Human resources is one of the most difficult and misunderstood aspects of running a business, but it is also one of the most crucial to any company’s proper function. As the CEO of GameDay HR and host of the HR Sucks podcast, Katrina Ghazarian uses her platform to spread awareness about the importance of the HR industry as well as some best practices that every HR professional needs to know. In recognition of this exemplary work, she was named a 2020 Forbes Social Media Influencer. In this conversation with Brian Covey, Katrina shares some of her biggest lessons and realizations from her career in HR. She touches on how employers can motivate their employees, how great communication can lead to better productivity, how to keep teams aligned with the company vision, and many more. She also introduces a Culture Quiz that will give you enough information to stop second-guessing and making assumptions about how your employees are within your company.
Listen to the podcast here:
GameDay HR: HR That Doesn’t Suck With Katrina Ghazarian
I have my friend on. It’s even more exciting to collaborate and talk about important things. Kat and I connected through some mutual friends. In 2020, all of us realized, even though we were separating and couldn’t travel, if you took advantage of the opportunities that were there, you could have connected with people not just in the United States, but across the entire world. You could have made some great connections with people that are experts in their field. They’ve got other connections you may want to be connected to and collaborate. That’s part of why we created the show. I want to remind you, make sure you like, subscribe, leave some comments, let us know how we’re doing, and let us know about the guests you want to meet here.
I’m pumped. I was on a Kat’s show and she has the HR Sucks Podcast, which everybody loves the name. It’s pretty awesome. This was funny. You were named a 2020 Forbes Social Media Influencer. You also have your GameDay. You’re the CEO. You’ve got your HR company that we were talking about earlier has started to grow and you’ve got some momentum. We can talk about all things recruiting, hiring, retention, culture, things that matter out there. Let’s jump into this. Let people know a little bit about who you are and what you’re up to, so they can get a little bit of insight into what you’re doing in 2021 as you move forward.
Brian, I’m glad to be here. I pretty much do any project that you needed help with, or wanted to talk to me about. Thank you for having me on your show. There’s so much that has happened in 2020. Was it hard? Yes. I don’t know if 2020 being a hard year and a good year, if that’s possible. They’re not mutually exclusive. It was ironic because at the time when you came on our show, I was such a drag about personal branding and social media. It’s something I’ve conflicted with for the last few years of, “You have to have a personal brand. You have to do all these posts and these captions.” The thing is it never felt authentic to me. I would use somebody’s format. There are many programs you can buy monthly subscriptions for, and they’ll have the stock photos, and the captions that you should be using.
I would try that, and then I would read it and I’m like, “That is not me. I do not talk like that.” I don’t say things like, “Sister, I’m here for you.” That’s not my lingo. I had put that to rest and then the pandemic hit. I had extra time on my hands because I’m not traveling, I’m not driving, and I’m not networking in person anymore, which was pretty much the bulk of my responsibilities. I started making these videos in my backyard. They’re 1-minute, 2-minute videos. They’re me and my personality, but telling it like it is. How you and I would have a conversation. The exact way we would have that conversation.
I’m wearing a Nike jacket and my hair is up. I didn’t care for it to be this quality production. For me, it was the message. I went 2 or 3 weeks doing one every day. I was recording it, editing it on iMovie and uploading it. I didn’t know what size it was supposed to be. I struggled with all of that. I got everything up and then they took off. When I say take off, it wasn’t like 100,000 followers like someone I know. It was people were watching videos that they otherwise would not have cared to watch, which was HR. Doing that and then LinkedIn was such an easy platform for me to disrupt because everybody there is so hoity-toity and white-collar.
I was like, “I’m going to button down a bit and tell things as they’re happening to me, as I would say it.” A lot of people think I have grammar errors in some of the things that I post. I was like, “No, this is how I talk.” Sometimes I leave letters out of words or I combine them, or they’re slaying in there. Doing that made such a huge push and made me feel so much comfortable with posting because I felt I could be myself. I look back and read my stuff and I laugh. I’m like, “I’m funny sometimes.” The Forbes acknowledgment, I found out a week or two after our show. You were one of the first people I told. I’m like, “How about that?” It was such an honor. When you look at the other people listed, they have a tremendous amount more followers than I do. I think what Forbes was trying to accomplish was the message. How unique was the message? It was a proud moment for all of the HR industry because, when do you see HR as a top influencer?The only people who will get mad at the title “HR Sucks” are HR people who don’t have a sense of humor. Click To Tweet
It doesn’t happen. It’s all about your story. I love this because you have this tagline you use, which I do think separates you from the pack like, “Voted funniest in fifth grade.” It’s this whole thing which right out of the gate, I remember seeing your profile and we connected. I saw that line and I’m like, “I’ve got to connect with you.” That stood out. Too many times people are trying to emulate or copy someone else when they’re not themselves. Everybody knows my story. I’m probably out there a lot with the dad life stuff, I loved being a dad, but I also like my soccer days and how I’ve been wired. That’s how you are wired. I’ve watched how once you tapped into, “This is who I am. I’m going to put it out there. I’m going to track the people I want to do business with. There are billions of people in the world. I don’t need them all to connect and like what I’m doing.”
What you’re starting to see is that momentum. You have a personal brand and we’re talking about that. You have a personal brand, whether you’re intentional about it or you’re posting, doing video, doing content. Whatever is there, the reality for everyone reading is you have a brand. When you’re not in the room, people say things about you or they have an image of you. They have thoughts about you. If they were to list out adjectives or talk about what it is you do, how you make them feel, what your energy is, your brand has been created. It’s a matter of, “Are you going to have input in your brand or are you going to let others do that?”
I’ve seen you start to step into it. Let’s talk about that because you’re doing videos in your backyard. You’ve had some amazing guests. It’s good for people to know you have stepped out of what some would consider this entry-level where you started. Now, you’re up. You’ve had Dave Meltzer, one of our friends. You got Bradley coming up. You’ve had some big guests on your show. You and Carlos are friends. Carlos was out with Andy, and the guys are jamming. You’re going down this personal branding path, and you’re starting to set up your podcast. How does all that tie into what you do? HR, most people would not connect that up at all with you having a podcast and being on social media. What’s the connection and the drive behind why you’re doing all that?
Even the name HR Sucks, it’s on video where I come up with the name. I was like, “HR sucks.” I was talking to a CEO of a big eCommerce company. We were walking out and someone was filming. I can’t remember it was his photographer or videographer. We’re having this conversation. He was like, “I hate HR.” I’m like, “Yeah, HR sucks.” You see the light bulb go off in my head of, “HR sucks.” If anything, the only people who are going to be mad at that title are HR people who don’t have a sense of humor. They’re like, “You’re ruining it.” It was already ruined. I’m trying to make it light, better, about people, connection, data, and all the things that HR is missing.
When you talk to employees, to business owners and CEOs, they all have this weird feeling about the HR department. They’re only brought in when things are bad. They’re an isolated siloed department. They’re not connected to the employees, with their stakeholders. They don’t have a seat at the table with the rest of the decision makers of the company. It was bad and it was very consistent across all sizes of organizations. I’ve talked to Fortune 500 employees. I’ve talked to executives of Fortune 500 employees. It was an anomaly if you had a great experience with the HR department.
When you couple that with HR is the one department in an organization that has frequent touchpoints with every employee in the entire organization. Not all departments can have that. Marketing doesn’t know every single employee in the organization, maybe accounting if payroll is in that one. We have an opportunity. We get to influence, lead and guide every single employee in the organization. We have access to them. Pull it up, “Brian Covey, there he is.” I can go find you. I know what department you work at. Not everybody could do that. I felt like we were missing out on many opportunities. The pivotal moment for me was I read a research study that came out in 2020. This is prepandemic, “As of January 2020, 59% of the global workforce was disengaged.” Can you imagine if 60% of your team members didn’t care whether the team succeeded or not? They didn’t care if they got their work done or not? Can you imagine how much money? The total amount was $550 billion annually. If we can improve that by 5% of $550 billion, that’s not including compounding productivity. That’s a fantastic amount.
I know we’ll talk about that because I took on your surveys. I want to bring that up because it was eye opening for me to go through it as a leader and be very honest about, “Here are some areas we’re doing well and here are some areas we’re not.” I’m going to save that because they will be some tactics for people. I love to get your experience because you’re seeing this from different companies, midsize, smaller companies, medium-sized and large companies. I’m always curious why people join and why people stay with organizations. If 60% are almost disengaged but yet they’re still there. In your experience, why do people usually stay? Is it the same reasons that they may have joined or is that different? What’s that looks like?
I compare your job and relationship with your employer as if it were a relationship with a significant other. Why do we stay in relationships for so long that we know are not serving us? We’re both miserable. We’re like robotic and moving along. Number one is because a lot of employees and people in the world in general, don’t know what they want. They’re distracted by everyday life with social media, TV and everything going on that they’re missing out on opportunities to connect and be introspective. What does make me happy? I interviewed Marisa Acocella. She had a great job on an advertising company in New York City. She had no complaints about the organization but she was miserable.
The reason why she was miserable was because she wasn’t doing what she was supposed to be doing, which was to be a cartoonist. She wanted to be an illustrator, a cartoonist, and an author. It didn’t matter. The company could have doubled her pay and triple that. They could have paid for vacations. They could have bought her lunch every day. It wouldn’t have mattered because she still was going to be unhappy. Step one of that foundation for employees when they’re feeling unhappy is to look within themselves and asks themselves, “What does make me happy? What will connect me to my passion and to my purpose?” We use this fluffy language a lot like passion and purpose. I don’t know if there’s a lot of content about how do you connect with that? We know what you’re supposed to, but how do you do that? Step one is employees need to figure that out. They need to find out, “What is it that I’m passionate about? What are my core values? Where can I be more connected with those things in my life?”
I love that because most people don’t take the time to get to know themselves. The whole surge of emotional intelligence years ago, I was fortunate to have a mentor. Give me the EQ 2.0, take the assessment, realize how far off the mark I was. You do that honest assessment and life gives you some lessons along the way through successes, and things that don’t go your way. You’re right. I had this discussion, for those that are reading, the last show we had to kick off season two is with Evan Stewart. I brought him back for this very reason. He’s somebody around this that’s a good authority but has some great insights. This was the basic concept of people are always looking for what Simon Sinek had Start with Why. People are sitting around and hoping, “I’m going to get this feeling and I’m going to find my passion by sitting back and absorbing information,” which we could do all day on social.
You’re going to love aspects of what you do, but to find out what you’re good at, and to find out areas that you can then deploy those talents and what you do, you might have to recreate your role. I’m a great example of that. My role as a vice president in a mortgage company does not look like what most people think, it doesn’t look like what it did several years ago. We don’t skirt and correct the office and sit on there in T-shirts. We are also engaged with our team very differently in how we interact. It’s less of the micromanagement and it’s more collaboration and support. It’s more empowering the team versus, “You have to do this,” and that world we grew up in for many of us. I love what you said that as you start looking at and once you know yourself, if you’re doing something every day and you’re showing up and it’s not in alignment, you need to go do something else. That’s not serving you or the company.
That’s what HR’s role should be. It’s not just figuring out how do we get everybody the tools they need to be successful but also having love. I know it’s a weird thing to talk about love and company with these scared movements or whatever. I call it love like I love you so much and I want you to be happy. I’m going to be honest with you and tell you the truth because the truth is love, that you will not be happy here no matter what we do. “Let’s start looking for other opportunities for you,” or even if it’s a performance issue or whatever, letting them go, set them free. It’s like a relationship, set them free. They’re never going to make you happy. They are going to constantly chase something that is elusive and doesn’t exist in your world. Let them go and be happy with somebody else, and give somebody else a chance. We have to have the amount of love inside of us to tell the truth. We do not do that collectively as a people in this society.
Why do think that is? This brings up something good where I’ve found in my career, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve only worked at three companies and all of them I had great relationships with the HR team. To your point, it was almost this feeling of when you see the police. You’re like, “Did I do something wrong?”Don’t bring problems unless you have solutions. Click To Tweet
The windows are tinted too dark. I’m always rolling the window down.
In our team at LoanDepot, we’ve got phenomenal support with Michelle and Lauren and the whole team. We talk about a lot of stuff. We invite them in our calls with the leadership balls. They are fabric of the organization. They are an instrumental part of our team and they’re partners. To your point though, people hesitate from these crucial conversations or difficult conversations. They’re worried, “If I speak up, that’s going to be held against me.” This is the first time where we’ve tried to create an environment where I want people to share ideas. I want them to share in a professional way. We don’t need people to be sitting around complaining. That’s not what we’re doing. Why do you think people are not open to sharing some of this? Do you think it’s because they don’t feel like they’re going to be heard or their insecurity? What’s going on there?
It varies from person to person but I would say the biggest pattern is ego. Ego may not necessarily be as obvious as everybody else sees it. If my ego is in the way, it’s because I don’t want to tell you the truth because I’m afraid you’re going to say something back to me that’s going to hurt my ego. That’s what people are afraid of is, “If I criticize this person and if they take it the wrong way, are they going to say something that’s going to hurt my ego?” If you release that and you let that go of at the end of the day, remember the truth is love, which means it has to come from a place of love first. There’s a difference with like, “That girl should not be wearing leggings.” That’s not love, that’s judgment and you’re a jerk. You can keep that stuff to yourself because you’re clearly are not coming from a place of love.
When you care about an individual’s performance, when you care about their success, and they’re not delivering, I love them and I need to tell them the truth of, “You’re not delivering.” I know you can’t be happy. Who’s happy failing and underperforming? When you approach it in a space of, “What can I do to help? What do you need from me instead of, you’re not doing this. You’re not cutting it.” When we turn it into that, and we don’t take an approach of service and servicing others, ego is going to get in the way, “You’re attacking me. You’re criticizing me. You’re not bringing a solution to me.” This is my biggest thing, “Don’t bring me problems unless you have some solutions because I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care.” That’s what social media is. It’s all these problems. What do you think the solution should be? “I don’t know,” then you shouldn’t say anything. You have no right to say anything,
There’s no context in some of those. As you were talking, two things hit me of some good mentors in my life that shared, one was separate actions from the person. When we’re talking about behaviors, we can talk about a particular action or behavior that maybe wasn’t in alignment with our culture. It maybe offended someone. They went out of bounds as we like to call it using sports analogies. It’s not ever attacking the person. That’s never allowed. That’s something that’s out of bounds. The second one, you’re talking about raising performance. Everybody’s looking for how do we manage this productivity while we’re in a remote world.
I had a mentor one day share this with me and it was encouraging. It was, “Brian, as a leader, you’re going to have people on your team that are underperforming and you need to build them up. They may need some encouragement at that moment in their life.” That’s one group. He said, “I would challenge the high performers that there are several on our team that are having record years, record months, and they’re experiencing tremendous success. Great for them. That’s the season you need to challenge them even more because they’re going to have a responsiveness to grow.” They’re performing well. They want to be challenged.
They recognize they’re doing well. Most high achievers see that level wherever it is and go, “I recognize there’s another level for me.” What do you think about that with coaching and that productivity? Everybody talks about it and we’re at home, life is a little bit different. Coaching people through for productivity and to higher performance, are there certain tactics you see that work or questions to get them to realize, “I’m on your team. I’m going to give you tough love in certain situations, but we’re on the same team. I want to see you win.” How do those conversations play out best?
Number one, it’s important to have a clear vision. As a leader, you’re curating this vision for your team. You have to consistently be able to articulate to your team what that vision is and what their role is within that vision. Now you’re connecting the value of their work. When you approach situations like that, if they’re not hitting deadlines or they’re not hitting certain numbers or performance KPIs, you have to bring it back to the vision of, “We all want this to happen. If you don’t do this part of it, or if we’re not hitting goals in this area, which you’re responsible for, then the rest of it won’t work. We need you to do your one small part so everybody else can do their part.”
You have to show them what is the role. A lot of people dismiss how important their work is in an organization, especially in a big one. In big organizations, you have inflated staff. You have five social media coordinators. You probably only need three of them, but that’s because people don’t produce at a high level. You keep hiring for it, but you’re not being intentional of, “I s this a 40-hour a week work? Is this person not producing 40 hours a week work?” I am so connected to my team which I’m sure is obvious. I know when something’s going on. They don’t even have to say it. I have to dig for it. I know all of their personalities. I know all of their family situations. I know what’s going on with them, what their challenges are because I ask. We do a check-in with each other. That’s important for me. You have to know who your team members are. What makes them tick? What challenges are they facing? I’m always like, “It’s weird that they’re not responding fast enough or they’re not online or what’s going on.” I jumped on it right away like, “Are you good? Do you want to talk about something?”
That’s the key. It’s not letting that simmer or go to the side. To your point of that initial response, “Is everything okay? I notice things are a little bit off here or there,” and it does open the door for conversation. I can see that with you doing the engagement there. It almost ties into what you’re talking about this 59% of people are disengaged out there. I love what you said. I don’t want people to miss that. It’s tying their actual role and what they do every day to the bigger mission and vision of the organization and team. They feel like they’re a part of it. For me as a leader, that’s been something I’ve been working on with our group. Every day, regardless of your role, each of us plays this integral part to ensure that for us, it’s helping someone buy their first home or second home or refinance and pay off bills, get a lower payment, whatever that might be.
No one person accomplishes that solo. We tie it together of what’s the big picture. What are we here to do and serve? I will tell you that has helped. It’s created and fostered this culture. As I was taking your test, and I want to talk about the assessment, you’re asking some great questions. For people that are looking to have something that they could go do, especially if you’re a leader of a team, regardless of size, I found that quick quiz to be phenomenal. I recognized that if you’re honest about it, I could answer yes, but it’s still flagged for me some opportunities like our core values. Could everybody recite that? That was one that stuck out to me. We have five and I’m going, “I can’t get to 75% confidently until 75% of our team could recite those back.” That’s an area right away that I could do. Let’s talk about the quiz so people can understand the resource that’s there, and then we can talk through what it is your team does. I want people to realize after they read this, if they have questions or they need help. Where can they go? Let’s start with a quiz because I thought, “Great job on that.”
I have to give credit to Patty because it was my idea, but I had Patty build it out, do the measurements of how much each response ways. They all have a different weight. This wasn’t like some simple quiz. We put a lot of data behind it. Shout-out to my girl who got that rolling. When we go back to you need to connect with your passion and purpose, you need to have a great company culture. How do you measure it? How do you know if it’s good? I wanted to create a tool for organizations to know where they stood in terms of culture and why culture. We want happier employees.People who are not happy at work have a very high likelihood of not being happy in life. Click To Tweet
We want happier people. When you don’t have happy employees, the likelihood that if you’re not happy at work, you’re not going to be happy like in your general life is very high. We spend so much time working. We put a lot of our value into our work. Some of us more than others like me. I wanted to create a tool where people can see, “Where do we start? How do we do this? What does it mean to have a great culture or a winning culture?” We built that out so people can have something they can touch, feel, look at and understand instead of like, “It’s good. I like it. That’s okay.” You then go, you do a client survey on the employees, and it’s far worse than anybody ever thinks.
It’s because you’re not asking them. You’re not taking the time to ask them what they like, what they don’t like. It’s very unintentional. We’re making an assumption. The culture quiz is step one, let’s not make assumptions. Let’s have some actual data. We’re hoping that people take it seriously. We’re hoping that when they see what the results are, it maybe will spark something in them and give them an explanation of why things aren’t going the way they should be. It’s because of this and this. Now, that you have identified the problem, what can you do next? Solve it. You know what the diagnosis is, so now we need a prognosis. That’s what the culture calculator was about.
It was interesting because our developer was like, “Who else is doing this?” He wanted to look at some examples. I’m like, “I don’t know of another organization that’s doing an online quiz like this.” He’s like, “This seems to be a common theme with you and what you’re trying to do.” I’m like, “Yeah. I want to be ahead of the game.” I want to be the first one to bring new tools to markets. That’s what I like to do. I don’t want to wait around for someone else to tell me it’s trendy.
Where can people find that quiz?
It’s on our homepage. If you go to, www.GameDayHR.com, you’ll see a Culture Quiz at the top right. It’s also in that first fold on the home page. If for whatever reason you can’t find it, it’s GameDayHR.com/contactus/culturequiz.
That’s going to be something. For any of the leaders out there, I took it myself. It’s something I would highly encourage you to do. We’re going to include that in as an action item. What I love is for those entrepreneurs and my friends who got their own business and all, this is a great way for you to pull in potential clients. I loved what you were saying that we’ve got into many of these forms filled out and it gives you a connection point with them. You have data yourself then to look at. That’s very smart. You created a ton of momentum and I love what you’re doing. Let’s give everybody some quick where can they find Kat, what you’re doing, the podcast, all that you’re up to, so they can follow along and engage with your journey.
The podcast is the HR Sucks Podcast. It’s on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, HRSucksPodcast.com. We are wrapping up season one which is a long season with 30 episodes. We’re calling it the pandemic season. We have guests lined up to guest 29. I’m still figuring out who I want for my 30th to close out the season. The reason why it’s time for us to close it out is that we are launching a whole series of HR courses. Not only do we offer client services where we will provide clients with a dedicated HR team, I felt like we can move the needle a lot faster if we trained HR professionals on very tactical operational step-by-step guides of, “This is how you turn your culture around. This is how you audit your organization. This is how you recruit effectively.”
We’re going all-in with the courses. We also have a Facebook group called HR MVPs where we’re sharing articles, blogs, and answering questions. It’s probably like the Artate that works similarly. If anybody has a question, shoot it in there and let’s see what we get back. The recording is going to stop for me in terms of podcasting around February 2021. We’re going all-in in our production studio like a high-quality production. We’re going to launch these courses. You can find me on Instagram if you want to see my shenanigans and stories, which I seem to enjoy. It’s @KatGhazarian. You can search Katrina Ghazarian. I’m the only one in the world. All my stuff should pop up. The GameDay HR is a company I truly care about. It’s something that I’ve put a lot of work, time, blood, sweat, and tears into creating that brand. A brand that was relatable and motivating from an HR standpoint. We’re everywhere now at this point.
You are showing up in a ton of places. I’ve loved it. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you. I’ve got this friend that we’re collaborating. We’re crossing over with different people. That’s why I initially created this show, which was to connect with great people that otherwise you would never have met. I encourage you to follow what Kat’s doing, and make sure you check out all of those. There are some great resources. If you need help with HR, she’s got the scoop there. I can’t wait to see the courses and we’ll have to do this again. We’ll bring you back. We’ll make sure that we’re still jamming there. I appreciate you coming on sharing this and all the support that you’ve done because none of us get there alone. HR can be your advocate and your partner. You’ve reframed for a lot of people how HR and how culture can be created. It’s intentional. It’s not something we sit back and hope for. We’ve got to go out and make it happen. Thank you.
Thanks, Brian. I don’t know if you know this, you were voted our favorite guests. Patty voted you favorite guest. I thought you were going to come with it with some jams because you have good tastes in music. I was like, “Is he going to surprise me with the theme song like I did?”
I’m working on it. I’ve been challenged on that. I’m also a bass player. Some of my musician friends were like, “When are you picking up the bass to do something cool in there?” Season two for us, you were second guest, which is awesome. I had to have you on early. You never know when we’ll switch it up. Maybe change up the music, maybe bring out the bass.
I’m ready. A lead singer right here.
We’ve got a big announcement coming out that we’re going to be partnering up with some other podcasters and we’re creating a syndicate. You’re going to love some of the people that we’re partnering with there. I’m going to save that for a different announcement. Make sure you go online to Apple, iTunes, all that stuff, like, subscribe, leave comments, help us get this out to more people. We want to inspire and help everyone continue to learn and grow on their journey and become the best versions of themselves. It’s another episode of the Brian Covey Show. We’ll catch you on the next one. See you, guys.
- HR Sucks Podcast
- Marisa Acocella – HR Sucks Podcast episode
- Evan Stewart – Previous episode on Apple Podcasts
- Start with Why
- Michelle Paul – LinkedIn
- Lauren Patel – LinkedIn
- Patty in HR – Twitter
- Spotify – HR Sucks Podcast
- Stitcher – HR Sucks Podcast
- HR MVPs – Facebook group
About Katrina Ghazarian
Founded by Social Entrepreneur and Public Speaker, Katrina Ghazarian, Gameday HR uses it’s access to businesses to partner with local non-profit organizations to seek gainful employment opportunities for homeless, unemployed, and those experiencing unfortunate circumstances.
Gameday HR envisions a world where every person has an opportunity to feel valued and safe in their working environments. Through affordable HR subscription services and high-level consulting, we aim to evolve the workplace one business at a time.
Katrina was named 2020 Forbes Top Social Media Influencer.