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HR professionals talk value of company culture, recruitment

Human Resources
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Creating a strong company culture that goes beyond having beer in the office fridge, making employees feel valued and figuring out the desires of all those millennials in the workplace were among some of the hot topics at DisruptHR.

During the event, organized by Catch Talent and Echovate, 13 speakers from across the country each had five minutes to share their ideas on ways to shake up the field of human resources. Read on to hear what some of the speakers had to say.

Build a culture of empowerment

“Repeat after me: Pingpongs and beer bongs do not create culture,” BlueKey founder Ben Cash said to a full house at The American Theater.

While Cash’s Charleston-based digital communications company does have beer in the office fridge, he said building a company culture that attracts and retains talent involves much more than offering a few shiny perks.

Cash said anyone building a business or trying to revamp a company’s culture should ask themselves one thing: “Would you work for you?”

When building BlueKey, Cash said he thought about what he wanted in a workplace — work-life balance, respect, passion about the work, a sense of accomplishment and the ability to influence outcomes.

To move beyond the oft-touted beer on tap and unlimited vacation benefits, Cash said companies need to be hyperfocused on employees to build a culture of empowerment.

“Treat co-workers as responsible professionals. They are adults you can collaborate with; not children you should manage,” he said. “Let them succeed or fail on their own. It’s one of the best ways to build mutual respect.”

Cash said business leaders can build trust by being transparent, owning mistakes and being willing to be vulnerable. He said employers should create opportunities for professional development by carving out time and paying for it.

Work-life balance is a crucial perk to attracting and retaining good employees; Cash advised providing flexibility in daily work schedules and steering away from having employees work nights and weekends. He also recommended support of employees’ projects outside of work — whether it be travel, a side business or a hobby.

“Employees are not indentured servants,” he said. “They have lives outside of work.”

Cash said a truly good company culture breeds loyalty and retention.

“When the team is happy and empowered, they do better work. ... Good culture is better for your bottom line. ... And beyond the bottom line, what is it worth to come to work every day and feel empowered, valued and in control of your future? Priceless,” Cash said.

Learn to work with millennials

Peggy Frazier heads recruiting for Blackbaud, a Daniel Island-based tech firm whose software focuses on the nonprofit and education sectors. A few years ago, she was the only baby boomer among her millennial-filled team.

“I had to quickly learn how to work with them,” Frazier said.

Frazier said many recruiters complain that millennials are spoiled, entitled and demanding; others say they are tired of talking about this generation altogether. She said the mindset of not wanting to focus on millennials misses the point and, eventually, will hinder recruitment efforts.

Millennials — those born between 1980 and 2000 — will account for 50% of the workforce by 2020 and 75% by 2030. Frazier said every company needs to figure out how best to attract and work with millennials to excel in the coming years.

“They are the generation of ‘why.’ Purpose is important. ... It’s going to be so important that you know how to attract these millennials to your organization versus all the others that are going to be wanting them as well,” said Frazier, Blackbaud’s vice president of global talent acquisition.

Frazier advocated for explaining the purpose behind a job or project to millennial employees. She said a company could put up a job post explaining that they need someone to lay bricks, or it could post one saying they need someone to help build a cathedral.

“That’s the purpose,” she said. “That’s what you’re trying to drive and that’s what’s going to help you attract the talent that you need to have your company be successful.”

Frazier said millennials also expect to have access to a company’s top leaders and flexibility in the workplace.

“They want to be able to work from anywhere, at any time that they want, so flexible work arrangements are important; and they don’t want their personal life to be segmented from their work life. ... Change how you engage and make sure you have your benefits to support it,” Frazier said.

Cultivate customer loyalty

Happy employees result in loyal customers and company profits, Jay Nathan said, referencing an article published in the early 1990s that said customer loyalty was more important to driving revenue than anything else.

Nathan — most recently of PeopleMatter and Snagajob — said customer loyalty starts with workplace culture and fulfilled employees. He is currently launching his own company, Customer Imperative, which helps software companies focus on customer success.

He broke down the “service value chain” thusly: A quality work environment drives employee satisfaction; happy employees are more loyal and productive; and that, in turn, drives customer value, satisfaction and loyalty.

“And that’s what drives profitability and revenue growth. ... It’s the quality of the team, it’s the integrity of the leadership and it’s the quality of the tools that employees have to deliver great service to their customers,” Nathan said.

Think about your opening scene

Laura Camacho urged professionals to take cues from the movie industry. Camacho is the founder of Mixonian Institute, a Mount Pleasant-based firm that trains people to communicate better by grabbing listeners’ attention upfront and keeping it throughout a presentation.

She pointed to the opening scene of the movie La La Land, in which all the actors and actresses watched Singing in the Rain and other classic films every day to get into character and prepare.

She said the same preparation and creative process can be applied to shake up the traditional start to a meeting or presentation, vastly improving the experience for the audience or client — as well as for the team behind the work.

“How can you disrupt not only your mindset, but the mindset of your whole team to get them aligned with your vision? ... What do you need to do to get into the character of the leader you need to be?” Camacho asked.

Camacho said the arts, books, interviews and movies can provide inspiration for people to present differently or make a better first impression — possibly with an opening story, impressive statistic or different demeanor.

“I invite you to think about your opening scenes. ... Your opening scenes are everywhere,” Camacho said. “Every time you have a meeting, every time you make a pitch or a presentation, you have an opening scene, and you can make it better.”

Don’t say ‘human resources’

The human resources industry has a branding problem, according to Candace Nicolls, senior director of that department at Snagajob.

She pointed to Google searches about the industry, which yield countless articles about “Why We Hate HR” and “Ten Reasons Everybody Hates HR.”

“It’s not inspiring, and it doesn’t do anything to move the image of HR forward,” Nicolls said about the sector’s image. “This still shows us as stuffy and outdated. ... If people hate HR, why do you call yourselves HR?”

She said companies need to revamp how their human resources departments are seen and the language they use to describe themselves.

Snagajob, a Virginia-based software company whose platform focuses on hourly workers, acquired PeopleMatter and expanded into its King Street offices last year. The tech firm’s employees are referred to as “snaggers” and the human resources department is called “Snagger Services.”

Nicolls said something as simple as using creative names creates a sense of team and a unique identity. She said the whole goal of a human resources department should be ensuring employees enjoy working at the company.

“We are people-focused; we are here for them first. We are here to make our team be successful,” Nicolls said.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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