Workology Podcast with Donald Knight, Chief People Officer with Greenhouse

Episode 407: Performance, Image, and Exposure With Donald Knight, CPO for Greenhouse Software

Summary:Workology Podcast interview with Donald Knight, CPO for Greenhouse Software, speaking about the requirements for stepping into a CHRO role.

Episode 407: Performance, Image, and Exposure With Donald Knight, CPO for Greenhouse Software

Summary:Workology Podcast interview with Donald Knight, CPO for Greenhouse Software, speaking about the requirements for stepping into a CHRO role.
Workology Podcast with Donald Knight, Chief People Officer with Greenhouse

Table of Contents

For you, if you’re listening right now and you’re wondering what is the best advice I can give you? Well, the best way to handle pain is to heal. And for me, heal stands for all leaders can do this regardless of what values your company chooses to embrace or not embrace. For me, heal stands for lead with humility, demonstrate a certain level of empathy for those around you because they may be going through different things. Show up authentically. I try to do that. People know I love ice cream, I love hats, I love fashion. I love people, I love travel. That’s who I am authentically. And then last but certainly not least, the last letter in heel is L. It’s like lead with love. Like there’s a way for us as leaders to create meaningful impact, leaning in on those people skills. They’re not soft skills. You’re not a soft leader if you demonstrate them. There’s nothing soft about being humble and demonstrating empathy and showing up authentically and creating spaces where others can show up authentically. There’s nothing wrong with those things.

Episode 407: Performance, Image, and Exposure With Donald Knight, CPO for Greenhouse Software

Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrill, founder of 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: [00:01:35.73] Hello there and welcome to the Workology Podcast sponsored by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. These are two of the courses that we offer here at Workology for HR Certification Prep and Re-certification for HR leaders. Now this podcast is part of an ongoing series on the Workology Podcast focused on the roles and responsibilities of the Chief People Officer or the Chief Human Resources Officer. Also called the CHRO. The CHRO is sometimes called the VP of People or as I mentioned, the Chief People Officer. And this is an executive or C-level role that deals with managing human resources as well as organizational development and implementing policies of change. This is all designed to improve the overall efficiency of the company. The CHRO podcast series is sponsored by HR Benchmark Survey. Share your insights at Now, one of the reasons I continue to do this series is because there’s a lot of mystery about that Chief People Officer Role. And frankly, it’s shifted a lot in a short amount of time. So I want aspiring HR leaders to know about these Chief People Officer roles and the kinds of experiences and responsibilities that they need to move into that role. And as far as other HR leaders, I want us to hear from our peers so that we can learn and understand and collaborate together. Before I introduce our guest for today, I do want to hear from you. Please text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. So today I am so excited because I’m joined by Donald Knight. He’s the Chief People Officer for Greenhouse Software. Donald is a strategic HR leader with over 14 years of experience leading people’s teams with a focus on hiring, nurturing, and optimizing talent at a global level. He has held a number of positions, including SVP of people at Edelman and Senior director of human resources at Equifax. Donald has a passion for building high-performance teams and strengthening company culture, which has allowed him to drive change where it truly matters. Just you wait and see. I’m so excited and honored to welcome Donald to the Workology Podcast.

Donald Knight: [00:03:55.27] Thanks for having me, Jessica. I’m super excited to, to chat with you today and shout outs to all the amazing listeners here at Workology. I hope they’re doing a wonderful having a wonderful time as well.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:04:07.19] Hopefully, they will be, too. I mean, it’s always fun over here. And I love this series because we have been interviewing heads of human resources and heads of people really over the last couple of years. So I always ask this question and I think it’s it’s kind of fun to understand your journey into where you are now. So we’re going to start with some background and talk to me about what led you to choose HR and how your careers evolved over time into your current role at Greenhouse Software.

Donald Knight: [00:04:37.34] Yeah, that’s a great, great, great way to start. I would say first and foremost, look, I’ve, I’ve personally benefited from more women leaders in my career than anybody. And so even that starts at the very beginning of my career. Um, in undergrad I worked in Intern for 36 hours a week and put myself through school because I’m the eldest of four and the chief human resource officer at the time, Kay Kennedy knew I was coming up for graduation, knew that I wanted to go to law school and was like, Hey, I think you should like consider a role in HR. And I’m like, No one likes HR. Like, Wow, are you kidding me? I would never work in HR. I was flattered that she would offer me the opportunity, but I was just like, not interested. And you fast forward, what ends up happening is I end up talking to my now wife about that opportunity. And she was like, listen, like, you know, you connect with people really well and like, lawyers are super defensive a lot of the time. Not all of them. Like we have a phenomenal Chief Legal Officer at Greenhouse. Shout outs to Young. But like in many cases, like a lot of times people in the legal profession are very highly defensive, take competitive to a place that it should not be. And my wife didn’t want me to have to compromise like my morals or my integrity pontificating on that and really thinking hard about it, I went back to Kay and I was like, Hey, I might be interested, I don’t know. I ended up taking a business course and I was like, No, I’m going to go get my MBA. She was like, Well, look, if you do that, concentrate in HR management and I can help pay for it. So but not for her. I would not have started in talent, in people. And, you know, I’ve been very, very fortunate and blessed to work at some of the most amazing companies on the planet and be able to not only contribute, but learn like be able to learn so much about the psychology of motivating people, the psychology of being persuasive and learning how to demonstrate influence without authority. So by the time I got to this role, I felt like those experiences really just prepared me in a meaningful way for me to just be more thoughtful, Jessica. So that that’s where I would say my start occurred, and now I get to work with the most amazing hiring software companies on the planet and, you know, really help people find out where they want to go park their time, talent and treasure when it comes to doing the best work of their lives. So that’s pretty cool.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:07:06.51] I love that. And thank you for sharing. I, I think that people don’t think about those employee benefit programs like tuition reimbursement enough because it’s a great way to take advantage while you’re getting the work experience at the same time. So I love great mentors that make not big moves but like help influence significant moves in people’s lives. Very cool.

Donald Knight: [00:07:33.45] Yeah. No, I totally, totally align with you there.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:07:36.00] So you’re the first Chief People Officer at Greenhouse Software. What has the experience been like for you as a leader within the company? And talk to me maybe about what you focused on the first few months in your job.

Donald Knight: [00:07:50.61] What is the experience been like? You know, I’ll be I’ll be vulnerable with you. I think it’s been both challenging and enjoyable. And I’ll tell you why. I think the challenging part is like there’s so many things that have happened since I joined roughly, you know, 400 days ago. They’re outside of the influence of our business, right? You you think about economic headwinds, you think about changes in decisions on social issues that then govern the very people that need to come into a workplace and try to be productive and create meaningful impact. And so when you put all of those things in, so many other things, it’s challenging, right? It’s trying to make sure that we lead with empathy, but also be able to, you know, prioritize the business. But look at it through the lens of people. That’s hard. That is that it’s hard work. And so for those leaders that are in that that are in similar spaces, what I would tell you is I recognize your persistence and your patience. And for the folks on their teams, what I would say is give your leaders grace. They they too are human and navigating challenging times it’s just very hard. But I do believe that we’re in a time period in which we have people that are actually wanting to do right by people understanding the human lens, but also equally trying to make sure that you have success, business success and be profitable. That’s the challenging part. The most enjoyable part, if I’m being honest with you, Jessica, is like conversations like this, like, right, Like I get to talk to so many creatives, business leaders, other CHRO, other CPOs, other CEOs and be able to talk about like help them reimagine what life at their organization could look like for people, what that hiring process could look like, what does people experiences even look like? Should you go to a four-day workweek or shouldn’t you like should you embrace being a distributed work model or should you force people to come back into a physical structure? So that’s the enjoyable part, right?

Donald Knight: [00:09:55.97] Like, it’s like I’m very mindful to the fact of we’re creating history and had a good friend remind me of this. So this is not an original thought, but he told me he was like, Listen, Donald, like if you looked at how long humans have been on the planet and you wrote a book on it, and each page represented about 200 to 250 years, like the book didn’t even get that good until page 998 and we’re on page 1000. So I recognize like I take joy and pride in what I do every day because I recognize like we’re literally laying the foundation for what generations after us and what the dynamic in that social contract between employer and employee will look like long term. And I think we’re getting away from words like staff and words like treating people like they’re just headcount. And I think we’re evolving towards people and teams and leaders recognizing that there’s power in making sure your team is set up to thrive. So that’s the enjoyable part that I just I jump at and that’s what keeps me, you know, super excited waking up every day. So.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:11:06.04] We are totally in the same space with that because the just the whole conversation around what the future looks like and how things have shifted even in the last 24 months. I had somebody ask me yesterday what the difference is between a Vice President of Human Resources and a Chief People Officer. And it was a great conversation because that, I think, will this shift is going to have a fundamental impact on the workforce leading with people and as hopefully as a more empathetic leader.

Donald Knight: [00:11:40.03] No, I totally agree. I, um. What we name things. Naming conventions matter and I think, you know, shout outs to the community and anyone in the community of the Lgbtq+ community because like they’ve done a phenomenal job making sure that like, pronouns become status quo. And so like in our software, it’s status quo. People can put their pronouns so companies know how to talk to them as candidates. But the reason I say that is like naming conventions, calling people resources as opposed to calling people people. Those things matter. And I’m excited about the modern leaders that are leading these people teams. And there’s a bunch of phenomenal ones out there, like ones that I personally look up to that have helped me in my leadership and keep me focused on the things that matter. So totally aligned with you there. Like, what an amazing time to be alive, right?

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:12:34.01] It is. Well, let’s so let’s think about skills and experiences that are the most essential or you feel like are absolute requirements for somebody stepping into a new role, whether they’re the Chief Human Resources Officer or the Chief People Cfficer, and thinking about maybe someone who’s just starting out in HR. What do you think that they need to to be able to move progressively up to that Chief People Officer level?

Donald Knight: [00:12:58.70] Yeah, it’s a great question. I think I’ve deduced this. I’ve been asked this question a couple times. I hope each time my my answer evolves and gets better, but I’ve kind of deduced it to three things. I think the first thing is in the world, especially in America, we tell people that performance matters. And I agree it does. And making sure that like you’re able to, you know, meet or exceed expectations, making sure that your work product, there’s a certain level of polish to it. As it relates to are you answering the right questions? Are you answering whatever the objectives are supposed to be? I think that part of performance like and just taking pride in one’s work and hard work I think is important. But what I’ve realized like Jessica, is like performance is only like 20% of this. It’s only 20%. And by the way, when you want to be considered like top talent or an amazing entrepreneur or an amazing rising leader, like that’s like the general admission. Like at this level, like, everybody can perform. It’s like it’s like making it to your favorite professional sports team. It’s like you get there and you’re like, Oh, I’m super skilled and everybody there is like, So am I. It’s like, that is just general admission. That’s the prerequisite. So I tell everybody like, focus on your performance, but that’s 20%. You got to focus on the other 80%. So 30% of it to me is image, which is like when I say image, I’m talking about like, how are you perceived by people that you work with? Like, do you play nice in the sandbox? Are you kind to people? Do you call people by their names? Do you use the right pronouns or are you rude? Do you come across as socially unaware? Do you find ways to make sure that you’re helping contribute to the overall success of whatever team that you’re on? Or do you get labeled someone who’s running rogue and not really interested in partnering with others? And yeah, I do believe innovation is positive rebellion, but all innovation happens as a team, right? Like it takes a team to get that accomplished. And so how you work with teams to me is super important. I think that’s about 30%, that’s that image portion. And then I think the last 50% to me is exposure. And I’ve been super fortunate, privileged, blessed, insert whatever name you want to put there. But I’ve had phenomenal leaders give me exposure along the way. And so I can say that because of the Gerald Hills of the world, I worked on M&A work early on in my career in people or because of the Anilu Vazquez who Baris I understand how to navigate a comp committee conversation at the board level though that kind of exposure is priceless.

Donald Knight: [00:15:47.62] It’s not something you find on a YouTube video. It’s not something you’re going to find on Craftsy or Etsy or any of these sites. That that’s the real world experience that I think leaders are looking for. They’re looking for the Jessicas to try to figure out who should I be pouring my time in investment into, who are going to be the people that are going to be able to lead these teams moving forward or lead these companies moving forward? And so I think that exposure piece is important. Now, here’s the thing. You never get to the exposure. If the performance isn’t there and the image is not there. So you got to be mindful of how you work with teams. You got to be mindful of the work product that you produce. And in my opinion, that will position whether you’re in finance or whether you’re in people in a position you to get the exposure that you’re looking for. And through that lens, I think that self-development, we got to constantly be looking for ways to sharpen ourselves and improve ourselves. And one great way to start is listening to the Workology podcast like, so I’m glad I’m here with you. So this is cool.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:16:47.43] Well, I love your perspective. I do think that those experiences are so key. All things are that you have mentioned. But I think that the experience piece, because sometimes people don’t, they think, hey, I’m a high performer, I should automatically get access to X, Y, Z. And that’s not how how the world works when you’re in a room of Chief Human Resources officers like the best in the world, or the best entrepreneurs in the world, or people who are highly successful, you go from being in another room where you were, you know, top two, top 5%, and now suddenly you’re with your average among a bunch of people who are really amazing. So it can be, I think, incredibly humbling. But it’s that experience part that you can pull from, you know, whatever situation or scenario that you’re in, you’re always ready.

Donald Knight: [00:17:41.41] Totally agree. I totally agree. And in many ways, I want to circle back on you talked about, you know, when you get in that room, your average that’s not a bad thing like to be in a room full of high performers and everybody is contributing to a high performing team and that becomes the new status quo or the median. It’s not a bad thing, but in there’s so much learning that can happen there. So I’m so glad that that that resonates with you because that totally resonates with me in my career.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:11.17] So in March, I flew to San Diego to attend an event where I knew absolutely no one, and it was for entrepreneurs led by this thought leader, author who has co-authored and worked with Napoleon Hill. And I think he’s published like 30 different New York Times best-sellers. And so he has this whole community. His name is Greg Reed. And like I said, I knew nobody. And I showed up. And it was amazing because I was well, first of all, I was really intimidated because I didn’t know anybody. And then, B, once I got in the room and I was just like the energy and the people and it was amazing. I’m like, There are fricking billionaires here. People came on their private jet. They’ve started their own companies and sold them and now they’re public on the stock exchange. It was awesome. And then the third stage for me was realizing that I’m in a room with all these people. And like I’m saying, like I was at the beginning or mid-part of my journey compared to to some of these others. But that’s a good thing because you want to learn from those kind of people so that you are able to elevate yourself.

Donald Knight: [00:19:19.48] Oh, I totally agree with you. Like having proximity, not necessarily just physical proximity, but just relational proximity because the world is becoming even more digital and virtual, but having proximity to people who have ran out of pace or have had success at a pace or in my opinion, what’s most important outside of success is impact at a certain pace that you can learn from is so invaluable. Um, and it sounds like that while you were at that conference, you recognized that the, the power of being in that room is like being able to glean insight from these individuals and knowing you because you, you do relationship cultivation on steroids. So like, I think that’s a positive superpower of yours, Jessica. I think I’m confident that you walked away with relationships afterwards that you might not have had before. And I think we need more people saying that like we need more successful business people like yourself openly sharing with others that, look, you don’t got to be the smartest and most successful person in all the rooms you walk in. In fact, when you aim not to do that, you probably learn more so.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:20:30.42] Absolutely. And I am I’m still connecting and reconnecting and growing those relationships from March. So I’m I’m super excited about, you know, the direction and everything that that’s going to go. But I want to talk a little bit more about Greenhouse. And I think that a lot of us in HR are probably familiar with Greenhouse Software. Can you talk to us about the size of your company and then the HR team or the people team? And maybe walk us through like the organizational structure. Who do you report to? How does that work for the for the people team?

Donald Knight: [00:21:04.47] Absolutely. Um, Greenhouse for me is something I’m super passionate about just because I recognize the social impact that we’re able to help drive and facilitate. And I’ll tell you a little bit about Greenhouse. So Greenhouse is hiring software, and we consider ourselves the hiring operating system for people first companies. So when you think about, um, amazing tech companies in the space or non-tech companies in the space that folks have said, Oh gee, like that company is rather intentional about the way that they treat their people like, like Lyft for instance. Like they’re, they’re known as a rideshare company, but they’re also known as the rideshare company that pays their drivers more than their competitors. Well, I’m happy that Lyft uses Greenhouse. And so the beautiful thing about that, in my opinion, is like we can then look at from a social impact perspective, the experiences that we’re helping usher in for other talent when they join companies. And you know, I was nerding out with one of my friends, Marlene, who she started this nonprofit organization called Black Women on Boards. And basically, like the short story of it, Jessica,. Is her and her co-founder were getting so many requests to serve on public boards that they recognized that there was a gap, that companies didn’t know where the top talented, diverse women were and the top talented, diverse women didn’t know how to get close proximity with those boards.

Donald Knight: [00:22:34.49] The power for me is like when you think about where they have worked to go accumulate those experiences, for those companies to be like, Oh, you’re super valuable. We need to glean your insight to help navigate the direction of our company. Many of those cases, they’re using Greenhouse. And so I like to think that in some small way we were helping help usher in the opportunities for them to have access in a structured interview way and a non-biased way, so when they’re talking to these companies as candidates, before they became employees, before they accumulated the experiences, what tools did that company have in their toolbox? And so I’m super excited. That’s what Greenhouse has. We’re a little shy of 900 employees, so and we’re geographically dispersed. So we have amazing Canadian talent in Vancouver and Toronto. When you come to the US, we have all types of race ethnicity represented. And then when you go to our EMEA office in Dublin, well we have over 14 different nationalities that are represented. And so that’s super exciting.

Donald Knight: [00:23:42.64] To your last point around the structure, well, this is where I get super excited because, you know, the reason I’m here at Greenhouse is I received this email from the CEO of Greenhouse and thought it was a phishing attack. I was on a date night with my wife and Ashley and I was like, Yeah, there’s no way this guy knows who I am. Like, Get out of here. The next day she’s like, Yeah, you got to let them know. Like, they’re getting better. These phishing attacks are getting better. So I went to go look up who the actual CEO of Greenhouse, and I had used it before and come to find out it was actually Daniel. And so I think the cool part about that story for me is like, yeah, he made quite an impression reaching out to me himself directly and even to this day, like that’s who I report to have an amazing team of nearly 50 people, professionals. And yeah, like we’ve done some really meaningful things to help shake up in a positive way. What is the environment that talent can experience when they come and choose to park their time, talent, and treasure at an organization? And so that that’s a little bit about us.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:24:47.55] Thank you for sharing. And I am always just curious and I’m going to link to a new report and let me pull it up so I make sure that I’m saying it correctly. It’s from the Talent Strategy Group. It just came out, but it’s called the HR Operating Model Report for 2023 and it is talking about organizational structures, employee to HR ratios, those sort of things. And it’s talking about how. Things are shifting by vertical and kind of that transition to more of a people-centered HR team really, and leadership team. So I’m going to link to that report in the show notes so that everybody can see and I’ll send it to you too, Donald, if you haven’t seen it, it’s it’s really good. I was so excited about it. And I’m such a nerd because for the since we started this series where I’m talking to Chief People Officers, I have asked, how many HR people do you have? What’s the size of your team? Because I’m curious, because it is so different across industries and companies. You might be people-centered and you could be a manufacturing plant, but is there a secret sauce that we we can pull from? So thank you for sharing.

Donald Knight: [00:25:56.43] Yeah, absolutely.

Break: [00:25:57.87] Let’s take a reset here. This is Jessica Miller-Merrill and you are listening to the Workology Podcast powered by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. We are continuing the conversation, diving into that Chief People Officer role. It’s part of our series and I’m talking with Donald Knight, the Chief People Officer at Greenhouse Software. The CHRO podcast series here on Workology is sponsored by HR Benchmark Survey. Take the survey at Before we get back to the interview, please text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Ask me questions, leave comments and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you.

Break: [00:26:41.73] 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, you’re signing up to get comprehensive quarterly results, whitepapers, and other research from the survey right to your inbox. It takes ten minutes or less to complete. Visit

The Role of DEI and Employee Resource Groups at Greenhouse

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:27:07.97] You mentioned pronouns and the option to include those for candidates. I love the inclusivity of what what Greenhouse does and your approach, because we have met before and had a number of conversations I wanted you to share on the podcast here, the role of DEI and employee resource groups or ERGs at Greenhouse and maybe why you call them arbours.

Donald Knight: [00:27:35.81] Absolutely. Well, I think the first thing I would say is in my first 90 days, I got rid of the DE&I team. And typically, if you’re a listener right now, you’re probably wondering, because I’m sure my picture is somewere on the Internet, you’re probably wondering, like, did this black guy just say he got rid of the DE&I teams? I am saying I got rid of the DE&I teams. But let me tell you what I mean by that. What I found is that in environments where you have diversity, equity and inclusion, many of the historically underrepresented communities or even marginally oppressed communities are not having the same experience as their majority counterparts. We saw women that were treated differently. We saw people of color that were treated differently, people with disabilities that were treated differently, people with neurodiversity that were treated differently, veterans who were treated differently. And that just didn’t sit well with me. You know, my my parents are both veterans and my sister. My younger sister has always challenged me, Jessica, that if I ever got to be in this role, that she’s going to be watching to make sure I create all the impact I said I was going to do and that I tried to do on my way to this role. So we changed the DE&I team to the IDEA team. And IDEA means inclusion happens when diversity, equity and allyship are present. There is a role for men to play when it comes to being an ally or a champion for other communities.

Donald Knight: [00:29:15.98] There’s a role for women to play when it comes to being an ally or champion for other communities and so on and so on and so on, where the majority minority things of that nature. And so we teach allyship behaviors at our organization, our ERGs that other people would call them ERGs employee resource groups or business resource groups, some people call them affinity groups, we call them arbors. And the reason why is we recognize the power of having allyship in the room means that the environment becomes more conducive for people to be seen, valued and heard. And in areas in organizations where you’re not seeing valued and heard, what ends up happening is it can be a very suffocating environment. And so when you think about arbors and the way arbors help provide a shelter or a place of refuge for plants to be able to grow and thrive. We want our employees to be able to come to Greenhouse and grow and thrive. And so our arbors are intentionally placed to help every part of our community. So whether it’s trellis or which many of their members identify as people with disabilities, whether it’s full house, which are not, which is a place that embraces all caregivers, not just parents, but also reverse caregiving for children that care for their for their elder parents or guardians or people of impact in their life.

Donald Knight: [00:30:44.04] Like the whole idea is that these arbors will be the place where you can get that oxygen. You had you had a tough time you can go to there for for encouragement. You can go there for support. And we even have programming around like, how do you manage your energy? Like, how do you what are some of the new trends on being a caregiver? Like how do you show up as, as an ally for, you know, African American people or people from the African diaspora or Latinos or any of these different communities? And so, yeah, like all of those things are super important to me. I don’t want people to hear the soundbite and be like, Oh, this guy just got rid of. And it seems it’s not important. No, it’s so important that we had to find ways to, you know, create a pathway for allyship. And the way we look at allyship from a continuum perspective is it’s not okay just to invite people anymore. To me, that’s like the the the the the job wreck, right? Like you invite all people to to join your organization. It’s great. It’s a great first step that you’re inviting everyone to come park their talent there. That’s not enough. You have to engage them and that’s to me like the interview process. But that’s not enough either.

Donald Knight: [00:31:53.55] Like you got to find ways to empower them. And that’s like when you hire them and you say, Jessica, you’re doing a phenomenal job. We want you to be like, you know, VP or chief of whatever department. It’s not enough. You have to champion them and true champion. When you champion someone else through allyship, it means they don’t even have to be in the room. Jessica can be in Tulum, and I’m sitting in rooms where I’m saying no. Like, if you if you’re talking about the kind of leader that we need, you need to go call Jessica. You got to go find Jessica Miller-Merrell. Like, that’s the person you want to talk to. She’s super skilled in this regard. She has the experiences. It’s like, how am I showing up for you? Even if you’re not present to show up for yourself or differently when there’s a social issue where you don’t even have the energy to show up for yourself. And we’ve seen many of those things happen over the last 12 to 18 months where different communities felt like their energy was drained. So yeah, love our arbors. And I have to give a shout out to Nia, Davo, Marcello, Jamie and Darcy. Those are the people that are doing the real work at Greenhouse to help foster that those different communities. So super, super excited about our idea to.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:33:05.92] I love it. And I, I love how allyship and this kind of this inclusion ally mindset is embedded. It’s part of, of the entire culture of Greenhouse. Um, even though I have a small team, I feel like it’s our responsibility as people who have a platform and a stage, right? My podcast, you’re speaking a lot of different places for us to bring other people to the conversation who have a skill or a talent and an experience that other people need, need to hear about. And so that’s one of the things that I have been really focused on when I’m speaking or traveling for for the HR industry is making sure that we have different people with different experiences and I’m bringing them along with me, or they can go instead of me. I don’t need to be on that stage. They’re better, better suited because of their experience, not because, you know, I have a blog and a podcast that a lot of people listen to.

Donald Knight: [00:34:12.97] I totally agree with you. Ditto underscore, retweet. If you did not hear what Jessica just said, this is where I would encourage you to press the rewind button on the podcast app and run that back because the ripple effect of what you’re talking about, Jessica, is like, that’s that’s what we saw when it came to the civil rights movement. That’s what we saw when it came to the suffrage movement. That’s what we saw when it came to creating equal rights for the Lgbtq+ community, which in many ways they feel like some of these laws and legislations are, you know, targeting that community directly. So shout outs to allies like you that are not only doing the work, but creating the space, just creating space for other people to be seen, value, and heard. That is, you should be commended. And I am I am lucky to know you and the work that you’re doing. That’s super, super impactful.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:35:04.43] Thank you. I dn’t feel like I need to be commended. I just need other people to be able to be a part of the conversation. And I think this next conference season, maybe this next year, we’re going to run through the list and kind of look through the diversity in a number of conferences. Now it’s going to be a challenge because diversity, you know, I don’t know if you have a disability unless it’s a visual disability, but to have some percentages so people can see because I want more people on stages and in places that are not the majority, that’s and if that means that I am not speaking, hey, no worries. I will stand up there and clap and get excited for you. And that’s I’m not going to be the most popular person in the world when I put out this report. But I feel like this is more important than any of those things.

Donald Knight: [00:35:59.03] I totally agree with you. There’s a there’s a example of this. Alex Ohanian, probably more famously known for being the husband of Serena Williams, the greatest tennis player to ever play, but equally very successful in his own right as one of the co-founders of Reddit. And he less than, you know, two, two and a half, three years ago chose to step down from the board of the company he started because he recognized that Reddit did not have the type of representation at the board level that he himself thought was super important, super impactful. The ripple effect of that, though, is there were other founders, other CEOs that also stepped down, most notably probably Bob Iger at Disney, to make sure that they created space for greater representation. So if you’re listening right now, like the one thing I want you to take from what Jessica just said is that we all have a part to play, and the impact of that can be felt in such meaningful ways. For Jessica and I, it may mean us saying no to a speaking opportunity and creating space for someone else, for Alex Ohanian, for Bob Iger, it meant stepping down from a board. But if all of us are looking to create an environment, to create a world to better a planet where everyone can feel seen, valued and heard, when in many ways we’re all contributing to the concept of what we wanted when we started arbors in the first place. So it’s just it just warms my heart to hear you say that. Jessica, honestly.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:37:34.08] I love it. Thank you. I just want my daughter to be able to to grow up and live in a world where she feels like she can do whatever she wants, however she wants and whoever she is. And I, for me, that is, HR has such an important part in the workplace in that.

Donald Knight: [00:37:56.00] I totally agree. Totally agree.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:37:58.67] I want to switch gears and talk about Global Passport. So talk to us about what Global Passport is at Greenhouse.

Donald Knight: [00:38:06.24] Uh oh. Global Passport. This is so cool. This is a this is a nice, nice, a nice pivot. Um, at our organization at Greenhouse, we say new topic. This is a great new topic to switch up. So Global Passport. Global Passport is our way of creating access for our greenies, what most people would call employees, but we call them greenies, to be able to explore the world in meaningful ways that they have not been able to do so in the past. So in the past, if Jessica, one wants to go visit her parents, she has to go take PTO. Jessica may be working in a different state or a different country, or if you live in like places like Canada in a different province than where her family resides. Or if Donald wants to like, you know, he studied Spanish in college or in high school but hasn’t really been able to apply it because the city that he lives in English is, you know, the first language that’s spoken. There really wasn’t a mechanism. There was zero flexibility that allowed that to happen outside of paid time off. And so what ends up happening is all of the stigmas that come with paid time off would set in for both Jessica and for Donald or any other talented person on the planet. And so we would limit our vacations and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy them as much because we’re probably bringing family and we’re trying to prioritize that and we don’t want to get behind on work and this pressure to answer the email.

Donald Knight: [00:39:39.09] So Global Passport allows any greenie at our organization to travel to an approved country. We say approved because we don’t want to put greenies in harm’s harm’s way so they can’t go to places like Ukraine and Russia right now. That’s just not ideal for them. But outside of like things like safety and things like security, especially information security, we approved them to go travel for up to 60 days. They don’t have to take paid time off. They can work with their leader to figure out what how do they set up their right hours, what meetings do they absolutely have to attend regardless of time zone. And when I tell you it’s a hit, it’s a hit. So we’ve had some people already maxed out their 60 days. We just went live 1/1/23. We’ve seen some people already maxed out their their 60 days. We’ve had people from our legal team, phenomenal employment counsel attorneys, like traveling and brushing up on Spanish or immersing themselves in certain Latino culture that they haven’t been able to immerse themselves in in the history of them working. We’ve had parents who have not been able to see their family members because they’re they might be first-generation Americans where they their parents immigrated to America. And so they haven’t been able to go to places like Delhi. They haven’t been able to go to places like New Zealand or Hong Kong. And so, like to just be able to see the joy on people’s face while they’re there. The probably the most impactful story. And this gentleman, he no longer works at Greenhouse, but he’s a phenomenal human being and someone that I hold in high regard.

Donald Knight: [00:41:16.89] He was planning his wedding. Him and his partner wanted to go visit some family because some of the family couldn’t make it to the wedding and they wanted to go to a country in Central America. And he was legit worried he was going to let his boss down if he even made the request. I never want anybody to feel that. I never want, you know, first-time parents when they’re coming back from parental leave to feel like they can’t ask for time to go visit family who might not have been able to see their children due to not being able to be mobile because they’re getting older in age. I never want that to happen. If someone wants to learn a different language and you know they’re using companies like Duolingo, who I’m a huge fan of, like I never want them to only be able to practice it and never be able to apply it. And so Global Passport allows that to happen. And so it is it is by far one of the most greatest accomplishments I’ve seen our people team make in collaboration with so many other people in our at our company like legal like finance. But yeah, it’s it’s been it’s been a phenomenal program to roll out and I’ll have to give you I’ll make sure I’ll make a note to give you the stats at the end of the year of what year one of Global Passport looked like at Greenhouse.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:42:34.80] I love it. I mean, I was just telling you that I’m going to loom. I’m going to be there for several weeks. I will be working. My husband will be working. That’s how the world works. My daughter is in virtual school. And if we want to go to wherever we can go, wherever. And it and it doesn’t change anything. I’m still working. I’m still doing what I’m doing. This podcast I did last year, my podcast, I interviewed the maybe two years ago, I interviewed the Chief Accessibility Officer for Google and I did it in the closet of my hotel in Jamaica.

Donald Knight: [00:43:07.29] Nice.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:43:08.22] Okay. And but I had the opportunity and the ability to be able to do it. Nobody knew it was a great podcast and it was just fine. So I love that y’all are doing this because it is so amazing. Like my mom had knee, knee surgery, knee replacement surgery. I was able to fly to see her and take care of her for a week. It didn’t impact my job, but the ability, the opportunity to be able to do that means so much for for employees. So I think this is fantastic.

Donald Knight: [00:43:40.18] Absolutely. Flexibility is the number one thing. That talent is looking for when they’re trying to find companies where they can thrive and do the best work of their lives. And as long as I’m in business and there’s leaders like you in business, I believe we have a responsibility to try to figure out how do we facilitate that flexibility? It’s not saying no. It’s like, how do I figure it out? If there’s challenges, let’s figure that out. And so Global Passport has figured that out. So let me know if you ever want to get your global passport stamp. We’ll send you one and we’ll see you in green one. Of course, because it’s Greenhouse. But we would be very happy to see where you’ve gone.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:44:19.17] Love it. Well, this has been a great conversation. I want to close down our interview and ask you if you could maybe share the best advice that you can offer HR leaders maybe who are struggling with their DEI objectives. I mean, other than like firing your team, you know?

Donald Knight: [00:44:37.83] Yeah, I’ve thought about this and, you know, I’ll try to make sure I give you I don’t want to make it emotional, but I believe there’s so many different people and communities. That are still struggling with the pain of past decisions that have been made both in the workplace and outside of the workplace. Some of that pain is being revisited even right now for certain communities. And to not have a magic wand where I can just go solve it all because I you know, I grew up watching superheroes. So saving the day is something I legit embrace doing. And, you know, unfortunately, Jessica, I can’t save all the days for everyone. But I recognize this pain like and I think allyship helps a little bit in the sense that it helps people be seen value and heard in the organizations where they prioritize allyship. But like, what about those organizations where your companies or your CEOs or your exec team has said, we’re not prioritizing allyship. We will fund DEI at a much lesser degree than what we did post-george Floyd. Donald Knight: For you, if you’re listening right now and you’re wondering what what is the best advice I can give you? Well, the best way to handle pain is to heal. And for me, heal stands for all leaders can do this regardless of what values your company chooses to embrace or not embrace. For me, heal stands for lead with humility, demonstrate a certain level of empathy for those around you because they may be going through different things. Show up authentically. I try to do that. People know I love ice cream, I love hats, I love fashion. I love people, I love travel. That’s who I am authentically. And then last but certainly not least, the last letter in heel is L. It’s like lead with love. Like there’s a way for us as leaders to create meaningful impact, leaning in on those people skills. They’re not soft skills. You’re not a soft leader if you demonstrate them. There’s nothing soft about being humble and demonstrating empathy and showing up authentically and creating spaces where others can show up authentically. There’s nothing wrong with those things, and I believe those are the skills, that is the advice leave. Those are the skills that people, modern day leaders are going to need. And I’m on this journey with you. So if you if if there’s folks, Jessica, that reach out to you, like, please connect me with them, I’m I’m happy to help anybody who wants to do this work in meaningful ways.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:47:13.58] Oh. You’re killing me, Donald. This is great. Um, and I am going to cry as soon as we get off the call because I think that we need more authenticity from HR leaders. And just like a conversation between the employees or those that need the healing like or just support, I don’t. I don’t know. I’m speechless right now, really. So I just want to say thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. I look forward to our next conversation for sure.

Donald Knight: [00:47:46.38] Absolutely. Jessica, thank you.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:47:48.39] This was a great podcast and I got very emotional at the end. It is so wonderful to hear from Donald and the change that he’s driving for not just Greenhouse Software, but for the entire HR industry and workplace culture. I am very excited and I am looking forward to seeing how you react to this podcast interview and utilize the information that he has shared. So many nuggets of wisdom. I want to get my Global Passport stamp from Greenhouse here soon. The CHRO podcast series on Workology is sponsored by HR Benchmark Survey. You can go to to take the survey and let us know about what’s going on with you. The Future of Human Resources. It’s so interesting to hear from different Chief People Officers, Chief Human Resources Officers to understand how this role is changing, what are they working on and really where their head is at. I am such a nerd in understanding the evolution and the changes that are happening in HR. I hope that this podcast interview inspires you. Before we go, I invite you to text me and let me know who you would like to see on the next podcast. Do you have suggestions or recommendations? Text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Ask questions, leave comments, make suggestions. This is my community text number. Yes, it is really me and I want to hear from you. Thank you again for joining the Workology Podcast powered by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. We offer HR certification and re-certification resources and training. This podcast that you’re listening to is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell. Until next time you can visit to listen to all our previous Workology Podcast episodes. See you soon.

Connect with Donald Knight.


– Donald Knight on LinkedIn

– CHRO Job Description

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

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

– Episode 396: Staying True To An Organization’s Beliefs With Guiding Principles With Mimi Singer

– Episode 404: The Meaning Of Wellness For Each Employee With Sandra O’Sullivan, CPO At Curriculum Associates

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