Susan Strayer LaMotte, SPHR got her first W-2 at 14 and hasn’t stopped working since. She is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy helping startup and high-growth businesses strengthen culture and talent to scale better. In the past 15 years, she has worked with renowned global brands big and small including The Ritz-Carlton, Carnival Cruise Lines, Umba, Knowledge Tree and Marriott International and has been featured in and written for publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and the New York Times. Susan has an MBA from Vanderbilt University, an MA in HR Development from The George Washington University and a BA in Communications from Virginia Tech. She lives and works in Washington, DC.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
Human behavior has changed and yet the way we work hasn’t changed with it. We all get value from work in different ways and if organizations don’t know and can’t adapt to different degrees of value, they’ll only find success from employees who conform to their prescribed work environments and behaviors.
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
exaqueo is a workforce consultancy. We build cultures, employer brands and talent strategies for startup and high growth companies. We’re on a mission to help companies find the value in people. For growing companies, we’re the place they turn to make the talent part of the growth equation work.
We help businesses from the beginning create a culture and work environment to reflect what they value and how work gets done. We teach companies how to promote that employment experience so candidates who align with their values and the way they work are attracted to their company and open jobs. And we help them craft talent strategies to source, hire, manage, evaluate and reward employees who perform and align with the values and work as well.
We use our 4C model© to do this:
- We get the leadership perspective of the company culture.
- We use research to seek clarity from the existing workforce no matter how big or small focusing on the commonalities among high-performers.
- We help the leadership team comprehend the gaps in what they assumed and what is true.
- We cultivate talent strategies to address the gaps.
Why do you do what you do?
We know employee engagement is low. And that’s because employees are asked to behave and perform work not congruent with their own values and preferences. I’m passionate about changing that for the employee and the employer. If companies can be crystal clear about the way work gets done and the kind of behavior and performance that’s valued in an organization, job seekers can better understand if they’d fit in the organization. I started working when I was 14 and haven’t stopped since. I know firsthand the real value people can give and receive from work—but only if they’re engaged and performing in a way that’s comfortable for them. Everyone deserves to feel that way about work.
What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
I deeply appreciate creativity. For me, music is the ultimate form of art because of the layers and the changing nature of a song. I love singer/songwriters for their ability to weave words into song. I listen to every genre—some of my favorites of late: Patty Griffin, Matt Nathanson, Joshua Radin, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Elton John, Mumford and Sons, The Weepies, Amos Lee, Kacey Musgraves, Lumineers, Kina Grannis.
When it comes to visual arts, I really appreciate photography and oils. Right now I’m coveting (and saving for) Maggie O’Neill and her Washington, DC-themed oils.
My favorite museum is the Tate Modern in London.
What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
exaqueo is a virtual, flexible company. Our consultants are based all over the world. We get our work done when our clients need it, but we’re flexible on how, when and where. It’s a place for people who like autonomy and want ownership of their work and life but are focused enough to eliminate distractions when it’s time to work. You can find our values here.
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
Team sports. It’s one of the best examples of how value in performance is derived when the right combination of people are together in the right environment. Take this year’s Kansas City Chiefs football team. They’re currently undefeated as of week 9 with a coach who was floundering a year earlier in Philadelphia. That same coach had a history of success with the Philadelphia, but as the environment changed, he faltered. There are so many lessons like this that can be applied to work environments.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Find out who your employees are as people. We have data about our employees and work: where we hired them from, how they performed, how satisfied they are, et cetera. But we don’t know who they are as people. We focus on three other distinct areas: relationships and family, internal self (what they personally value) and external self (where they get value from outside of work). You don’t want to be invasive and demand this data, but employees will openly share if you ask and knowing who they are can have strong bottom-line business implications.
What is one surprising thing we should know about you?
I got my first W-2 at age 14 and I’ve had over 30 jobs since then. Now you know why I’m obsessed with the notion of getting value from work!
- Snack Bar Attendant
- Camp Counselor
- Customer Service Associate
- Head Cashier
- Customer Service Manager
- After School Program Leader
- Call Center Associate
- Public Relations Intern
- Public Relations Assistant
- Retail Salesperson
- College Orientation Leader
- College Orientation Ass’t
- Graduate Student Affairs Ass’t
- Training Coordinator
- HR Generalist
- Recruiting Manager
- Sr. Manager, Member Services
- Program Director
- Career Coach
- Ass’t Director, Career Services
- MBA Intern
- Director, Talent Management
- Director, Talent Acquisition
- Senior Director, Employer Brand
What do you do for fun?
The things I get energy from are where I can focus on what’s happening in the moment and not get distracted. That includes golf, yoga, exercise, cooking and finding great places to hear live music. My husband and I also love traveling — we’ve been to every continent except Antarctica and I have four U.S. states left to visit: Alaska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and South Dakota.
How do you stay productive throughout your day?
I’m OCD about organization because I get more energy when things are in order, managed and productive. I color code my calendar between different types of tasks, and I carve out specific time for emails. I also am motivated to have mostly work-free weekends. That’s important to me. So it pushes me to get done what I need to during the week.
Where in the world are you?
Washington, DC, USA