Webinar Recording – What Strategic HR Really Means


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In the past, many organizations viewed HR as an afterthought, a chore, or even a hurdle to work around. Fortunately, times are changing. According to a 2016 study, 70 percent of HR leaders have increased the amount of time they spend on business projects in a leadership capacity. As an HR professional today, you have more opportunities than ever before to work as a strategic partner in your organization—if you know how to seize those opportunities.

In this ebook, we’ve compiled insights from a panel of HR leaders on what it means to be strategic in HR and how to achieve it in your own organization. In this ebook, you will learn:

  • Which business elements are most important for HR to focus on
  • How to become an expert on the business side of your organization
  • The best strategies for building an effective employer brand and total rewards package
  • How to get buy-in for new initiatives and demonstrate the value of HR
  • The difference between strategic and traditional HR

You don’t have to wait for your organization’s leaders to ask HR for help. Instead, you can step up to the challenge and demonstrate HR’s strategic value today.

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Jingcong: Welcome everyone. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to join us for our panel, “What Strategic HR Means and How to Achieve It.” My name is Jingcong. I am on the content marketing team at PayScale, and I will be moderating today’s discussion. Before I introduce our agenda and our speakers, I just like to go over a few housekeeping items. Everyone who attends the webinar today is eligible to receive an education credit from Shure. We will email you the code to claim your credit after the Webinar. Look out for that in the next day in your email.

We will also be recording this Webinar, so you will receive the slides via email as well. This is a webcast webinar today, so please tune in through your computer audio. If you can’t hear us, check your computer speaker. Again, we do not have a dial-in number for you to call in. And as we hear from the panelists today, whenever you have questions, please feel free to type them into the console. We will try to get through as many of your questions as we can at the end of the discussion.

So today, we’ve invited a panel of three experts, NHR from three companies, and they’re excited to talk about what it means to be strategic in HR, and how you can achieve it in your own organization. They will be sharing their perspective on which business elements are most important for HR professionals to focus on, give you tips on how you can become an expert on the business side of your organization, and strategies for things like how to build an effective employer brand and how does the work package.

Let me introduce our speakers at this point. First up, we have Cassie Whitlock. Cassie is the director of HR at BambooHR. She’s been with the company since 2012. Cassie has got about 20 years of HR experience in helping companies, teams, individuals, build systems, processes, and communication patterns that help organizations achieve their goals. Hi, Cassie. Welcome.

Cassie: Thank you. It’s exciting to be here. I have a great job over here at BambooHR. And right now, I’m really focused heavily on some of our leadership development initiatives. Outside of that, I also lead our employer brand council. And then we’re having a really fun time looking at benefits ensuring we’re getting a positive ROI out of that element of total compensation.

Jingcong: That’s great. Thank you. Next up, we have Stacey Klimek. Stacey is a VP of people at PayScale. Stacey has been with PayScale for 9 years at this point and has over 25 years of experience, you know, executive, financial, and admin experience into the fast-growing enterprises. She was most recently the CFO of Redhawk Group prior to PayScale. Hi, Stacey. Welcome.

Stacey: Hi. Thank you for having me today. I’m really excited to be here and talk about strategic HR at PayScale. I started my career in the finance group. My background is in finance, financial controller. But about four years ago, when we knew we were going to grow the company rapidly, we believed that we needed to invest in people, and we built out a people department, which we’ve got 16 people now who we focus on HR, talent acquisition, learning and development, and employee experience. And I’d love to share with you that we were just recently voted the number one company to work for in Washington State by Seattle Business Magazine, which is really exciting. So focusing on people is what we do here every day.

Jingcong: Thank you. Next up we have Adrienn Hopkins. Adrienn is the head of people operations at Prezi. She is responsible for building an inspiring environment for the company’s employees in their multiple locations. And she’s also responsible for coaching managers and employees to be better communicators, and making sure that their time at the company feels like it’s much more than just a job. Welcome, Adrienn. How are you?

Adrienn: I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to talk about the strategic elements of HR today. At Prezi, we are a global company with 200 European offices, so as a constant and one of the biggest challenges, whatever what we talk about, benefits, the whole of compensation, performance management of learning development initiatives. It’s really taking it global and scaling that in a way where we have to think about the business goals regardless of location, and also like our programs and how the kind of different demographics across the globe. So that’s pretty much where we’re focusing this year, and kind of being very conscious of ensuring that, you know, we can help the organization with the people strategy on this level.

Jingcong: Great. Thanks for that. So, you know, you guys just all talked about some of the how, you know, your initiative. So let’s start with… So, you know, HR has limited resources, right, especially in fast-growing companies as you’re expanding across multiple locations. So you have to choose your priorities very carefully. So why don’t you guys talk about your perspective on what do you believe are the key elements of an organization that HR can and should focus on? Stacey, do you wanna give us your thoughts first?

Stacey: Sure. I’d be happy to. The mission of our people team is to build and support high performing teams. So one of the elements that we’ve chosen to focus on is our people, and our retention strategy as well as our talent acquisition strategy. And really making sure that our employees understand our story. They understand what our values are. They understand the mission of the company, and that we do that across the company from when we are advertising looking for new talent. When we’re onboarding employees. We have a very consistent narrative at company meetings. Manager training. So it’s really ensuring that you’re providing your HR team with a narrative that they can help perpetuate and communicate that consistent across the company.

Cassie: I can jump in here. This is Cassie. I agree that whenever you’re in human resources, you should be focusing on the human element. And the way I like to think about it is, classically, you’re the only group or person in your company whose job is solely to focus on that. While you’ll have managers who are focusing on the people that report to them, they’re also tasked with focusing on the function of that job and getting that taken care of whether it’s hitting sales goals or achieving the product development. And HR is really to focus on the growth of the organization by focusing on the people within the organization.

Jingcong: So that’s great. Do you guys wanna talk about within, you know, the people element. Stacey, you’ve mentioned talent acquisition and employee retention. What are some of the challenges that you guys are dealing with there? And then we’ll dive into those specific things a little bit later.

Stacey: Well, I would say you have to be true to your company as far as understanding what type of talent you’re hiring and who your competitors are. And we’re located in Seattle, and it’s a very competitive talent pool. And what we do is we focus on what we could offer to an employee that, obviously, compensation, but what is the bigger picture? For example, we go head to head with really large, large companies. We’ve got Amazon and Microsoft and Google in our backyard. And obviously, we’re a very different company. We have 450 employees.

We are focused on employees who are looking more for work-life balance. Who have an opportunity to really have a seat at the table, and have their voice heard. Our employees can walk into our CEO’s office every day, or they can slack him or resume him. And, really, they can contribute to the company in a different way than if they worked at maybe a 5,000-person company. So our focus is really to make sure that we can communicate our story with the employees, and that we find a fit where the employee, like, this is the right place for them.

What we’re looking for talent. Obviously, there are a lot of really smart, talented people out there. It’s gotta be a mutual fit that they’re excited about the work that we’re doing, and that it’s a place that they can learn and grow. We also provide a lot of learning and development opportunities. We believe in leadership from everywhere at PayScale. And so we have some really cool leadership development programs. We do some one-off learning series where every person has an opportunity to learn well regardless of what position they’re in company.

Adrienn: Yeah, let me connect to this. At Prezi, we think about it from a very similar perspective like you Stacey, having different locations, especially in different continents exposes us to different talent pool challenges when it comes to hiring. So you definitely have to take that into consideration of what kind of talent is available, and what can be the speed of it. And how you can capture that audience, and make your company and company brand, like, you know, I guess like attractive. While at the same time, on retaining your current employee workforce is really what we have been focusing on, and we found it very, very good learning curve in the past couple of years of really focusing on understanding that depending on the demographic. Depending on the location. What motivates our current employees exactly?

Maybe understanding what is still the compensation is definitely not one of those, but like it’s really is that learning development opportunities. Is this also something where they have the need as the company is changing and growing? And prior to that changing is just like the transparency. What are the key focuses? This really helps capture and retain the engagement of your current workforce. Studying that and learning from that from observation and survey or any kind of thing is one of the biggest focus.

Jingcong: Right, right. Yeah, absolutely. So, sometimes there are, you know, it comes back to HR professionals, must really have a good understanding of what the business has achieved, right? What are the inner workings and the bigger concern of their organization in order for you to figure out the best strategy for you guys to attract and retain talent, right? So I’d love to hear your thoughts on how do you become an expert on these elements in your whole organization. Cassie, do you wanna take this one?

Cassie: You Bet. The first actually I love the way that this question is worded because to me it’s not just about being an expert, but it’s being an expert within the context of your company. So we’re talking about being aligned with your company goals, knowing, and helping to drive the outcomes that the mission, vision, and values of your company. What it is that they’re trying to do and achieve together. So first of all, don’t just be an expert, but be an expert within your company.

And how do you become that expert? I think you need to make sure that you looked at the various HR work that has to get done that is necessary but doesn’t really drive any of the real business pieces. So get good at that. Make sure that it’s running effectively and efficiently, and you’ve optimized it for time. Then you wanna be sure you’re spending time with your company, with your leaders in their departments, working with them on the problems that they’re looking to solve.

And so what are the needs within your organization to understand your market that you’re competing in, right? What does your business do? What does that market look like? And how can you then make sure that the work that you provide is embedded into the flow of the work your people are already doing, rather than this extra add on things to do.

So for example, employee experience is really important for our organization, which makes my job really nice to do. But if we have a company challenge, so every year we have an annual theme. And in this year, the theme is, “Be Exceptional.” And so every quarter we have a new topic that we’re focusing on that people express their vision of what it means to be exceptional. And when we say, “Please join us in having this company goal of being exceptional, and decide what your personal goal is. Decide what your department’s goal is.”

It was interesting because as we launched that program, a lot of the managers weren’t really responding. And to them, they felt like it was just an extra thing to do, and it was a great idea. But they still had their day jobs to perform. And so the problem was really stepping back and making sure that they understood this was intended to be embedded within the natural work that they do.

And so I ended up meeting with some different leadership groups talking to them about, “What are your current priorities? Where do you focus on, and what’s gonna stop you from achieving your goal?” And that, in essence, should be your the exceptional goal that you’re working on. And once they caught that vision, all of a sudden, they realized I was just giving them a way to focus on doing their work well, while we’re achieving the broader company goal of employee experience.

Jingcong: That’s a really… That’s great.

Stacey: I would say, if I can add on to that, as an HR professional and leading an HR team, it’s really important to focus on building relationships across the organization. I believe it was Cassie earlier who talked about our focus on the human element. And if what you can do, and your team can do, is position yourself as trusted advisors. Position yourself as a strategist.

You have to believe that narrative internally. So your team…start with your team and feeling confident that you can actually reach out to an executive that you might not know, or a department head, and schedule coffee. Be curious. Ask them what obstacles and challenges they’re working on. What can you do to support them? What can your team do to help facilitate conversations between different departments? But really owning that the HR team. You are a strategist. You are a trusted advisor.

An example I can give is we rolled out a new benefit this year. A lot of people initially thought it was pretty crazy, but it was called Independence Week. And we chose, at PayScale, to close our offices for the week of 4th of July. And we have 450 people in four different offices, four different states, and then where most employees that work in 23 states. And so we don’t have anybody globally beyond country who could back up for us. So our plan was to really have a collective week of rest.

And what’s important, and the reason I shared this, is in order for us to actually try to experiment with the project, we had to understand the inner workings of the business, and how that would affect our customers. And remove those obstacles, and have an idea of what we could do for that week prior to [inaudible 00:18:47] this plan. And we actually had another task force with members from teams across the company. And we were able to close the company for a week with a very small escalation team. And it was highly successful.

We had a collective week of rest for our employees where they didn’t come back to thousands of email. They could rejuvenate by spending time with friends and family and doing activities that were important to them. But the most important thing that we [inaudible 00:19:20] out of this is this is an idea that was promoted by HR. We sold it to our exec team, but then we sold it across the company because we understood the inner workings of the business. And we knew that if we just planned, whether that’s planning the communication because we can make this experiment work.

Jingcong: Right. And even the fact that that you guys chose Independence Week as opposed to some other time of the year, right? Like, Christmas time shows that it’s based on the rhythm and the cadence of the business event when people can take time off versus customer needs, right?

Stacey: Yeah. Obviously, our customers are always a top priority for us. So we’re looking at the business strategically. We’re looking at how we can make sure that we’re providing the best customer service for our customers, obviously, but then also I’m doing some nice thing for our employees.

Adrienn: And let me connect to Cassie and Stacey here. I think one of the most important thing here is next to knowing the business, but really building that trust. One thing that we have been doing here and spending a lot of time, I personally spent some time actually just sitting down closer to different teams, and listening, and observing, and kind of sending time, of course, a lot with our executive team and their managers to understand their current challenges and pain points, and how can we help them resolve them from a people strategy perspective proactively as much as possible.

But really what I found that is really helpful is just understanding the dynamics and those pain points on not just on the executive level, but on the operational level as well. It has been extremely helpful for us to really be able to advise the higher level of leadership on a strategic level because we have a better view and understanding of that. And at the same time, we gained another perspective of that that employees feel like they can connect with us, and can be more honest and transparent towards us when they have a problem as well.

Of course, you can’t solve everybody’s problem at the same time. But we felt like that this effort of just like spending time with the teams has been enabling us to be truly a liaison at the same time, letting us to kind of look through the organization like a more detailed way, and help us understand the pain points better. So I encourage everybody to, if you have the resources and the time, to take some time and spend it with individual teams as well.

Jingcong: And do you guys do this, like, obviously, you know, when new people are onboard, and, for example, into HR? But do you guys do this on a regular cadence?

Adrienn: Yes. I mean, of course, this is not something that is scheduled in our weekly schedules or anything like that. But anytime we have the opportunity to even just sit with them, or join them on team meetings and just experience what are the dynamics on, like, below, like, director levels as well. It’s extremely helpful. And, of course, during onboarding and interacting with the different groups. And during the hiring process as well, it has been very helpful.

Jingcong: Great. Okay. Our next topic. We already started talking about this a little bit earlier, right? And that is your employer brand. We all know that that is key to attracting and hiring top talent, and HR professionals [inaudible 00:23:29] have a big influence in this area. So what advice and strategies do you have for HR professionals hoping to establish or improve their organization’s employer brand? Cassie, do you wanna give us some of your thoughts?

Cassie: You Bet. So I’m gonna speak to this from a perspective assuming you don’t have a program in place. But I think all of these principles apply either to a new potential program or an expanded one. First of all, do you have a compelling “why” to your organization? Think about your mission, vision, and values, and how you share that bigger why behind your organization. That has to be the keystone in an employer brand strategy.

The next thing you should do is think internal first. Oftentimes, with employer brand, we wanna just get a message outside of our… the four walls of our office. But if you start internally and then expand from there externally, it’s gonna be more effective. Because at the end of the day, it has to be authentic. What you see in the workplace has to translate outside, rather than share a message externally and hope that the experience internal is similar. Authenticity is what’s gonna rule the day there.

And make sure you’re not just looking at it when thinking about hiring. This is about the employee experience from beginning to end. So thinking about what is unique about you, not just necessarily what’s flashy, but making sure you’re going back to your original [inaudible 00:25:09]. And then make sure you have a social media program. This is about the difference between being reactive versus proactive. It’s not about just responding to comments or reviews on Glassdoor, but it’s about proactively sharing your story and what makes you unique as an employer.

You wanna make sure that you’re consistent and really dedicated to the work that it takes. And I like to ask this question. If you asked your employees to run your employer brand program for you, would they actually believe in it? I think you need to constantly be checking yourself against the message that you’re trying to share externally. So those are the things I would think about.

Jingcong: Stacey, are there other things that you would add that people should think about?

Stacey: So what Cassie said, especially focusing on the internal employee brand and the authenticity, you know, word of mouth, it really is the most important thing. And our employees, you know, they talk about work all the time. They tell their friends about where they work. And basically, if you build that internal brand and you focus on retaining the talent that you’ve worked so hard to hire, that does translate over into the external brand as well.

Adrienn: I would like to add to this. Cassie said something really important that I’m not just emphasizing because we at Prezi hold ourselves as this storytelling tool, but really one of the key elements here is really finding the best way to praise and tell the story of your company, of the brand, with taking into consideration that there is a very good definition of really, like, what is the kind of experience you want to offer to your employees? And who do you wanna hire? So those are very important.

And focusing on the uniqueness, as Stacey mentioned, it’s kind of figuring out what are the little things and creative ways you can build on that. Is it maybe you’re having a harder time like, in Silicon Valley, I think most companies hiring engineering talent. How you can capture that attachment. Maybe it’s like I’m showing good hero stories. Showing success stories. Building on blogs that your champions within your organization actually being interviewed. We can apply multiple tools like this, and they have been very successful so far in all locations.

And one more thing because Cassie has produced her answer of the kind of from what happens when you don’t have an employment brand. But what about if you have an employer brand already, but it has maybe outdated? You obviously would like to keep up with it and making sure that you’re very conscious of how the company and the direction of the company has changed over time. So just be conscious of the change, and keeping that from an employee brand standpoint, be the change that your organization is going through because it has a big effect. And also answering the question for yourself. It’s like who do you wanna hire, and what kind of experience you would like to offer.

Jingcong: Yeah, yeah. I love that. So speaking of, you know, for an organization to be able to differentiate themselves and what they can offer to you, current employees and potential employees. Right? Let’s get a little bit more concrete and tangible here. Right? So I think we all can acknowledge that, you know, focusing on the tangible reward, the compensation, the benefits, and approach is a way for companies to differentiate themselves. So can you guys speak to how can you create a compelling total rewards package that’s relevant and aligned with your business goals?

Stacey: Well, I’ll jump in on this one. It’s really important that you develop a compensation philosophy and strategy. So if you haven’t done that, that’s a really great place to start. Because obviously, based on the size of your company, your comp philosophy may be different if you’re [inaudible00:30:14] at 50 people than it is if you’ve grown and you’re at 500,000, or one of the larger companies. It’s really important to decide how you want to talk about your total reward within your company. Obviously, at PayScale, we believe in transparent conversations with our candidates, as well as our employees.

And we use our own market data to provide guidance on salary ranges, and where people should fit in those rages. I think it’s really important that you make a decision on how you’re gonna pay for performance, and how you’re gonna factor in various benefits. For your employees, it sounds like others who have global companies can speak to this. But having employees in 23 states, when we’re evaluating benefits, our transit benefit for employees in Seattle is not as attractive to our employees who work remotely across the U.S., or work in states where parking is free.

So I would just say make sure that you use a lens when you’re looking at your comp philosophy, and you’re looking at your benefits, a lens on how it’s gonna impact every employee. And be really transparent with how you’ve made the decisions. When we roll out our benefits every year, we share with our employees what we’ve looked at. What have we considered? What choices we made and why?

And, you know, some people might be disappointed because we don’t have a transit benefit. But they understand what the trade-off was because we do have a budget, and we work within that budget. So I just think it’s really important to communicate to your employees the “why” on how you’ve established your pay philosophy and your benefit package.

Cassie: This is Cassie. I’ll jump in here. When I think about total rewards package, actually like to bump it up another level and kind of go to the 10,000-foot level and think employer value proposition. And when I think about that, I look at the dilemma that we face with the so-called Iron Triangle, right? I’ve got time, quality, and cost, and I can never have all three.

For example, I need something to be really high quality, but I don’t have the time to spend working on it. It probably means I’m gonna have to pay someone else to do it for me. And so I look at that as it relates to total compensation, and compensation is an element. Benefits is an element. And then I use culture as that broader employee experience. And under compensation, just like Adrienn talked about, do you have a model? Do you we read, match, or lag that competitive labor market in your work area and why?

And it’s okay. Just know your why because then you can use benefits and culture/employee experience to offset that stand that you’ve taken in your compensation model. And then when you’re looking at your benefits package, I’m really a believer in mission, vision, values. And so just like a company has that to help drive and stay focused on the goals and outcomes, do you have that for your benefits programs?

So we have a mission statement for benefits at BambooHR, and we’ve defined the opportunity through five wellbeing pillars that help guide what we look at for benefits and why. Again, ensuring that it’s a meaningful element of our employer value proposition. And then lastly, we really look at the culture as does it bring value to the employee? Is there an experience that enhances their work life? Does it create value in their personal life? So we’re really mindful of all three of those elements, and how we can best optimize them, given our compensation or total rewards model.

Adrienn: Cassie, I mentioned this. We constantly have to get to one of our biggest challenge from really from internal rewards package standpoint to having different locations, some very different markets, and kind of catering the whole organization. It’s impossible to do it with one approach. So for us, something that exact thing that we have to be flexible, and whenever we talk about compensation or benefits, that kind of figuring out what is locally the best way to cater the current and the future candidates as well, has been a key initiative.

And yes, you would like to try to keep it very equal as much as possible, yet at the same time, and this is where I love, Cassie, what you said, really making sure that all of that at the end of day really aligns with the company values is we’re trying to do over here. And let me make an example here. In Europe, for example, the parental leave program works in a very different way than in the U.S. and healthcare as well.

So there you have a government-supported program, and employees can be taking leave for a longer period of time, versus in the United States, we are all aware of the challenges that companies are facing when it comes to parental leave. So one of the focus was in 2016 for us, from a benefits perspective, is how we can ensure that we can align with one of our values, which is we can build best care perspectives into our benefit package in the U.S. as well when it comes to parents leave. And that’s how we established a parental leave program for our U.S. employees as well. So kind of just like the ability of being flexible, yet at the same time, keeping it aligned to company values is super important.

Stacey: I’d also like to add, don’t be afraid to be creative. And if your organization values experimentation, like we do, let your employees get involved. Not everything has to be so problematic. We listen to our employees all the time. Just this past year, one of our account executives sent in a quick business case on why he thought we should have a meditation room, and how much it would cost, which was not a lot.

And we said, “Great. Go for it.” And he sent it up, and now, our employees have the use of this meditation room, which they love. And it aligns with our leadership from everywhere. We also use a survey called Office Vibe, an employee engagement survey, and we found that our wellbeing scores weren’t as high as we would like them to be, and people wanted to work out here.

So we pulled together a small gym in our basement. We didn’t spend a lot of money. It’s not high-end, but our employees love it, and now they have a place that they can work out onsite and it’s important to them. So I would just say as a strategy for your HR group, if you can get your exec team to allow you to experiment and listen to your employees, you’d be surprised at some of the value you can create for your company.

Cassie: So, Stacey, I’ve got a question for you. What do you recommend, if let’s say you open it up and you let an employee-driven idea initiative go, what if the gym hadn’t worked out? What do you do to kind of pull that benefit back, or unwind it and not have it be a negative experience?

Stacey: That’s a great question because we all know it’s one reason we don’t do give free soda at PayScale. Because I’ve always said once you do free soda, you can never take it back because it is really difficult to unwind. One of our core values is we value experimentation, and you’ll hear my team uses that a lot. We’ll try things for 90 days, and we’ll say it’s an experiment, and we’re gonna evaluate. And then we’re really transparent with the result of why we’re going to continue doing something or not doing something.

If you go back to our independence week, we’re still measuring the results from that, and we haven’t committed to whether we’ll do that next year or not because it was an experiment. So for the gym, interestingly enough, we had a lot of employees who had set a makeshift gym, and it was actually… I personally didn’t feel it was the most unsafe environments [inaudible 00:40:20] to provide a safe environment for them to work out. But I find that just being transparent, and letting our employees know we’re going to try something, and then being able to back up and share the results of why we’re gonna continue to do something or not do something that’s been successful.

Adrienn: I actually would like to challenge Cassie and Stacey for a very good question is that, from a communication perspective when it comes to total reward package, how did you guys find the best way to communicate about what is the philosophy or what are the benefits continuously to current employees? Yeah, because you bring in a new gym, it’s very exciting, and people value them. And then it fades over time.

They get used to it just like they get used to having free soda or having the five flavor of [inaudible 00:41:20] or whatever. But, like, after a certain time, they feed and they become the normal. They become something that they get used to. And I’m just wondering if you guys have any good tips for the audience of how to keep refreshing the mind, what else is out there, and what are the values really that you offer?

Cassie: That’s the dilemma we all face, right? So one of the things that we try to do, and I don’t know that you ever finally arrived, but it’s a constant journey that you’re working on. We try to share our five wellbeing pillars across the board. We focus really hard in onboarding and new hires, but then consistently throughout the year and not just in open enrollment. We also show them here how we value things that we know our employees care about. Here are the things we measure that the employer as a company cares about.

And we also look at the administration of whatever the benefit or the program is. So we’re trying to teach them how to help evaluate opportunities. We consistently get feedback here at BambooHR, “Why don’t you put plastic forks and spoons in the break room for us.” And our co-founders have always been against that, but they had never really come forward and clearly given a why. And so they came forward with two things in it. I thought it resonated really well with employees. They said, like, “Could we do that?” For sure. But number one, we feel like it’s wasteful. We would rather instill a practice of having your own reusable utensils in the office place, and we provide things to help wash and clean and all that.

So number one, environmentally friendly, sustainable. But two, they said, “Well, would you rather have a fork and a spoon, or would you rather have an extra day off from work?” And when you start to compare those options, all of a sudden, it’s not just give me this one thing in isolation compared to all other options, but it’s evaluate what you’re really asking for. And is it the kind of benefit that you really wanna invest our benefit dollars into? Or is there a more meaningful opportunity that benefits all the employees?

Because the forks and spoons is nice, but none of our at-home team members get to use those. So it’s a benefit that’s only supporting a portion of our employee base. So we’re trying to teach the principles that we use in our benefit selection so that their ideas are more closely aligned and would be more easily adopted and approved.

Stacey: I love that, Cassie, and I’m struggling with my team here because we’re exactly the opposite where we’ve got folks who they want us to go to get rid of our biodegradable plastic forks and spoons. But we don’t have enough people to clean up after everyone. So you and I should talk. We had actually the opposite conversation. And all those things you’re doing.

One other thing I can add that we’ve done because employees are really quick to give us great ideas because everyone has a great idea as far as something we should be doing, or something an employer is doing down the street. But we started developing an internal task force, and why all our people team we tend to quarterback most of our events or different types of initiative. We’ve tried to broaden the focus where we’ll get an exec sponsor, an HR people team sponsor, and then we get employees across the board to actually sit on teams to help evaluate different benefits or initiatives.

And we’ve found that by doing that, there’s a few things that have fallen off the table where there has been different benefits or programs that we’ve had, over the years, that we just haven’t had the benefits of support. And when we’ve actually asked for help, no one raised their hand. So we’ve just chosen not to do it anymore to where we’ve, you know, our annual kickoff, we had a taskforce, cross functionally across the company, that they actually own and manage most of our company kickoff. So if that’s a nice refresh we find to get things out and having ownership from everyone across the company.

Adrienn: What we found really helpful, and I’m just going to add an answer to my own question of what we have tried in addition to all of those things that you have mentioned, is one thing that we have found very helpful to find kind of your champions within the organization and with different groups. So if somebody has a very good experience with one of the benefits that kind of you feel like the people are not appreciating anymore because it’s faded, then we ask them to share their experience with.

And let me make an example. We offer a fellowship program between locations for learning and development purposes. And it’s a treat for our people. It’s a great reward. At the same time is just something that they get used to it. And by sharing the stories of what they have learned and taking back the knowledge and sharing why was that adding to their career progression, or the broadening their perspective, like, really brought it back to shine. And we experienced in metrics, like, a sign up for these fellowship programs or applications in the following month. So you can kind of find champions within your organization and continuously try to promote these benefits.

Jingcong: I love that. That’s really great. And that leads really nicely into our next topic, actually. You already mentioned this, Adrienn, that when you find champion employees who are really loving the benefit and talking about it, that’s a great way for HR professionals to demonstrate the value of what they’ve done to the whole organization. So I love to hear more of what can HR professionals do to better demonstrate the value they bring to the organization? Cassie, do you wanna take this one first?

Cassie: You Bet. I would say just do it. Do the work. Make sure, again, that you’re really partnered with your management teams, with your departments, and that you’re focused on their priorities. If you’re ever feeling like your work isn’t making a difference, I find that when I bump up against that feeling or experience and I stepped back and look at what’s going on, that I’ve kind of siloed my thinking, I’ve siloed my process, and it’s kind of this on the side built on add on product within the organization, rather than really being aligned to actually getting the work of the business done. The other thing I try to do is be prepared. And by be prepared, I mean bringing solutions, not just problems. For example, right now, we’re actually developing in writing, as part of our employer brand, our social media strategy.

And so we really love to interact on Glassdoor. It’s a great way for us to help share our employer value proposition. To help share our employer brand. And we’ve kind of just taken it casually, and we’ve recognized that this is really important and critical. We’ve analyzed the data, and we have seen that 94% of the people we hire, first went to Glassdoor before applying to our organization. When I look at my sourcing reports inside our ATS, it’s my highest converting, clicked through the job ad, and applied for the job ads.

So we recognized with some data that we needed to really be more focused on this opportunity within our employer brand. But what we were doing is we needed to really get in there and not just… So we outlined here’s what we wanna accomplish. We said, “Here are the ways that we’re going to accomplish it.” And one of the pain points we have is our leaders care so much about the work that they’re doing. About the people they work with that if we ever get a less than glowing review in Glassdoor, it kind of hurts. You know, there’s some tears shed.

And so we were discussing how can we help people not just focus on the review and what’s being said there, but how can we make sure that we’re really focused on the employee experience internally. And so we talked about don’t just come and comment about here is the review. Here’s the response. Here’s how we’re addressing it. But really say, “Okay, here were the issues that were brought up in the review. And as you know, these are already the priorities and how we’re focused on these very topics.”

And it was fun to have that conversation and watch as it turned from a discussion of, “Oh, are we gonna make managers get distracted by involving them more in our Glassdoor employer brand program? Or can we actually turn it into a positive where it helps them stay focused on the things they already decided were important, and had committed their leadership resources to.” So that’s what I mean by being prepared and being solution driven, rather than just bringing forward problems, and then building a program around it.

Stacey: I agree. This is Stacey. I agree with Cassie. I will also say, you know, have a strong point of view. You and your team are working closely with the employees every single day? And to come to the point, initially, your goal, and you work with humans every single day. So have a point of view and don’t be afraid to share it. And sharing your story. The why behind the data. It’s really important that you’ve got metrics, and you’ve got data to drive decisions.

But I had a board member who every time he saw me, he wanted to talk about our attrition numbers and turnovers. And personally, the attrition metrics, the numbers meant nothing to me. What I could share is who was leaving? Why were they leaving? Was it good attrition? Was it bad attrition? What problems should we be solving, or what should we be looking at to make sure we’re retaining the right talent? Were we not hiring the right talent?

There’s a lot of questions and opportunities for problems to solve that are in the numbers. And that to me is what’s interesting. So have the data, but also know that the stories. And be willing to share how that data is determined. And also I would say be curious, and be vulnerable and ask questions. Your best team and your managers, they want to problem solve. At least I’m assuming they do. Ours do here at PayScale. And if I have questions, I learn a lot that way, and then I’m able to share my point of view or team’s point of view. Share our narratives. And really then your managers and your executive team become an extension of your people team.

Jingcong: Okay. Since we have a few minutes left, I wanna get your quick thoughts. What knowledge, skills, and capabilities will HR leaders need in the next five years? Adrienn, do you want to chime in here?

Adrienn: Sure. I think we have adopted quite a lot, close to an hour, about the importance of understanding the business. That’s really the basic of being able to be a strategic partner, rather than just a technical function within the organization. So I think number one is making sure that you do understand the business. The goals. The direction. You understand how your organization is built up. You understand even the products and what are the pain points that the company… or the challenges that maybe the company is facing. So kind of understanding the business would be, like, one thing.

The second part is as we all, you know, witnessed and worked towards, making sure that employee and manager relationships are transforming, and gaining the new experience, and the new meaning. Really understanding like what motivation really is and kind of the thoughts behind that. The thought process. And understanding the system and the process. How you can gain experience with that. And I guess, like, the third one that is really important, building on the previous question, is that’s what we hear every day, data, data, data, metrics, analytics, capabilities.

So that’s one thing that will serve, I think, all HR professionals on every level really, really well if you’re able to not only have basic skills. But it’s also just the skillset of processing it, and being able to communicate, and present about it, and make proactive decisions instead of just being reactive. So those are kind of the three bigger areas that I feel like I see that HR leaders will need them, currently, they need.

Cassie: To build on what Adrienn said, I think data is the core. And I think the HR opportunity lies in translating data into a beautiful communication, stories, employee experiences, everything designed to make, again, the people aspect of your business be a meaningful asset. Be something that is a differentiator in your market, so that you are more competitive. So having data as your base and then communication, turning that data into something meaningful within your organization. That’s what I would look at in the next five years.

Stacey: And then lastly, I would just add, if you’re not already doing this in the next five years, I think it’s really important. Your CFO should be your best friend. Partner with your CFO. Ask questions. Learn the business. Understand the financial model. Partner in budgeting. Have a point of view when it comes to compensation and what the market’s doing. Be vulnerable. If business is not your background, make it be. Learn it and partner with your CFO and your finance team.

Jingcong: All right. Thank you so much. That was great. Let’s get to a few questions. There’s actually quite a few. Let’s talk about learning and development. “With, you know, many hundreds of employees, how you give an opportunity to each employee to learn and grow?” Does anybody want to take this?

Cassie: This is Cassie. I’ll jump in. I think no matter what size your organization is, you really have to rely on the skill set of your frontline managers. Are they good at identifying strengths? Are they good at identifying weaknesses, and then aligning those to the actual workflow and doing some job sculpting? So on my team, every week in one-on-ones, we have a focus of professional development. And there are two aspects we look at.

Number one, we work on developing deep technical skills, and then we also work on broadening your skill range. So for each team member, we’ve identified an opportunity for deep technical skills in their main core ownership, area and then ways that they can better support the rest of the team by broadening their shoulders. That’s the way that I tried to do it in my management style, and it can be different for everybody. But I think you have to rely on your frontline managers.

Adrienn: I would like to give a huge blast on this for Cassie because that’s the employee’s number one connection within the company. Their managers. And I think it’s also adding to that. It’s very important that they understand also how your employees are learning. Like, what is the methodology and how they prefer learning? You know, launching a learning development initiative that, on the medium or on the way and the channel, that just if it doesn’t resonate with how people learn, your organization will not be successful. So maybe understanding that, and the patterns, and the trends within your organization is a good starting point as well.

Jingcong: Okay. All right. Thank you. We’re at 12:00 or new Pacific Time. Really appreciate Stacey and Cassie and Adrienn for all your thoughts and insights and tips. This has been really great. I’ve enjoyed hearing from you guys, and I hope that you attendees, you have some specific tangible tips that you can take right away. So thank you so much for attending. You will all get the webinar recording in one or two business days. And we didn’t get through all your questions, but you have brought up a lot of great ideas that we can use for future webinars. So thank you. Have a good night or good day.

Stacey: Thank you so much.

Cassie: Thank you.