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In The Know
A Human Resources Industry Newsletter

Valerie Frederickson & Company 

A Letter from Valerie

Dear Friends:

In our previous newsletter When the Fish Stinks from the Head, I wrote about leaders who have gone bad. This month, I'd like to share with you some of the responses I received. They generally fell into three categories: (1) HR executives who are currently going through this problem and are asking for a lifeline, (2) HR executives who have already been through the nightmare and who are glad that they have now escaped the situation, and (3) notes from HR executives who appreciated our ability to hit the nail on the head once again bringing light to this issue. Here are just a few (edited to maintain confidentiality):

I just read your article 'When the Fish Stinks from the Head' and have a similar but somewhat different situation. I have been hired as an HR consultant to a satellite group. I work with the onsite management and was hired by and report to the corporate project manager. The corporate project manager reports to a senior manager who then reports to the CEO and therein lays the problem. Since I do not deal with the senior manager directly, my information is gathered from the frustrated satellite management team. The senior manager says one thing when the CEO is present, then orders a different follow through. Recently, the company's contract-holder asked for a conference call to discuss a serious issue. The senior manager took the call and never informed the CEO (apparently, he created the problem and does not want the CEO to know). It seems the senior manager is running every detail of the satellite group and not well and, often, not according to what the CEO would condone, but is a master at deflecting and keeping the CEO in the dark. Do I tattle to the CEO……approach his number two man……ignore the situation…..drop the account? What to do, what to do.

Your article "When the Fish Stinks From the Head" is right on, and any HR professional who has spent time in the Silicon Valley can definitely confirm the article's validity.

I love your stories, because they are real stories about real people. The "When the Fish Stinks from the Head" story gave me flashbacks; not good ones. I can count on one hand, the number of CEO's I've worked for that have gone bad. Your advice was spot on. Thank you, thank you.

WOW! This article has my name written on it. I've experienced several of the situations and I thought I would die. They were awful. However, I enjoyed reading the article because of the humor you injected into the article. Keep the timely articles coming.

Nice Valerie...did I give you the topic of the month? In fact, I took your advice and turned it not only into a 360 but I got a consultant to interview the whole exec team and together we created the agenda for the next exec offsite. The agenda is packed with tough questions and mirrors that will make everyone step up and can lead to a CEO moment. The meeting is next Tues/Wed so I'm looking forward to it...will let you know how things develop. In any case, I feel like I got my mojo back so thanks for the advice.

Valerie - good piece. I've had experience in this area. I think it essential that the head of HR have a good working relationship with the Board. Certainly that person should have a solid relationship with the comp committee. In one of my situations, I had a board chair that was quite attuned to the "pulse" of the workforce. Knowing that, I could approach him with specific examples of how the CEO was damaging the fiber of the organization, productivity, increasing turnover, etc... Working together, he and I worked the CEO out for the good of the organization. I wouldn't hesitate to do that again - I think it one of my roles to make certain the organization is not damaged no matter who the offending party and even if it might jeopardize my position. I'd rather be searching for a new position than sitting in an organization where I didn't do what I think the HR exec should be doing.

GREAT article!!! Well done!

To everyone who responded, I want to send my sincerest gratitude for taking the time to share your thoughts. As a writer, it is greatly appreciated to get feedback, whether positive or negative, and luckily this time it was overwhelmingly positive (whew!).

This month, we are featuring a ton of new searches. They really are coming in faster than we can write blurbs on them so follow us on Twitter (vfandco) for the latest updates.

And if you haven't yet been to our new website, please check it out here:

Take care,

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Ask Valerie

To submit your most daunting HR questions, email us at or visit us on Quora.

QI'm the CEO of a small, 75-employee company and would like your opinion on staying with our PEO or unbundling it. Which way do you think we'll save more money?

Companies often use a PEO to save money on benefits. Any way you look at it, at 75 employees, you should be able to save money by unbundling and going direct. But don't just look at cost savings in terms of direct costs. Think about the intangibles, like getting some HR support dedicated to you. Having a benefits broker who will understand your culture and customize something to support it. How your employees might feel a tiny bit more connected if they're covered directly through you.

QI've got a job offer on the table for a very nice HR job except that it reports to the CFO, a job title I've heard you call the Cheap Financial Officer. Should I turn it down?

There's no easy answer here. It depends on the CFO and how evolved he or she is, how much time the CEO has and what his role really is (if he's gone closing deals a lot, you may as well report into someone who's there), and what the company's needs are. Many good HR people can report to anyone and make it work well. But just like reporting into a GC means that the whole company pays a certain price, so does reporting into Finance.

QWhat's your advice to your younger self in HR?

I was never in an internal HR job since I started as a consultant right out of graduate school and started my own firm a year and a half later. Here's my advice to myself though: exercise more, learn some technique like meditation to stay calm, don't marry your first husband, wear sunscreen every day, watch your portfolio closer, and make time for those friendships.

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Current Executive Searches

HR Executive Searches

Featured Executive Search

Long standing, best-in-class agri-products company needs a strategic yet hands-on Head of Human Resources to lead talent acquisition and management, leadership development, and workforce planning from their beachfront headquarters. The person in this role will be a change management and organizational design expert utilizing a project management approach. The ideal candidate is a sophisticated and influential HR leader with strong business acumen and experience in a line role. Submit Your Profile

Family-run health, fitness and wellness publishing and lifestyle company with revenue of approximately $500M needs a kind, creative, engaging, independent-thinking VPHR to lead the company's people strategy and operations. This person will partner closely with the CEO and the executive team to develop a strong culture and attract and retain top talent as the company expands its digital offerings. The ideal candidate will have an executive-level HR generalist background with expertise in organizational development, total rewards, change management and talent acquisition. A passion for making people's lives healthier will be critical to succeed as the people leader in this organization. Exposure to best-in-class HR practices from the technology, retail or publishing industries is preferred, plus a Rolodex would not hurt. Submit Your Profile

Leading financial software company in the midst of doubling their headcount needs a Head of HR to lead strategic vision for the Americas. The ideal candidate will have a well-rounded generalist background and experience in compensation and benefits and mergers and acquisitions. This Head of HR will partner closely with the General Manager of the Americas and should have an extensive knowledge of and networking contacts within the East Coast high tech community. Potential to grow into the global chief human resources officer. Submit Your Profile

Recently public, rapidly-growing clean tech company needs a VPHR to partner with the CEO and executive team on the human resources strategy. This person will be an expert at organizational design and development, leadership development and total rewards. This newly-created role will oversee and further develop a small team of high-performing HR professionals. The ideal candidate will have worked in large, global tech companies as well as small organizations going through major change. Previous board experience is required. Submit Your Profile

Data analytics, rapidly growing, pre-IPO company with over 200 employees worldwide needs a Human Resources Director. The person in this role will build HR programs from the ground up and partner with the executive team on designing and implementing talent acquisition strategies. Candidates for this role will be extremely hands-on with the ability to take a big picture approach on all people related issues. Exposure to small, expanding organizations in the tech industry is required. Submit Your Profile

Sparkling 250 employee boutique destination winery and restaurant in Napa Valley is seeking their next Human Resources Manager. This role will directly oversee compensation, benefits, training and more. Major international career opportunities within the Paris-based parent organization. The ideal candidate will be flexible and collaborative, with strong analytical skills. In-depth experience in compensation required. Submit Your Profile

One of the hottest, pre-IPO startups in Silicon Valley needs a People Operations Associate to collaboratively design, roll-out and execute on a variety of people programs during a time of extremely high growth and international expansion. HR generalist experience is required along with a passion for solving people problems and an analytic mindset. The ideal candidate is smart, proactive, flexible and creative and can work well in an engineer-driven culture. Submit Your Profile

One of the hottest, pre-IPO startups in Silicon Valley needs a People Operations Analyst to provide people support to a rapidly-expanding 100+ employee business unit. While no previous direct HR generalist experience is needed, a passion for solving people problems is critical to succeed in this role. The ideal candidate is smart, proactive, flexible and creative and can work well in an engineer driven culture. Occasional travel to Palo Alto, CA is required. Submit Your Profile

Private, Taiwan-based industrial automation company is growing quickly and needs a strategic HR Manager to partner closely with the executive team in Taiwan and the local team in the United States to develop and implement the HR strategy. This role will lead the HR function in the Americas. The ideal candidate is hands-on, collaborative, and has a strong background in recruiting top talent. Candidates must also have strong communication skills, be able to interface smoothly between executives and line managers, utilize a business partner approach, and possess a diversified international experience. Submit Your Profile

Internal VF&Co Searches

HR Contract Opportunities

We are looking for strong up-and-coming HR generalists and BP's who have prior start-up experience (or are just super tech savvy) to provide interim and consulting help to the portfolio companies of our VC clients. Submit Your Profile

We are looking for consultants who are super strategic but can also roll up their sleeves and dive in, respond quickly and concisely to client inquiries, think proactively, know when to push back, and are all-around authoritative yet super easy to work with. Submit Your Profile

As companies look to expand their leadership development initiatives, we are adding to our internal executive coaching team. Prior experience working with multi-cultural teams a plus! Submit Your Profile

With the world economy picking up, many companies are looking to expand into new markets, particularly in Asia and South America. And, thus, we are looking for executives who have prior experience working in and who are interested in consulting to companies who are building their presence in these locations. Submit Your Profile

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HR Consultant & Contractor's Corner

Our hottest global HR contracting and consulting assignments include:

  • Interim VPHR for exciting leader in direct-selling high-end anti-aging skincare
  • Interim VPHR for public semiconductor company
  • Interim Senior HR Director for a very hot online sports website
  • Part-time VPHR for a tiny (less than 20 employee) startup in SF, setting things up, creating a handbook and putting in a performance management system
  • Compensation project benchmarking and review of short and long term incentive plans (multiple)
  • Planning and facilitating an executive team off-site strategic planning session
  • Helping a private, rapidly-growing tech company review their HR practices/processes for compliance and performance
  • Phase three of a major HR systems revamp for rapid growth cloud-based solutions company
  • Designing selection process for a Taiwanese Google-like employer doing US ramp up. Includes entire recruiting "feel" and process, interview questions
  • Working an executive team through a strategic planning process which will end with a major shift in market and a physical move
  • Providing VC firms with on-demand compensation consulting for their portfolio companies
  • Executive leadership mentoring and "on call" support for HR managers at multiple start-up companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley
  • Interim VPHR for a pre-IPO company providing technology-based business intelligence
  • Implementation of an Applicant Tracking System for a services-based company
  • Complete review of compensation programs for multiple hot post-IPO tech companies
  • Performance coaching for a "high potential" technical contributor who is being developed for a key management role
  • Customized outplacement projects for several companies in the midst of restructuring or integrating acquisitions to include planning, take-out notifications, coaching, job development, and interview and resume preparation
  • Working with the US unit of a European gaming company on compensation structure, benchmarking, communication and implementation
  • HR audits (ongoing) focusing on everything from compliance to cost-savings to how to
  • HR payroll compliance projects (ongoing)
  • Employment branding projects (ongoing)
  • Maternity leave HRM assignments too numerous to count due to what appears to be an HR baby boom

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HR Events

GO2012 Assessing & Developing High Potentials
April 16-17, 2012 – Washington D.C.

GOOrganisational Design & Development
April 17-18, 2012 – Johannesburg, South Africa

GOLeadership & Talent Development
April 25-26, 2012 – Barcelona, Spain

GODelivering the Strategic Role of HR
May 2, 2012 – Wellington, New Zealand

GOHR Summit 2012
May 9-10, 2012 – Singapore

GOHR Strategies in Oil, Gas & Petrochemicals
May 14-16, 2012 – Doha, Qatar

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Spotlight on...

Leadership Development

In today's continually-changing marketplace, the need to remain competitive is more important than ever. Demanding market conditions, globalization, innovation in technology and a diversifying workforce are just a few of the challenges facing businesses and business leaders today. Creating and sustaining competitive business advantage requires a parallel focus on growing and developing your executive team and your high potentials as you continue to grow and develop your organization. We help you develop today's leaders and managers into tomorrow's leaders. Our leadership development programs are custom-designed to work with your existing performance management systems and succession planning models, developing your executives both individually and in groups to meet their business challenges head on. During this process, our clients discover what aspects and qualities they value in themselves and others as leaders, identify the type of leaders they want to become, and the types their organization's strategic plan requires, and determine the dimensions of leadership needed in their particular organization to meet the challenges they face.

For more information, visit:

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About VF&Co

Valerie Frederickson & Company (VF&Co) is a human resource executive search, HR consulting and corporate outplacement firm known for helping clients build and sustain winning teams in today´s rapidly changing marketplace. Since 1995, VF&Co specializes in creating customized solutions to meet an organization´s human resource needs at every stage and size from start–up to Global 500.

Outplacement Practice

Re–evaluating your outplacement vendors? Require a higher utilization rate for your outplacement dollar? Need higher touch services and consistency across all markets? Since 1995, VF&Co is the outplacement firm of choice for sophisticated corporate buyers. Join the numerous Fortune 500 employers and small firms who have selected us over their previous vendor and are now enjoying the best of both worlds: each employee well taken care of, and consistency in every city.

Price shopping or need to customize a program? Contact our Corporate Outplacement Team at 650-614-0220 or email them at for more information on our outplacement services.

HR Consulting Practice

With the dramatic increase of global technology outsourcing and the continued geographic dispersion of corporate teams, the need for international human resources strategy, design, and project implementation has increased. Our global team of HR consultants has the specialized skills and breadth of expertise to develop and lead your initiatives—saving you time, money, and resources. We can manage the international recruiting function, help you hire key local managers or an entire startup team in an overseas market, and establish HR systems for global expansion.

Why clients choose VF&Co:

  • Results-driven, value-oriented. To keep your HR programs in line with your corporate direction, we provide HR strategy, cost-effective HR infrastructure, and pragmatic HR advice across all critical areas of human resource management.
  • Any size, any stage. We draw upon years of experience with startups, midsize firms and large global enterprises to guide our clients strategically through any stage of growth.
  • Work smarter, not harder. In survey after survey, CEO's say the number-one issue keeping them up at night is "people problems." We help you solve them so that you can get back to focusing on your business.

Contact our HR Consulting Team at 650.614.0220 or email them at for more information on our HR consulting services

Executive Search Practice

Why clients choose VF&Co as their executive search firm:

  • Prompt results. The average time from start of search to presentation of the winning candidate is 21 days. 87% of searches are completed in less than 45 days.
  • Superior results. More than 95% of executives placed by VF&Co are still with their companies five years following placement.
  • High client satisfaction. More than 90% of the firm's work is either repeat business or from referrals. A number of clients have been with VF&Co for more than a decade.

You get:

  • Access to the best talent available through extensive networks built upon long–term relationships with U.S. and global executives
  • Customized search solutions that fit your goals, budget and timeline
  • Interim HR management during the search process, followed by an assimilation period to ensure a smooth transition

Contact our Executive Search Team at 650.614.0220 or email them at to learn how your organization can reap the benefits VF&Co can deliver: Improved performance and greater success through your most valuable asset—your people.

Diversity Statement

VF&Co welcomes and encourages all diversity candidates to contact us directly. We highly value the diversity of our VF&Co team, placement of diverse executives into our client companies and our diverse clients, candidates, and supplier partnerships. We want to help swing the pendulum the other way.

About Our Newsletter

The VF&Co newsletter, "VF&Co In the Know," and VF&Co Executive Search Update are the intellectual property of Valerie Frederickson & Company. They are a free resource to business professionals. To subscribe to this newsletter, email

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