Navigating the Future of Business With Resilience and Innovation

BY Katie Chambers | May 09, 2024

When Amy Letke, national practice leader, HR consulting at Marsh McLennan Agency talks about innovative HR strategy, she points to one of her clients as a perfect example. This company has a workplace with harsh conditions that most of us would find unattractive. It’s a meatpacking company where employees often find themselves working in below-freezing temperatures and less-than-competitive pay. Yet its attrition rate is remarkably low.

The client told her, “We’ve invested in our people, we’ve conducted leadership training, we’ve had to reorganize. We’ve [also] had to go back to our leaders and say, ‘You’ve got to like your people, to talk to them, and be compassionate to their needs.’” Letke shared this story in a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s D.C. event. By offering a holistic benefits package and engaging not just the employees, but also their families with a welcoming company culture, this organization convinced workers not only to stay, but to thrive in a very tough job.

In a dynamic business environment, adaptation is essential to stay competitive. Organizations face unprecedented challenges and opportunities, demanding a blend of resilience and innovation. Letke offered an enlightening presentation on how to navigate and excel in this landscape, with insights, strategies, and actionable advice to thrive amid evolving industry trends.

Workplace Challenges in 2024

Letke says employers face three major challenges this year, each of which offers opportunities to be more effective with your HR benefits strategy. First, is attracting and retaining talent. The second, she says, is getting more done with less. And finally, the third is the rapid technological advancement happening.

Covid prepared HR teams to deal with rapidly changing circumstances, she says. “HR teams have to be resilient. And we always are renewing and invigorating ourselves.” She offers several hallmarks of a resilient HR structure, including a coaching for leaders, a handbook that addresses time off and other work policies, up-to-date job descriptions, and a readiness to handle tough conversations, among others. By consistently analyzing your infrastructure and making sure the latest trends and policies are incorporated, you can stay ahead of any challenges coming down the line.

Creating an Effective Strategy

In addition to staying on top of trends and keeping HR infrastructure updated, it’s also about attitude and company culture. “When we become a leader, we’ve got to realize what we’re signing up for,” Letke said. “It means we have to be compassionate, caring, [and] we have to listen.” This sometimes requires training, she says.

Amy Letke,  National Practice Leader, HR Consulting at Marsh McLennan Agency led the thought leadership spotlight in D.C.

Resilient infrastructure can create a resilient culture with exceptional supervisors. These leaders give the frontline workforce the support that they need and can often make an organization more attractive even when the pay is not as competitive due to budget cuts in a challenging economy. It also means that leaders should be held accountable for employee turnover, as their attitude and care should be driving the culture that inspires retention and loyalty.

Workers satisfied with every element of the employee experience are happier and feel more successful, appreciated, and have a greater sense of belonging, Letke says. These elements include pay and compensation, purposeful work, culture, and flexibility. “This list shows how we as leaders can deliver care throughout our organization,” Letke said, and should be a guiding principle behind HR strategy.

Having an Effective Benefits Strategy

“Offering good employee benefits is just basic, everybody expects it,” Letke said, especially post-pandemic. So she encourages leaders to be more creative with their benefits strategy in order to stay competitive. A recent Marsh McLennan study showed that one in three employees would forgo a pay increase in return for additional well-being offerings for themselves and their families. “Being able to support your employees’ well-being is something we are seeing as an emerging trend, so thinking about those benefits is a way you can differentiate your company from others,” she said.

Letke identifies four key areas of focus as opportunities to be more effective with your benefits strategy:

  1. Personalization: Give employees choices.
  2. Segmentation: Understand the different segments of employees and their needs. 
  3. Centralization: To curb spending, there will likely be a centralization of tech platforms and human support options for HR teams. 
  4. Empathy: Be there for your employees.

A comprehensive benefits program incorporates the needs of every generation in the workforce, whose needs can look quite different. For example, Gen X might want remote work, flexible scheduling, caregiving benefits, and retirement planning, while Gen Z might prioritize student loan repayment, financial planning assistance, and training and development.

Many workplaces have multiple generations represented among the workforce, so “managing to the needs of these generations is critical,” Letke said.

Ultimately, HR success is about cultivating a mindset of innovation, Letke says. If HR has become a “check the box” compliance function, you’re doing it wrong. “Our job is to lead, inspire, and help others understand the impact they can make on the employee experience,” Letke said.

Intention, compassion, and empathy is how winning organizations do it. A holistic approach to leadership that includes every element of an employees’ experience – both at work and at home – can make for a sustainable, forward-thinking, and highly attractive workplace.

Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Marsh McLennan Agency, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. 

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.


RELATED STORIES

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

How Investing in Employee Experience Brings a Positive Return

With all the employee-experience software options to choose from, the idea of choosing one to incorporate into your HR structure can be daunting. And in times of tightening budgets, it can be challenging to make the case for the spending. But according to a recent study by employee experience platform WorkTango, organizations that invest in employee-experience software see a 2-to-3 times return on the money they put into it.The study surveyed 1,077 North American HR leaders, 90% of whom said that knowing which employees are engaged is especially important in an uncertain economic climate. An interested and enthused workforce is a loyal, steady workforce and employee experience (EX) software can help HR managers keep a finger on the pulse of workers’ attitudes, needs, and desires.As WorkTango states in its recent report, “EX investments represent a low risk and high potential reward when it comes to creating an employee experience that connects your workforce across hybrid environments, supports the daily efforts of individual employees, and enables every team member to perform at their highest level.” Ninety-three percent of those surveyed achieved a positive or neutral ROI from investing in EX software.Finding the Right SoftwareAmong the several types of EX software on the market, each has its own unique offering to complement your organization’s long- and short-term strategies and goals. Among those surveyed, 70% prioritized software that helped with performance management, 67% wanted employee recognition and rewards, and 56% needed support with employee listening and surveys.Some employees respond better to certain interactions with organizational leadership than others. WorkTango recommends surveying team members to see what matters most to them, from public recognition to company swag, and then choosing software accordingly. Ideally, you should identify a solution provider that offers several capabilities within a single platform for maximum ROI.Click above to view and download WorkTango's reportAs you make your software selection, WorkTango suggests focusing on the three deciding factors listed as most important among those surveyed: reporting and analytics capabilities, ease of use, and cost. That said, researchers noticed that among the few companies that reported neutral or negative benefits reaped from employee experience software, all named cost as their top deciding factor. It’s important to invest in a quality product, and not just check a box while watching the budget.The ROI on Employee Experience InvestmentsWhat do employers hope to achieve with their investment in employee experience technology? It’s not just about saving money or making the HR department more efficient, although those are certainly added benefits. The focus for many organizations is the return on individual people. The top areas of expected ROI among those surveyed were an increase in employee productivity or performance, an increase in employee retention, and an increase in customer satisfaction.According to WorkTango’s report, it takes time, as well as employee adoption and utilization, to produce positive outcomes. You may not see results overnight, as the employee-experience technology implementation requires a gradual culture shift. Seventy percent of the HR leaders surveyed said that their executive team expects to hear about the impact of these investments within the first six months.It’s important for HR to align on executive expectations for key updates and have a conversation about the timeframe for implementation and what is realistic and measurable. HR leaders should be prepared to report on three key areas: people ROI (employee engagement and regrettable turnover), company ROI (customer satisfaction and performance/productivity), and HR’s ROI (cost savings and team efficiency).The real ROI results are clear: EX software is the smart, meaningful, and financially savvy choice. Out of the 1,077 organizations surveyed who invested in this technology:65% achieved higher employee productivity and performance 58% improved employee retention54% increased customer satisfaction33% saved on costs compared to their previous efforts32% saw a higher employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), meaning employees are more likely to recommend the company31% reduced the total HR time spent administering employee-experience programs31% saw reduced absenteeism17% saw an increase in Glassdoor ratings16% saw an increase in company stock performanceBest Practices for Achieving ROIA few trends popped up among those surveyed who had success with their employee-experience software. These organizations prioritized data-based measurement of the program’s impact over anecdotal evidence, setting specific goals and then measuring against those goals over time to demonstrate value.They also aligned early with executive leadership on what success for EX investments should look like, whether that’s an increase in productivity, retention, customer satisfaction, referrals, positive brand awareness, or a combination of all those factors. And finally, these organizations encouraged and incentivized employee experience platform adoption.The more the platform is successfully used, the higher the ROI.Frequent employee recognition and engagement was positively correlated to company performance, with those surveyed seeing an increase in quarterly revenue. WorkTango’s ROI report states that “supporting employees by investing in the employee experience leads to what we call the compound interest of a great team member: they stick around longer (retention), they produce at a higher level (performance), and as a bonus, they tell others about what a great company they work for.” By investing in the happiness of their employees, leaders are investing in the success, growth, and longevity of the organization.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, WorkTango, for sponsoring this sponsor spotlight. Download WorkTango’s ROI report here.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 CBS New York, Cheddar News, and iWomanTV.

Katie Chambers | June 04, 2024

Bridging Business Goals with Human-Centric Hiring to Impact the Bottom Line

As a young finance and real estate professional who witnessed mergers and acquisitions fail from the inside, Stephanie Manzelli realized that a critical component of a deal’s success was in the aftermath: how well the people were integrated culturally into the newly merged workplace.With this revelation, she changed direction and embarked on a career in HR with an emphasis on talent management and acquisition. Now as the senior vice president of human resources and diversity, equity and inclusion at Lever, a talent acquisition suite and an Employ brand, Manzelli has developed key strategies for successful hires.I spoke to Manzelli during From Day One’s webinar, Intentional Recruiting: Bridging Business Goals with Human Centric Hiring to Impact the Bottom Line. During this fireside chat, she shared insights and advice, particularly on how to map out a company’s goals and influence leadership.Manzelli made it clear that knowing a company’s business goals is only one part of understanding its needs. She breaks down each business goal into a four-part roadmap that then allows her to analyze what skills and experience the company needs to meet its objectives. Manzelli calls this horizon mapping.Horizon mapping begins with the ultimate goal and then reverse engineers the interim horizons to meet that goal. She gave the example of a company that wants to go public in a few years. She sets that as horizon four. The three horizons before that are big goals, or “rocks,” the company needs to achieve to successfully attain horizon four. So horizon two might be a successful series A funding round. “Underneath each of these horizons, every business unit has deliverables that they must achieve,” she said.Once the horizon has been mapped, she does a talent gap analysis and develops what she calls a “make versus buy strategy.” ‘Make’ refers to developing skills within the current talent pool of employees at the company, whereas ‘buy’ is talent acquisition. Using horizon mapping, “we find the roadmap that we need to start to build out those talent pools and source the right candidates more proactively, so that we can fill those business needs before our business actually needs them. And that should be the North Star,” Manzelli said.Stephanie Manzelli of Lever was interviewed by journalist Jeanhee Kim during the From Day One webinar (photo by From Day One)Sometimes it’s not easy to know what the business goals are, Manzelli acknowledged, that it takes one-on-one discussions with key business leaders and skill to build the right relationships within the company and communicate effectively. One of the most effective skills she employs is influencing without authority, which requires “flexing your communication style to meet the needs of your audience.”Knowing the styles of your leaders is essential. For data-driven individuals, Manzelli comes to the conversation armed with reports, metrics and return-on-investment figures. Other leaders depend on their gut and intuition. Those conversations are easier, she says, and are based on relationships and trust. But to maintain that trust, she prepares the reports as backup.“I always enter an organization or a conversation as slowly as I can. I really like to build the relationship before we dive into the tasks,” Manzelli said. “It's not a thing that takes me a long time to do, but it does pay off on the backend, and ensures the people that I’m partnering with have the bedrock of a relationship with me.” That relationship building then allows the leadership to have more open dialogue about their goals.These skills, horizon mapping and influencing without authority, are key for any successful HR professional. “HR, right, wrong or indifferent, is oftentimes looked at as a highly administrative function where we’re often only engaged when people need help.”But she said knowing what your company’s goals are and how HR and talent acquisition can get the company to meet its goals is always in the back of her mind. “You always have to make that connection point for the business. That’s our responsibility.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Lever, an Employ brand, for sponsoring this webinar. Jeanhee Kim is an independent journalist who has worked for CoinDesk, Crain’s New York Business, Money magazine and Forbes Asia. 

Jeanhee Kim | May 30, 2024