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TecHRseries Interview with Bill Smith, Manager and HR Business Partner, BitTitan

Using technology to create dashboards that show an employee how effectively they’re operating minute by minute, hour by hour or day by day is so important, especially today feels Bill Smith, HR Business Partner at BitTitan as he speaks to TecHRseries about his foray into HR and what HR teams needs to be doing more of now, given the current global conditions and impact of Covid-19.

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Tell us a little about yourself, Bill: How has your journey at BitTitan been so far? We’d love to hear about some of the biggest highlights!

Well for starters, people always ask me why I got into HR. Honestly, HR is the only thing that has genuinely come intuitively to me.  I have a natural disposition to want to understand and help people. There really is no place better than HR, where there’s an interaction of people and business strategy.  It has been a good fit from a career perspective.

Coming to BitTitan, I was moving from a position as an HR director with little frontline employee interaction.  I really wanted to find an opportunity to work with employees and managers again. At the heart of what HR people do, and to do it really well, you need to have a connection with employees and managers and do so on a regular basis. I was dealing with a lot of behind the scenes HR work and not really getting the meat and potatoes of what I like about HR. I tell my managers all the time that I serve the company best when I’m working directly with employees and managers. BitTitan is a great opportunity that allows me to do that.

In my role, I support roughly 120 employees across the Americas and Europe. I meet with almost every single employee and manager on a monthly basis, and that’s exciting to me because it presents a different way of being an HR Business Partner. We can triage issues before they worsen and become larger issues. It also offers a way for me to coach managers in real time, allowing more of a proactive approach instead of being reactive, which is extremely helpful from an HR perspective.

Also, being at BitTitan, there is an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that I have not seen elsewhere. It’s super exciting to be innovative. There are many companies that have used the same HR models from 40 years ago. You’re typically rolling out another person’s methodology, tools and systems, but BitTitan is different. Our CEO and executives challenge me daily to innovate the way I think about HR and the tools I implement. The HR IP we have is strong and continues to get stronger. That’s what makes HR at BitTitan different and so exciting to me.

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What about the field of HR in tech/B2B makes it most exciting, to you?

It comes back to the innovative nature of what we’re doing at BitTitan. In tech and tech startups, there’s an excitement about doing things differently. They are solving problems in an innovative way, and that spirit infuses into HR on a daily basis. Similarly, my colleagues want me to create something that’s consistent and in line with our company culture and entrepreneurial spirit, which is exciting and a challenge.

To collaborate with executives and meet their level of innovation is what makes HR tech jobs so important and interesting. You can’t get away with bringing old methodologies to the table because the executives and employees aren’t bringing those to the table in their roles. They’re constantly thinking about things differently and how to innovate, so should HR professionals.

When it comes to the upskilling/reskilling of executives from the workforce, what are some of your top 5 tips for ensuring scalability in training global teams?

  • Ensure that there is a consistency across your organization with the technology that motivates performance within your company and ensure that your employees are fluent in this technology. This may be in the form of business intelligence (BI) dashboards or project trackers. Your employees must understand the technology that runs your company.
  • Clearly establish ownership with your employees and what responsibilities they’re expected to own. This isn’t about day-to-day activities, but rather larger-scale accountability for their influence on the business.
  • Have cultural values that are not only easy for employees to understand but also to absorb and practice daily. Employees must be able to use these broader values and draw back to them regularly. Company values are the “How” we do things. The “How” is just as important as the “What” we are doing.
  • Have problem-solving skills that lead to better understanding and better servicing of the customer. Whether you work in Finance, HR, Customer Success or Sales, know what the customer needs. Knowing how your business can flex to these needs makes it easier to sell and have customer empathy. It also culminates to employee ownership and engagement. In the end, we all serve a customer.
  • Executives and managers should always take time to fully understand the day-to-day frontline roles and what these employees are dealing with, or own, daily. Our CEO does this in a phenomenal way; he’s done almost every single job in our company. This quality makes him more empathetic, limber and agile in creating strategy around employees and our business.

Given the current pandemic, how would you advise HR teams and other marketing/sales heads to keep employees engaged during this tough time?

Digital collaboration is key, and by collaboration, I mean how we work together while being apart. Using tools – whether it’s Teams, Zoom or Google Hangout – to communicate and engage on a daily basis is important. Get that digital voice and digital communication started.

At BitTitan, we started digital communication and collaboration long before the pandemic and were well-versed on how to use these tools. We’re in a cloud-based environment where we can pull information effortlessly and communicate digitally through Microsoft Teams and other platforms. We engage employees digitally through metrics and dashboards daily, if not more frequently.

Tracking this information is another key to success. I believe that employees should be able to use these metrics to find whether they’re being effective or not. Using technology to create dashboards that show an employee how effective they’re operating minute by minute, hour by hour or day by day is so important. In the absences of having a manager close by, it’s important to have systems in place for the employee to self-motivate. What is that digital carrot on the stick to get people to become more effective as employees, or to carry their head high when they’re meeting quotas? Technology does this in some very savvy ways for us.

All employers and managers should look at how employees understand the ownership of their role and how well they’re taking on that ownership on a daily basis, pandemic or not. The best way to do that is through a dashboard and metrics, and technology has made this so much easier for managers and HR professionals. We’ve seen a tremendous lift in departments that employ these tools and minimal or no change in productivity when compared to being in the office.  It’s a challenging time for many departments like sales and customer service, but a simple dashboard can make a world of difference. When people can see, or understand, their ownership and responsibility, they make the right moves to be successful. That’s the carrot on the stick: empowering employees to know when they’re doing a good job and motivating them when they’re not.

Read More: Managing Employee Relations Remotely: Tips For Navigating Issues During The COVID-19 Crisis

How have you seen the demand for more proactive or creative employee engagement and improved work culture measures change how HR teams function and drive their efforts in the tech / B2B marketplace? What are some of the biggest (must-have!) employee cultures you’d advise every tech company to follow?

This speaks to the evolution of HR and whether your organization has an HR team embedded in your organization that’s seen as part of the team and part of management. Engaging employees can be as simple as showing empathy from a management standpoint and making sure employees understand their ownership.

I can always hire people who have certain skills, the knowledge base is out there. Teaching employees to care about how they’re using that skill and to care about their impact is critical to engagement. While I can try, I can’t always teach people to have pride in their work or to empathize with others. Those are qualities you look for in candidates to ensure they are good cultural matches.

At BitTitan, we care about each other, and we’re here to help each other out. It is a real sense of community. This couldn’t be more present than during this pandemic and how we manage our employees from home. It’s important to be empathetic to the fact that this situation is difficult for employees, and we have tailored videos from our CEO, our managers and myself that are posted on the company-wide Teams channel acknowledging this situation is difficult.

Having an HR team embedded and engaged with employees and managers helps motivate and engage employees and helps the business stay healthy. The relationships you have at work are arguably the top factor regarding employee engagement, far beyond compensation and benefits and what snacks are available at the snack bar. It gives employees pride in the work because they don’t want to let their managers, the customers or co-workers down. If you have positive, meaningful and empathetic relationships between managers and co-workers, that will keep employees at your company.

In your journey so far, what are some of the biggest leadership/team-building lessons you’ve learned?

In leadership, I’ve learned the importance of empathy and building relationships, so employees feel a connection with their company and the health of their business.

Bill Smith, HR Business Partner at BitTitan

Employees must feel a connection with their manager so they view themselves as more than a cog in a machine. Employees should have a symbiotic relationship with their manager and believe their manager cares about their professional development and personal well-being.  And employees should reciprocate that care with their manager. This creates an ability for the employee to be proud of their work because they want to make sure their managers are proud of the work they do, and neither the manager nor the employee wants to let the other person down.

 

Those positive relationships drive performance and engagement, and especially in a COVID-19 world, you see this driving people more and more. I look forward to meeting with my manager and sharing what ownership I take pride in, and he does the same with me; it doesn’t matter if I’m on the phone, Skype, Teams or in person. It makes you want to smile every day at work and be helpful. If you like who you work with and who you work for, it makes things a lot easier.

We’d love your thoughts on the use of HR tech to achieve your HR goals and to optimize your talent acquisition efforts – could you tell us a little about the HR tech you actively use at BitTitan?

Sure…Technology is the tie that binds our employees to the goals of the organization and their personal goals. HR and Talent Acquisition are no exception. We use these dashboards in collaboration with our HR information system (HRIS) and applicant tracking system (ATS) to engage HR and Talent Acquisition professionals daily. Our CEO has tied our HRIS, BambooHR, and our ATS, Greenhouse software, in with dashboards that help motivate us and show the impact we make on the business. When it comes to talent acquisition, we are always using our dashboards to look at how to improve on velocity and quality. Those are the two areas we use technology to improve our talent acquisition practices. They can also indicate where we may need to innovate or improve our programs and processes.

Technology in HR is as good as the impact it makes on the organization. If it is not making positive impacts on employees and the business, you need to ask yourself why you continue to use it?  There are cases where we have moved away from a system because it was too rigid and didn’t allow for the innovation we need at BitTitan. It was not making a positive impact. Our performance management system right now, as rudimentary as it may sound, is managed through Teams and in a Word document. However simplistic, it is one of the more sophisticated performance management systems I’ve ever used. It fits our culture, it fits the needs of our managers and employees, and it has become an all-in-one tool for managing engagement and performance at BitTitan.

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What would your top 5 tips be to tech companies who are redefining their virtual training strategy?

  • Think about how to leverage technology to be more innovative. Training in many ways has become monotonous and boring for employees. Think about how to tackle large issues by training in short snippets, like two-minute videos, to incorporate helpful training daily.
  • Identify ways to provide virtual access to on-the-job training. This should provide a realistic preview of what the outcome of the training is and give people a flavor for the actual work they’ll be doing.
  • Use technology to satisfy the various needs and diversity of how people learn. There are visual learners, auditory learners and hands-on learners. Identify ways in which all learners can utilize technology to learn what they need to know. Say it, show it, do it.
  • Infuse some fun into your training strategy. Try to personalize this for the employee. Create a training that hits on the values and resonates better with your culture. The training should have some fun and life to it. Incorporate jokes and experiences, and tailor it to what someone will experience in real life. Training videos aren’t just for bad acting anymore!
  • Do not hesitate to create your own content. Make sure you’re using the tools provided to you, but supplement this to make sure the training is meaningful and relatable to your culture and company. Explore how the training could be better and don’t be afraid to augment it to make it more meaningful.

If you could change 5 (mundane) things about the HR / HR Tech industry, what would they be?

The 5 mundane things that I would change are:

  • HR is a castle on an island run by perfect robots. We need to drop the boundaries of HR. We in HR can joke, we can make personal connections to people, and we can be open and honest with employees. We should not have walls around the HR department. Being relatable garners trust.
  • HR just needs to know HR “stuff.” We need to understand much more. HR professionals need to understand what it takes to make the product and how people do their jobs on the front line. Spend time on the frontlines and with management. The knowledge and empathy you get from doing this will make you a better HR leader.
  • HR professionals are not good at technology. Let’s embrace technology. We must understand the common technological tools that our peers use to conduct business. Productivity and collaboration technologies like Teams and Hangouts are moving business forward in these times more than ever. HR needs to fully leverage the functionalities of these tools and champion for others. HR cannot be left behind the times.
  • While off-the-shelf solutions are often easier, they’re not always better. Many times, spending time creating something in-house that fits your culture will save time and hassle down the road. You never want to force fit your culture into an off-the-shelf box solution. Create something in-house that fits your culture and let that draw you toward your tech solution, instead of buying a tech solution and trying to fit your culture to that solution. The tail should not wag the dog.
  • Hire people who think like us. We should enable a diversity of thought on the HR team and throughout the organization. Be willing to hire people who think outside the box. They may not have the depth of HR experience, but they may have the business experience. Take opportunities to rotate high potential employees into HR for a short stint to give them more tools in their professional toolkit and share the wealth of HR experiences. This isn’t always easy to do, but ultimately, it can be quite rewarding for you and your colleagues.

Tag (mention/write about) the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read!

I’d be interested to hear Kim Briones’ answers to these questions. She currently serves as the Chief HR Officer for Berkshire Hathaway, Specialty Insurance, and holds the distinction of being one of my first managers. She taught me much of what I know about customizing my HR approach and creating a unique employment brand and employee value proposition. I credit her with my ability to embrace technology in HR. I’d also love to know what the employees at BitTitan think of these questions and how HR and technology intersect.

 A few last minute tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?

I think this comes back to the empathy piece. It’s imperative to show managerial empathy, understand your employees and their needs, understand the needs of your business, and how all of those needs have changed since people are now working from home. Our competing priorities and personal lives have never been more interconnected. We’ve never had so many people work from home who’ve never worked from home before, which underscores the importance of digital solutions. Leveraging employee and departmental dashboards to stay connected and continue to communicate and motivate digitally is critical to maintaining engagement, productivity and collaboration, as well as your own sanity!

I really hope that everyone out there is staying safe and doing whatever they can to keep their employees and families healthy.

BitTitan® empowers IT service professionals to successfully deploy and manage cloud technologies through automation. MigrationWiz® is the industry-leading SaaS solution for mailbox, document, public-folder and Microsoft Teams migrations between a wide range of Sources and Destinations. Voleer is a solution that centralizes and automates IT tasks, helping empower IT service professionals to streamline daily operations and eliminate redundancies. Since 2009, BitTitan has moved over 19 million users to the cloud for 43,000 customers in 187 countries and supports leading cloud ecosystems including Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Dropbox. The global company has offices in Seattle and Singapore.

Bill leads a team of HR Business Partners and Talent Acquisition Partners at BitTitan.