent so much time thinking about how to title its team: is it HR, it People team etc.

And I actually feel like we would have done ourselves a big favour if we didn't spend the last 15 years rebranding and instead spent it in aligning on purpose!

And I actually feel like we would have done ourselves a big favour if we didn't spend the last 15 years rebranding and instead spent it in aligning on purpose!

CM: Do you think AI is going to take your job?

JG: I think we have no idea what AI is going to do. There is no use trying to put up barriers to get away from it right now. What I hear from a lot of HR teams is “you know, we told our managers not to use AI for performance management or we told them not to use it for job descriptions”.

Guess what? They’re already using it!

In times of uncertainty, or where there is a lack of clarity, I think it's better to sit back and just try and make sense of it; that's where my head's at.

CM: So, that in mind, what do you think the biggest challenge is going to be for people leaders in 2024, and what do you think the biggest opportunity is going to be?

We're coming off such a wave of layoffs, people feel less loyal than ever before to a company

JG: I think we're coming off such a wave of layoffs, people feel less loyal than ever before to a company.

I think the tone that we should anticipate from our employees is a lack of confidence that the business is going to run smoothly enough for them to do their best to work. And know that this will be distracting people on the back end. Crucially, I think people will want to be more financially in tune with where the business is at.

I think the biggest challenge that comes with that is motivation; which is going to look different. If it's not about being here for a long time, then it's about getting as much experience and stretch as you can in a short amount of time.

I think things were already trending in that way. We’re going to need to be thoughtful about how we're giving people career growth, especially when people might be feeling urgency to take enough stretch with them to their next role or next stage of their career.

Another interesting challenge with HR is that we've spent the last, you know, 10 15 years automating a lot. Hiring is a really good example.

I think people are really excited to automate some of the application process, right? So ATSs are now reviewing people's applications and hopefully filtering out for the best candidate.

On the other side, now applicants have caught up and are able to apply faster in a more automated way.

So now we've got like two systems speaking to each other and nothing actually getting better.

So I think that's a good thing to keep in mind in general for HR is, as we try to automate, keep in mind the other parts of the overall picture.

CM: What is your life hack that no one else knows

JG: Hah. When you're feeling drained, and you have a lot to do, and it's hard to like make yourself do those things like put away the laundry, I find it really helps to put on music and romanticize it; like, light a candle, play some music, do something to make it feel like you are doing something eventful versus doing something that you do every day.