Episode 395: Bringing a Fulfilling and Engaging Experience Into the Workplace With Karoline Saffi

Summary:Workology Podcast interview with Karoline Saffi, Chief People Officer at Mission Cloud, as part of the CHRO series.

Episode 395: Bringing a Fulfilling and Engaging Experience Into the Workplace With Karoline Saffi

Summary:Workology Podcast interview with Karoline Saffi, Chief People Officer at Mission Cloud, as part of the CHRO series.

Table of Contents

We had taken someone from a very entry-level sales position to a technical consulting position, and we just took that and we tried to replicate it. And that has evolved into the beginning of our evolution program, which is internships and apprenticeships. We are now mostly focused on apprenticeships which starting this year have gone from part-time to full-time positions, basically to a full-time role as a cloud engineer within six months.

Episode 395: Bringing a Fulfilling and Engaging Experience Into the Workplace With Karoline Saffi


Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Workology.com as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools, and case studies for the business leader, HR, and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:56.42] Welcome to the Workology Podcast, powered by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. These are two of the courses that I, at Workology, offer for HR certification prep and re-certification for HR leaders. This podcast is part of a series on the Workology podcast focused on the roles and responsibilities of the Chief Human Resources Officer or CHRO. The CHRO is sometimes called the VP of People or the Chief People Officer. It’s an executive or C-level role that deals not only with human resources but organizational development, implementing policies of change that are designed to improve the overall efficiency of the company. The CHRO podcast series here on Workology is sponsored by the HR Benchmark Survey. Share your insights at www.HRBenchmarkSurvey.com. One of the reasons I continue to do this podcast series, I’ve been doing it since 2020, we’ve interviewed over 50 heads of HR, is because our roles are changing. They are changing at a rapid pace as heads of HR and there’s a lot of mystery around what we actually do. I also want aspiring heads of HR to know the types of skills and experiences they need to promote into a role as a future Chief Human Resources Officer. It’s also great to hear from senior HR leaders about how we’re partnering and collaborating with our executive-level peers. Before I introduce our guest today, I do want to hear from you. Please text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Ask me questions, leave comments. make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. So today, I’m so excited, I am joined by Karoline Saffi, Chief People Officer at Mission Cloud. A tech industry veteran, Karoline previously served in HR managerial roles at DreamHost and Gimbal before joining Mission Cloud In 2017. Since taking the lead of Mission Cloud’s People and Culture team, she has continuously implemented a roadmap of progressive initiatives intended to make Mission Cloud a company with an inclusive and engaged workforce. Karoline is a graduate of Colorado State University with degrees in business administration and human resources management She holds a SHRM-CP and a PHR certification. Karoline, welcome to the Workology Podcast.

Karoline Saffi: [00:03:22.14] I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:03:24.87] Let’s start with some background. What led you to choose HR and how has your career evolved over time into your current role at Mission?

Karoline Saffi: [00:03:32.79] Yeah, it’s an interesting journey. I don’t think I really thought it out actually. When you were talking about my degrees, I always forget about those because they were kind of an afterthought for me. I really like people. I like to make a difference. All jobs include people. And so trying to figure out a way to have an impact on both the success of a business as well as the happiness and engagement of people is something that interested me a lot and I just kind of fell into HR through that, but yeah. At Mission started as a director and moved up over time till I achieved Chief People Officer. It’s been an amazing journey and Mission Cloud has provided me with a lot of freedom to explore and experiment with different initiatives, which has been lots of fun.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:04:28.50] I love that and I feel like sometimes in HR we don’t get that opportunity to experiment. They just expect us to know all the things and for it to be perfect. And that’s really not how people work or the people business anyway. So I wanted to ask you, what skills and experience do you believe are absolute requirements for the role? And let’s think about maybe somebody who’s just starting out in the industry and wants to move into that Chief People Officer level role?

Karoline Saffi: [00:04:59.88] Yeah. So I did end up going back to school and focusing on business administration and human resource management as I progressed in my career. I think if you’re going to be a strategic contributor to the success of a business or even the direction that a business is going to take, you need to be able to understand that. Specifically to HR, I think something like organizational development is helpful, even psychology. I mean, sometimes, I remember a lot of times thinking that kind of part therapist, part HR leader, just trying to listen to people. But I think understanding people is what’s going to be key. We’re not robots and we all, you could do the same thing with five different people and get five different results. And so I think being open-minded and having the ability to be curious is going be very helpful.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:05:57.67] I agree. And my background is in anthropology. So I feel like I use, when I think about like culture and people and how we connect as human beings together, it’s so important. But that business side is the best way to speak the language of your executive-level peers to be able to move a program or a change forward.

Karoline Saffi: [00:06:20.86] Yeah, everyone is focused in their own area, which is, is super important. So you’re going to have the CFO focused on the financial health of the business and that is going to be their way that they think of solutions. You’re going to have your CTO thinking of ways to progress in that area. And if you can’t speak a language that everybody understands or that your CEO understands, it’s going to be very difficult to get buy-in on those experiments or things you want to try out, or if you want to do things a little bit differently than they’ve been done in the past.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:06:59.03] Well, before we get to some of those, because that’s the part that I am super excited about for you to share. I wanted to back up and have you talk about the size of the company, your team, and then the organizational structure for things like where does HR sit and who do you report to?

Karoline Saffi: [00:07:18.17] Yeah. So I report directly to the CEO. I am part of our senior leadership team and hold an equal seat at the table, which is super key. My team is made up of three departments, so people in culture consist of talent experience which would traditionally be called HR. We like to focus on the experience of it just calling something HR. Sometimes it can make people feel like that’s the group that’s going to make me fill out forms and terminate me and that’s it. So when we step back and, you know, vocabulary is so important, calling it talent experience helps people kind of shift the mindset as they go into these interactions with us. We also have talent acquisition and talent development.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:08:05.69] Awesome. How many employees is Mission, Mission Cloud right now?

Karoline Saffi: [00:08:09.11] Yeah, so we’re a little bit larger than 300 employees now. We began as a company a little bit over five years ago with around 20 people. So we’ve consistently grown over time and we expect to keep growing. We are primarily in the US, but we also have employees in Brazil, Mexico, Philippines, and Canada.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:08:30.69] I love that and I feel like it’s becoming increasingly more common that organizations are more spread out. I mean, COVID sort of, I think, allowed us to be able to hire in other places or continue to grow in, in different countries.

Karoline Saffi: [00:08:47.88] Yeah. So when I first started, I worked with our CEO, Simon Anderson before at DreamHost. So I got, I got a little bit of a, of a benefit from that in that there was already trust in our relationship. But from the beginning, I’m originally from California, I now live in Tennessee and I wanted to do that. And so I pitched this whole, can we be distributed and work from wherever we want to be? He agreed. I think at first he was a little bit suspicious, like, Could this work? How are we going to interact? How is it going to work? Pitch him on the whole, you know, the candidate pool is a lot larger. We can hire from everywhere. Let’s figure out, let’s see if that can work. And we have lots of tools. We got, you know, video conferencing, we got chat, like we got everything we need to make this work. And it did. And over time, we grew about half the company, a little bit more than half the company was distributed. We used to have two offices, one in Los Angeles and one in Boston. When COVID hit, we went fully distributed and we’re actually not going to go back. We think it works. People like it. They did not like the commute. We consistently surveyed them to say, did this change? Do you want to go back to an office? And they don’t. They do want to see each other periodically in person, but that doesn’t mean they want to commute to an office. So we’re rethinking like, what is the thing that you actually want? Do we really need to sign a long lease to address this situation and put everyone back in a car? Or do we just need to organize periodic gatherings?

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:10:13.91] I love that. I feel like it’s the opposite of what is happening right now. Everybody wants everybody to come back to the office, but there are a number of companies like yours who have said, Hey, this distributed remote work is working for us. I feel like it’s a competitive advantage for y’all, too, in terms of retention and the number of maybe quality applicants that you’re receiving.

Karoline Saffi: [00:10:36.81] Yeah. And flexibility. I mean, we have people whose maybe their spouse works for a company that doesn’t give them that freedom and maybe they get moved around. If they were tied down to an office, that would be a complicated situation for them to have to manage this way gives them freedom. Sometimes people just decide, we had a few people that as soon as we closed the office, they’re like, Great, I’m moving. So I moved to the desert. Some moved to farmland. They just kind of got away, got to go to the country and can continue to work. We actually even have one employee who lives most of his time in an RV. So every time we talk to him, we’re like, Where are you? And it’s always a different state.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:11:15.81] Those are the best friends to have because you can just follow them on Instagram and live vicariously through their adventures. I love that. Like just, just the feeling. I was actually in San Diego recently and my husband, he works at a hospital in working in IT and he can travel with me and, and work and then my daughter has virtual school. So we were in San Diego. I was there for work and they were working too. And their work was just as important, a little bit different. But the flexibility is, I think, really fantastic for so many people.

Karoline Saffi: [00:11:55.71] Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And our employees too.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:11:58.71] Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’m going to link to Missions website, Mission Cloud’s website in the show notes, but let’s talk a little bit about Mission Cloud’s people and culture and what strategies you have used to define this, because I feel like this is a huge differentiator for all.

Karoline Saffi: [00:12:18.22] Yeah. So I think at the core of it is our core values, which I know a lot of companies have. We kind of take that to the extreme and use them as I think they were intended to be used by all companies, but maybe isn’t always the case. We make hiring decisions based off the values, performance, reviews, everything, decisions, who we’re going to work with, who, what are we going to do. So that starts the, the very foundation of everything that we do. From those sprouts, other kind of programs and initiatives. For example, one of our core values is continuous growth. So when we were thinking about talent development, we really thought, how can we do this a little bit differently? And we formed our evolution program and our cloud literacy commitment and really just thought about why are we doing the things that we’re doing. How is it currently being done outside of Mission Cloud, and how can we do it a little bit differently. So that’s one way. We also incorporate our entire team into the, the process. So getting feedback, we’re extremely transparent. It’s kind of interesting. I’m part of several CHRO groups and sometimes I will see people asking questions like, how can we get people to give us feedback or how do they feel about this? And we don’t have that problem. They tell us they’re very open and there is very little fear of repercussion. We still have ways to anonymously give that feedback, but it’s constant and it doesn’t always just go to management or senior leadership. Our Values Advisory Committee also gets to see that feedback and interact with the team. So I think that’s been very helpful. Just an open line of communication, which we have to do because we’re distributed. So unless we’re intentional about that communication, it’s not going to work.


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:14:13.34] I was going back to an earlier comment. You were talking about how your HR department is not called human resources, and I wonder if that also kind of sets the tone for you, too. We were talking about TikTok before we got on here to record, and it’s so interesting to be an HR person on TikTok, and we have to have a little bit of a thick skin just in general. But sometimes the troll comments that come at me, it’s like you’re in HR, you’re not there for the people, which they’re not there for the people either. They’re there for a paycheck and to support the business. But I feel like HR sometimes has a bad name and one person or a group of people have had a bad experience, so they blame all their problems on us. I think changing the job, the job department, you know, from human resources to like a people and culture or like a talent experience, I think is what you said is a great way for people to feel like, oh, this place is, this place really cares, or it is in fact different. They care about what I think.

Karoline Saffi: [00:15:17.03] Yeah. And what it’s supposed to do. So we’re supposed to address your experience at Mission Cloud from beginning to end. I don’t hate human resources as a word. Humans or people are our most valuable resource. And I’m not just saying at Mission Cloud. I’m saying everywhere. They may not always get treated that way, but that is a fact. Without people, there would be no companies, there would be nothing happening. So whether people get treated that way or not, it is a fact. But I think really what we’re here to do is to make sure that people have a good experience. They have a fulfilling and engaging experience. Hopefully, they stick around with our company longer than is normal or usual. But even if they don’t, we want to send them with love and make sure that we are having a positive impact on future companies. I like to think that people that maybe go on to the next phase of their journey into another company. We’ll talk about some of the cool things that we’re doing and, hopefully, they get adopted elsewhere. We’re not trying to gatekeep any of the things that we’re doing. We hope that more people do them as well.

Break: [00:16:36.62] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell and you’re listening to the Workology  Podcast, powered by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. We are talking about the CHRO-level role with Karoline Saffi. She’s the Chief People Officer at Mission Cloud. We have a whole host of things we’re chatting about today, but really it’s about innovation in the HR space and how we’re supporting our organizations. The CHRO podcast series here on Workology, which is what you’re listening to, is sponsored by HR Benchmark Survey Before we get back, text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Ask questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you.

Break: [00:17:24.54] Benchmarking and data is crucial to HR leaders. Workology’s HR Benchmark Survey is an always-on survey and just by taking the survey at HRBenchmarkSurvey.com, you’re signing up to get comprehensive quarterly results, white papers, and other research from the survey right to your inbox. It takes 10 minutes or less to complete. Visit HRBenchmarkSurvey.com.

Apprenticeship and Training Programs


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:17:51.10] Well, let’s talk about some of those cool things, because I have been talking about apprenticeship programs and training programs. I do a lot of work with the Department of Labor and the Partnership with Inclusion of Apprenticeships. But it’s been rare. I mean, almost never. You’re one of the first that I have talked to that has their own apprenticeship program that they have created themselves. So talk to me about Mission Cloud’s evolution from their cloud engineering training to a formal apprenticeship model and what that journey has been like and what it is.

Karoline Saffi: [00:18:26.71] Our director of Talent Development, Carrie Barnett Howell, has been an amazing contributor to Mission Cloud. When she joined, we quickly became aware of an issue with recruiting, not with the process of recruiting, but just the lack of people out there available to do the jobs that we needed. And so we thought if we can’t just find them and hire them, let’s build them. And so we kind of started to create things by trial and error. So maybe it would just be somebody saying, hey, like, I want to be a solutions architect, but I’m in, I’m in pre-sales, what can I do right now? Or I’m in inside sales. So Carrie started putting together the kind of like a training path and a job rotation. And within a year we had taken someone from a very entry-level sales position to a technical consulting position, and we just took that and we tried to replicate it. And that has evolved into the beginning of our evolution program, which is internships and apprenticeships. We are now mostly focused on apprenticeships which starting this year have gone from part-time to full-time positions, basically to a full-time role as a cloud engineer within six months. So that’s, that’s pretty exciting. And we primarily focus on cloud engineers because that is our biggest need. But we have also developed product managers or marketing specialists. So it’s something that we hope we can fuel for every department.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:20:08.22] So this is not just external but internal, too. Like you are providing training from for, for, from outside candidates or apprentices as they’re coming in, but then bringing people from within the organization and moving them into different roles with the training program, right?

Karoline Saffi: [00:20:25.99] Correct. So they can do both. We do try to bring people in externally because really what our goal through our cloud literacy commitment is to have more cloud professionals in the world, period. Whether they’re at Mission or elsewhere. So we’ll do things like sponsor students with learning information and exam preparation courses, and then we’ll pay for them to get certified so that they can kind of dip their toe into the cloud profession and see if that’s something they want to pursue more. So that’s one way they do it. Internally, we’re always having people move around. We like to think about right people in the right seats. Sometimes people start a job and then they decide like, you know what, I really don’t like this. Or I just learned about what so-and-so is doing over there and I like that. Like, maybe I could be good at that too. So let’s explore it. So we don’t want to really tie someone down to a specific role. If they’re not in the right seat, we want to make sure that we get them to the right seat.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:21:28.35] I love this. Even this small thought process is very different than many, many organizations. Obviously, you’re on team apprenticeships, but how hard was this to put together? You don’t have a large team, right? I mean, you don’t have like 100 people in HR to, to build something like this.

Karoline Saffi: [00:21:50.79] No. So the first couple of years it was just Carrie doing it through brute force, just trying to figure out like, what do you need. Okay, we’ll, we’ll fix the plane while it’s in flight. So we were doing a lot of that. Last year, we brought on a technical training program manager and we evolved our apprenticeship program into classes. So now he is taking on. His name is Kelby. He’s taking on classes of around 5 or 6 apprentices at a time and fully focusing on them, getting them prepared. It’s basically a full-time job of learning before they move into a shadowing program where they get embedded with teams and actually start working like for real with real clients, because hands-on practice is the best way to learn. After a period of shadowing, they can move into an associate-level position, which should last around a year or so. It’s not necessarily we want to hold them in that role for, you know, just do your time. But some things don’t come up every day in your day to day. And so we want to make sure that they have enough time to experience different kinds of situations that may arise through a longer period of time.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:23:06.12] I feel like that sounds like HR to me. Like there’s sometimes there’s only that one time in five years that you deal with this one situation. So that experience, that on-the-job experience, that hands-on stuff is incredibly important. I love the apprenticeship program. I think that this is incredibly unique and it is something that, in my opinion, more organizations are going to be moving towards because, A) recruiting is expensive. And then, B) you don’t know what kind of training they got somewhere else. So here you can develop and grow your people within your organization and give them exactly what they need so they can, they can be successful at your company.

Karoline Saffi: [00:23:45.88] Yeah. You know, it was just proofreading our, our monthly team newsletter that my team puts together. And one of the, one of the sections that’s in there is about inclusive interviewing. Our talent acquisition team was highlighting that just because someone worked at a competitor, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be successful here. Maybe they sell the same kind of services, but they do them a little bit differently. We do things the Mission way, and so a lot of times the best candidate is maybe someone that is, you know, more entry-level, but they’ve learned it the way that we do it. And so they end up being the better candidate than someone that has more experience that is coming in externally. Both are good, they’re just different. So instead, we focused on skills-based interviewing, demonstrated skill versus experience. And that helps with inclusivity as well, because not everyone is given opportunities to have that kind of experience. But maybe they could do a kick-ass job just by being given a shot.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:24:50.65] I would want, I want my employees to be successful, to do a fantastic job. And if that is them getting training as an entry-level person or, as you were saying, like your company’s way, that just eliminates so many headaches for, not only for HR but for every person in the organization.

Karoline Saffi: [00:25:10.33] Yeah, and we found that too, even in our sales roles. We’ve recently promoted two salespeople to sales leadership roles, and we had tried multiple times to hire externally. We hired people that had extensive experience and time after time it just didn’t work out. It doesn’t mean that those people were not good at their jobs. I feel like everybody is good. It’s just, it’s kind of like a matchmaking thing. Maybe this is not the right fit, but they’re going to succeed wildly somewhere else. And after a trial and error, we just figured out like, you know, it was under our nose all along. They’re right here. Let’s just give them a shot. And it’s been working out great.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:25:53.70] I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about the DEI side of things. So tell us about goals for things like gender and racial diversity and Mission Cloud and how you are benchmarking and tracking that data, because I feel like this is something that not only diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders struggle with, but businesses in general. So what’s working for you and how are you tracking these things?

Karoline Saffi: [00:26:19.89] I think DEI is very important. But sometimes it can be used kind of like a buzzword. Like everyone’s thinking, this is important, so let’s just talk about it without really backing it up. We like to make all our decisions based off data, so we want to start with a baseline, like where are we at and, you know, then we can decide is it good or bad? Does it need to improve? In 2019, we set diversity goals to be achieved by the end of last year of 2022. So three-year goals. We kind of threw a dart at the wall and thought like, Is this the goal that it should be? For example, we went for, our goal was to hit 50% gender diversity. And we ended with 30%. So we missed the mark. We set that goal originally based on US census data. The US is made up a little bit over 50% of women, so we thought that’s a good goal. Let’s just reflect the population. We’ve learned that in some roles it is a little bit more challenging to fill with gender-diverse candidates like technology roles. So, for example, our gender diversity with technologists at the beginning of this year is 7%, which is not great, but we want to own that. One of our core values is accountability and action. So we’re going to take accountability for that and we’re going to take action to fix it. Evolution is a good way that we do that.

Karoline Saffi: [00:27:52.29] We help to develop people that are already at Mission, and then we focus our recruiting for candidates, for apprentices to make sure that they are diverse so that we can make sure that that number changes over time. So now for the next three years, we’ve set a new target to double that. And then hopefully after that we’ll double it again. In addition to looking at gender diversity and racial diversity, we make sure that there is diversity on leadership. So our senior leadership team should be diverse and our board should be diverse and we look at inclusive targets. So things like wage gap or even recognition, things that people may not necessarily think about. So we give out recognition verbally through our weekly all-hands meetings. We also just give it face-to-face, and then we also use apps. So we have a couple of apps that we integrate with Slack so that everybody can kind of see publicly when someone is doing a good job and recognize each other. We took a look at 2022’s recognition and saw that 30% of that recognition went to gender-diverse team members and we are 30% gender diverse. So that lets us know that it is being equally distributed. So it’s just kind of understanding there’s no goal behind that one right now other than more of like a pulse check, like are we on track? Is there something that we need to change?

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:29:25.06] Thank you for being so transparent. I think a lot of people, if their numbers aren’t what they want, just don’t talk about it. They aren’t sharing with the executive team or the world, the Internet. But everybody has to start somewhere. It’s like exercise, in a way. Like I’m thinking like, hey, you know, if I’m not doing anything, I’m not talking to anybody about it. But even if I go to class, I’m doing yoga right now, like once a week, that is an improvement from the day, the day before. You don’t just wake up one day and become diverse and inclusive, like as an organization. It takes time to build, to build and grow. So talk about where you start so that you can celebrate, you know, the, the growth and the evolution along the way.

Karoline Saffi: [00:30:15.16] Yeah. And there are a lot of wins. During this last period, gender diversity for management increased by 16%. That’s amazing. We were super happy to see that one. Now when it comes to racial diversity, I think there’s room to improve in management and that’s something that we’re going to focus on now. But we wouldn’t even know that it’s a problem unless we’re looking at the numbers. So the numbers, like, I like to say to the team, diversity does not equal inclusion, but you can’t have inclusion and equity without having diversity. So we have to attack it from all sides.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:30:49.15] I love that you’re a data company, like a technology company, and you’re using data to help drive the transformation of the people side of the business. I think that’s really important. I want to switch gears a little bit because you mentioned earlier in the interview Values Advisory Committee. So talk to us about what the Values Advisory Committee is and how does it work.

Karoline Saffi: [00:31:10.48] I’m very proud of this. I’m the executive sponsor of our Values Advisory Committee. This is a way, I think of this group as the protectors of our core values and a method of checks and balances. As senior leaders, it can be very easy to get focused on a specific business outcome. No bad intentions, but sometimes we miss something, an impact that it has somewhere else in the business or something that is going against our core values. And so this group is made up of representatives from each department in the company. They serve for a year, for a calendar year, and they talk about issues affecting the company that are related to our core values. So this can be anything from, Are we working with a customer that is not aligned with our core values? Do we need to revisit that relationship and make a change? Past issues have included, Are we living up to continuous growth? When we were, for a couple of years, we were growing at 100%. And it was, that’s a lot. That’s a lot. And keeping up with that kind of growth is challenging. And it was impacting the time that people had to focus on training.

Karoline Saffi: [00:32:31.53] So the issue was, Are we living up to continuous growth because there’s no time to train? So it doesn’t matter if you give me all the resources in the world, if I can’t take advantage of them, it doesn’t make a difference. And we talked about it and tried to take a look at what is the workday make up, Is there time? Can we build it into the expectations? So that’s one example. They do things like manage all of our charitable donations. There have been a lot of opportunities to automate that, and I love that we’re looking at technology for everything that we do, including things like donations. But we have chosen not to go that route because we only donate to organizations that are aligned with our core values. So our Values Committee reviews every request for a donation, make sure that it’s aligned. We do a background check on these organizations and they decide where the money goes. So that’s cool because it’s not led by leadership, it’s led by the people, basically. They also choose our US holidays, so we change our holidays every year to be inclusive.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:33:37.54] I love that because as things evolve, like if you wanted to give your employees Juneteenth off or something else, you can make that shift really quickly and you don’t need to have the executive team necessarily involved for, you know, meetings to discuss that. It’s, I think that’s great. It’s a small thing, but in a big thing.

Karoline Saffi: [00:34:00.85] It makes a big difference. We have what we call flex PTO. So for us, it’s not really about the time off. You can take as much time off as you need as long as we’re being respectful of each other and making sure that, you know, there’s coverage. So it’s not really about, you know, do you get five days? Do you get 20 days? It’s not about that, but it’s really about bringing focus. So we’ve observed Holi, for example. Juneteenth was one that you mentioned, Native American History Day. There’s a lot of different holidays that I don’t think get enough attention, and this allows us to have inclusive representation.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:34:38.05] I think that’s great. Right now we’re recording the podcast and Ramadan is going on, so that’s another holiday. I feel like in the past, like we might not have seen as many employees request, you know, changes in their schedule or whatever to observe. I feel like it’s in the news right now a lot. So and it feels like it’s more than in the past, but I love that it’s employee-driven. I think that’s really key. And hopefully, like things like this are changing the perception of human resources or the people and culture department that we really do care. We do. I mean, I don’t know very many people that don’t actually care about the work that they do. I just think, unfortunately, we deliver the message. Oftentimes that isn’t what people want to hear.

Karoline Saffi: [00:35:27.81] Yeah. I mean, yesterday we senior leadership team previewed an update with our we call it our operating team. It’s made up of our directors and our VP’s. Said, hey, we’re going to communicate this to the whole company giving you a preview. And they gave us lots of feedback on maybe the order of the delivery or maybe placing more focus on one part of the announcement versus another part to resonate better with the team. And I think that was very helpful as well just to kind of look at all aspects of it. I think that you’re right, everybody does care in HR. I really don’t know anyone who is, you know, like the evil HR lady that you see skits and jokes about. I think the difference is being open to having a discussion and a debate. You may not always like the things that we’re doing, but I think just not liking them and not talking about it is just going to lead to resentment. So people should just be open to talking about it. Explain like why you’re doing the thing that you’re doing and it leads to empathy. Everyone’s going through challenging times and maybe we can’t do the thing that you want today, but we can put it on the plan to do it a little bit later.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:36:42.40] Awesome. Well, let’s, let’s end the interview with the, one last question, and that’s the best career advice that you’ve ever received, which I know is a tall order, but share with us.

Karoline Saffi: [00:36:52.84] Yeah, it is, it is difficult. I think at each stage of my career I’ve gotten advice that has helped me to reach the next stage. I am I think of myself as a reluctant leader. A lot of times I, I’m naturally an introvert, so I don’t like a lot of attention. And I think the, the further along on the career path that you progress, the more attention you get. And that’s not always the most comfortable thing to an introvert. And so I’m forced to stretch. But I think the thing that I was given advice on is that you can make a difference. So if you can stretch outside of your comfort zone, you can make a difference. And don’t be afraid to try something new because the impact could be very great.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:37:43.34] I’m so grateful that you have shared all the cool things that you’re doing at Mission Cloud here on, on the podcast, and you’re stretching because you’re helping so many HR people just think outside the box and be encouraged to just to grow and try different programs. I think that one of the biggest challenges for us in HR is really that executive buy-in and then being confident and comfortable to present to the leadership team. Here’s my plan of action and what I want to do. And you are a living embodiment of that in action. And I want more HR people like you to be spotlighted because it shouldn’t be a rare, a rare thing. So thank you. Thank you for doing this.

Karoline Saffi: [00:38:30.89] Thank you for having me.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:38:32.18] Absolutely.

Karoline Saffi: [00:38:32.72] So much fun.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:38:33.71] Well, I will link to Mission Cloud’s website and as well as their careers page. So if you’re like Karoline is my girl and I need to come and work on the people and culture team, we’ll link directly over there so you can apply or maybe look at their, their apprenticeship programs. So thank you again, Karoline. I really appreciate it.

Closing: [00:38:56.54] The CHRO podcast series on Workology is sponsored by the HR Benchmark Survey. Take our survey at www.HRBenchmarkSurvey.com. I love this series. It’s so interesting to delve into the CHRO role to see how we’re all doing things differently. How are we innovating in the space, how are we driving change and how are we supporting the overall business. I believe the CHRO doesn’t just lead a company. The company depends on the leadership, this leadership role to set standards and benchmarks for everything from company values to learning and development. And I appreciate Karoline for taking the time to share her experiences with us today. I hope they were as inspiring to you as they or they were inspiring to me as they were to you. You get what I’m saying. Before I close today, I want to invite you to text me. Text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Ask questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. Thank you for joining the Workology Podcast. I couldn’t do this without you. I love this industry. I love these conversations. I love chatting with you every single week. The Workology Podcast is powered by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. These are courses for HR certification and re-certification that we offer over on Workology. This podcast that you’re listening to is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. Let’s make organizations better together. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell Until next time, visit Workology.com to listen to all our previous podcast episodes. Have a great day.

Connect with Karoline Saffi.



– Karoline Saffi on LinkedIn

– People & Culture | Mission Cloud 

– Careers | Mission Cloud 

– CHRO Job Description

– Episode 387: Understanding the Business, Influencing, and Design Thinking With Gabrielle Lorestani

– Episode 386: Paying Attention to Help the Business Be Successful With Amy Cappellanti-Wolf From Cohesity

– Episode 385: Managing Employee Trauma at Work With Matthew Brown From Schoox

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