Last month when we launched Kazoo (formerly YouEarnedIt/HighGround), we also announced Paul Pellman as our new CEO. We had a few burning questions for him at this exciting juncture in the company’s history and we want to help you to get to know him. So without further ado, meet Paul!


Kazoo CEO Paul Pellman

Q&A with Kazoo CEO Paul Pellman


Rebecca: We’re excited to have you here. Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background and what brought you to Kazoo?

Paul: I’m excited to be here as well. My background is mostly in the ad tech space. I spent the last four years at Google, running all go-to-market activities launched under the Google Analytics 360 umbrella. Before that, I led Adometry as CEO for seven years prior to its acquisition by Google. After spending the last four years at Google, I’m excited to get back to my roots at a rapidly scaling company. I love the energy in a growing company like Kazoo where we are pushing ourselves every day to change the landscape of our industry.


Rebecca: So coming from the ad tech industry, what interested you about the People Management/Employee Experience space?

Paul: What really interested me about this space is that it’s something everyone can relate to. We’ve all either worked someplace or known someone who’s worked in an unsatisfying or thankless job. And, I’d like to think that we’ve all worked in a place where we felt a strong connection to the company’s purpose and mission — a place with a palpable culture that collectively recognized us for the good work we were doing, celebrated successes achieved by folks on the team, and provided clear direction and feedback.

What is so exciting for me about leading Kazoo is that our platform directly and tangibly helps companies create the kind of rewarding and purpose-filled workplace that we all strive to work for. We help our clients improve their overall workplace environment, which tangibly drives higher employee retention and productivity. But, just as exciting, we help their employees feel more connected and motivated in how they show up to work.


Rebecca: How do you feel culture impacts business success?

Paul: Culture and employee experience are critical for business success. Employee’s today have a choice and they want to work for a company that sees them as something more than a number. On average, 70 percent of a company’s operating expenses are spent on human capital, yet many companies aren’t focusing enough on their people when making business decisions. When companies put their employees first and invest in their culture, the impact of those efforts is easily seen in KPIs like higher employee retention, productivity, and customer experience.


Rebecca: Now let’s talk about the rebrand. How involved were you in the process of rebranding the company to Kazoo — and, why that name?

Paul: I came in about halfway through the naming process and worked closely with our marketing team and our branding agency to find the right name. During the process, we knew we wanted to maintain the positive buzz in the industry for what YouEarnedIt and HighGround accomplished for customers of all sizes. But it was important to make a fresh start as a brand, too, because we are now a much more robust, all-in-one platform that offers so much more than either one was able to offer separately. Our combined platform is a game-changer and so is our new brand: provocative, intriguing, and celebratory.

From a more philosophical standpoint, the work landscape today has employees wanting, expecting, and craving more out of their workplaces, and in fact demanding it for them to join and stay.

Leaders are faced with a challenge like no other time period, with multi-generations working together, the up-and-coming workforce asking for more transparency, more purpose, and more meaning than ever before. How do we thread the needle between what employees need and the organizations that must move faster, produce more, and innovate to survive?

When you find your Kazoo is when your employees are propelled and inspired, driven by their desire to achieve. When all boats rise together for the greater good. When the game is elevated and good talent becomes great. Kazoo is when employees are empowered to take ownership of their work, can see the bigger picture, and know how they fit within the collective success of the team and company.

This is what it means to find your Kazoo. This is what it’s like when work is working. Imagine that!


Rebecca: Tell me more — how does the Kazoo platform change the game?

Paul: We’re the only platform that brings together Recognition & Rewards, Performance Management, and Surveys into one integrated platform. Of course, clients can look to leverage any subset of these three capabilities (they don’t need to buy all three solutions to start). But we do believe that there is an additive and synergistic value when a company utilizes all three together.

For example, a key characteristic of a continuous Performance Management platform is around ease of getting and sharing feedback. What better way to gain more context about an employee than to leverage the recognition they’ve received through our robust Recognition & Rewards platform seamlessly within our Performance Management solution?

In addition, we typically find that our Recognition & Rewards solution generates exceedingly high usage (on average, more than 80% of our customers’ employees are engaged with the platform at least once a month). When customers are also using our Performance Management solution, this high recognition usage many times lends itself to higher compliance and utilization on Performance Management. All this means less nudging and follow-up from the HR team and more robust and comprehensive goal setting/feedback/check-ins within the system.

There’s also the additive value of having all the data and insights that come from having Recognition & Rewards, Performance Management, and Surveys integrated together within one platform. We’re making a significant investment this year in leveraging this unified dataset to drive more impactful and proactive insights and analytics to our customers.


Rebecca: What is the future of Kazoo?

Paul: The first phase of our integrated platform was just the beginning. Our goal is to lead the market in People Management and, with that as our focus, we will continue to innovate and evolve our platform. We’ve got a lot of great things in store for this year like expanding our analytics capabilities and enhancing our engagement surveys.


A round of confetti for Paul! 🎉 🥳


The latest episode of What Culture Could Be – a podcast by Autumn Manning – is brought to you by Kazoo.

Have you ever wondered how companies build and sustain their culture as they grow? In the latest episode of her podcast What Culture Could Be, Autumn Manning, co-founder of Kazoo, sat down with Mark McClain CEO and founder of SailPoint Technologies to discuss How to Build a Great Culture From Scratch.

In this episode, McClain shares his perspective on “where to start when creating a culture, how to keep it on the rails and thriving when growth is coming at you fast, and why starting with values when things are broken is critical.”

Culture is Built on Core Values

McClain kicks off the podcast by describing the soul of a company’s culture: its core values.

Core values are more than just a thing to check on your list — they’re the fundamental beliefs of your organization and what your employees use to connect with your brand.

It’s easy to piece together core values you think will appeal to potential employees, but the hard part is implementing them into the day-to-day activities of your company. That’s why your core values need to resonate from the top down — starting with your CEO and ending with your newest hire.

Speaking of new hires, having core values helps you filter out the wrong people when you’re in the process of hiring for a new position. It also helps people understand who you are, what you believe in, and what’s expected from them if they join your company.

Your culture is ultimately built on a set of values.

Build Culture Now, Not Later

You should think about your company culture the same way you create your business plan — from the start and with the highest priority.

Most people assume that culture develops after a company has officially kicked off, but that can lead to the development of a weak culture.

Ask yourself these questions to ensure you’re building the right culture for your company.

  • “Who do we want to be?”
  • “What behaviors will drive our success?”
  • “What values will stand the test of time with our customers?”

By defining your company culture from the get-go, you can make sure your company is on the same page when it comes to your values, what your brand looks like, and who your ideal employee is.


Fixing a Broken Culture

A broken company culture is not the demise of your company, but having one and not doing anything to change it can be.

The first step to taking control of your company culture is to own when things are bad — then focus on where the problems are starting.

Are people leaving because of bad managers? Or are employees unhappy with the lack of opportunities for growth?

Once you address the issue, you’ll need to investigate the cause of it, then develop a strategy to fix the problem. But this issue isn’t for HR to fix — it’s one for the CEO (with support from leadership and HR).


Want to listen in? You can check out this podcast and more on Autumn’s site.


While it may not seem like it on the surface, the ability to effectively give and receive feedback is the most important soft skill to have today.

Why is feedback a career gamechanger?

Having the ability to give and receive feedback – and do both well – means that you’re coachable as an employee and able to coach as a manager. In today’s modern workplace where a feedback culture reigns supreme, this can mean the difference between success and failure.

Let’s examine the value of feedback, and its ability to make or break a career, from both the employee and the manager’s perspectives.


Receiving Feedback

A productive approach to feedback means being open to receiving it and adjusting your behavior accordingly. This includes both negative and positive feedback, as well as the many different types of feedback.

Negative feedback delivered in a constructive way is incredibly valuable to employees at all levels. It creates awareness around the actions and behaviors that are negatively impacting those around them and, in turn, an employee’s career. Those who use negative feedback as an opportunity to shift their behavior can speed up their path to promotion.

But it’s not just negative feedback that helps employees grow. Positive feedback can be equally beneficial. It can help employees identify the behaviors that make them stand out from their peers in a good way. After all, it’s just as important to understand what you’re doing right alongside what you might be doing wrong.

In addition to embracing positive and negative feedback, employees should also take advantage of the numerous ways to receive it. These can include:

  • Coaching which managers do during check-ins and 1:1s, offering in-the-moment constructive criticism, encouragement, and praise.
  • Mentoring where individuals can seek advice and direction on their career goals and aspirations.
  • 360 feedback which allows employees to identify what others see as their strengths and weaknesses and collectively see trends.
  • Anonymous feedback a safe, non-threatening way to hear from others in sensitive situations.
  • Project retrospectives for instant feedback after a major project ends, so employees can apply any lessons learned immediately.
  • Peer-to-peer feedback offers employees the chance to see themselves through their co-workers’ eyes and evaluate themselves as a teammate to others in the organization.

Feedback comes in all forms. No matter where you are in your career, whether it’s your first job or you’re an experienced executive, there is always room to grow and opportunities to improve.


Giving Feedback

Whether you have any direct reports or not, every employee has valuable feedback to give to others in their organization (and plenty of opportunities to do so, based on all the ways listed above). But how exactly does giving great feedback help you succeed?

If you are a manager, you are evaluated on your ability to lead a team. Being good at giving feedback:

  • Makes your employees better, which reflects your own abilities as a manager
  • Increases your team’s potential and value to the organization
  • Highlights your skills as an effective coach

If you are an individual contributor without direct reports, your performance evaluation is based on your own achievements. Being good at giving feedback:

  • Demonstrates to your manager that you have leadership potential
  • Makes you a better peer and collaborator
  • Increases your value to the organization


Quick Tips

To better receive feedback:

  • Maintain a positive mindset where you can appreciate someone else’s perspective for what it is – a way to help you see how others see you.
  • Ask for specific ways to change or adjust your behavior. It’ll help you get even more out of the feedback.
  • Set goals for yourself to put the feedback into action. For example, if a manager encourages you to work on your relationships with clients, set a goal to schedule coffee or lunch with a new client each month.

To properly give feedback:

  • Come prepared. Think through how you plan to deliver the feedback to ensure you’re specific and constructive.
  • Be solution-minded. Telling someone what they do wrong without sharing what they can do to improve can be a waste of everyone’s time – and leave the receiver of the feedback feeling down and unmotivated.
  • Find the positive in the negative. The “sandwich” technique is a popular feedback method, where the giver of the feedback starts and ends with compliments and praise and uses the middle of the conversation to deliver constructive criticism.



Let Your Employees Give and Receive Feedback


We recently published a series of blog posts regarding inclusivity in the workplace, and we wanted to broaden the conversation to include people who practice different faiths. The purpose of these articles is to bring awareness to specific holidays or traditions that aren’t widely covered in the U.S. – and to give you tips to make your workplace more inclusive to employees who celebrate them.

Today’s focus is on Muslims at work, and more specifically Ramadan in the workplace.

Don’t know what Ramadan is, but want to learn more to be mindful about what your Muslim colleagues might be experiencing this month? You’re in the right place.


What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and it’s the holiest time of the year for Muslims. This year Ramadan starts on the evening of May 5 and ends on the evening of June 4. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown for thirty days, with a typical fast lasting 11-16 hours, depending on where you live. Fasting means no food or drink as long as the sun is up – and, yes, that includes water, too.


Screenshot of a tweet about not drinking water during Ramadan


Jokes aside – Ramadan is about a lot more than not eating or drinking. It’s a time for Muslims to reassess their spirituality, reflect on their blessings, and work on becoming better versions of themselves. As the saying goes, “Ramadan is a time to starve the stomach to feed the soul.”

But it’s hard to get into that spiritual zone without some hiccups.

Imagine waking up to eat before the sun rises (this meal is called suhoor or sehri, by the way!), then going to work at a 9-to-5 with no pick-me-ups between meetings, like coffee or a delicious snack.


Screenshot of a tweet about drinking morning coffee during Ramadan


On top of that, you’re juggling other priorities outside of the office, like giving your kids your undivided attention or taking your car in for a much-needed oil change. Many Muslims also attend late night prayers during Ramadan called Taraweeh that can last until midnight.

It’s no wonder that a lot of Muslims who fast during Ramadan can struggle with:

  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches (or worse, migraines)


Here’s the thing, though. Your coworkers don’t want you to pity them, but they do want you to understand where they’re coming from.

Ramadan may sound taxing, but it’s an auspicious occasion for Muslims that they look forward to each year. There are certain things you can do to make the month more comfortable for your fasting employees that will keep them engaged, productive, and most importantly, happy.


Ways to Accommodate Your Muslim Employees During Ramadan


1. Let flex workers pick their schedules.

This tip is for the employees who don’t work a typical 9-to-5. Muslims set fasts in the morning (again, called suhoor or sehri) and they break them at sunset with a meal called iftar. Let your employees schedule their shifts around these meals.

This flexibility allows workers to choose times that are convenient for them and when they feel the most productive. Some people may prefer to work early in the morning, right after suhoor, and others might work better late at night after iftar.


2. Customize a work schedule for the 9-to-5 crew.

It can be tough to work eight hours straight on an empty stomach. Let your 9-to-5 workers create a custom schedule for Ramadan. Allow them to work from home, or come into work after suhoor then leave earlier. Why not let them work their lunch hour and go home early, too, since they won’t be using it? The goal is to negotiate a timetable that works for both parties.


(P.S. If possible, avoid scheduling lunch meetings when someone is fasting! It’s not considerate.)

Gif of Fawad Khan shaking his head no


3. Provide private prayer spaces.

Here’s a fun fact – did you know that Muslims pray five times a day (even outside of Ramadan)? These prayers are scheduled at specific intervals throughout the day and usually take no more than five to 10 minutes to complete.

Some of your employees might already have delegated prayer spaces, but some Muslims use Ramadan as a time to become more religious and may be bringing this conversation up for the first time.

Give your Muslim employees a safe (and private) space to pray. It can be as simple as letting them book a meeting room to themselves for 15 minutes, or letting them go to a local mosque for prayers.


4. Give them PTO.

Sometimes it can be difficult for employees to balance fasting and work, and that’s normal. Allow your employees to take a bit of time off to settle into their new routine, and understand that sick days are inevitable for some of them. (Working from home is a useful option, too!)

Muslims also celebrate Eid-al-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan, and it’s the equivalent of Christmas for them. They spend the day eating and drinking with friends and family. Just like you wouldn’t want to work on Christmas, they won’t want to work on Eid either! As a heads up, the rest of the world celebrates Eid for up to three days. Some employees may only take a day or two off, though.



If this article prompts a lot of follow-up questions, remember that it’s ok to be curious if your purpose is to educate yourself. It’s also important to remember that fasting affects each person differently and that some days are easier than others. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees questions (with respect and reason) to better understand their situation. Most Muslims welcome the opportunity to share their beliefs to bust stereotypes or misconceptions about Islam.

FYI – this is one of many reasons why it’s crucial for managers to keep an open and consistent dialogue with their employees, and vice versa. This method of communication ensures that a company will meet their employees’ needs, as well as their own. It’s a win-win situation!



First up: If don’t know your type, take the free Enneagram personality test before reading the rest of this blog.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever given out (and taken!) a personality test for a new job or as a team-building exercise at work. Chances are, many of you have – and with very good reason. In a professional capacity, personality tests can be a powerful tool for discovering your management style, especially for those who are in leadership positions and responsible for driving the development of others.

Personality tests can be used at work to…

  • Increase self-awareness
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Understand management tendencies
  • Match employees to managers

There are several personality tests to choose from, each with their own set of supporters and critics. Perhaps the most well-known test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, has faced backlash in recent years for scoring low in reliability and predicting outcomes. You may have also heard of or taken the DiSC model or Holtzman inkblot technique (HIT). Along with about a dozen more, each test focuses on different variations of personality indicators and comes at various price points.


What is the Enneagram Test (and how can you use it at work)?

One personality test that Kazoo loves is the Enneagram, especially in a work setting. This particular personality test taps into how we think, feel, and act – all three of which play a huge role in developing the traits of a good manager and laying the groundwork for success as leaders in the workplace.

At the heart of this test is the distinctive Enneagram symbol. According to the Enneagram Worldwide website, “Stemming from the Greek words ennea (nine) and grammos (a written symbol), the nine-pointed Enneagram symbol represents nine distinct strategies for relating to the self, others, and the world.

“Each Enneagram type has a different pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting that arises from a deeper inner motivation or worldview.”

There are several different versions of Enneagram tests. They range from short, free versions and modified ones to the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI®). The RHETI is the most popular version of the test, consisting of 144 questions for about $12 a person. No matter which version you choose, at the end of the questionnaire you’ll be categorized as one of nine Enneagram types.


The 9 Enneagram Types and Their Management Styles at Work

While personality tests shouldn’t be used on their own to categorize employees or make major decisions, it can help support a broader effort to better understand your managers’ actions and leadership style. So, how does your Enneagram type at work affect your performance and success as a manager? Find your type in the list below to learn more:

Using the enneagram at work


The rational, idealistic type: principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic

A Reformer’s worst fear is not doing the right thing. A growth mindset is woven into their DNA, and as a result, they’re often high achievers who want to improve everyone and everything around them. As managers, Reformers are good at driving continued development and encouraging employees to set stretch goals.

Famous examples: Michelle Obama and, hilariously, SNL’s “The Church Lady”


The caring, interpersonal type: demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing, and possessive

Helpers are givers, not takers. At work, this Enneagram type often ascribes to a servant style of leadership. As people pleasers, managers who are Helper types might lack the tough love necessary for certain employees to succeed. They may even shy away from delivering uncomfortable criticism in order to get underperformers back on track.

Famous examples: Nancy Reagan and Paula Abdul


The success-oriented, pragmatic type: adaptive, excelling, driven, and image-conscious

Here come the workaholics. Achievers are quintessential ladder climbers who place a high value on both being successful and being seen as successful. Achiever types in management roles might have ended up there by being exceptional individual contributors. And while they certainly understand what it takes to be successful, they may need coaching themselves on how to drive that same level of performance out of others.

Famous examples: Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods (hello, 5-time Masters champion)


The sensitive, withdrawn type: expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental

Individualists are creative thinkers. Often you’ll find them to be musicians, actors, poets, and the like. As managers, Individualists might tap into an employee’s emotional needs and well being more easily than other types. They’ll be quick to get to the root cause of problems but might blur the line between work and personal issues.

Famous examples: Alanis Morrisette and Frida Kahlo


The intense, cerebral type: perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated

Unsurprisingly, many entrepreneurs identify as Investigators. They are visionaries, concerned with solving big problems. As managers, Investigators risk getting their heads stuck up in the clouds instead of focusing on their team’s tactics and deliverables. Their eccentric management style and problem-solving approach could turn off certain pragmatic employees.

Famous examples: Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking


The committed, security-oriented type: engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious

Loyalists focus on creating and offering security to others around them. As such, they don’t shy away from commitment or run when the going gets tough. Loyalists are great managers who can be very supportive of their teams, but also can get stressed from time to time. They’re likely big on recognition and creating positive, encouraging work environments for young employees.

Famous examples: George H.W. Bush and Katie Couric


The busy, fun-loving type: spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered

Enthusiasts are the life of the party but rarely stay in one conversation for too long. They are experience seekers who change interests and hobbies often. As managers, they may have trouble keeping employees on track, but they might also help them uncover hidden talents or skills that can help them in their careers.

Famous examples: Amelia Earhart and Richard Branson


The powerful, dominating type: self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational

The Challenger types often have some issues as they like to be in control. They are confident but can quickly turn egotistical and domineering. As managers they could tend to rule with an iron fist and not be the greatest delegators, preferring to do the job themselves to ensure it’s right.

Famous examples: Winston Churchill and Tony Soprano


The easygoing, self-effacing type: receptive, reassuring, agreeable, and complacent

Peacemakers have the perfect moniker, shying away from conflict and confrontation all for the sake of keeping things in harmony. They might not be comfortable as managers, especially when it comes to giving feedback or delivering bad news. But on the positive side, they are great at keeping the peace and creating stability for employees.

Famous examples: Abraham Lincoln and Mister Rogers!

Ready to take your management skills to the next level?

Kazoo’s free management training course walks readers through the fundamentals of being a great people manager in 9 easy-to-follow email sessions. Whether you’re a first-time manager, seasoned vet, or HR professional tasked with improving the skills of your C-Suite, this course provides research-backed data, actionable insights, and industry best practices for developing the tools to increase employee engagement, retention, and productivity.

Register for the course today!