Hi everyone, welcome to episode 2 of How to Who: the Secret of Success. Today, Giri and I are here with Beth Filipkowski, who is the director of HR for Kappa Kappa Gamma, She’s had over 30 years of experience in human resources across many industries, applying her skills and expertise across a variety of company cultures. So Beth, tell us a little bit about you and your background.
Beth Filipkow (00:30 TO 1:08)
Well, thank you, first of all for having me today, I have been in human resources for 30 years back when they actually called it personnel. So yeah, it’s been a long time. I’ve had experience in, as you said a very wide variety of industries from manufacturing to startups to not for profits to aviation and even restaurant industries. And as you said, I am currently the director of human resources for Kappa Kappa Gamma. We’re a woman’s fraternity. We have over 143 chapters and 300,000 members.
Giri Devanur (1:09 to 1:26)
Whoa 300,000 members. That must be a massive challenge from a work life perspective of you, right? So many chapters and so many members. Can you talk a little bit about some of your biggest challenges?
Beth Filipkow (1:27 to 3:22)
So from an HR perspective, I would say, my biggest challenge is how the pandemic has really changed HR. It threw us and employees into a tailspin with really no end in sight and we’ve been operating in crisis mode for so long now, trying to figure out how employees can work from home to what special needs that they need, what other support that they need, as well as working very closely even more so with our senior leaders to ensure businesses are keeping running, all while trying to get people to stay engaged in productive and to be communicating with each other. So that’s been a tremendous challenge. I really truly think that the role of HR has fundamentally changed. While we’re still responsible for talent recruiting, performance, productivity compensation, our bigger role now is to truly try to understand the challenges that our employees are facing inside and outside of work. Everyone’s situation is completely different and they all need different support in accommodations. On top of all of this, we also have the challenge of working with or understanding the CDC and all those changing regulations that are sometimes as clear as mud but trying to sort through all those implement practices and processes to keep our staff safe: from social distancing to masking, to vaccination status. So I’m very, very fortunate (shout out to Sarah), I am very fortunate to have someone on my team, that really is able to keep track of all that.
Holland Walker (03:23 to 3:30)
So obviously, as a director of HR, you take care of a lot of different things in your daily work. How do you like to keep yourself organized?
Beth Filipkow (3:31 to 4:31
No one will ever say that Filipkowski is organized and normal, I even claim that I sometimes feel like being disorganized is a point of a stressor for me. So I need to really take a step back and understand how I’m spending my day.
If I’m feeling that stress if I really analyze how I’m spending my day, I’m sure that there are pockets there that I’m probably not being that productive in. I also like to live and die by my calendar, there’s something really productive and you feel accomplished when you’re actually marking things off and checking things off. When all else fails, I think that it’s great to surround yourself with organized people. Hopefully, something will rub off. I also have found that multitasking while it’s a great skill, sometimes could very, very quickly become a problem as well because you’re not really focusing and doing one thing really, really well.
So there is some things that I feel great multitasking on, but I really have to take a step back and truly understand, Okay, this needs my entire focus.
Giri Devanur (4:33 to 5:03)
Lot of leaders managers have the same kind of challenges, right? I myself am not the most structured guy in getting anything done and at least you have the discipline of being on the calendar etc.
What advice you would have for people who have that kind of structured working process as well as is there anything that we can do to master the peak performance?
Beth Filipkow (5:04 to 5:53)
I really think it’s your emotional IQ and knowing when you’re stressed when you’re overworked, not necessarily overworked but when you’re maybe tapped out and really being able to take that step back. Like I said, analysing my day, if I go through my day, I know I probably check my phone too much and that’s a time-waster. I know that when an employee comes into my office I want to shut everything down and turn and focus my attention directly on the employee and not do that multitasking and give them that benefit of my time.
So I think that just really being aware. That’s what’s always worked best for me is to really truly being aware and when I know I’m starting to get stressed out that’s when I have to take the time to go back and analyze.
Giri Devanur (5:54 to 6:15)
Is it the multitasking which creates that kind of stress or like as a leader or a manager one would have to do multitasking, right? It’s part of the game but how do we optimize at what level when you should be doing multitasking and when you should not?
Beth Filipkow (6:16 to 6:48)
Well, I think you should never multitask when you’re dealing with an employee issue. Especially when an employee comes into your office. It’s shut down phone away and give them 110%. I think there are some things that are great at multitasking and I know sometimes when we’re in meetings are on a webinar, something we’re also doing something, we’re multitasking. If you’re able to be productive and you feel like you’re giving the right time to those projects or to what those tasks are, I think that then that’s great. Multitasking is a great skill but it could very quickly become a problem.
Giri Devanur (6:49 to 7:32)
Yes. I’m gonna dig a little deeper even though like it was not structured because that is a challenge I myself and obviously the next generation of leaders everybody faces the challenge of being addicted to doing multiple things, right? Especially with the phone and multiple screens and multiple messaging and all kinds of in a social communication that is happening. Are we able to focus on priority items in getting it done? Are we becoming kind of slaves of our own addiction to these forms of communication?
Beth Filipkow (7:33 to 7:48)
I tried to turn off my chat. We use zoom at Kappa and lots of organizations use slack? We tried, I tried to turn that off when there’s something, I know that I absolutely have to be focusing on.
It’s definitely a challenge, especially with all the different technologies coming at us.
Giri Devanur (7:49 to 8:15)
Yeah, I’ve been in trying to practice one technique on my browser. I keep reducing the number of windows that I keep opening otherwise I believe that there are 50 things that you end up doing.
So that was a great insight on how to deal with the lack of organization and skill. You have to be self-aware (BF). Yes, that’s great.
Holland Walker (8:16 to 8:26)
So as HR you work with hiring people, you probably meet lots of different people. What is or who has been the greatest hire and why were they so great?
Beth Filipkow (8:27 to 9:29)
It’s so easy to bring someone in with great credentials and all the certifications that you need, all the skillsets that you want the degrees etc. But what happens when that person comes into the organization and maybe they don’t communicate well with your team.
Maybe they don’t really truly understand your customers or they’re not compassionate with your customers. That’s is the challenge. What I always find is that truly great hires are the ones that fit the values of your organization. Those are the ones that are going to come in and immediately make an impact to your team and become an integral part of your team.
Credentials and experience and everything yeah, that’s great. There’s also that really special skill of trying to ferret out those other skills to know that they’re going to be a great fit your organization
Giri Devanur (9:30 to 10:15)
That’s a great item you’ve mentioned. How do you find that secret sauce?
See the purpose of me doing this podcast slash webcast is to educate our viewers from switching their mindset from how to who. The how to who concept is when a great opportunity or a great challenge comes to your manager or a leader, the single biggest thing that we all do is, how do I solve this or how do I handle this, right?
So we are trying to figure out how do we transition from how to who. As Holland asked about those great hires, Is there any secret in finding those kinds of talent?
Beth Filipkow (10:16 to 10:33)
I think it depends on your interview and your culture and I know we’re going to get into that a little bit later.
We, for example at Kappa we really are a values-driven organization. So for people that are going to be an integral part of our culture, they have to demonstrate those values.
Giri Devanur (10:34 to 10:50)
Very important. How do you communicate to this attention-deficit generation when we are trying to hire interns? So the next part of the question is about that.
Holland Walker (10:51 to 11:01)
Today we’re talking about the movie, the intern. Our episodes are going to be featuring different movies. Things that we can learn, applicable plot lessons, character development. So what do you like about the movie the intern?
Beth Filipkow (11:03 to 11:34)
Well, the movie can come off as a little bit of a cliche or maybe a big cliche, but I think two of the things that people take away from that movie and the lessons are: Always have faith in yourself. Never give up on yourself and then never underestimate other people. Never underestimate their talents, never underestimate what they can bring to the table and the movie. The intern also co-stars Rene Russo and what’s not to love about a movie with the Great Renee Russo in it?
Giri Devanur (11:36 to 12:03)
Yesterday night, I was watching because of the episode and we have we were talking about it. I really loved one scene, where Robert De Niro is standing outside the warehouse where Anne is giving instructions to her team about how to put stuff in a box.
Is that the kind of leadership trait one has to have when you are hiring people? To look for maybe empathy, initiative etc
Beth Filipkow (12:04 to 12:16)
Jules has great empathy for her customers from the time she takes I think a phone call for, I don’t remember it was a bride or someone that her dress wasn’t right or order wasn’t right?
Beth Filipkow (13:01 to 13:15)
At wanting to have to having the empathy. She wants to experience what her customers are doing. When the they’re emptying the box, and they’re opening up their product. So I think she has tremendous empathy for her customers and I think that makes her very successful.
Giri Devanur (13:16 to 13:29)
But in that movie, she had great empathy from a customer perspective, but she doesn’t show it to her employees. In the beginning of the movie, right? Eventually she catches up.
Holland Walker (13:29 to 13:49)
So in the movie, Robert De Niro comes in because they’re trying to do this senior intern program and it’s kind of like a social experiment since Robert is so much older. He’s I believe he was retired and he wasn’t planning on doing anything and then he just kind of got into it.
What do you think is the result and kind of the benefit of this little social experiment that was tried?
Beth Filipkow (13:50 to 14:21)
I think it’s crucial and also a competitive advantage for organizations to be able to be more creative in their outreach efforts to tap into diverse talent. I feel that interns and diversity bring a fresh perspective to organizations, and it’s not only an opportunity for interns to learn more, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity for organizations to learn more from that talent that they’re bringing in.
Giri Devanur (14:22 to 15:27)
From a Robert De Niro perspective and throughout that movie, it keeps going back to Jules not having the right kind of experience and Robert bringing the experience. What does it mean? and is it just the experience number of years? Or is it a combination of attitude, skill and knowledge that will help an organization? I had read while back that even if you take the letters ‘attitude’ starting with a as one and b as two etc.
If you do that in a chart and if you put the attitude, that is the only word which becomes 100
Skill is some 35 and all other components compared to attitude, attitude was 100. So, what do you think of experience versus attitude?
Beth Filipkow (15:28 to 16:38)
Well I think in the movie, I take it as experience never gets old. Robert De Niro is well over qualified to be this intern but he remains humble and he demonstrates a huge willingness to learn. He builds those connections and builds those relationships to where everyone, all of a sudden starts learning from him.
People want his advice, people are going to him to help solve problems. And in turn he helps Jules realize I don’t need to hire a new CEO that her investors are looking for her to do. She comes to realize that no one else is going to have the empathy that she has for her customers.
And no one else is going to understand her business such as she does. So I think attitude and experience I think they go hand in hand. It then had tremendous experience and also a fantastic attitude. What that also goes to show is what one hire can do to elevate the entire organization.
Giri Devanur (16:39 to 16:59)
I want to go back to Holland’s question one more time, about the great hires, right? We all as leaders would have hired really great people and really bad people right? Without naming names, can you share one of your greatest hires and one of your worst hires.
Beth Filipkow (16:59 to 17:51)
Again, I think I can’t necessarily say one great hire. I think it’s hiring for potential and willingness to learn. Yes, credentials are important and experience is important. But hiring for willingness to learn willingness to become a part of the team and integrate with the rest of the organization.
I always find that probably the worst hires are the ones that want to work in a silo. They want to be pigeonholed into okay, this is my job description and this is what I’m here to do and they treat it more as a job, less as a team, being embedded into the culture, wanting to become a part of the culture.
There are people that want to clock in and do eight to five and that’s my role. They can be a valuable employee, but are they truly one of those great hires?
Giri Devanur (17:53 to 18:40)
Need not be right? In the software industry, we have a saying that one good programmer is equal to 30 average. While building reAlpha and my previous company, I realized that it’s not necessary from a purely software perspective. Every aspect, if you hire one great person, they will do the job of maybe a hundred people. From that perspective, what makes somebody stand out whether it is in the movie, Ben standing out as an intern versus the correlation between Ben and Jules. What’s your take on it?
Beth Filipkow (18:40 to 20:25)
Ben takes initiative. Jules kind of brushes them off and says, oh, I’ll call you or I’ll email you when I need you. So what Ben does is he starts to learn the ropes and how things work in the organization. He starts to become familiar with the technology that he isn’t familiar with, and he starts to build those relationships and connections with his co-workers.
And in being able to do that, he is building those connections. So building those relationships and connections are really integral and in spite of the fact, like I said, that he is well over qualified to be an intern, he remains humble, and he demonstrates a willingness to learn.
Even when his role switches a little bit mid-movie, and he has to go and get coffee, He’s thrilled to be going to get coffee because he’s making himself so useful. So I think that that’s why Ben is a standout intern.
The relationship between Ben and Jules I think is also very crucial because it’s more of an effort. What I learned took from the relationship is more of an affirmation of the importance of relationships, and connections. Going through personal challenges as well as professional challenges, it’s a lot easier and less burdensome when you have someone there that you trust and that you’re connected with to share those with. I am very grateful I have my husband and my sister. They’re my people, they’re my rocks. But I’m also extremely fortunate to be surrounded by some tremendous colleagues here at Kappa Kappa Gamma that make the work day so much more pleasant and make those challenges easier to overcome.
Holland Walker (20:28 to 20:32)
Kappa Kappa Gamma holds a lot of values. What values do you guys specifically look for when you’re hiring new people?
Beth Filipkow (20:32 to 21:23)
Our values are respect, optimism, truth, trailblazing, connection and knowledge. And we look for those values and how they are demonstrated throughout the interview process. When we’re talking to candidates. I liken hiring for values as really nurturing your culture.
And I’m going to use the example of an iris bulb, because an iris is one of our symbols at Kappa Kappa Gamma. So that Iris bulb is the foundation of your culture and by nurturing that by hiring people, that demonstrate those values and believe in your values and live in those values, that nurtures that foundation
But then it also transcends throughout the rest of your organization which are ultimately our members.
Giri Devanur (21:24 to 22:14)
On the hiring for values. I’m going off the set of questions that we thought we will ask you. On the value-based hiring, one of the challenges is, whoever the candidate that you are hiring for whatever position, right? What if they can communicate smoothly and answer your questions, How do you nail the values part of it? How do you find the fit? Second, part of that question that I want to ask you is, what is there is a misfit but he or she might be a great contributor, who may not be the greatest communicator, and how do you assess that?
Beth Filipkow (22:15 to 22:30)
I’ll take the second question first. Is that I think it depends on the role. I think there is a place in every organization for those individual contributors that don’t necessarily have to be the great communicator, etc. But I still will come back to nurturing that fundamental core of your business with those values.
And I think that is extremely extremely important. One of the ways that I particularly go about in the interview process is I structure the questions that relate to each value. So, if I’m interviewing someone for trailblazing so I asked them to talk about the most creative, the most out of the box problem that they solved or a solution that they came up with, that’s never been thought of before.
So that’s what I try to do is take each of our six values and specifically design questions around those values to try to prompt those response and that kind of helps weeds through someone that’s just a really great communicator. And there are professional interviewers out there. Absolutely.
So that’s how I kind of get I don’t want to get around to it but I’m really able to focus on to value based hiring.
Giri Devanur (22:31 to 24:28)
That’s a very interesting value part of the statement. We were experimenting a few months trying to come up with what could be a viral video. A team led by our chief marketing officer Christie and even Holland was involved in that the whole team brainstormed for a couple of days and then they came up with this idea of doing a viral video and a few weeks later, lo and behold, we had a million views for Elon Musk deep fake kind of video that made. If I have to step back and ask about that again interviewing for values, is there any specific questions that you ask or is there any way of saying that whether this person is a fit or not?
Beth Filipkow (24:29 to 25:12)
My favourite question that I ask is tell us something about yourself that I have not learned throughout the application or the interview process, because what that almost always does is it prompts a creative response and through that response, you’re going to be able to tell a lot about a candidate’s character, their inventiveness, their imagination and it invariably prompts a story and I firmly believe that the ability to tell a story and to evoke emotions and to create an emotion are very, very important skills.
Giri Devanur (25:13 to 25:22)
Very interesting. Probably we’ll have to take that as a lesson and ask in the interviews, I’ve never done that. I’m going to try that. Thanks for that suggestion.
Holland Walker (25:22 to 26:00)
It also shows what is the most telling thing about themselves, what’s the first thing that comes to their mind? What do they think is the most showing of who they are, and why they’re going to be a good fit for the company or it just can really show a lot about the person. So hiring Ben obviously changed the face of the company. It changed a lot of the culture. It helped Jules become a better person. Become a CEO, become a better professional in general. So why do you think hiring can be the most important thing that a company does?
Beth Filipkow (26:01 to 26:33)
Well I don’t know if I would ever say it’s the most important skill or the most important thing that a company does but it does take a tremendous amount of time, efforts, finances to go through the entire recruiting process and one bad hire can impact your budgets, it impact productivity, it could set projects back.
So I think it’s really important to make sure that you’re able to really hone in on those skills and be able to have a great hire because one bad hire can set an organization back months.
Giri Devanur (26:34 to 26:46)
Yeah, there was a research a while back done that for an organization If you hire one wrong salesperson, it can cost you 1.2 million dollars.
Holland Walker (26:46 to 26:50)
How do you think empathy plays a role in the workplace?
Beth Filipkow (26:53 to 27:54)
Here at Kappa undoubtedly those who excel at empathy are going to build lasting relationships and connections to staff and to our membership, and if staff, our employees, our members, feel like they are cared about, they’re going to reciprocate with loyalty and dedication.
And it’s not only the right thing to do, but that’s good for business. And I would say, one of the greatest demonstrations of empathy that I’ve seen here in my three years at Kappa is most recently, we have shifted our philanthropy program to being advocates for mental health and well-being.
And we are dedicating ourselves to raising awareness, educating, and reducing the stigma of mental health and well-being. And if that’s not a demonstration of empathy in our organization, I don’t know what is. It’s something that we are very, very proud of, and I’m very proud to work for an organization such as this
Giri Devanur (27:55 to 28:06)
Since we were talking about the intern movie, have you ever been an intern? What has been your experience when you were an intern to today’s interns?
Beth Filipkow (28:07 to 28:20)
I have never been an intern. However, I have had the opportunity to hire and work with some tremendous interns and implement some very robust programs.
Giri Devanur (28:22 to 28:43)
Is there any good way of recruiting interns? Because you, for example in kappa you have 300,000 members. If any organization, whether it is reAlpha that we are part of or any other organization wants to reach out how do we know reach out to your organization to get some great interns?
Beth Filipkow (28:44 to 28:58)
Let me know and we can post we could post that role. I can give you access to how to post the role and how to recruit some interns for yourself.
Giri Devanur (28:58 to 29:30)
Yeah, this summer, we are planning to bring in another 10 interns, probably more if we can, and we are debating, whether we should do a global internship program for example for a few weeks, they’ll work here in US, A few couple of weeks in Nepal. We have a tech team working there and then in Bangalore as well. We have a partner firm in Brazil. So we are thinking of making it a global internship program and maybe we will reach out to you and then attract some good interns.
Beth Filipkow (29:31 to 30:09)
I also think that it’s important, especially in today’s workplace with so many people working remote, is to have remote interns because that’s a skill that they’re going to have to learn and more and more people, I think there is a story on 60 minutes, just not too long. I think was last week about how is it, like, one in seven candidates are looking for remote work now. And I’ve maybe completely butchered that data. But more and more people are looking for that. And it’s definitely a hard skill to learn to work remote 100%. So offering some remote internships I think will also help them build their skills.
Holland Walker (30:10 to 30:24)
So as someone who’s had a lot of experience, just like you, what is some advice that you have for next generation? People leaving college, looking for jobs, looking for opportunities or internships. A word of wisdom?
Beth Filipkow (30:25 to 31:09)
Never pigeon-hole yourself into just your major or just your field of study.
Find something that truly ignites your passion. Your enthusiasm for that is going to get noticed and that’s what’s going to rub off. The other thing I think is so crucial, especially for interns is building those connections and building those relationships, getting on people’s calendars. Talking to people about what’s made you successful? Why did you choose your career? How does work get done here in this business? Building those connections are going to be equally as important as a really good resume and those connections are could possibly even take you further than a really good resume and experience in and of itself.
Giri Devanur (31:10 to 32:09)
As we continue this journey of figuring out the secret of success.
That’s what we are calling from how to who we would love to engage with you and your community of Kappa. And obviously, we want to hire a lot of people and finding great people is the hardest of all tasks. For your organization as well as ours and I’m sure all the leaders and managers who are going to watch this program, finding the right kind of talent is the biggest challenge and thank you very much for talking to us and sharing some of your experiences and some other interesting tactics that we can employ during interview process and assessing the right kind of skills, attitude, knowledge and experience and talking about the intern movie as well. It was great fun. Thank you very much Beth. We appreciate your time.
Beth Filipkow (32:10 to 32:12)
Yes. Thank you for having me. It was a great fun. I really enjoyed it.
Holland Walker (32:12 to 32:34)
All right. Well thank you guys all for being here, for episode 2 How to who, the secret of success. Make sure to like subscribe and share, and make sure to tune in for the next episode and the next interview.