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Well-Being at Work: Creating a Culture That Truly Cares

“The role of the employer is expanding,” said Matt Legere, the SVP of employee benefits consulting at brokerage firm Brown & Brown Insurance. “You have to be relevant to what employees are talking about and what they’re stressed out about at their kitchen table. Are you as an employer offering something that’s relevant in those moments?”At From Day One’s Manhattan conference on building a culture for workers and companies to thrive in times of change, Legere and his colleagues in employee wellness gathered to discuss how employers can use company culture to demonstrate their commitment to well-being. Crucial to success, the group agreed, are making well-being a centerpiece, respecting individual boundaries, and localizing policies and benefits to the people who use them.Make Well-Being an Ordinary Topic of Conversation“We’re humans, we’re all at work, and we’re here to be productive, of course, but our humanity doesn’t leave us just because we get to our desk,” said Morgan Bass Roper, director of inclusion and belonging at financial services firm BNY Mellon.Leaders must set this example openly and consistently. Some companies are making mental health and personal wellness a centerpiece for discussion, hoping to make it an ordinary part of the employee experience. BNY Mellon invited Maeve Duvally, author of Maeve Rising: Coming Out Trans in Corporate America, for a fireside chat with the company’s corporate affairs chief.“They had a conversation around authenticity in the workplace, allyship in the workplace, and about the coming-out journey. But in particular, they talked about Maeve’s mental health journey and how the resources and the allyship she received allowed her to feel comfortable to come out at work,” Bass Roper said. “Bringing Maeve to our company–a financial services company that’s been around for over 200 years–sends a message to folks who were listening to that, that ‘Maybe I can feel comfortable sharing a little bit more of myself and my journey, because it’s being put on this big stage at work.”Set the Example for Work-Life BalanceNobody but you can draw the line for world-life balance, says Chuck Abramo, the VP of human resources at hospitality company Delaware North. “Make sure you understand where your boundary is, both on the professional side and the personal side. Be able to say, ‘This is where I need to close the laptop today.’” It’s imperative that leaders do this in full view of their teams.Abramo says that he might prefer working late at night, which some might perceive as an imbalance. However, this approach enables him to work more flexibly. “I think that flexibility, and knowing that I can do that without somebody looking at me sideways, is incredibly important. Creating that culture is key. You could never put a dollar amount on it, I could never get X amount of comp at a different organization to replace that flexibility.”In conversation moderated by Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, the speakers discussed the topic "Does Your Company Genuinely Care About Well-Being? How to Show It Through Your Culture"Alyson Watson, founder and CEO of employee healthcare platform Modern Health, sets aside time in the work day for therapy and coaching sessions, and every evening carves out an extra hour or so to spend with her son–absolutely no work interruptions allowed.Everyone will balance the portions of their life differently, and the balance will certainly shift over time. For Watson, whose position puts her on call at all hours, wellness and high-performance are not mutually exclusive. “A lot of life is sacrifice. There may be moments in my life where I need to prioritize my family, and maybe the way I show up at work slips a little bit. Sometimes it’s the opposite, and I’m really focused on work because we’re raising around a funding or we’re launching a big new client,” she said. “I think there’s a world where we can do both: We can take care of ourselves, prioritize our mental health, prioritize our physical health, and support people to reach their potential.”Localizing Well-Being for All WorkersJust as work-life balance is best judged by the individual, so are the benefits workers use to achieve that equilibrium. That’s why HR leaders must commit to soliciting employee feedback and taking advice with an open mind. “We don’t know what they need until we ask them,” said Legere.He’s become quite keen on localizing wellness benefits and policies too. “You can look at your plan from a wellness perspective, physical, emotional, financial, and social,” Legere said. “But you can’t apply broad-based philosophies to every single location.”Legere pays close attention to communication and language. There’s little value in providing benefits and policy information to a predominantly Spanish-speaking workforce only in English, for instance. “Do they feel valued if we can’t communicate something that’s really complex in a way that they can understand?”In order for everyone to uphold a culture of well-being, and reinforce it consistently, Abramo says it begins as soon as workers walk in the door. “As HR leaders, we have defined it in our values so that we can tell people as we’re bringing them on board, so that we can take this to the other side and say, ‘Hold people accountable to those values.’”Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | June 21, 2024

The Best Managers Don’t Fix, They Coach: Actionable Strategies for Your Leadership Toolkit

Anita Hossain Choudhry, co-founder and CEO of The Grand, a group coaching platform, learned the importance of coaching when she was managing several people who had just graduated from college. “I reflected on my first job after college, and I had this manager who was so unclear,” said Choudhry during a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s May virtual conference. “She didn’t give me the right level of support to be successful. And I really vowed to do the opposite. I had this notion that I had to fix my direct reports’ problems.”One day, one of Choudhry’s direct reports came to her because she felt overwhelmed with everything on her plate and couldn’t figure out how to prioritize things. “I told her to take out a sheet of paper, draw a triangle on it, and break it up into thirds,” Choudhry said. “In the bottom section, I wrote down three to five things she had to complete for the week. In the middle section, I wrote down three things she had to complete in the next three days. And then at the top of the triangle, I wrote down one thing she needed to focus on before the end of the day.”Choudhry did this every day for several weeks with the employee, thinking she was solving the problem for her. However, over time “I really saw her creativity wane. She would spend long hours trying to do her best to get those critical tasks done,” she said. At around the same time, Choudhry took her first coaching course, “and I realized I wasn’t actually helping her fix her problem. I was actually hurting her because I didn’t empower her to trust herself.”Anita Hossain Choudhry, co-founder and CEO of The Grand, led the virtual thought leadership spotlightThat’s when Choudhry shifted her default approach from fixing to coaching. “Instead of being the hero that saves the day, I asked myself how I could enable my direct reports to do their best work and be their best selves,” she said.During her next one-on-one session, Choudhry asked the employee to take the lead in filling out the triangle. She also questioned her about the type of work that attracts her and where she saw opportunities for the firm to grow. “Over time, it helped her come up with some of the most creative ideas deployed at the firm,” Choudhry said. “She returned to that vibrant, innovative person that I hired in the first place.”When managers attempt to fix problems rather than coach an employee, they tend to do most of the talking, says Choudhry. “The conversation style is really directive and advice-oriented,” she said. On the other hand, coaching involves asking employees questions that get them talking so they can come up with a solution on their own.So how do you do it? You start by asking, “‘In this situation, what would you like?’ And then you repeat back what the other person said. And then you ask, ‘What will having that do for you?’ And then you repeat it, and ask, ‘What will having that do for you?’ And so you go through this process, over and over until you get the core of what someone wants.”The next step is exploration, which moves the employee from the problem that they’re spinning on and helps them brainstorm actions they could take to pursue what they want, says Choudhry. The manager does this through another simple set of questions, like ‘what options do you have to make progress toward that outcome?’These conversations can lead to some awkward pauses, but that’s expected because “this is a muscle to build,” Choudhry said. “When they’re staring blankly at you, it’s working because they’re thinking in a way that they haven’t in a long time.”Coaching is effective because “we help our direct reports by investing in their inner teacher,” she said. Rather than solving a one-time issue for them, coaching helps employees see patterns and behaviors so they can develop their own resources and best practices to navigate challenges, according to Choudhry.“We also empower them to trust themselves,” she said. “You’ll see your team members shift their ability to move more confidently and clearly in articulating next steps that they can take to really solve their problem and achieve their goal.”Choudhry says that fixing isn’t always the wrong approach, but it’s simply ineffective in certain situations. Coaching is better in many cases because “it leaves your teams feeling more empowered, understood, and valued.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, The Grand, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | June 21, 2024

Manager Effectiveness: Defining It, Measuring It, and Improving It

Companies frequently promote employees to management positions because of their technical skills but find they need help with leading people.When they were in their previous roles, these individuals thrived because they had the correct answers, says Gretchen Jacobi, SVP and head of enterprise at General Assembly. Jacobi spoke on a panel about “Manager Effectiveness: Defining It, Measuring It, and Improving It” at From Day One’s Chicago conference.Once you’re in a leadership role, “it’s about how you guide your team to find the right answer, as opposed to giving them the right answer,” she told moderator Alex Maragos, anchor and reporter at NBC 5 News. “I think we need to focus on helping managers define the outcome they want from the team rather than telling their team how to achieve the outcome.”Preparing employees to become leaders is the key to their success, says Nicole Poole-McGill, senior VP for talent development for Digitas North America.“I’ve been in positions where we had the opportunity to prepare managers, or we saw that potential and their interest, and then put them in positions to manage people before they became managers,” she said. “It’s so helpful for them to come in just having some of that skill and getting the training so they can apply it as soon as they become managers.”New managers need specialized training in giving feedback and communication styles, says Poole-McGill. She also said one-on-one coaching can help them build relationships with their team and manage their performance. How to Measure Management EffectivenessAn organization’s culture plays a key role in how it measures the effectiveness of its managers, says Steve Holder, VP of solution advisory at Visier.  “Different management skills, different attributes and different measurements are going to be driven by what your organization thinks is important,” he said.Visier builds manager effectiveness scorecards and dashboards that allow people to not only measure their peers, but also understand what they’re doing, says Holder. “The big one that always comes up is retention,” he said. “That’s a really easy one to throw on your management effectiveness card.”Executive panelists discussed manager effectiveness at From Day One's Chicago conference Diversity is a frequently overlooked metric for measuring management effectiveness, says Holder. “We know that diverse teams have better outcomes, productivity and collaboration," he said.Jaison Williams, the senior VP of talent management capabilities and culture for Expedia, says it’s crucial to understand how performance and productivity go hand in hand.“We’ve taken a look at how much we are spending in meetings as an organization,” he said. “We’ve been able to identify that we spend a large amount of time in meetings overall. And then similarly, we have found that people are collaborating and engaging with way too many people.”As a manager, “you are probably role modeling some of that behavior,” Williams said. “But being able to make a concrete change in how and where your team is spending its time using some type of business and organizational data can lead to much stronger manager effectiveness and organizational effectiveness.”Improving Manager EffectivenessThe manager of a team is much like a basketball coach, says Kristy Callahan, who leads the learning and development team at GE Healthcare.“If you figure out how to tap into the strengths of each individual, how do you string that together to make that collective pool stronger?” she said. Every player on a winning basketball team might not be a star, “but together they are bringing out the best in each other.”When there’s one outstanding player on a team, "How do you bring others up?" she said. “What is it that we all bring? We all have our superpowers. How do we tap into that?"Only 31% of managers have experienced formal development for upskilling or reskilling, says Jacobi. “The people who are now reporting to them need to make time for synchronous or asynchronous training opportunities that are going to make them more productive.”Managers must be clear that they are on a learning journey themselves, says Jacobi. “They are role models for the people below them,” she said.Being an effective manager is challenging in a hybrid workplace, says Poole-McGill. When employees were in the office all the time, connections occurred naturally as they gathered around the water cooler and chatted about their lives outside of work.With so many employees working from home at least part of the time, it’s harder to build connections. It’s possible to revive that sense of connection in a hybrid workplace, “but you have to be very intentional about that, and even strategic.”Williams said he finds it easy to connect with his direct reports as a senior leader, but his extended team, which is spread worldwide, is a different matter. Connectivity in the hybrid remote world is all about creativity. His executive assistant developed the concept of ‘Cups and Conversations With Jaison.’ “Once a month, she just blocks out my whole day and asks people on the team to sign up. It’s just a casual conversation about whatever you want,” he said.Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | June 20, 2024

The New Age of HR: Meeting Higher Corporate Performance Demands

While its applications are still being puzzled over, artificial intelligence is already gaining a foothold in human resources decision-making. Neil Taylor, vice president of product marketing for workforce planning software maker Visier, maintains that AI is in a position to be leveraged to improve the performance of company managers – and by extension, their employees.In a thought leadership spotlight titled “The New Age of HR: Meeting Higher Corporate Performance Demands,” at From Day One’s Minneapolis conference, Taylor points to generative AI, which can create new content and ideas, as a potential conduit to attracting and keeping the best talent.“I’m the first to admit that I think about Gen AI taking my job all the time,” said Taylor. “But I would just challenge everyone to think about how Gen AI can impact work for the better.”Taylor points to a generative AI assistant that can be trained to offer insights about personnel that might not be accessible by more conventional means.Neil Taylor, Vice President Product Marketing at Visier led the session titled, "The New Age of HR: Meeting Higher Corporate Performance Demands"“There are huge advancements in bringing in data – specifically, data about anyone in the organization,” says Taylor. “You can ask a natural language question and get a natural language response in seconds, and it's tailored to your organization's data. It really allows people who need to make decisions about people to get insights in a matter of seconds.”Taylor pointed to a Deloitte study saying that only about 3% of executives say they have sufficient information about their employees to make good HR decisions. That’s where AI technology has the potential to fill the gaps that can be left by intuition alone.“People managers are getting squeezed,” he said. “They’re under an immense amount of pressure to do more with less.”As a work in progress, generative AI is being employed mostly by early adopters at the moment. But Taylor encouraged managers to at least give it a test drive. Industry analyst Josh Bersin has stated that only a small percentage of HR teams even have a strategy around generative AI. That potential needs to be tapped soon, says Taylor.“AI is going to unlock this huge wave of productivity increase,” he said. “It has all this horsepower, but that horsepower is essentially sitting in the stable.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Visier, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Dan Heilman is a writer and editor based in St. Paul, Minn.

Dan Heilman | June 19, 2024

What It Takes to Put the Employee at the Center of Remote Work

Be tenacious. Be authentic. Be inclusive. Be “un-boring.” These are just some of the stated cultural values of Yelp that first attracted Chief People Officer Carmen Amara to the organization. So was the opportunity to work fully remotely. Thanks to its vibrant corporate culture and agility in employee listening, Yelp has been able to establish a remote-work policy that puts employee well-being first.Studies suggest that remote workers tend to get less mentoring and fewer promotions than their in-office colleagues. But by investing in employee experience, companies committed to their remote workers can provide equitable opportunities for career advancement and professional growth. Amara offered an inside look at how Yelp does it during a fireside chat at From Day One’s May virtual conference.Recognizing Remote Work as a Viable StructureMany companies have begun instituting return-to-work policies, said moderator Jessi Hempel, senior editor-at-large at LinkedIn and host of the “Hello Monday” podcast. But Yelp “has really gone the other direction and held firm,” remaining fully remote. This aligns with Yelp’s value “to be ‘un-boring,’” Amara said.Amara herself was attracted to the organization because of this policy. “I was excited about the fact that this really opens the aperture for us to be able to attract great talent, regardless of where they are,” she said. “It also helps me as a professional to develop my own work and life fit, and live in the place that’s most conducive to my life.” She is able to use the time previously spent commuting to pursue her own personal interests and passions.Despite remote work’s popularity among employees, the prevailing belief among many corporations right now, Hempel says, is that “energy is lagging, people are not connected, learning is not happening, and innovation is not happening.” But Yelp has the data to prove that remote work really works. In February, Yelp released its Remote Work Report, which showed that 90% of Yelp employee respondents found effective ways to collaborate remotely, 86% said they found ways to connect as a team, and 91% felt they had pathways to career progress.Keep Listening, Stay Agile, and Cultivate Cultural ValuesThe key to developing a remote work plan that works is listening to employees and being prepared to respond to feedback quickly. “What led to this decision [to go fully remote] was really to understand from our employees what was working and what they were struggling with, very early on,” Amara said. Yelp conducted a series of carefully tailored surveys to dig deep into what employees felt they needed, then took immediate action. “Rather than wait until we had figured out how to develop this perfect program, things were moving quickly. So we had to reimagine the experience and work with our employees to co-create what the new reality was going to be,” she said. Yelp had to be “willing to get it wrong, and then iterate and change.”Even while building a new remote structure Yelp kept “leaning into the culture that we've already established” she said. When Yelp was first founded, its offbeat corporate identity was wrapped up in its San Francisco location. But now employees are beaming in from all over the world. “We try to frame the narrative about our company through the employee experience and the employee lens. So we let our employees tell their stories about what it’s like to work for Yelp, and it’s always grounded in those values,” Amara said.Carmen Amara of Yelp, left, was interviewed by Jessi Hempel of LinkedIn, rightYelp prioritizes making sure employees feel connected to one another. “We enable our managers to do what makes sense for their teams, because they know their employees best,” Amara said. “But we are very focused on deliberate and intentional connection.” Yelp accomplishes this through regular team meetings and quarterly town halls, both at the department and the company level. It also has employee resource groups to bring workers together, united by topics they are passionate about.And even being fully remote, it’s not all virtual, Amara says. “There still is a place for purposeful in-person connection. We also have a strategy that we call IRL, ‘in real life,’ where leaders get their teams together in-person once or twice a year, simply to have fun and form more of an emotional connection.” “Fun is so key to a cohesive culture,” Hempel agreed.Focusing on Professional DevelopmentYelp is still perfecting its remote professional development opportunities, Amara says, which are, as always, driven by employee listening data. Initial surveys had shown that employees were eager for coaching, mentorship, and skill-building opportunities, which led to the development of a program for exactly that. But participation has now tapered off. “We have a disconnect around when we say, ‘coaching’ and ‘mentorship.' We may be thinking differently about that than what some of our employees are actually looking for,” Amara said. But, unafraid to try and fail, Yelp is taking that information back to the drawing board to develop a stronger program for the future.Amara also cites AI as an potential opportunity for HR to explore in the coming years, particularly its ability to positively impact the employee experience. “It’s something that we all need to stay connected to. It’s not the domain of the engineers. Having the ‘people’ people at the table as we're making decisions around how we’re going to implement this technology is critical,” she said.Ultimately, Amara and her team are driven by a focus on positivity and leaning into success. “The biggest lesson that I’m trying to apply in my current role is that focusing on people’s strengths will get you a lot further than focusing on their weaknesses or opportunities,” she said.Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Katie Chambers | June 19, 2024

Embracing a New Paradigm of Women’s Leadership

In the landscape of leadership today, there are still far fewer women at the senior levels than men—and it's not necessarily getting better.At From Day One’s May virtual conference, LeeAnn Mallorie, founder and CEO of Guts and Grace Leadership, spoke about a new paradigm of women's leadership, coaching, and training. “Since the pandemic, things may have gotten worse in certain industries and certain organizations. We know that there’s a gap. Sometimes it’s called the leadership cliff, meaning when you get to a certain level, it starts to be harder to get promoted,” Mallorie said.The business world continues to rapidly change, many women left the workforce during the pandemic, and this disruptive period can put diverse leaders at risk. Fortunately, it is also an excellent time for opportunities and advancement for these leaders. If we think about the old paradigm of leadership, where things were only done a certain way, this current level of disruption can also open the door for a different type of thinking. Mallorie says that with a new paradigm, we can bring ourselves to lead in a more holistic and resilient way.Mallorie says that women in leadership roles have fueled transformation during a volatile time. Research has also shown that feminine leadership embodies qualities that have been incredibly useful in times of change. Emotional intelligence, active listening, collaboration, creativity, and imagination shine through when women are fully activated in leadership positions. So then the question becomes, what makes the difference?LeeAnn Mallorie led the thought leadership spotlightThere’s a new paradigm of success in which women can be fully activated in the workplace, according to Mallorie. Per her 20 years of experience, when people are fully activated, they're more centered. “They’re feeling cared for in their 30s. They're the ones driving the innovation. Perhaps they’re building culture and leading visionary teams.”Under pressure, we often find ourselves in a different mode. Mallorie calls this an “old paradigm success model” where the internal dialogue sounds like, ‘I have to perform, and when I get there, things will be a certain way.’ With this mindset, women begin to plateau amidst all the pressure. There can also be a lot of resentment or burnout. During times like these, it’s important to look deeper and process how one can find their way through this state, says Mallorie.Effective coaching and training should focus on various things in order for women to move from surviving to thriving. First is advancing technical skills, like learning how to negotiate or get better at a tactical part of one’s job. The second is remaining conscious of bias.Mallorie discusses a third ingredient to help change the game: leading with grace. “We refer to embodiment, focusing on the self, working toward wholeness, working at the identity level,” Mallorie said. It’s about understanding other people’s traumas and motivations as well.“During the early career survival strategies, what’s getting in the way might be the baggage [like internalized oppression] that one is carrying,” she said. “I will often talk about dismantling the patriarchy within. As women in leadership, there's often something we’re carrying or performing to, or that has just become part of our DNA and trying to get into these types of workplaces. And when that’s not addressed, we don’t fully solve the problem.”There are four domains that leaders can focus on when coaching others, says Mallorie. These include, embody, empower, activate, and inspire. As an embodied leader, you must use your body, energy, and time in ways that serve yourself and others well. An empowered leader has a positive mindset, and she navigates her emotions effectively under pressure. An activated leader acts with integrity and purpose and takes healthy risks to serve her organization. An inspired leader shares her vision and naturally inspires others to follow her lead.By embracing a new paradigm of leadership that harnesses feminine strength rather than going against it and suppressing natural qualities in favor of patriarchal standards, we may find a new brand of leadership and new ways of working that can bring more growth and success.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Guts and Grace Leadership, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Keren's love for words saw her transition from a corporate employee into a freelance writer during the pandemic. When she is not at her desk whipping up compelling narratives and sipping on endless cups of coffee, you can find her curled up with a book, playing with her dog, or pottering about in the garden.

Keren Dinkin | June 18, 2024

Fostering Workplace Belonging: Overcoming Barriers and Cultivating Inclusive Culture

Sometimes it can take live theater to get vulnerable in the workplace. Partnering with Pillsbury House Theatre in the Twin Cities, Mortenson, a leader in the commercial construction, real estate development, and renewable energy industries, helps show employees what’s happening in the organization through different scenes.The theater’s initiative called Breaking Ice included the theater team interviewing members of the Mortenson team. “They learn your language, and they learn your initiatives, and then they actually act it out in front of you,” said Joffrey Wilson vice president of diversity, equity & inclusion at Mortenson. “It’s a way of showing to everyone what's really happening in your organization.The result? It’s been impactful. “It has been a different way to build a sense of what equity it is,” Wilson said. As one of five panelists during a session at From Day One’s conference in Minneapolis, Wilson spoke about creative ways they help break down barriers and develop an inclusive workplace. Brandt Williams of the Minnesota Public Radio moderated.Live theater is only one way Mortenson is actively creating an inclusive culture. They are also branching out and partnering with new sources for recruiting so they can reach a wider audience. They’re also partnering with organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers, the National Society of Hispanic Professionals, and more to bring in more diverse talent. Ultimately, Wilson added, DEI is never a one-and-done event or training. It’s a state of mind that businesses must adopt and be consistently looking for ways to make their company culture better. Where You Are, Where You’re GoingIn an organization’s quest to cultivate inclusion, the best place to start is taking stock of where you are so you can figure out where you need to go next. That has been the case for Marvin, the century-old manufacturer of premium window and door solutions.“When we say culture, what do we mean? What does that include?” asked panelist Renee Rice, senior director of communications and culture at Marvin. “We did some pretty extensive research to identify not only where our culture was strong, but also where those opportunities were with our culture.”From there, they looked at their five-year business strategy to answer some key questions: “What does our business need from our culture? What does our business need from our people in order to be successful?”From that research and from goal-setting, Marvin has layered the two to create a roadmap that centers on getting employees to think differently and work differently, all in support of that business strategy. This has helped them to define what culture at Marvin is and what they want it to become.The panelists spoke to the topic "Fostering Workplace Belonging: Overcoming Barriers and Cultivating Inclusive Culture" at From Day One's conference in MinneapolisBetter communication is one big one. “When you’re talking about establishing a DEI strategy,” Rice said “when you're talking about modeling certain behaviors, any one of these topics can have the tendency to fall flat unless there is strong communication with your employees about why we're doing this. Specifically, what behaviors do we want to see modeled?”Focusing on inclusion will help companies to retain employees, she added, as will offering coaching and mentoring to help employees develop skills. When they feel a company is investing in them, they feel included, she says. Making Space HumannessPanelist Bethany Kurbis, senior executive coach & consultant at The Bailey Group, shared her unique journey into HR. It began with her work in peaceful conflict resolution in Southern Sudan using the “Theater of the Oppressed.” This experience highlighted the importance of creating space for human messiness and complex, nuanced conversations. Later transitioning into HR, Kurbis found that the best leaders are those who make room for difficult conversations and deeply listen to their employees' motivations and needs. This approach, which she described as creating space for humaneness, has been foundational to her coaching methodology. “What we’re really talking about here is behavior change,” Kurbis said. “And behavior change is slow.” Creating the space for that change is key in helping your team feel included and get to the root of what’s going on at an organization. So, how to facilitate that behavior change?“As HR leaders, you understand how busy your schedules or calendars are,” she said. “Creating that space to have the difficult conversations to seek understanding so that we can build everything we've already heard about is a good starting point.” Employees must feel psychological safety in order to feel inclusion. “The ability to fail in front of people and have it be okay, you can still show up your job, you can still be a part of your team, you can still succeed, learn from that failure,” Kurbis said. Her advice is to help people pause, create space, take a deep breath, and allow humans to be human. Employee Resource GroupsThere are many dimensions of diversity, according to panelist Michelle Anderson, AVP, global learning, development and diversity at AmTrust Financial Services. Which is why employee resource groups help people to feel included.At AmTrust, ERG’s are completely employee led so they can take ownership and have control over where they go with them.“Anyone can come to us and say, ‘we’re interested in creating this group based on this demographic, this ability, this characteristic,’ and then they can work with us to build that,” she said. Being less formal helps employees feel more comfortable in those settings. But the groups also shed light on what her leader calls the “Diversity Wheel.” There is a lot of depth to diversity, and we tend to assume rather than seek to understand. “We bring the diversity wheel together to help people see that even if we might look the same, we’re not the same,” Anderson said. “There are different avenues of diversity. Everybody's experiences are different. So we introduce that and incorporate that in all of the things that we do from a DEI perspective as well.”As a company that has acquired companies to become what it is today, the first priority was to identify what being a leader meant to them. “We started with the middle manager layer and said, ‘as a leader, we want you to be intentional. And what does intentional mean? Intentional for us means you’re curious and aware, it means you are focused on learning more about the individual, helping them with their development, and having a clear vision, and then also being authentic and empathetic.’”Getting very clear on defining these roles has been key, Anderson says. From there they created a leadership development program so they could help new leaders, emerging executives, and everyone in between put their best foot forward for the company while also helping develop a solid company culture.  Integrating Inclusive Leadership into Daily PracticesIt takes practice to get good at anything, and while training and extra meetings about inclusion can be helpful, panelist Siham Adous, senior director, strategic accounts & partnerships at Praxis Labs, emphasized the importance of working it into everyday work.“What we’ve seen to be the most effective strategies to really drive long term impact is understanding that managers are busy,” she said. “These training moments have to be integrated into their talent development moment so that we’re not talking about inclusive leadership as standalone. We’re talking about some of the fundamental foundational skills to just help you do your job better, and ultimately drive higher engaged and higher performing teams.”The challenge then becomes how to create resources for people leaders in the moments that they actually need them in their flow of work, Adous says. It’s all about awareness, but also continual practice. “In the same way that no one here would go to the gym one time and say, I am now fit, you have to go multiple times and really build the muscle of inclusive leadership.”At Praxis Labs, they look at immersive experiences as a way to do that in an effective way. But be sure to take a data-backed approach, and also ask for feedback from your team so you get a true sense of how people feel about their work culture.“We have biannual pulse surveys. We're only an organization of 35, but it's still so critical that we hear everyone's voice and ensure that some of the challenges are addressed in real time. Even taking that data backed approach to what we're doing internally has been huge.”Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | June 17, 2024

Are You Asking Too Much of Your Job Candidates? How to Get ‘Test Projects’ Right

Current dispatches from the job market describe an exhausting scene. On one side are overloaded recruiters, shuffling thousands of applications for a single role with limited resources and little time. On the other side are weary applicants feeling defeated and devalued by impersonal, drawn-out interview cycles and unresponsive employers.One particular point of tension is the candidate test project. To evaluate applicants’ skills and narrow the talent pool, employers are now frequently asking job candidates to complete test projects or evaluations in the form of strategy proposals, presentations, blog posts, research projects, and video-editing tests, to name a few. But job seekers are getting burned out, sinking hours into unpaid projects with seemingly little relevance to the role, only to be ignored or rejected by an automated email.It's rough out there, especially for well-paid office workers seeking a new job. “Welcome to the white-collar recession,” declared Business Insider. Reports Wall Street Journal columnist Callum Borchers: “I hear from a lot of white-collar workers on the job hunt who say it’s much harder to get hired than the unemployment numbers make it sound.” Said Bloomberg: “Take-home assignments during the interview process are on the rise, irking candidates.”While employers may have the advantage at the moment, they should avoid overplaying their hand, since their reputations are at stake. Job seekers who spoke to From Day One describe growing cynical and suspicious of companies that request burdensome projects, and especially of those that don’t compensate candidates for their time. Yet it may be the delivery and design of these projects, not their intention, that is souring relations between candidates and companies.How Test Projects Go WrongBeth Miller (not her real name)* has built a 20-year career as a writing instructor and communications practitioner in higher education and nonprofits, and for the last year, following a layoff, she has been on the job hunt.After submitting an application for a job in a university’s development office, Miller received an automated email inviting her to complete a performance task: an asynchronous video interview that was expected to take 30 minutes. Uncomfortable on camera yet eager to do it well, Miller sunk four hours into the project.A week later, at about 9 p.m. on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, Miller received an email with another request: a full grant proposal to be completed over the holiday, due Monday, she told From Day One. When Miller replied with questions, her emails quickly bounced back with out-of-office messages.“The most difficult thing is that the emails were not coming from a person,” she said. They were addressed to ‘dear applicant,’ and signed, ‘the hiring team,’” she said. Unable to get a new due date for the assignment, Miller gave up her weekend to the project.Miller’s story is like that of many job seekers right now. Unwieldy evaluations are popping up across industries and job types, and in a labor market where the competition is often among the applicants, rather than the employers, candidates are getting burnt out by the requests, sometimes completing several projects before they even speak to a recruiter.“These are, by no means, simple and easy,” said Liane Paonessa, who was applying for director-level roles in corporate PR earlier this year. “They’re complex, detailed, and basically provide the company with a free strategic plan and content from every candidate.”Further, they seem to be redundant. Some employers require a portfolio of prior work samples in addition to test projects. “In most cases, I [got] no feedback whatsoever on the projects, other than a ‘Thank you for your excellent work,’ before ghosting me and later sending me the standard form rejection email,” said Paonessa.Many job applicants who spoke to From Day One believe that employers use unpaid test projects to get free work from desperate applicants. Job seekers describe being asked to draft 12-month strategy plans, make hour-long presentations, pitch detailed article ideas, write website content, produce fresh code, and even provide names of other people who might be good additions to the company.As exhausted applicants churn through these often unacknowledged projects, it reinforces their cynical beliefs about employers’ attitudes towards job seekers. “It’s so dehumanizing to constantly be putting yourself at the feet of an organization and trying to tell them why you’re worth hiring,” Miller said.How Test Projects Go RightJob seekers don’t object to test projects in principle–workers know they have to demonstrate their skills to land a role, and many are glad to show off what they can do–but they do want a better experience: one with boundaries, respect, and communication.When recounting good experiences with test projects, job seekers describe assignments with clear, limited scopes that teach them something about the role responsibilities, an ability to get feedback on their work, and some kind of compensation.Last spring, Tori Zhou, a content-marketing professional in New York City, was in the running for a content-writing role at a tech company when she was asked to complete an assessment that changed the way she thinks of test projects. Not only were the instructions crystal-clear, the project came with a disclaimer, assuring applicants their work wouldn’t be used beyond the hiring process. “I thought it was so considerate that they said that,” Zhou explained. “I also believed it because of the structure of the test.”The assignment included copy-editing a few pieces of content and writing a new introductory paragraph for an existing blog post. But don’t worry, we’re not going to update it, the request read. And even though she didn’t get the job, the company offered constructive feedback on her work.“This is such a positive memory for me. I feel like it’s the best test I’ve ever done,” Zhou said. “I still look at their job careers page, even today, because I’m like, ‘Wow, that just left such a positive impression on me. I would just happily apply with them again.’”Candidates also want to learn something from the evaluation process. Olivia Ramirez, a job seeker who interviewed for a role at a financial services company, said test assignments have helped her decide whether she wants to pursue the role. When the hiring manager assigned a lengthy and technical writing project, “it definitely made me question whether I was the right fit for the company,” she said. “I wasn’t having the most enjoyable time writing about this topic. It’s a good way to understand what the actual day-to-day grittiness of the work is like.” And even though the assignment was a tough one, Ramirez said she liked having the chance to show the work she’s capable of doing.Zhou once completed a test project that was much more technical than she imagined the job to be. “That helped me think about, ‘OK, is this job really right for me?’” she said.How to Improve Interview Test ProjectsFrank Hauben is the global VP of product management at technical-interview platform CoderPad. He believes that sound candidate assessments have three characteristics.First, evaluations should be time-bound. “By time-bound, I don’t mean 40 hours,” he said. “On the order of 30 minutes to two hours is what we find to be a reasonable sweet spot.” Not only do boundaries limit the scope and complexity of the assignment, it helps make the interview process more equitable. As a parent of two young girls, Hauben said there’s no way he has 40 hours to spend on a project, and couldn’t compete with someone who does.Time boundaries are different from time estimates, and both matter. Employers should assume that applicants will exceed the time estimates attached to these assignments. When applicants need the job, they’ll sink their teeth in. One company told Tori Zhou not to spend more than two hours on the project. A self-described perfectionist, Zhou invested four, and estimates she has spent seven hours on another assessment. Ramirez describes spending upwards of 12 hours on a single take-home project.Next, instructions should be clear, said Hauben, and applicants should be given the opportunity to ask questions and receive responses about the evaluation.And finally, evaluations should give candidates the clearest possible picture of what the job is, said Hauben. But they don’t need to represent the entirety of the job. “What would you be walking somebody through on their first day or week? You want to give somebody something that is obviously realistic and relevant, not something out of a textbook or the most complex problem.”Consider, for example, asking candidates to come up with a solution to a problem you’ve already solved. “You know what the answer is, or what one answer could be,” Hauben said. And when you acknowledge that the problem has already been resolved, applicants don’t have to wonder if their work will be used after they’re ejected from the interview process.Compensating Applicants for Their TimeEvery job seeker who spoke to From Day One said that they want to be compensated for the time they spend on test projects. When they’re sinking multiple hours or days on an assignment, one that could ostensibly be exploited by the employer, they said, payment only feels fair. Many employers don't agree, which has created its own social-media debate. Applicants seldom have the luxury of turning down a test project when they really need the job, Miller said. “When you’re seeking employment, you’re really not at liberty to pass anything off. I know that companies take your work and use it. I know that they do that. To not be compensated for it is just validation that your concerns were right.”Miller, who’s still in the running for the job in college development, said that the hiring team asked about her experience with the test project, but as long as she’s a candidate, she feels that she can’t be completely candid.Ramirez, who was once compensated for a tough test assignment, said she thinks twice about companies that require unpaid test projects as part of the interview process because, ultimately, the candidate experience reflects the employee experience.“It would make me think about what their culture is like and what they’ve been implementing to be at the forefront of companies today, in terms of equity in the organization and advocating for their employees and potential employees,” she said. “If it’s paid, then I think that’s a great signal that the company is considering best practices and trying to stand up with the best of the best in the space.”Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.(Featured photo by Amenic181/iStock by Getty Images)*Editor’s note: Because she is still interviewing with the organization described here, Beth Miller asked that she not be identified by her real name.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | June 17, 2024

Applying Machine Learning and AI in HR: Proven Playbooks and Approaches

Jason Radisson, founder and CEO of Movo has a simple request of human resources executives: Don’t be afraid of the future.Movo is an AI-powered human capital management tool for the frontline. In a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s Minneapolis event, Radisson led a presentation titled “Applying Machine Learning and AI in HR: Proven Playbooks and Approaches,” where he went over some potential applications of innovative technology.“It doesn’t have to be scary, and it doesn’t have to be vague,” said Radisson, who previously was a general manager for Uber. “When I started Movo, I wanted to try to figure out how to bring a modern, flexible experience to everybody else’s workforce.”This early in its adoption process, Radisson says that AI is mostly reserved for the recruitment and retention of white-collar talent. But that could be changing.Jason Radisson of Movo led the thought leadership spotlight in Minneapolis“Now, what we’re talking about is a little bit more like outsourcing,” he says. “If you look at a lot of the different operations that we run in H.R., those are the classic things that already can be automated.“We’re starting to see globally that there just aren’t enough people to take these jobs. How long have we not had traders on the stock floor at most of the major markets in the world? How long has it been since an airline ticket was manually priced? There are all kinds of areas where AI and advanced systems already can generate a lot of value.”Another use case for AI and machine learning in the HR realm could be the ability to treat remote locations and distributed work locations just like you would an office building, says Radisson.“We’re in a flex, multiple-location kind of a world,” he says. “With today’s AI, a person at the head office with a smart system can distribute tasks and follow up on those tasks, wherever the’'re happening in the world.”Radisson left the audience with a piece of advice to continue to progress and stay ahead of innovative technological transformations: “I think all of us right now should have some kind of AI counsel,” he said.Referring to “somebody in the company that’s really looking forward to six months or 12 months trying to see what’s coming: Where would it make sense to pilot this? Do we have the developers we need? Do we need to borrow somebody else's developer platform? What’s the cost benefit? Just experimenting, seeing if a piece of automation adds value to the company.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Movo, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Dan Heilman is a writer and editor based in St. Paul, Minn.

Dan Heilman | June 17, 2024

Trust and Transformation: The Role of Coaching in Employee Development

Sarah Sheehan, founder and CEO of Bravely, says her most memorable coaching story involves a young woman of color who was having difficulty finding the confidence to ask her manager about getting a promotion or a raise.“She had put in the work over time and had done multiple jobs,” Sheehan said during an executive panel discussion at From Day One’s May virtual conference. “This is a case where we were pretty sure on the coaching side that if she were to move forward and talk to her manager, that would propel her to a better place.”The end result was “that she did, in fact, get a promotion, much to her surprise,” Sheehan told moderator Lydia Dishman of Fast Company. “This is a great example of the huge gap where we often give coaching to the people in more senior roles, when really everyone deserves coaching, from your first job to the C-level.”Coaching is the most powerful resource a company can provide its employees because of its individualized nature, says Sheehan. Having a coach is somewhat like having “a work therapist, because what is impacting us in our personal life translates to our professional life and impacts how we show up at work.”Building a Relationship Based on TrustAny coaching relationship must be based on trust. The employee “has to believe you’re there for them and working with them, and really understanding what will be shared or not shared,” said William Agostini, senior advisor, strategic HR at SABIC.The employee also has to have faith that the coach “understands the realities of where they are,” Agostini said. Additionally, “coaches should not be projecting their own culture onto someone else. There are realities of different cultures and situations.”However, coaches also need to see and hear employees as individuals, versus whatever gender, age, or cultural label you might want to put on them, says Agostini. In addition, he recommends giving employees “the opportunity to give you feedback about your assumptions.”Building an atmosphere of trust pays dividends in terms of employee retention, says Isobel Lincoln, SVP of HR for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. Over the past two and a half years, every team member who received executive coaching is still there.“They come into it feeling like, ‘Wow, this is something really for me. I can transform personally and professionally,’” Lincoln said.The panelists spoke during a session titled, "Conscious Coaching: Guiding and Recognizing Talent with a Holistic Approach"Support from key stakeholders, including management, ensures that the employee receiving the coaching is getting feedback “which means that they're also helping to rewrite the script in whatever way they need to, whether it's just elevating and building confidence as a leader or changing some of those behaviors,” Lincoln said.Determining Who to CoachSean Allen, a SVP of strategy & talent solutions, at MDA Leadership Consulting, says he’s been asked to coach employees whose performance issues are so severe that they triggered an HR investigation. “That’s not what I would consider a good application of coaching,” he said.Coaching works best when it is designed to be more aspirational, says Allen. The goal should be to “create role models in change, and change champions,” he said. “But beyond that, from a macro perspective, one thing I know we really rely on is broad and objective assessment based on formalized high potential models. That’s important because objectivity talks to fairness in a way that washes out bias as much as you can, and gives everybody a fair chance.”This approach ensures companies invest in a diverse group of employees, says Allen. He said it also helps determine “who has what kind of ceiling and what kind of potential.”The Role of Mentors and SponsorsMentors and sponsors also have a crucial part to play in helping employees advance in their careers.Sarah Waltman, VP of global talent management and organizational development at Dentsply Sirona says that while coaches assist individuals along their journey, mentoring involves sharing your experiences with mentees. Sponsoring “is really about opening up some doors or finding some access to experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” she said.Coaching, mentoring, and sponsorship can all take place simultaneously. However, an employee might switch lanes, such as going from coaching into mentoring for a little bit, and then returning for more coaching or entering into a sponsorship, says Waltman.Allen says that coaching, mentoring and sponsoring “can and should coexist in a complementary fashion to form a powerful ecosystem of development support.”“For example, as a standard practice we leverage something called the growth network inside of a coaching engagement,” he said. “That brings into play sponsors, mentors, people who are in real business situations with the leader and can give them feedback. So it’s not coaching in a vacuum.”Coaching Remote EmployeesEven though pandemic restrictions have ended, working from home has not for some coaches and the employees they work with.“For me, it’s actually been amazing to have the coaching contacts because even though I'm not in person with a lot of my peers and hires, having some of those coaching engagements has allowed me to get to know them,” Waltman said.But remote work also presents certain challenges for employees when they try to show how they have grown as a result of coaching, says Lincoln.“How can you support them to think through proactive ways for them to demonstrate this new mindset, this new leadership capability, and strategic thinking?” she said. “I think strong ownership and promotional campaigning in an authentic, positive way is something to be extra mindful of, because it’s going to take them extra time and effort to be able to showcase that change they’ve undergone.”Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | June 14, 2024

Hiring 10,000 Employees a Year With an Eye on the Horizon

If your company struggles with finding a few new employees every year, how would you like to try for thousands? That daunting number isn’t too much for Jason Grosz, Head of Global Talent Acquisition for St. Paul-based clean-water giant Ecolab. During a fireside chat titled “Hiring 10,000 Employees a Year With an Eye on the Horizon,” Grosz talked about how his company recruits workers for its businesses around the world while at the same time investing in its future workforce. Grosz was interviewed by Patrick Kennedy, business reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune at From Day One’s Minneapolis conference.“I once heard the expression ‘glocal’ when it comes to talent acquisition – global with a local twist,” says Grosz, a 19-year Ecolab veteran. “What we’ve tried to do is create a standard structure for hiring, and allow a local version of that to be executed.”Jason Grosz, Head of Global Talent Acquisition at Ecolab spoke at From Day One's Minneapolis conference. He was interviewed by Patrick Kennedy, right, Business Reporter at the Star Tribune,Part of finding good employees is presenting your company as a good place to work. But Grosz points out that just saying so doesn’t make it so, and prospective talent can often see through the hype.“We talk about our employee value proposition very intentionally,” he says. “But if you don't deliver on the promise, then it doesn't really mean anything. People figure that out. And that gets out.”Selling the company culture to employment prospects is one thing, but continuing to provide value to workers once they’re on board can be another. To that end, Ecolab tends to match its number of annual hires with a roughly equivalent number of promotions, says Grosz.“We’re actually moving people more than we’re hiring people,” he says. “We use Career Hub and Workday. We’re trying to build a visible internal capability and opportunity marketplace for our people. Our CEO will sift through different talent reviews and hear from our businesses: What’s the landscape of talent? What are the needs? Where are the gaps?”As a measure of how effective such extra effort is, Ecolab’s retention numbers tend to hover around 85 percent, Grosz says. Part of the reason lies with an aggressive approach toward acquisition and adoption of new technologies.“We’re looking for more people in that analytics world, and we’re looking for more people who are comfortable in the A.I. technology space,” says Grosz. “You want people who understand biopharma and bioscience. So we've always had this need to find these distinct, unique types of talent.”Dan Heilman is a writer and editor based in St. Paul, Minn.

Dan Heilman | June 13, 2024

Belonging for Everyone: Reimagine the Future of DEI

Without taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) training seriously, workplace inclusion will not improve. Cultural bias could corrupt the company, making it unsafe and undesirable for minorities in certain roles within a company. Companies deciding that DEIB is unimportant could see higher turnover rates than their competitors who utilize this training to support and accept their employees without judgment. At From Day One’s Dallas conference, Renu Sachdeva, head of client solutions at Talking Talent, North America, spoke to the importance of DEIB training in the workplace, especially in the midst of pushback. For Sachdeva, pushing work around DEIB forward is a driving point each and every day. She shared the story of Botham Jean, who was murdered by an off-duty police officer in 2018. Botham, who went by Bo, was a colleague of Sachdeva. Bo’s murder drew attention to racial biases, being that he was an unarmed Black man, killed in his own home. “Bo is a huge part of why this work continues to be so important to me today,” said Sachdeva. Despite the recent positive steps forward in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, there are still many hurdles to jump over to reach the end goal, says Sachdeva. Many business leaders are already seeing budget cuts and reluctance to these initiatives. But this training is vital to understand the significance of inclusion for the long-term success of companies. Additionally, more workers consider it table stakes when considering a place to work.Renu Sachdeva, head of client solutions at Talking Talent, North America, led the thought leadership spotlight “94% of people in a survey said that it is very or somewhat important to them to feel a sense  of belonging in the workplace. And yet 75% have said that they felt excluded in some way,”  said Sachdeva. With a percentage so high, why would a company not want DEIB training within their organization? Satisfied employees means more productivity and higher retention rates. Talking Talent’s approach to DEIB is rooted in two beliefs. First, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is for everyone. Second, you have to fix the culture. Saying DEIB is for everyone means that no particular ethnic group or cultural background is  excluded from the conversation. It should be at the forefront of the employee lifecycle, and practice in recruiting efforts, onboarding, and performance reviews. Rather than offering training as a one-time solution, it should be an integral aspect of the overall employee experience. Inclusive leadership and allyship training for current and future leaders ensures that each leader has the necessary skills to invite diversity and inclusion into the company. Sachdeva says that employees who get promoted may have exceptional technical skills, which is why they get promoted in the first place. Yet, they have not gained the managerial skills to foster inclusion and guide people underneath them as a strong leader. Each organization has its unique risks if effective inclusion is not a priority. Pushing the work around DEIB forward is a necessity, and can propel engagement and success, says Sachdeva.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Talking Talent, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Mary Jones is a freelance writer out of Ohio. Her work is featured in several publications including The Dallas Express, NDash, and The Daily Advocate.

Mary Jones | June 13, 2024

How to Improve the Recruiting Process for Technical Talent

“There’s a record number of candidates applying for roles. I think it takes a good, solid recruiting strategy to ensure inclusivity practices are followed,” said Cody Ledbetter, senior technical recruiter at O’Reilly Auto Parts, during a From Day One panel discussion on how to build an exceptional recruitment process.According to Amanda Richardson, CEO at technical interview platform CoderPad, this increase in application volume is forcing recruiters to make changes. She observes companies abandoning loosely planned, informal interviews for more conscientious decision-making. “It’s nice to see companies being a little more organized, disciplined, and clear in their hiring processes,” she said.Richardson is encouraged by candidate assessments designed to evaluate the skills most relevant to the job–rather than arbitrary pop quizzes, for instance–and happy with the return of the live interview checking both hard and soft skills.It is the confluence of mutually beneficial tech tools and human understanding, said panelists, that is changing the way employers are able to recruit and vet incoming tech talent.Using the Latest in HR Tech to Improve the Hiring ProcessArtificial intelligence has talent acquisition professionals excited for its possibilities and likewise trepidation about its power. And whether they’re prepared or not, AI has arrived in HR technology. So, what are the implications for the hiring process?The panelists spoke to the topic "Hiring Tech Developers: Building a Nearly Perfect Recruitment Process" (photo by From Day One)“I do think that [AI] will make the recruitment process significantly more efficient, in terms of elimination of manual tasks,” said Phil Yob, senior director of talent acquisition at insurance tech company Applied Systems. “I don’t think that at this point it’s solving for the personal interaction you get from working with TA or HR in the interview process. Despite all the good work they can do from automated messaging, face-to-face interaction and the human touch element are big pieces.”Further, panelists urged recruiting teams to be vigilant about the quality of the AI tools they’re using. Ultimately, the TA teams and hiring managers who use them will be responsible for whatever decisions are made. “It’s our job to understand what it’s doing and what it’s weeding out,” said Julia Stone, head of recruiting for eCommerce infrastructure services at Amazon.Assessing Great CandidatesFaced with mountains of applications, recruiters are figuring out the most efficient, effective, and scalable ways of evaluating the qualifications of those candidates. Ledbetter’s rule of thumb is that “the recruitment process should be commensurate with the level of technicality for the role.” Don’t exhaust candidates with overly complex or back-to-back assessments. By avoiding burdensome technical assessments–and limiting questions only to those most relevant to the role–employers can build trusting relationships with top developers.Given the tech industry’s reputation for being less than diverse, Richardson said she’s encouraged by new skills-based hiring practices. “I can assure you that [tech] is still lacking in diversity, but I credit people teams with doing everything they can to really fight against it. I do think the opportunities are around finding a way to assess candidates that’s different from just looking for logos or keywords.”Regarding the legitimacy and consistency of recommendations made by interviewers themselves, the panelists encouraged rigorous preparation. “It’s very important to establish what each person is assessing for,” Amazon’s Stone explained. “By putting more rigor in that structure before you’re going in, you can avoid some of that groupthink.”There may be room for more equity in the hiring process when it comes to hiring candidates from within or without the organization. Yob noted that Applied Systems makes a point of operating consistently, whether the candidate is internal or external. “We’ll give a little credence to their having been a part of the culture, but I think the best thing we can do is to motivate internally by treating them the same and continue to move them through that process to make sure we’re getting the best possible person.”Skills matter, but so does the mode of working. Employers that have called their workers back to the office are returning to the in-person interviews, the panelists said, but that won’t be necessary for everyone. The best way to evaluate a candidate is the context in which they’ll be working. “Some companies give a Slack interview–or on Teams, whatever your product is,” said Richardson. “If you can’t communicate effectively on that channel, you probably aren’t going to be successful in a remote world.” The interview format matters, she said. “Are they going to be proficient not only in the skills but in the environment, too?”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, CoderPad, for sponsoring this webinar.Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | June 13, 2024

The Secrets to Boosting Remote-Team Productivity and Performance

To attract talent, employers need to offer remote and hybrid work, yet also need to create innovative arrangements that work for both the individual employees and the organization. Employees tend to think they're more productive working from home, yet research indicates that's not always the case. How to bridge the gap and ensure optimal performance?“Leaders need to know how to support these distributed workforces in ways that don’t just ensure that they’re physically at work every day, but that they’re performing their best in a sustainable way,” said Sarah Altemus, productivity lab manager at ActivTrak. “This will be a real differentiator for organizations,” she said during a From Day One webinar.ActivTrak provides interactive dashboards and modern software to help employers and managers gain insight into maximizing remote and hybrid workplace productivity. These tools help measure utilization, identify signs of individual burnout, summarize daily and weekly goal progress, and develop more balanced workloads.Leah Ivory, solution consultant at ActivTrak discussed key dashboards and reports that  provide employers and their managers with the tools to identify key results areas, measure individual productivity, measure team utilization, and spot opportunities to reestablish workload balance and engagement.ActivTrak’s software integrates direct email communication to foster coaching discussions among managers and individual team members to strategize performance plans and solutions to engagement challenges.Their one-stop dashboard provides a 30,000-foot organizational and team management system using graphs and charts that can be broken down by department, region, or group. It should be referred to daily to track engagement levels in real-time and over the previous 30-day period to measure goal progress. Users can also see team productivity metrics for every member and weekly utilization trends. Other insights include workload balance reports, coaching and personal insights, and more.These innovative tools help strategize high productivity in remote and hybrid settings. In 2024, most businesses have adapted to offering remote and hybrid work to keep talent. However, without referring to data there is no assurance that investing more in remote or hybrid work policies will be sustainable.Employers often omit key insights by looking at traditional outputs that deliver results like production, revenue, and quality. Altemus says that insights into the inputs, like how employees work, how to use technology, how processes are adapted, and how training influences behavior, offer valuable insights into optimizing remote and hybrid work performance combined with output insights.Sarah Altemus of ActivTrak led the From Day One webinar (company photo)“What happens when we don’t track the inputs is we put ourselves in a position where maybe we overhire, and when we overhire, we’ll have low utilization elsewhere in the organization. We buy technology that goes underutilized and have higher technology costs as a result of it.”Analytical tools revealing personal insights get to the root of the inputs: they identify who is overworking or underworking, who works better and where, and more information that gives employers and managers the opportunity to address the oncoming burnout or disengagement of a team member. Goals can be restructured and more personalized to improve productivity.The ability for managers to access the personal insights of every individual team member presents a highly personalized one-on-one coaching opportunity to strategize a performance plan supporting their upward mobility based on their projects, location where their productivity is the most efficient, or restoring their workload balance.“We’re really committed to being an employee-centric tool, empowering employees with their own data or providing the right level of information to the right level of people in the organization. We’re making sure that executives have access to the data they need for decision-making and managers are able to be effective,” said Altemus.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, ActivTrak, for sponsoring this webinar. Stephanie Reed is a freelance news, marketing, and content writer. Much of her work features small business owners throughout diverse industries. She is passionate about promoting small, ethical, and eco-conscious businesses.

Stephanie Reed | June 12, 2024

How to Take a Multi-Faceted Approach to Developing Leaders

As many organizations are finding, the traditional approach to performance management doesn’t work anymore. That’s especially true in the music industry, says Jennifer Rice, SVP of learning and organizational development at Universal Music Group.“UMG has over 50 different labels, and a lot of these different labels have their own culture, their own ownership, it's incredibly decentralized, which I think is by design,” Rice said. At From Day One’s May virtual conference, Rice discussed how UMG approaches its leadership development. Bryan Walsh, editorial director at Vox, moderated the fireside chat. Rather than a once-a-year goal setting with a mid-year check in that’s tied to a bonus, they have adopted a methodology of workflow. It’s important to be flexible when you have 60 territories around the globe, Rice says. There are still clear objectives, but with a twist. “It’s a continuous conversation,” she added. Creating a Learning CultureThe business world moves fast, so it’s important to create a culture of learning to keep up. Not only is it good for business, but it’s what employees, especially the younger generation, crave from their employers.“A lot of younger employees are thinking about this,” she said. If they can learn important skills in the workplace, it can help them now and in the future, no matter where they end up. “They can remain relevant and resilient, knowing that what they’re doing now and how it's being done is almost certainly not going to be the way it’s been done in a decade’s time.”The pandemic certainly fast-tracked this way of thought, especially when it comes to middle managers. “One of the things we have to teach individuals is to be resilient, and to stay curious, because the world is changing so quickly,” Rice said. “We need to ensure that we’re equipping people, particularly that middle management and our leadership team to remain curious, to have a growth mindset, to really lean into building trust with their team and having psychological safety.” Jennifer Rice of Universal Music Group was interviewed by Bryan Walsh of Vox MediaThe question is, how do you coach people to learn resilience? Companies can’t begin to teach that until there is psychological safety and trust and a culture of learning. “Asking questions, being curious and innovating is huge.” At UMG, they have innovation labs and hackathons to help people build creativity. Mentors and coaches are another way to foster learning and growth. “Giving people that one-on-one attention via a coach is going to really be a game changer.”UMG offers a program specifically for women’s development—they all get a coach. Retention and promotion rates are better than any program they have. “Coaching fosters engagement, retention, skill building, a great employee experience and a great culture,” Rice said.The 6 Strings of Management UMG offers a 6 Strings of Management program, a cohort of managers who can develop skills for being better leaders. “I think we all realize that learning new skills is hard. To learn any new skill requires a sustained effort.” Then leaders need opportunities to apply those skills, then to reflect on how those skills are being leveraged, and finally assessments to validate. “Something that makes it really great is, it’s not just content that we’re teaching individuals,” she said. “People learn by doing, they don’t learn by just listening, watching or learning, in the flow of work. So as L&D professionals, our role is to make that content so captivating, but to also keep the learner engaged so that they’re not just clicking out of the tab and doing something else.” The 6 Strings focuses on leading through transformation, impact, how to deal with change, communication, emotional intelligence, trust, and psychological safety. Those are important skills in any industry, but psychological safety is especially crucial in the creative industry, Rice says.“If you’re not always innovating, then you get left behind. So it’s incredibly important to create that safe space for people to take risks, for people to try on new things, for people to be creative. We really lean into what behaviors affect trust within the organization.” The program has a 98% recommendation rate, and they’ve seen a 92% adoption rate of the skills being learned. This program is especially important for middle managers, who are the ones with influence and relationships with many employees. Measuring Performance in a Creative IndustryNumbers have their place, and certainly sales can be an indicator of performance. When it comes to the creative industry, however, it’s important to focus on more than just output. So how to measure performance in the creative industry? At UMG, they can’t rely on just one source of information. There is a lot to take into consideration.“We really need to take a more holistic approach and gather feedback from a variety of sources, because work is done through collaboration, creativity, and teamwork,” Rice said. “We’re constantly reassessing and talking, conducting weekly one-on-ones with our teams, gathering feedback from a variety of sources.”Rather than a traditional approach, they try to be more modernized, more fluid, more flexible, more in the moment—a multi-faceted approach.Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | June 12, 2024

The No-Cost Solution to an Expensive Problem: Employee Turnover

Employee turnover is too expensive for businesses not to find alternative solutions. The Society of Human Resources Management reported that it costs up to 9 months worth of an employee's salary to replace and train someone who leaves their position. On a broader scope, it’s a prevalent issue causing businesses to lose a trillion dollars yearly according to Gallup.R.W. Holleman, director of strategic accounts at DailyPay, cautions that employee turnover is equally detrimental to a company’s financial stability and employees' successful workplace engagement. “The cost of employee turnover is not just a concern for HR departments,” Holleman said in a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s Dallas conference. “It’s a substantial burden on the financial health of the company, impacting the productivity of every single employee.” How can businesses stop spending more money, plunging deeper into debt, and begin reducing employee turnover? Holleman highlights a key employee benefit that addresses the leading cause of workers leaving their positions and offers a direct solution. Earned Wage Access: Solving Financial Burden Financial hardship is the leading cause of stress. In 2020, Purdue University cited survey results from CreditWise, revealing that people experienced more stress and anxiety over finances than work.. However, bonuses and pay increases aren’t an immediate solution for businesses nor employees. Businesses taking out more loans increases financial burdens and does not solve the core of the economic hardships of employees: the need for quick pay. Without access to quicker pay, workers must look for other side hustles and careers that provide same-day access to the money they need. “It’s not necessarily how much they have or how much they’ve earned. It’s about the access to the funds when you need it the most,” Holleman said.R.W. Holleman of DailyPay led the thought leadership spotlight in Dallas “The American worker is being challenged like never before to pay those bills on time. They don’t wait. They’re bouncing from job to job. They’re taking on gig jobs.”The solution is to provide Earned Wage Access (EWA), where employees access their pay as they earn it. EWA does not require taking out loans and is not an advance. It is money employees have already earned, making it a cost-effective solution for businesses and an inclusive benefit for all employees. An impressive 95% of DailyPay clients who previously relied on payday loans reduced their use or stopped altogether, and 97% of clients experienced less overdrafting, saving more than $600 yearly, according to research done by DailyPay. Other notable statistics include reducing turnover by up to 73% and 73% of participants citing they feel more confident managing their finances overall.An Empathetic Solution “Think of a time [when] you were at a grocery store. Have you ever had your card decline?” Holleman asked. “We’re managers, directors, VPs, executives–we got our life going and figured it out. But what about others,” he said, citing other life stages like college, where financial security is less common. The strain on all resources when organizations have to replace employees is apparent: advertising, reviewing applications, interviewing, recruiting, onboarding, and training costs money and time. Consequently, the employee workload increases with a loss of expertise from occupied managers, risking customer relations and creating an environment of uncertainty among teams. EWA exemplifies a win-win situation: it provides financial wellness that sustains employees, helping them stay committed and engaged in their current positions instead of taking more sick days or switching to gig jobs entirely for quicker pay. EWA saves businesses from spending around $45,000 to hire and train a replacement for a previous employee making $60,000 yearly.“It empowers them and provides them the flexibility they need over their finances. So they can bring the best version of themselves to work. And in turn, it can help your company be the best version it needs to be.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, DailyPay, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Stephanie Reed is a freelance news, marketing, and content writer. Much of her work features small business owners throughout diverse industries. She is passionate about promoting small, ethical, and eco-conscious businesses.

Stephanie Reed | June 11, 2024

Establishing a Well-Being Culture That Actually Works

Wellness has always existed as part of employee health concerns, but the pandemic hyper-focused our attention on the importance of well-being and the needs of workers. Yet, in an era of hybrid work, tighter profit margins, and AI, the range of well-being needs are challenging to meet. Companies are having to learn to do more with less but not lose sight of their employees well-being.“Two things have to be true for a benefit to be used. Number one, the benefit itself has to be designed in a revenue model perspective, meaning the cost has to be incentivized for your employees to use them as much as they possibly can. If the company has a business model where they make more money when less people use it, it will not get used. The second thing I'll say is that we have to focus on the science of behavior change," said Elena Gambon, chief strategy and growth officer at First Stop Health.A panel of business leaders came together to discuss the ins and outs of well-being, and how to create a culture of wellness at From Day One’s Dallas conference. The discussion was moderated by Will Maddox, senior writer for D CEO magazine and editor of D CEO Healthcare.“We’ve given so much permission to say I'm overwhelmed or I’m worried about my well-being or my workload, yet, have we equipped the people that have to handle that?” said Dennie Laney, VP of HR at Associa.Gambon says that at First Stop Health, they use behavioral scientist B.J. Fogg's model for human behavior: B=MAP (Behavior ‘B’ happens when Motivation ‘M’, Ability ‘A’, and a Prompt ‘P’ come together at the same moment).The first thing people need, Gambon says, is motivation. “The pain or the pleasure to act has to be high enough for someone to actually make a change. Second is the ability needs to be there. And for us, that means the service needs to cost $0. For the patient, the time that it takes to get to talk to one of our doctors needs to be minutes. Not hours. Not days. The third prong of that stool is promoting. If you’re not constantly reminding people that you exist in creative ways that resonate with them, no one will remember that it’s there.”Greg Miller, SVP, talent management and human resources, at AccentCare says this idea of prompting and promoting is a good one, but when push comes to shove, wellness gets sacrificed. "I think one real challenge for us and others is how do you really tie wellness and flexibility to tangible business results in ways in which we can talk about them as retention drivers, as attraction drivers."Hope Gladney, global lead of client relationships at AceUp, says you have to meet the individual where they are. “A lot of these programs really need to be done within the flow of work. So I think we really need to understand what it is that each individual needs, and try to tailor benefits that are actually going to meet them in the area where they're going to achieve the most benefit for them personally.”But, Gladney points out, the benefit has to also relate to the overall success of the organization.Covid was especially hard on the healthcare industry because they were the frontline, and there was a lot of panic and silent hardships in the beginning. “A lot of people left the industry because of that,” Miller said. “What we’ve tried to do within healthcare is to create the space to say I'm not okay, I’m scared and I need some help. We’ve tried to better leverage the resources we already had in place like employee assistance programs.”Healthcare is hard and there are still more questions than answers when it comes to supporting a 24/7 industry and social need, says Miller. The 24/7 reality of healthcare doesn't just apply to paid professionals, though. Being a caregiver is something that extends to unpaid work, the family, and your extended support network.Gambon says there’s a full spectrum of caregiving that’s invisibly happening behind the scenes with every healthcare worker.The executive panelists discussed the topic "Establishing a Well-Being Culture That Actually Works" in conversation mdoerated by Will Maddox of D CEO Magazine“All of this unpaid labor that predominantly female identifying individuals [do], not always in the home, whether it's to care for a neighbor or a family member or an aging parent or their own kiddos, who are well or special needs – there's just a full spectrum of caregiving that is happening invisibly behind the scenes. With almost every single employee. How do you make sure that anything you provide to your employees across the board is not only equitable, but available to all members of the family? However the employee defines family?” Gambon said.Understanding your work culture means also understanding your workers and who they are. Meaning there is no one size fits all approach to well-being. Gladney says you have to have self-awareness and understand your own triggers and biases. “When you take an inclusive approach to it, it’s first recognizing that everyone’s well-being journey is uniquely theirs.”Michelle Howard, the diversity and inclusion director at Vizient, says it’s about knowing what kind of organization you have. “People like to say, 'Oh, we have a culture of blank.' But you accidentally created a culture of blank. So understanding truly what your culture is. And then determining, is that what you want? And if it's not, it takes time to move that.”“Often when we think about creating inclusive benefits, we give people what we think is inclusive, and we don't ask them what they want or need. As hard as it is to invest the time and the money to listen and gather data, it is the most important step in creating something of value. I like to say that diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, the ‘D’ is both for diversity as well as data. Because it is a science, and a proven science. The more you focus on the individual, the better off they will be,” said Gambon.“Everybody knows the golden rule, right? Treat others how you want to be treated? It is the platinum rule. And you have to tap in to understand what that is," Howard said.Matthew Koehler is a freelance journalist and licensed real estate agent based in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in Greater Greater Washington, The Washington Post, The Southwester, and Walking Cinema, among others.

Matthew Koehler | June 11, 2024

Total Well-Being: Optimizing Benefits for a Diverse Workforce

AT&T has consistently championed employee wellness, driven by a team dedicated to the four pillars of well-being: mental, social, physical, and financial. So, when they introduced an on-site doctor for their workforce, it was no surprise given their forward-thinking approach.In a fireside chat, Stacey Marx, AT&T’s senior vice president of total rewards & HR technology, discussed the impact of Covid on corporate well-being and how the company continues to stay ahead in supporting their employees.“That really put a bright light on wellness,” she said at From Day One’s Dallas conference, in conversation with Lauren Crawford, reporter for CBS News Texas.Helping Employees Prioritize Mental HealthThe first step in improving mental health is destigmatizing it, says Marx. “It’s a simple start,” she said. “Talk about it, make it normal, whether that be everyday talk, in big town halls, or employee gatherings.”Once employees realize it’s OK to discuss their mental health, they feel comfortable sharing if they are feeling down, Marx says. She recommends offering online platforms and tools so team members can quickly find help, including virtual appointments with mental health providers.In addition to having an on-site doctor, employees appreciate virtual appointments because they only take up a bit of their time, says Marx. They also give team members in rural areas or other locations without easy access to in-person mental health treatment a way to get the care they need.AT&T also recognizes the importance of social health by giving each employee one day off per year to volunteer. “We encourage them to volunteer with their teams,” Marx said. “Everybody feels great. It’s fun. And we don’t have to take vacation or do it after work.”Caregiver Leave and Family PlanningCaregiver leave and family planning are two popular offerings for AT&T employees. “It is so important to take care of yourself and your family so that you can bring your best self to work,” she said.Stacey Marx of AT&T, left, spoke with Lauren Crawford of CBS News Texas at From Day One's event in DallasTheir leave policy especially critical for those in the sandwich generation, who have children still living at home and aging parents. AT&T employees can take up to three weeks of caregiver leave. Marx says the team members love it because they don’t have to use their vacation time if a loved one is sick or needs surgery. “Vacation time is a sacred time for you to rest and relax and recover,” she said.The company also partners with Maven, which helps young families from fertility education through each trimester of pregnancy and beyond. “Even after you return to work, it helps you have support,” Marx said.Determining the Benefits Your Employees NeedWith so many different benefits available, how can companies choose the ones that are best for them?“We found two cornerstones that you should think about when you’re thinking about well-being,” Marx said. “The first one is putting that employee first and really soliciting feedback, but it’s not just getting the feedback. It’s actually listening to the feedback.”The second step is gathering data. She said that data can come from employee surveys, which she calls the "first line of defense," and focus groups, where companies ask employees who use a particular benefit what they value about it.During annual enrollment, AT&T has robust Q&A sessions “where we get the HR team in the field with the employees to really get that feedback,” Marx said.Communicating With EmployeesIt can take a while for company leaders to feel comfortable talking to employees about benefits, says Marx. It’s best to educate them so they can answer questions from their team. When talking to their teams about benefits, leaders should use “simple, non-HR speak, so people can really find what they’re looking for,” Marx said.One of the best things AT&T has done is giving employees their own personal health care concierge, says Marx. There’s a phone number on the back of their insurance cards that they can call if they are in a challenging situation. “Maybe you got a scary diagnosis and you want to talk to somebody about what is the right next step,” she said. “This team will help you. That’s a real live example of how we put the employee in the center of all our wellness benefits and really design around them.”Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | June 07, 2024

Making Professional Development a Personalized Experience

Today’s workforce craves an added value experience and personal recognition, especially in the culture of hybrid and remote work. But how can businesses tailor development when everyone is so busy and in many cases spread all over?As Bravely founder and CEO, Sarah Sheehan has learned over her career, each person is motivated by something different, and that plays a big role into how to approach professional development.“We all struggle with different challenges as individuals, like what we’re bringing from our personal lives, and how that impacts how we show up at work.”Sheehan was one of four panelists at From Day One’s Dallas conference. Paul O’Donnell, former business editor of the Dallas Morning News, moderated.Development is like training a muscle that employees can use the rest of their career, Sheehan says. As a coaching company, Bravely works with employees at Zillow, Pinterest, Autodesk, and many more, of different sizes and industries.“The results have been incredible,” she said. “95% of people say that they have had a mindset shift and feel more positive about their organization in their role, which to me is the mic-drop worthy stat.”However, most of the tools out there lack a holistic approach. For example, within many manager training sessions, a whopping 70% of information is lost in 24 hours and 90% is gone within a week—unless it’s reinforced with post application tools, says Sheehan. “Coaching is the perfect post application tool,” she said. Leveraging Technology and Good ManagersPanelist Mark Benton is VP of HR corporate functions at McKesson, a medical equipment and supply company of over 50,000 employees, 500 of which are on his HR team, says the biggest challenge they’re facing is building digital literacy as a tool.“Our goal by the end of the year is to get everybody 30% more proficient in being digital in the way that they work,” he said. In essence, he’s hoping to encourage employees to use digital tools like AI and ChatGPT to augment 30% of their work day. McKesson has personalized this experience by creating its own internal version of ChatGPT.As employees use these tools more regularly to automate what can be automated, they are developing best practices for using the digital tools, which is a skill most employees will need to have.Another area of focus for Benton and anyone in HR is managers—specifically hiring the right people for the job and making sure expectations are clear. “Any of us here are in the lifelong pursuit of making sure that manager quality is good,” he said.Paul O'Donnell of Dallas Morning News moderated the panel of industry leaders While companies should always provide personalized development for its managers, not everyone is adept at being a good manager. “Sometimes there’s just nothing we can do to save them from themselves. We can have all the great training programs, we can put all the right leadership models, we can have good performance management, and then they just don’t do it,” Benton said.HR should do its part to be stewards of the culture, he added, offering a good example of how managers should be managing.Encouraging Constructive FeedbackIn global companies like JPMorgan Chase, panelist Amit Sharma, executive director of talent and career development experience, says that there is a lot of data available from employees. The question is, how can companies potentially leverage data for employees’ development?Further, considering the diversity across the organization and the many markets and cultures of operation, how do we ensure consistency in our offerings and also meet different needs, where they exist?“I think an area across the industry that we can focus more on is constructive feedback,” Sharma said. “Peer to peer constructive feedback overall I think is an area where we can do a lot more. We’re good at giving accolades. But how good are we really at giving feedback that’s constructive?”For example, says Sharma, with all the company calls, do we seek feedback from others on the call? Ask them if we came across clearly and consistently? What could we have done differently?Another area Sharma feels is important to help personalize employee development is networking. Reaching out to colleagues and peers who could guide them and be a one-on-one resource for learning and growth. Sharma once had a coach who advised him to make a list of several important people within the company to talk to regularly, plus several people outside of the company to talk to regularly. This helps to open doors and build relationships.Self-Paced LearningPanelist Jennifer Chopelas, head of HR at Merlin Entertainments, spoke about the company’s new program Ticket to Lead aimed at helping leaders build skills.“Especially after Covid as we rebuilt our teams, what really became apparent was that we had several young managers who were trying their best but didn’t have the skillset yet,” she said.Ticket to Lead is a six-week long global cohort with self-paced learning. People are busy, but they want professional development. Self-paced learning has been a good way to bridge the gap.After running the pilot program, they saw 91% engagement and there was a 21% increase in their confidence. “They also stated that 84% of them felt like their growth had been accelerated as a leader, because we really were investing in them.”This kind of skill-building is crucial, Chopelas says, as they rely on managers to drive performance. And it’s those same managers who can help employees receive a personalized development experience. But managers must see that in company leadership.“Our leaders need to be the ones standing up and showing all of those new skills that are required in this new workplace,” she said. “If you cannot build a connection and trust with your team, you cannot give them feedback or coach them. And that has to be the mentality. And it has to come from the top, they have to be demonstrating those qualities.”Ultimately, they must be vulnerable, transparent, and build trust, so managers and employees will follow suit.Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | June 06, 2024

Excellence in Hiring: Designing the Optimal Frontline Employee Selection Process

If a job application takes more than 15 minutes to complete, more than 70% of job seekers say they’ll bounce, according to a 2022 survey reported in HR Dive. This barrier is particularly germane to companies that employ frontline workers, often working against a narrow time-to-hire. Those recruiters have to scale operations quickly, efficiently, and often with little notice. Time matters, and even a small amount of friction can be enough to convince a job seeker to look elsewhere.“Going from three business days down to a one-second communication timeframe was huge for us,” said Carlie Lockey, the founder and CEO of Remarkable People Solutions, a recruitment firm based in coastal North Carolina. Lockey’s business had reached a tipping point: she needed to scale operations quickly, but couldn’t forfeit speed or efficiency. She shared what she learned from the process during a recent From Day One webinar on the optimal employee-selection process for frontline workers.What was she looking for? First, a high degree of automation–Lockey’s staff needs to stay nimble. Second, a high degree of customization–all her clients deploy different recruiting processes. “We needed something that would take a lot of the mindless work off of our hands, provide the best applicant experience, as well as serve each of our clients individually,” she said.Communication, and the speed of communication, was also high on the list for Remarkable People Solutions. The company needed to get its clients communicating with applicants immediately and provide consistent updates on their position in the process.She chose Fountain, a platform for frontline workforce management. It used to take the firm five business days just to notify applicants that they weren’t being sent to the next round. After adopting the platform, Remarkable People Solutions was able to invite top candidates to schedule a phone interview within an hour of applying. As Lockey put it, “the maximum amount of time is saved.”Carlie Lockey of Remarkable People Solutions and Nico Roberts of Fountain were interviewed by Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza during From Day One's webinar (photo by From Day One)Fountain was engineered to be flexible, said the company’s chief business officer Nico Roberts. “We made a decision really early on to allow a ton of customization, so [clients] can hone in on the exact flow that they’re looking for, the experience that they want to tailor, and the target applicant they’re trying to find.”There’s also the matter of bottlenecks that inevitably arise in recruitment cycles, those impediments that prompt so many applicants to abandon the process.Roberts likes to look for opportunities to grease the wheels, breaking it down “day to day, season to season, position to position, state by state, and city by city.” At other times, it’s worth slowing things down. “There might be some markets where you’re getting so many applicants that you want to figure out where the quality is and have those applicants rise to the top,” he said.One way to speed things up is to incorporate text messaging into the application and recruitment process. Roberts said 85–87% of applications that Fountain handles come in via text message or mobile device. The rest are email. “Our number one request is to add more WhatsApp capabilities, so that’s coming soon, and we’re currently building Facebook Messenger capabilities,” he said.It’s not only popular among young workers. Before Covid arrived, Roberts said, text message application users were usually aged 18–40, but that’s changed. There’s no single demographic over-indexing for their text messaging tools. He credits the popularity of delivery apps during lockdowns. “A lot of [people] had to download apps to get groceries and became very proficient on mobile devices.”The trend indicates a frontline worker on the go. “They don’t want to sit in front of a laptop or wait until they get home for a desktop. They want instant communication,” Roberts said. “These folks are applying on lunch breaks or after work. They’re tired, most likely they’re frustrated.  There’s a reason they need another job or a second job or a fourth job. The more barriers you can remove, the bigger success you’ll have with hiring these folks.”Another barrier often overlooked? Talent acquisition isn’t always available when applicants have questions. Fountain has been developing AI bots that keep the recruiting engine running even when recruiters have clocked out for the day. “More than 60% of all applicant questions happen in non-business hours, and [applicants] typically have to wait for recruiters to log back in to help answer,” said Roberts. “But if you have an FAQ bot trained, they can start answering in real time, whether it’s 10 o’clock at night or one o’clock in the morning.”But for every click tech feature one could add to their recruiting cycle, it’s worth asking whether  it should be added. If it isn’t a reflection of your employer brand, skip it or tailor it to suit your employer identity.“The folks that are crushing it have an authentic side,” said Roberts. Where there’s opportunity to connect more personally with applicants–like by sliding in videos of current employees giving advice to prospective workers–employers should do it where it feels natural and true to their brand.“The authenticity piece I think is most crucial, whether you’re scaling up or not,” Lockey said. “If you’re just trying to hire warm bodies–that’s not authentic. You want to hire people for a purpose, to be on a team and make an impact both on your team members’ lives and your clients.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Fountain, for sponsoring this webinar.Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | June 05, 2024