Sierra Kaslow, Miro: “People join companies and they leave managers”

Stop. We know it’s tempting to thunder-scroll down articles rather than genuinely read them, but we think it’s worth three minutes of your time to digest what Sierra Kaslow from Miro has to say. We’re not claiming it will change your life, but it might just shift your way of thinking about work.

Why listen to Sierra? In short, because she knows what she’s talking about. Before starting her current role at Miro, a visual workspace used by 60 million people, she lead the Recruiting team and grew the company from 200 to 1,800. And Miro is a five-time winner of Built In’s Best Places to Work awards, so Sierra is clearly doing something right.

So, brew a fresh cup of coffee and enjoy this very special one to one with a senior HR professional at a cutting-edge tech company.

Tell us about your role at Miro

As the Chief of Staff to the Head of People at Miro, I support the function in three primary ways. Firstly, I program manage strategic and cross-functional initiatives. Secondly, I ensure the operational efficiency and excellence of the organisation. And lastly, I support our Head of People and the People Leadership team in prioritising and focusing on the most critical work and conversations on a weekly basis.

What made you pursue a career in HR?

I chose a career in HR because it’s a unique blend of operations and human-centred work. I also love how peers in HR are often relationship-focused and true “people people”. I believe that the fundamental way that we work is changing and evolving as technology and our world change. In HR, we get to be at the forefront of empowering and enabling that change from the inside out. Within HR, you are often behind the scenes and doing work that isn’t always visible but has a high impact.  

We hear about terms like quiet quitting and “lazy-girl” jobs. Is this something you’ve seen at your work? And how are you reacting to it?

Yes – this is something that is seen frequently within the tech industry lately. Rather than thinking about how you can prevent people from checking out or leaving, it’s important to think about how to incentivise and engage people to stay.

Focusing on the value that the company provides to each individual and what they will gain from their career, growth, learning, etc. People have more options nowadays and are fundamentally shifting the relationship they have with their employers.

How do you think offices as we know them will change in the next decade?

The way people work has fundamentally shifted since the pandemic. We realised that we can work in ways that are more flexible, more agile, more asynchronous and still be productive.

Offices will eventually need to adjust and adapt to new styles of working – brainstorming, ideating, innovating with people who are in the room and with people who are at home.

Even if nine people are in the office and one person is working from home, you still need an office environment that is conducive to remote collaboration and asynchronous work.

Post-pandemic, what are your thoughts on flexible work trends and how do you think they’ll shape the upcoming years? 

Some companies are going fully remote but even more so are company’s going back into the office or doubling down on hybrid and flexible work models. I think that focusing on getting teams together for “moments that matter” is the most impactful versus mandating back in the office.

Everyone works differently and allowing employees to have flexibility to work in a way that makes them most productive will have the biggest impact on productivity and engagement.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and how has it shaped your career?

People join companies and they leave managers. The importance of being a good leader and manager has a bigger impact on someone’s decision to stay at a company than many other factors. Ensuring that I am a leader who inspires, motivates and engages my team is one of the highest leverages areas to focus my energy.

I’ve continually prioritised decisions that keep me close to people I enjoy spending time with and learning from.

What are the top three challenges HR professionals face today? 

There is a constant battle between business needs and human needs – what is best for the business and what is best for the people? These should be the same at the end of the day and they often are not.

Secondly, how can we use AI and technology to amplify our people’s data and insights?

Lastly, the last few years have been tumultuous and HR has not had a chance to catch up or recover from burnout. I think many HR professionals struggle to take care of their own wellness and wellbeing as they spend much of their time and energy focused on other people. As a result, low morale and burnout are very prevalent in HR across many industries post-pandemic and after many rounds of layoffs.

What do you perceive are some of the risks of deploying AI in the workplace?

While I think integrating some sort of AI technology into the workplace is inevitable, it should be done intentionally and cautiously. In the HR world, we are dealing with sensitive and complex issues that require some level of nuance or context to derive insights. While AI can get us farther, it should not take us the whole way.

Has your company leveraged data to personalise employee experiences – including in recruitment – and if so, can you talk us through what that was like?

We analysed the length of tenure and learned that there is typically a signal on whether someone was a strong hire around the 90-day mark. As a result, we implemented a “90-day check-in” and began sending automated surveys to the manager, the employee and optionally peers of the employee to gather early insights and feedback about that individual. This allowed managers to course-correct and provide feedback early on.

What is an HR initiative you’ve spearheaded that you are particularly proud of?

I built our “combating interview bias” training and led all hiring managers through the training. In a world of hypergrowth in 2020 and 2021, we focused on growth at all costs and it was and is really important that we still focus on being intentional with hires and hiring the right person for the role, not just the person who is most similar to us and the team we already have. The more diversity in teams, the better solutions we will design and iterate on.

Read more on HR and Modern Work

Thank you, Sierra, for finding the time to have a coffee with TechFinitive. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this interview! And here some suggestions of what to read next:

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Tim Danton

Tim has worked in IT publishing since the days when all PCs were beige, and is editor-in-chief of the UK's PC Pro magazine. He has been writing about hardware for TechFinitive since 2023.