The modern HR leader is much more ingrained within the entire workforce than they were before because of the introduction of HR Tech into this space says Carlo Fidanza, Chief People Officer at Accedian. Catch this complete interview for his thoughts on HR and Organization Development in times of a world crisis.
Tell us a little about yourself Carlo, what inspired your journey into HR/People Management in the SaaS/technology Industry? What are some of the biggest learnings/highlights you’d like to talk about from your time being in HR?
Originally, I thought I wanted to go into psychology – I was fascinated by people and how the mind works. But when I got to college, I found that the psychology track was too scientific for me. I instead switched to a major my university offered called “Industrial Relations”, which was a mixture of psychology, sociology, economics and management. I realized quickly that human resources was a field where I could put this learning into practice. My first HR job was as a recruiter, where I was talking to prospective hires every day to see if they were the right fit for the role or the company. Starting in recruiting helped shape my approach in HR which, at its core, is about understanding the people that make up the company, and how they can drive the company forward.
Given your time being in the (Tech!) HR segment, we’d love to know about some of the most common workplace challenges you’ve faced over the years. How have you used HR Tech to help distance those challenges?
When I started in HR, everyday processes were much more manual. To get answers or updates from employees, we had to chase them down to fill out a form. What advancements in technology have done for HR is put these processes in the hands of our workforce. For example, if an employee updates their address, or if they have specific feedback, they have more channels to provide that information directly to the human resources team. Overall, we’re able to get more accurate, real-time information from our workforce that we can use as HR leaders to better manage the organization.
Could you share a little insight on how you see the typical role of an HR leader in the tech marketplace evolve, given the current dynamics in the industry? Rather, what should today’s HR lead or CHRO have that the one of yesteryear didn’t need?
Because of technology and the subsequent new, additional avenues of communication across a company, the modern HR leader is much more ingrained within the entire workforce than they were before. Prior to this, HR leaders often only communicated with the front line employees: managers and executives. Now, they are able to stay connected to every employee within an organization. This has also led to a clearer understanding of the role employees play in business success. Previously, HR leaders were focused on the policies and procedures that helped employees work within the guidelines of a company. While still important, there is a more flexible approach that modern HR departments take that integrates corporate strategy with people management, and looks to align how employees can best help a business reach their goals.
What are some of the most common differences and common overlaps you see when it comes to people management/HR best practices in B2B versus B2C?
The greatest difference between B2B versus B2C HR best practices and overall management is understanding who the key stakeholders are for an organization. For a B2B organization, the stakeholders are internal executives who represent an organization, rather than just themselves. As such, there is a more mirrored approach to how businesses interact with each other, and also how the workforce within an organization is managed to optimize those interactions and subsequent business successes. So for a B2B company, it’s about ensuring that processes are streamlined and efficient on the backend. For a B2C company, the stakeholders are consumers, so it’s all about ensuring the workforce can create a seamless customer experience for those individuals. From an HR perspective, it’s about understanding the overall goals and who the stakeholders are, and so the management strategy differs to ensure those teams are trained in the way to best approach and appeal to those stakeholders.
Could you talk about some of your most successful employee engagement strategies – how have you used HR Tech to drive engagement, to help drive leadership and better alignment among global teams?
Engagement itself is important, but it can be seen as a buzzword. Cookie cutter engagement strategies aren’t successful; what works for one organization might not work for another. That’s why it comes down to really understanding your employees and your workforce, what motivates them, and how to best encourage them to do their jobs. Create one on one relationships with your workforce and between employees to give them the resources and opportunities they need to be successful. For example, at Accedian we started mentorship programs between executives and other members of the staff that provide some structured learnings but also allow for informal conversations between individuals to help them identify what they need to succeed. These smaller, more intimate initiatives can empower individuals and teams and have a ripple effect on the overall workforce. Show you care from the leadership team down – leadership creates engagement, engagement creates success, success creates more leadership, and so forth.
Can you talk about some of the most innovative HR/ Workplace Culture trends that you see taking over the tech and B2B industry, given the current world situation?
The current crisis we’re facing globally can create a sense of uncertainty among teams, and the remote working situation we’re all in may have employees feeling less motivated and connected to the larger team. Technology has had an immense impact on how we’ve managed from a human resources perspective. Without communication technology like email and other avenues, we wouldn’t be able to do our jobs, much less ensure our employees are engaged. But there’s more to it than just having channels for communications; it’s also about demonstrating the importance of employee wellbeing from leadership down. At Accedian, we’ve launched a “Hello from HR” initiative where every week, we pick a department and reach out to them and simply ask them how they’re doing. How has your workload been? What challenges have you been facing we can help with? Are there any resources we can provide to help make doing your job easier? Just reaching out and asking these simple questions opens these lines of communication which not only helps us understand our employees more, but makes them feel heard and valued through this difficult time.
What are the top 5 points of advice you’d give SaaS teams and SaaS leaders struggling to cope in times of global uncertainty?
There are a few pieces of advice, but to boil it down to five key takeaways:
- Understand that people are your greatest asset as a company. Listen to them, learn from them, understand them – and be flexible in your approach to managing them.
- Company-wide initiatives are important, but equally as crucial to employee wellness are the more intimate, small group or one on one opportunities that allow for honest feedback and conversation.
- Leverage technology to keep people connected, but don’t let it stand in for human connection.
- What works for one organization might not work for another. Tailor your employee engagement strategies to your employees for the best measure of success.
- The most successful HR leaders understand that their role is the bridge between getting where the company wants to go and figuring how its employees can take it there. Manage your people successfully to manage your organization successfully and reach critical business goals.
Carlo Fidanza has over 20 years of experience in human resources and has held several human resources leadership roles in a variety of technology based organizations throughout his career. As Accedian‘s Chief People Officer, Carlo is helping to accelerate Accedian’s transformation through leadership, differentiated talent management, attracting and developing the best talent and building a culture of engagement, agility and innovation. He has a unique blend of traditional Human Resource experience with a strong business understanding. Prior to joining Accedian, he was Senior Manager of Human Resources at Nuance Communications and Director of Human Resources at Verint Systems.