I’m regularly asked questions about how we can be so quick and effective with recruiting, how our turnover is so low, and how our employee engagement scores rival top companies like Apple and Google. People often ask me, how do you do it, what do you do differently?
In thinking about what makes Hennessy Digital so successful at building and maintaining a positive, strong, award-winning culture, it’s just one thing. Nope, no “Top Ten” list here, or laundry list of action items. It’s just one thing.
It’s not rocket science, it’s not expensive, and it has nothing to do with useless buzzwords like “synergy,” “world-class,” or “quiet quitting.” If you are tired of never-ending vacancies and toxic personalities, let’s dive in.
Navigating the Challenges of Human Resources
It feels like every day that passes, being a Human Resources professional is more and more challenging. And if you are a business leader that has the luck, er… responsibilities of the HR function, it’s even more difficult because you are trying to do an increasingly complex job, on top of all of your other responsibilities. Keeping up with the times, the laws and the regulations, it’s time-consuming and challenging.
Here at Hennessey Digital, we call our HR team “People Success.” In my experience, many businesses and traditional HR departments forget, or perhaps don’t realize, that the goal of HR is to help the company and its people find success. Too many times, HR staffers turn into policymakers and enforcers, and focus so much on compliance they can’t see the forest through the trees. It’s easy to do and seemingly impossible to keep up. However, compliance is important, since it reinforces essential fairness and equality when handling everything from hiring and training, to benefits and compensation.
But, People Success is different.
When People Success stays focused on career growth, robust total rewards, ongoing leadership training, and continual improvement of the team, a magical thing happens. We see our team members stepping up, going above and beyond, and staying focused on clients’ success.
I love helping people find their way professionally. I love hiring and promotions, bringing out the best in people, growing the business, and focusing on the good. And while it’s not always so rosy, I appreciate when team members become vulnerable so we can figure out what the real issues are and solve them together.
It wasn’t always easy.
And I see now this was my path to pushing for bigger and better things. I struggled in past jobs when leadership did not support the team members and related initiatives. I struggled when they were more focused on the pennies than the people, and they acted surprised at impossible turnover and open positions that couldn’t get filled.
It is simply a recipe for failure. Don’t be that leader.
The Power of a People-Centric Approach
Put in the work upfront.
For starters, we built a strong foundation first. We got the right people on the team, set the structure, and determined business goals and our Vivid Vision. We then set clear, smart goals, stayed focused on those goals, and made decisions that work toward achieving those goals.
Getting the right people in place is key. It’s true what they say, hire good people and give them space to run. Don’t hold back when you know something is not working. Give those individuals a chance to improve, but don’t settle. Lead them, but don’t micromanage, and sometimes allow them to fail.
I should note in the People Success space, competitive pay and benefits should go without saying. They are necessary and should not be considered optional. If you do not have a competitive package, even the best environment won’t keep your key players and can’t maintain a positive culture. Basic needs must be met. This can be a large investment, but it’s an investment in your people, and people are worth it.
So what is it? What is the 1 thing?
Start with a blank piece of paper, and ask yourself this one question: What does my team want? Better yet, ask your team what they want.
Do not ask, ‘What works best for the company?’ Or, ‘How do I get to the highest level of productivity?’ And do not “lead your witness” by asking things like, “Do you think more PTO is a good idea?” Always ask these questions anonymously if you can.
We host quarterly town halls because our leadership team wants to know how we are doing. Because we’re so honest and transparent with our team, we find our team shares information with us.
I promise you will be shocked by how (mostly) very reasonable and doable their suggestions are.
Empowering Employees for Sustainable Growth
If it is that simple, why don’t more companies do this?
I’ve heard much opposition.
- What if we can’t do what is asked for by employees? Asking and not responding is worse than not asking at all. I will caution, if you ask your team, be prepared to react in some way. Think about how you can get close if what is being asked is not doable for your company. How can you find common ground, or “give a little.” Exhaust all options to make it happen. Think outside the box, and maybe even offer a trial to see how it goes. In the end, if it truly can’t be done, communicate why.
- Is this going to be expensive? It doesn’t have to be. Most employees want things in their careers that are free or very low cost, such as career pathing or flexibility to attend a concert, ballet, or soccer practice. And many want things that are simply indirect costs that can more easily be absorbed, such as mental health days or additional PTO.
Some people would make the argument that those things are not free, that they negatively affect the workforce, scheduling, etc. The opposite is true with the exception of a few industries. You’d be shocked how team members pitch in to help others out with no interruption to the business. Our leadership and People Success teams know that giving people what they need will repay itself tenfold.
- I am not sure I want to know. That’s probably the most common concern I have heard because leaders are worried about what people might say. Sometimes it’s “easier” not to know. Well, guess what? Not knowing only perpetuates the issues. Facing issues head-on is the only way to resolve them. And once the issues are resolved, we can all move on and have a better environment.
- I will only hear from the complainers. Yes, you will probably get some anonymous hateful elves. Every company has them. The best way to manage this is to take their feedback seriously and see if you can get to the root of the issue. If it is anonymous, that can be tough, but it’s worth your time to show them you care. On the flip side, companies like to listen to the “yes” women/men or the “kiss-ups.” While these opinions are also valid, these voices don’t typically represent the diversity of the company.
And then repeat.
This is not a one-time initiative. At Hennessey Digital, we don’t “set it and forget it.”
I am continually, perhaps obsessively, monitoring how people are doing. We take the temperature of our company and collect feedback in many ways, both formal and informal. The most essential is our bi-annual Employee Survey, the classic Net Promoter Score (eNPS). It’s simple with just one question and room for comments. We ask during our quarterly town halls and during our exit interviews. We even ask about engagement and their feeling of value on performance reviews. I make it known that I’m always available to receive feedback and answer any questions that the team has.
If you haven’t asked your team in the past 6 months, then it’s time. The workforce changes more rapidly than we think, especially if your company has experienced high turnover.
Our Senior Manager of Learning and Development, Greg Herrman, and I were chatting recently about the tremendous success we’ve had with engagement for online learning. Team members have not only been taking numerous courses, but also seeking out information about our training system.
The key here was simple, we decided early on that our training system is the single source of information. And then we repeated it over and over. We didn’t overcomplicate it, we repeated what worked.
Repeat what works. Change what doesn’t.
Creating a Thriving Work Environment: The One Thing That Matters
The one thing that matters is, in fact, one thing that can change and transform your company culture. It takes the desire for change and the intentionality of the leadership team to prioritize the needs, growth, and well-being of your employees.
In a world where talent acquisition and retention are crucial for organizational success, investing in a people-centric approach is more important than ever. By valuing your employees, you not only create a fulfilling work environment but also position your company for long-term growth and achievement.
So, take the first step. Embrace the power of a people-centric approach and unlock the transformative potential it holds for your company culture. Your employees and your organization will thank you for it.