This interview took place on 23rd April 2021
Neha: Liz Lux, VP at Bloom Diagnostics, welcome to the workplace atelier and thank you for your time in contributing towards our blog cutting the edge. I would like to dive into our conversation by asking you about your title which is simply VP People not VP Human Resources. How did you arrive at this title?
Liz: Hello and thank you for inviting me to talk about a topic that I am quite passionate about. I am VP People at Bloom Diagnostics and we are a medical device company that has developed the Bloom System enabling proactive health tests more accessible to people. It is an exciting and innovative product in a fast growing start up – moving very quickly to a more established company. It was a business decision to change the name Human Resources to People to better represent the value this function brings to the company.
For me Human Resources can sound a bit old fashioned and doesn’t fit to the start-up, tech and innovative world because when usually people think of human resources usually they think of hiring, firing and compliance.
As VP People, I see my role as working closely with the business, as partner to the executive team and the employees in the company to develop and implement a people strategy that is aligned with the Business vision, goals and strategy.
I am very lucky to be working with an executive team and co-founders that share the same mind-set about the importance of People and Culture adding to the success of the company. For example, the values at Bloom Diagnostics are kindness, independence and curiosity. We have a culture, that we want to grow and evolve with the company’s fast growth that is also a critical success factor parallel to the great product.
Neha: So the VP People summarizes that mindset and a specific attitude
Neha: The role of the co-founders in this is really impressive. I want to pick up two key words from your answer. One is start-up and the other is about new ideas around human resources – the thing that you called rather old-fashioned. At Bloom you are a very mature start-up now and this is not the same start-up as when you started. What is so special about developing Human Resources at a start-up?
Liz: The first thing is that you have a green slate so you are able to build up a lot from scratch and really define the best processes and strategy that suits the organization and its goals.
You are not going into a large company that may already have established processes in place that you cannot improve or change or where you can have the same impact, even at a senior level.
The second factor is the dynamics of it. You are going into an environment that is innovative and entrepreneurial. I find this environment exciting.
At Bloom the leadership team also see the people side of things as very important and adding value to the business. For example, we invest a lot of time on ensuring we recruit the right people and follow a very thorough process to achieve this. Executives also get involved in the recruitment, not only to the check the technical expertise that we need but also to assess what we call the ‘culture add’. New colleagues need to add to the culture, not just fit.
So the other part that appeals to me about being at a start up is the growth opportunity and being part of a company scaling up.
When I started in September 2019 we had 15 people, we are now 50 people. Even through the pandemic we have continued to interview and onboard online and we continue to get great feedback from the new colleagues.
Also I think in a startup you have a family-kind of feeling as everyone is collaborating and supportive of each other and committed to succeeding.
Neha: This is important and interesting. You joined Bloom in an HR role when there were only 15 people in the seed, that is a very early start and clearly reflects the founders understanding of people. I am wondering are there things you are introducing in your role which you likely couldn’t introduce in another environment? How do you pick and choose? It is lovely and daunting to move in green meadows unless you have a crystal bowl that allows you to see what will be needed in disruptive times . . .
Liz: The key is open communication and collaboration across a very diverse team, even at the executive level, where we have a diverse team from different backgrounds and experience.
It is about going back to our values of kindness and supportiveness. We have discussions together, everyone brings in their expertise, but listens to the ideas of the others in the team and together develop the solutions.
It is a big difference for me from working in a larger established company where everything is in place and where it is harder even at a senior level to have a place at the executive table where the people strategy is valued.
You hit the nail on the head when you said that mindset was already there at the seed stage, where the founders identified the value of bringing in a senior HR professional to focus on this topic from the start. It was not just about getting a job done to tick the box but about bringing someone in from the very beginning to grow the strategy from the very start.
Neha: Tell us more about the accelerated virtual working in online recruiting and online boarding during the Covid pandemic.
Liz: From the beginning, Bloom Diagnostics has been a fully digital company from the beginning. So when the first lock down happened, we already had the right infrastructure in place. In addition to this, we already had a hybrid home office/office culture. So we had nil disruption to business continuity and moving at a fast pace.
We have a super collaborative culture at all levels. Everyone reaches out to each other and everyone can approach anyone. All leaders conduct regular one-on-ones.
What we are conscious of now while everyone has so much screen time during this lock down phase, is to not overwhelm people with more additional online meetings.
We offer plenty of different type of wellness and social events online where colleagues can opt in or out. It is important that people know that you are here for them so they can reach out.
During recruitment it is important to have constant and quick communication with the applicants. We receive a lot of positive feedback from applicants on the process highlighting the openness, honesty, transparency and sincerity of the interviews. We have 3 stages of interviewing and this thorough process gives both sides the opportunity to really get to know each other.
Neha: So we are talking about lots of communication. Meaningful communication for your employees to avoid fatigue, so communication as an offer. And lots of timely communication for applicants, to stay on the ball with them. Liz we are unfortunately running out of time but I don’t what to let you go without asking you how you see the future of HR and what your next plans for HR at Bloom are.
Liz: The future of HR is more focus on the people and culture. Tactical, operational tasks are becoming more and more automated so there is the room for HR professionals to add value to companies as real strategic business partners. Even more so in a start-up. We have seen start-ups that have fantastic products, scale up really quickly and then they are not sustainable because they haven’t focused on the people strategy. More entrepreneurs and investors are starting to realise this.
That is what I will continue to do at Bloom Diagnostics. With founders who have already said at the seed stage they want to invest in people, gives me the autonomy and empowerment to be able to bring in and recommend what is the best people strategy for Bloom, so that we successfully and sustainably scale up and grow.
I have a fantastic team that understands the importance and value of this.
Just to add one more thing, one often hears from start-ups that ‘we want to keep the start up culture’. I always warn people that this mindset is not realistic because as the company grows and evolves, so does the culture. The culture will change. The dynamics will change. The key thing is to make sure that the core values are kept.
At Bloom we realize this and that is why every new colleague joining us is a value and culture add that contributes to Bloom’s success.
Neha: Thank you Liz for reminding us that organisations are dynamic and evolving. It has been lovely having you at the workplace atelier. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.
Liz Lux is VP People at Bloom Diagnostics based in Vienna, Austria