A good team makes good business, so screening for the right person is very critical for every business owner. Chris Dyer, Founder of PeopleG2, know that the key to communicating well with applicants is being honest and transparent. When he does screenings, Chris controls the conversation. He doesn’t just look at the negative patterns of an applicant, but also the positive ones leading people to be more open towards him and communicative. Chris shares the power of company culture as way to know what you should and shouldn’t do during a background check.
Our guest on the Successful Pitch is Chris Dyer, the Founder of PeopleG2, which is all about getting Intel, aka G2 in the military, on the people that you hire. He was so successful at what he does that a book publisher approached him to publish his new book, The Power of Company Culture. He has a whole article in Forbes magazine about the things you should be looking for and not looking for when you’re screening to make sure an applicant is not lying to you because as you know, the team is so important. He said that where to focus is so important and looking for patterns that you see in someone’s background, and even share some interesting insights on the personality tests you can give people to see if they’re going to be a cultural fit with your company. Finally, he has some secrets on how to make your team unapproachable from a competitor.
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The Power Of Company Culture with Chris Dyer
Our guest is Chris Dyer, who founded PeopleG2 in 2001 with a goal of making his vision for excellence, human capital and due diligence a reality. He’s a recognized authority on this, and he understands the challenges that are inherent to talent management decisions. If you’ve been listening to The Successful Pitch at all, you know that having a good team is the key to success. Chris believes that this impersonal automated background check has no value in this global talent spectrum, especially as it relates to finding key people. That’s why he built a company with innovative services that reduce the risk and maximize the best fit, whether it’s for a new candidate or promoting a candidate or anything along those lines. He is all about driving business forward so you have the best intelligence to make when you’re getting people-related decisions. Chris, welcome to the show.
Thank you, John. I appreciate you having me on the show. I love it and I’m excited to be here to have a great conversation with you.
I neglected to say that you’re the host of your own show, Talent Talk Radio, which has been almost four years in existence. You clearly are an expert in this. Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
In hindsight, I did. As a child, I didn’t realize what that I was. All I knew was that if I wanted to sneak around the corner liquor store to get candy as a kid, I needed to have a lemonade stand. I needed to shake the cushions on the couches, I needed to somehow talk an adult into paying me to do something, and that was always wired that way. I wasn’t necessarily wired that I wanted to make money for money’s sake, but if I wanted something, I was very good at figuring out how I could go from point A to point B and get that accomplished. That’s very much an entrepreneurial skill. It was very common for me to have a lemonade stand all the time on our street. I don’t know if you have this experience but you think of things in your childhood as normal and then you get older and you start reflecting and having other experiences and you realize that it’s not normal. Not everyone thought those things or did the same things that you did. It was then that I realized I was more entrepreneurial.
I completely relate to that. In my case, instead of a lemonade stand back in the day in the Chicago suburbs, I had a paper route. You had to knock on doors to get people to subscribe, then you had to deliver it and then you had to go once a month and collect the money. It was this whole mini-business of get the client, deliver and then collect the money. You were wearing a lot of hats without even really realizing you were doing that. I’m curious to know, how did you come up with a name PeopleG2? What does it stand for?
When we started the business, it was originally Liberty Alliance. We started it back in 2011 right around just after 9/11. It was a lot of patriotism going on and that name just felt great. The problem is that everyone thought we sold insurance. For years, we had to fight this assumption that people had, that they knew what we did even though they were wrong. We decided in 2012 that we were going to change the name. We wanted something that made sense but also was nondescript enough that people would ask what does this mean as opposed to knowing in their heads that they knew what we did. People is pretty simple. We have a solution for any people-related transaction. We have employment screening, tenant screening, vendor screening, clients screening. If you’re going to have interaction with a human being, we have a solution to help you check them out to make sure that it’s who they say they are and there’s no big red flags there. The G2 part actually comes from the military. When they go do intelligence gathering, that is referred to as G2.It’s very common for people in the military to say, “We need to go do some G2.” That we found out has translated into Corporate America. A lot of great leaders in Corporate America have come from military backgrounds and they brought that term with them. It was a way for us to combine it. Most people don’t know but those that do seem to grab, “You do intelligence gathering.”If they know that, it’s been a good little connection.
There are several nuggets of wisdom there. First, the willingness to pivot even on your name. A lot of people will go, “We’re committed to it. We’ve spent all this money on branding and website development, etc. That’s what people know us at.” You’re willing enough, smart enough to say, “It’s not working. It could be better and we’re going to rebrand and do this.” Big brands have tried it and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I love that you broke it down into that there’s a reason behind. That story of origin for me is what makes interesting conversation.
If someone sees your business card, sees a logo and asks you what it is, you now have a really interesting story about intel in the military and then it totally explains what you do. That’s the sticky factor that everybody wants to have. You’ve done a great job there. It also gives an element of intrigue and a little bit of detectiveness in it. It makes it a little sexier than we just do background checks.
It’s probably important to know that for anyone here, it sounds sexy and it sounds easy. I can tell you it was one of the hardest things we ever did. We fought over it. We tried to bring in consultants. People almost quit over it. It was a really difficult process, and eventually what came out of that, by being brave enough to go down that route, it allowed us then to have that space to actually find something better. We really liked our old name. We had the Statue of Liberty as our mascot and people had those in their office and we really liked our name. Our name just sucked to what we were doing. It was hurting us, not helping.
People go, “That was obvious,” and realize they’ve posted probably the tens if not hundreds of choices you had. The internal disruption that that caused is fascinating to see. How do you background check people who are going to come work for you?
We ran them through the gamut. If they are going to be working in our business and we’re going to be background checking other people, we better have really good people. We run just about everything we can on them. I have yet to have anybody come and want to work for me that has something on their background that’s a problem. We have a natural wall there that they’re not going to show up with two felonies and open court case and say, “I want to work for a background check company.” There’s a natural barrier, much like maybe being a police officer or something. We do a lot of other things that might be valuable for everyone. I absolutely love the Gallup Strengthsfinder. If you go on, you can create an account, you can buy them in advance and it’s $7 or something. You give them to your applicants and allow them to take this little test and they get their five strengths. We put you into this positive mode. Often with applicants, we are looking for ways to disqualify them. What stupid thing did they say? Are they wearing shoes that are ugly? They went to a school I don’t like.
We’re trying to find reasons that we don’t like in this person, and that ends up messing us up because we miss out on great people that don’t fit into our little box that we think is the person who we want. The Strengthsfinder System, aside from being incredibly inexpensive, tells us who this person really is. It doesn’t tell us whether or not they’re going to do a great job doing the work, but it will tell us whether they have that potential. My number one strength is ideation. Essentially what that means is that I’m really good at taking a hundred ideas. I can sit in a room, people throw a hundred ideas at me and I enjoy that and I go, “Those two ideas right here are the ones we should focus on.” For other people, that’s not a skill for them. They don’t enjoy that. It really helps you understand. You can watch a little two-minute fun video and you feel like you understand the person and can make a better choice about them. That’s $7.
The second one is Tony Robbins is actually giving away free DISC profiles. DISC profile is one of the best personality assessments out there. Full disclosure, I am an avid hater of Myers Briggs. DISC for me is where it really is. It used to be an expensive test that we would spend a lot of money on. It’s TonyRobbins.com/disc, you can get it for free. We had everyone in our company do it. We have all of our applicants to it. When they become an employee, we take their DISC profile and we put it into our Google Drive and every employee can see every employee’s DISC profile. If you want to understand somebody better, if you’re having a conflict with someone, you want to know how to deliver good news or bad news or an idea to your boss, go in there and read their profile. It tells you exactly what to do and what not to do.
I’ll give you a quick story. I had two managers that really like each other and they do great work, but for some reason when we’re actually doing the work, they seem to butt heads quite a bit. They both independently were telling me, “I don’t know what it is and why we butt heads and I don’t know how to fix it,” and they both could see the conflict and they didn’t know how to resolve it. After we did this DISC profile, they both read each other’s profiles and they both called me independently and said, “I’ve been doing it all wrong. I’ve been making these huge mistakes and they’re silly, simple things.” One person didn’t like small talk. It said this person hates small talk at the beginning of conversation. Essentially what you should do is just get on the phone and get right into it. We’re on the call for this, we get right into it, and then do the small talk at the end, if there are some. That simple switch caused all the conflict to go out of the air. How would you ever know that? You would probably just be upset with that other person until one day you didn’t work there anymore. I find those are great tools for companies that are free, they’re easy or free or almost free, to start finding out who that other person is a little bit better and allow yourself to go a little farther and have a better result.
That’s so interesting to me because I used to work for a boss and she was like that. She was a New Yorker and she was busy and was not into this laid back California way of rapport building. Yet there are certain clients that if you start talking about work right away, they get offended. You really need to adjust and pivot depending on who you’re talking to. Certainly in an interview process, I find with rapport building, people either skip it or spend way too much time on it. That’s an art form of just the right amount. Thank you for that. I’m assuming it also works in personal relationships, not just business, correct?
Absolutely. The first thing I did is I have my wife take that, and I took mine and I gave it to her. We exchanged. Even though her and I had been together since we were sixteen, we’ve been together longer than we’ve ever been now, there were things I learned in that, that I didn’t ever know and insights that helped me in communication, and the same for her. If we can have that, anyone can. Some of the best salespeople in the world learn, whether it’s intuitively or they have a natural ability, that they’ve learned over time they can pick up those personality type, to know when it’s time to have that rapport building and when it’s not. There’s only a handful of those people in the world that are really good at that. The rest of us have to start doing it and this is a great way. If you start doing this with your team and you start to learn people who have a more dominant personality, they tend to fall in this category than people who are more introverted. There are some similarities between those. Not all the time, but you can start to pick and choose how you’re going to operate and be a little bit more successful.
It even reminds me of the book, The Five Languages of Love. Some people hate gifts, some people love it.
I love those books. I found it was harder for work to utilize those. Some people like to be touched. My HR brain was like, “What does that mean?”We’re to have back rubs during work? It got a little weird, but for family or for personal relationships, that is a fantastic book.
The thing that translates for me is do something unexpected for the person. The One Minute Manager talks about that, to catch people doing something right, acknowledge it, then you really get a lot of loyalty and stuff. Let’s talk about Forbes sharing your insights on the Ten Dos and Don’ts of Conducting Employee Background Checks. Give us a couple of dos and give us a couple of don’ts.
Some of the dos are you want to keep it broad and thorough. If you come in and run just a criminal search, let’s say. Criminal search is important and you should run it, but based on trying to find the best candidate and also to try to comply with a lot of the movement that’s happening in our country which is called Ban the Box, which is not asking people upfront to disclose that they’ve had a criminal record. That disclosure should come at the end of the process. You should make up your mind about that person and whether or not you think they’d be a good fit, independent of whether or not they have a criminal record. At the end, once you find out if they do, then you can decide whether or not you think that that has anything to do with the job. For example, somebody has a misdemeanor for possession of a joint. They had one marijuana cigarette in their pocket. Does that mean that they are going to do bad? A lot of companies have taken the stance that we hire nobody with any criminal record. In Texas, a $10 bounced check, is a misdemeanor. Having your dog off the leash in Utah is a misdemeanor.
There are some crimes that you just don’t think about and a lot of this has to do with people who have had problems with drugs and so they may have had a past. If they haven’t had anything since then and they can display that they’ve had work and school and all these other things, they got their life figured out and they don’t have this problem anymore, should you consider them for a job? The movement says yes. Personally, I say, yes. We don’t want to have someone who’s harmed a child in charge of watching children, and someone who has stolen money to be in charge of your money. Those clear things where the crime and the job don’t match. We don’t want to get into this situation, which is where it was headed for a while where we make these blanket statements that if you’ve had any crime, you can’t work here, because that puts it back on society. What do we expect those people to do? If they can’t get a job, they have to live, what are they going to do? They’re going to commit more crimes, or live on welfare or one of these other things that we complain that people might be doing. Yet if they can’t get a job, what do you expect them to do? It’s a situation that’s evolving and changing, but that’s some of the things to keep it broad. Look at everything. Employment, education, their DMV record. Get a full picture of this person so that you can understand them. If the only thing they had was they got caught smoking a joint at that concert that one time and everything else was perfect, you should be able to make a better decision about them. We’re not telling you what your decisions should or shouldn’t be, but at least you can make a better decision by having more information.
One of the things you talked about in your article is locate patterns, both positive and negative. I’m always interested in that. People tend to look at the negative when they’re looking for a background check, but you’re encouraging people to look for positive patterns as well. Can you give an example or a story of what a positive pattern could look like?
There are a few for positive patterns. Look at their work history. Have they consistently stayed at jobs for amounts of time that would be reasonable? in this day and age, we don’t see people very often coming in to do your whole life. We don’t ask the people to come in and sign up and work for you for 40 years. It’s really changed to more of a tour of duty. We’re asking people to come in and work for two or three years and then they may re-up again for another tour of duty. We may give them a promotion, we may change where they going to work, or they may decide they’re going to move on. If that works for you, is their work pattern two or three years or three to five years? As opposed to the negative pattern, it might be they worked here for two years, then six months, nine months, a year. They can’t seem to stick somewhere. Finding that positive pattern. Do you see a positive pattern of they consistently seem to be taking on more and more responsibility? Getting a better and better job title? Are they growing and becoming better at what they do, as opposed to someone who’s gone every two years and changed jobs and has the exact same job title?
That’s showing that maybe they are more interested in the money, not necessarily in the growth. You can look for the positives there. Have they gotten better with their education? Is there a DMV record? A funny story I can tell is the jerk test. I don’t know how it is in the rest of the country, but I can tell you in California, for a very long time, there is a law that you must wear a seatbelt. It has been long enough that anyone who was old enough to have gone through that process, it may have been hard for them to deal with that new reality. Those people are old enough that they’re no longer driving or they had spent enough time that they’ve conformed. You have someone who is a viable work candidate who has got three seatbelt tickets on their DMV? They’re probably a jerk. They’re not a criminal, not necessarily having an infraction, but who doesn’t conform to the basic levels of society that you’re supposed to wear a seat belt, and then got called three times and still has not changed their behavior?
I have a funny story to add to that. I was recently in an Uber and I sat in the back. I always wear a seat belt when I’m driving or a passenger in the front seat, but I honestly don’t wear a seat belt when I’m in a taxi and in my mindset, I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt in the backseat when an Uber driver is driving me. The driver asked me something and I lean forward and we got pulled over because I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt in the backseat. We were both stunned like what did we do wrong? He gave me a ticket, and I was like, “Holy cow.” There are so many slight things you can do. It’s even illegal to eat while you’re driving. It’s just so many little things. I could see what you’re saying here that you can’t let those things stop you from hiring a really good person because everybody makes minor mistakes throughout their life.
You got to look for patterns. If they have one ticket for that, okay, whatever. Yours would probably show up as a passenger not wearing a seat belt, which is a different thing than the driver, but it’s patterns. If you can find multiple things in their background that show you good things, then great. If you’re seeing a pattern that might show you a lot of negatives, you got to listen to that and say maybe we shouldn’t hire this person. If you are going to hire them, then you’re going to put them on a tight leash and you got to be really clear about what their goals are and what their expectations are. The moment that they’re not following that, you cannot allow this to fester and go on and on. You need to fail-fast with that person and get them out if they’re not going to do the things that you’re expecting.
A lot of people will say, “I worked at this company for two or three years and then I took another job. It didn’t work out. I only left after three months and then I found another job and I’ve been there for a while.” I’m not going to put that three-month job on my resume or my LinkedIn profile. Would that show up on a background check and is that considered a ding?
We could find it. It’s possible that when we call for one employer, they may tell us that you left with this other one. If we find that out, we’re probably going to really put that on the report. This is really a personal choice, because it could be that you went to this other job, thinking it was going to be great, and it was the most horrible, terrible experience of your life. Maybe you don’t want to put that on there. Maybe those people were terrible and you’re afraid someone’s going to call them and they’re going to know, some reasons it into that. I have found with this scenario and in everything else in life, if you have to lie and someone finds out that you lied, it always sets the relationship up to be problematic. You’re better off putting that out there. Maybe you don’t have to put it on your LinkedIn profile. That’s like your “look how I am social media thing” but on your resume or an application, in the application specifically, if they are asking you, “Tell us the last seven jobs you had,” you need to put that down.
Then you need to walk in there and you need to control that conversation. You need to say, “I don’t put this one on my LinkedIn. I don’t put it on my resume, but you asked me, I put this one down because I want to be honest with you. I went and I did this one. This was the worst job I ever had. It was three months, and I went to this new place and I’ve been happy. Every place I’ve ever gone; this was just a bad fit.”Bring it up front and control that conversation, as opposed to putting it on there and just hoping something happens or hope that no one ever asks you about it. When they catch you in a lie, they think you’re lying about something small, then they start to wonder if you’re lying to them about everything else. You’re just never going to be successful in your new environment if that’s the scenario.
You have a new book. What’s the title and what made you want to write it?
The book is the The Power of Company Culture. Kogan Page approached me and said, “We’d like you to consider writing a book.” It just really came from the stories and the things that we talk about on the radio show and also a lot of the talks that I give. I do a lot of speaking around the country. They came to me and say, “If you did write a book, why don’t you write down what you would do? A rough outline and then we’ll talk about it.” I said, “That’s easy, I can do that.” I essentially just took an outline of what my current speeches are and a couple of the cool people I’ve had on the radio show and inserted that, send it off, honestly thinking they were going to tell me no or they were going to come back and tell me we need to work on this or something. They came back and said, “Cool. We want you to do it.” I was a bit not prepared for that and I thought, “This is a cool challenge.” A lot of my growth in my life has come from saying yes to things that I probably shouldn’t have said yes to. I wasn’t technically ready to do it yet, so I said yes.
In the middle of writing the book, jumping off a bridge was a thought that came into my mind a few times. It is far more difficult than I ever thought it was going to be, but it has really helped me grow. My speeches have gotten better. What I’m talking about has gotten better. I learned so much more, read so much more, understand so much more than I did before. They’re just little stories that I would tell sometimes, maybe a little five-minute snippet of a story and a talk. When I went up for the book, I had to go back and really understand that story. Then I would read the entire book about the story and it was like, “I was telling the horrible cracker Jack version of the story when it’s really much better.” I’ve been able to learn and get better at that, but I would say anyone who’s trying to run a company, who does a bunch of other things, I do a lot of other things in my life, adding on a book was daunting. I’m really excited for people to read it. Hopefully my thing on my radio shows, I hope that someone can take one thing away from the conversation I’m having and use it in their life that day or that week. If that can happen, I’m happy. I’m happy to show up every week and have that radio show if there’s someone out there that can take a nugget and improve themselves. I’m hoping the same thing with a book, there might be a chapter in that that really resonates with them that they can take back to their work.
Give us some of your keynote topics because I think since it dovetails into the content of the book, it’ll almost be like a sneak peek on some of the chapter titles.
I do a couple of different talks. We do the traditional boring background check compliance talk, if you want to know how not to get sued and all that. I do that talk a lot. It’s my least favorite one to give, because it’s scary and boring and I feel like everyone turns white as I’m talking. It’s not fun, but it’s important. It’s an intense one. My company is completely virtual. We went from a brick and mortar company to completely virtual back in 2009.I talk a lot about virtual success and how you can do that with your company, how you can handle virtual employees, or a department that might be virtual. A lot of people still don’t understand how to make that work. They think seeing people rustling papers and hearing a stapler go out every once in a while is productivity, and so they can’t wrap their arms around virtual work. We do a lot of talks on that.
I experienced it when I was in Condé Nast and I had friends in law firms that people would literally do crazy things, like I’m going to put my coat on my back in my chair then go out and have dinner, and then come back at 7:30 PM or 8:00 PM for like ten minutes, send a few emails, and give the illusion that I’m working late. All that goes away with virtual. It’s just based on your output, not that you put in ten-hour or twelve-hour days.
At least be smart enough to go into Outlook and just do a delay delivery. You can send those emails out ahead of time and delay the delivery. Isn’t that crazy that people think they have to do that, and that’s not productivity. For me, productivity is you tell people this is what I expect, this is your goal, this is what I want you to do, and then you got to be able to measure it. That’s one of the chapters in the book, measurement. I do a couple of different talks around company culture. One is employee engagement WTF and that means, “Where To Focus?” That one’s fun. Really we’re morphing with this current version is spectacular workplaces, how to have a fun loving cult. The newest one that I started playing around with that our mutual friend, Mark Goldson, and I developed was unpoachable. How do you get your people to be unpoachable? How do you have an organization where people just don’t want to leave?
Measurement is the place that I see companies doing the worst job at. Some of the best of the best like Google, they do measurement, they kick our butts all day long. They measure everything that is relevant to measure, and they know what not to measure. We don’t want to micromanage people and we don’t want to measure things to the point of exhaustion where all people do is spend their time telling you what they did. I had a buddy whose boss left, and so the owner took over the management of the team temporarily. He had everyone on the sales team do a sheet where you had to tell them in five-minute increments what you had done. He said half of his day was just spent writing out the form, and his productivity absolutely dropped. Fortunately, the boss got frustrated and said he brought in a new VP of sales, because he felt like the salespeople had all started doing a terrible job. Of course, he didn’t recognize that it was over measuring them.
I have another example of that myself. Back in the day before you just paid a fee for your phone and you would get a line item charge for every call you made. They made us go through our phone records and say whether it was a personal call or a business call, and have to write down the account that you called so that you can turn your phoning bill in. They were only paying for the business calls. Do you know how much time that took?
Whatever it costs for your phone bill. They lost the money on your productivity and time that you spend doing that report. I guarantee it.
You’ve given us so many incredible takeaways. For me, just that Gallup Strengthsfinder or the DISC profiles from Tony Robbins, really identifying the best way to communicate with people, being honest and transparent, and you control the conversation so you’re not “caught in a lie” and the big one is how to be unpoachable. Can you give us a little snippet of one thing someone could do as a leader to keep their key employees from being poachable?
How do you have one thing? The honest answer is it’s a whole system. It is a culture. If we want to pick one thing where you could start with, it could be getting rid of the crappy people. Nobody wants to work with a bunch of idiots.
It seems obvious to you, but that’s a great starting point for people, that one bad apple. Don’t allow somebody’s negativity, even if they’re a great producer, to overshadow the whole culture because then the other ones are like, “I got to get away from that guy. He gets away with behavior because he’s a top salesperson or whatever his job is. I can’t take it. It’s a toxic workplace. I’m out of here.”Just that one thing, I know that’s the tip of the iceberg. People will buy your book, which is The Power of Company Culture. I can’t thank you enough. Is there any final thought you want to leave us with?
I really appreciate you having me on the show. I know we’re going to have you on our show as well so we can keep the conversation going. It’s been a lot of fun.
Thank you, Chris. I’m looking forward to reading your book, The Power of Company Culture. In the meantime, be sure to tune into Chris’s show, Talent Talk. If you need someone to come and give you an amazing keynote on how to have a fun loving workplace or how to make your team unpoachable, Chris is the guy. Thanks again, Chris.
You’re welcome. I appreciate it.
- Chris Dyer
- The Power of Company Culture
- Talent Talk Radio
- Gallup Strengthsfinder
- The Five Languages of Love
- Ban the Box
- One Minute Manager
- Kogan Page
- Ten Dos and Don’ts of Conducting Employee Background Checks
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