Understanding People with James Hamilton and Cara Silletto

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and having the cultural mindset to embrace the needed diversity of the workplace.

Today’s guests are James Hamilton, Vice President of Talent at Del Monaco Foods and Cara Silletto, Founder and President of Crescendo Strategies. To hear the entire show, click here.

On the show today, James Hamilton talks about the need for people to be engaged and motivated to build successful businesses while Cara Silletto sheds some light on understanding the millennials and why they behave the way they do.

James Hamilton people

James Hamilton, VP of Talent at Del Monaco Foods, grew up as a small-town boy in Central Kentucky.  He credits his exposure to “good people, awesome experiences and great values” to his successful career in HR. Hamilton loves studying and understanding people and then bringing out the best in them. He never gets tired of it. He believes that everybody shares the same emotions no matter where they come from. This common thread that connects people to one another is what fascinates him.

Culture Follows Purpose

Hamilton strongly believes that culture follows purpose. “Why do you exist as an organization if you don’t know where you’re going?” he questions.  At Del Monaco, they believe that the company and team leaders share a common purpose, trust each other and make each other feel safe. He also adds that culture is about people too. “We’re emotional and we have a biological need to connect with something we believe in, a purpose that motivates us,” he explains.

Mastery and Autonomy

As mentioned in the book, “Drive” by Daniel Pink, the three elements of motivation are purpose, mastery and autonomy. After emphasizing on the importance of purpose, Hamilton says mastery and autonomy are important to get good results. One can have a common culture and purpose as well as an environment where everyone loves working with each other and is engaged and motivated yet the organization fails to achieve good results. The absence of autonomy and mastery is unlikely to yield good results. Hamilton also adds that the art of leadership is to inspire, influence and engage team members to do what needs to be done because they want to and not because they have to.

“High performing teams outperform superstar or interchangeable parts employment models where people don’t share a common purpose or trust each other.”

This statement is upfront on Hamilton’s LinkedIn profile. He explains this line saying that the majority of the organizations rely on teams of people specific to different roles and they perform best when they have a common purpose and they trust each other. When you bring in superstars you get selfish behavior and that destroys the teamwork. When leadership thinks of people as interchangeable parts, the team members don’t feel valued and fear is usually the primary motivator. This destroys human motivation. “That human emotion and motivation is so critical to winning. I don’t think you can win unless you really are intentional and you think about how you interact with people whether it’s rewarding performance or anything else,” he adds.

“People are the primary reason businesses succeed or fail”

“All organizations have access to capital, land, building, machines and so on. Processes can be duplicated and information has become a commodity but people have the greatest impact on the organizational performance. And in order to win we have to understand and become skilled at human motivation and human emotions, which is harder than we think,” he elaborates. Trust is another important factor while dealing with people. Hamilton defines trust as “caring for your team members and treating each other with respect.” By that he doesn’t mean you can’t have candid conversations about people’s performance but you have to have those conversations respectfully. “You have to learn what people’s goals are and help them achieve them. These are the ways you build trust,” advises Hamilton.

Strategic Changes at Del Monaco

Hamilton, along with other company leaders from Del Monaco, brought about strategic changes to the organization by first finding and defining a common purpose. After that they took turns in learning about the business and their team members for two months. This was followed by developing a strategic plan that was aligned with the purpose. Once the plan was devised, they set about rewriting everything they did in order to align it with the purpose and the plan. Hamilton strongly believes that getting the purpose, learning about the people and having a plan was critical to bringing about a change.

What Are You Reading?

James Hamilton is currently reading “Home Remedies” by Angela Pneuman. He is very inspired by Simon Sinek and often reads his series of speeches and books.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with James Hamilton via LinkedIn.

Cara Silletto people

Cara Silletto is a national consultant, speaker and author on understanding the millennial mindset. Being a millennial who has been in the workforce for the past ten years, she had spent a lot of time being reprimanded for “saying, doing and wearing the wrong things” all the time. After having lived it first hand, ten years down the line she realized that she had figured out the “secret recipe” for meeting boomer expectations because she had great mentors who would always pull her aside and scold her. “I was just sick of that unique spot where companies with a lot of boomer management and Gen X management try to understand the millennial mindset,” reveals Silletto. Her company Crescendo Strategies focuses on reducing unnecessary employee turnover by acknowledging the generation gap and helping managers understand their role.

Bridging the Generation Gap

It is no secret that the millennials have slowly started taking over the American workforce. In fact by 2020, the millennials will be the majority of the workforce. “Many people know that the boomers were huge and the millennials are a huge cohort but they don’t realize that the Gen X’ers in between are about half the size so there is going to be an imbalance in the number of young professionals and there will be a change in management, promotions and succession planning,” highlights Silletto. Thus, she feels like awareness is the first key towards the right direction. It can be frustrating while working with a person at the opposite end of the spectrum from you. Also, unfortunately, due to technology each of these spectrums are getting wider and wider and that leads to growing frustration. “If you understand what those different spectrums are and how it feels to be on one end or another, that can really start the process of bridging the generation gap,” explains Silletto.

Millennials and Their Sense of Entitlement

Silletto has an interesting insight into the reason behind the ever-so-often discussed sense of entitlement that the millennials have. It is generally frustrating when the 20-somethings feel like they deserve more than the previous generation felt they deserved at that age. Silletto says that this attitude has its roots in the 1980s when personal credit cards became mainstream for middle class families. In the 1980s because of the credit cards, holidays were commercialized and there was an explosion in gift-giving and children got way more gifts than they asked for, something the previous generations had never experienced. The sense of entitlement comes from the fact that millennials always got what they asked for because their parents had access to that kind of credit. Silletto explains that sharing such fact stories provides management with some ah-ha moments and gives them a different perspective. Another game changer has been the easy access to information. Technology has opened up doors for getting education and learning new things easily and often, at a very low price. Thus, technology and the transparency that comes with it have also led to the sense of entitlement.

Why Bridge the Generational Gap?

According to Silletto, turnover as a result of generational differences affects the bottom line a lot. About 70% of the millennials do not hit the two-year mark in their role. Most of them are either job hopping or are expecting a promotion quickly and are ready to go elsewhere when denied. Silletto explains that this quick turnover affects the company not only in terms of cost of recruiting, training and coaching but also in terms of loss of productivity. Sometimes the loss of productivity also stems from generational issues as well as miscommunication that come with different generational mindsets. Thus, one of the tasks that Silletto and her team first take up is to quantify how the generational issues are affecting the bottom line.

Soft Skills Training

While millennials are very well prepared for their core job, Silletto feels that they lack in soft skills. Thus, companies invest in training them for things like conflict resolution and basic professionalism because they are not aware of those things. They are also trained on how to communicate because the millennials have their phones with them all the time and prefer to text and email over face to face communication. It is all about going back to the basics. The millennials have grown up hearing things like question the authority and that everyone is equal. Thus, they don’t care about a person’s title and seniority. They are interested in knowing what they can bring to the table immediately and what the other person is bringing to the table.

High Turnover

Ineffective management and poor hiring practices are to be blamed for the high turnover rate, according to Silletto. Another very important reason for lack of retention is that many companies don’t offer enough opportunities for advancement within the company. For young professionals it is very important to expand their knowledge and skills. Silletto is convinced that within any company, big or small, there is always room for career advancement in some way. “Earlier the career ladder was very linear – I can’t get promoted until my boss goes somewhere else. That is no longer the case,” she highlights. Young people want to expand and advance their careers and if the company doesn’t allow them to bounce internally they are bound to leave. Silletto suggests that the advancement doesn’t necessarily always mean a change in pay or the title. It could be a lateral move or inclusion in a new committee or a special project. These efforts are very important for lowering the turnover numbers.

What Are You Reading?

Cara Silletto is currently reading “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith.

How Can People Connect With You?

Visit www.crescendostrategies.com to download a free pocket guide to millennial mindset. Reach Cara via Twitter at @CrescendoCara.

Air Date:  April 21, 2015