Kalyn Romaine

Kalyn Romaine – Job Architecture As Your Mjolnir (A Retention Strategy)


One of the biggest challenges of running a business is keeping your most talented and trusted people. Developing a good retention strategy is vital in achieving success in your chosen niche, and it calls for a good relationship between the leader and the HR department. The People Strategy Forum chats with Kalyn Romaine, an organizational psychologist and executive coach, about retaining top talent through the power of job clarity. She discusses how to fully understand your job architecture and HR language, as well as the importance of upholding the DEI conversation within the team. Kalyn also highlights the need to be honest about the human side of your business to keep employees in line with your core values and maintain the trust of your audience.

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Kalyn Romaine – Job Architecture As Your Mjolnir (A Retention Strategy)

The focus is on retaining your best people with job clarity. It’s a crucial aspect of any thriving organization. We’re honored to have Kalyn Romaine with us. She’s an organizational psychologist and an executive coach who’s remarkable at making sure that people are showing up and leading their best. She’s got a great story to tell, and her journey is important here. She’s been seen as leading transformative people in culture and inclusion initiatives across the globe. She brings a wealth of experience.

With an impressive portfolio that includes giants like Amazon, the Walt Disney Company, and Verizon, Kaylin’s inner expertise is unmatched. We’re happy to have her. Get ready to be inspired by her innovative approaches and learn how you can retain your top talent through the power of job clarity. Welcome, Kalyn. It’s nice to have you on the show.

Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate you. I’m in great company because you all are brilliant.

Looking Back

The first thing I’d love to dig into is how you got to where you are. What inspired you to help the people that you help?

I am an accidental HR professional. I did not set out to have this career. I thought I was going to be a teacher and a social services executive and work in government. Along the way, I kept getting assigned projects and being in these quasi or tangential HR roles. I realized that I liked it and decided to continue my career there.

My early start in elementary education with a focus on special education and my time working in social services are the catalysts for me to approach my work the way I approach it now. I’ve always approached it with an equity lens. I’ve always thought about system design because I am used to seeing the sad side of systems or the ways that systems can fail us. I decided to leverage that knowledge to create better systems at one of the most important aspects of anyone’s life, which is their work.

When you’re mentioning systems, are we talking about the systems and process, or systems in how we can track and help us organize our work?

I think both. Part of the conversation today around job architecture is about both processes and the cultural norms that we have at work because those are systems, especially when we think about the compensation side of HR. That’s one of the most unsexy parts of the HR world. Nobody is pushing and fighting to be compensated. You’re not pushing and fighting to do job analysis or that type of work.

That’s not the cute part. You want to work in L&D and do coaching. You want to be in talent acquisition and all of those amazing parts. If you are feeling froggy, you want to work in labor relations. Nobody is pushing for comp. I see that as while it’s both the least sexy, it is also the most important because when people experience job satisfaction, it is because they are able to work in ways that are clear to them but that also affirm who they are and who they wish to be.

People experience job satisfaction because they are able to work in ways that are clear to them. Share on X

DEI Conversation

Let’s talk about the fairness and inclusion piece that you were talking about. How does job architecture help us with fairness and inclusion?

The first thing I want to share is that most of the time, folks don’t include DEI in those conversations. DEI is a special wheelhouse that focuses on ERGs, affinity groups, partnerships for talent acquisition, L&D, unconscious bias training, and helping employee experience surveys. When we think about the process and the experiences with cultural norms, it is baked into the structure of the actual jobs. That’s an org design issue.

When I’m thinking about DEI as it relates to job architecture, I have three key questions. The first is, are people working in the job to which they were hired their actual job? If I were hired to be the director of learning and development, am I working with tasks or task groupings? Do I have the right number of direct reports? Do I have the right level of decision-making and power? Do I have the right support needed to do that job? Do you have me doing some other job that may or may not be based and distorted based on your own biases?

The second question is, am I being appropriately rated on the job to which I was hired? This seems like common sense, but if we think about it, a lot of times, the jobs we’re rated on what we are assigned to do by our supervisor may or may not be our actual job. With my own story, part of why I became a consultant and launched my own agency is because I was constantly working outside of my hired job.

I was doing my supervisor’s work. I was working on special projects for other teams that were bringing great visibility to the people who were hired into that job, but I wasn’t being credited for the contributions I was making. In many cases, I was being dinged for not doing what I was assigned to do because I was doing their work.

That got me thinking, “This can’t only be me that this is happening to. It has to be other people. A lot of times, in companies, no one wants to do job analysis. It is boring to review job descriptions, retitling, and re-level. People will fight you against it. Folks have to get demoted or moved around. Nobody is like the ugly stepchild. Nobody wants to deal with it. I wanted to help people work on org design in ways that were meaningful.

The third question is, how can we help people optimize their performance in their jobs? I have a job to do. You hired me for the job. I know I’m doing that, and you rate my performance on those tasks and projects. Am I able to maximize and optimize who I am and who I wish to be? This is a part of job architecture because some jobs, by default, are set with a ceiling. If you think about certain jobs when they’re created in a company, we know the jobs that’ll get us the attention we’re looking for. That’s the prized role. Everybody is vying for that job. They want that position because it has power and influence.

We know the jobs in our department are grunt work that, if you put it there, that is one step out the door. Why would I push to do better in that job if I know no matter how hard I work, I’m still going to be stuck here versus a person who can fail forward in the prized job? That has the power and the influence. Thinking about clarity on where I’ve been placed, if I’m doing that job, am I being assessed appropriately and fairly for that job? Third, am I set up to optimize my performance in a way that will make me feel fulfilled in addition to the organization benefiting?

The common thing that we have as HR and compensation professionals is hearing from smaller companies. They often say, “I’m trying to compete with some of these big giants.” As you mentioned, like the Amazons and Apples. A lot of what smaller companies do is they gift a large title to a new hire. They don’t realize that that is not fair or equitable. If somebody comes in, they’re excited. They’re like, “I got this VP position at this company. I’m going to go in.” Soon, they go into the organization and find that they have one direct report.

They’re doing coordinator-level work. That’s common because the system is not set up for that type of clarity. I’ve had run for several years where I had mostly startup clients. I ended up being the fractional CHRO because they were slow to hire someone for that role. HR is the last area of any startup that they’re going to staff and invest in because so much of HR, and this is on us as HR professionals, the messaging and the marketing of HR is task management, which you feel like you can outsource. I’m going to outsource my benefits administration, recruit into a staffing firm, and learn and develop. I’m going to hire a couple of consultants to come in and teach us things ad hoc.

No, there needs to be intentionality around the design. If you think about it, folks level last. They title first, and when they try to merge the two, they realize that they’ve set themselves up for failure. I had to tell a client this. I said, “Why would you make someone a VP when there’s already someone who is a director? Where is that director going to go?”

People Strategy Forum | Kalyn Romaine | Retention Strategy

Retention Strategy: You cannot simply outsource HR professionals. This department requires intentionality.


That’s one step in between. That means that that person is going to constantly be fighting to be promoted or get more money in a director role, which is eventually going to be inequitable because they can’t make more than the norms of other directors around the company or their supervisor, the VP, is gonna constantly, whether it’s consciously, maliciously, or by default, dim their light because now I don’t want to see it’s competition. I could be working myself out of a job.

First of all, we want to have enough room between the steps so that people can feel comfortable growing. If it’s a startup, unless you’re at a certain level or unless it’s some innovative product, most people are only going to be there for 2 to 5 years, and they might move on. They might end up starting their own thing.

If you have the skips in between the levels, you set yourself up to retain. Instead of having a team, let’s say there are eight levels in your company where you have someone sitting at 8, 7, 5, 4, 3, and 1. Instead, try to get it at 8, 6, 4, and 2, or even 1. Starting by bringing in an intern. That way, the two can see, “I can move up to three.” That four doesn’t have to be threatened. The four can feel comfortable saying, “I can move up to five if I perform well.” The six don’t have to be threatened, and so on.

From there, you start working in the job task groupings. Most folks don’t think about that because HR is not a functional area that we learn a lot about in MBA programs in business schools. It is not something that is taught often. It’s not something that people do a lot of training in. How many managers do you know when they’ve taken new manager courses have had any modules that talked about titling, leveling, writing, and job descriptions? None. They talked about interview panels and how to write performance appraisals based on company standards. They talk about all these other areas, but those things never come up. As a result, people stagnate and leave.

The companies don’t start dealing with it until they start having problems.

It’s reactive, and it feels punitive. I want to make a note about that because I’m happy you brought that up. When it feels punitive, you have issues with legal vulnerabilities. I’ve had to talk to some clients about that because this star player completed this influential project. It’s a startup. You can easily get the CEO’s ear.

When the work feels punitive, you now have issues with legal vulnerabilities. Share on X

This person did this project. They moved from a 4 to a 7. This other person over here wants to move from a 5 to a 6. They have been sitting in the same spot for several years. How did the four get to seven over the five get to six? What happened with that? When we can’t answer those questions and when we don’t have a paper trail of how we’ve had discussions about stretch projects, growth, investment into training and development, and investment in the certification, it looks like we’re picking and choosing who are our favorites.

You get into sticky territory when we think about identity traits of all those people that we let jump from 3 to 7 are men, people who graduated from the same college as us, people who are from the same hometown, or people who we worked with at some big name company. We have a problem. Even if you didn’t mean for it to look that way, the paper trail that was inadvertently created is what it seems to the outsider. That’s a lawsuit and a class action one, potentially at that.

You tell the story because a lot of companies when they hear job architecture, it’s like another HR initiative. What does it mean to the business? HR is not doing themselves justice in terms of telling the story of why it’s important and critical.

A part of why is because, if we are going to be honest, HR doesn’t know. I was talking to someone, and this was somebody who had been in HR for decades. I said, “When is the earliest that you were formally trained in HR and got an HR education?” They were like, “I went and got something several years into my career to get a promotion to the executive level.”

During that whole time, you were learning on the job. Let me be clear. There is great value in learning something by doing it. There are also a ton of blind spots because if you’ve been working for the same company, industry, or geographic region for that whole time, you’re limited to only what happens there. The way Amazon did for HR is different than the way Walt Disney and Zapier did. It is different from the City of Chicago’s HR, which was different from the way the city of New York did.

Living in different places, working in different industries and sectors, and being in different places in my own career journey is how I learned to develop excellence in the craft. If we treat HR as an art and not a science, we are only re-engineering and reinforcing the dysfunction that keeps us one of the most hated departments in all of our work. It’s unnecessary.

When you think about job architecture, even when I was researching, because this came out of a training that I did for a client, this was an all-hands training where I was talking to people about job architecture at this startup and one of my favorite clients. I thought it was awesome, first of all, that the CEO would even let me do it all hands because she could have said, “Let us work with the exec team.” The transparency of letting people know here is what goes into us picking jobs and how the organization is about to shift to get us ready for that.

It is titling leveling tracks, whether I see people management and growth paths. That was eye-opening to the whole team. You could see it in the chat. They were like, “I’ve never heard of this. I’ve been working for several years. This is new to me. There’s a science to this. There’s a method.” We are not randomly picking things, but we don’t tell people that.

Some of it is because HR doesn’t want people to see what’s happening behind The Wizard of Oz’s little things. It’s like, “We’re doing these magic things.” No, somebody sitting back tediously writing down all the tasks that you work on, grouping them together, seeing what works and what doesn’t work, pricing it to how much that’s worth, and thinking about ROI. There’s a science to this. People should know and feel that.

What do you think there, Sumit?

That’s a great way of putting it, Kaylin, and I couldn’t agree more. I see in my part of the world that you spoke of a 4 to a 7 and a 5 to a 6. A lot of organizations don’t even have the clarity of who’s a 4 or 7. You’ve got the CEOs here. You walk up and say, “I don’t feel senior enough.” They say, “You get an 8% increase tomorrow. You are a senior, whatever you were earlier. That’s how it works.”

HR Language

The other thing is a lot of business leaders are dismissive of HR because they feel I’ve been dealing with people all my life. What is there to HR? My standard usual response to them is I’ve had years of a nose and a throat for many years. I’m not an ENT specialist. I completely agree, but it can be an uphill battle. I’ve got a question here. Do you also think HR practitioners and we, HR folks, tend to undersell ourselves by often not being able to connect business results and getting lost in the HR language and our own little worlds there?

I want to make a note about that. It ties into what you were saying before about helping leaders understand HR is a discipline like engineering and product management is a discipline. A part of the issue is that we shy away from using HR language. I would never try to dumb down engineering language. There are some things in engineering that I can’t dumb down. I have to call it what it is. I can’t dumb down legal language. I can explain it and make it relatable to you, but there are certain terms that you have to call this thing what it is. I can’t dumb down finance. Finance is what it is.

It’s the same way that we respect the expertise, structure, and value of finance, legal, and engineering. We have to command that respect in HR. I don’t dumb down language at all for any of my clients. I bring my clients up to the level of understanding that they need to have to be able to do this work even after I’m gone. That’s why when I do these trainings. I always do word association and exercise. When you hear this word, what comes to mind? No, we are going to create a shared language. This is what this means.

People Strategy Forum | Kalyn Romaine | Retention Strategy

Retention Strategy: Do not dumb down language for your clients. Bring them up to the level of understanding so that they can still perform the work well even if you are gone.


Even if it’s one slide in the training, here’s the name of this and that. Here is some research. I share peer-reviewed studies with my clients. I send my clients articles. I make them do pre-work, whether it’s all hands or for executive team members. I don’t play. When we continue to infantilize, especially executive-level leaders, about this important aspect of their company, we are reinforcing the same dysfunction that keeps people flying out of the door.

There is no reason why you should be a CEO or any seed-level executive, and you cannot tell me the four aspects of job architecture. You have no clue how we came up with the levels. You have no clue about the titling norms in the company. You don’t understand the difference between people management and individual contributorship. Why don’t you know these things? Who didn’t tell you?

I’ve worked at companies where the higher the information funneled up, the more childish it became. By the time the information reached the CEO, it was like kitty stuff. It was like a see-spot run. You mean this person is running a multimillion-dollar or multibillion-dollar company, and you can’t tell them, “Attrition is at this level because.” How is this possible there? There’s no way that you’re that childish.

There are times when I’ve had to talk to my CEO clients and say, “Something about you is making people feel like they need to present things as immaturely as possible. What are you communicating to your teams?” They’ve had to check themselves and say, “There were a couple of times some years ago when they brought me some bad news at a time when I couldn’t handle it, and I went too far.” Thank you.

We need to have a conversation to bring the executive team back. This is not evil lean from the Wiz. I don’t know why the Wizard of OZ stuff is coming up so much, where it’s like, “Don’t bring me no bad news.” We are not doing that. I need all the information to make good decisions because this is the other thing I share, especially with the C-Suite, CEO, and founder. When it all falls down, you are going to be at fault. They’re not going to ask, “I need to speak to the senior manager.” They don’t know who that person is. They know you.

They know your face, brand, and all the press releases where you are talking about how this was such a great company. When it all goes to pot, you are going to be on the hook for this. Why don’t we reel it in? Let’s all grow up fast and think carefully about the best way to communicate difficult information so we can do preventive work. Titling and leveling are preventive measures. We shouldn’t be hurrying up to give people three-level promotions because they’re out the door when we haven’t had a structure in five years for a promotional process. That’s the problem. If we don’t do that, we’re not addressing the root cause.

Rapid-Growing Organizations

Another thing that I see a lot with rapidly growing organizations is that the company grows faster than some of the people at the levels within it. How does a leader handle that issue?

It’s the preventive work of leveling and job structuring. If we think about all the tasks that are needed and startups that are famous for this, I’m not even going to keep attacking or addressing startups because big companies are guilty of this. We hired fast because of the ego boost of saying, “We needed to bring on 5,000 people.” No, you didn’t. You needed to bring on twenty.” This was only going to be a temporary bump in revenue or business. This was not long-term.

We see that now, ironically, even in the consulting industry. I’m not going to call out any names because this isn’t my show. I’m going to respect you all. We see that now in the consulting industry where it’s like, “Why would you bring on 3,000 or 15,000 people, and now you’re laying off 20% of your workforce globally and shuttering verticals? Who is doing workforce planning there?”

This is an important thing to think about because people are on the other side of these decisions. I’m a strong proponent of what I call the boxes, not body philosophy, to honor humanity. When we think about org design and workforce planning, we need to think about boxes first based on the long-term plan for the company. This is the 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10-year.

Along the way, scale smartly. I’ll never forget a supervisor of mine years ago told me whether or not this research existed, but she said, “There’s some research that shows that it’s better for people to be slightly overworked than to hire many people, and people are languishing after a year or two.” I’ve always held onto that because if I can keep a lean staff and perhaps either pay people overtime or spot bonuses for any extra work that they do, so that I don’t have to lay off double digits of numbers later and potentially destroy my employer’s brand, that’s smart.

That temporary ego boost of saying, “We hired a whole bunch of people because we’re booming in business. That’s not smart business.” If we approach it by thinking about the boxes, what are the organization’s structure and design? What is necessary to achieve the business’s goals in this department? We need two of these roles and one of these roles. We could go without this senior-level person. We’ll reallocate those tasks. Let’s rock with that for a couple of years and see if we need to scale.

If you’re doubling the team year over year, and in three years, you went from a team of ten to a team of 40 and 50, I’m suspicious of that. How sustainable is that long-term? You might have people relocating their families to work at your company, upending their children from certain schools, rearranging childcare, and rearranging their educational plans. That’s not fair to them. If we are not honest about the human side, it is going to end up impacting your consumer brand because there are a lot of brands now that are tanking and struggling to find customers. They don’t want to admit it. That’s happening because people do not trust them as an employer, and folks don’t like them.

The other thing that I wanted to mention is you were speaking about making sure that we’re thinking about the boxes that are required for the jobs. Sometimes, managers will come up and say, “My accountants are going to leave if they don’t get a promotion, and they’re doing the job great. They deserve a promotion.” The bottom line is we don’t need a senior accountant. We need an accountant.

Not only that, you’re saying they deserve a promotion now because you’ve had them working outside of their title. When I worked for the City of New York, it was called working out of title, and this was grounds for a union complaint, and you would easily win. If my job title for which I’ve taken a civil service exam passed it and been awarded and earned this title. If I’m an associate staff analyst 1, 2, or 3, and I’m one and you got me doing three tasks, I’m going straight to my union and telling them, “They got me working three.” You need to give them three pay. On the service, it looks like a promotion, but you are paying me for the work that I did.

My conversation with that people manager would be, “What would make this person feel like they should have a senior accountant title?” I had them working on it. Why did you have them working on that? Isn’t that your job? Whose job is it typically? Is it yours? Is it somebody else’s? Is it supposed to be two accountants? You had this one person doing the work of two. I have a problem with you. We need to have a conversation about your performance because it is a mismanagement of your people manager tasks and responsibilities.

Those types of questions reveal cracks in the foundation. You can paint over it and put a potted plant over it so nobody sees it, but it’s still there. That’s the part that I need to know about because you are going to bump this person up to senior accountant now, and next year when Sally Sue sees that-and-so got senior accountant because they did one little project that caught your eye, it’s like, “Let me hurry up and do that.” People are smart. They talk. If I see that the culture norm is doing one thing, and you get X amount of dollars, I’m going to do that. I’m not going to name the company.

There was a company I worked for. I used to joke and say, “If you want to become an executive, all you have to do is create a deck. It doesn’t matter if you do what’s in the deck. It doesn’t matter if the company needs what’s in the deck. It doesn’t matter if the deck produces anything that’s of inequality. Make the deck. Make it pretty. Present it well to the right executive, and you’ll have a promotion within a year.” I could name ten examples of where that happened. Folks used to be cracking up when I would say it, but I was dead serious. I’m like, “I haven’t made the right deck yet. I’ll make it to a promotion if I make the right deck.” That should never be the case.

Right People Fit

The one other thing that you mentioned that is important is that you go into organizations and you speak or hire a manager for a manager position. They end up delegating all of their manager duties to a lead. What are you doing? You can’t delegate managers.

I was talking about this on my podcast. In every job I’ve ever worked, I promise you all, at least 40% of the time, I was doing, at a minimum, my supervisor’s work. That’s how I knew I could be a consultant because I’m like, “If I could do these joker jobs, there’s no way that I can’t do this on my own. I’ve been doing other people’s work my whole career.”

This is why it’s funny. It sounds shady, but I’m not being shady. It’s funny to me now because I would have stayed at any one of these jobs in some cases if I had gotten a tiny bit of public recognition for the projects I worked on. If they had been willing to say, “Kalyn, helped me with this.” Not dinged me for not getting my work done and their work done. If they had done that, I would have stayed at one company my whole career because it wasn’t that my work wasn’t fulfilling. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the stretch projects they had me working on. It was the fact that it became an inner conflict to be disrespected while simultaneously being needed with no credit.

It’s a travesty of the human condition. People don’t say thank you.

They are not saying thank you in the ways that matter to you. I’ve only had one supervisor that I ask, “What types of recognition do you like?” They still didn’t do it, but at least they asked. For me, it was autonomy. I know that you respect me when you leave me alone. If you give me a project to work on, manage my outcomes, not my methods.

I sometimes have funny methods of doing things. I don’t always want to tell you my method. I have secret friends that I don’t want you to know that I have that feed me information or the stuff that I need. That’s my business. Don’t ask me about all of that. Don’t try to hijack my relationships. Leave me alone. Let me do my work. I promise you. If you give me an end date, “I need this on April 9 at 5:00 PM,” I will have it for you.

When you give me something, you want me to talk to you every day, you want to know who I talk to, you want to know why we said this, and you want to get on a meeting because now you want the clout, I got to get out of there. I had to skedaddle fast because I couldn’t stand it. People managers would do well to understand that.

I’ll say this last point because I think that is a part of leveling, too. How much autonomy does this level have? How much autonomy is this level expected to operate on? If you have individuals at that level who are struggling with handling autonomy or who need more facilitated guidance, how can you train and develop them to operate autonomously or have the demotion conversation if they’re not ready for that? It’s like an unspoken expectation. That gets people in a lot of trouble.

Leveling up requires gaining more autonomy in your business. Share on X

How do you avoid people feeling like, “If I’m only doing what I was hired to do and what’s in the job description, I’m boxed in? How do you know I could do more than that?”

That’s a poorly written job description. That’s why career growth pathways are a part of job architecture. I should know what is below performance at performance and what is exceeding expectations. If I know exceeding is here, I can’t be boxed in. As long as I do this exceeding, that’s getting me ready to go from a 3 to a 4. That’s getting me ready to go from manager to senior manager or senior manager and pivot now to executive leadership as a director or as a VP. When we don’t know those things, that’s when we get into trouble. You want to review that periodically.

Most companies review job descriptions when their star player leaves or every 5 to 10 years. That’s a long time. People aren’t doing those jobs anymore. You want to be thoughtful and do more of that preventive work. Is there a growth pathway in this job description based on what the job is expected to do in this phase of the company’s growth? If not, I need to work with my HR business partner and compensation team to get that job description where it needs to be.

Skill-Based Organizations

The world is running with jobs. The organization uses jobs as a way of packaging positions together. In the future, there’s been much more talk on skill-based organizations bringing in or using people in different capacities. What are your thoughts on where job architecture evolves in those types of organizations?

It sounds like a mess. It sounds like people who are ignorant, lazy, and hesitant to do that hard, unsexy work of job architecture. We’re going to throw the baby out with the bath water. Let me add some qualifiers with that because I already know people are clicking off the minute I say ignorant and lazy. Those are not terminal illnesses. That’s a temporary state. If I’m ignorant of something and everybody is ignorant of something, I need to educate myself. The minute I educate myself on something, I’m no longer ignorant. The minute I choose to take consistent action, no matter how small on something, I’m no longer lazy. The challenge is to solve the root problem.

If you are ignorant about something, educate yourself. The minute you do that, you are not ignorant anymore. Share on X

Why would I have an organization full of people doing any job at any time and expect to grow and scale my company? That makes no sense. That’s not respecting the excellence and the discipline of these various departments. If I’m an attorney, I’m not doing finance work. I went to school to learn to be an attorney. Don’t have me over here writing an income statement. I’m not doing that. If I work in HR, don’t come asking me to do coding. I don’t work in engineering. Stop playing with me.

If you are going to have people working on cross-functional projects, there needs to be appropriate compensation, bonus structure, appropriate rewards, and recognition for that. There needs to be an appropriate growth pathway for someone to move methodically through that path. It’s still a lot of work. It’s more work than if you would do the job.

A lot of this is reactive because it’s frustrating. A lot of companies are struggling to pivot in economic turmoil. The solution is, if we get rid of that, we’ll be able to be as agile as we need. No, you won’t because you can’t even manage it. You have fifteen jobs in this organization. You can’t even manage those. You are about to triple that and have people moving through. In my head, I picture. You all know how when they show in science videos where it’s like sales moving through? That’s what I picture that as. No, we are not doing that.

Destroying The Culture

Sometimes, you hear leaders have the best intentions. They say, “We want to squish down the organization and make it flat to improve communication.” They end up destroying a lot of other things in the process, like fairness, inequality, and effectiveness. There are a lot of pieces there. Did you come across that very often there, Kalyn?

Let me use another example. Are we going to say, “Let’s throw out all of the gap account practices because this is too much? Let’s have it where anybody can approve any amount. As long as you send us a justification after the fact, we should be good.” Are you going to play with your money like that? What if we said, “We don’t need a patent for that. We should let people make it. If they want to patent it themselves, they could do that. We’ll figure out the legal part later.”

No, you would not do that. That wouldn’t make any sense at all. You would never go like that. You would never leave those areas of your company unprotected and unstructured because you appreciate the gravity of what could happen if those things are done wrong. Why wouldn’t you feel that same way about HR? It’s a value proposition.

HR Job List

Kalyn, we’re coming up to the end of our time here. It’s been an incredible conversation. It’s the best conversation I’ve had on this topic ever. It is fun to talk about this stuff with a real practitioner who knows their stuff. What are the key things that you want our leaders to take away from our discussion?

This isn’t easy. This is a quick win. Ask your HR business partners or your CHRO for a list of the roles in each department. Not who is in the role or if it’s empty or understaffed, but the names of the jobs. First of all, if the answer is, “We don’t have it.” That’s a data point. Start zooming in on and figuring out, “What’s going on there?”

The next question is, how do we know that we’re staffed appropriately? How do we know that people are being rewarded, recognized, and paid fairly? Once you get that list, I would encourage leaders, especially if it’s at the C-Suite level, to circle or highlight the roles that they have never heard produce results in the company.

Let’s say you end up having 100 jobs. You don’t know who is in the role yet. It is the role. If you’ve never heard of what that role does, that’s an area where you can zoom in. From there, you can start to locate your own areas of ignorance and begin to build some competence and knowledge there. What does this job do? We got it and paid for it. At least, it’s on the budget. What is it accomplishing for us?

You can start to be thoughtful. If this role produces so much for us, why is it only leveled at a two versus this other thing that only has a couple of responsibilities, but it’s at a five? That doesn’t seem fair. We are starting to look at the work spread. Those two starting action items will be major a-ha moments for most C-Suite leaders because I don’t think they realize how little they know about their company. That’s a shame because we get to zoom in on the fact that people are involved with those roles. When you want to understand why people are not satisfied, the first place that you can look is not who the manager is. Do they like them? It’s the job architecture because people come to work to work.

Book And Podcast

People want to get things done. Kalyn, you have written a book, Evolution to Equity. Can you tell us about that?

Yes, I can. It is available on Amazon. It’s called Evolution to Equity. I call it because I understand the art and science of HR, org development, and DEI work. When we talk about equity, for a lot of folks, that can feel like a scary word, but it is based on three key systems, OD or org development excellence, DEI, structuring, and HR competence. If you can master those three, as a founder, you are well on your way to creating an equitable organization.

People Strategy Forum | Kalyn Romaine | Retention Strategy

Evolution to Equity: The Founder’s Guide to People, Culture & Inclusion

I set the book up in three parts. What do people, culture, and inclusion mean for you as an individual? What forces, systems, and influences have created how you feel about HR or development and DEI in your mind? We start thinking about, “What does it mean to have people culture and inclusion thrive on your executive team?” These are those C-Suite roles. That’s part two of the book. Part three is thinking about, “What do people, culture and inclusion mean for your company as a whole?”

I get granular there. I’m breaking down all of the OD theories and frameworks that can support you with organization design and other organizational development initiatives. I break down the HR functional areas that play nice together and are besties, which HR functional areas are frenemies. You have to manage those relationships to make sure that they are not undermining each other’s effectiveness.

I talked about the functional areas of DEI and the four key aspects of DEI that you could start to activate on individual projects. I get feedback, and they’re like, “Is this another one of those DEI books?” I’m like, “No, it’s a textbook.” My goal is for founders to be able to pick up this book, not have any knowledge of HR, OD, or DEI, and be able to walk away with a game plan to get it going and sustain it in their companies.

I’m looking forward to the read. Thank you so much for telling us about that.

Thank you.

We have readers out there who are saying, “How do I learn more from Kalyn?” You have your own podcast. Can you tell us about your podcast?

It’s called the Dreaming Forward Podcast. I’m in season two. I have monthly topics there. It rotates every 4 to 6 weeks. The topic for this month is resilience. I’m excited about that one. I’ll be talking about individual organizational and team resilience. I have topics related to ESG, workforce planning, and succession planning.

The whole podcast focuses on leadership development, organizational culture change, and org development in general. I love running my mouth. The podcast is a fun way to talk about topics that feel taboo or unapproachable in HR. I want to try to make it relatable. I talked about bringing people up to HR language. I talk about the definitions of certain things, demystifying some of these concepts. Hopefully, folks can go back within their companies and start having meaningful conversations about what needs to happen. It is available on both YouTube and Spotify. If you don’t remember the name, you go to my website, It’s on the insights page, and you can find links to get there.

Closing Words

Thank you so much, Katyn. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. What a great conversation.

Thank you so much. I’ve enjoyed this. It’s funny because compensation is the area that people shy away from. I haven’t been able to have a good conversation in a minute. This feels good to me.

Thank you, everyone, for tuning into the People Strategy Forum. We look forward to hearing from you in the next episode. Take care, everyone. Bye.


Important Links


About Kalyn Romaine

People Strategy Forum | Kalyn Romaine | Retention StrategyKalyn Romaine is a distinguished organizational psychologist, connector, and philanthropist whose dynamic expertise has positively transformed companies, careers, and communities across the United States. A proud native of Detroit, Kalyn now calls the metro Atlanta area home, but her professional journey has seen her excel in major cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Throughout her career, Kalyn has made significant impacts at leading organizations including Amazon, The Walt Disney Company, Verizon, and Zapier. Her role in these transformations has not only honed her skills but also fueled her passion for sharing her knowledge and experience on a global scale.

Kalyn’s areas of expertise are diverse and encompass organizational design, culture change, human resources, organizational development, diversity and inclusion, motivational speaking, executive and leadership coaching, strategic planning, content design and development, and facilitation. Her approach is characterized by a deep commitment to integrating psychological insights with strategic business practices to foster inclusive, thriving workplace environments.

As a multipotentialite and serial entrepreneur, Kalyn’s broad skill set and adaptive style have allowed her to influence a wide range of disciplines, making her a valuable asset to any organization seeking comprehensive and innovative approaches to growth and development.


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