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Haskayne alumnus and former SU executive Eric Termuende talks new book and consulting

By Saima Asad, November 29 2016 —

Eric Termuende graduated from the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business in 2014. Shortly after graduating, he co-founded a management company called the DRYVER Group — formerly called Gen Y Inc. — gave a TED talk, was featured in a Forbes article and most recently, published a book titled Rethink Work: Finding and Keeping the Right Talent.

The Gauntlet spoke to Termuende about his new book, his consultancy work and his post-university career.

The Gauntlet: What led to writing your book?

Termuende: Through the work that we’ve been doing with DRYVER, formerly Gen Y Inc., we started to find that work is something that we have to do, but we don’t like to do. On Mondays, we dread getting up and dragging our feet to work. I think that we’re living in a day and age where we’ve got so much accessibility to information — there’s so many great stories out there —  that ultimately we can find work that doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s work. Through some of the engagements that we’ve had and through some of our clients on the consulting side, we’ve found just that. There are a lot of people that really love their jobs. If we can tell the right story and find and keep the right talent, then I truly think we can rethink what it means to work and remove the negative connotations associated with it.

G: What led you to start Gen Y Inc.?

T: Truthfully, I wasn’t a great student. My GPA was far lower than I would have liked it to have been.  As a result, while I was here at the U of C, I pursued a lot of extracurricular activities. I was part of the clubs in Haskayne, then part of the Students’ Union and then class ambassador for the university. I was involved in business case competitions and ultimately found that even though I had the ability to learn the skills that employers wanted to teach me, my GPA didn’t allow those opportunities to happen. So when I applied for the dream jobs that I had at the time I didn’t get them. I didn’t even get the interviews. I didn’t even get a call. So, I was left thinking, “what am I going to do after school?”

My cofounder at the time, Emerson Csorba from the University of Alberta, approached me after I had done a Red Bull trip with two of the SU executives here. The trip was pretty incredible. Long story short, we had to travel from England to Berlin using nothing but Red Bull as currency. We didn’t have cell phones, wallets, cash or credit cards, and we had to trade our way across the continent using only red bull as currency. So along with a few of the other initiatives I had going on, Emerson approached me with an idea and we decided to run with it. So instead of trying to maybe settle, we created our own opportunities and here we are as a result.

G: Why did you change the name from Gen Y Inc. to DRYVER Group and what other changes came alongside that?

T: With Gen Y Inc., what we were trying to do is help close the talent gap in the workplace. We’re seeing now that about 37 per cent of the Western world in terms of working population is this millennial generation. Generally speaking, organizations are having a difficult time attracting and retaining these millennials. Making sure that the tenure in these positions is longer than 18–24 months, which in some cases is the average. Recruiting and training costs are from $25,000 – $100,000 per person, depending on industry and sector. This is an absolutely extreme cost and so we called ourselves Gen Y Inc. because what we’re trying to do is make sure that we can try and close that talent, age and communication gap in the workplace, specifically with the millennial generation.

But the work that we were doing was actually much bigger than that. It was cultural optimization, it was leadership development, it was communication, it was the attraction and retention of talent of all ages. So while millennials are still a major focus, certainly it’s much bigger than that. So what we’re trying to do with DRYVER is drive cultural change, drive optimization in the work place, drive happier places to work. It’s just more representative of the work that we’re doing.

G: You mentioned this process of cultural optimization. How do you measure culture and what kind of factors do you look for?

T: Generally speaking, a universal best culture doesn’t exist. I was looking at the Fortune 100 “Top Places to Work in the United States” a couple months ago. Number one was Google and number four was Wagman’s — a grocery chain similar to Safeway. What we realized is a best culture at Google is far different than a best culture at a fruit market. So, to suggest that we’ve got a best culture doesn’t necessarily help in attracting and retaining talent, unless we know what it means to have a best culture.

With the diagnostic tool that we developed, we’re asking employees within organizations how they feel about different components within their organization when it comes to culture. Everything from diversity to sustainability to branding to remote work and flexibility to communication to collaboration to integration to engagement to grit and so on and so forth.

What we’re able to do is take these statements and actually put a road map in place. That’s where the kicker is, because people will say “how does your work differ from an engagement survey?” The truth is that more often than not, an engagement survey will be taken and it’ll sit on a shelf for 12 months and it’ll collect dust, and nothing happens from it. What we’re able to do is really drive where those opportunities are within an organization, put a roadmap in place, and really act on it, so that we can compare internally how to optimize a culture, instead of something that’s external that we can’t really compare.

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