Marco DeThomasis is ready to write the next chapter of HR. The organization that this executive will join will find his approach refreshing, appropriately provocative, and value creating. Together, they will answer the question: “Is what we’ve been doing for fifty years in HR going to serve us going forward?”
“Today’s relentless business growth and expansion, our borderless 24/7 global economy, and having five generations in our workforce at one time—just to name a few—all have contributed to the speed and evolution of businesses and [forces] them to constantly innovate and do things differently to remain competitive,” DeThomasis says. “Tackling these real business issues with the right HR mindset, partnership, and foresight is key moving forward.
“I want my HR career to be able to leave a legacy,” adds DeThomasis, whose HR and business career has spanned industries including biotech, finance, professional services, and private equity. All have offered unique perspectives and fostered new ways of thinking, especially his line leader experience and roles.
“Whatever the organization, whatever the industry, I aim to find a role where my passion for pioneering mirrors that of the business,” he says. “As businesses are launching new products and services, anticipating the unanticipated, charting new territories, and reshaping their industries, so do I have a passion to do the same for HR field. It’s time.”
One thing is abundantly clear: DeThomasis thinks far beyond the scope of what is seen as “traditional HR.” His willingness to question entrenched practices and their sometimes unexpected and unwanted byproducts make him a genuine thought leader in the space.
Look in the Mirror
Over the course of his one-hour interview, DeThomasis dug deep into the pressing issues of the HR field and how things need to change to stay relevant and continue to add value to the business.
Having been a business leader prior to his career in HR, he shares his “brain dump” of ways to reinvent recruiting and staffing efforts; design more effective retention programs; build more interesting organization structures and models; develop and evolve cultures to achieve stronger engagement and output; rethink diversity, equity, and inclusion end to end; get the most out of compensation and benefit programs; and build agile multiyear leadership and talent benches all while weaving the connections and integration for all.
“[HR] can’t be afraid to try new things and push boundaries,” DeThomasis says. “The cost of us not doing so is our extinction or irrelevance versus being experienced and valued as a strategic business partner. It’s time to be pioneers.”
With his whole-system approach, creativity, energy level, and business thoughtfulness, DeThomasis shares, “We genuinely still need all these basic HR services and practices, but how we design and execute them going forward needs to change to keep up with the business and evolution of times.
“We need to step back, look in the mirror, and ask ourselves, ‘Do these HR basics in the way we deliver them to the business and put them into practice today helping us to achieve the results we want?’” he continues. “If not, time to turn these traditional HR methods and playbook exercises on their head.”
Are there new ways of approaching opportunities that simply haven’t been broached because “the old way” always seemed to do enough to get the job done? Those who are willing to look deeper see that well-intentioned, though compositionally shallow, solutions are not made to last or evolve.
DeThomasis enjoys being a provocateur to help shift the conversation and drive necessary change and evolution—for not only the function and business but also the people too. Playing it safe is not part of his belief system.
Anchor the Employee Experience
“These basic HR practices are still essential but in themselves will not foster change. They need to anchor to something if we want to have the right impact,” DeThomasis says. At the core, he passionately believes the key ingredient is designing and executing a sustainable employee value proposition (EVP) that enables a consistent and rewarding employee experience.
“If you take the time to clearly articulate the most compelling and emotionally appealing EVP, as well as help make it come alive, the dividends will be there in terms of inclusion, productivity, innovation, engagement, and growth. It’s all about the employee experience and creating the right level of belongingness and stickiness too.”
DeThomasis knows that the companies who are willing to take the time and make the investment into building their EVPs will stand strong now and in the future. “It’s well worth the effort,” he assures.
Employees and leaders alike need to believe in the EVP to achieve their company’s fullest potential, he says. “To believe it, they need to experience it firsthand in everything that the organization offers and undertakes from their various processes and policies to daily interactions with leaders and managers. It needs to come alive. If it does, it will foster genuine belonging and connection and create a rewarding employee experience driving significant business results.”
The HR leader goes onto further explain that as “we design total reward programs, create leadership development efforts, and build organizational structures, for example, we need to keep the EVP at the center of our design thinking acting as our checks and balances and North Star. It’s important that we design and execute the HR basics in a way that helps us achieve and realize the employee value proposition and create consistent employee experience.”
According to DeThomasis, successful EVPs are ones that capture the head, heart, and hands of employees. “If it’s just a bunch of words on a poster in the lunchroom or front lobby, it’s nothing more than textbook exercise that has no real meaning or motivation,” he says. “It’s more two-dimensional versus three-dimensional.”
It’s important that EVPs are straightforward, built with emotional connection and appeal, and paint a vivid picture of why an employee should join and stay with an organization. This allows it to become the 3D model that DeThomasis was referring to.
“The EVP needs to move you and draw you in so you feel a connection. It needs to capture the head, heart, and hands,” DeThomasis explains. “Putting just the words on the page, however, is not enough. We need to help make it come alive—that’s where the hard work is.” The adage still holds true: actions speak louder than words. And it’s what keeps the employee experience at the forefront.
“It starts with how we attract and recruit talent all the way through to how we transition employees at time of retirement,” plus everything in between, DeThomasis says. “We always want our employees to be positive net promoters of the company based on their entire end to end experience.”
That 3D thinking is truly what captures the head, heart, and hands.
Practice the “Oz Principle”
“We can’t underestimate how much leadership and management directly influence the employee experience,” DeThomasis notes. “Managers and leaders can make or break the EVP, if their behaviors and actions do not support the desired employee experience.”
The first step is for managers and leaders to authentically believe in their EVPs and want to drive the right employee experience. “If they do, their actions and behaviors will follow suit. They will help make the EVP come alive naturally and easily,” he says. “They will give it life.”
It takes self-awareness and genuine care to engage with your employees in the right way, the HR executive affirms. This will manifest the EVP “because they are able to calibrate their intention and impact effectively and dynamically,” he says.
There is a direct correlation between how leaders and managers interact with their employees and successful engagement as a whole; these experiences will shape the fundamental beliefs and assumptions that employees make about themselves, their managers, and the organization. The bottom line is that it will influence their output and loyalty as well as the business outcomes.
“Managers and leaders are the critical components here because if they’re not equipped and they don’t get it, the entire effort is going to falter and the rest of the workforce will sense it very quickly,” DeThomasis says. “The secret sauce is cultivating those leaders who really believe and unleashing them to do amazing work that will bring people along with them. They’re the ones who will create followership, belonging, and stickiness. And, as result, be rewarded with superior business results.”
DeThomasis, a fan of the classic movie Wizard Oz, says, “Managers and leaders are like Dorothy. Along the yellow brick road, Dorothy helped reverse and evolve the underlying beliefs and assumptions of her team (the Lion, Tinman, and Scarecrow), changing ultimately how they viewed themselves individually and as a team, too, leading to greater and different results as they progressed on their journey to Oz.”
He is a believer and everyday practitioner himself of the “Oz Principle,” because a focus on changing people’s beliefs and assumptions about themselves and their organizations is what will actually change the results. “This is such a basic principle of leadership—humanity, for that matter—but sometimes we forget how much we directly influence our employees, shaping their belief system and ultimately their behaviors and output through every interaction with us,” he explains. “We need to calibrate more frequently than we do. We are integral component[s] to the equation. We, as leaders and managers, directly shape the employee experience and as a result, the business outcomes.”
DeThomasis advises leaders to ask, “Are we creating the right employee experience [and] driving the right beliefs and actions?” If the answer is no, there is work to do.
“I remember something my mentor told me earlier in my career: ‘We are the experts of our intent. Others are the experts of our impact,’” he says. “At the end of the day, you need to understand if those two things are aligned. It’s our job as leaders to always check for this alignment.”
DeThomasis is ready to help his next organization put on 3D glasses, craft more meaningful employee value propositions, and help a workplace understand and live its culture to the fullest. He will build consensus, unearth the essential narrative critical to helping tell the story of change, and encourage the talent around him to lean into what’s possible when you stop doing things the way they’ve always been done. There’s something exciting about Marco DeThomasis, and you want to be part of whatever he’s got cooking. That’s the magic of the special sauce, the belief in the belief.