Passionate Leadership in Sales
I had the opportunity to speak with Brandon Anderson, VP People Services at Cydcor, a highly successful and growing outsourced services organization that truly understands development and career. They are committed to developing talent and sales capabilities driven by knowing each worker’s desire to learn and earn. I asked Brandon about the culture and how he sees people learning and taking charge of their career.
Sherry Benjamins: Tell me about your work at Cydcor.
Brandon: I am the VP of People Services, and responsible for all things related to the people in our business, and the organization’s culture. Development of people is one of our core values and is fully championed by our Executive Team. Having leadership support of our development efforts and other culture initiatives in invaluable in helping Cydcor be a great place to work. Our business is built on an opportunity model – whether in our sales teams or at our corporate office, team members bring grit, determination, ambition, a will to succeed, and a drive to add value not only to the organization but to their own careers.
I am very impressed with the young generation of talent that we bring into the company. Of course, there are of stereotypes about Gen Y – that they may not want to work hard, expect opportunities to be handed to them, aren’t focused on real relationships, etc. I’ve seen the opposite of these things at Cydcor. Our younger talent certainly wants to advance – but they also want to work hard, take risks, are willing to take on difficult assignments, and desire to learn and grow. It is common for us to put a younger leader in a stretch assignment and encourage them to make mistakes and “figure it out” – with leadership support of course.
I came from very large organizations before Cydcor and it was generally a “get-it or get-out mentality”. There was less willingness to adapt to diverse needs and “meet people where they are”. It is entirely different here. I have eight people on my immediate team and they range in age and generation, ethnic background, working styles, etc. This is great for our diverse culture and ability to learn from each other. In HR, our most immediate focus this year and next is transforming our culture to support our rapidly growing company. With double digit growth expected, it is critical that we not only adapt our culture, but proactively manage it and monitor our progress going forward.
SB: That speaks to your culture for sure – how do describe that?
Let me describe our culture with several words. Respect, integrity, collaboration, customer service, hard work and execution – but in addition to these typical aspects of culture, we also have approachable senior leaders who genuinely care about team members at every level. It’s not just “lip service”. We recently had a workshop with some of our leadership team and it was really a great moment when our President openly asked for feedback from a front-line supervisor on what she, as a senior executive, could do be doing better as a leader. We have an environment where people can share ideas and try things differently. Additionally, we are putting much more emphasis on accountability, innovation, and process improvement as we grow.
SB: What have you learned your new hires value most?
New hires value our “development” culture and the Cydcor opportunity. They can join us and create their own career here. We have several leaders who started their career at Cydcor over a decade ago and are now in senior leadership roles, so younger team members feel excited that this could be their path forward too. In fact, our company’s president began her career at Cydcor as a sales representative and is now our most senior leader. This is incredibly inspirational for all of our people – especially the team members who are early in career.
We also have a very fun work environment – the office space is modern and bright, and we have a gym, snacks and drinks, pool table, foosball table, other games, weekly happy hour on Friday, and an open floor plan which allows for collaboration. We are actively involved in community service and have great benefits. Recently, based on feedback from millennials, we have implemented several “going green” initiatives and have an onsite Culture Club and Philanthropy Club. Sure, we have some turnover with our Gen Y workforce, but senior leadership is proactively making changes where possible and listening to feedback.
SB: How are you developing leaders to understand early careerist needs?
We include all levels of management in our training programs and senior leaders learn from the early career folks through dialogue and open communication. The People Services team also coaches managers on how to manage through situational leadership and we talk through how needs may differ for younger team members. We are in the process of implementing a consistent coaching methodology for managers that will include specific aspects of coaching across generations. And, as I mentioned previously, we are always listening and open to feedback.
SB: What are you learning about yourself in this adventure?
I’ve personally had to adapt my way of working to a more entrepreneurial mindset versus a large corporate way of operating. Being on the front lines of reshaping culture and working directly with the C-Suite as a business partner has been incredibly fulfilling so far. And as a lifelong learner, it’s been great to have a real-life “laboratory” to apply many of the ideas I learned in my graduate career, as well as throughout my professional journey. I’ve learned the HR function here must be agile where and when we can to best support this growing business. Relationships are key in this business too, and I really enjoy our people. I’m having fun.
SB: How do you see the future of People Services?
We know that scalability is critical to achieve our growth and reach our ambitious revenue goals – both in People Services and more broadly in the business. We will need to continue to partner with our business leaders and help with streamlining processes, holding people accountable, and effectively managing change. We will have to continue focusing on communication and collaboration, as well as hiring, retaining, and developing the right talent. As in any growth organization, there is an intention to keep the “great stuff” that sets us apart while growing the business and adding new exciting aspects to the company. We will need to ensure each member of our management team is truly managing well and supporting our value of developing people.
SB: What advice would you give your peers who are trying to build an “entrepreneurial spirit?”
BA: Ask for feedback from all levels in the business, not just senior leaders and seasoned professionals. Our Gen Y workers have great ideas! Be purposeful about developing a plan that accelerates open thinking and growth mindsets. Be okay with making mistakes and learning as you go (whenever possible). Don’t be afraid to take a chance on an untested talent early in career – this person could be a “diamond in the rough” and could become a superstar. And, I think it’s critical that HR leaders embody the culture and be a role model for other leaders.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 75% of the workforce will be made up of millennials by 2030. They are already having an undeniable impact on the workforce. Their core values are often around self-expression, blending work and life, achievement and reward or moving up or across the career lattice. It is impressive to see that Cydcor is boldly embracing early career talent with a plan to support their development. It is a journey for sure and an investment strategy.
Brandon is a role model for others. There could not be a better time to join a firm that helps others navigate personal growth while adding to company success.
I held a focus group of 15 millennials early this summer to learn what they saw as their challenge to personal growth. They said their biggest challenge was lack of experience, not seeing the bigger picture in the company and or not being taken seriously. It sounds like Cydcor seeks to understand this cohort and is taking action. What is your plan for identifying the “diamonds in the rough” and then seeing them shine?