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In The Know
A Human Resources Industry Newsletter

Valerie Frederickson & Company 

A Letter from Valerie

Help Really, Really Wanted

Dear Friends:

A word of advice to all you adventurous HR folks out there—get your LinkedIn profiles beefed up, buy some really expensive designer jeans, and saddle up for the ride. Turns out, this recovery is far from jobless for HR execs, who are currently being courted like American debutantes during the London season of 1895 (or, in local tech parlance, like the “booth babes” at Comic-Con). The busiest of these markets, no surprise, is in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area, where our HR search practice is having its busiest year in our nearly two decades in business (yes, even busier than during the height of the late-90s dotcom boom). The coming onslaught of IPOs, likely beginning in early 2013, has boards demanding immediate upgrades to their HR functions. The war for talent is so strong that private equity and venture capital firms are hiring Harvard MBA operating executives to lead their talent acquisition functions for their portfolios.

This raises a key question: What types of HR overhauls are typically needed to support a successful IPO? The answer these days is pretty much everything. Without fail, every company we’ve encountered on the cusp of going public has outgrown its HR infrastructure in every way imaginable, like stretching bubble gum with your fingers until it becomes almost see-through. The admin-turned-office-manager-turned-HR manager is no longer able to solve every problem by Googling it. Excel spreadsheets can only handle so much information before they begin to crash as frequently as Oldsmobiles in a demolition derby. Founders are so busy with strategy sessions and road shows that they can no longer instill in each employee a passion for the company’s mission, values, and goals. First-time managers are floundering in their ability to lead teams. Competitive pay packages begin to outweigh the ROI for new hires. Internal communication breaks down, and nobody quite knows what’s going on outside of his or her own area. Talent acquisition is in complete chaos with the constant hiring and firing of recruitment “salespeople.” The list goes on and on.

To help everyone get their minds around how to upgrade HR for an IPO, here are some tips from our extended family of HR executives, consultants and clients who have led HR organizations for startups and Fortune 500 companies alike. More specifically, let’s focus in on the three most important areas within the function: recruitment, compensation, and systems.

First, for recruiting, you need to gain control. Focus not just on butts in seats, but on the best possible butts. Hire the world-class people you need to build a world-class organization, especially in engineering, and don’t be cheap about your investment of money or time in doing so. You need experience and you need it fast, so get ready to roll out the red carpet for superstars. (In this case, the early bird who dines candidates at Madera gets the worm.) Simultaneously, you should be looking to revamp your entire talent acquisition strategy. Build up your internal recruiting function, train everyone in the company on how to sell (don’t just assume your CFO or your top engineers will represent the company well—give everyone talking points), assign a recruiting ambassador to white glove candidates through interviews, and roll out employment branding. Once the ramp-up is done, focus on gaining control by handling as much as you can internally.

Next, wrap those stretchy arms of yours around compensation. Hire a good comp consultant who has access to more than one survey. Systemize your compensation philosophy. Create an independent compensation committee, invest in a formal market assessment of your pay policies, and establish a regular cycle for equity grants. More importantly, reassess both short- and long-term incentive plans, keeping in mind that cash compensation will become more important as the value of equity diminishes for employees who were late to the party.

Finally, set up scalable systems for HRIS, ATS, performance management, and learning and development. The biggest bang for the buck after interview training is to focus on supporting inexperienced managers who are new to leading teams. A recent study on learning agility in the technology sector shows high scores for rank-and-file employees, then a dip for middle management, followed by a rebound to higher levels for executives. What this means is that we better start developing people, and developing them fast, or we’ll run into a dearth of leadership in the very near future.

For more tried-and-true tips on how best to position HR and maintain compliance standards as your company takes the leap from private entity to public enterprise, click here to listen to my recent webinar on the topic.

This month, I’d like to thank Dan Portillo, Talent Acquisition Partner at Greylock Partners, for his friendship and support. Way to go, Dan!

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Current Executive Searches

HR Executive Searches

Featured Executive Search

A rapidly-growing public, global technology company with a new CEO and executive team needs a SVPHR to partner with senior leadership and the Board to revamp and scale HR practices during a period of high growth and the introduction of several exciting new products. Change management, leadership development, strategic planning, internal communications, and metrics are all major focuses of this role. The ideal candidate is proactive, engaging, high energy, and able to build a world-class HR team to support upwards of 1,000 employees globally. This role requires a dynamic, adaptive individual who thrives in fast-paced companies and who is ready to travel the world. Submit Your Profile

A leading digital media advertising software company needs their first Head of Human Resources to build scalable HR systems as they embark on a rapid global expansion, most notably into the European and Asian markets. This role will assess the current HR infrastructure and revamp or rebuild systems and processes to handle a dramatic increase in headcount over the next 18 months. The ideal candidate has led HR for a company with international presence, enjoys tackling the challenges that arise from a chaotic startup environment, and is super hands-on with a very young HR team. Experience leading a company through its IPO a major plus! Submit Your Profile

One of the most-talked-about social media companies needs a Head of Talent Acquisition to come in with fresh ideas on recruiting top engineering talent in the "tight" Silicon Valley market. Reporting into the SVPHR and partnering closely with hiring managers across the functions, this role will essentially "rethink" the entire talent acquisition function, with a focus on developing solid pipelines to augment the current bench strength. The ideal candidate will be a strong up-and-comer, ready to take the next step in their career, with a background in talent acquisition design and strategic planning for a tech startup or having led a strategic TA function for an engineering division within a larger corporation. International experience is strongly preferred. Submit Your Profile

A privately-owned internet company known globally for its customized online publishing software and services needs a Senior HR Director to build and manage global strategic HR functions at its locations in the Bay Area and in the UK as the company enters rapid growth mode. This role will play a pivotal role in helping build and scale HR in the coming years. The ideal candidate has a solid mastery of the HR profession, enjoys their job, and likes to have fun, yet has the sophistication to communicate honestly and provide constructive feedback to the executive team. Submit Your Profile

A leader in the business cloud space, specializing in business phone systems for the mobile world, needs their first VPHR to lead them through an IPO. Partnering closely with the driven, caring, and highly entrepreneurial founder and leadership team, this individual will create a scalable talent management strategy and implement all required systems to support future growth. The ideal candidate is a confident, collaborative, thoughtful and direct leader who can build and manage the company's first strategic HR function to support 1,000+ employees globally. Prior experience with implementing recruiting, compensation, strategic planning, and performance management initiatives at tech companies is a huge plus. Submit Your Profile

The world's fastest-growing company dedicated to revolutionizing local ecommerce and supporting small businesses and communities needs a sophisticated leader to build their global technical talent acquisition function. Partnering with an exceptionally inspiring and passionate leadership team on all global talent initiatives, focuses include strategic M&A, developing programs to support top-tier engineering and product management pipelines, creating a robust university recruitment programs, and delivering best-in-class global employment branding. The ideal candidate is customer-oriented, highly analytical and metrics-driven, and not afraid to think outside the box and stand up for your beliefs. Report to a visionary SVPHR who has successfully grown four start-ups and led HR at world-class organizations. A sense of humor and an entrepreneurial mindset is key. Submit Your Profile

An 80-year old, fast-paced, historic public safety company, currently in turnaround mode after going private, needs a hands-on VPHR to lead organizational design and development, talent acquisition, performance management and total rewards. The role will report into a sophisticated and transparent CEO with an engineering background who likes metrics, results, and direct action. The ideal candidate will take a strategic approach to the change management and employee communications needed to lead the company to the next level. Submit Your Profile

A publicly-held, highly-sophisticated chip company, a global leader in their space enjoying a very good market, requires a Head of HR to lead the function globally and support extreme growth. Partnering with the CEO, the executive team and Board of Directors, this individual will strive to improve and drive business results through HR programs and services. This role will lead a global team of high performers in every HR function including talent acquisition, total rewards, learning and development, and HR business partners. The ideal candidate will be a sophisticated, business strategist with experience leading a Fortune 100 company through a rapid growth phase. Submit Your Profile

A public, 200-employee renewable oil and bio-products company in super growth mode is looking for an up-and-coming HR superstar to help support their rapid global expansion. Partnering closely with SVP of HR, this individual will play a key role in helping shape the company's culture moving forward. The ideal candidate will be energetic and fun, think outside-of-the-box, and is ready to roll up their sleeves and dive in head first. Strong senior managers of HR encouraged to apply. Submit Your Profile

Internal VF&Co Searches

HR Contract Opportunities

We are looking for strong 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

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

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

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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
  • Complete revamp of the talent acquisition function for one of the fastest-growing financial services companies in the U.S.
  • Complete review of compensation programs for multiple hot post-IPO tech companies, including benchmarking and redesigning of short and long-term incentive plans (multiple)
  • HR integration support to a medical devices company that increased headcount by 50% via a recent acquisition
  • Upgrading the HR function for a private, billion-dollar EMEA company planning a headquarter shift to the United States
  • Working an executive team through a strategic planning process which will end with a major shift in market and a physical move
  • Providing Venture Capital and Private Equity firms with on-demand HR and 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
  • 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
  • Maternity leave HRM assignments too numerous to count due to what appears to be an HR baby boom

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HR Events

GOCreating a Culture of Innovation
November 29, 2012- Walnut Creek, California, United States

GOHR West 2013
April 22-23, 2013 - Oakland, California, United States

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Spotlight on...

A Littler Webinar
The Next Gold Rush: Leading the HR Function from Pre-to Post-IPO and Beyond

Did you miss the Webinar in September? Here is your second chance to hear from Valerie and Marlene Muraco, Shareholder at Littler Mendelson, as they discussed practical solutions to the five greatest challenges HR faces when getting ready for an IPO. For presentation slides and a recording of the audio, please click here.

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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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