11242017

BusinessQ Roundtable: Mind your humans (resources)

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May 10, 2017 (Back row, from left) Alex Osborne, G&A Partners; Paul McFarling, Back Office Remedies; Johanna Fawson, Boostability; Curtis Morley, eLearning Brothers; Jeanette Bennett, BusinessQ Magazine; (Front row, from left) Daryl Sisk, ESG; Mike Tait, Zions Bank; Starr Fowler, Vivint. (Photo by Dave Blackhurst/UV360)

In the Summer 2017 BusinessQ Roundtable, seven human resource experts shared where the resources abound.


Jeanette Bennett, BusinessQ: What are the biggest changes you have seen in the HR world in the past decade?

Starr Fowler, Vivint: Ten years ago, people were focused on “Do my job, do it well, get recognized and get promoted.” Now the line between work and personal life is very blurred, and employees are OK with that. If they have to go to their kid’s soccer game midday, they want the flexibility to do that and get online later to complete their job. They think more in terms of “get the work done” than doing it in the format the employer wants it done. What that means from an HR standpoint is new policies in terms of work-life flexibility. The benefits we offer have to be different. It involves having services or things onsite that support that blurred line of work-life balance.

Daryl Sisk, ESG: One major change is health care reform. It changes all the time, and everyone is trying to figure out how to deal with it. Culturally, companies are looking for interesting ways to attract and retain employees. If you have a fantastic idea like incorporating an incentive plan or profit-sharing, you have to figure out how to legally do it.

Curtis Morley, eLearning Brothers

Mike Tait, Zions Bank: Through the 1990s and up to 2007, HR fought and achieved the desire to be a strategic partner within businesses. And then the downturn happened. When financial stress hits organizations, it forces everyone to reexamine what they are doing. In my experience from 2007 to now, HR has needed to not only stop feeling they’ve reached the pinnacle through being a strategic partner, but they also need to focus on being more efficient.

Sisk, ESG: You have to be more creative. HR professionals were rule-keepers for a long time. Now they have a seat at the table as far as the direction and outcomes of the company.

Johanna Fawson, Boostability: The culture and demographic have changed. We have a very young demographic at Boostability. It changes the mentality. Ideas about education have evolved. Now we focus on keeping an employee engaged and making sure they are learning and growing. They are not going to be lifetime employees like a decade before. Now we focus on what we can do to make their time profitable and beneficial for the company and have the work-life balance in place for the employee.

Fowler, Vivint: We have four generations in the workplace right now. What we have to do to retain all those generations is very different. To be able to differentiate what we offer to employees based on their needs and across generations is really hard. To a younger individual, a 401k may not be as important. But for baby boomers and Gen Xers, that’s really important. We have to think creatively in how we engage all different types of people.

Curtis Morley, eLearning Brothers: Since the Millennials jumped on the work wagon, there are a couple things we’ve noticed. They are really focused on having fun and making a contribution. Even more than their compensation, contribution for them is huge. They think, “I need to know I can make a difference in the company and will be recognized for that contribution.”

Fawson, Boostability: That recognition needs to be immediate. Back in the day you had quarterly bonuses or at the end of the year, but with the Millennial generation, they want it now — just like a video game. They want to get to the next level and receive a reward right then.

Alex Osborne, G&A Partners: For the Millennial workforce, they have Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and they are used to getting “likes.” As soon as they get likes, they have endorphins motivating them to move forward. As they enter the workforce coming out of college, we have to think about how can we change our HR practices and get the business owners on board with the changes. The young employees want to make a difference and have a global influence. Not just, “I’m doing the task at hand,” but “I’m an influence for my company and for those around me.”

“If you come to our office, you’ll see scoreboards on big TVs that show where people are at. They love it because they can know at any time, ‘How am I doing? Here is the goal and where I am with that goal.’ It gives them recognition.” — Curtis Morley, eLearning Brothers

Paul McFarling, Back Office Remedies: I agree with the idea about immediate recognition. But I’m 51, and my recognition is I get paid every payday. I used to manage by exception. If there was a problem, then I’d get involved. Now I’ll go out on the floor and say, “I know I made you stop what you were doing to work on this project. I really appreciate it. You did a great job.” That immediate feedback is important. I don’t think rewarding them at the end of the year is as important. Of course everyone likes money, but they want immediate satisfaction for the work they do.

Fowler, Vivint: In the past, getting recognized from your boss was really important. While that’s still important, now it’s about peer recognition with Millennials. It’s not just, “Did my boss recognize I put in extra hours?” It’s, “Did my peers recognize I contributed to this project?” That’s really important, but not a lot of companies have figured out how to do it and how to it do well.


Bennett, BusinessQ: What are specific ways of recognizing employees?

McFarling, Back Office Remedies: I deal with small- to mid-size businesses. They have limited budgets. So how do you have a good program or policy that doesn’t cost a lot of money? Saying thank you or good job doesn’t cost anything. A preferred parking space. Having everybody come together to announce the employee of the month. It’s team-building. We are building an environment where people are cooperative and not competitive.

Osborne, G&A Partners: For us, it’s finding those intrinsic motivators. We can’t put a one-size-fits-all approach to recognition. Perhaps that means doing personality tests or getting to know your people and what motivates them. I have one employee and what motivates her is sitting by a window. I have another one who sits next to her. He wants money. It’s understanding those intrinsic motivators and how we can tap into them.

Johanna Fawson, Boostability

Fawson, Boostability: A lot of times when you ask them, they’ll talk about the extrinsic. They want more money. But to really get them engaged, you have to find the intrinsic motivators.

Morley, eLearning Brothers: If you come to our office, you’ll see scoreboards on big TVs that show where people are at. They love it because they can know at any time, “How am I doing? Here is the goal and where I am with that goal.” It gives them recognition.

Sisk, ESG: We deal with a wide variety of companies and sizes. But some things work across the board. One is flexibility. That doesn’t have to cost you anything but coordination. Culture can also mean traditions. We do an Easter egg event where everyone gets an egg and we open them all together. One of the prizes is eight PTO hours. The cost is minimal, but it’s fun. Cultural things build over time. The funny thing is when they leave your company, they won’t remember a 25-cent-an-hour pay raise. They’ll remember the Easter egg event and going to the Food and Care Coalition. That stuff stands out and differentiates you from everybody else.

Osborne, G&A Partners: Everyone wants the Google approach where there’s free food and all that flexibility. It sounds like Vivint is doing that, and that’s incredible. But our small clients can’t necessarily do that yet, so they’re finding what works for them. We have a client who just implemented “jeans always.” That made the biggest impact on that company, and it didn’t cost a penny.

“That recognition needs to be immediate. Back in the day you had quarterly bonuses or at the end of the year, but with the Millennial generation, they want it now — just like a video game. They want to get to the next level and receive a reward right then.” — Johanna Fawson, Boostability

Fowler, Vivint: The manager’s role is no longer just asking, “Did you get your work done?” It’s understanding the employees’ needs and tailoring to that. That manager role is pivotal in creating both motivation and reward recognition. If you have a manager who only says, “Did you do your job?” you’re probably not going to get motivated employees who feel recognized.

Morley, eLearning Brothers: I recently went to a chief HR officer conference, and they said that the quarterly review is dead. You’ve gone three months from when someone had an issue, and you’re telling them now? They said it’s an obsolete idea. You need to give feedback in the moment. Quarterly reviews need to happen every day. It needs to be, “You did something great? We’re going to reward you.” Or, “You did something not so good? Let’s talk about it. Let’s figure it out.”


Bennett, BusinessQ: How do you give feedback when it’s not positive?

McFarling Back Office Remedies: I can give you an example. We have a culture based on maintaining levity in the office. There was some joking in the lunchroom about one of the employees, and it became personal. The employee’s perception was, “You’re attacking me. It’s not a joke anymore.” I wasn’t in the room, so I talked to the person who made the comment to get their feedback before jumping to conclusions. He tried to make a joke, and it was a bad joke. We didn’t want to blow it out of proportion but if we didn’t address it immediately, it was going to create animosity. We had to nip that in the bud the same day.

Alex Osborne, G&A Partners

Tait, Zions Bank: When we hire someone, we think they have high potential and believe they’ll be a great employee. However, sometimes they don’t perform as well as we think they should. We forget about their potential because in that moment we’re unhappy with whatever they did. Part of that correctional discussion has always got to be, “We think you are a great employee. You have high potential and long-term value to the team. If you want to continue to add value, here are some things you should focus on.” Obviously, when you have a critical behavior, you cannot paint it in any other way than, “You can’t do that anymore.” Employees respond better when they see, “I did something I wasn’t supposed to do, but it didn’t destroy my relationship with my boss, coworkers or company. They still think I’m great.”

Fowler, Vivint: One thing managers can try when they hire an employee is sitting down and asking, “How do you want to receive feedback?” Also, share with those employees how you as a leader respond to feedback. Set that expectation up front. Then you can have the conversations at the right time. Have a culture inside your organization for feedback.

Fawson, Boostability: Maybe they have high potential, but they aren’t a cultural fit. Sometimes we’ll have a conversation that goes like, “Do you feel this is the best fit for you and the company?” They appreciate that transparency and open communication with the managers. It allows for feedback both ways. It also allows for mentoring and coaching.

“Specific to Utah and Utah Valley, we have a cultural reluctance to discipline. We want to avoid confrontation. We need to train our managers that it doesn’t have to be confrontational. We can talk to our employees about the good and the bad and still move upward.” — Alex Osborne, G&A Partners

Osborne, G&A Partners: It has to be transparent. If we’re only talking to them when they’re doing something wrong, when they hear, “Come into my office,” they’ll think, “What did I do?” You have to reward the good while correcting the bad. Specific to Utah and Utah Valley, we have a cultural reluctance to discipline. We want to avoid confrontation. We need to train our managers that it doesn’t have to be confrontational. We can talk to our employees about the good and the bad and still move upward.

Morley, eLearning Brothers: We start the discipline process in the hiring process. If we have a candidate who has a high skill level, but we don’t feel like they’ll be loyal or add to the community, we’ll hire someone with a lower skillset because we can teach them and they can develop those skills and be part of the family that is eLearning Brothers.

Fawson, Boostability: It’s more important if you can train them and if they have a potential to learn. They have to be adaptable and flexible.

McFarling, Back Office Remedies: Right from the interview process, you know if that candidate will fit the culture. If they don’t, you will have conflict. We have new hires talk to employees before they start so they know what to expect. Employees have to fit into the environment. It isn’t all about skillset. Another topic we haven’t touched is the flipside of discipline. If you’re not disciplining, it affects coworkers. It brings morale down when people get away with inappropriate behavior.

Fawson, Boostability: One thing that saves time and money and gives us insight into the cultural fit is using digital interviews. We ask quirky questions that show their personality. Are they able to joke or are they super serious? How they are going to fit in with the team they are applying for? We rely heavily on our applicant tracking system to filter out people who don’t meet our qualifications. We’re looking for keywords or phrases for a specific position. And those who pass that first test get the invite to take a digital interview. That has saved hours of interview time.


Bennett, BusinessQ: What is unique about HR in Utah Valley?

Osborne, G&A Partners: We have a highly skilled workforce coming into the market, and they are not demanding as high of wages as I’ve seen in other states. Maybe the competition is so fierce that people are taking lower paid jobs. Maybe we‘re doing a good job incentivizing people with more than money.

Fowler, Vivint: I have the opposite experience. Many of our roles are high tech jobs. People will interview with another company, come back and say, “I can get another $5,000 if I go over here.” Employees are saying, “This is what I’m worth, and I can prove it to you.”

Daryl Sisk, ESG

Tait, Zions Bank: Silicon Slopes is a world to themselves. Most of us aren’t competing in the same space as the tech companies. Part of the reason people don’t push for as high of compensation goes back to the culture. People want to live here. It’s a family centric community. People are willing to take less money to have the lifestyle they want over what they could get if they went to New York, Chicago or LA. That’s not true with our IT sector in the state where they struggle to find all the talent they need. The other thing about Utah County is we’re lacking diversity. Even Salt Lake City has a much more diverse population. What will help the businesses here move forward is different experiences, cultures, ideas and perspectives coming together.

Fowler, Vivint: It is challenging to find diverse talent and convincing them to work here. They think, “What I value is not going to be what they value. How is that going to work?” I can see why they may be nervous coming into a company based in Utah Valley. It’s more a perception than a reality, but it makes it hard. People who are transplants in the area actually have a great experience. We get our potential hires to talk to people who haven’t lived in Utah Valley their whole lives about how to acclimate. Most of them have good stories. I’ve come across very few people who’ve had a bad experience.

Osborne, G&A Partners: I worked with a talent acquisition company the other day that works with tech companies. They do an entire weekend during the hiring process where they fly the family out and show them all Utah has to offer. They show them the hiking and skiing beyond Provo and Orem.

Morley, eLearning Brothers: We’ve acquired a couple companies outside of Utah, and there are two things they say when they spend a week or two with us. One is the positivity in general, how upbeat and generally happy everyone is. The other thing they notice is we are focused on family, how family is as important or more important than a job.

“The funny thing is when they leave your company, they won’t remember a 25-cent-an-hour pay raise. They’ll remember the Easter egg event and going to the Food and Care Coalition. That stuff stands out and differentiates you from everybody else.” — Daryl Sisk, ESG

Fawson, Boostability: Right now, there is a shortage of talent for technical roles, which leads to poaching from other companies.

Sisk, ESG: Years back, the major employer in Utah County was Geneva Steel. Silicon Slopes has created an entirely different culture here.

Fowler, Vivint: Back on the tech talent side, there is a low number of teachers certified to teach computer science and STEM courses below the university level. There is a huge risk to the viability of producing tech talent going forward if we don’t solve that problem. Vivint has two initiatives going. We send employees into classrooms to teach kids how to program one day a week for 12 weeks. We are also launching a summer program called Girls Go Digital. It’s primarily aimed at the daughters of our employees. It’s a one-week summer camp to help them understand what a career in a STEM field looks like and teach them some basic programming.


Bennett, BusinessQ: Let’s talk about hiring. How do people get your attention?

Fawson, Boostability: For high-end roles, like lead engineers, we are looking for passive candidates. Sometimes the people looking for positions aren’t the people we want to hire. Tools include Indeed and Stack Overflow.

Paul McFarling, Back Office Remedies

Osborne, G&A Partners: What I would say to job seekers is read the job description and cater your message to that. Nobody gets that. They send a blanket resume. You’ve got to tweak it and make it stand out. I had a gentleman send me a resume, and it just popped. His stood out above the other 12 candidates because he catered his message in the resume to what I was looking for.

Sisk, ESG: It’s better to send out three customized resumes than 50 standard ones. You’ll get much better responses, particularly with a strong intro letter.

Tait, Zions Bank: We’re getting thousands of applications per month. Take a few extra steps such as customizing your resume. Go on LinkedIn, find out who you know at the company. Call them and say, “I’m applying for this job.” It’s still a world where if you know somebody, they can put in a good word.

Fawson, Boostability: About 65 to 70 percent of our hires are from employee referrals. Unfortunately, that does perpetuate our homogeneous culture. But it does help new employees to have a friend at work and they also know what the culture will be like.

“So how do you have a good program or policy that doesn’t cost a lot of money? Saying thank you or good job doesn’t cost anything. A preferred parking space. Having everybody come together to announce the employee of the month. It’s team-building.” — Paul McFarling, Back Office Remedies

Morley, eLearning Brothers: If somebody knows someone else on a personal level at the office, it works out so much better. They don’t feel like an island when they start.

Fowler, Vivint: Another tip when you’re looking for a new opportunity is to understand that your LinkedIn profile is not your Facebook profile. Sometimes I’ll see someone’s profile on LinkedIn, and I’ll say, “I don’t want to be biased by a picture, but this isn’t professional.”

Osborne, G&A Partners: Business owners and HR directors are looking at your social media whether you like it or not. Be careful what you put on there. It tells people who you are outside of the business world.


Bennett, BusinessQ: After someone has sent in their resume, how should they follow up? What is the next step?

Fowler, Vivint: Timing is really key. People who want to work for Vivint and are paying attention might send me a LinkedIn message and say, “I see this is what Vivint is doing, and this is how I fit into that.” I’m happy to set up 20-30 minutes to talk to someone.

Osborne, G&A Partners: I appreciate the follow up because if you follow up with me, hopefully you’ll follow up with my clients. Don’t pester me or bug me, but be tactful.

Mike Tait, Zions Bank

Fawson, Boostability: Don’t call. Just send an email. That gives us the ability to respond on our time.

McFarling, Back Office Remedies: Two pieces of advice: Treat a job search like a job. Don’t spend 30 minutes sending out generic resumes. Spend eight hours a day until you find a job you want. Two, proofread your damn resume. As a lawyer, it drives me insane. If punctuation and grammar are poor, that’s carelessness right off the bat. It’s like the start of a bad movie. They never get better.

Sisk, ESG: It’s attention to detail. Be diligent in the process as opposed to throwing out 50 resumes. Take a professional approach.

Fowler, Vivint: One question I like to ask is, “What opportunities are you looking for?” The second thing I’ll ask is, “Tell me about a time you failed at something. What did you learn?” When folks sit there and take a lot of time, it tells me either they failed a lot and are trying to pick the least offensive one, or they don’t believe they have failed. Everybody fails. What’s important is how quickly you recover from that failure and what you learn.

Morley, eLearning Brothers: One question I ask is, “What did you do to prepare for this interview?” Sixty to 80 percent of the time, they’ll say, “I went to your website and clicked around.” Occasionally they’ll say, “I went on LinkedIn and I found out I was connected to this person who works here. I saw the job description and I fit this way.” How well prepared they are to sit in the chair is a huge indicator of how they will do on the job.

Fowler, Vivint: I try to make the interview more of a discussion. I always end with, “What questions do you have for me?” When folks ask, “What are your benefits?” I know they haven’t really thought this through.

Sisk, ESG: Be prepared with relevant questions. It’s interesting how many times you turn the time over to them, and they are not prepared. They should have some thoughtful and relevant questions particular to their position. I might not expect that out of an entry level position. But I do expect that from a manager or executive position.

Morley, eLearning Brothers: My favorite question applicants ask is, “What does success look like in this role?”

Sisk, ESG: I think you learn more about that person in that moment than anything. It’s when we say, “I’m going to release control to you and see how you do.”

“The other thing about Utah County is we’re lacking diversity. Even Salt Lake City has a much more diverse population. What will help the businesses here move forward is different experiences, cultures, ideas and perspectives coming together.” — Mike Tait, Zions Bank

Fowler, Vivint: Because we look for passive candidates, it’s so important they have their resume up to date. I have called a number of passive candidates who say they’re interested, but they aren’t willing to give me a resume and want me to just look at their LinkedIn page. Being ready for that call is important.

Tait, Zions Bank: Any time you get a new job, the first thing you should do is update your resume. You don’t know when you’re going to need it. Sometimes it’s because you made a bad call and sometimes companies change.

Osborne, G&A Partners: Keep it simple. I don’t want a five-page resume to flip through.

Fawson, Boostability: Have professional references, not family and friends.

Tait, Zions Bank: Quantify your contributions. “I did a good job” is not nearly as important as saying, “This is what I accomplished, and this was the impact.” Show measurements of impact, cycle time improvements, dollars saved, revenue generated.


Bennett, BusinessQ: What do you love about HR?

Most people in the room: People.

Fowler, Vivint: For me, it’s not about people. It’s about problem-solving and helping people reach their potential. That’s what gets me excited. It’s working with individuals, understanding their goals, understanding the business needs and then aligning those.

Starr Fowler, Vivint

Osborne, G&A Partners: I love understanding the parameters of the business and finding solutions best suited for the company and the employees within those parameters so it’s a win-win for everyone.

Fawson, Boostability: With HR, it’s never a dull day.

Sisk, ESG: You hear the best stories. Of course you can’t tell them (laughing).

McFarling, Back Office Remedies: I’m trying to help the employer who doesn’t have the skillset of HR. If I can bring solutions to the table, I get satisfaction from problem solving.

Tait, Zions Bank:  I like to feel like I’m helping the business achieve its objectives. I’m doing that through the people resources of the organization. There’s a lot of satisfaction from seeing other people grow and develop. I get a lot of my own enjoyment from the workplace in seeing I did something that made a difference in the work life of another person. That’s not why I went into HR, but that’s why I stay in it.

“I’ll ask, “Tell me about a time you failed at something. What did you learn?” When folks sit there and take a lot of time, it tells me either they failed a lot and are trying to pick the least offensive one, or they don’t believe they have failed. Everybody fails.” — Starr Fowler, Vivint

Fawson, Boostability: The more interactions you have with people, the more you learn about yourself and the more you grow.

Morley, eLearning Brothers: Our stated company mission is to create eLearning rockstars. It’s about helping people develop and grow. We have a mission that every single person who works for us is better than when they came ­— better emotionally, physically.

Bennett, BusinessQ: Sounds like you’re all in the right profession. Thank you all for being here and sharing HR insights.

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