2016 was a transformative year for W2O and we’re continuing the momentum with our announcement today welcoming Eric M. Bacolas as W2O Group’s first ever Chief People Officer. I’m excited that he’s joining the team, and sat down with him to get a little more insight into his background, what attracted him to work at W2O and his what he finds most important in cultivating a collaborative workforce

Aaron: Welcome to the W2O team, Eric. We’re excited to have you onboard. What attracted you to come work for W2O?

Eric: Couldn’t be more excited to be here. There are several things that attracted me to W2O:

  1. W2O’s Commitment to Talent – A lot of companies say that, but then don’t put their ‘money where their mouth is.’ So coming in with the mandate to build a people-first culture AND the budget and support to do so told me that this is a place that truly cares about its people and culture.
  2.  W2O’s Purpose and Mission: When you think about what you can do with your life, the possibilities are endless. And if you’re in marketing and communications, you could choose to help brands sell more ‘stuff’ or you could be part of a company that’s helping bring life-changing treatments to market. It’s work with a higher purpose. And given today’s political and economic climate, helping to shape the conversation and doing good for the world really spoke to me.
  3. W2O’s Impressive Thought Leadership: When you look at the work that W2O is doing across the board, it’s impressive. Then you see how they’re leading change in the industry – from MDigital Life (partnering with the Health Data Consortium to host the first-ever event focused on social media data in healthcare innovation, education and clinical improvement), to the annual PreCommerce Summit at SXSW or “What 2 Know” podcasts, or the involvement in JP Morgan’s Healthcare Conference, or the recently published book, Storytizing.
  4. W2O’s Org Structure: Unlike many other agencies, W2O has a “OneTeamOneDream” approach – meaning that there aren’t arbitrary lines or incentives that pit people or groups against one another. We’re in it together, and all working towards the same end goal. I see this as a great way to build a different kind of agency and really foster innovation.

Aaron: You’ve helped companies retain and recruit talent, implement developmental strategies, and boost culture. What do you think is most important in retaining and recruiting talent?

Eric: The best thing companies can do is clearly articulate their “Why?” and their culture. Then find ways to tie that into who they attract and hire, how they reward and recognize, and their overall approach to policies and programs. Because at the end of the day, companies are like consumer brands – and some people inherently have a greater affinity to ‘Coke’ over ‘Pepsi’. So when you can align what’s important to your company and the things that matter to your talent, you get a bond that transcends salary or a bad day… and that translates to great engagement and satisfaction.

Aaron: What 3 words would you use to describe W2O’s culture?

Eric: The 3 words I’d use to describe the W2O culture are fluid, collaborative, and entrepreneurial. Fluid – because it’s ever changing. When you look at our logo, it’s a bunch of water droplets… that’s exactly who we are. We continue to shift and take on new shapes. And like water, can carve through or find ways around the greatest challenges. People who work well here are those who are equally fluid and energized in an environment that’s constantly evolving. Collaborative – because little here gets done individually. To achieve great results, you need to partner across teams and disciplines and bring together multiple points of view.  Entrepreneurial – because you can’t wait for someone to tell you what to do or pave the way. You’ve got to approach things as an owner, and have the confidence of your convictions – that’s the way to make amazing things happen.

Aaron: If you had to choose one W2O company value that represents you, which would it be and why?

Eric: #MakeItHappen probably represents me best. As you get to know me, you’ll find that I’m a fix-it type person, results driven, and I have a bias towards action. So when there’s an idea, I quickly think about how to bring it to life; a choice, I’m eager to get to decision and move ahead; or a challenge, I like to get to the heart of it and drive towards resolution quickly. It doesn’t mean that I don’t take the time to think through the right approach; It just means that once I do, I’m focused on the end result and will find ways around any obstacle to #MakeItHappen.

Aaron: What is your “super power”?

Eric: My taste buds are my super power. That may sound weird, but my mom is an incredible cook. And because of that, I learned to savor every spice and ingredient in what she made. When she would substitute an ingredient, I could tell with just one bite that something was different…. I may not have known WHAT was different all the time, but I could always tell that SOMETHING was. We laugh at it now, but my mom used to cringe when she served up a dish with some changes. Always seeing how long it would take for me to ask the question.

Aaron: Can you recall a quote that has inspired you in business and your personal life?

Eric: I used to think this was a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, but it’s actually from Mae West – “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” This has inspired me to think about where I spend my time and what I do with it. So I’ve pushed myself to do a little more each day, meet different people, engage in new ideas, experience as much of life as I can, and find ways to make the world a better place

Aaron: Fun question: I know you’re a big foodie…if you had to choose one meal that you had to eat the rest of your life – and nothing else – what would it be?

Eric: Yikes. As a foodie – and someone who thrives on the new and different – the idea of having to choose only one meal is frightening. But if I have to answer, my forever meal would be a special burger with raspberry preserves, blue cheese, pickled jalapenos, tomatoes, onions, basil, pickles and ketchup on a sesame seed bun… along with a Californian Zinfandel. Not only does this have almost every flavor under the sun all combined together, I figure if I need a change, I can deconstruct it and enjoy each of the bits separately for some diversity.

Thank you Eric. That was fun.  I’m happy to welcome you the W2O family and am very much looking forward to working (and hopefully enjoying a good meal) with you soon.