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Rethinking HR with Sue Joyce, Vice President of Employee Success at Terminus

Author Shauna Ward Category Inside Terminus

Rethinking HR with Sue Joyce, vp of employee success at Terminus

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”

– Lawrence Bossidy, GE

Sue Joyce joined the Terminus team as the company’s vice president of employee success in January 2018 — right in the midst of an acquisition. When Terminus acquired BrightFunnel earlier this year, we gained an incredible product, a beautiful West Coast office, and dozens of new team members.

If you think that sounds overwhelming for a new employee, you don’t know Sue.

Meet Sue Joyce

Sue Joyce has worked in recruiting and HR since her high school days, when she was an office assistant at an executive search firm.

Sue Joyce and Caramel Dolce
Sue with Caramel Dolce, her banana-loving hamster she received as a Mother’s Day gift from her husband

“I caught the recruiting bug early,” she said. “I got to hear all the recruiters cold calling candidates, and the thrill of the chase had me hooked. That led to a job right out of college at a recruiting firm in Atlanta.”

From there, Sue built a successful career in HR, working at companies like CES International and TechCXO. Prior to Terminus, she was a global HR business partner at Clearleap, a startup that was acquired by IBM in 2015.

“Clearleap was four years old with 40 employees when I joined in 2013,” she explained. “They were at the very beginning of two years of extremely fast growth, and they brought me on to quickly recruit software engineers and to solidify their hiring, onboarding, and employee engagement.”

With her experience at high-growth startups and enterprise companies alike, Sue is perfectly positioned to drive employee success at Terminus.

Employee Success vs. Human Resources

Now, the million dollar question: how is employee success different from good old-fashioned human resources?

“I think HR is a term that people view as going hand-in-hand with bureaucracy, lack of transparency, and policy without purpose,” Sue explained. “Employee success shows the true value and purpose behind HR: to help employees reach their potential and, in turn, to drive the success of the business.”

In other words, employee success is HR distilled to its purest form, free of red tape and office politics. It’s a new way of looking at human resources that truly puts employees first.

Terminus employee success team
The Terminus employee success team

We are certainly not the first company to replace traditional HR with employee success. Salesforce, for example, invests heavily in their employee success functions, and HubSpot boasts an aptly named people operations department.

As Justworks’ Jason Whitman wrote, “You could argue that the name of a department is just window dressing, and what it does and delivers for the business are more important. While that is a fair point, I believe what you call something has meaning.”

Scaling a Startup

As a Clearleap alumnus, Sue’s experience with both high-growth startups and acquisitions is a strength she’s already putting to good use at Terminus. After all, going through an acquisition can be scary, especially for the business being acquired.

“Aside from going through an acquisition from Clearleap to IBM, Clearleap also merged with a San Francisco-based company, Ustream, to form a new business unit at IBM,” Sue shared.

“I remember very well how it feels to be acquired and the fear of losing your company and cultural identity. I am committed to staying mindful of the challenges and fears employees face as they integrate and step one will be to make sure we have open communication and commitment to every BrightFunnel employee to help them integrate and become ‘Terminators’ without forgetting what made them a great company before the integration.”

As Terminus continues to scale, Sue is focusing on three key areas of the business.

  1. Performance management and career pathing
  2. Talent acquisition and employee onboarding
  3. Scaling our culture and our programs for future growth

These initiatives will help attract, develop, and retain top talent — and, of course, maintain the company culture that has led to Terminus being named one of the AJC’s Top 10 Workplaces in Atlanta two years in a row and one of Inc.’s 50 Best Workplaces.

The Keys to the Ferrari

From day one, Terminus has been dedicated to giving our employees “the keys to the Ferrari.” As Sangram Vajre, co-founder and chief evangelist at Terminus, wrote in a 2016 article:

“We tell every new hire on [their] first day, ‘Here are the keys to the Ferrari, and now drive as fast as you possibly can. It’s yours to crash or yours to get to the top speed in whatever direction you want to go.’ Of course, we don’t literally give them a Ferrari, but … each new hire knows he/she has the autonomy and authority to do things their way, as long as the core values of the company are not compromised. We want our team to know that we’re here to support, guide, and mentor each individual, but the ‘Ferrari’ is ultimately each employee’s responsibility to drive.”

As we’ve grown, we’ve inevitably had to create more structure and clearer processes for how we do things. If it weren’t for rules of the road, 150+ Ferraris speeding down the highway would result in disaster. After nearly three years, we’re still handing over those keys, but they mean something a little bit different now.

As Sue put it, “To me, it means enabling our employees to have the keys they need to drive their own Ferrari to the next step in their career and to make sure employee success supports them on every part of that road. For one employee, their key could be the coaching from their boss that enables them to drive further, faster. For another, it could be allowing our employees the support to challenge the status quo of an internal process and cause disruption for the greater good.”

“There is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling of waking up every morning excited to go to work,” she added. “I knew from the minute I spoke with [co-founder and CEO] Eric Spett that if every member of the Terminus team was half as excited as he is to go to work every day, I would be thrilled to be able to work for Terminus. Getting to work for a company that is made up of employees who are committed to coming in determined to make every day a great one for their customers, peers, and coworkers absolutely makes me excited to put my feet on the floor each morning.”

Join the Terminus Team

Want your own keys to the Ferrari? Terminus is hiring across multiple departments in our Atlanta and San Francisco offices, and we’d love to meet you! Check out our job openings here.

Terminus - We're hiring!

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