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  • Elsie Russell

FinTech Female Fridays: Lisa Mikkelsen, Head of Global Human Capital, Flourish Ventures

Can you describe your role as Head of Global Human Capital at Flourish Ventures?

I lead the internal People Operations at Flourish as well as offer support to our 50+ portfolio companies in all areas of Human Capital including Leadership Development, Talent Management, Org Design, Total Rewards, and Learning. Sometimes that looks like 1:1 consulting with companies and other times it involves cross-company initiatives.

How have your past experiences prepared you for your current role?

Before I came into this role, I spent several years at high-growth start-up companies as an ‘HR department of One’. I’ve experienced firsthand some of the growing pains of companies trying to balance the demands of cost consciousness and building a highly engaged and motivated team. I’ve worked with very different leadership teams that approach problem solving in very different ways.

In my current role, while there are many similarities in terms of challenges companies are facing with regards to People, the solutions can vary widely based on the team culture, the local context, the strategic goals of the organization, and the company values.

What type of content or programs do you find valuable for providing your teams with the skills they need to grow in their careers?

A big focus of ours in on manager training. According to a lot of research out there, managers are the fulcrum for success. We also look at growth as a product of on-the-job experience and mentorship; not just the formal training which can often have short term results. The managers become a key part of how employees are given opportunities to take stretch goals, network with others, and have access to special projects. Individuals need to feel empowered to access resources and ultimately drive their own development.

As many qualified professionals have recently lost their jobs, how can they differentiate themselves?

In the current US job searching climate, I think mindset is a key differentiation. While it is reasonable that anyone will be searching for the perfect job, I also think it is important to recognize that there are many jobs where we can grow, build skills, and learn new things.

To me, some of the most successful career paths have been forged by the accidental job. A favorite lyric from of song goes like this: It seems easier to push than to let go and trust. That speaks volumes to me. Sometimes opportunities open in front of us and it is our job to trust the process and discover why that is in front of us. I always say that my favorite job of all time was working in hotel banquets. Not because it advanced my career or strengthened my resume, but because I learned a lot about myself, my strengths, and my motivations. A company may ask you “why do you want to work here” and it is more than okay to stray from the cliché answer of the company product/service/mission/etc. but rather share what is genuine interest to you. Know thyself. That is much more likely to keep you engaged and employers know it!

How has Human Resources evolved over the last ten years?

A lot! HR was largely a compliance function in the past.It was about doing what “had” to be done.Today, it is a much more strategic function than ever before.Teams see HR or often now called People or People Operations, as a way to maximize company success and also build a meaningful organization.Leaders care that their teams are not just “productive”, but highly engaged.Not just “retained”, but champions of the company. Talent is now viewed as a competitive advantage, that when nurtured and celebrated, it can be transformative for everyone involved.There is more pressure on companies as well to come up with employee value propositions that are people-centric and authentic. It’s an exciting time to be in HR.

For high growth companies, what advice do you have in balancing employee morale and driving results at the same time?

These two are interrelated!Gone are the carrot and stick methods of driving productivity.I refer to the Dan Pink equation for motivation which is that people are most excited about their work when they experience a combination of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.Great managers know how to evoke this in their employees.Giving people space to make mistakes and learn from them.Creating opportunities to hone your craft.Connecting your work to the greater good (which in FinTech is easy to do).

Given the current pandemic, how do you motivate and empower employees as they continue working from home?

So many companies are wondering about this and the hardest part is that we have no end in sight. The key to motivation in general is highly individualized. One employee may need something different from another employee. Some want to be on Zoom video all day, while others experience meeting fatigue. Some have additional duties related to childcare and elder care, while others are bored and looking for ways to lean in. What is critical is that a manager understands the needs of her team.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask your reports is: “What does support look like from me?” In terms of the broader team, conducting regular pulse surveys is helpful. Giving a monthly 2-minute pulse to understand the trends of the group may lead you to some new ideas. I read an HBS article on this that suggests “play” as a powerful motivator in remote work. Giving individuals the ability to experiment and try new things is empowering and playful.

Reach out to Lisa on LinkedIn.

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