Kendra Prospero is Putting People First

Prospero was the keynote speaker at the 2015 Boulder Economic Summit: The Talent-Driven Economy. Photo courtesy of Boulder Economic Council.

Kendra Prospero, Founder and CEO of Boulder-based job search, recruiting, and business consulting company, Turning the Corner LLC, is exuberantly sparking a “people revolution” in the human resources field and business community.

Advocating for the critical importance of workers and talent, Prospero says that the success of companies hinges on the way they treat their employees and the culture that drives their businesses. We were very fortunate to catch up with Kendra and speak with her about her exciting work.  

Kendra Prospero Photo

Boulder Source: I’ve heard you speak twice, once at the 2015 Boulder Economic Summit and recently at a Boulder Chamber event. Your talks have been wonderful. It sounds like you want companies and the HR field to think more deeply about what human resources and human capital mean.

Prospero: Yes, what is most important to a company should be people. People are the #1 priority. “Human” sounds like a biological term and is not one that fits with what the field should encompass.

Boulder Source: It sounds like you are igniting a transformation in the HR field. What needs changing?

Prospero: I’d like to disrupt the field. HR is the only place in a company that is designated to care for employees, but all leaders and managers should care about their employees. Delegated to HR, the department often ends up being bureaucratic and concerned with compliance rather than people. People should be the top priority. Companies should be more thoughtful about their people – if people are happy, they’re more productive. HR should be more about coaching, empowering, and enabling employees. Labor laws, benefits, payroll are all part of that, but not everything that HR should be concerned with.

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Boulder Source: What trends are you seeing in the workplace with regards to employees? For example, it sounds like the freelancer economy and working remotely are on the rise. You discuss part-time and flexible work options as becoming more important to employers and employees. Can you elaborate?

Prospero: The gig economy is changing labor laws. At Uber for example, a general contractor sued to be paid as an employee (W2) rather than freelancer (1099). The courts ruled in favor of Uber but there will be new rulings.

In addition, people have iPhones and can work remotely so people are working all of the time. They may need a 9 to 5 schedule, or don’t want to work traditional schedules, but workplaces have not caught up to this thinking. Companies attract more talent if they offer flexibility in the workplace such as flexible work hours and job shares.

Boulder Source: Demographics are also changing with the rise of Millenials and the retiring generation of Baby Boomers. This is a nationwide demographic shift. How is this affecting businesses and what can they do about it? Are you seeing the effects in Boulder?

Prospero: We are seeing more jobs than job seekers in Colorado. Millenials are moving into the workforce, but need to come to grips with the reality that they can’t make $200,000 right out of college. They need to gradually work into it through job experience and climbing the ladder. Demographically, there are not enough Gen Xers to the replace the Baby Boomers leaving the workforce, yet millennials are not experienced enough to take the more senior positions. For the next few years there will be a labor shortage. Millenials are a fabulous generation and very civically minded. It will be incredible to see what their generation can achieve.

Boulder Source: What are the major challenges you see at many businesses when it comes to HR?

Prospero: Companies need policies that support employees, and managers need to know what they are doing. Too many people in management positions do not know how to manage and they need training. We’ve found that once people know how to manage, everyone will enjoy work more. In businesses, especially startups, you have more control over how you treat your employees than control over any other aspect of the business (e.g, funding, consumers, etc.). It’s time that companies become more people-centered and focus on cultivating the leadership skills of their managers and making their employees happier.

We were in a bad economy and 8 years into the recovery, a lot of people have stayed in jobs they didn’t love in order to have a stable income. 15 million workers are actively on the job hunt even though they are employed.

Many low wage and trade professional jobs are going unfilled. Now that retailers are paying above minimum wage, other businesses in the trades are having to pay higher wages.

These are some of the current issues that businesses and employees are facing.

Boulder Source: Can you talk more about employee motivation? You have your own personal experiences and it seems to be a key area that inspires you.

Prospero: Employee motivation is everything. All businesses want employees who are fired up and engaged. Businesses need to figure out their “why” then get employees connected with and really believing in what the company does. Many companies are missing the “why.” What they don’t realize is that they can hire, fire, and train to the “why.”

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Prospero speaking at a women’s networking event at Google.


Boulder Source:
Is it difficult to change company culture? Why is company culture so important?

Prospero: We say here that “all problems are leadership problems.” Changes need to be made top down in order to alter company culture. To overhaul HR and provide management training, there has to be buy-in from the executive team. This requires self-awareness from leaders and leaders must participate in management training. There’s a business book title, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Culture is created by leadership and culture will drive company success.

In this journey to transform the organization, some employees will fit and other will either opt out or will be let go. Not everyone will stay.

Boulder Source: How can a company strategically invest in its employees?

Prospero: Train your managers. Most managers are not trained, and it’s true that managers are trained, not born. Having better managers can immediately transform your company. There are not enough big companies in Boulder to train managers to feed small companies. For example, founder drama leads to 60% of startups failing. People issues are the most controllable, internal aspects of a business.

We are offering a management training class starting in September offering six core sessions over a 12-week period, focusing on the most important components of business leadership. More information can be found at: http://turningthecornerllc.com/management-training-series/

We have spoken with employees and identified 20 things people say they need from their jobs. We hope businesses pay attention to this.

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Boulder Source: How many job seekers do you work with and how many jobs do you recruit for each year?

Prospero: We work with 1,500 job seekers a year to help them with interviewing, searching, and resumes. We help recruit for 60-80 jobs per year.

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With an expanding staff, Turning the Corner recently relocated to a new office at 1830 17th Street in Boulder. They offer job seekers career coaching, resume writing, interviewing skills, strengths assessment and skills evaluation. Business consulting services include recruiting, HR development, employee engagement, outplacement help, management training and more.

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Learn more at:

Website: http://turningthecornerllc.com/

Management Training Series – September to November – http://turningthecornerllc.com/management-training-series/

Job-seeker services: http://turningthecornerllc.com/job-seeker-services/

Business services: http://turningthecornerllc.com/business/

The company is also attracting community members and organizations to their new conference room for rent. For more information call 720-446-8876 (TURN).

 

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