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Why Empowered Employees Are Engaged Employees – Hollie Delaney – Chief People Officer at Power Home Remodeling, (Former) Zappos

12 Dec 2023

The people behind the voices:

Hollie Delaney

Chief People Officer at Power Home Remodeling, (Former) Zappos CPO

Gillian French

Employee Experience Officer

The Employee Experience Podcast Season 2 Ep. 3

Why Empowered Employees Are Engaged Employees – Hollie Delaney – Chief People Officer at Power Home Remodeling – (Former) Zappos

This week’s guest on The Employee Experience Podcast is Hollie Delaney, Chief People Officer at Power Home Remodeling, (Former) Zappos CPO.

With over two decades of experience in HR, Hollie Delaney knows how important it is to adapt her approach to new contexts with different needs.

One thing she’s learned, for example, is the crucial balance between giving employees ownership and encouraging integration across the workforce. 

For Hollie, ownership means being empowered to do your work in the best way you know how. Without it, employees are at risk of becoming disengaged – and so are customers.  

“When you’re in a position where you don’t feel any ownership or empowered to do your work and contribute to the organization, automatically you become less engaged,” Hollie tells Gillian. “And that’s the same for any employee anywhere.” 

An empowered employee is also one who feels they can bring their whole selves to their work. 

“Helping employees find out what their purpose is and what they’re passionate about, and how they can turn that into something that the business needs, that’s the perfect recipe. 

“I think that can be done in so many different ways – just giving them the space to be themselves, to bring their whole selves to work and use those little things that make them special in their everyday job.”  

According to Hollie, empowering employees helps give them a feeling of accomplishment and productivity. “And at the end of the day, I think that’s all anybody wants.” 

Listen back now to learn more about empowering employees, helping them normalize and navigate burnout, moving past a one-size-fits-all approach to people management, and more.

About The Employee Experience Podcast

The Employee Experience Podcast, hosted by Gillian French, is the podcast series for leaders pursuing innovative ideas to engage and connect with their employees. Listen to trailblazers across internal comms, employee engagement, and HR share the best ways to connect with employees, build healthy cultures, and deliver an employee experience where everyone can reach their potential.

Guests so far on Season 2 of The Employee Experience Podcast include:

  • Jane Datta, Chief Human Capital Officer at NASA, on employee experience, connection & leadership
  • Debra Corey, Chief ‘Pay it Forward’ Officer at DebCo HR, ‘Recognition is more important than ever for our wellbeing’
Full Transcript

Gillian French (00:02):
Hi, I’m Gillian French from Workvivo. You’re very welcome to The Employee Experience Podcast. We speak to leaders and HR professionals on how to best connect with employees, build healthy cultures, and deliver an employee experience where everyone can reach their full potential. On this episode of The Employee Experience Podcast, I speak with Hollie Delaney. Hollie began her career in 1996 and joined the Zappos team in 2006 as HR professional. Among her many accomplishments, she has led the efforts to shift from the old corporate structure to one built on trust and distributioned authority. Hollie has been a key player in the company’s efforts to bring happiness to its employees.

Moreover, she has helped Zappos create the greatest work environment possible. Zappos was on the top 100 best companies to work for, at least for several years. In fact, the company had an incredible high level of employee engagement and happiness at more than 80%. Before joining Zappos, Hollie worked at Marshall Retail Group, Wet’n Wild and Hollie went to the University of Colorado and at present, Hollie is Power Home Remodeling Chief People Officer.

It is so wonderful to have you on the show. Hollie, I’ve been dying to get you on for so long. You’re a real hero of mine and a real trailblazer in the HR space. You started your career in ’96 and you had a wonderful time in Zappos where there was many studies and I remember when we had Charles O’Reilley over in Ireland singing Zappos’ praise when you were in it about the really progressive HR practices that were happening within the organization. And now I know you’re with Power Home Remodeling as their Chief People Officer, so you’ve adept and breadth of experience and I’m delighted that you could share it with us today.

Hollie Delaney (01:45):
Thank you so much for having me, and thank you for the lovely introduction.

Gillian French (01:48):
I’d love to know your role as in what your day-to-day looks like? Because again, as I said in my introduction there, for me, you were always a trailblazer, you were always very progressive in your practices. And even when we talked that time at the conference, just some of the things that you were thinking and the way you thought really sort of, I suppose lighted up my brain around strategic HR. So I’d love to know what a typical day looks like for you and what are the type of things that you think about as CPO?

Hollie Delaney (02:16):
My day takes on a lot of different twists and turns based on the fact that at Power Home Remodeling, the job of a Chief People Officer is new to this company. There is some foundational structure building of some of those foundational pieces that are needed from an HR standpoint, a young, not as experienced staff, so mentoring and training people, but then also really sitting down and looking at what do we want to add to make it a place that people want to work at, make it a company that will be a great place to work, that people like and want to come to work every day.

So it kind of takes a mixture of mentoring, a mixture of that regular day-to-day planning and putting together just process and some of that foundational building and then some brainstorming and some ideation around where do we want to go and how do we get there? So I kind of get all of it every day, which is cool for me because I love it.

Gillian French (03:22):
Yeah, [inaudible 00:03:23], how employees is there and what is the size of the HR team in there?

Hollie Delaney (03:28):
So we have 3,200 employees right now at Power Home Remodeling. Our HR team is a little bit different than I have traditionally experienced at other companies. So our HR team is smaller, but our HR team only handles ops and admin and then benefits, leave, workers’ comp and then HR business partners. So our HR team right now is about 15 people, but we have a large people experiences team which handle events and engagement and they’re at about 28 people right now. And then a talent acquisition team that’s a little bit larger because of the way we recruit and the number of people we bring in every two weeks. They’re at around 40-ish employees right now.

Gillian French (04:16):
And did you take many of the practices that you sort of had within Zappos or did you totally just re-look at the organization as in it’s a totally different context to a different business? Or were there some things that you were like, “I’m absolutely implementing these into here, there are no-brainers?”

Hollie Delaney (04:34):
A little bit of each. Of course, nobody’s ever going to be Zappos because Zappos had its identity and any company has its own identity, but there’s little things that we can put into place and look at how the organization that you’re in is going to be able to take some of the good pieces of that and put that into what works for them. And so a lot of that stuff we’ve been doing, so structurally and some of the programs and things that we’re looking at, I’m using Zappos as an inspiration and then starting to brainstorm what works for Power Home Remodeling and how do they want to put their mark in this space and what works for them and make sense for the type of company they are?

So it’s good to have the background and experience and know what that was and be able to utilize that as inspiration for what we want to do here.

Gillian French (05:24):
Amazing. I really liked what you said there about the structure and the way it’s structured a little bit differently, but I do think that’s kind of the emergence and the evolution of HR post-COVID, they’ve sort of been like unicorns, they’ve been asked to do so much and I am seeing, I think it’s HubSpot as well that kind of siphons out the people administration, the kind of transactional things that probably if they’re not done are really going to annoy people but they don’t truly add value or engage people, but they just have to be done right.

Is that how you kind of think about it as in you have a people experience team that are working on enhancing the experience with the employees and then you have the administration side of it? Or is there another part of the evolution that maybe is in your head as the company evolves further in your team, evolves further? Is there anything else that you would add to the team?

Hollie Delaney (06:15):
There are some different pieces we need to add, but the way I’m looking at it overall from a structural standpoint is I think if you have a position where you can own the work that you’re doing and really be able to own that and then make decisions for that, move things forward and feel that ownership in that piece of work, but then also understand how it integrates with all the other pieces around you, I think that’s the best because you want to be able to own, make decision, but utilize your resources at the same time. So you’re not duplicating work, you’re not reinventing the wheel, you’re not doing those types of things but you have ownership moving work forward and integrating with other teams so each person can come together and own the pieces they need to for a full product at the end. So that’s really what we’re working towards is ownership and integration at the same time.

Gillian French (07:06):
Wow. That seems quite daunting when I think of the volume of people that you have. That’s actually a very effective strategy and correct me if I’m wrong, you did something similar in Zappos where you really empowered the employees to make decisions and that’s what they would’ve been known for. And I do reflect on it at the moment when I look at the service industry and then dealing with, because we’ve integrated tech so much into process flows within organizations, sometimes when you’re speaking to people on the phone, they’re like, “I can’t do that. You have to do that.” They seem very disempowered and I wonder if there’s a connection with the mass disengagement. We’re seeing that a lot of people are sitting on phones or sitting behind PCs, but they’re limited in what they can do and how they can move things for the customers.

Would you agree with that and is that something that again, you’re seeing as a core component of employee experience and breaking down those barriers for the employees?

Hollie Delaney (08:00):
Yeah, I completely agree with that. I think when you’re in a position where you don’t feel any ownership or you don’t feel empowered to do your work and contribute to the organization, automatically you become less engaged. And I think that’s for any employee anywhere. I don’t know anybody that wants to go into work and just, I read this script and this is all I do and I can’t do anything outside of what I’m told. I don’t feel like then I’m part of the organization that I’m working for. And it also doesn’t serve well for the customers.

So it doesn’t give the customers good customer service, which is what they’re looking for. So when you have to be transferred to 12 different people who are reading 12 different scripts and so on and so forth, the customer’s not getting the answer they need and nobody’s really able to help the customer put their spin on it and feel like they’ve accomplished something in that day. So I think it leads to not only disengaged employees but disengaged customers.

Gillian French (08:59):
Totally. And there’s always, when you see the customer experience line and the sort of NPS, against the employee NPS, generally they go in the same direction. So they’re highly correlated, which makes sense because if you’re happy employees, of course you’re going to have happy customers. And I think in Zappos, you definitely had that as well. There was always this sense that customers were really happy.

Hollie Delaney (09:18):

Gillian French (09:19):
But I’d love to stay with you on the purpose piece because I think it’s an area that leadership teams are struggling with as in helping people find their own purpose, the purpose of the organization while they’re in there, bringing that to life for them. And I do feel that’s a core component of employee experience, but it’s also around, I suppose, mental health as well, that people feel every day that they’re coming in, that they’re doing something and it would contribute to their health as in their mental health. What is your view on that and what would you do in the workplace to enhance that and I suppose make it a better experience for employees?

Hollie Delaney (09:58):
Yeah. I think having purpose and helping employees find out, figure out what their purpose is, find out what they’re passionate about and how they can utilize that and turn that into something that the business needs. That to me is the perfect recipe because what you have is people coming to work and doing what they love and if they’re doing what they love, it doesn’t feel like work anymore and they start to produce at a higher rate, they’re much more engaged and they’re going to do better and they’re going to love their workplace because the workplace has allowed them to find that within themselves.

And I think that can be done in so many different ways, even in any job, just giving them the space to be themselves and bring their whole selves to work, and use those little things that make them special to put into their everyday job that helps the customers feel special, helps these other feel special. And then when you leave for the day, you feel like, “I wasn’t somebody else for that eight hours in a day,” or however long you were at work, “But I went there, I was myself, I accomplished something, I owned something and I feel like I was productive today.” And at the end of the day, I think that’s all anybody wants.

Gillian French (11:15):
Oh totally. And I totally agree with you, but I feel sometimes there’s this gap, there’s this leap of faith or there just seems to be a disconnect because even when I talk to leadership teams, they say things to me like, “Of course, we know they need to plan. Yeah, yeah. Communication. Yeah, yeah.” But then you see the engagement staffs are produced and there is a gap, there’s something missing. There’s some sort of communication or some leap of faith or I don’t know what you would call it, but there’s definitely… It’s not joining up because I know when I talk to leaders, they do have good intentions, a lot of them. I know there’s some that don’t, but we just don’t seem to be hitting the sweet spot. And any of the stats that you see at the moment, I think Gallup produced something that 85% of people are actually disengaged, 50% feeling like they don’t belong. 61% of employees saying they’re still not getting great communication, that’s actually worse post-COVID.

So I don’t know what is the gap and how do you go about addressing that as a CPO in your organization?

Hollie Delaney (12:21):
Yeah, I think communication is always an area that companies struggle with. Even at Zappos, we struggled with communication. Every place I work, you can always communicate better. That’s one thing that is always the case. I don’t know, I think especially with COVID and kind of going through this unknown time and then a lot of companies moving from an in-person workforce where they felt like they had certain controls so leaders could control the output better, moving into a remote workforce where that became more difficult and people weren’t exactly sure how to do that.

And so I think sometimes in some places we may have overcorrected, to be able to get that sense of being able to control what’s happening in the organization and I think that could be a possible reason that’s going on. But one of the things I try to do is first with all of my employees is just simply listen. I try to talk less and I try to listen more to my employees because they’re the ones that are managing the day-to-day. They’re the ones that have all the information and I can’t be a good leader and I can’t provide them with solutions or provide them with a strategy or a vision unless I’m listening to what they have to say and understanding what they’re going through on a day-to-day basis to be able to help them come up with a better way and a more consistent way of doing things that helps the business as well.

So that’s the first thing I do is I ask questions and I listen to what they’re going through. And then in that process, as I’m trying to create the vision and solution and the strategy, I also include them in that process. So even if it’s just me giving my ideas and them saying yes or no or adding to those things, they’re a part of the process and they should be a part of the process because they’re the ones that are handling it every day.

I can’t sit in my corner office and be like, “This is what you should do when I’m not actually doing the work every day.” So I think it’s really important that to engage a workforce, number one, listen to what they’re actually dealing with and then work with them to see what we need to do, what we need to change, what strategy we need to put into play to reach the goals the company needs to reach. So they’re on board, they understand where it came from, they understand how they’re going to put that in play in their pieces of the organization, and then they can own that piece and they can walk away saying, “That wasn’t just handed down. I was a part of coming up with that decision.” So when people are a part of coming up with the decision, they own that.

Gillian French (15:06):
What you’ve hit on there, active listing and listening is sometimes such an underrated skill, and particularly with leaders. I was listening to a psychologist talking about the neuro gap, talking about the particular people that we promote as leaders, are confident, quite extroverted, maybe talk a lot and we see that as they know what they’re talking about and we tend to promote these type of people. But listening was, again, it’s one of these things that you go, “Oh yeah, that makes sense,” because if someone’s listening, they’re listening to understand and they can take that and do something, but it still doesn’t kind of translate into the workforce. And when you’re talking about leadership or recruiting, it’s very rare you would hear it a kind of an executive recruitment process. Are they good listeners? Did we test for that or did we do any observational work to see if they are actually good listeners?

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Gillian French (16:35):
Is there anything else you’re seeing at the moment in employee experience that you think leaders are missing or is there anything that you are doing at the moment that you think is a really important component to employee experience?

Hollie Delaney (16:48):
Yeah, I think, I’m not sure about if leaders are missing some of the things that we do here at Power that I think work really well, is we take the time and we throw small intimate events for people. We throw bigger summits, leadership summits, diversity summits, just different ways to get people together because we have territories across the United States. And so we’re not all in the same place, but we take the time to put these things together, we invest in them. And the idea behind these things are they’re all about the employees.

So it’s for us to give employees information so they have a better idea of what our goals are, what we’re trying to do, how we’re trying to move things forward. But the bigger point is they get to be together and it’s about celebrating them and they get to see how they fit into things and they get to talk about the things that they’ve experienced and they get to hear from each other and those types of things. And I think that really matters, especially when you have a workforce that’s spread out all over the place and with the state of the remote workplace and everything else, being able to do something like that, that bring people together I think is something that has really, really helped us and has created more engagement amongst our team overall.

It’s hard to just sit in your house and talk to people over a computer screen all the time.

Gillian French (18:16):

Hollie Delaney (18:16):
And not have any of that actual interaction. There’s so much that is missed in communication when you don’t have that face-to-face interaction. And having strategic carved out time for those things that bring people together I think is important and has been very successful for us here at Power.

Gillian French (18:37):
That’s amazing. And it is, it’s a great investment. I see a lot of organizations doing retreats, leadership retreats, summer events, Christmas events like seasonal depending, sort of end of year things and you can’t put a price in that. I know sometimes organizations may think that it costs a lot of money to get flights and get everybody into hotels, but there are savings on office spaces because they’re not using as much anymore and you really can’t put a price on bringing people together.

I was actually talking to a person, they told me it was the first time in the States to meet their team from the US and they were just sitting in the lobby having a cup of tea, and they completely solved a big issue that was within the organization just by sitting together and brainstorming whilst they worked with each other kind of for a while. But it was just being face-to-face and talking about different things that they came up with an idea and people who wouldn’t generally speak maybe from one end of the week to the next would meet at those type of events. So I totally agree and I think they are an investment that companies should really, really think about.

And tell me, do you have policies and on fully remote, hybrid or you don’t really have a view as in it’s what’s required by each team? Do you have any advice? I was looking at a recent survey there and they’re saying that people who are hybrid tend to be happier. The least happiest employees are the ones that are in work five days a week and then fully remote is somewhere in the middle, but in that survey too, it’s said that a lot of organizations have no policies and employees are not sure what to do. I’d love to hear your view on that?

Hollie Delaney (20:13):
Yeah, we are currently in a hybrid space right now. From a corporate standpoint, we’re in office three days a week and home two days. Different departments have different scheduling processes but that’s kind of what we’re going off of. Some departments are in one or two days a week, some departments in three. There’s some departments that are in more based on the employee’s choice to be able to do that. Some employees just like being in the office more than being at home. They feel more productive and we want to be able to give our employees that choice.

I believe, Power Home Remodeling believes that it’s important for people to be around each other. That’s part of our differentiator and our magic is our workplaces, your co-workers are like family and so if you’re not engaging with them, we don’t feel like you’re being as productive. We don’t feel like you’re having as much fun and we actually put this to the test and people who were resistant to coming back in after they started coming back in, they produced more and they were happier because they were able to interact with people that they weren’t interacting with before.

And humans are just… We’re very adaptable. We adapt to the situation. So I know, I was at Zappos when the pandemic started and then I moved to Power at the end of the pandemic. So I was in two different places and both companies were a 100% in office before the pandemic. When Zappos had to go remote, it was a huge ordeal. Nobody wanted to go remote, everybody wanted to be in the office and people become very adaptable. And so once they get comfortable with the new normal, they don’t like to change, just like they didn’t like going remote. Nobody wants to be not remote.

Gillian French (22:11):
I know, so funny.

Hollie Delaney (22:13):
And so it’s like we have to figure out what’s best for the situation and I don’t know if there’s one prescribed formula. I think there’s some companies out there that are a 100% remote and that works for them and it works for their employees and that’s great and that’s what you should do. And I think some companies, it works better for them and their employees to be in all the time and some hybrid. And I think people just have to fill out their employee base and figure out what’s best for their company and provide different options to figure out what works best in the different areas.

Gillian French (22:49):
Yeah. And I think as well, sometimes we do forget there’s very much about personalization and individuality and all that type of stuff. And you can get wrapped up in your own world. I’m at home and go and collect my daughters, the freedom of school and it’s a great setup, have my coffee at 11:00 as you said. I get into my little routine. But then when someone says to you there’s new graduates starting, they need to be taught, someone needs to take an interest in them. When my children go through the workforce, I would like that someone would take an interest in them and I’m not where I am today without someone spending time with me, and it’s much easier when you’re in office to do that.

So giving up maybe two days to go into the office or a day to spend with graduates. And again, I was extroverted and I thought I was loving being at home, but when I went into the office then, my husband and family noticed a difference in me. I was much happier when I came back from the office and I would never have thought that I wasn’t happy. It was just that I really got the energy from people when I was in the office. So yeah, I think it’s really kind of absolutely to try and accommodate but also to think of the wider collective because we are a wider organization and we do have responsibilities to the next generation and it’s a lot easier when you’re in office to do those type of things like teaching, learning.

So yeah, I agree with you in that. That was a long way of saying I agree with you, but I suppose we’re hearing an awful lot about burnout and mental health issues in the workplace. Are you guys doing anything to address that or are you seeing any sort of levels and do you have an opinion on what organizations should do to alleviate it for their employees?

Hollie Delaney (24:34):
Yeah. I think every job pre and post-COVID has dealt with this. I don’t think this is something new. I think it’s just more talked about now and more acceptable to talk about it now than it was pre-COVID. But I really don’t see any difference from before and after. Burnout is a real thing. People acknowledging different mental health issues and providing ways for them to deal with them is extremely important. It always has been. I just think we talk about it more now, which I think is a great thing. We have a few different programs. Number one, our CEO Asher Raphael, he is very open about therapy and him going to therapy and normalizing therapy and what that has meant to him in his life. A lot of the leadership around here are the same way, very open with their own stories and open to talk about things.

So I think that’s really important because people can see from their leaders that this is not something that is a bad thing. It’s normalized and it’s encouraged. We just started with a new company. We went from an EAP program to what we call… It’s called PAS, a personal assistance program. And in that process, it’s unlimited sessions for any type of help that you need. Not just mental health, but any questions you have, anything that you need help with, you can call somebody, they’ll help you, they’ll talk to you. It’s for you and all the members of your family in your household, all the members in your household, and we’ve seen a good response to that change.

And also, we’ve started some training just to make leaders more aware of what people are going through and helping them to spot issues. I’d be better at dealing with those things and having those conversations. We were just talking today about as self-care part of wellness week. So really putting together part of our wellness week, having people come in and talk to people about self-care and how important that stuff is.

So there’s a lot of things we’re working on. There’s a lot of things we’re doing, but I think the biggest part of it is, is the company really okay with people sharing and people taking advantage of the resources that are available? All companies have resources, but our people look down on if they utilize those resources or not. And that’s one of the things we try to make very clear is we want you to utilize the resources. It is important for us that you are caring for yourself and that you are getting what you need to handle whatever is going on in your life, and we’re open to be there to help you.

Gillian French (27:31):
Tell me, if you were to reflect on your career today, because you’ve had many years in HR and leading people teams and devising people’s strategy, if you were for the people like the HR people that are listening, there’s one thing that you think organizations and people teams, HR teams should get right around employee experience, what do you think it is?

Hollie Delaney (27:56):
I really think it’s about really letting people be themselves and understanding that not any one person is like anybody else. So a lot of HR teams really try to put in one-size-fits-all policies or one-size-fits-all things, and there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to people and I think that’s a mistake on HR’s part. And with my experience we’ve done one-size-fits-all. We’ve looked at things case by case. We’ve talked to people and took in what they were working on case by case and it has not turned out to be any more risky than if it was one-size-fits-all.

And people are much happier because people want to be seen for who they are. They don’t want to be in number, they don’t want to be in a one-size-fits-all box because nobody is the same. And I think if they really feel like they can be seen and they really feel like a company cares enough to listen and to really take into consideration what they’re going through in situations when they happen, that creates a lot of goodwill with employees.

Gillian French (29:06):
I totally agree with you. I do wonder how in organizations that have 20,000 or 40,000 employees, how do you do that? And is it through your people managers, through your mentoring and development? Is it through having really people focused, employee experience, HR teams? What would you say is the best way to have that bespoke? Because I believe that’s the way forward too. I think no two people are the same and they’re all at different points in their careers and different backgrounds and going through different things. How would you best manage that or go about doing, is it through the development of your people managers? Is it through the structure of your HR teams or a bit of both?

Hollie Delaney (29:55):
I think it’s a little bit of both and I think what you’re willing to invest in. If you want people to work for you, you have to invest in them and a lot of times we centralize things because they’re more efficient and they’re easier, and sometimes centralization isn’t the answer. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes centralizing and being more efficient actually creates a worse employee experience and we’re not doing what we need to invest in people. So it’s really looking at each choice as you make them and does this really serve our people? Because our greatest asset is our people.

And so if we don’t treat them as the greatest asset, then they’re not going to be our greatest asset. So I think there’s times you should centralize and there’s times you shouldn’t, and I think that’s something that needs to be looked at and talked about each time one of those decisions are made because it has a direct effect on the people that work in the company.

Gillian French (30:55):
A 100%, and I think also, a lot of organizations do, and genuinely I think at the time that they say it, they say things like, “Our people are our biggest asset, our people are everything.” And then four hours later they make a move and you’re like, “Oh my God, that says anything but. I can’t believe you just did that.” But I think the intention is sometimes well-intentioned but really don’t think it through on some of the big change initiatives or things that they do sends a complete opposite message.

Hollie Delaney (31:27):
Yeah. No, I agree. And I think it’s really important that… Talk is talk, but it doesn’t mean anything unless there’s action. And so if what you’re doing doesn’t match what you’re saying, people believe what’s actually happening versus what somebody says. And so I think it’s very important that if you’re going to say these things and you have the intent to do those things, you really have to look at the actions that you take while you’re doing that because that is what the employees see and take home with them every day.

Gillian French (32:01):
Yeah. I wonder is there’s something in how we’ve structured organizations over the sort of past 30 to 40 years that makes it quite difficult for leadership teams because there are shareholders, there’s private equity, there’s targets that have to be hit, so therefore they’re too conflicting or opposing KPIs and maybe never the twain shall meet. I don’t know, but maybe there’s something in that and we need to look at how we structure businesses or how we…

Hollie Delaney (32:31):
Yeah, definitely. And even in those situations, I’ve been in situations where each one of those meetings and the meetings I’ve been in, there’s been a lot of talk about the numbers and the KPIs, but there’s not talk about the reality of the people and what goes on with that and I think that needs to be more part of the conversation. And there’s been this saying a lot in the field of HR is like HR needs to speak the language of the business, which in most cases means HR needs to speak finance, and I don’t agree with that. I think HR needs to speak the language of the business and the language of the business is it’s people.

And so having a seat at the table isn’t to regurgitate finances language because that’s why they’re there. Our job is to add in the people section of the business so we can adjust KPIs and we can adjust goals and we can do the right things to actually move the business forward as a whole.

Gillian French (33:35):
That is just beautifully put and perfect and makes so much sense and yes, I’ve heard that many times in my career.

Hollie Delaney (33:42):

Gillian French (33:42):
So I sat there going, “Oh my God, really?” But that makes so much sense and actually it’s a lovely kind of spot to go in to just have a couple of quick questions because it’s a beautiful piece to finish on because I think it’s very apt and probably very apt for our listeners as well. But I’d love to know what’s your favorite book? Because we like to get some book recommendations for our listeners as well. Do you have a favorite book?

Hollie Delaney (34:09):
Sure. So I would say right now, even though I read it a long time ago, it is still stuck with me, which is Made to Stick.

Gillian French (34:17):

Hollie Delaney (34:18):
Yeah, it’s a good book. I read it a long time ago. We read it at Zappos a long time ago but it really talks about the art of storytelling and really in communication, how to make your story sticky so people remember what you’re talking about because there’s so much talk and there’s so much stuff you want your employees to know that if you can do it in the right way and you can make it sticky so they remember what you’re talking about, that’s a win. And I think it was meant for the marketing community, but I found it very valuable in the people side of the business too because making those communications sticky really matter.

But the other thing is with as busy as people get and as I’m getting in everything else, I watch a lot of TED Talks versus reading books too. So I always think that that’s a good thing to do because you can get a lot of good information in short periods of time through TED Talks.

Gillian French (35:13):
Yeah. So what’s your favorite TED Talk?

Hollie Delaney (35:15):
I’m really into Justin Baldoni stuff right now.

Gillian French (35:19):

Hollie Delaney (35:20):
I love watching his stuff. So anything that he puts on right now, I watch a lot of.

Gillian French (35:25):
And I haven’t actually seen his stuff. So what does he talk about?

Hollie Delaney (35:29):
He talks actually about being a supporter of women in the workplace as women in general, and he talks about toxic masculinity and how men have been also set up to play their parts in everything and how it’s been also harmful for men in the process and really talk to men about how they can reconcile their own feelings and be great allies for women.

Gillian French (36:01):
Yeah. No, I love all the anim man animus and the ying and the yang and the femininity and masculinity, that we can both… male and females can demonstrate at each time. And yes, I think you are right that probably our male colleagues have had to suppress their femininity and vice versa. We have probably had to embrace masculinity going into the workplace, which was quite the opposite reason we went in the first place.

Hollie Delaney (36:23):

Gillian French (36:24):
But I think that’s another podcast maybe for another week for the two of us. So listen, as always, it’s an absolute pleasure. You always light up everything, you’re a gem. And they said I’ve always been a huge fan of your work and I’ll continue to observe and thank you so much for sharing with our listeners today. I know they’re going to really enjoy this one. So thank you so much Hollie.

Hollie Delaney (36:47):
Thank you very much for having me.

Gillian French (36:51):
Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of The Employee Experience Podcast. Subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcast and check out to find out more.

The people behind the voices

Hollie Delaney

Chief People Officer at Power Home Remodeling, (Former) Zappos CPO

Hollie Delaney began her HR career in 1996 having always been passionate about working to deliver happiness and provide the best place for employees to work.  

She joined the Zappos Human Resources team in 2006 where she helped lead the charge of changing the traditional company structure to one based on trust and distributed authority. 

In November 2020, she joined Power Home Remodeling as its Chief People Officer to further her passion of delivering happiness and building great places to work for employees. 

Hollie also holds a Bachelor’s in Communication Disorders and Speech Sciences from the University of Colorado. Her education and 20-plus years of experience have given her the resources she needs to turn traditional HR on its head and lead a team that is focused on culture and being customer-centric.

Gillian French

Employee Experience Officer

Employee Experience Officer

Gillian French is a veteran people leader and organizational behaviorist with over 10 years of experience as Chief People Strategist.

She is passionate about coaching, strategy, building resilient and sustainable organisational culture, and improving global employee experience. She has also contributed to Forbes and is a regular panelist on the future of work.

Gillian is also the founder and CEO of SISU consulting, a business that specializes in organisation development and design.