Team VPI Celebrates Making a Difference: Supporting All Generations and Sectors

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

We are celebrating our success in San Diego and beyond! TEAM VPI is busy volunteering, fundraising, teaching, and expanding horizons to make a difference in our community and beyond. Read on for highlights and help us celebrate by sharing with your networks.


Terry Cunningham

Team VPI

Traditionalists and Baby Boomers are intent on leaving a legacy. Terry has worked tirelessly for AIDS awareness for the last 30 years. Terry Cunningham received the KPBS LGBT Pride Month Local Hero Award for dedicating his life to fighting AIDS. Cunningham became known for being outspoken about HIV/AIDS. After his friend John Ciaccio died of complications from AIDS, Terry started the Ciaccio Memorial Clinic, naming it after his friend. His philosophy in dealing with the epidemic was always about being proactive. Pictured right are Terry and Senator Chris Kehoe. Read the full article here.


Ilana Herring

“Millennial Marketing Sensation”: Ilana was the guest speaker at an industry association event attended by 55 San Diego business leaders. She spoke about “Strategic Social Media: Secrets and Strategies to Amplify Your Brand.” Attendees learned how different generations use social media, discovered the best channels to connect with their ideal customers, and how to make Social Media Marketing more fun and profitable.


Jennifer Whitney

Supporting the next generation, affectionately known as GenZ, Jennifer has been participating in her local school district on the Parent/Teacher Organization Board of Directors for the last ten years. She has worked in several positions on the Board in efforts to gain outside resources to assist schools with funding for extracurricular activities such as art enrichment programs, physical education, music, and needed classroom supplies. The very large budget cuts to the educational system forced school districts across California to cut these creative programs. Feeling the negative impact on the children drove Jennifer to volunteer countless hours in and out of the classrooms. Assembling, organizing and bringing together the community in efforts to support the local schools has been so rewarding to Jennifer.


Chris Coughlan

Also supporting GenZ, for 14 years Baby Boomer Chris Coughlan has been a Board of Member of the East County Family YMCA, a Branch of the San Diego County YMCA. Chris devotes his time and resources to this cause because he strongly believes that families and children must have a safe place to go within the communities that they live in. He was the Annual Support Campaign Chair for three consecutive years, and this year they exceeded the $455,000 goal with 300 volunteers in 35 days. Most recently, Chris was voted the 2015/16 incoming Board of Member Chairperson.


Scott Suckow

Healthcare in California is an issue that impacts all generations. VPI Strategies was awarded a community organizing grant from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to form a San Diego County affiliate of the California Chronic Care Coalition comprised of voluntary health agencies representing patients living with specific chronic illnesses.

Team VPI The California Chronic Care Coalition was a sponsor of the California Partnership for Access to Treatment (CPAT) forum in Sacramento on 6.9.15.  The “Molecule to Miracle” forum provided an overview of the drug discovery and development process sharing knowledge and insight about the drug discovery and development process. The speaker panel included Scott Suckow, Dr. Burke with BioTech Primer, Shawn Joist with the ALS Association and Tony Maynard with the Hemophilia Council of California (pictured right).

Scott was also the appointee on three San Diego County Health and Human Services commissions and named one of San Diego Magazine’s “50 People to Watch”.


Sherri Petro

Speaking of people to watch, we are watching our founder Sherri Petro take her generational and organizational development knowledge internally. Now an Organizational Development and Human Resources Director at an analytical lab and environmental engineering firm, Sherri gets to apply the generational knowledge each day in the development of performance management, total rewards, training delivery, and leadership development. The desire to spread the generational word in the nonprofit sector hasn’t stopped, Sherri will be speaking early this fall to the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank’s 2015 Hunger Conference and the Public Pension Financial Forum National Conference in San Diego.


Team VPI

Gathering the strengths of each generation, all of TEAM VPI is committed to educating and freely sharing of their expertise.

Jack Baxter’s Most Revealing Interview Questions

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

Revealing Interview QuestionsGuest Post by: Jack Baxter

I believe the most revealing interview questions are ones that are tied to the competencies required to do a specific job.

In Competency Based Hiring (Interview) questions are developed based on the critical competencies required to do the job. For example, in a job that requires a knowledge of operations, questions would be developed that would help the hiring manager to determine if the individual had the ability to diagnose operational problems, as well as make intelligent decisions based on the understanding of company (industry) knowledge. So the interviewer might ask question(s) similar to the following:

In your previous experience how have you used operational data to diagnose a problem or improve a process or service?

Give me an example of how you have used operational expertise to implement or complete a project?

Questions are developed that cover all of the critical competencies. Most jobs have multiple over lapping and sometimes dependent competencies. Would you hire an individual that was competent as an operations manager but was not competent in financial analysis? Probably not!

The major advantage to this type of approach is it allows the hiring manager to prioritize and set realistic expectations for the new hire.


The Cost of Failed Onboarding

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

Guest Post by: Jack Baxter onboarding

A colleague just sent me a note asking me to write about Onboarding. They read my recent posts about my checklist for Competency Based Hiring and my list of critical factors regarding competency based hiring I have learned from hindsight. My colleague pointed out that Onboarding was just as important as hiring, if not more so. It is true that a person who sails through an interview that was conducted based on competency could leave just months after being hired! I have seen it happen more than once.

I was consulting with a major financial intuition and became aware of a situation that had developed in the management ranks. It seems that an important operational position was soon to become vacant. When I asked for details I learned that the individual who was leaving had only been there 6 months! I had several meetings with this individual previously and I was impressed by his knowledge of the industry. I was interested in why he was leaving so soon; before I could catch up to him to ask why, he had left.

As it would happen, I ran into him several months later at the airport. Since we both faced flight delays he agreed to have lunch with me and talk about his experience. I had heard rumors that he had left immediately after his “mandated probation period” had concluded. Since other comments that I had heard did not match up with what my impression of the individual, I was curious to hear his side of the story.

He related his excitement at getting his “dream job” after what he described as a very tough but fair interview. He had done his research on the company and believed he would not only be a good fit, but would make a significant contribution to the bottom line.

Soon he was using words like “outsider”, “lack of communication”, limited access to key resources such as his boss! He mention more than once, “I couldn’t wait to get out of there!” It seems Onboarding, the process of helping new hires adjust to the performance and social aspects of the job, had failed this individual. Essentially the company had made a strategic hire and then left the individual to figure the rest out for himself. This was a strategic mistake on the part of the company.

I have read that half of all senior hires from outside the company fail within 18 months in a new position. The record for hourly workers is worse; half leave within the first 120 days according to SHRM.

Considering the cost of turnover it becomes important to support the new hire during those first months of navigating the company organization and culture. This applies to companies large and small regardless of industry. We in the O.D. (Organizational Development) world refer to this as organizational socialization. Once a new hire feels welcome within the organization and has a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of their job the faster they will be able to make a significant contribution.

Next time I will discuss the process of successful onboarding.


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VPI Strategies was awarded a community organizing grant from PhRMA to form a San Diego County affiliate of the California Chronic Care Coalition

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

San Diego County affiliate of the California Chronic Care CoalitionVPI Strategies was awarded a community organizing grant from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to form a San Diego County affiliate of the California Chronic Care Coalition comprised of voluntary health agencies representing patients living with specific chronic illnesses. An astounding 75% of our health care spending is on people with chronic conditions. The definition for a chronic illness is one lasting 3 months or more (U.S. National Center for Health Statistics).

The coalition, California Chronic Care Coalition in San Diego County, will provide a place for patient advocates to strategize and share information with “like” organizations around chronic illness public policy issues. “Reforming California’s health care system will require a paradigm shift from ‘crisis centered care’ to ‘prevention centered care.” -Liz Helms, California Chronic Care Coalition President & CEO. More than 20 organizations in San Diego County will be invited to participate.

Scott Suckow will serve as the convener of the coalition. Scott is a VPI Affiliated Partner and Vice President of Development and Government Relations with Mental Health Systems. He has a long history of involvement in the non-profit community, particularly around improving healthcare access and standards of care. Scott was also the appointee on three San Diego County Health and Human Services commissions and named one of San Diego Magazine’s “50 People to Watch”.

VPI is grateful to PhRMA, which represents innovative biopharmaceutical research and discovery companies. PhRMA is devoted to advancing public policies in the U.S. and around the world that support innovative medical research, yield progress for patients today and provide hope for the treatments and cures of tomorrow.

Established in 1999, VPI Strategies works in the for-profit, nonprofit and government sectors. VPI leverages strengths, provides intelligence and offers innovative solutions to complex issues. The organization is committed to our work in nonprofit sector and specifically to community organizing initiatives that better the lives of San Diegans. VPI is honored to part of California Chronic Care Coalition in San Diego County.

My Checklist For Competency Based Hiring

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

hiringGuest Post by: Jack Baxter

As a manager you are charged with building and maintaining a successful team. In order to do that you have to hire the right talent. The quality of your hires determines your team’s ability to sustain a competitive advantage.

In order to know what to ask a potential candidate you must know what type of job you are hiring for; in other words what does this job require in terms of primary duties, i.e. what skills and experience are required? It doesn’t stop there. You must determine if there is anything or something that would make the candidate unacceptable; what does a “good fit” look or feel like? What are your expectations of this new hire? Finally, what competencies are required in order for this person to succeed?

Your checklist will have the following or similar topics:

  • Primary Responsibilities
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Self-Management Style (Emotional IQ)
  • Competencies Required
  • Expectations (broken down by quarter)

Competency Based Hiring

Here is where you decide the type of competencies that will be required for that person to be successful in the job. The competencies that you assign to the job must align with the job description and support the expectations you require.

Competencies come from the responsibilities of the job. Yes, they can be somewhat subjective; however, it is important that the competency align with the requirements of the position.

For example, let’s say you are hiring for a sales position. Remember you are looking for evidence that the person you are talking to exhibits the behavior that is consistent with someone who understands the competency required. You might consider the following competencies as a prerequisite for this position.

Competency: Financial Analysis

The product may require the individual to understand and explain the cost to own versus the cost to maintain.


  • Makes logical presentation showing advantage of a product choice
  • Demonstrates they understand the cost effectiveness of the product choice
  • Abel to identify areas where the right product choice will make a positive financial impact on revenues

So the question you might ask to determine if this individual’s past behavior would indicate that this person would be a best performer.

“Can you give me an example in your previous position where you had to explain the financial advantages of a certain product choice and how did the potential customer respond to your analysis?”

Simple enough, right? Let’s try another one.

Competency: Client Relationships

The individual in this position must be able to establish, cultivate and manage client trust and brand loyalty over the life of the product.


  • Creates a partnership with the client so the individual (sales person) can anticipate future needs and solve current problems
  • Establishes the clients’ needs and expectations
  • Involves subordinate members of the staff of the company and the client to provide services proactively
  • Hold regular meetings with the client to gauge product performance against service level agreements

So the interview question would go something like this:

“Detail how you would establish and maintain a client relationship with a new customer that made a move from a competitor to our company.”

Early in my management career one of my mentors once told me; “Questions are the answer”. In other words questions in an interview must be structured to obtain the appropriate information. As an interviewer, you are only as good as the questions you ask.

There were times during an interview that I felt I was not getting all the information I needed. I was not clear in my question which led to a misunderstanding on the part of the candidate which made it necessary for me to ask the question a different way. Rewording a question with one of the following phrases can make a big difference in how the question is clarified.

  • What key elements…
  • Why is/was that important…
  • How did you do that…
  • What part did you play…

Take Detailed Notes

You will need to establish guidelines for scoring the interview. It is important that you ask the same questions from one interview to the next so that you will have established a baseline for each candidate. Your guidelines should consider the level at which the candidate performed and your estimation on how strong the candidate is. To improve your skill as an interviewer take detailed notes. There has been more than one occasion where I did not take enough notes and had to re-interview my top two candidates.


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