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5 Questions: E1B2 Collective’s Anthony Vaughan talks empathy and truth at work

In this video interview, the cofounder talks about a key lesson that led to his employee experience company, and as well as workplace best practices during a pandemic and racial justice movement.

Anthony Vaughan is cofounder of E1B2 Collective. (Courtesy photo)

This editorial article is a part of Workplace Culture Month of's editorial calendar.

Building a workplace where people want to grow with the company and feel valued starts from that company’s beginning.

That’s because a company is not just made up of the products and processes that shape work, but the people and where they want to go.

It’s a reminder that rose to top of mind when this reporter spoke with Anthony Vaughan. He leads Harford County-based E1B2 Collective, which is looking to work with startups to implement employee experience practices. Vaughan saw that the one or two people who oversee HR and people ops in an early-stage company often only dabble across areas like talent management and diversity and inclusion; his idea is to bring a whole group of people around people ops employees for a “high-touch” partnership over a year that would develop the employee experience by building strategy, as well as implementing systems and processes.

These startups are “hopefully going to be the biggest companies in the world over the next 15 years,” he said. “I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if I started at the beginning to really impact to help these founders and these managers to understand what thoughtful employee experience looks like?'”

Vaughan is with us from the start as we launch a new video series, as well. He sat down with Assistant Editor Stephen Babcock for the debut episode of 5 Questions, a new series in which we talk to entrepreneurs and technologists who have never been featured on Baltimore about their path, and timely topics. It’s a way to get introduced to the community, and show folks a bit of how we get to know you all.

With Workplace Culture Month in full gear, here are takeaways on employee experience from our conversation:

Have thoughtful conversations with employees about their future.

A key learning moment for Vaughan came in a previous role running a year-round football academy. An employee who contributed to its success wanted to discuss deeper involvement, but Vaughan declined. Looking back, he realized he made this decision out of ego, and ultimately it was a moment that led to the academy’s end.

“All he wanted was a thoughtful conversation, a succession planning moment to figure out where he fits in this overall picture,” Vaughan said.

Now, in leading teams and working with others, he sees the importance of those kinds of future-looking conversations.

The workday is changing.

In a time of remote work, there’s also more flexibility. For bigger companies, there might’ve been hard and fast rules about when meetings started, or when folks could go home. With folks working at home and balancing time with children who are also at home, Vaughan said schedules increasingly don’t have to be so rigid.

“There’s a sense of empathy,” he said. “Things don’t have to be so robotic, so structured and so perfect.”

Don’t double down on micromanaging.

But at the same time, it’s important to call out bad behavior: Without the ability for leaders to see employees, Vaughan also has a caution. For “insecure, not self-aware” leaders, it could present the risk of doubling down on micromanagement, and use the kind of tracking tools that ultimately make employees feel violated. When employees feel that way, they’re going to start making a “succession plan” for their next move, and are likely to leave the company, Vaughan said.

“Employees do not respond well to it,” he said, and “60 to 70% of those employees that are disgruntled right now, I guarantee you will be leaving your company within the next 12 months.”

Live into your truth.

In a time when the George Floyd protests are leading to the loudest social justice call in a generation, a quick action can respond to the moment. But for white leaders especially, the first email should to be to the team, in order to listen and learn where they’re coming from. And do research on your own to understand systemic racism, as well.

“Don’t fake the funk,” Vaughan said, and hire a diversity and inclusion officer for the first time ever just to check a box.

Vaughan recommends setting aside time for one-on-one conversations, or, for larger companies, a survey and companywide fireside chat.

Elevate all voices.

At a time of uncertainty and pivots, it’s important to accept ideas from all walks of a company. So even as the tools of remote work make it easier for dialogue among teams, it’s important to create space for them to weigh in and bring ideas to the fore.

“There may be ideas that they have that you really need to live into to make sure that these community tools you’re using are available to everybody,” Vaughan said.

Companies: E1B2 Collective
Series: Workplace Culture Month 2020 / How to Work Remotely

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