Managing Through Uncertainty And Leading With Integrity With Cara Brennan Allamano

Episode 411: Managing Through Uncertainty and Leading With Integrity With Cara Brennan Allamano

Summary:In this episode, we interview Cara Brennan Allamano, CHRO for Lattice, about how to manage teams through uncertainty.

Episode 411: Managing Through Uncertainty and Leading With Integrity With Cara Brennan Allamano

Summary:In this episode, we interview Cara Brennan Allamano, CHRO for Lattice, about how to manage teams through uncertainty.
Managing Through Uncertainty And Leading With Integrity With Cara Brennan Allamano

Table of Contents

My perspective is that the HR function, the people function, we’ve had a lot of people tell us what we should be doing. We have a lot of consultants that like to define what good HR, good people team looks like. We have a lot of academics who like to do research that says, here’s what you should be doing to engage employees, to drive high performance cultures, to learn and develop your, yourself and your employees. I’d really like to get to a place where we as HR leaders are having that conversation for ourselves.

Episode 411: Managing Through Uncertainty and Leading With Integrity With Cara Brennan Allamano

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: [00:00:56.62] Welcome. Welcome to the Workology Podcast powered by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. These are two of the courses, memberships that we offer for HR certification prep and re-certification and professional development for HR leaders. This podcast is part of a series here on the Workology Podcast that’s focused on the roles and responsibilities of that Chief Human Resources Officer, or CHRO, sometimes called the VP of People or the Chief People Officer. Now, this is an executive or C-level role that deals with managing human resources as well as organizational development and implementing policies of change to improve the overall efficiency of the company. Now, one of the reasons I wanted to do this series, and we keep doing this series is because there’s so many changes and mystery around that Chief HR role. So I want aspiring heads of HR to know the types of skills and experiences they need to promote into future Chief Human Resources Officer positions, along with hearing how senior HR leadership is partnering and collaborating with their executive peers. Now, before I introduce today’s guest, I do want to hear from you. Text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. You can 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’m really excited because I’m joined by Cara Brennan Allamano, and she’s the Chief People Officer at Lattice. Cara joined Lattice in 2022 as its first Chief People Officer. With more than 20 years of experience in human resources and leadership, she focuses on helping to scale HR operations along with recruiting and learning and development at fast-moving global companies. Cara leads Lattice’s People team, it’s a global people team, and that includes talent acquisition, onboarding, learning and development, HR business partners, total rewards and diversity, equity and inclusion. Before joining the team at Lattice, Cara was the Senior Vice President at Udemy, where she led the company through substantial growth and their recent IPO. In addition to founding PeopleTech Partners and StartupHR, Cara has held human resources leadership positions at Planet, Pinterest, and Adobe. Kara, welcome to the Workology Podcast.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:03:24.76] Thanks. Happy to be here.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:03:26.53] Let’s start with some background. What led you to choose HR and how is your career evolved over time into this current role at Lattice?

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:03:36.31] Yeah. Um. What? I had a what I would say is pretty common for HR folks, but uncommon in terms of, of career planning move into HR. Graduated with an English degree, got my first job in advertising and then moved, said, hey, this is sort of interesting. And then had some but, but not all of it was interesting to me. So moved over to a finance role at Franklin Templeton. And then I started realizing, and I noticed that I was really interested in what the recruiters, what the HR folks were doing. Um, the people side of business was something that even when we were talking about municipal bonds and, and investing like we did within the people, the, the operational group that I was in and Franklin Templeton, I always was thinking about the people in those businesses and the impact that those people were having. So I said, when it’s time for me to have my next job, I want to try this thing out. I want to try out HR and recruiting. And, and that time came and I moved into an HR role in newspapers at Knight Ridder, which at the time was the second largest newspaper publication media company in the US. A few years after that, thanks to an activist investor, Knight Ridder no longer existed.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:05:11.03] But I can say being a part of an organization that had so many different kinds of employees, folks that were frontline delivering newspapers, pressmen at the time is what we called them, that were printing an entire go-to-market ad sales division that was bringing in the revenue. And, and a lot of really interesting journalists in the newsroom. It showed the breadth and depth of, of the work that people on the, on the people side of business can do and the impact they can have. So that was that was really interesting to me. I had some really amazing mentors, and it was a, a great first company to be working in HR because the product was directly the value of the product was directly connected to the, to the value that we put into the resources that we had internally. There’s no question when they’re handing out Pulitzer Prizes that having a really good journalist can make the difference for your business and newspapers. Um, so I took that. I took that going forward and moved into more marketing and communication companies. And then beyond that, um, had, had a foray into startups and have been there ever since.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:06:32.62] Very cool. I love the, the background in finance because I’m certain that that’s also helped you as you’ve moved into more of these senior-level roles. I mean, even in the beginning stages of your career, like having understanding of the business side of HR and the impact has really been an asset.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:06:54.16] It really has. And, and I, I’m writing an article about the relationship between the CPO and the CFO, and this is following an article where I was talking about the relationship, the critical relationship between the CEO and CPO. And I think the first is something that we’ve all become familiar with. And I think those of us, especially in the trenches in the last few years in leadership roles in HR, have really come to appreciate the, the importance of that partnership between HR and the CEO and the tone that that CEO sets in terms of the value that HR can play. I think we’ve had a little bit more tenuous, backstory when it comes to CFOs and CPOs. But I can tell you, the folks that I look around and, and see as, as really amazing examples of, of exceptional CPOs are those who have only ever had very strong relationship with CFOs. And you’re right, Jessica. We, we have to be able to speak the language of the people that we’re partnering with. And, and the language of, of a good CEO is somebody who can translate and work both on the side of, of the, the emotion and the feeling and the values of, of the employees that they have within the org. They also, for a CEO and their partner in the CFO, have to be able to speak impact in financials. And the broader and deeper that we can get in any of these areas is directly correlated, I believe, to our ability to have influence in these areas on the CHRO side.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:08:36.49] This is one of the biggest opportunities, I think, that HR leaders have, is that business acumen, that financial development piece. I just see it over and over and over again between HR leaders and the executive team. They’re not able to communicate with each other because they don’t speak the same language.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:08:56.14] I hear you. And what I also reflect upon is a lot of people who have been the core of their HR careers, have been in the last ten years, haven’t necessarily been well served by the expectations that businesses have had as it relates to financial efficiency and effectiveness. I definitely can say that I cut my teeth during a time, you know, 15 years ago and beyond, when we were not in a place of up and to the right for most businesses, we were, we were forced to do more with less. We were having to really have conversations across the board about ROI of our programming and, and, and the why behind what we’re doing and, and really be key influencers when it comes to helping people understand the value of HR. Now, on one hand, that was effective. And those are important skill sets to have. On the other hand, that doesn’t serve the long-term needs of the business when you’re only trying to fight for survival. But I can say the real flip in the last ten years, which has been very or solely focused on culture and, and retention and employee experience, has leapt out. The other half of that, which is, is the piece where we are those business leaders coming to the table, being able to drive the outcomes with the resources that we have.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:10:24.58] So, I, actually, during this downturn and even in the last 18 months and have talked to other CHROs that have, have been doing this for a while, I see this as a huge opportunity. It’s really hard, and it’s especially hard when we’re, we’re having to lead reductions in force and things like that, which are every HR person’s least favorite thing to do. But those of us who have operated in these, in these environments and can lead through this kind of change, this is where careers are made, and this is where you can have those real impact conversations with a CFO in a meaningful way, where you can sit on the same side of the table and say, yes, we both want this business to survive. We both want this business to thrive. What does that look like? And it’s not just asking for money and wanting checks to be written, right? It’s really that partnership. So I’m optimistic. I think this is going to be, um, helping to form a whole nother generation of HR leaders that are going to have a very balanced perspective and the skills to back that up.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:11:33.11] Do you feel like the financial aspect? Like what? The season I think that we’re going through right now is one of the absolute, maybe requirements for that future CHRO? Or is there something else that you think is important for maybe someone who’s just starting out as an HR leader?

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:11:52.04] Well, I think yes, the short answer is yes. I think the other piece of this is what we’ve learned in the past four years, which is managing through uncertainty and being able to lead with a level of integrity and understand how to bake in trade-offs that are the best thing for the business and the best thing for employees. Uh, we the future of work is here, right? All the things we talked about coming down the pipe, remote-first work, and AI, and skills graphing, and really understanding the dynamic nature of of how we resource effectively with org design and org structure. All these things were accelerated during Covid and here we are sitting here now. So again, it’s an exciting time because the breadth and depth of the role has, has increased. But we are going to have to have enhanced skill sets to be able to accomplish what we want in these roles, and we’re going to have to have well-rounded skill sets to get there.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:12:58.90] I love that, and I appreciate your insights into this, because you’ve worked for a number of different kinds of companies, and now you’re in an HR role that is high growth. So and as you’re thinking about building your own team out and building out and helping support the growth with managers, leaders and the people, these are all considerations for future HR staff, future leaders, whether it’s at Lattice or organizations, you know, five, ten, 15 years down the road.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:13:30.60] I also think it’s really important, my perspective is that the HR function, the people function has, we’ve had a lot of people tell us what we should be doing. We have a lot of consultants that like to define what good HR, good people team looks like. We have a lot of academics who like to do research that says, here’s what you should be doing to engage employees, to drive high performance cultures, to learn and develop your yourself and your employees. I’d really like to get to a place where we as HR leaders are having that conversation for ourselves, where we are aligning around what good looks like for ourselves professionally. The blessing and the curse of, of of being a people leader is that we, first of all, are dealing with humans, and they are not as predictable as numbers. So we have other folks that we sit with around the C-suite table where if you’re a marketer or you’re a technologist, or if you’re a Chief Financial Officer, they’re able to sit there and there’s been a lot of, there’s been a lot of work done over the past 30 years, over the past 50 years, to define what good looks like for those folks professionally. And they and each of those folks have, have had professionals in those professional, professions stand up and say, I succeeded. This was how I got there. These are the things that I did. Much of the work that we do on the people side of business is learned through apprenticeship. It’s a mentorship. We, we exist in a mentorship-apprenticeship-type profession, which I think is really important because looking at some of the experiences I’ve had, I can’t get that from a textbook, right?

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:15:13.25] Because you are dealing with other humans. That being said, we this is an opportunity for us to stand up and say, this is how I’ve led through change. This is how I got these skill sets. This is how I built my financial acumen and do that for each other. And I think a lot of times we’ve sat in the seat where we’re the person behind the person and we let other folks speak for us. And it’s not my, it’s not super easy for me to go out and have public conversations. I went into a profession because I love one-on-one work. I love working with teams, I love internal work, but I’m doing this because I think it’s really important. And I have folks that I’ve looked at that have said, wow, learning about their journey has helped me with my journey. So Jessica, just in a long answer to a short question or a short comment, is really saying, I think this is the time that we can help each other in that process. And part of helping each other is coming out there and saying, hey, this was really critical to my success. And if you are early in your career or middle of your career, or in a spot where you feel like you’re not able to get where you want to go from a career perspective, these are the levers that you should explore to get there.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:16:24.47] That’s why relationships and I think, like creating and cultivating a community. And we’re going to get to that here in a little bit of some things that you’re doing is so important. So that we can have a dialogue with each other because we’re the only person in our organization, Chief People Officer or VP of HR. You don’t have someone like you at another division that you can pick up the phone and say, hey, how are you dealing with this? We have to be able to talk to and learn from one another.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:16:52.72] Totally agree with you for sure.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:16:54.60] So let’s talk about Lattice. I think many people are familiar with, with Lattice. Or they, they should be if they’re not. But talk to us about the size of the company, the team, as well as your organizational structure and who you, where does HR sit? Who do you report to?

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:17:14.49] Yeah, I’m happy to talk about Lattice. You’re right. A lot of people know about us. And that’s because we have almost 6000 customers, which is really exciting. Um, and the company itself, we’re about 550 people globally. We are a high-growth company. So we are growing and changing and evolving. And what we do for those who may not know is, is we build employee experience performance management platform that is now expanding into, to a full suite. I call it a people operating system that goes from end to end. We do everything from goal setting to performance management to, to growth and development, as well as compensation management. And we just announced that we are currently buildng an, an HRIS. So the reason I’m interested in what we’re doing is, is, first of all, because it’s a great role to be in a position where you’re at a company that by default is serving HR leaders as customers, because on two fronts. One is I do feel like there’s a, there’s a deeper understanding of what we do on the people side of business, and there’s a value there, and that’s a privilege and a luxury to be part of a company. And in this role with that kind of company.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:18:35.28] The other piece is that we have we are our own best use case at Lattice. So we’re using the tool to build our programs, and we’re able to really be a part of the product development process in a real way. So in a different kind of position, I am tied to the business and I’m tied to business outcomes, and I have a team that can help me do that. So, so really interesting and exciting and different than a lot of the other roles that have been a part of, my role itself reports to Jack Altman, our CEO and founder. I’ve had the privilege of knowing Jack for a period of time. I got to know Jack when he first started Lattice, and it was just a goal-setting platform. And he was, he was, he’s always been really empathetic and interested in hearing from HR leaders. So I was part of some of those early conversations as he’s building and have stayed connected. And at this point, I do think it’s really mission-critical that the HR leader be reporting to the top of the organization. That being said, I have been in roles where I have reported to CFOs, to COOs, to presidents, and while I think optimally reporting to a CEO who understands the position and really is committed to the people side of the business is ideal, I’m also not dogmatic about that being critical.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:19:55.95] I think it’s really important that somebody report into another leader that is able to influence and support the outcomes of the people side of the business, and that can look different depending on your structure. The people team itself has a model where we have a group of folks that does people, people program management. My first hire here was a head of learning and development. I feel very strongly that has been my first hire in a number of roles, including Pinterest, and I feel very strongly that the, the learning and development of employees is the key lever that you can use to, to drive the outcomes you want as a people leader. So I think that’s always important. We also have people operations, recruiting, people partnering. We have a, we have workforce under, under me. And we have DEIB, which is again mission critical. And people analytics. So we have a full suite of, of functional areas. And I think all of these are really important to, to the success of, of a growing business.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:21:05.52] Perfect. Thank you for, for sharing. I’m kind of a nerd about this. Like, everybody is a little bit different.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:21:10.86] Yeah, for sure.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:21:12.21] Sometimes Chief People Officers oversee real estate. We’ve had somebody on the podcast who is comms reports to them. So it’s, it’s fascinating to me how the different organizations are structured and then who we report to.

Break: [00:21:28.62] Let’s take a reset here. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell. And you are listening to the Workology Podcast powered by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. We are talking about the role of the Chief People Officer with Cara Brennan Allamano, the Chief People Officer at Lattice. So before we get back to that, I want to hear from you. Text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. You can 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: [00:22:02.16] Personal and professional development is essential for successful HR leaders. Join Upskill HR to access live training, community, and over 100 on-demand courses for the dynamic leader. HR recert credits available. Visit for more.

The Women’s Health Benefits Initiative

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:22:18.39] I want to move on over to some different initiatives that are definitely worth mentioning. Want to make sure we have time for one of them is the Women’s Health Benefits Initiative. Yeah. Talk to us a little bit about what you’re working on at Lattice around women’s health, because this is really exciting.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:22:36.09] Yeah, this is something that’s very close to my heart. And. My commitment to building employee environments that are inclusive and particularly gender inclusive was born a while ago. First of all, it’s an area that I feel like I’m uniquely positioned to understand being a cis woman. I also think that it’s an underserved area, and I agree that we’ve made progress, but it I still believe that every dollar we put in to an investment to address the challenges that women face in the workforce, the ROI is pretty easy. There’s a pretty strong line to draw to the return on the return on that investment. And so let me share with you a little bit about that. First, when I had my first child, which was 11 years ago, I, we were in a world where there was not consistent leave and there was very little support for when people went on leave. And again, I am in a privileged environment and being a high-growth technology companies, and it was just when people were starting to talk about the criticality of this and what we knew is we were losing women consistently after they left for maternity leave. And a lot of that was everybody would throw up their hands and say, oh my gosh, well, this is just how it is. Women want to stay home with their babies. Well, when you took when you went down and asked a few more levels of questions, it was actually women would love to be able to return to the workforce, but none of the work environments that we were creating in high-growth technology companies were the environments where they could do that and do that successfully.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:24:33.04] So in brief, I started working with Cleo, which still exists. It is one of a few different benefit options that helps, helps new families transition to when the baby is born, provides a lot of support, and then allows folks to transition back in. That was also paired with a revisiting of a number of the leave policies, particularly in the, the FANG companies, which are at the time was Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, which were the, the leading indicators of what was happening in our world. And so with that experience between the first child that I had, who is now 11 and the second child that I had, who’s now nine. The first child being in a space where there were not benefits that supported my transition out and my transition back, where there wasn’t a commitment to the type of lead that’s going to help someone transition back in. And then two years later, when I saw the shift within the workplaces where I was operating and the shift came, Jessica, when paternity leave was put at parity with maternity leave. And then at that point in time, I had a lot of men in the workplace supporting the, the various gendered individuals that chose to have children. And so it became a partnership among the different folks.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:26:02.47] And I saw the real power of that, and that’s what I saw. Change the numbers. So in terms of women returning and women, and women in our work environments. Now, I don’t mean to underestimate the importance of other dimensions and diversity and their needs, but I’m using this particular one as an example because it’s, it’s something that I do think I uniquely understand. And it’s something that, that I’m focused on here at Lattice. And, and so fast forward we, we got to a place where there were fertility benefits that became more common and are now ubiquitous in the companies in which I’ve worked in the tech companies. That is a benefit that we that we offer here. Again, what I find is really important is these are benefits and these are programs that all genders benefit from. I think we did ourselves a really strong disservice in thinking that a fertility benefit only serves a certain woman at a certain age. That’s not the case. It helps create parity and equity. And any time you create programs that bring equity to the workforce, that sends a really strong message to everyone in your company. So fast forward to where we are today. And, and this is where a conversation that I’m feeling strongly about is about midlife care for women. And the thing that is the most shocking to me is the direct correlation between women who are hitting the years where they may be affected by menopause and their, and the ceiling that women hit from a career perspective.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:27:42.02] And in talking to enough doctors, talking to enough professionals who’ve experienced this, and then talking to other CPOs who are trying to solve for their women in leadership objectives, it’s insane how much of a correlation there is. And it just really harkened back to this, to this time when I was in a world where people were throwing their hands up and saying, well, women want to stay home with their babies. I think there’s too much conversation or not enough conversation about women and the midlife changes that they experience. And it’s time for us to recognize the fact that this is a health issue, that there are multiple areas that are affecting a woman’s ability to manage through this in a way that, that where they’re able to keep their careers intact and move forward because there’s so many symptoms and outcomes that unless folks get the type of support and unless we’re open and having real conversations about the impact of midlife, we’re not going to address this. We’re going to have more people leaving the workforce or hitting their, what they feel is a ceiling from a leadership perspective. And guess what? There are benefits out there that can, can support women in the same way that there were benefits that can support women during or can support individuals during their childbearing years. And I’d hate to see this as a missed opportunity.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:29:09.05] I love that you’re doing this. And we actually talked about you and Lattice and the work that you’re doing at the HR Technology Conference, because I’d co-led a session on wellness in the workplace and just talked about how broad the category of wellness is and how it means so many different things and programs like this fit under their umbrella. So I’m excited. I’m really excited to see conversations around this. I know that it’s making a difference because when you talk about the fertility, Walmart last year actually now offers fertility to every single full-time employee.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:29:47.78] That’s great. That’s so great.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:29:49.11] So it’s trickling down. It just takes time for the change to, to really start to move and happen.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:29:56.63] Yeah. And I think this is where again, as CPOs, we’re uniquely positioned to draw the line between a personal experience and a professional experience and to understand it at layers deeper than the surface, because I think that is something that we as individuals who deal with people, if we’re curious and ask a few questions, I, I, again, get very optimistic about the outcomes that we’re able to drive. I also want to be clear that this is not just a women’s issue. This is an issue for all genders. And when I’m talking to doctors, what I’m hearing is that partners of doctors, partners of patients that are going through midlife changes are as interested and as curious about the support that can be provided to their, to the women who are going through these processes in the middle of their life as those women themselves, and sometimes more. I had a doctor say that she was giving a presentation about midlife and the changes that happen for women, and she had people of all genders and all ages show up because everyone. Hey, every, every biological woman is going to go through these changes at some point if they are lucky enough to make it to midlife. And we, I believe, have a really, a really great opportunity to unlock the power of these women who now have amazing careers to date, who can move through midlife and stick with us and help us continue to build businesses and do amazing things.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:38.59] Well, I really think this is fantastic and I’m so excited that you’re helping move this, this conversation forward, not only for women in general, but as someone who is, you know, entering, like I guess I would be considered perimenopausal. It’s something that I’m thinking about and conversations with my husband and my daughter and my mom, and it wasn’t anything that we ever talked about. Like my, my mom never shared this stuff with me. So I’m excited that you’re starting the conversation, and I know it’s going to inspire other organizations to make changes or, or even start to have conversations around this topic.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:32:19.57] Awesome. Yeah. And you know what? I’m learning too. So I think there’s a, there’s a huge curve here. I’m super optimistic, as mentioned. After I’ve seen the, the impact of programs around parental leaves, programs around mental health, and the support and the changes that’s driven within the organizations that we all exist in and, and fertility. So I think this is the next I think this is the next frontier. And I’m really looking forward to the impact that it can have on, on the people that are leading our organizations.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:32:56.41] Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about what’s currently happening or what you’re seeing in terms of trends in the areas of performance management.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:33:07.66] Wow. It’s been a wild ride over the past 18 months, right? Remembering Covid when we had large technology firms talk about throwing out their performance management processes or suspending them and, and, and then slam into where we are from a macroeconomic environment. And we moved directly into, unfortunately, some downsizing and reductions in force that folks were dubious about some of those decisions that were made. Right? Um, the questions, especially the rumors around how people were, how it was decided around who was going to be let go or not, there, I think my, my opinion is that it uncovered some of the, the underbelly of not having effective performance management and people practices. I think what we know this year and sort of a top trend is ,A, that performance management and feedback and effective people processes as it relates to performance is quite literally the very is the number one thing that HR leaders are thinking about, and that’s different than the past few years. So we have boards of directors. We have CEOs asking about what programs do you have? How do I know who’s performing? How do I know who’s not performing? So from a trend perspective, I think it’s easy to say that, that, that as something that’s become a key priority versus a nice to have is, is again at the top of the list. I think the other piece is, is that we know there are lots of HR organizations that are doing more with less. So this is where Lattice comes in, and this is where I think any effective performance management program comes in. We’re looking for simple programs but truly effective programs. And these are programs where you’re gathering feedback on an ongoing basis, where you’re doubling down on things like continuous feedback so that you’re staying really connected to your organization and you’re able to do a couple of things.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:35:17.61] You’re able to say, do we have someone who’s challenged from a performance standpoint that we as an HR organization can move in really quickly, work with the manager, work with this individual, discuss things like upskilling, and get those folks back on track before we get down a line where we have business outcomes that are challenged or at risk because we, we didn’t move fast enough. I think that’s really important. And then I think the other side of it is we are starting to see some really high-performing organizations, and this is what we know from from environments like this. Some of the very biggest and best businesses were built during downturns. And part of that is because you have to get better at what you’re doing with and for employees. So I’m hearing a lot of people talking about making sure their processes are shored up, making sure that they’re truly effective, taking out any of the froth or the noise. Because where we used to have four HR people, we might have one person now. And really leveraging technology to make sure that all of the clerical and administrative work is that can be taken out of these processes, are taken out, are taken out. So fundamentally, the trend to me is really effective and efficient processes, a level of rigor around performance management that has not existed in the past few years for the reasons that we’re all aware of, and then being able to support employees when we have flags of either high performance or low performance, so we can address things faster and earlier in the cycle.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:36:59.25] Yeah, these conversations, they should be happening continuously, regularly, and not be surprised when suddenly it’s like, hey, you’re not. Performance isn’t where it’s needed to be. Well, I had no idea. I haven’t been, had any performance conversations in six months, 12 months. And, and people aren’t happy when they are shown the door and they haven’t been given a chance to learn or for themselves to change.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:37:27.30] Yeah. And if you’re going to build a culture of trust and you are going to have the things that, that every organization wants, like retention and performance and impact, it’s going to be about having those conversations on an ongoing basis.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:37:41.78] Let’s get to the, to the topic that I’m really, really excited about. And I alluded to it earlier and it is the CPO council at Lattice. Talk to us about what the CPO council is.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:37:55.28] I’m excited about it, too, Jessica. This goes along with the initial conversation that I talked about here and internal conversations I’ve had with my boss, who’s Jack, as mentioned before, and my leadership team, and really letting HR leaders and excellent HR practitioners be the voice of HR and share best practices, share their insights from the seat. Again, we have a lot of people that like to share what HR should be doing or they could be doing, but I wanted to get a group of HR leaders that I’m quite honestly a fan girl of. Folks that are on the cutting edge and driving real amazing outcomes and being innovative in their from, from where they’re sitting and have those folks, those folks speak for themselves and themselves and speak on behalf of the profession. And so at Lattice, we convened the CPO council. This is a group of ten people leaders who have had really strong careers and I believe are going to have even more amazing careers going forward. And we want these folks and they are up for the challenge. You’re going to be hearing through blogs, you’re going to be you’re going to be seeing them speak on podcasts. You’re going to be having individuals share what is working and share their experiences, the what and the how, and to help be leaders for the profession and, and to share the real tactical pieces of, of their day-to-day.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:39:40.64] I love that and I just feel like this is so needed. Being able to connect and hear from our peers. Yeah. And that’s, that’s the reason I started the Chief HR Officer series on the Workology Podcast, because during the pandemic, we were all at home, we weren’t traveling anywhere, and we were dealing with some stuff like, unprecedented unprecedented. So this is an opportunity for everyone to get together and have a conversation about what’s working. And then with what sounds like with the council, you’ll be able to share more resources with more HR people. So they’re going to get some learning and conversation started in their own, you know, circles, which is fantastic.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:40:22.64] Yeah, Jessica, as you mentioned before, this can be a lonely job sometimes. Right? And I can say that my network and knowing that I have folks that are in similar roles, um, I have a phone that I, a phone call, I can make a text I can go back and forth with. Those are the things that lead to a sense of real longevity in our profession, and I think in a different way than many, many other professions. We benefit from understanding the real-life experiences of each other that, that we have in our positions, because so much of what we deal with, while individuals are unique, dealing with the emotions and, and the impact that people are facing from these external challenges like Covid, like the wars that that we’re seeing abroad, outside the US and beyond, it’s really important for us to understand how to, to give ourselves options in terms of, of how to address these things and to see what has worked for other people so we can bring that back to our employees.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:41:35.58] I love it. I’m so glad that, that you’re doing this, and I can’t wait to see it go out into the wild and hear from all these amazing Chief People Officers about what? What they’re working on, their thoughts and experiences. So that’s fantastic.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:41:49.80] It’s. It’s awesome.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:41:51.54] It’s going to be great. It’s it’s think it’s so, so needed right now in, in the space. What is the best advice that you can offer for HR leaders who are maybe, maybe struggling with performance objectives? Just give us a little bit of insight into this, because I think a lot of us are, like you said, head counts are lower. We’re dealing with a really challenging time that for many HR leaders is also unprecedented with, with the economic downturn.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:42:22.77] Yeah. Um, think I always start with what is what are the business outcomes you’re trying to drive and then working backward from that. Our jobs are very hard because we’re dealing with the needs of, multiply the needs of the individuals that we have as employees, their family members, their, the, as well as, as the other stakeholders that we have the board of directors, our own CEOs. So, really getting to a place of ruthless focus, I think, is what is the, is the only way through the next 12 months, and it’s something I’ve had to do. We’re in the middle of our planning process at Lattice, and I have a, I have a, a nice to have list that’s pages long. But when I look at the business outcomes I want to drive for next year, what I want to deliver in terms of employee experience, it’s really about narrowing down those outcomes, those lists of nice to haves, to the, to the few pieces that I know are going to drive and the outcomes from a business perspective, which are important. The other thing that I always like to talk about is really building the partnership with other C-suite executives and asking the question, what do you need from your from the people side of the business? I think the answer and what we know is, is right now people are looking at driving a level of impact and performance from those that, those employees. And Jessica, what’s really interesting to me is while much of this feels really, it feels like a shift, it feels like for many folks who’ve only been in for the last ten years, when things have been up into the right other, you know, economically, not necessarily in terms of the challenges we faced with things like Covid.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:44:18.77] For me, it is really a back-to-basics moment. What we talked about in terms of what good performance management looked like, looks like it’s really similar to when I started 25 years ago. It’s having open discussions about how people are doing their work. It’s as a manager being that manager coach. It’s providing regular, consistent feedback. So if we’re really looking at what are the top three priorities that we can focus on as an HR organization, as a people organization, and how that ties to the business outcomes, then for me, it’s about taking those priorities and, and digging into the how of that. Right? And how do we do that with the resources we have and, and the good news there is that the how has not changed. It’s perennial. It’s how do we make sure that we have managers that feel supported? How do we make sure we’re really communicating to employees about what the business needs to deliver this year, and that we’re setting expectations that are realistic for employees and clear to employees. So similarly, we’ve, we’ve at Lattice gone back to a place where we’re we’re looking to drive a lot of, a lot of simplicity in our work, but continue to have high touch by enabling our managers and our leaders to have those, those discussions about expectation and performance with our employees.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:45:50.18] Such great sound advice. Back to basics. I think that’s really what a lot of us are, are doing right now. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because when things start to, to move forward again and we start to, to increase sales and things take off all our processes and systems and the basics that we put together now they’re going to be ready and we’ll be able to scale really quickly and effectively and supporting our organizations.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:46:18.05] Yes. And I think in some ways, people it’s uncomfortable to go back to basics, right? Because it’s not we’ve really been pushing the innovation envelope in the past decade. But this is where, if we’re asking, how do we support our employees? How do we manage with the resources we have? That’s really what it comes down to. I think the thing to not forget when we go back to basics is that we do have technologies like Lattice. Even ChatGPT, others that can assist us and make those, enhance those basics. But going back to what are the key levers that I can pull to get to the business outcomes that need to happen? I think we all inherently know that, and it’s about having the courage to say no to the things that aren’t going to drive the outcomes and say yes to the, to the level of work that we know we can take on as a team and do well.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:47:16.44] Well, thank you again for your insights. It was a great conversation. I really appreciate it. For those who are listening, we will link to Cara’s LinkedIn profile as well as her career site, in case you want to apply for any openings that she has on her HR team, as well as other resources to really help you maybe step into a future Chief People Officer position. So thank you so much, Cara, for your time. Any last words or parting thoughts?

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:47:46.50] I love what you’re doing. I love that you’re out there speaking for HR people by HR people. So thank you for your work.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:47:55.36] Well, I love what I do. It’s not working if you love what you do, you know.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:47:58.96] That’s true, that’s right.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:48:00.13] Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to getting an update on all the things that we’ve talked about soon.

Cara Brennan Allamano: [00:48:07.42] Awesome. Thank you.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:48:09.45] I’m such a nerd about this topic. I love hearing from Heads of HR, Chief People, Officers, Chief Human Resources Officers about their experiences and kind of connecting that HR to the strategy and operation of the overall business. HR is changing and it’s changing quickly to support the organization. HR doesn’t just lead within a company. The company is depending on us as leaders to set the standards and benchmarks for everything from company values to learning and development. I appreciate Cara taking the time to chat with us today. They are doing a lot of exciting things at Lattice and I can’t wait to catch up with her. Again, it is so true what she said about HR being an apprenticeship, because my entire HR career has been defined by these learning moments that I couldn’t have read about in a book or attending a class. So you really have to have solid mentors, a strong community of fellow HR people, and/or coach to help support you throughout your career. Thank you for joining the podcast. I would love to get your insights, suggestions, and comments on the podcast so you can text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. This is my community text number. I do want to hear from you. Again, thank you for joining the Workology Podcast. It’s powered by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. This podcast is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. I’m tired of it. You’re tired of it. Let’s change HR together. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell. Until next time you can visit to listen to all our previous Workology Podcast episodes. There are over 400, so I’ve been doing this for a little bit. Tune in and let me know how I can support you in your HR journey. Have a great day!

Connect with Cara Brennan Allamano.


– Cara Brennan Allamano on LinkedIn

– Careers at Lattice: We’re hiring! 

– CHRO Job Description

– 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

– Episode 407: Performance, Image, And Exposure With Donald Knight, CPO For Greenhouse Software

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