As the Senior Director of People Success for a fast-growing global digital marketing agency and resident HR expert, my team is busy hiring, developing, and supporting a wide variety of team members. Helping people is the main reason people get into HR (what we call People Success), and in the spirit of continuing to pay it forward, I wanted to share my answers to common questions I get from peers, colleagues, and candidates.
Here are five of the big ones I get most frequently. If you’re in Human Resources/People Success, what would you add to this list?
Do you really incorporate Team Member feedback into decisions?
The short answer is YES, and frankly, any employer would be crazy not to. We are proactive and monitor our environment carefully. We always love ideas for improvement, but perhaps more importantly, we seek out issues early and nip them in the bud. We use employee feedback to get to the root of any concerns, and solve those problems head-on.
We gather feedback in a variety of ways. Our main method is our anonymous employee satisfaction survey, completed twice per year. We ask for details and specific ideas on what we are doing well, but also where we still need to improve. We analyze the quantitative and qualitative results and then I make SMART action plans for improvements.
One good example of this is our communication. When we started this survey at Hennessey Digital, communication was the most frequently-mentioned concern from team members.
To solve our communication problem, we blitzed it from all angles, including adding quarterly town halls to our biweekly all-team HenneHuddles, added a Director of Communications, implemented bi-weekly leadership team meetings, launched a new Team Member Playbook (also known as an employee handbook at less cool companies), and more. Now, we rarely see communication-related feedback in our anonymous employee surveys.
Another way we’ve incorporated feedback is in our benefits package. While our work flexibility and time-off policies are cutting edge, we received feedback early on that our health/medical benefits were lacking. As a result of this feedback, we made many enhancements to our benefits package, such as doubling down on our benefits package in 2022, with more planned for the future as we grow into our Vivid Vision. We continually monitor our compensation and benefits against industry benchmarks to make sure we’re competitive in the market.
In addition to semi-annual anonymous employee feedback surveys, we also solicit feedback during exit interviews. The goal of the exit interview must be to identify areas for improvement and how the organization can get better. It’s not the time to throw people under the bus on the way out the door, which I have sadly seen happen all too often in my career. Generally in exit interviews, you’ll get uncensored, honest insight into things we may not get from a current team member.
One caveat here is that a company needs a skilled interviewer to complete exit interviews appropriately that focus on improvements. For example, we ask “Why did you start looking for another job?” instead of “Why are you leaving?” This gives us a clearer idea of the real issues we need to address.
Finally, we monitor certain metrics to track our trends in recruiting and employment. For example, we look at turnover, job acceptance rates, and time to fill rates. We also track how many times we were in a competitive offer situation with a candidate and whether we recruited them. We also monitor feedback on social networking sites. These indirect pieces of information can work to tell a more complete story on company perception and performance.
How are you handling staffing amid the Great Resignation?
While pandemic brought many challenges for employers, the labor market was already tight before COVID-19. And right now, I don’t know of a single organization that isn’t having a hard time finding quality candidates to fill open roles quickly, except us. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are now 1.7 jobs open for every person out there looking. No wonder there is trouble.
The solution is two parts: Talent Acquisition and Retention.
We are having amazing success hiring. How? We determine needs up front then search for talent. Our team is quick and decisive. We know what works, and we know what doesn’t. Hiring managers have the authority to move when we find someone they want, and wow do they move! We’ve kept our time to fill for leadership roles to 41 days, and non-leadership positions to 36 days, and we have grown our team by over 30% so far this year. While this isn’t any easy task, it is simply incredible results.
More and more, we are now competing with other offers, and we are winning! This is not luck. We win because we strategically designed an environment where people want to work. Having a world-class company culture and putting it out there for candidates to see is a great recruiting tool. In fact, one of our new SEO leaders even referenced our 127 Code of Honor as a big reason for joining our team.
This is the time to be laser focused on compensation and benefits too. It’s not a time to “see what people can work for” or to low ball anyone. We base salaries on national benchmarks, internal and external equity, and we go in with confidence they will accept.
More importantly than hiring is to keep your people! Of course our award-winning remote culture is a huge piece of this. But we find that individual growth is even more important. That’s why we designed the Career Pathing program and our robust Learning and Development program. More on the L&D piece to come soon.
Our Career Pathing program is transparent and team members know what they need to do to succeed, grow, and get promoted through the ranks. And every 6 months they are considered, so even if they didn’t make it this time, they have a window of time to refocus, and then be reconsidered again.
Our turnover is in a very healthy place. Of course all companies experience turnover, and that’s sometimes a good thing, but we are proud of where we are.
What will make me stand out as an applicant at your company?
Many of the tips I have in this regard are general, and I shared how to land your dream job in digital marketing last year. And as I mentioned earlier in this post, communication and respect go a long way, and word travels fast. Always show up to scheduled interviews and communicate if and when something comes up if you must reschedule.
Because culture is such a big deal to us at Hennessey Digital, we like candidates who research our company and make it clear they know what we’re all about. Our culture is important to us, so if you can speak to who we are, what we stand for, and why you’d make a good addition to the team, that’s a great way to distinguish yourself as an applicant.
When it comes to specific skills, having hands-on SEO experience is a big bonus for any position at Hennessey Digital, but it’s critical for every client-facing role. Technical SEO and web development experience are two of the “hot” skills we’re always after.
In terms of soft skills, we look for stability. We want to see candidates with a decent track record in previous roles. If you’re changing jobs every 6 months, it’s not a good indication that you’ll be a long-term team member with us.
I also believe that when someone has a negative attitude, it’s a very difficult thing to come back from. We’d rather hire someone with a great attitude and a growth mindset and teach them skills than vice versa.
If you’re someone who can pivot quickly and roll with the punches, you’ll be a good fit for us. We move quickly because it’s the nature of our industry and our clients’ expectations, so we need our team to be flexible and willing to try new approaches to succeed.
Is this you? Check out our current open positions and see if you’re a fit for what we’re looking for!
How do you invest in your team?
L&D (learning and development) is a huge deal at Hennessey Digital. Because we’re a 100%-remote company, we’re always seeking out ways to track performance, communicate, and boost accountability virtually.
Greg Herrmann is our full-time learning and development pro who leads company wide training efforts within the company. When I asked him what the hot topics and trends are in L&D, true to form, Greg came back with a wealth of information and ideas.
These are the top areas Greg sees requests and opportunities for in L&D:
Career development and mentorship
I love that so many of our team members are eager to learn new skills to better themselves and the team. But I also love that it’s not just skills training we see requests for: team members want to learn to lead.
Our mentoring program is a great way for people to develop and refine their leadership skills—and for those who want to become people managers to learn how to lead. During this 6 month program, senior leaders pair up with those who are hungry to share experiences, get tips and tricks, and to grow in 6 key areas: effective communication, giving and receiving feedback, coaching and development, conflict management, change management and of course inspiration leadership.
Team members also want to learn intradepartmental skills in other areas of the business. Google training in particular, is our top need for the team. The frequency with which Google makes updates and tweaks to its algorithm and supporting resources presents an evolving opportunity for the most up to date training. Our L&D strategy is nimble and we update our courses and training materials regularly. We’ve found that a blended learning approach works best, with online/virtual resources, live training sessions, and in 1:1 department meetings.
This is the top request we see outside of topics related to our core business. Our team members are asking for personal development resources in areas like physical and mental health, financial wellness, and how to maximize the benefits we offer. We offer a centralized resource for all of these topics. We even dedicate a Slack channel to wellness, where we exchange information, share our experiences, and encourage each other to live healthier lives.
How has Hennessey Digital addressed diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Just a few years ago, we were a small company. Now, we have team members in 14 countries and in almost 25 US states. Cultures and personalities vary greatly. DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is one element of this, and is threaded through our company in a very natural way.
Above all, our strategy is to be inclusive of everyone, on everything. Of course this sounds insurmountable for a People Success department of four team members. So, we have chosen a few ways to be more inclusive for each country. For example, we honor and celebrate all holidays for each country we have people in, we include all contractors on our Employee Survey, we spotlight all countries in company wide meetings, and we have even conducted surveys specific to the international team to see what would help them feel included.
Concerning more “official” efforts for DEI, mainly within the US, we are just scratching the surface. I advise practitioners to be very intentional and deliberate. This is not a light topic, and if not treated with respect and purpose, it won’t be successful. I’ve seen organizations try half-hearted DEI programs and fall on their faces, or worse, have disappointed team members who feel shorted. A truly effective DEI program must have a clear purpose and goals, with a structure and framework to support it.
When a team member asked to start a thread on one particular DEI topic a few months ago, I knew it was time to implement a bigger solution. Like all things we tackle at Hennessey Digital, we value doing it right the first time. I developed an Employee Resource Group (ERG) plan document with clear goals, responsibilities, meeting cadences, and actions that the ERG would be responsible for. We needed team members to run this group with an executive sponsor who wasn’t on the People Success team, and our President & COO Scott Shrum stepped up to the plate.
I then presented this to the team member whose idea got this started, and they loved it, and it started to grow from there. They added some tweaks and came up with some fun and unique programs to help achieve the goals of the program. They did an amazing job of launching the program and are running with it. I’m thrilled we’re approaching this as an employee-driven effort, rather than a top-down directive from the C-suite.
Hennessey Digital is a very open, communicative organization, and this is one of the things our team members love about us. But we’re also cautious about boundaries at work and not distracting from our main objective: serving our clients. It’s a difficult balance to strike, as Basecamp learned last year. Like any program, this is something we need to continue to work on, and with time, we can see it improving.