As we’re finishing up 2018, we decided to gather a few HR leaders to discuss the broad range of HR initiatives they’re thinking about for 2019 and how these are aligned with their company goals. The panel was moderated by Katie Miller, Marketing Specialist at BizLibrary. Featured speakers included Cassie Whitlock (Director of HR at BambooHR), Allison Kiniry (Senior HR Business Partner at PayScale) and Valerie Gobeil (Manager of L&D from OfficeVibe).
You can watch the recorded panel here, or check out the key takeaways and notes below.
What major initiatives are you planning for 2019 and how do these align to your company objectives?
We’re very focused on the employee experience. We’re growing like crazy. As we continue to hire and ensure we meet company goals, we also want to ensure that employees have a very positive experience.
Onboarding: One area of employee experience we plan to focus on is onboarding; we plan to revamp it to make it a more meaningful experience.
Benefits: We will look at our benefits plan and make sure we have a great program related to education and open enrollment.
We also want to focus on creating an incredible employee experience that is powered by technology. One initiative for us at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 is to map the employee journey. What are the different moments during the employee journey? Are we missing opportunities to delight our employees? Are there moments that are forgotten or overlooked? This exercise will help us prioritize the different initiatives coming in the upcoming year.
Coaching and training managers: PayScale believes in promoting from within. We want to make sure we’re coaching and training newly promoted managers. In 2019, we plan to take a more structured approach to ensuring new managers understand their responsibilities and the expectations of the role, or do more “management 101” type of training.
What role do you think HR should play in the workforce planning process?
Empower managers: I think we can empower managers to assess their own needs within their own teams. We feel that managers know their own initiatives and their own teams. We can provide them with the right set of questions to help them plan and prioritize.
Also, I’d encourage managers to be more open about their needs to their team. There might be people already on the team who could take on a role that is different, or take on new responsibilities.
It’s important to make sure your process is tailored to your organization. We use a business partner model with talent acquisition (TA). Our TA function is asked to manage the entire candidate experience from first exposure to brand to the first six months of the employee journey. They partner closely with managers to understand the manager’s vision for the role and make sure the job is created in an impactful way. Recruiters build deep relationship with managers, so our TA managers aren’t afraid to push back on a manager when they feel like the manager’s vision is creating a constraint around a specific talent need or a soft skill.
What best practices can you implement for workforce planning processes?
Also, at the beginning of a new year, it’s important to take a look at your current workforce, their duties and responsibilities and see if they are align with your company’s goals and expectations.
Talk to managers about performance on their team, discuss their bench strengths and succession planning. Understand who on their team are high performers, what the manager’s plan is for these members from a career development perspective. And for low performers, what can be done to get them to be successful or transition them out of the role/company.
Take a look at overtime costs: Compare the cost of having people work overtime versus getting new headcount. Look at your expenses, and consider if it would be worthwhile hire new headcount to alleviate overtime expenses.
Take a look at your FLSA exemption statuses and make sure you’re compliant. It’s good to review this at the beginning of the year to make sure you have every employee in the proper designation.
Take a look at minimal wages (especially for employers in multiple states) — make sure these are budgeted appropriately.
Lastly, take a look to see if you need to increase your investment in management. Do you have enough managers? How many direct reports does each manager have? Would adding managers and making teams smaller help make teams more productive?
Make sure you have the tools to help everyone involved in your hiring process. Here at BambooHR, we have developed a culture constitution. The culture constitution is a document written in coordination with our talent acquisition manager and one of our executives. It outlines what a “cultural fit” means for our organization. It defines what it means to be a fit, what soft and hard skills we value and how we screen for “fit” in a way that does not introduce bias into the hiring process.
We also use score-carding during our interview process. We’ve established meaningful baseline questions for interviews that all candidates are asked, so we can equally evaluate them across the board.
Each manager develops their own interview questions, but we always screen for the same five soft skills; they all relate to a willingness and an ability to communicate well.
When you create the baseline questions, you’re able to assess an apple to an apple and an orange to an orange. It also creates the right opportunity you need for diversity in your organization.
We do situational interviews. But after the traditional interview, we also ask candidates to come in and go through a “work sample.”
We design a mini-project that asks the candidate to do a snippet of what they would do on the job. The candidates work with current employees on the work sample, and we try to involve different people in the company for these assignments. Afterwards, we ask our employees questions about the candidate: did you feel like this person listened to you? Did this person demonstrate empathy? How well is the candidate at facilitating the discussion? Did they clearly summarize the information?
Through our employees’ feedback, we’re able to see what elements of hard skills and soft skills were demonstrated by the candidate.
How can organizations communicate with employees effectively about pay and benefits?
The short answer is to train your managers. But to do that, it requires that you have clearly defined your approach to communication. How open do you want to be about pay information? Do the research and find the right answer for you.
When it comes to training managers, don’t sit them in a classroom and do a speech. It needs to be an experience — one that reflects how employees will feel in an actual pay conversation.
Benefits can be confusing to many employees and enrollment can be stressful. Last year, we designed a “progressive open enrollment” program. We renew off-calendar year. We had people enroll in September for new benefits that start in October. With this move we wanted to take away the pressure that comes with open enrollment. People are trying to make expensive decisions under a time crunch. We feel that making sure people have benefits information in more than just an open enrollment session is super important.
To make sure people understand the benefits we provide, we launched a new benefits wiki. It’s got highlights and a depth of information. We share this content with our employees and with the at-home adult benefits users in their household. We also announced our new benefits way in advance.
Additionally, we identified specific benefits where segments of employees need more help with, and we held information sessions to help them understand these particular benefits. For example, benefits around maternity, childbirth and our 401K plan.
Finally, during the open enrollment period, the entire HR/ People Ops team made ourselves available and held open office hours for employees to stop by to ask us their personal and relevant questions.
The dollars matter, but it’s not always about the dollars. It’s important to reiterate to employees the value of the total compensation package.
Consistency is key — management need the right tools to be able to have “comp-versations.” We do a lot of training for managers. In these trainings we outline our compensation philosophy, our comp process and give managers opportunities to practice addressing realistic conversations from employees about pay.
Transparency isn’t just about sharing pay information. We understand there are different levels of transparency, it’s important to figure out what the right level is for you.
What new technology are you evaluating in 2019. Why?
We’re evaluating a leave of absence management/tracking system. PayScale has grown a lot and leave of absence claims have almost doubled from 2017 to 2018. At this point, it’s a manual process to track.
We’re also looking at commission systems. We have a large inside sales system. Right now, the commission tracking is done very manually on Excel spreadsheets.
We already do quite a bit of in-person training. But we found that the ability to learn and grow has a big impact on employee engagement and motivation. We’d like to consider tools that encourage our employees to exchange or share knowledge, tools that nudge you and invite you to share things you have learned.