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7 Min Read

Low Budget, High-Impact HR Hacks From 3 Experienced People Leaders 

Nicole Klemp

Huge expectations have been placed on today’s people leaders, while inflation, tight budgets, and a competitive talent market continue to create an uphill climb for many teams post-pandemic. That’s why at 15Five’s 2022 HR Hacks for Business Virtual Summit, we brought together a panel of HR leaders to share their ideas for doing more with less, and how you can build high performing teams even when times are tough.

Moderated by 15Five HR Business Partner Polly Stocks, the panel discussed what has been working well for them as they build a more strategic HR function. They also shared some helpful hacks you can put to the test in your own organization. 

Meet the panel:

Ebony Haywood, VP of People & Culture, LearnPlatform

Gabby Popowitz, Sr. Director of Talent & Culture, Boardable 

John Grover, Chief People Officer, Endsight 

Books and podcasts the panelists love

People leaders who spend countless hours advocating for learning and development programs for employees deserve time for their own personal and professional development too. 

But according to SHRM’s Future Chief People Officers Report, while training and development for HR professionals are critical to accelerating their careers, only about 35% are getting the opportunities they’ll need to thrive as people leaders.

All the panelists agreed that taking time for your own self-care and career development is essential to good leadership. Here are a few great books and podcasts our panelists recommend checking out:

Gabby: Adam Grant’s books and WorkLife podcast

John: The Core Value Equation by Darius Mirshahzadeh

Ebony: Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness and Daring Greatly, and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

What does it mean to be a strategic HR leader?

Most HR leaders can relate to feeling stuck in the middle between employees and executives. But as Forrester Analyst J.P. Gownder shared in the HR Hacks keynote, it’s possible for HR professionals to be both champions of employee experience and strategic business leaders. 

Our panel shared what being strategic means to them, and how they find a balance between the wants and needs of employees and their responsibility to business results:

Ebony: “It’s about making sure we’re getting into the bigger picture and vision of the company. Whether we realize it or not, we’re core to all of the things that happen. It’s about partnering with every team to be successful as a company while caring for employees in everything we do.” 

Gabby: “It’s a laser focus on the business outcomes. As HR people, we love processes; they help us be scalable, and we use them as a guide, but you have to remain flexible. You have to remain outcomes-focused, and that requires flexibility. That really is the key to strategy, to be a value-add, not a block.”

John: “Strategy is outcome-focused and looks at how the talent strategy can support the goals of the business… To get good and be really strategic, you have to get idealistic about where you want to go and the best imaginable outcomes. Somebody is going to be the best place to work; why not us?”

Where is the HR field headed in the next 5 years?

Polly asked the panelists to look deep into their crystal balls and share what they see coming for HR over the next few years. Here are a few things they’re seeing in the industry currently and some shifts they predict will happen:

John: “The future of business is not centered around [business leaders], it’s about helping employees feel great about themselves at work… If we help people love the version of themself that comes out at work, and it pulls out that inner hero in them, their esteem gets really high. That’s the future of work… helping others feel fantastic about themselves through their work.”

Ebony: “Even the word HR has changed; companies are becoming more centered around people and culture. It’s going to become more of the people leaders and people operations being the center of the business. The leaders are going to come to us to ask what we’re thinking, what we see, how people are feeling, what the engagement data is saying… all these questions that are important to the business and finance…. In the next 5 years, we’re going to see people leaders become a hot commodity… It’s bigger than benefits and payroll, and companies are starting to realize that.”  

Gabby: “We are basically the Lizzo of the company. Our milkshake brings all the superstars to the yard.” 

How can we rebrand people operations to support both the people and the business?

While we typically think of branding as marketing’s job, it can be useful for HR leaders to put some thought into how their people operations team is perceived internally. 

Polly asked the panel to share how they have (or plan to) rebrand their function to show both their dedication to the needs of employees and their strategic value to the business.

Ebony: “Before I joined, we didn’t have a people and culture function. I’ve had to develop, brand, and create this and define what it is… The core of how I started with the branding is that I was an advocate from day one… Starting with that tone in everything I’ve done and implemented has helped me with buy-in… I’m an advocate; I’m a support person. So one of the big things I’ve done is open up communication. When I started I met with every employee, and after that period, I meet with everyone after 30 and 90 days. I also use the 15Five check-ins… It has been the core of open-door communications.”

John: “Nobody wants to feel like a means to a profitable end for somebody else… Humans are not resources, so we got rid of that. Now we call ourselves talent and performance. Branding is what you do, not just what you say. So in the interview process, we do lifeline interviews and talk about defining moments… We put the time in to understand people and what their story is. We want everybody to feel heard through our interview process. We treat them like a real person [before] we get into the technical evaluations… Because we spend the time honoring the human, they feel heard and understood.”

Gabby: “A super easy hack is to make sure HR isn’t just the face of all the boring stuff [like] performance reviews and compensation increases… I make sure to incorporate bad jokes and funny references (‘Gab jokes’) into our team meetings so people can laugh a little and they’re reminded that I’m there as a resource.”

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