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Shaping the Next Generation of Supply Chain Leaders with Tryon University

By Published On: February 1, 2024

Hosts: Rodney Apple & Chris Gaffney

In This Episode:

In this episode of the Supply Chain Careers Podcast, we’re joined by two esteemed guests from Tryon Solutions. Matt Kennedy, a dynamic Project Coordinator, alongside Kelly Little, an experienced HR Manager, delve into the innovative strategies and history behind Tryon Solutions. They shed light on the transformative Tryon University, an in-house program designed to cultivate top-tier supply chain talent, which Matt plays a key role in overseeing.

Kelly shares insights from her extensive 18-year journey in HR, discussing the evolving talent marketplace and the pivotal shifts companies must embrace to effectively attract and nurture talent. She highlights the success of their onboarding initiatives, emphasizing the importance of selecting adept instructors who bring their expertise to life in training sessions.

Beyond the technical skills, Matt reveals how their program uniquely integrates life management and soft skills training, equipping professionals to excel in the challenging terrain of project management and billable work. This episode is a treasure trove of wisdom for anyone looking to foster a culture of success and professional growth in the supply chain domain. Tune in to discover the strategies and practices that are forging the future of supply chain solutions.

Who are Kelly Little and Matt Kennedy?

Kelly Litte:

“Strategically inclined with a propensity for identifying and resolving inefficiencies, I pride myself on my abilities to lead positive change, adapt quickly, and surround myself with people who complement me in business areas where I can improve. My experience with start-ups to Fortune 500 companies allowed my top three strengths to rise: culture-building/-enhancement; learning & development; recruiting. I put the “human” back in Human Resources!”

Matt Kennedy:

“I graduated from NC State in 2022 with a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. A few short months later I found myself interviewing at a small, WMS consulting company called Tryon Solutions. I’ve been here ever since. I came in with the intent of working as a developer, doing more technical work, but after our 3-month training program, I found my way into the Project Management Office (PMO). I currently work as a Project Coordinator within the PMO, managing our smaller contracts and working with a lot of our newer customers.”

[00:00:08] Mike Ogle: Welcome to the supply chain careers podcast series on supply chain, talent, building, and engagement in this series, we speak with a wide variety of both journalists and specialists in human resources and talent management who work closely with supply chain professionals listen as they all share their insights, perspectives, and advice for improving the hiring, development, and retention of supply chain talent, plus how to develop and manage teams of supply chain professionals.

This podcast is made possible by SCM talent group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm. Visit SCM talent group at scmtalent. com. In this episode of the supply chain careers podcast series on supply chain, talent building, and engagement. We have a pair of guests from try on solutions.

First is Matt Kennedy, a project coordinator for try on plus Kelly little HR manager for try on. They talk with us about their positions, the company’s history, and how to best build a team to provide supply chain solutions, starting with their in house program, Tryon University. Kelly talks about her 18 years in HR and how the marketplace for talent has changed, and the changes companies need to make to quickly move to acquire and develop talent.

She takes pride in the effectiveness of their onboarding program. Matt shares his experience with their training programs, making sure the very best instructors skilled in the topics they are teaching are actually providing the training. And it’s not just the technical and procedural issues that make their onboarding program successful.

Through a variety of life management and soft skills training, they’re also helping talent survive and thrive in the world of projects and billable hours. Listen and learn about the techniques and processes that are helping develop a success culture for solutions professionals.

[00:01:57] Rodney Apple: I’m your podcast co host, Rodney Apple.

[00:02:00] Chris Gaffney: And I’m your podcast co host, Chris Gaffney.

[00:02:04] Rodney Apple: Welcome to the Supply Chain Careers podcast. This is the talent building and engagement series. We’re going to talk about employee new hire onboarding. And we’re very excited to have our guest on today. From try on solutions. Thank you for

[00:02:22] Matt Kennedy: joining us. Thanks for having us.

Yeah, absolutely.

[00:02:27] Rodney Apple: So maybe we could start out by getting a quick introduction and background for our audience on both yourselves and your roles there, as well as the company.

[00:02:35] Kelly Little: So Tryon Solutions, we actually just turned 14 years old this month. So we were founded in 2009 from a couple of guys who are out of a tier one level WMS provider.

Themselves as they lovingly like to say code slingers, and they did that started trying to out of their apartment off of try on road and the, here we are. So good times there. We are a global provider of WMS and supply chain solutions. We have everyone from small mom and pops who have a few warehouses to fortune 500 companies, fortune 50 companies, and gosh, our folks.

Literally touched down in just about every continent. I don’t think the penguins need warehouses yet in Antarctica, but we’re pretty much, we’re willing if they would like to have a warehouse and have our services. So we’re on the consulting side of things and really enjoy helping to become a partner with our clients.

So it’s, it’s been a joy to be a part of the growth. I have very aggressive plans in the next three years. We’re going to double in size. This is the goals and here we are.

[00:03:40] Chris Gaffney: Awesome.

[00:03:41] Rodney Apple: Well, thank you so much, Kelly, for that, uh, introduction and would like to turn it over to you, Matt, and let us know what your role is there at Tryon solutions.

And I’d love to touch on the Tryon University as well. And that’s going to be the core of our episode is learning more about this onboarding process that you’ve built, which is very robust.

[00:04:00] Matt Kennedy: Yeah, thank you. My name is Matt. I graduated from NC State in 2022. I joined Tryon Solutions about two months after in June and I went through our onboarding program, which is Tryon University.

It’s about a two and a half month, a 10 week program where we learn the basics of WMS and how Tryon Solutions operates. Shortly after my graduating from that, I joined our project management office. I’m now a project coordinator for Tryon Solutions and I help run Tryon University.

[00:04:31] Kelly Little: So the student becomes the master.

[00:04:33] Matt Kennedy: Yeah, sure.

[00:04:34] Kelly Little: Something like that. Yeah, that’s, Tryon University is a big draw for a lot of our folks and even our internal people have been doing this for decades. They enjoy the topics that we cover. It’s an ever evolving, we’ve gotten better every time that we’ve instituted the program and brought people through.

Yeah. In fact, we started with college recruiting and putting folks through it but we Actually one session, uh, a winter session, if you will, we took some internal folks who wanted to become a bit more technical and savvy in different areas and they actually joined. So it was for folks who were already internal with a couple of years behind them at try on and one recent grad.

And so he had a very different experience. So as we are with a small employer, very adaptable. And it was really fun to see the differences in those classes.

[00:05:30] Matt Kennedy: Yeah, it’s a very weird perspective coming from a student to be able to go from student to teacher. I think it’s a testament to Tryon University and kind of what we’re building here.

What we try to do is try to give people WMS skills as well as giving them real life skills. We understand that a lot of people that are coming to Tryon University are coming right out of college. That is a part of our target market for the people that we’re going for, especially as new hires. So we understand that there’s Unique challenges that college graduates have, like needing to start having financial stability for themselves, buying a car, maybe starting to rent an apartment on their own, looking at saving for retirement, these kinds of real life problems that people are going through.

And so we, as a part of our Tryon University program have adopted class times that are more focused towards. Skills like that. We try to get our more experienced and financially stable employees to try to teach those classes. And one of them is our owner, Adam Downing. He does a, I think this year it was a five part series on just personal finance.

He talked about how to save for retirement, what financial stability looks like, how much you should be spending on rent each month. If you want to buy a home, this is how much you need to set aside and how to finance. And it’s really an awesome opportunity. I think people get to. Get acquainted with an owner of a company, whereas in a lot of other orientation programs, maybe you might see them on a video for the 1st day.

Um, and that’s the only interaction you’re ever going to have with them. I think that’s a big part of what we do.

[00:06:59] Chris Gaffney: Definitely we’re going to dive into more elements of Tryon University, but Kelly, you mentioned growth aspirations. You mentioned further expansion of W. M. S. as a capability. I’m curious your take as our audience, most of them are either current or potential users of a WMS solution.

What does it look like out there in terms of both the need for talent, you know, to support this we, we play all over the supply chain, but the partner who supports somebody bringing on new supply chain technology is an integral. Partner for almost any company who plays in the physical supply chain. What do you see both in terms of the need for talent and then what are your view of the pain points and unique challenges and in hiring for folks to play in this space?

And I know Matt alluded to some things, newer folks, younger folks, but what kind of, what insight can you share for our audience in terms of how you all are navigating this and have and look forward to.

[00:08:01] Kelly Little: Sure. So one of the reasons and a little bit about my background and I’ve been doing HR for 18 plus years, I started as a recruiter for a fortune 500 company.

I built an internship program, a mentorship program, and a college recruiting program for 11 States in the Southeast. It was an intense endeavor. I enjoyed every second of it. And I realized that with layoffs. Which are disappointing for anybody. And it’s certainly a lesson learned, uh, that I wanted to be part of something where I didn’t feel like a cog in the machine.

And I say that because to be relevant to your question, it was really enlightening to be able to work for smaller, medium sized employers because. I have the autonomy usually, I have the flexibility, I have the buy in or I can get it quite quickly and I love being able to move that, that fast. I think in that regard, Tryon as a boutique firm in the consulting space in this regard, very niche industry, right?

It is critical that you can move quickly. Our hiring process can literally take only two weeks. Okay, from the first interview to the final interview to the offer and even acceptance, depending on how quickly the candidate can move. But the parts that I control it within our company can be less than two weeks.

So I think that’s a big deal. You have to shorten the timeline. This is about humans and the market is very different than it used to be. You could be very choosy. You could take three months and several panels of interviews to hire people. Good luck. You’re not going to get anybody, then they’re going to be able to accept six offers before you even thought about the phase two.

So I think that’s really important to understand what’s happening in the realm. One of the things I’m seeing too, and I talked to our folks who are a bit more seasoned in the industry, like decades of experience between all of them, they. See this kind of roller coaster and it’s very cyclical. Anything with logistics, I think can be, if you’re looking for the patterns every seven to 10 years, you get folks who rely on consultants very heavily, which we are.

And they go, what if we got our own three or four people and just did this in house? They get a different mentality, right? Let me tell you, these multi billion dollar companies will throw tens of thousands of dollars more into an offer just to get some talent in the door to not be using consultants.

They will find in the next 18, 24 months, that’s not sustainable. And they ended up letting those folks go once their projects are done, or it didn’t really pan out and they didn’t have quite the foundation or breadth of skills that they were looking for. Additionally, we’re seeing the large SIs out there want to go, you know what, I bet you we could do WMS.

And they think they just open a branch and see what happens. Well, in the next 18 to 24 months, that ends up being not so lucrative because everything’s over budget and over deadline and they give it up. But right now I’m competing with them as far as recruiting. And I think that’s a pretty interesting cutthroat place to be.

The one edge we have is our culture. And that onboarding process is 100 percent part of that.

[00:11:17] Chris Gaffney: Yeah. It’s an interesting perspective. As we look at the larger job market for supply chain talent, my sense is. Other areas of the supply chain market may slow down. Probably we’ve seen this year, maybe in transportation, but in most cases, people have an urgency around their digital journey and investment in technology in many cases continues to endure.

So it’s interesting that you’re continuing to see that as a hot and tight market.

[00:11:46] Kelly Little: It is incredibly, I have no problem having just a nice casual conversation and interviewing. We interview a little bit differently. It’s about the fit and the culture here. We’re highly protective of it because we like it so much.

I tell folks, don’t be the reason we can’t have nice things. So that’s, I know how many times have you heard us? Yeah. It’s in a competitive edge when you can’t offer gobs and gobs of money to attempt to try to get a candidate who may or may not work out. We are more sure with the way that we hire and go through our process and understand what kind of person is so successful here and we look for them instead.

Yes, I need you to be able to do the work for whatever role I’m hiring for, but do you fit here? Can you understand that the the learning process comes from a place of humility not ego? There are a lot of different elements and I think that’s really what sets us apart So when folks interview with us if that hits Then great.

Uh, oftentimes they come from a place of burnout and they’re just ready to set up some roots, some place where they can also enjoy their lives. So I hope that’s what gives us the edge.

[00:12:50] Rodney Apple: That’s fantastic stuff. Kelly would love to hear, we use the term make versus buy a lot in supply chain. And so I think you can apply that to the talent landscape.

Is it better for your company to, to, to hire people that may have a lot more aptitude versus. All the different skills and check all the boxes. Could you talk to us about maybe where that genesis of Tryon University is? Was it on the recruiting challenges? He felt like there’d be a better opportunity to do the make versus the buy.

Yeah, I’d love to hear more about that piece.

[00:13:22] Kelly Little: I think Tryon University or any college recruiting program, this is applicable across any industry. This one is particularly unique. I have never seen such a dynamic in HR because even when we go to work at a customers, there’s that sense of going native.

Like I’m on site with these people and everything. And I think that it’s. It’s important to understand that you still work for Tryon, even though you’re working for this company. I bring that up because we have to train folks to be strong against like certain aspects of don’t bash anything because we might work with other people, right?

So we’ll work with another firm on site with a big 3PL. And they’ve brought in lots of different consultants and we won’t poach from them. They won’t poach from us. And there’s a mutual understanding there because we’re going to see one another again someday. Right? So you can’t be burning these bridges.

It’s all interconnected in this niche industry. That being said, yeah, you better make them. Because if I can’t poach from five different places who I know I have premium talent, then I need to make my own. And we designed that in the hopes that the traditional span from promotion, whether a junior engineer, you get to a senior engineer, to an architect, to a senior architect, we deliberately defined that path.

So that people can achieve it. And when you put those kinds of things in front of folks, now it’s a visual goal. And that starts at the engineer level. Right. And so we said, let’s get capable folks who suit our culture, who want to learn. They become sponges. They love helping one another in that collaboration in a small employer, medium employer environment.

And let’s see what we can throw at them. Let them absorb it. So if you hire five for a class of 10 weeks in this training program, maybe you’d lose one or two, but that still gave you three really strong engineers. Once they go through a 10 week training program, yes, in consulting, they’re not billable.

That means that we’re eating that cost. So it has to be sustainable and we better see a return after 10 weeks. They can be immediately effective and positively impact a project right away. So once we get them onto a project, they are billable. Now they have architects that whom they can learn under and they will be able to bring in revenue right away.

Not only that, some of our folks get mistaken for more senior people because they know what they’re talking about. So that’s always positive feedback.

[00:15:57] Matt Kennedy: I think to Kelly’s point, we, of our four graduates, um, of the last try on you cycle here, I think three were immediately billable, and then one was billable, um, about a month or two later.

So we had everyone billable within two months of graduating. They’re out there being rock stars on projects. They’re surprising people. Surprising our architects with their knowledge and how quickly they’re picking up things. Yeah. I think it’s a testament to our program that we put them through ahead of time.

[00:16:25] Chris Gaffney: It sure sounds like the program is full bright today. I am curious from when it started till today, others might say, wow, I’m really jealous of this. What’s my version of this? How would I get started? How would I traverse the journey? How has it evolved over time to what it is today? And how did you change the shape or whatever to get it to where it is at this point?

[00:16:48] Matt Kennedy: Ooh, it is different. Yeah, it has changed a lot. I think I would probably say our number one defining thing that we’ve changed throughout the whole thing is trying to make appropriate instructors for clearly defined topics. And what we do with our WMS, we try to break it down between front end and back end, functional and technical.

And so we bring in the people who in our company are the very best at front end training, people who would go on site and be training users on how to use our WMS. Come and train our people. And then we get our very best technical leads and senior architects to come teach our technical classes, teach people the fundamentals of coding, how to code properly, how to document properly, and how to make sure that other people can read and understand your work as opposed to just you being able to understand that.

I think that’s a big piece of what we do is having varied instructors for our varied topics. You were here, Kelly, a bit more at the, at the beginning of trying to use it. Maybe I’ll let you see.

[00:17:47] Kelly Little: So in the beginning it was a little tough because you don’t know what the program like this, how much do you take like a senior person to own the process themselves?

And again, we’re consultants and we make money when we’re billable, when that person is not billable for two and a half months and dedicated to this, how do we balance that? And I think we were a little intimidated at first. Now, if I had my way, I would have just dedicated him to being the dean of trying you and just said, suck it up.

But that I understand I’m in human resources. I’m one of the money suckers, right? So I’m not billable. I am expensive. And they’re like, let’s just tiptoe. I was like, okay, this is going to pay off. So next time where I’m going to get what I want. And he was divided. So he was a project manager and on a global project.

And that timeline was changing and that interrupted a little bit of work. The distraction, I think in the beginning from maybe not having classwork that day. It was good exposure if the class was on calls with him, let’s say, so I’m not going to discount that there was an experience there, but I think that if you’re going to do something like this, the way that it evolved, which, by the way, we do send a survey after every class.

And we ask for their input and we ask input from the instructors to see what’s going on. And then three months out, I ask for feedback from managers as to how everyone progressed. It’s that constant feedback that lets us, now, if you’re going to ask for feedback as an HR person, you better know that you must do something with it or else it will never happen again.

So you must take that even as it’s just one or two things. And institute it, I think we were able to evolve to something where we had a dedicated environment, right, a sandbox for them to develop their own warehouse into, which we didn’t have in the beginning, or it was wrought with errors. It was very deliberate on topics.

Matt was very good about breaking down a syllabus, right, which is. Something that recent grads are very familiar with. So we didn’t take them out of their element and throw them into something totally new and the transparency that we had among the entire company, people, other people wanted to sit in on these topics.

Teachers were coming in and going, that was a lot of fun. What else do you need? Maybe I can teach another class. So to have buy in at every level was very cool as well. And buy in is a huge step in any HR process, right? You have to be deliberate about anything that you’re going to do. So don’t think of the band aid, short term fix, I need three new engineers on a project by October.

Let me do this. No, this needs to be a strategic thing that has a foundation. That’s fabulous.

[00:20:32] Mike Ogle: During this short break, we recognize that this podcast is made possible by SCM Talent Group. The industry leading supply chain executive search firm. Visit SCM talent [email protected]

[00:20:46] Rodney Apple: Would love to, to segue and Matt, I know you touched on some of this earlier about the personal finance courses, but how did that become a thing? Because most companies, their onboarding programs kind of stick to the job, the roles, the skills, responsibilities, as opposed to personal things that you need to know that they don’t teach in school for some reason, like personal finance, but we’d love to hear that, how that.

Morphed and how it touched on becoming really a multifaceted onboarding program that spans work and people’s personal livelihoods.

[00:21:23] Matt Kennedy: Yeah, a big part of what we do at try on and the culture of try on is trying to make people’s lives. Good while they’re at work, and I think that ensures a higher rate of retention amongst our employees.

So understanding the actual challenges that people in our company are really going through on a day to day basis. We do classes on how to buy a car, how to buy a house, how to. Budget how to finance yourself. And these are taught by people in our company who have done it and who continue to do it every day.

One of our most popular classes amongst our general try on crowd is the credit card day where we just talk about what credit cards to buy what’s out there. A lot of people in our company do a lot of travel. So talking about travel credit cards, which one is the card of the year is a big part of like a lot of people in our company are really interested in a topic like that and want to.

Attend a class like that. And so Tryon University kind of bridges that gap between what are the real problems that people in our company are really facing every day, and how can we give them tools and education and advice to be able to answer those problems and not have to maybe leave Tryon to be able to go deal with a problem like that.

If somebody makes a bad financial decision and gets in a really deep hole, maybe they have to leave Tryon to go try something else, try to bridge that gap and make that work. And keeping people happy. And understanding that as a company, Tryon cares about them, it makes people a lot more willing to work for Tryon and to have that dialogue and open communication going back and forth.

And that’s a big part of what we do. And I think it’s a big part of the success of Tryon University.

[00:22:56] Kelly Little: I’d like to piggyback on that if I could. One of the things is there are a lot of like burnout cultures out there, and if we’re not going to be about burnout. Why would I burn you out in a 10 week class on top of that?

So I think there’s only so much that you can absorb in a day. We also do these things to break up the monotony. I think even though it’s work related, when you get our VP of delivery on a Zoom talking about consulting skills and how to be in a room with a client. It is different than going, okay, I’m in this programming language and I’m doing it, looking at a trace file and I’m trying to find out what broke.

You can only do that so many hours a day. So I think that there’s a good bit of self guided in the Tryon University. There’s a good bit of random personal topics that are really helpful. And then there’s a good bit of what are the soft skills in that you’ll also need? Because I think I told you I hire unicorns.

They’re my technical folks who can actually talk to humans and sometimes they’re, that’s rare. So how do we get them to build that confidence while they’re on site as a consultant, but they just graduated in May? How do you give that to somebody? So we do focus on those skills, but it’s a good way to break up the monotony of coding.

[00:24:12] Chris Gaffney: Talked a lot about the elements of it and you’ve referenced the 10 week cycle. Can you just give us the chunks of that 10 weeks just so someone could get a sense of what that looks like?

[00:24:23] Matt Kennedy: Yeah, so generally we start off talking about try on solutions as a whole and the company and kind of the organization of it.

This is really helpful because it allows people to understand who in the company does what and you may not be an expert in everything, but who is the expert in that thing? And that can be a big learning curve for people. That’s the first couple of weeks or so, maybe two weeks. Then we get into what we call functional training.

This is the front end of the WMS. We are not talking coding yet. We’re not talking SQL or backend stuff, literally just using the website for the WMS and making sure that we. Can flip through those screens, understand what each, the functionality of each piece is. After that, then we will get into technical.

We’ll start talking about databases. We’ll start talking about backend query languages, server side stuff, how to take down and put up an entire environments. You really do get a holistic view of what the backend looks like. And then along the way we’re dotting it in HR series, so we’re talking about mental health, we’re talking about physical health, talking about financial stability, doing a lot of topics along the way to break up the monotony of just functional, technical, classwork, here you go, learn this.

And then at the end we do a big final project. The class this year, they did it on page builder, but it doesn’t have to be on page builder. They pick a topic within WMS that they like that they’ve studied a lot of throughout the class, and then they give a presentation to the entire rest of the company.

And that is a great learning experience for them. Kelly talked about it earlier. Engineers who can talk to people and have being able to present their project like that in front of a big group and our company is stressful for them. And they are definitely thinking about it a lot and practicing a lot for it.

That’s how we break down. Tryon University.

[00:26:14] Kelly Little: I think an important feature to is we work in there visiting an actual warehouse. So we have, thank goodness, the great blessing of having a customer down the road and it’s a, what, 13 minute drive? So we take a field trip and get a tour of the entire warehouse.

Now I will say it’s one of the most clean run warehouses I’ve ever seen in my entire life. So I don’t know that it’s the greatest of examples of the actual chaotic. Uh, nature of what we do, but it is a nice start for them to be able to ask questions of a GM who’s just spending hours with us touring.

And it’s very dynamic because I think this particular one, they have very small eaches or they have big pellet picks. And their seasonal stuff is just very interesting. So it’s a retailer, but the consumer goods, but it’s just very cool for them to take their work toward whatever they’ve just done, the front ends and the back end and marry that with what actually means something in reality.

It’s all great on paper until you try to go to a go live and then nothing makes sense to you. Sure. Let’s go in a day in the life of. And that’s really what it’s about. I think a day in the life of is truly what we’re trying to do. If I had to summarize it in one step, that’s it.

[00:27:28] Matt Kennedy: Yeah. And right as they, right after they go and visit a warehouse, then they come back into our system and we scratched everything that they had built so far.

And we started building a brand new warehouse from scratch in our WMS so that they could see everything that was in a real warehouse, how it’s all laid out. What efficiency wise makes sense, placements of things, locations. And then we just got on a whiteboard and we started drawing. Okay, where’s our dock doors?

Okay, where’s our storage locations? Where’s the PNDs? Where’s our wrapping stations? We started sketching everything out, and then we started transferring that to the front end. So, it’s really important that they see that piece first before we can do that.

[00:28:08] Kelly Little: It’s uh, connecting all the dots together. We hope so. At least giving him the puzzle pieces to make a picture later.

[00:28:16] Chris Gaffney: That’s fantastic.

[00:28:17] Rodney Apple: I’d love to take this to success stories, the benefits, the value that you’re generating and creating beyond accelerating someone’s ability to go out and bill.

[00:28:28] Kelly Little: Sure, I’m sitting next to one. He, he took a different path.

Normally our college graduates, they come in as solutions engineers and not meaning to be a plug, but you could check out our website to see what that career path in particular looks like. It’s one of the easier ones to illustrate. And I do think that we hire for that. So that’s why I put that out there on the Tryon University page.

But that solutions engineer, how they can graduate five promotions ahead of them. And what difference that is level to level is very important. Now, Matt took a different route and we just happened to have that opportunity on the PMO. He said, I really think I’m interested in project management. I have these strong skillsets.

I love being able to learn this side of it so I can appreciate what everybody does on a project, but. Is there an opportunity for me here? And we were like, you know what? Let’s talk. So again, one of the beautiful things of being a smaller employer is that adaptability. And if there is a business need, we have no problem indulging that.

And here’s Matt running several projects on your own, some staff log things as well as projects and really herding cats as a project coordinator might. So Matt is one of our success stories. I think he’s come so far in a different light and now he runs Tryon University. There are just some of us who help support him.

What do you need? Who do you need us to talk to? What schedule do we need? Let us help you with getting this information out. And he really runs it. We have so many specifics. Another one is we have taken this 10 week program can cut the time by half. To the next step, which is senior solutions engineer, we’ve watched it happen.

So prior to having something as deliberate as Tryon University with college grads, it would take maybe somebody who had a little bit of experience or none at all. You bring them in baptism by fire. We all have been through that at some point in our careers. And it takes about four to six years to get a true ready to go, no hand folding senior solutions engineer, right?

You can put them on a staff log and they just do great because they don’t have to ask a lot of questions. Maybe they know their stuff. They’ve been around the block. Our folks were seeing promotions within less than two and a half years. It’s working and their reputation precedes them the work that they are able to do on projects.

They’re like, no, I want that person. Can we have so and so back? And I think that I’ve got, wow, I’ve got actually probably 3 or 4 more at least that I will be promoting in the next year. I think the program is being impactful in the most positive of light. And if you like being here now, we did have a little bit of turnover.

Somebody wanted to really do gaming and they had the opportunity. We wish them well. In fact, I wished him happy birthday a couple of months ago. So we still keep in touch. If this is a cup of tea, that’s great. It’s okay. I will help you. Find a place you want me to help you with your resume. No problem.

That’s the kind of place that we are But those who have stayed I think it’s only been two really that have left for other. Yeah. Yes. Gosh, we’ve got They’re just they’re killing it. I mean we’ve watched them people for with years of experience now They’re starting to come up to that level And the ones who’ve been here a long time love seeing that.

So there’s no internal competition or animosity. They love bringing them along because they’re great peers.

[00:32:04] Matt Kennedy: Yeah, I think also to Kelly’s point, when we do Tryon University, we do them in groups, usually three, four or five. And as far as trying to attract new hires, having a group like that of people that you’re going into a company with, you’re going to go through this program with them.

And on the tail end of it, you’re probably going to have a pretty good relationship. with them. You’re going to sit in a conference room for the better part of 150 hours over the next couple of months. So you’re going to get to be pretty good friends with these people. And even now, I still am great friends with my Tryon University group and I know what projects are on.

So I’m like, Hey, that one client, I heard that they were having an issue. I’m going to go ask my TryonU friend that’s working on that client’s project. It’s a great kind of networking piece as well, I think is a big Tryon University.

[00:32:47] Kelly Little: Their peer group is everything because each one ends up with a different skill set.

You need somebody with Jasper reporting skills. They know who in their group is capable of doing that. You need somebody who has no fear of taking something and trying it and breaking it and fixing it later. Cool. We know a guy, right? I think it’s interesting how they evolve as a group and they come from different backgrounds.

So don’t be fooled. This is not like I hired CompSci and they have all this Python and SQL. I’ve got. Business majors, business finance majors who happen to know coding. We’ve got, we had a biomedical engineer, but he had access to all the different types of engineering. It was. It’s amazing. So you’re mechanical.


[00:33:26] Matt Kennedy: I’m mechanical recruiting for the person and then knowing and trusting that we will teach them the things that they need to know. Yeah.

[00:33:33] Kelly Little: Industrial engineers, maybe they’ve seen a warehouse and no logistics, but what about that back end? And they’re not afraid of it, but that dynamic inside of a group truly is.

Something that way that they take with them.

[00:33:47] Chris Gaffney: We read a lot about the science of really how do you set an employee up to be successful in a company? And the initial immersion in onboarding is a key element that shows up for all the reasons you’ve talked about, right? It, it knits somebody into a culture.

It gives them the skills they need to be value added early on. But obviously beyond that 10 months, 10 weeks, there are other things that are really critical to success. I’m curious if you want to comment on. How the culture enables mentoring and coaching, how it supports people navigating their own career path, keeps them in the game with y’all over time, and part of this being an ongoing part of how you succeed.

[00:34:29] Kelly Little: I think in human resources, it’s important to talk about the elephant in the room, which is a lot of times we’re reactive. I am spoiled here. They let me be as proactive as I can possibly be. And that means being deliberate about the things that we like and hold near and dear. So again, don’t be the reason we can’t have nice things.

Okay. Literally, I think this has to come from the top down and the down up, right? Like it’s just gotta flow both ways and transparency, trust and respect. All of that really has to play a key role in it. Now I know these are buzzwords, but they really do have live living and breathing. Residents here and nearly everything that we do points to it.

So from policies that I do, like our bonus program or unlimited PTO program, to the idea that there’s a monthly town hall, and not only is there a monthly town hall where our president. Gets on for about 20 minutes. Talks about what happened with the last, since the last one, what go lives have we done, birthdays, anniversaries, babies, weddings, all the fun stuff as well, who we’re recruiting, what’s the sales pipeline looking like, Hey, this looks really unique.

Oh, we busted into a new label or logo. Congratulations, everybody. Every town hall also ends with high fives and shout outs and can sometimes almost take as long as the presentation itself. So we love to give the love. We’re calling folks out for all the cool things they did. And that breaks down the consulting silos.

I think that can develop across like a larger organization. So you don’t have to feel like you’re on an island. You get to hear about other people’s wins. You get to hear about what they’re doing. We take that a step further with our culture. And I think this goes to mentorship and coaching in, I have a monthly tea with Kelly.

It’s just a remote water cooler on zoom and we laugh and we have a good time and we share recipes or I send out coloring pages and I take a ridiculous poll that turns into a 15 minute debate about something and it’s a really good chance to get to learn to know your peers even if they’re remote. Come for five minutes or stay for the whole hour.

You know every month when it’s going to happen so come in and be a part of it. So I would say that we have Probably anywhere between 50 and 60 percent attendance, which is huge. So they really do humor me. I am spoiled on top of that. I think they were mocking me a little bit with my tea with Kelly.

There’s a Mountain Dew with Deb and this is where it gets a little bit more technically involved. Now my eyes will glaze over, but I will absolutely participate because I want to understand what they’re facing or what cool things they did on a project. That’s where we’re breaking down those silos. Okay.

Because the scripts that this architect was writing here, you can use 80 percent of that and be done here and save yourself eight hours and then adapt the next 20 percent to your customer. So they’re all about sharing and collaborating, even when they’re not on the same project. That’s because the trust and respect flows into another one of our core values, which is leading with learning.

If you don’t buy into that, our interview process is heavily weighted against somebody who does not believe in that core value. Okay. We emphasize it. We talk about it. We give examples. And if you’re not chilling with that, like that’s that you’re not for us and that’s okay. The deliberateness that comes from that is actually creating expectations of a mentorship program, and then deliberate pairings after that, okay?

And they might adjust. And people who have years of experience want a mentor so they can reach the next level. So maybe a senior engineer to a solutions architect. They want to know what that takes and who’s going to take them under their wing. Oftentimes in consulting your manager, your direct manager is not on the same project as you.

How do they assist you then in life? We make sure that there’s a connection there or at least a mentor on that project. Again, the deliberateness, it has to be there so that It just doesn’t flop. You have to keep it going. And I think it starts with the willingness of the people. Again, if you don’t have their buy in or if they don’t suit your culture, you’re going to have some resistance

[00:38:55] Rodney Apple: as a follow up.

You’ve obviously continuously improved and this. Tryon University has certainly morphed and diversified, but how are you looping that in with performance management and seeking feedback in the spirit of continuously improving? So how are you measuring the success and then leveraging that to make these improvements?

[00:39:17] Kelly Little: It is usually evidence when the architects go, yeah, give me more engineers, Tryon University. I want to be a part of that. So it is informal, but again, we do send out those surveys. I think we do that on a regular basis within the company. Our. Performance management is a little bit different and I am not saying this with any judgment because I understand how other folks operate.

I am not a rate system once a year annual review kind of HR person. Okay, I’m also the kind of person who took 19 pages out of the handbook because I thought it was too long. All right, so I’m a little backwards. You’re laughing at me.

[00:39:57] Matt Kennedy: Yeah, all true.

[00:39:59] Kelly Little: Very true. And what do we need this for? Our review process can happen, first of all, because of the dedication of the managers have to the commitment of everybody else’s success, but everything we do is built around it.

So their bonuses are actually what kind of behaviors do I want to drive when I have a program like bonuses? What kind of behaviors do I want to drive when I say we’re going to have unlimited PTO? That’s the question we ask. So what are you trying to get at? And that means dedication and commitment to somebody else’s success.

Yeah, it’s so you can succeed too. And then we will monetarily show you how you can succeed. That’s fine. Money motivates. I got you are semi annual reviews. They happen every January and July are six questions. They’re open ended and their future focused. They are meant to prompt conversations to deliberately plan your next six months of goals setting and how you can get there.

But also then the long term. What are your personal and professional long term goals? What are you most proud of in your last six months of work? What are your short term goals and how can your manager and leadership support you? What is trying solutions do well? What do we need to improve upon? That’s it.

That’s it. And that is how you get that continuous feedback. Now, two, at least two of us, sometimes three of us read every single one of those and the common denominator, the lines that start to connect between them. That’s what we focus on. And when they then talk to the managers, the VP of delivery and myself talked to the managers and go, how are we helping these folks?

So we take time out of our leadership time to get with managers and go, they’ve identified, they want this track. What do you think are the next steps? So we’ve been able to map certain things like career paths and what that looks like. You might have these characteristics. What if you’re thinking about becoming a senior solutions engineer, here’s how you take it to the next level.

And we develop those tools and the transparency is beautiful because it’s on the intranet. They have access to this.

[00:42:12] Matt Kennedy: Yeah, I think to Kelly’s point, these reviews that we do every six months, it’s really just a conversation. Each time I go on it and I talk with my manager, it feels like we’re just talking about how I can do things better.

It doesn’t feel like he’s criticizing me or, Oh, he only got eight out of 10 this year. And next year we’ll shoot for nine out of 10. Yeah. It feels very personal. And I feel like I have that connection with him where. I can say things to him where I feel like I’m being honest and transparent and he knows that this is a professional setting and So he can give that criticism back to me and we both know that it’s not personal.

We’re just trying to keep it Keep the line of communication there and keep it transparent so that we can be honest and open with each other and be honest about how we’re going to move forward and improve in the future. Now,

[00:42:55] Kelly Little: I know that sounds like puppies and rainbows and it’s not always right. There are things that we mess up.

There are lots of things. How do we address those? Those are not time for a review, annual, semiannual, quarterly, whatever you want to do every manager, whether. They, depending on if that is needed for the person that they’re talking about meets one on ones weekly with their direct reports. That is part of a requirement and expectation of the managers.

That’s when you talk about, look, I bombed this week. We’ve all had to do that. Just walk right into my manager’s office. He’s on the other side here. That’s the owner and I say, hey, guess what? I messed up this time. And we talk it through. But you have to have that availability, the courage, of course, but the rapport to be able to do that and go, I know we seem like buds, but you really need to, I need to come clean about something.

And on a professional level, I need your coaching. That is how everything is perceived here. I believe you can speak to that. You have one on ones with your manager. Mine’s here every day, so I’m lucky. Yeah.

[00:44:00] Matt Kennedy: I talk with my manager once every two to three days. Um, I have a call with him and about an hour after this, just to wrap up our end of the week stuff and what we talked about at the beginning of the week to see if we follow up on the same stuff and did the things that we were hoping to do.

It just feels, it helps people feel like their manager cares about them a lot more than if, Oh, I see him once a year and he doesn’t even really know what I’m doing and he just gives me a score and that’s that. So it feels a bit more like they have a bit of investment in me and it makes me feel like I should be invested in that relationship as well.

[00:44:38] Chris Gaffney: Last question for me, if I’m a hiring person in another company or a manager or leader, I’m probably a little jealous of what I heard today. What would your advice be for others who’ve been at it and say, we haven’t had this, we need to get started or we did and we let it run away and we’ve lost it. If you just had to offer a few thoughts for someone to say, we’re going to start on Monday or we’re going to set up to start 24 and we’re going to start getting right about how we bring new people into our organization.

[00:45:10] Kelly Little: Yeah, I think that has to start in the C suite. You cannot have a successful program as a manager or an HR person without the buy in and backing of someone higher up who’s going to support this and not let you completely fall on your face when you’re called to the carpet. Okay, I know that can be difficult, but establishing yourself as a partner who can really make the firm be successful in an efficient and decent amount of time, even if you can do it with limited resources is crucial.

Once you get past that point, I would say, learn from your mistakes. And if I’m going to say deliberate one more time, I will. You have to write things down and go, what did we learn from this? What is our direction? I do need people scoff at him mission and vision and core values, but they come from somewhere.

It’s not just something you plaster on the wall. What is happening in your organization? What behaviors do you want to drive? Make that the critical process, especially if it already exists there. Now I was spoiled when I came here because it existed here. It just needed some growth and enhancement. I just water and give it sunlight.

Right. But I am empowered to do that. And. When you get that going. You have to forget that anything failed before and I will say that people still say orientation and onboarding are interchangeable and they are not orientation happens when you come in. You do the paperwork. It’s a bit more critical right to actually establishing you as an employee.

It’s clinical and then that stops. Okay, you might go into training. You might baptism by fire, right? The onboarding is an ongoing experience. It can’t be this 30, 60, 90 day. And then you’re like, good luck, everybody. I’ll see you in five years at the next company gathering. Cause we’re too large to do anything about it.

That’s how would you feel? So I do joke that I like to put the human back in human resources, but these are human, they have lives. And as soon as you recognize that they might have needs just like you do, I think you’ll be a little bit more successful.

[00:47:20] Matt Kennedy: Yeah. And I think as a company, if you’re trying to define a training program and orientation.

Onboarding phase for your company, you need to first define what do you do and what do you want to do? What are the core values that you want to have and that you want to instill in a new hire? What are the most important things that you want to hit on? And then find who in your company has those qualities already or has that knowledge base already and can explain or teach that to someone else.

So. Getting the right instructors for the right topics for the right people and the right students really goes a long ways to making people feel like, wow, that person really knows what they’re talking about. And they really care about my success in learning that topic. I think it’s a massive part of drawing people in and trying to be attractive in a really competitive job market.

Thank you,

[00:48:09] Rodney Apple: Kelly and Matt, this has been inspiring is the best word I have refreshing and inspiring because I think there’s so many companies that don’t put this kind of thought and effort into their onboarding. And we certainly see these things happen with fall offs and people getting burned out and frustrated and just not satisfied on the job.

So things like this certainly helps. There’s many benefits that we didn’t even get into. But this has been a huge success story. We appreciate you sharing it as we wrap up, I would love for you to just maybe share with our audience where they can find more information on Tryon solutions, as well as this awesome university aspect that we’ve talked about today.

[00:48:46] Kelly Little: Sure. So we try to keep our website pretty fresh. We do have a Tryon university page, but you can locate us at tryonsolutions. com and then on LinkedIn as Tryon solutions. And you can. I invite folks to do that because you’ll also see our culture come alive there. I think that’s a really cool place to, to see the white papers or the podcasts that we do or company meeting.

That’s a cool, fun event and everybody loves it. That’s how you can get in touch with us. I’m on there. If anybody has questions, I help folks all the time. Talk about their cultures and recruiting.

[00:49:24] Matt Kennedy: Yeah, and if you want more information on Tryon University, you can go to Tryon Solutions website, and then the careers tab is where we have all of our Tryon University stuff.

[00:49:34] Rodney Apple: Thank you very much. We appreciate you sharing your time today on our podcast. Yeah,

[00:49:38] Kelly Little: it’s been fun. Thanks guys. Yeah, thanks for having us.

[00:49:41] Chris Gaffney: We learned a lot.

[00:49:42] Rodney Apple: We did. I learned a lot on this one.

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