HR Tech Interview with James Norwood, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at isolved

James Norwood, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at isolved joined us for a quick chat to discuss the impact of 2020 on the gamut of HR services and the importance of driving employee culture despite today’s challenges, with the right HR automation:




Tell us a little about yourself James…we’d love to hear about your new role at isolved and some of the new plans you have in mind here?

I live in Orange County, California where I’ve now been for more than 20 years, yet I still root for my boyhood soccer team from across the pond, Brentford Football Club who are in the division below the English Premier League. While business certainly keeps me busy, I’m also an avid weekend cyclist and gardener…

Professionally, my new role as isolved chief marketing and strategy officer is incredibly exciting at a time when managing the end-to-end employee journey from hire to retire has never been more important. The pandemic has shed a light on every organization’s digital infrastructure, culture and employee experience by exposing areas of weakness and, for that matter, opportunity. isolved empowers companies to transform their employee experience with consumer-grade HCM technology so people can achieve their goals while organizations foster a collaborative and purposeful culture. If there were any positives in a very difficult year, it was that businesses are refocusing on what matters most: people. My job is to help get our people-first HCM technology into the hands of more companies.

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What are some of the ways in which you’ve seen businesses’ needs for HR Tech change this year – what are some of the ways in which you feel HR tech innovators can enhance their offerings to suit these changing needs in 2021 and beyond (how /why?).

Change often doesn’t happen without disruption. Taxis might still be only taking cash if it weren’t for Uber. Retailers might still be in-store only if it weren’t for Amazon. Car manufacturers might still bury their heads in the sand about electric if it weren’t for Tesla – and the list of disruptors goes on and on. We didn’t expect, however, for the onset of a global health crisis to change how we think about human resources’ role in the company. Very rarely was HR given its fair share of organizational dry powder, but the pandemic changed that with greater need for digital enablement, empowerment and engagement. With more investment opportunities, leaders must enhance their technology stack by focusing on smarter automation for the HR and payroll practitioner and greater self-service for the employees they serve.

While HR Tech innovators have responded to the 2020 global pandemic crisis in different ways – there’ve still been a lot of lags that businesses have had to deal with when it comes to navigating a changing tech landscape and addressing dynamic challenges during this time. Can you share your thoughts on some interesting ways in which businesses have used their HR tech stack to create better employee wellness practices during this time?

2020 was an opportunity to really scrutinize the “we’ve always done it this way” processes and explore better options. isolved customer, Key Training Center, which is one of Florida’s largest non-profits serving the developmentally disabled, is a great example of how they’ve used this time to better the employee experience. With the help of isolved, they moved from monthly pay to biweekly pay in less than a month – even though they had been paying employees in that frequency for over 50 years. They also took this time to change open-enrollment providers. Once again, with the help of isolved, they were able to do so in less than a month and pass on nearly $1K in savings yearly to each employee. While there was certainly a lot of work to be done in 2020, it did provide a chance to reflect on what was working and what wasn’t.

As HR leaders respond to the business needs of the new normal; what are some of the top thoughts you’d share with them when it comes to implementing HR Tech to drive business goals and strengthen employee practices and policies?

There’s a misconception that employees are going to think HCM technology is fun to use. The reality is, the best HCM technology gets out of the employee’s way. They can get hired, onboard, get paid, change benefits, record their time, share their opinions, learn and grow without ever knowing how the technology is working so effortlessly in the background. HR tech isn’t about “fun to have” in order to drive business goals and strengthen employee experience, it’s about “must have” to accelerate results, boost performance, increase productivity and reduce risk. The HR tech that will drive companies forward is intelligently connected to prevent the employee ever experiencing any friction.

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What are some of the top tech trends and indemand skills you feel will dominate HR / HR Tech in the nearfuture?

I asked isolved Chief People Officer Amy Mosher a very similar question recently about what was important pre-COVID and what is more important post-COVID and many of the opportunities and challenges were the same: business and employee compliance, talent acquisition, talent retention, compliance, digital services. What separates employers though are the differences such as radical workplace flexibility, caring employee engagement, wellness and wellbeing. There’s no rewind button on flexibility and no backward momentum on caring about a person individually at work. The future of work is in the individual: when, where and how they want to interact.

Before we wrap up, we’d love to hear a little about the employee culture and experience at isolved!

 As an employee experience company, we better have a standout employee experience ourselves, right? And we do or at least we work hard at it and value it. We work hard but we have fun doing it. We’re fortunate, for instance, to have a full-time employee engagement manager to help onboard new employees, manage community efforts for current employees and help our leaders with ways to engage a distributed workforce. As you may suspect, we also leverage isolved People Cloud to employ, enable and empower our own team members.

And lastly, a few of your biggest takeaways and tips on working effectively from anywhere….and adjusting to the new normal.

There are a few camps of remote workers: those who have been remote for some time, those who have been remote but are used to travelling or heading into an office occasionally and those who have never been remote before this year. Regardless of which camp one falls under, it was a change for everyone. The most productive remote workers are ones who make their day work for them whether that’s blocking off times in their calendar to focus or to take a streaming exercise class, starting their workday earlier or later than “normal”, working from the same setup each day or changing it out as the day progresses. The point is, we each require the autonomy and flexibility to make our workday ours to be our best selves and prevent burn out when it would be easy to work around the clock.

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isolved is an employee experience leader, providing intuitive, people-first HCM technology.

James Norwood is the Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at isolved

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