IT Convergence is excited to begin a new series, ‘HR Tech Voice’, to help Human Resource professionals navigate the evolving HR landscape through a series of interviews with forward-thinking HR leaders across the globe and from a variety of industries.
Our goal in presenting this series is to provide a forum for thoughtful discussion on the latest HR trends and share insights on:
- Understanding the challenges HR leaders face
- The evolving role of HR over the years and it’s journey from being a cost center to becoming one of the most strategic units of the organization
- Learning how companies react to HR technology changes from recruitment to retention
- Sharing how HR peers are adapting to the needs and demands of the changing workforce
Article 1 – Christina (Christi) Deasy, HR Professional
Having been in the HR industry for 20 years, Christi has gathered a wide range of experience by working with companies ranging from manufacturing and professional services industries with well-established policies and procedures to startups with a handful of employees where basic policies and procedures needed to be built from the ground up.
According to Christi, one thing that remains consistent in HR, regardless of the size of the company and unique attributes of the industry, is the need for constant policy and procedure updates to keep pace with evolving laws, workplace culture, generational expectations, and technology.
Currently going through an HRIS software update, Christi shared her experience with different HRIS systems and the importance of finding the right software that is adjusted to the needs and habits of the workforce. In this article, we will also discuss the latest HR trends, challenges, Millennials and much more.
Q: How has HR as a department changed since you started your career?
A: 20 years ago, leadership thought HR was equivalent to personnel management of benefits and doing onboarding. But now, more leaders are viewing HR as someone at the table having conversations about how HR fits into the leadership’s strategic plan.
Leadership across the board looks at employees as their most valuable asset or at least they should be. Where am I going to find the A-players to be my valuable asset? How am I going to keep them? How am I going to train them? And, how am I going to get rid of the ones who aren’t the A-players? How do I deal with people who are just not fitting into the organization?
Strategically, we need to look at what is the best way to find the people. It’s not just sit back and throw out an ad and hope that somebody responds. It’s also training the employees to do performance management. It’s more so a long term training and development of the managers to help them maintain those long-time employees. I think this is where HR fits in.
Q: What are the main challenges that HR leaders are facing today?
A: Everything changes and technology changes everything. I struggle with that every day, constantly, but it’s a double edged sword because it really keeps me on my toes.
To give you a recent example, we have a lot of truck drivers at our company and it’s a high turnover position. I’m constantly recruiting them and there was an instance where I wasn’t able to find any candidates for one of the positions. I was trying to draw people into looking at our website. We did everything from putting the application online to making the application easier.
The feedback I received was that our ad was horrible for someone on the phone as they had to go through several steps before actually being able to apply for the position. It’s the constant change in technology. Everyone is using it but in different ways and it’s that constant education that I need to keep up with to make sure I’m hitting the different areas.
I didn’t think of it from the perspective of truck drivers and how they don’t use computers, they do everything on their phones. Technology changes and makes things more efficient but the key is to keep up with that constant change.
Also, keeping up with ever changing laws is very challenging. An example is the affordable care act that was put in place several years ago or the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). By the time, I finally get my arms around how to manage it, it’s going to change again. It’s constantly keeping up with policies and laws and making sure that I’m incorporating them into our organization.
Q: What is your experience with HR technology?
A: We are in the process of an upgrade to the most advanced version of Centric. With it, we’ll have more capabilities of an HRIS and not just a payroll system. I had worked with another payroll system called ADP. I’ve also used PeopleSoft and Taleo. Taleo is more of a recruiting tool than an HRIS system.
From my experience, PeopleSoft is the best because it’s very holistic. One can post the job position, have the applicant apply, transition the applicant into an employee, breach it into specific areas in the payroll, and also use it for training and performance management. It’s very encompassing.
I only used Taleo as a recruiting management tool when I was at the startup where we hired so rapidly that we needed something to support our growing needs. The decision to go with Taleo was heavily influenced by our recruiter’s experience. I thought it was pretty user-friendly, it’s been a couple of years since I used it but I didn’t find any major issues with it.
Q: What makes an HRIS system ideal?
A: I would really like to see efficiency across the board, rolling an HRIS system out and having all of the different platforms speak with each other would allow efficiency in terms of our hiring process. You post a position in 10 different websites hoping to find somebody and you source all the resumes. Then, it’s important to have all of them speak to each other and bring that into our applicant tracking system. I would like to see policies attached to the whole system, I’d like to have a one stop shop.
Q: Today’s largest generation in the US workforce is the collision of Gen Z and Millennials – do you feel it puts pressure on your HR department to deploy user-friendly software with social and mobile capabilities?
A: Yes, it does puts a lot of pressure on us. Going back to the truck driver example, I wasn’t thinking in terms what devices they use. When we think about millennials, we think about user-friendly technology – never in my brain was it a blue-collar, a truck driver. You always think of the young millennial, techy. Somebody in marketing or somebody in a manager position, I never stopped to think that it really is everywhere.
So that was one of my questions when we were looking at this software update. We have truck drivers and they have a phone and that’s the only place they are at – help me out. So it does put the pressure, these kind of things that I wasn’t thinking of before.
Q: What are the common traits of millennials?
A: Millennials are creative, out-of-the-box, on their phones, fabulous to work with, and a lot of fun. Having said that, working with them is a give and take in terms of knowledge. They need recognition of this is what I know, here’s what I’m bringing to the table. And, understanding that you have to kind of embrace them with that because they do have so much to bring. But from my perspective, I’m HR and I’m here to do one job, they are trying to get me on board with things they do differently, you know this is something you should probably do differently because there’s technology out there.
Millennial also like flexibility. I’m from the 8-5 world. Today, there are people that show up at 10 o’clock but they stay late. Bosses have expressed their discomfort with this lifestyle as there is no one to watch them in the later part of the day. Well, you have to trust them.
Q: What do you think are the most common priorities of Millennials nowadays?
A: Millennials need to be recognized and compensated. Unfortunately, some of them have the mentality that they should be VPs now and not spend time learning. There’s so much value in living the day and doing the job. I still have brand new experiences every day. They don’t understand the value of experience. Millennials have the finest education, they are well travelled, are socially conscious, but they need time. There’s so much value in time and experience and living through something and pulling yourself out of something.
Millennials want high salaries and want to be recognized. When you have a diverse population, you have people who are seasoned like myself. I’m looking at things like benefits. You know those employees might have health issues, a family to take care of, those are the things that are more important for someone like me. Some people look for jobs based on what the salary is, but for some, benefits and health insurance are more important. Millennials have one set of needs but overall, I think the ultimate decision depends on their situation, what their wants and needs are, and what their number one priority is.
Q: What is your strategy to improve employee retention?
A: Getting leadership to be transparent, open, and to communicate. When I’m in exit interview, often times I hear that the employees feel disconnected from the leadership and management about where the company is going. That is a very big component if you want to keep your A-players happy.
It’s about communicating with them and communicating often. Last Friday was employee appreciation day. Nothing like that has been done here before and I did an employee appreciation week with small presents like lottery tickets and candy bars with little cards reading “Thanks for everything you do”. The owner sent out a nice thank you email to everybody.
We are also working on quarterly emails to go out about how the company is doing, where we are seeing growth opportunities. Give the employees feedback and information, so they know where they stand. When leadership sees an employee leave, it’s not a big deal from their perspective but it’s different for a person who’s sitting in front of the one who left. People are generally very approachable and they appreciate leadership communication.
Q: How often do you do performance review?
A: People are in constant need for feedback. The mindset of having an annual review is changing. Employees want that feedback on a constant basis so I’m putting together a training for our managers and encourage them to meet with the employees once a week and give them feedback and listen to them. It will make such a difference in whether or not an employee chooses to stay or leave and in feeling valued.
Q: How much importance would you give to education?
A: Education and training are very important, especially depending on the type of role the person is in. With my particular role, I constantly need to keep up with training. I probably do three webinars a week if not more. Trying to keep up with changes, trying to keep up with education and best practices, etc. We are in an industrial world, building things and using technology, so it’s never ending. It’s rapidly changing and we have to stay on top of it.
Q: The importance of online employer review sites (like Glassdoor) has significantly grown over the past few years. What is your company’s strategy to address this?
A: When you get into a professional services organization, they are the ones looking at that type of information, when you look at the company like mine, selling industrial products, these sites will lose their importance. We are selling to builders, we are selling to cabinet makers, is not like our customers are not looking at things like that, but it’s more popular among organizations that sell services.
From my opinion, the white-collar group of people are the ones who are mostly looking at information on who is the best accounting firm, who is the best advertising agency that I can go to. Even from the interviewing perspective, should I interview with this company because of a feedback about it on Glassdoor. Checking this site was a daily activity for me at the professional services company.
Q: What advice would you give other HR leaders to be successful?
A: The advice I’d give is to know your industry and to take the time to learn your industry because you could be making bad decisions. Like I said, professional services is very different than working in manufacturing or other types of organizations in how you manage and proceed. I think understanding that your boss wants your input and your advice is very important. They are paying you for your advice, they are paying you for your knowledge, don’t be afraid to give it.
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