TecHRseries Interview with Sarah Hamilton, Sr. Director of Human Resources – Workhuman

Today’s HR leaders need to find that balance between contributing to an organization’s financial success and ensuring employees are ‘’happy people’’ within the hierarchy opines Sarah Hamilton as she shares her thoughts in this TecHRseries interview.

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Tell us a little about yourself Sarah, 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?

My progression into HR was definitely a natural evolution. I was seen as the “go-to” person for most things at a former company, and so the CEO felt like because I was trusted by and know everyone, I should become the office manager. From there, my role developed into more of the HR function, and the rest is history…

There are two learnings I would highlight here. The first is that on the job learning is essential. Nothing prepares you for the reality of HR. Courses and schooling lay the foundation of organizations and the role HR plays but unless you’re in the role and working through the day to day activities, you can’t really understand how HR truly works. In my opinion, there is nothing better than learning on the job.

The second is that there has been an incredibly positive shift in how HR is perceived over the last ten years. Business leaders have begun to truly understand what HR’s role is within their organization and how a strong human-centric strategy can have a profound impact on their bottom line. What’s more, HR now has a seat at the table and a voice to be heard, so can really help impact how an organization interacts with its humans. It’s been extremely rewarding to have companies actually thinking about their workplace culture and their employees, as this wasn’t the case a decade ago.

Read More: What Will Change for HR After The Covid-19 Lockdown?

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?

The first challenge is communication. It’s difficult to ensure everyone is always on the same page, but with technology – specifically tools like Slack, Trello and email – it’s easier to keep all parties aligned, informed and engaged.

The second is engagement and recognition. According to Workhuman’s State of Humanity at Work report, employees who have been recognized in the last month are three times less likely to report feeling unsafe at work, more than twice as likely to see a path to grow in the organization, and nearly twice as likely to trust their HR team. However, many organizations don’t have a proper recognition strategy in place, which could seriously impact their engagement. There are tools available that HR teams can easily implement that will have a serious impact on their workplace culture.

Finally, being able to have a holistic view of employee performance was a challenge that technology has definitely solved. By being able to track progress and feedback, as well as all of the other aspects of an employee journey, through collaborative tools, HR is in a much better place to better help employees grow and keep company culture intact.

Read More: TecHRseries Interview with Maggie Kruse, Vice President of People Strategy at Nav

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?

The biggest change that I’ve seen is that HR leaders have a bigger seat at the table than in previous years. HR leaders have the ability to balance the business side of their role with the people-focused side, and they are able to do so with an open mind. Being able to understand that they play a part in their organization’s financial success, but at the heart of every good company are their happy humans is incredibly important. Today’s HR leaders need to be able to find that balance, vs. skewing more heavily on one side. 

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?

There really shouldn’t be any difference. For HR people, our customers are our employees, so whether a company sells B2B or B2C, its people should be treated the same. HR teams should always have a human-centric approach to their work – keeping their employees engaged, recognized and happy – and that’s true no matter what segment their business serves.

Could you talk about some of your most successful employee engagement strategies – how have you used engagement to help drive leadership and better alignment among global teams?

At Workhuman, we’re power users of our own platform. We fully believe in the power of social recognition to improve employee engagement and retention, and to foster better relationships between employees. We also heavily use celebrate our employees’ Life Events, which encourages them to bring their whole selves to work. And as we want our humans to always be learning and growing, we use our continuous performance management solution Conversations.

Right now, our Life Events and Conversations products are free until March 2021, so any organization or team leader can take advantage of these great tools for boosting employee engagement!

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? How according to you is the Future of Work (and life!) going to evolve given the current pandemic?

Before this global pandemic, only one out of three people worked remotely – but obviously that number is much higher today. I believe that as a result of COVID-19, organizations will become more flexible when it comes to when and where their employees conduct their business. Hopefully they’ll realize that their employees and their families/lives come first and as a result of that mindset, their employees are more likely to feel engaged, supported and motivated.

I also think that this time was a great lesson in the importance of communication. With everyone working remotely, teams and business leaders needed to learn how to best keep in touch and stay on the same page. I think there are many tech tools available that help in this situation – like Slack, Conversations, Zoom and even text. The way organizations communicate with their employees moving forward will certainly be different than pre-COVID.

What are the top 5 points of advice you’d give SaaS teams and SaaS leaders struggling to cope in times of global uncertainty?

The first is to trust. Leaders need to trust their employees and vice versa. When this trust is established, everyone is more productive, engaged and motivated.

The second is flexibility. The traditional 9-5 will never be the same, so business leaders need to adjust their expectations and allow their employees to work where and when is best for them.

The third is empathy. If this pandemic has taught us anything at all it’s that we need to be more understanding and compassionate when it comes to everything a person may be dealing with. With schools and daycares closed and other caretaking going on, teams need to have more appreciation for the work that is getting done and respect for the person that’s making it all work.

The fourth is communication. It’s important for leaders to be as transparent as possible with their humans in times of uncertainty, so provide updates often. Also, ensure employees know that the lines of communication are always open, so they don’t feel isolated. It’s so much more important now to make sure employees feel supported, encouraged and appreciated,

And the fifth is focus. While there is chaos all around us and the way work is being done has changed, the focus of the business should remain the same. Employees still need to know they’re accomplishing tasks, moving towards achieving their goals and making a difference.

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Workhuman® helps forward-thinking companies energize their cultures, unlock their employees’ passion and potential, and unite their workforce around a shared purpose. With the world’s fastest-growing social recognition and continuous performance management platform, our mission is to lead the movement to celebrate the power of humanity in the workplace through gratitude and peer-to-peer recognition. Workhuman® Cloud uncovers provocative workplace data and human insights, delivering tangible results powered by our core belief — the more motivated and valued employees are, the more they can perform the best work of their lives. Workhuman (formerly known as Globoforce) was founded in 1999 and is co- headquartered in Framingham, Mass., and Dublin.

Sarah Hamilton is the Sr. Director of Human Resources at Workhuman.