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Ryan Seamons, Founder&CEO Groove: We’re optimizing for impact, not convenience

Ryan Seamons is the founder and CEO of Groove, a work experience design company that helps leaders improve engagement using step-by-step products and services to create work environments individuals love. Their product, Career Conversations, is being used by managers at companies like DoorDash, Amazon, and Intuit︎ to give employees control of their career growth.

Ryan has worked at the intersection of technology and talent for over a decade at places like LinkedIn, Degreed, and Sprintwell. Ryan writes Patterns, a weekly newsletter for people who want to design better work experiences and is also launching Manager.School to for any manager who wants to be awesome. 

More about Groove and Ryan’s experience as an entrepreneur can be found below:

What’s the story behind Groove?

In my work at the intersection of talent and technology, I’ve long seen the issues most companies face. Groove was born out of my experience with two sad truths about work: Managers can make a world of difference. Good managers have incredible influence over how work happens and how employees feel about that work. I believe Clayton Christensen’s sentiment that Management can be a noble profession.

Companies struggle to know how to improve engagement. Many companies run engagement surveys, but what to do next is tricky. “Tiger Teams” are often made up of senior people who talk a lot … but then the issues don’t change for employees on the front lines. This costs companies time and money.

I’ve left companies because of my manager. And I’ve seen multiple experiences where companies want to listen to what’s going on, but then only talk without action. Many others share these same poor experiences.

Data show these are pervasive issues. Only 34% of people are engaged at work (Gallup) and the majority of employees trust a stranger more than they trust their own boss (HBR). 

Groove helps companies make an immediate impact on engagement. The way to impact engagement is to equip managers and employees to give space and guidance for better conversations that lead to action. When you become more aware, decide what that means, and take action on some of the most challenging parts of work, every employee and manager can rise up to change the way work happens. This is about both the mindset and mechanics of how work should happen.

We’ve done over 250 user interviews with employees and managers to better understand how work happens and how conversations about changing work normally flow. We found that most engagement issues could be improved through four key conversations:
Career Development. Do your company and manager care about what you want? Do they know what goals you have? Are you being given chances to grow?

Performance Management. Are you, your manager, and other stakeholders clear about how you add value to work? Are you aligned about expectations?

Skill Development. What skills do you have today? What skills do you need? How do you bridge that gap quickly?

Purpose & Alignment. Do employees understand the culture and strategy of your company? Are they able to tie their work to the bigger picture?

And we found that another app wasn’t the solution. Technology often gets in the way of conversation instead of encouraging them. So while our team comes from a tech background, we aren’t building another me-too HR platform.

We have built a set of hands-on products and services that guide these conversations in a way that empowers each employee and manager to better align and act to improve work.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

The most challenging part early on is knowing what product and messaging changes to make to help a product go from “This is an awesome idea” to “Take my money”. This is especially true for enterprise selling.

No matter how much experience you have, you just don’t know what will resonate with the market. Being able to gain insights through observation and conversation with people is key. And then finding fast ways to test what you think will work. 

The failure that naturally comes with being an entrepreneur can be hard to handle. Surround yourself with encouraging people. 

Getting past the initial hump on marketing and sales for a new business, especially when bootstrapping, can be challenging.

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

I’m most proud our commitment to a unique idea. We’ve been encouraged by many to make our experiences into digital products, but right now we’re committed to keeping these physical. 

We’re optimizing for impact, not convenience. 

Physical experiences (like Career Clarity) activate more senses, inspire greater creativity, build deeper relationships, and have a more enduring impact—even when used remotely with video conferencing.

In a world where everything is going digital, we believe that there are clear benefits to having a uniquely physical tool.

What is your vision for the future of Groove?

Our vision is a world where more people are fulfilled. The #1 regret of the dying is that they didn’t live a life true to what they wanted. To that point, we want to help as many people as we can find more fulfillment. This includes at work, as well as in families and education.

Far too many companies try to tell us what we need to be happy. We believe that more people taking time to reflect on what matters most to them is a challenge worth undertaking.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

Find a meaningful problem to solve.

There are more opportunities than ever before amidst the change. If you can find real problems to solve, then iterate and test solutions, you can build a business now too. It’s exciting to see more entrepreneurs stepping up and trying to make a difference.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

Right now I’m reading Brave New Work. Like many books, a lot of things aren’t original ideas … but the power of making the familiar new again is helpful. Concepts about our operating system at work, the waste of the traditional approach, and the need for new ways of doing things aligns very well with the company I’m building and gives me additional ideas about how Groove will continue to help companies change in positive ways. 

Our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss about their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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