I can think of no better way to kick off a new year than by listening to Elizabeth Bastoni, a woman whose charisma filled the space Amazon so kindly loaned us for this meetup. Her incredible background set her up perfectly to give perspective on how to move forward from being an order taker to approaching HR and recruiting with more of a consultative and leadership-minded focus. To watch the conversation between Jennie Ellis and Bastoni play out was to be riveted for the full hour of their discussion.
Bastoni is a powerhouse, no question, and the path that brought her to speak for us is an inspiring one. Raised on the east coast and working in accounting, she decided she wanted to do something different, and moved all the way to France to work as an Au Pair. Although she told her parents she’d only stay there a year; she learned the language, fell in love with the country, then networked her way into a position at KPMG, a tax practice for the United States.
Although she opened the story of her past by suggesting it was the least interesting part of the conversation tonight, I found what she said inspiring. She worked her way from a completely unrelated background into roles such as serving as the Head of Compensation at the Coca-Cola Company, and as the first Vice President of Human Resources at the Paris-based Thales Group. In fact, she shared with us that having a hiring manager come to her with specific background needs is a pet peeve of hers.
“I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, didn’t graduate with a 4.0, didn’t take a traditional path. Some might say I’m doing okay!” She said, eliciting a burst of laughter throughout the room. She thinks the perspectives different people bring, along with the work they’ve already done, are most important in making hiring decisions.
Finally, her story caught up to the present. As a female Board member in an environment that’s typically dominated by men, Bastoni had plenty of insights to share with us.
Companies with more women on their boards tend to outperform those that aren’t as diverse
When asked if having more women on the board was the cause of performance increases, or an effect of something else, Bastoni said she thought it was the latter. “The deeper cause of this,” she said, “is that people who invite other people to sit at the table with them, who are not the same, are open to broader conversations about topics, open to different ideas, open to being challenged. If you’re part of a group and you’re all similar, you take comfort in that, you get a group-think mentality.”
She went on to stress that opening yourself up to being vulnerable, allowing yourself to be surrounded by people who are different, leads to better results that show up in a company’s financial performance.
From order-taker to elevating HR and recruiting
She told us a story about being the 7th person to handle compensation and benefits in 8 years at the Coca-Cola Company, and although she came in at a senior level, she was met with people who expected her to leave, just as the previous six who occupied that role had done. She did an assessment of the work being done, figured out what the organization actually needed, and found a huge misalignment. She looked at what talent she already had in play, who she found to be suited to the work they were doing, but not the work they needed to do. After some hefty changes, she approached the controller in Finance to ask for a partnership.
Bastoni shared that the most important thing for us in HR to do is to go back and get facts, look at the data. Find what the business needs, and offer up a solution for how to get there. Often times, business leaders aren’t expecting to hear that conversation piece from their HR professionals.
What is one thing you can do differently at work tomorrow to start making changes?
Kind enough to give us two pieces of advice instead of one, Bastoni said first thing’s first – remember that facts are our friends. Focus on those, rather than anecdotes. If someone comes to you to complain, let them, and then turn it to action. “What did so-and-so say about that when you told them?”.
Secondly, she said “never waste a lunch. You should be out there networking, meeting with people.” It’s important to be out there meeting with others, not on the team you serve, but to serve your team and the company you work for. Any manager should be able to approach you to say “Don’t you know that person over in such-and-such’s team?”, and your answer should be yes.
A lasting impression
The Q&A session was just as interesting as the conversation that led up to it, and honestly, deserves its own blog post. Elizabeth Bastoni is that perfect mix of humble, assertive, interesting, and charismatic. I hadn’t heard of her before this Meetup, but after the conversation wrapped up, I found myself wanting to reach out to her and ask her to lunch. I had a feeling that, if I did, I would come away from that lunch armed not with newly opened doors, but the ability to see doors that had been there for me to open all along.