In this episode of Said with Candor Candor’s founder, Kelsey Bishop welcomes Hebba Youssef, Chief People Officer at Workweek, and the creative mind behind the newsletter and the podcast ‘I Hate it Here’. Tune in for an insightful chat about the growing importance of people functions in shaping the future of workplace and company culture.

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"Company culture is always changing — when you're at the first ten people versus when you're at twenty people, fifty, a hundred. There are real inflection points in a company where the culture is going to change whether or not you like it because there are more people, it becomes a mixing pot, it becomes more opinions, perspectives, experiences, and all of that informs your core culture."

—  Hebba Youssef, Chief People Officer at Workweek and Founder and Creator of the 'I Hate it Here' newsletter and podcast.

💬 Conversation Topics

  • The Role of the Chief People Officer and its Influence on Company Culture
  • Role Dynamics: CPO vs Founder in Company Culture
  • Company culture pitfalls
  • Hebba's advice on how to build and strengthen culture in a remote work environment
  • Hebba’s take on the Returning to Office movement
  • Picking the right Manager and the impact in culture

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • The Chief People Officer plays a vital role in the success of a company by strategically managing its talent. In today's post-pandemic world, people function have a crucial role in dealing with challenges like low employee connection and engagement, driven by external factors like layoffs, inflation, and increasing high living costs.
  • The CPO operates at the crossroads, bridging business strategy with talent and execution: HR is often perceived as a compliance or support function, but to truly unleash a company's potential, founders must involve their HR and people professionals in their strategy. While founders are focused on building the best business, the CPO is focused on understanding business needs through its people.
  • Actively listening to your team, and questioning their preferences in activities and schedule, fosters engagement and cultivates a robust team culture.
  • Hebba calls for transparency about the true motives behind the Return to Office movement — while there's talk of prioritizing employee connection and culture, Hebba points out the substantial economic interest, particularly in commercial real estate. Additionally, studies indicate that remote work enhances productivity and inclusivity.

🎤 Our Guest

Hebba Youssef is the Chief People Officer at Workweek and the Founder and Creator of I Hate it Here — a weekly newsletter and a podcast where Hebba shares insights, learnings, and advice for HR and People Operations, on how to build better company cultures. Hebba recently launched a community called Safe Space where HR professionals can connect and exchange struggles and learnings.

👩‍💻 Get to know Hebba on Candor:

🏠 Explore Safe Space community on Candor:

🗞 Subscribe to ‘I Hate it Here' newsletter:

Check out ‘I Hate it Here' podcast:

📖 More Resources

Candor's Culture Care Kit

What's Team Culture? How to Built it on a Remote Team

What is Employee Connection? Remote Work Edition

The Founder's Guide to Remote Onboarding

Partial Transcript



Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the Candor podcast, where we get candid about culture. Candor helps leaders create strong culture through Candor profiles, which is the best way to share how you work. You can sign up for Candor for free at I'm Kelsey, the founder of Candor, and today I'm so excited to be joined by Hebba Youssef, the Chief People Officer at Workweek and the founder and creator of “I hate it here” the place for H.R. to build better workplace cultures. Welcome here.



I'm so happy to be here. I can't wait for the conversation today.



Well, we can just kick things off. I mean, I'd love to hear about your experience. Kind of. We can just start with, like, CPAs, chief people officers, and kind of like the role you see yourself in kind of building company culture and how that compares to the founder role. And like, what's everybody else's role in this thing? Like tell me about the people functions and how you're looking at it.



Oh, man, that's such a loaded question. So like, ‘how am I feeling today?’ Is the real what we're going to have when you get here? I think it's very interesting time to be in the people space. Like in the last ten years we've seen this like monumental shift between like CFOs being the person in the boardroom that everyone's looking at to Zappos, to people saying how are people actually performing? Because how successful your business is really dependent on the people you have and the one person who's directly responsible for their success and their experience is the Chief people officer. And that feels like a very loaded thing to say. And a lot of founders are probably like, ‘no, that's not true’ but it is because a lot of the people initiatives you do are going to be sort of formed. I don't even know what else. All the things you want to do are going to flow through your people function. And so I think like culture right now more than ever is so important or witnessing like a really interesting time after the pandemic where like connection is really low, engagement is really low in culture because of all the things happening externally in the market, like the layoffs, high inflation, high cost of living is really starting to impact company culture. We're like now more than ever, the chief of officers probably thinking, ‘What am I doing about my culture?’ where I think founders are really focused on how do I build the best a company that's going to endure all the circumstances outside your people. Officers are probably thinking, ‘How do I build a company that can continue to function despite all these outside forces that are putting pressure on the experience we're all having?’



Yeah, and I think like the interesting part there is the founder might look at, okay, ‘how do we set up sales to be defensible?’ ‘How do we set up marketing?’ ‘how do we set up all these things?’ But, you know, the big elephant in the room is like, well, if you don't control for like setting up the people for success, actually you're not setting up the business to endure because if people are churning, if your culture stinks, then like no one's going to want to be around, set up sales and marketing and all these different processes.



Definitely not like your founders should be really focused on how do we build the best business and your people people should be focused on how do I understand what the business needs and then execute it through the people. And so Chief people, officer sit at a very interesting intersection of we have to understand the strategy of what the business is trying to do, because a lot of that strategy is going to inform what we need to do for the people. And so a lot of times people look at h.R. And they think like, oh, you're just like a compliance or a support function. But if you really want to unlock the true potential of your people and your company as a founder, you need to bring your H.R. person and your people person along for the ride. They have to understand the business strategy just as much as you do, because they are going to be the best people to tell you what you need from your talent, who you need to recruit for, how you're going to build internal succession planning. Like so much can go wrong when you're doing a business strategy. If you're not thinking about the people who are going to execute the actual strategy too.



Speaking of things that go wrong with, where do you see the missteps happen? Like whether it becomes founder missteps or founder mistakes or just like in general, what do people get wrong when it comes to company culture?



First, company culture is always changing when you're the first ten people versus when you're at the 20 people versus 5100. There are like real inflection points in a company where the culture is going to change whether or not you like it because there are more people, it becomes a mixing pot, it becomes more opinions, perspectives, experiences, and all of that informs your core culture. And so there are like all these inflection points on which it changes and the things I think people get wrong. And it's like a hot take. Is that the right people that you hired when you were ten people might not be the right people for your company at 100 or 150. And that becomes really hard because I think a lot of founders reward loyalty. Like if you look at cap tables earlier employees get more equity. That's just like common understanding. And so that sometimes that loyalty makes, you hold on to people who might not be right in the future. And a lot of times you also need to layer, you need to build more layers in your company. So you kind of hire the first employee and they think like, oh, I'm going to be the CMO in five years. And it's like, you're not going to be the CMO. Like you're not, it's just not going to happen. But that is a really hard conversation to have, and I think a lot of founders, because of loyalty clouds it, don't want to have that convo. So they let people into leadership roles that really shouldn't be in leadership roles who are qualified or just need more guidance than if you hire external.

For the rest of this episode with Hebba, check out YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts.

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