At the start of her career, Janine Yancey was an employment lawyer, helping to support HR and people leaders. While she advised business leaders and managers on employee relations issues and helped them resolve employee conflict, she noticed the same patterns of behavior that led to culture bias, including harassment, exclusion, and unethical business practices.
Because Yancey saw that these behaviors yielded the same outcomes, she decided to start Emtrain, a culture tech company that provides online training, expert guidance, and workforce analytics on tricky culture issues such as bias, harassment, diversity, inclusion, and ethics.
“I was motivated to create a solution to educate and proactively address employee conflicts at scale,” Yancey shared with HR Daily Advisor. “I quit my lawyer ‘day job’ in 2006 and have been happily evolving the solution and growing the business for the last 15 years.”
Today, Emtrain is one of the leading workplace culture and compliance platforms, with more than 60 employees and over 600 clients. And, the company continues to grow; in March 2020, Emtrain received $8 million in growth capital funding, which helps the company expand its culture tech platform.
In this edition of “Faces of HR,” meet Janine Yancey, Founder and CEO of Emtrain.
Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?
Steve Cadigan, the former VP of Talent at LinkedIn, who grew LinkedIn from 400 to 4,000 in a very short period. Steve and I have been collaborating on thought leadership and exchanging ideas about the future of work since 2016 and have coauthored numerous articles and blog posts. In 2017, Emtrain secured professional capital and was able to grow its team, and in that process, Steve helped me and Emtrain think about how to recruit the best leadership team possible and create an employee experience that made employees into brand ambassadors, even after they moved on from the company to their next opportunity.
What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?
There’s no shortcut for a well-thought-out organizational design, clear roles and responsibilities, and top-caliber talent in the functional roles. My mistake was a “rookie” mistake for an HR professional, but as an entrepreneur, it’s relatively easy to take costly shortcuts. There’s a reason people talk about “getting the right people on the right seats on the bus.” Momentum and velocity happen when there’s clarity on roles and responsibilities and when people with relevant skills and experience fill those roles.
It took me too many years to figure out that taking shortcuts on organizational design, well-thought-out job descriptions, and recruiting top talent comes at a huge cost in terms of momentum, velocity, and employee motivation and morale.
What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?
Figuring out how people work best together is fascinating; it’s really a study of the human condition. And, supporting people to be their best selves at work is extremely rewarding. The difficult part is typically navigating the modest budgets and team the HR function typically has at its disposal.
How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization?
Business leaders can and should be challenging their HR/people leaders to be the point people in creating a common employee experience throughout the organization. In other words, create a set of well-established norms of behaviors, from onboarding to transitioning out of the organization, that all employees know, understand, and follow so there’s a clear, coherent culture for the organization. Creating a clear, predictable culture is a valuable asset in recruitment, retention, and performance.
Where do you see the industry heading in 5 years? Or, are you seeing any current trends?
Our social values are changing, which means workforces are changing. For those moving into the HR industry, business acumen and strategic problem-solving skills will be more important (and more highly prioritized) than technical knowledge of the HR function. The function is evolving, and HR leaders will need to evolve their strategies and tactics to keep up with the changes.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of creating an employee experience and career opportunities that people really appreciate. After that, I’m proud that Emtrain has been able to give millions of employees a shared, easy language (our Workplace Color Spectrum) to color-code actions, not people, so people can easily de-escalate employee conflict on their own.
Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?
People entering the HR profession should focus on the big picture, e.g., understanding the business and how the labor function can best serve the needs of the business. Be ready to pivot and think creatively, as the world of work will be rapidly changing over the next few years.