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It’s Re-Batable w/ Alex Genetti



Karen Mangia

In this Success from Anywhere blog, we'll meet a Head of People who discovered that workplace well-being starts with Two Chairs. An expert in the employee value chain as well as the supply chain, Alex Genetti is the Head of People at Enable. Hi, Alex.

Alex Genetti

Hello.

Karen Mangia

I like to start the interview by asking every guest about their first paying job and how that job informed or inspired your career trajectory?

Alex Genetti

Oh, I love this question. Mine's not quite as jazzy as some of your former guests. I grew up in a really small farming community, and my family grows walnuts and cherries. I will deny this if it gets to the government, but my first job was at the age of 13, hauling water tanks through the cherry orchards to keep the dust down, back in the day when we were allowed to do that in California. That was my first paying job, which evolved into driving trailers of cherries into packing sheds and driving empty trailers back out of packing sheds. I did that every summer until I moved to San Francisco at 21.

Karen Mangia

And having had that experience, do you still eat walnuts and cherries today?

Alex Genetti

Funny enough, Karen, I'm allergic to walnuts. I grew up in the middle of a walnut orchard and can't eat them. Talk about some traumatic childhood experiences. But I do eat cherries all the time. It's cherry season right now. This interview is at the end of May. We're picking. I get updates from my parents all the time. I'm not there. I'm here. Thank goodness.

Karen Mangia

You found your way off the farm and into farming talent. You're growing people, which is sometimes its own version of fruits and nuts.

Alex Genetti

Oh, that could not have been better said.

Karen Mangia

And I didn't know your previous job. So this is like an afternoon of improv in my world. I referred in the introduction to your starting with Two Chairs and focusing on employee wellbeing. Say more about this topic of wellbeing and what you discovered in that business because employee workplace wellbeing is undoubtedly the topic of our time.

Alex Genetti

It's so important. My role at Two Chairs was my first genuine leadership opportunity in HR. I cut my teeth at the leadership table there, and it was so eye-opening to work for a company that truly cared about people. Many of us told it, and very few actually walked it. But Two Chairs is a mental health company focusing on bringing affordable and reliable mental health care to the world. And getting the chance to be educated as someone who, at that point in my life, had never sought mental health care was so valuable. And it just blew open the doors to me to how big of an impact employers can have on their people, whether they're realizing what they're saying or how they're saying it is impactful. It also opened my eyes to the resources we can lean into to provide to our people that a lot of HR practitioners might not know about or might not know are affordable, might not know how to get more information on those and educate their people on them. It opened my eyes to how I can better care for people I'm responsible for at work. But it also helps me take better care of myself. And I am so thankful for my time at Two Chairs, the company there, and the wonderful people there. I'm now at Enable, and it was one of those, “You gave me an offer I can't refuse,” opportunities to work with people I've worked with before. And so I only left Two Chairs because I had personal relationships at Enable. If it weren't for the people on the team I'm with now, I would still be there and helping bring that mission to the rest of the world. But the Two Chairs way opened my eyes and gave me so many ideas that I was excited to bring elsewhere.

Karen Mangia

At the risk of returning you to your farm days, what is some low-hanging fruit for improving workplace well-being without even spending money? And then we'll dive into more of what you're doing at Enable—but what could we all be doing? What are the conversations we could be having? What are the resources and opportunities we're all missing in this space?

Alex Genetti

You said a crucial word, conversation. So many times, I've walked into performance management exercises or meetings with a manager or a leader about one of their people specifically and I’ve asked, “How often do you meet with them? How often do you talk to them?” Some of the answers I get back from a people-managers are shocking, yet they are relatively routine for most people:


“Oh, I meet with them every couple of weeks. When I have a question, I'll ping them. We meet on this particular meeting topic often.”


There’s no: “I meet with them every Monday. I check in with them during our standup every other day. I make sure I connect with them on this cadence or that cadence.”


Relative and consistent communication is only sometimes common. It may be common sense for many of us, but it's not something most people practitioners can rely on. You have to force it. So there are two answers to your question. I'm long-winded, too, Karen, so please stop me.


There's the free answer and then there's the almost free answer. You can talk to people and find out if they have a partner at home or if they have pets or children. Building that psychologically safe space is crucial to where someone screws something up; if they have a question they're afraid to ask or don't feel secure in something, they have an avenue to talk about that. Building that safe space to create that psychological safety is the most important thing we can do, not just in our work relationships but in our personal lives.


And then, from an almost free perspective, every health care plan in the US carries an EAP, an employee assistance program. That comes with healthcare benefits that we must pay for anyway and that is a free mental health resource for everybody insured by any insurance carrier in America. That's a straightforward way for us to plug in employees. They can take their mental healthcare by the horns and do something for themselves that has nothing to do with their employer, but their employer could pay for that. So releasing that stigma of, “Hey, I’m going to tell you that you should talk to somebody,” because that's not normal, okay, or safe for anybody. It gives them the option to investigate that independently. Creating that safe space for our people to ask that question: “Do you know if our employer has any mental health care resources? Can I take a half day because my kids have an ear infection, and I cannot stand the screaming?” Right? There's psychological safety, which is our responsibility as leaders to create, but also understanding what resources our businesses provide. EAP is arguably the most common.

Karen Mangia

And you've now mentioned leaping to Enable and being Head of People. Say more about what Enable is and does as a business.

Alex Genetti

So Enable is a rebate management platform. We aim to create trusted trading relationships that help us serve customers better together. So, you look at a company like Home Depot, a company like Travis Perkins in the UK, and they have thousands of vendors as well as thousands of special pricing agreements for hundreds of thousands of products. Often, rebate opportunities are lost and forgotten about. It's not used as the strategic driver that it can be used for. Enable steps to help bring clarity, consistency, and fairness to those opportunities. Our customers reap thousands and, in some cases, millions of ROI based on what Enable can find between suppliers, distributors, and retailers.

Karen Mangia

What strikes me as so timely about your business at Enable is that smart business leaders are looking for every lever to pull to navigate the economic uncertainty we're in and that we see ahead of us. What showed up for me is: managing the rebate process exceptionally well could be a lever to pull to save jobs or to be able to invest in developing and retaining the people that you have.

Alex Genetti

Oh, totally. I would say 12-18 months ago, we started to get that, “Ooh, is this gonna cost me my job? No, no, no, AI is taking over the world.” Enable is not taking over anybody's job. We are enabling cash for more headcount. We're allowing you to make your job more effective and successful by bringing rebates into the light and showing the world how strategic and helpful they can be. We've created the term “rebate strategist.” We're meant to be an enabler to those trying to find all that money hidden under the couch or the money the distributor or supplier might not realize they're owed. It's been a massive accelerant to helping teams grow, helping revenue grow, and ensuring that we're finding everything that’s under the cushion so nothing is left behind, especially in a macroeconomic world that has become a huge selling point.

Karen Mangia

Enable is a venture capital-backed company. Sometimes, this concept of being an entrepreneur or working at a startup or growth business seems to be at odds with people being healthy at work. We sometimes buy into the myth that it just must be crazy busy, and you have to sacrifice it all. Suppose you go to a startup or growth company. Is that true?

Alex Genetti

It shouldn't be. Oh my gosh, no. I'm getting married this year. I intend to build my family next year, and I'm thankful I can do that at a company like Enable. What often gets forgotten, thrown under the rug, or not talked about often is that companies like Enable, venture-backed companies, are at the forefront of people evolution. Not to bash or speak ill of any other industry, but we have the opportunity to be creative with our lead programs and how we integrate our work into our life. What you don't get out of a more stagnant, slower-paced, traditional company are programs and policies that might align with only the legislation that applies to that region or the policies that have been in force since 1995. Right?


Savvy and venture-backed companies that are going at the pace that Enable will have the opportunity to be ahead of what people are asking for. Enable has taken that on with both feet. We have really amazing people programs; we have wonderfully generous leave and we do that because we know that we need to pour into our people what we expect them to pour into us. And so we can't ask people to sprint at the quarter's end. I can't ask my team to sometimes give 10 hours a day when we're in the middle of the merit cycle without also leading and giving on the slow months where life isn’t crazy and our hair isn't on fire, but those days exist to be transparent. They exist everywhere. Companies, specifically that are venture-backed companies and tech companies that are new and emerging, have the opportunity to change the narrative and treat their people a little bit differently than the world has treated the average worker before. Enable is certainly doing that. I've seen many other wonderful HR leaders also take that step. The Silicon Valley tech scene isn't as scary as people make it out to be.


People—and again, when I say people, I mean HR here—have taken an enormous leap. There are HR tools now that have been SaaS’d, if you will. Extended leaves are so much more common to support a new birthing parent or even a non-birthing parent. There's so much that has been done, even in the last ten years, that I hope starts to break the stigma of, “Oh my gosh, if you work for a tech company, you're going to be working yourself to death 10-15 hours a day and you're never going to see your family.”


The tides are turning and I'm thrilled to be part of that turn. I'm seeing it throughout the valley, which is great.

Karen Mangia

Yes, and what I like about what you're saying is that, with the concept of turning the entrepreneurial mindset onto the employee experience, the reverse could be true; startup and high-growth companies have the opportunity to innovate and create the best, most leading employee experiences that make it easier for employees to live well and work well. That reminded me of an article I read that you wrote, and you talked about getting creative with onboarding employees effectively. That's an area where we're all looking for a few new ideas, especially for organizations that have people who are distributed. Say more about your strategy for employee onboarding.

Alex Genetti

I'm so glad you brought this up. So at Enable, we've created something called Enable YOU. It's a play on the term University. It's also a play on our name. We call ourselves Enable-ees instead of employees. So a lot of fun little inside jokes like that. But Enable YOU is our onboarding program, which aims to get an employee to ROI as fast as possible. We want someone ramped, in their seat, and contributing to the business as fast as possible. The HR goal is for someone to come in, feel cared about, feel connected—to know that no matter where they are, they have the tools, resources, and the people surrounding them to do their job.


There's a ton that goes into that. My team partners really closely with IT. We partner really closely with operations to make sure that that Enable YOU experience is a turnkey, walk through—a red carpet, if you will—for the first 30 days of what it's like to be an Enable-ee. So we have a couple of things, a couple of significant components that go into that program.


The second that they say yes, we call that the “Yes-to-Desk” phase. So, depending on the country you're in, you might have a notice period of anywhere from three-to-six months, which means we got to keep you warm for three-to-six months. If you're in the States, you probably have a two-week period where your employer might even walk you out the day you give notice, right? So there are a lot of different ways this Yes-to-Desk phase can go. We have people in each relative region to make sure that they're managed correctly. But from Yes-to-Desk, we're checking in on you or sending you swag and ensuring that you know that this massive decision that you just made, that impacts your life and probably your family, was the right one. We want you to feel that love coming in the same way that you felt when you signed that offer letter.


The second they're on day one, the 30-60-90-day period starts. So, you're going through a monthly executive cadence where you meet with every executive, every Monday at the same time. We all give little statements on what we do, why we're here, what our departments do, and why they're essential. That's the critical connection piece. It's fun to watch from an HR perspective because we get to watch them connect the dots in their brains, like, “Oh, that's what customer success does. Okay, that's cool,” and, “Sales talks to them like this? Oh, Okay, gotcha.” It just gives them that context; when they hear something they don't understand or see something they might not be totally connecting with, they know who to reach out to figure out how to connect those dots.


After that, we transition them into Enable YOU: Learning & Development, where we have a consistent cadence of soft and hard skill learnings that anybody can sign up for and take advantage of. So, it's a huge team effort. Onboarding is our most important program because how someone enters a business will set the tone for their entire employee experience. That first piece, that “Yes-to-Desk” phase is arguably one of the most critical parts because if we don't make them feel the love as they're making this giant decision when they're also probably getting counters from our current employer, other offers might be coming in that they could have been sitting on, we're going to lose them before we even get them. So, making them feel loved from the second they say yes, and to that 30th day, and to that 90th day, making them feel super connected and well supported, is super important.

Karen Mangia

“Yes-to-Desk”; that is such a critical gap. We've all been in that spot. You mentioned the pressure of getting counter offers from your current employer. You start to have doubts, and then you begin to ask, “Did I make the best choice about where I'm going?” What I like about what you said is that it bridges the gap between when you say yes and when you start, so that you keep that momentum going and underpin why someone made a great choice and send an early signal that you're setting them up for success.


I would challenge every listener: what's your yes-to-desk strategy in your organization? And then, once people get into this Enable YOU phase, you talk a lot about moments of meaning. How do you define that? Or how do you go about determining that inside of an organization? Lots of organizations are revisiting this topic right now because what employees care about and need has certainly shifted over the past couple of years, and yet again, in the last six to eight months.

Alex Genetti

That's so true. So, we've built the people team out to consist of people, business partners, people programs, and total rewards. People programs is responsible for making sure that the Enable YOU program is hitting on those moments that matter, that we're touching people where we'll have the highest impact. In some weeks, we've onboarded as many as 35 people simultaneously. So, it is key to figuring out a way to do that across engineering, sales, product, IT, people, operations, and customer success. It's impossible to do every single one of those well, so we've tried our best to make it as equitable and as great as possible, and a bit of a peanut butter method.


In terms of the moments that matter; that programs team that I mentioned, every time we build a new program or build the program guide—each program at Enable has a guide that we can reference, so if someone's like, “Wait a minute. What is Enable YOU?” they can easily reference the program guide on our confidence page and say, “Oh, yeah, that's the onboarding program! This is where I am, this is what I'm supposed to do, and this is where I go after.”—each program guide has a Moments that Matter slide. So, we've identified outright, and have been transparent about all these phases. Using onboarding as an example, when I give my Welcome to Enable speech every Monday to everybody coming in, we take them through the “Yes-to-Desk” and show them exactly where they are in their phase. We want them to know that we consciously care about their mindset as they enter Enable and that's an example of how we share some moments that mattered.


Another example of that during onboarding will be on day 30, when they get their 30-day review with their manager. It's an important moment for the Enable-ee. It's also an important moment for the manager. There's a whole manager component of this Enable YOU onboarding experience that is often glossed over because its focus is always on the employee. But how do we make onboarding effective, easy, and supportive for the manager as a people and places team? So, while there are Moments that Matter for the incoming Enable-ee, there are also Moments that Matter for their manager that we need to keep in mind. There are so many moments that we have to capitalize on. We map those out with our program guides and take every new Enable-ee through them so that it's super transparent. They know what to expect. They know that we're also keeping their managers in mind and consciously making all these decisions, not just throwing them into a program like, “Hey, here you go. Have fun! See you in 90 days when your next performance review is due.”

Karen Mangia

Yes, what you've described is adding who you need to know to what you need to know in order to succeed. I mean, when you have executives that are showing up at the same time every Monday, and people can do an Ask Me Anything style session, it helps that new employee build a network of people, not just acumen about how the company works, or how their job might work, or how the function works, but really getting to know the people inside of the organization. And we all know that we get things done by knowing other people who can help us. What other activation strategies are to accelerate that network of networks inside any organization?

Alex Genetti

I love that question, the activation strategy of a network of networks. So DEI is an important program for us at Enable—Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. When people ask how to better understand DEI, or for those in a region or country where it's not popular, I cite a really common quote: “Diversity is being invited to the dance, and inclusion is being asked to dance.” Our DEI program's purpose is to ensure that everybody at Enable feels like they belong here because you can't make those connections, and you won't feel secure in reaching out or asking questions in a room full of people you don't know if you don't feel like you belong at that table. So, our number one strategy to ensure that we gave people those networking opportunities was first to make sure that they belong. Do people feel that they belong somewhere? That's back to that psychological safety piece.


We asked that question every six months in our engagement survey, and we also asked it every month in our pulse survey. If no one is pulsing their teams, I highly recommend you do it. Send one survey monthly, and ask everyone to fill it out—short and sweet. It will give you much insight into how your people feel and think. We learned through that pulse that a lot of our business wasn’t feeling that they belonged and that, to me, reads that we have missed connection opportunities. We need to be more inclusive. We have yet to show the rest of the business the opportunity for networking and connection because we all felt like we belonged when I pulled the leadership team, but we are all confident that we're at the table we're supposed to be. We all feel included by everybody else. We all talk to each other all the time. So how can we replicate that feeling we've all created since day one? When I joined Enable, we had maybe 110 people. We're over 500 now. How do we recreate that family feeling while we're far too big to operate as a family?


So, our DEI team is now split up into five work streams, we have gender identity, pride, race and ethnicity, accessibility, and corporate. It's the corporate workstream's responsibility to ensure that the other four workstreams are doing exercises that include everybody. The corporate workstream’s job is to make sure that it's all connected to come together to make sure people feel that they can connect, belong, and are included no matter what table they're at. So kind of a convoluted answer, but that's been our foundational approach to ensuring that we have an environment where we can encourage people to connect and feel that they can socialize that way.


We also have a global mobility program that has proven highly fruitful. Enable has five countries to date, soon to be six, and a lot of those countries carry wildly different cultures. I joke all the time that our team in the UK, compared to the US, might speak the same language…but we actually don't. I did not know that pants in the UK are not pants in America. They're very, very different meanings. So, I've had so many opportunities to put my foot in my mouth in these countries. If I had not made those connections and built strong, psychologically safe relationships with people in other countries, I would have probably said the wrong thing in front of 500 people and made half of them hysterically laugh at me or upset the other half. Right? So global mobility has been a wonderful way for us to share industry knowledge, company knowledge, and culture, which is a huge part of feeling connected, feeling like you belong. While we might not have as much of a prescribed connection and networking opportunity to see that at Enable, we're working hard to build the baseline of, the foundation is here, the environment is right for you to do whatever you might want to do to feel connected and appreciated. Enable is your oyster, do with it what you will. So, that's our current approach.

Karen Mangia

What you're describing is two critically important steps. First, be conscious of how your communication pattern and style need to change as your business grows. And second, make sure that the strategies that you have in place reflect the people and places that are now a part of your business. It's so easy for us to get caught up in being incredibly busy and miss that dynamic moment of meaning, and they change as our organization changes. This isn't something we put in a manual once and load in Google Docs, never to revisit it. Again, it is living and breathing as the people that we serve every day in the roles that we have as leaders.

Alex Genetti

Absolutely. There's a huge shift. I specialize in between the 1 and 1000 scale. I've joined companies at every stage, helped start companies at every stage. I’ve been employee 29 and employee 14557; I’ve joined in at every evolution. There's such a distinct change that happens between 50 and 100. You're not a family anymore; you're a small village. You expand from being a family to a village. Then, once you hit maybe 200-250, you’re a community. Maybe you have a couple of different schools, maybe a hospital, you have a couple of doctors. Then, you get to 500, and you're a full-blown town, you can't operate in the same way that a small family could. The business has to follow along with that; you have to have the right communication tools, and you have to have the right programs in place to support people in different countries at different skill levels at different stages in their careers. You're going to have first-time managers in the ecosystem. It's an entirely different ballgame and you're absolutely right, the messaging does have to change and evolve as you go through those major milestones. Because what you do at 50, what you do at 200, cannot support you at 500 or 1000. Totally.

Karen Mangia

I like to do a little water-cooler segment in every interview, asking five quick questions. You give five quick answers that replicate this experience as if we spontaneously bumped into each other at the water cooler. Are you ready?

Alex Genetti

I'm so ready. I love this.

Karen Mangia

It's the lightning round, right? What time of day do you do your best creative work?

Alex Genetti

3-5 PM. That's been forced on me because I have a team in the UK, a team in Toronto, a team on the West Coast, and some in Australia. From 3-5 pm PT, Australia is waking up and Toronto is down. That's my sweet spot before I have to hop on the phone again. So, I've coached myself into 3-5 PM. That's when I can do it. Though, I'm most engaging and funniest between 9-10 PM PST, so you missed me, Karen.

Karen Mangia

Now we know when to schedule a happy hour! So speaking of time, imagine every day now has 25 hours instead of 24. What do you do with your extra hour?

Alex Genetti

Go for a walk with my dog and my fiance.

Karen Mangia

That's awesome. What would it be if you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life?

Alex Genetti

Hmm. Oh man, salmon and vegetables. Consistent, good for your brain.

Karen Mangia

What a healthy choice. It's why you can grow all these teams and organizations! It's good you have a dog for the next question. Imagine that the zombie apocalypse is coming, who are three people you want on your team?

Alex Genetti

Oh well, not my dog she barks a lot and would certainly give me away too soon. Three real people or three theoretical?

Karen Mangia

Hey, it's your call—anything goes!

Alex Genetti

Oh goodness, I would certainly say my fiance and probably his parents because they're a little more level-headed than me. I would be way too ambitious. So yeah, my current little bubble would be wonderful. Maybe ride those last days out with the people I love most because I don't think many of us would survive a zombie apocalypse.

Karen Mangia

Well said. And speaking of ending well, how can listeners stay in touch with you and what's happening at Enable?

Alex Genetti

Find me on LinkedIn, please! Enable’s blogs are so fruitful and exciting. We have our second customer conference in the next few weeks, a small plug there. But we're all on LinkedIn. Enable.com is our domain. We also have many roles, if I can do a shameless plug, we're hiring everywhere!

Karen Mangia

Thanks to Alex Genetti, Head of People at Enable, for sharing with us today on the Success From Anywhere blog.


Because success is not a destination.

Success is not a location.

Success is available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.


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