What does YapStone executive Debra Tenenbaum say is the key to hiring? Build a strong company culture and brand

Published · 3 min read

More than ever before, CEOs are seeing significant changes in the skills and types of talent they need. Today, building a business in the financial services industry is changing thanks to the impact of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), making soft skills like problem-solving, collaboration, and leadership a higher priority, according to PwC’s 20th CEO Survey.

“We need forward-thinking employees who are willing to learn constantly as the industry evolves,” says Debra Tenenbaum, chief people officer of YapStone, an online payment provider that powers millions of transactions.

In addition to a growing need for these soft skills, finance organizations like YapStone are facing increased competition for talent, according to the PwC survey. When Tenenbaum joined YapStone in 2015, the company’s brand was suffering, which made it even harder to keep and recruit quality employees. At the time, employee reviews of the company were poor, and as a result, the company was struggling to bring in the talent it needed to grow.

Tenenbaum set out to improve YapStone’s reputation and employee satisfaction to get the business back on track. The first step? Creating a company culture that would attract top talent.

A rotten company culture is difficult to hide

Today, social media can play a big part in the recruiting process. The majority of job seekers who read a negative company review online—55 percent—don’t apply for the position, according to a CareerArc survey. And those employees and job seekers who leave negative online reviews are 66 percent more likely to share their opinions on social media.

“If you have a terrible employment brand internally, employees can go on social media and voice their concerns,” Tenenbaum explains. “That affects your company and you can’t recruit talent as effectively.”

To improve the company’s social media presence, Tenenbaum knew YapStone first had to create a better employee experience. She believed employees should be in the know about what business decisions were being made, why, and how those decisions would impact them. From this vision, four new value propositions emerged:

  1. Inclusion in business conversations
  2. Transparency of communication
  3. Authentic communication
  4. Management accountability

Make sure action follows the intention

Tenenbaum emphasizes that just revising company values on paper isn’t enough. It needs to be followed by action in order to create loyal employees who would want to stick around and help grow the business.

“As you’re creating your value prop, you can’t just spin a picture of what you want the company to be,” Tenenbaum says. “People will come in and say, ‘This isn’t what you sold me on.'”

Tenenbaum also sent a survey to employees to get their input about cultural changes. Based on themes from employee feedback, the YapStone leadership team put together a company-wide action plan. Each functional leader developed a plan for their specific division to build a base of trust between employees and management.

Requests for “better facilities and collaboration space” resulted in redesigned offices that incorporate an open workspace and collaboration spaces to increase productivity. Employee feedback for improved communication between managers and employees led to the launch of a management development series to train managers on a variety of soft skills. YapStone also rolled out 401(k) matching and flexible time off in response to survey feedback.

Implement high-value storytelling

Over time, it became clear that Tenenbaum’s strategy was working. Once employees felt their voices were heard, they started becoming company advocates.

“Employees would come up to me and say, ‘I love working here’ and tell me their story,” Tenenbaum says. And she had an idea: Capture those testimonials on video.

Today, short videos highlight employees talking about their individual YapStone experience—discussing their particular career path and what they like about their job—and are posted on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor to give prospective candidates an insider view of the company.

“Focusing on the authentic employment branding of our company through these videos has really been one of the big differentiators for us,” she says. Candidates often leave notes or comments about a particular video saying it made them want to work at YapStone.

Tenenbaum’s efforts have more than doubled the employee base since 2015, creating a culture where employees are not only dedicated to their own professional success but to the success of the company as a whole.

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