Recently, we highlighted Falken Tires president and CEO Richard Smallwood’s top strategies for employee engagement. The conclusion of this two-part series features ideas from Jill Elliott, R&R’s VP of people and culture. Jill’s impressive HR and organizational development background spans across multiple industries, including working with clients such as Disney, Expedia and Unilever. When one meets her for the first time, you instantly get her Bay Area tech vibe, coupled with an apparent passion for employer branding, and designing programs that build culture and employee engagement.

Jill and I sat down recently to discuss her strategies for creating a strong culture and putting people at the center of the organization. “Leaders should strive to cultivate a level of trust,” she remarked. “Having employees’ best interest at heart closely aligns with who we are and how we treat each other and our clients.” At R&R Partners, we use a specific language around the people and relationships who are at the core of what makes us great: “We value family and community above all.”who-we-areIt isn’t a bit ironic that my conversation with our ambassador of people and culture took place the day of the annual Media Tailgate. While we were talking about something Jill is obviously energetic about, teams of people were working together to put the final touches on our 11th annual event, which celebrates our employees and partnerships. One of the most enjoyable afternoons of the year, she was quick to point out that “all of our events are just ways to connect our people to the culture. These are not simply parties—they provide this important opportunity to connect.”

I asked Jill what she would do with an unlimited budget to drive even more employee engagement at R&R. Her response wasn’t what I expected, yet it makes total sense: “I would survey employees to ask them what they want.” Our discussion was interrupted slightly when a unicorn pool float came into Town Center during the Media Tailgate set up, yet after we had a Friday afternoon giggle, Jill impressed me with her final thought: “If you get the people part—the recruiting, the hiring, the development and the culture—right, everything else falls into place.”