In The Modern People Leader Podcast, we go behind the scenes with HR executives to hear about their daily routines, what it means to be a Modern People Leader and we will discuss the latest topics in the HR world. Our goal is to keep you up-to-date on the latest trends, and to help spark conversations and change within your organization. You can access our episodes below. Or you can subscribe to The Modern People Leader directly on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

31 – DEI is a competency that every leader should have

We were fortunate to have Yemi Akisanya, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Groupon, join us on The Modern People Leader where he shared his career journey from living in Nigeria to his current role. 

Yemi also provided his perspective on why DEI can be such a struggle for companies, why you need a clear business case for DEI, and why you should focus on executing a strategy instead of racking up a couple of quick wins.

30 – How to drive performance conversations

Christopher D. Lee, CHRO at William & Mary, joined us on The Modern People Leader. He shared how he went from a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps to being the CHRO of one of the oldest and most prestigious schools in the US.

We discussed how a leader’s job is to help each employee be their very best, why boosting your employees’ confidence is important, and how to drive performance conversations by asking the right questions.


  • why HR practitioners are miseducated & the 4 elements of HR,
  • a leaders job is to help every employee be their very best,
  • discretionary effort = employee engagement,
  • boosting the confidence of your people,
  • asking the right questions to drive performance conversations,
  • and the common objections to scrapping the performance review.

28 – Revamping Your Employee Engagement Strategy

During this episode, we dove deep into employee engagement & what companies can do if they need to revamp their approach. 

Episode highlights:

  • The convergence of engagement and pulse surveys
  • What a “cookie-cutter” employee engagement strategy looks like
  • How pulse surveys have evolved over the years
  • What a blended engagement strategy looks like
  • Where to start when revamping your engagement strategy
  • Setting goals for your engagement strategy
  • What good and bad survey design looks like
  • The 3 primary engagement models being used right now
  • Big misses in engagement in 2020.

27 – Groupon’s employee engagement strategy

The amazing Kristen Barbor, VP of Global HR at Groupon, joined us at The Modern People Leader and shared how Groupon continued to transform their business in the face of adversity and increased their share price in the process.

Episode highlights:

  • Advancing (Groupon’s) business transformation during challenging times
  • How to keep a “be human” approach within HR when pivoting your business
  • Leveraging creativity as a secret weapon in Human Resources 
  • Why consensus-driven decision making can be detrimental to innovation
  • Engaging your leaders in the “go forward plan” of defining your future of work
  • Developing an engagement survey strategy post pandemic
  • Utilizing a task force approach to drive action after engagement surveys, and
  • How Groupon rebuilt and re-energized its workforce.

26 – Planning to Pilot Different Work Scenarios

Leah Pettinari, Director, People Strategy & Engagement at The Boston Beer Company, joined us at The Modern People Leader to share how the company piloted different work scenarios to find their future of work.

Episode highlights:

  • How COVID has impacted social connection at the Boston Beer Company
  • Adapting to the new virtual world, and the fundamental elements that have improved their hybrid working approach
  • Unexpected gains of higher productivity & improved pace of work in the new normal
  • How Boston Beer Company plans to maintain flexibility AND drive better connection between their people
  • Framework for piloting different work scenarios to find the right future solution
  • Managing fear and aversion to returning to what work was in the past.

25 – Turning Performance Management Upside Down

Libby Fiumara, Talent Program Manager at Expel, joined us on The Modern People Leader. We talked about how Expel is turning performance management upside down.

Episode highlights:

  • When she realized she wanted to hone in on one facet of HR,
  • Why Expel rebranded performance management to performance enablement,
  • Turning performance management upside down,
  • Training managers to be more human,
  • Using the wobble scale to navigate tough conversations,
  • Applying energy management to prevent burnout,
  • Deploying quarterly “reflect and resets”,
  • Creating a common vocabulary across the company,
  • Making HR a sounding board,
  • Hybrid vs. remote vs. in-office decisions for companies,
  • Where you should start if you’re rethinking performance management,
  • Adam Grant’s Think Again, and wine and performance coaching.

24 – Global Head of People Analytics

Hallie Bregman, Global Head of People Analytics at PTC, joined us on The Modern People Leader. This episode is filled with nuggets of gold.

Episode highlights:

  • Why the future Chief People Officer will have an analytics background,
  • How COVID has elevated people analytics,
  • The evolution of people analytics,
  • The nuance between reporting & analytics, using analytics to tell stories,
  • Organizing your people analytics team,
  • Applying analytics to the candidate experience,
  • Getting alignment with stakeholders on analytics initiatives,
  • Year one of PTC’s analytics journey,
  • Putting together the initial roadmap for people analytics,
  • Where to start with DEI analytics,
  • How to run a self-identification campaign for DEI,
  • And why Hallie hates diversity dashboards.

23 – Founder of American Happiness Project on Happiness

We were lucky to have Michelle Wax, Founder of the American Happiness Project, join us at The Modern People Leader. Michelle shared intimate details about her journey traveling across the USA, why understanding what brings everyday Americans happiness has become a life project, and so much more.

Episode highlights:

  • Michelle’s American Happiness Project journey
  • Why Happiness matters in the workplace
  • Biggest challenges people face in finding happiness
  • Why you should take risks and pursue things that give you joy
  • Managing the YOLO economy & finding self-awareness.

22 – Nailing the People Piece of M&A

We were lucky to have Rhiana Barr, Chief People Officer at KushCo, join us on 4/20 at The Modern People Leader. And we had an awesome conversation on a great topic – Human Resources’ role in the M&A process. Rhiana gave us a behind the scenes look at KushCo’s recent merger with Greenlane, her experience on how to ensure successful cultural integration, and much more.

Episode highlights:

  • Taking risks in your HR career and not being has been so critical to her career growth
  • Strategic workforce planning based on changing legislation
  • How the perception of working in the cannabis industry is changing and shifted recruiting tactics
  • Why HR needs to get involved early in the M&A process to ensure deal success
  • How culture diligence can have a significant impact on the success of merger or acquisition
  • Why an HR leader should run the integration management office and how creating a single culture is a journey with your people

21 – The Ups & Downs of Engagement Scores in 2020/2021

In Episode 21, we explored the ups and downs of employee engagement scores over the past year. Engagement scores surged in Q2/Q3 only to fall in Q4 2020.

Retention scores are still high but there are signs of weakness in loyalty scores. How do you make sense of your swings in scores? Should companies be concerned about retention as the economy strengthens? What are the key areas that people leaders should be focused on heading into summer of 2021.

20 – Building Great Managers

In episode 20 Adrienne Barnard, SVP People Operations & Experience at AdmitHub, joined us on The Modern People Leader.

We covered all things manager-related: the secret sauce to becoming a great manager, rookie mistakes to avoid, how to run effective 1x1s, and much more.

Episode highlights:

  • The secret sauce for becoming a great manager,
  • The biggest rookie mistakes for new managers,
  • People ops is important & companies are starting to take notice,
  • Why most 1x1s are ineffective,
  • Putting all managers through management training,
  • Having someone look after People Ops makes a big impact,
  • Leveraging engagement surveys to measure manager effectiveness,
  • And using micro-learning opportunities to get quick wins with manager training.