HR Tech Interview with Gina Lau on Employee Retention Strategies

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“It’s with the mindset [of defiant HR] that we can continue to push boundaries and challenge the status quo for topics like increasing support for working parents, challenging our default success profiles, and pushing to invest in personal and professional development – all of which can be mutually beneficial for both the company and team members.”

The amount of time, resources and money that goes into training a new employee can slow down productivity in the existing team. Moreover, if the new employee leaves in a month, HR managers need to restart the entire process of onboarding, leading to a loss of time, resources and money. The Director, People Operations of Scoop, Gina Lau throws light on the best practices for employee retention in 2019 and beyond. Lau’s expertise lies in empowering her teams and advocating for fairness and equity among employees, helping to build a more employee-friendly work culture in the process.

23% workers left a job because of a bad commute, says a study conducted by Robert Half. One of the major reasons for employee attrition is the daily commute. To address this mounting threat to HR managers, Scoop partners with some of the biggest names in corporate companies to offer convenient and enjoyable carpooling to their employees. Gina highlights the new age strategies HR managers can adopt to help employees strike a good work and life balance. She muses on topics such as competitive compensation for younger professionals, identifying training needs, sustainable retention strategy for millennials and more.

In conversation with HR Technologist, Gina answers questions on: How has employee retention evolved over the years? What are the key components for talent managers to factor in when creating a retention strategy? How can technology help HR teams identify training needs? Which HR trends to follow? And more.

Key takeaways from this HR Tech interview:

  • Learn how to develop effective employee retention strategies
  • Get key tips on boosting productivity
  • Stay up-to-date with HRTech trends to follow in 2020

Here’s what Gina shares for developing a strong set of effective employee retention strategies: 

Gina, to set the context, how can HR bring about positive change in the community and organization?

While working with Reebok’s Human Rights and Corporate Responsibility program, we would conduct drop-ins on factories to make sure that the people working for them were treated well. One review of a factory in Bangladesh showed that workers were sleeping under their production line, barely eating, and had no bathroom breaks. My experience there opened my eyes to how one company has a significant role in impacting the day-to-day lives of their employees and the population.

I’ve always believed in the power of having “defiant HR.” This doesn’t mean that HR is non-collaborative or uncooperative, but rather that the HR leader and team needs to own the role of advocating for fairness and equity. It’s with this mindset that we can continue to push boundaries and challenge the status quo for topics like increasing support for working parents, challenging our default success profiles, and pushing to invest in personal and professional development – all of which can be mutually beneficial for both the company and team members. That’s why I believe that HR can have a significant impact on people’s lives on a core level.

How has employee retention evolved over the years, across the generations? Does competitive compensation play a role to retain younger professionals? How do you ensure fairness in compensation for all?

Competitive compensation isn’t going to help drive retention with the younger generation. We’re seeing a growing theme: placing more value on people who do valuable work and providing the opportunity to learn and grow, rather than compensation purely driven by externalities. These individuals don’t necessarily have to be promoted to feel like they are advancing in their career – rather, their priority is to feel like they are getting great everyday experiences. More and more companies are taking steps to invest in education to help employees along that journey.

To ensure fairness in compensation and structure, discipline needs to be implemented to ensure consistency. We leverage a leveling framework to map team members based on performance and expectations and build comp ranges mapped to levels by roles. We have guardrails and principles which guide how people are placed within the corresponding comp ranges – and much of the success of fair compensation hinges upon training, consistent application, and checks and balances.

It’s important to analyze compensation based on core diversity demographics to see if there are any systematic biases. For example, do certain demographics receive larger increases, are they generally leveled higher for similar performance and expectations? Are people in different demographics, but similar roles, compensated fairly? Having those backend checkpoints will help catch unconscious bias that is systemic and creates new coaching moments for future training.

Individuals sometimes need to make tradeoffs on personal advancement or recognition for the good of the entire team. For example: Flexible time off or FTO is an individual-centric offering that doesn’t provide a counterbalance to considering the wellbeing of the entire team. Everything a company does should go toward the collective good while still allowing for individual consideration.

What are the key components that talent managers need to factor in when creating a sustainable retention strategy for millennials, and enriching their lives? Can technology help?

Education and mentorship are important to younger generations – many times, people don’t choose the highest paying offer, but the offer where they’ll learn the most. In startups specifically, talent managers may not be able to promise they will pay the most but can sell new candidates on the promise they will learn a lot more.

Diversity within organizations is also very important. A trend we’re seeing is the need to lead with compassion, not empathy. While both terms are often used interchangeably, empathy is a perceived level of understanding, while compassion is the action. If a company stops their push for diversity at recruiting, there is only the image of inclusion, rather than the true experience. Diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives need to come long before recruiting – through programs such as unconscious bias training. It should be carried throughout the company’s operations, ultimately becoming a part of its DNA. 

Work-life balance and job satisfaction are two of the most important milestones for an employee’s journey in the organization. What steps do HR leaders need to take to make sure both these goals are met in a competitive recruitment landscape?

In the world of constant, technology-driven connectivity, companies need to create norms for people to be comfortable with turning off when they are not at work. HR leaders can help train and set the bar to create protected time off for employees to help reduce burnout. For example, if you have a team of five people who are maxed out on output, hiring one more person, which is a relatively small investment, gives them 20% more headspace and engenders greater morale and company loyalty.

It’s important to measure whether these goals are met consistently. Conducting a quarterly engagement survey to assess the health on these two factors is crucial. But what’s even more important is developing tactical solutions when those two factors are vulnerable. Sometimes, these tactics can be at the company level, like ensuring that a strategic planning process includes capturing dependencies – otherwise, there’s a silent workload that isn’t accounted for – impacting work-life balance. Other times, the solutions are at a team or function level, often partnered with an HR business partner to tease out the team specific topics as a helpful starting point.

What steps can HR managers take to improve employee engagement? How can technology help?

HR managers often struggle to drive impact in their organization, simply because they find it difficult to communicate in the same business vernacular as that of the company leaders. In my experience, the way HR professionals communicate is more “feeling” driven, whereas the people they’re dealing with communicate in almost the opposite way, based purely on facts and data. My advice is to take what you know to be true and translate it in terms of ROI – take a feeling you have and back it up with the data, such as the results from employee surveys that you share with senior management.

Learn More: Key People Practices for Every Business: An Interview with Drashti Patel of Impraise

Millennials are a generation of tech-savvy workers. What typical missteps do HR professionals make when identifying their skill sets and training needs?

Overall, they are very savvy at finding information on their own and have inherent expectation for information to be searchable. I think that HR can lean too heavily on formal training vs. leveraging communal information sharing.

Most employees prefer learning at their own pace. How can technology help HR teams to make sure digital or on-the-go training is as impactful as a more conventional one?

The role of learning and development is shifting to own curated content, which can be consumed in a self-service, just-in-time manner when team members need the coaching or information.

Learning and development teams can focus on building partnerships across departments and functions to have a constant pulse of important and relevant information. They can then lean into their role as information architects, by designing and building the avenues through which information can flow seamlessly throughout a company and can be easily found in just-in-time moments of learning.

Technology is key in this new architecture. The primary focus areas are:

  • Leveraging technology to build robust self-service and highly searchable content.
  • Internal wikis, which have clean and updated information.
  • Building internal wikis with internal user profiles in mind.
  • Meeting people where they already work to deliver information, for example, integrating new manager coaching tools into Slack.

What role has technology played in streamlining Scoop’s HR processes?

Technology has been pivotal in reducing administrative workload, allowing HR professionals to have more time investing in strategic projects and high-touch HR business partner work.

For example, technology like BambooHR’s onboarding checklists helps us streamline and automate processes, which are historically manual and laborious.

Technology has also empowered the HR world to come out of secrecy. With easier access to shareable information, HR can open more and share what goes on under the hood, which helps to build stronger relationships between HR and the rest of the team.

For example, by having access to company engagement survey data which can be shared, we can be more transparent about survey themes and the strategic focus areas moving forward.

Our immigration counsel has an online platform which tracks the progress of each case. This type of transparency is not only helpful because it increases efficiency, but more importantly, it keeps our team members updated about the progress and status of something that is deeply personal to them. The availability of information, in this case, can prevent anxiety caused by simply not knowing what’s going on.

Learn More: How to Build a Sustainable Retention Strategy: An Interview with Aron Ain of Kronos

When it comes to selecting a HR tech stack, what are the key considerations? What are you most excited about or thinking of investing in when it comes to HR tech?

As we head into 2020 how can HR leaders gear up for the future? Which trends are you closely following?

Remote working continues to be an emerging topic and it requires companies to navigate a new landscape of diversity, which centers around workstream diversity. Figuring how to reconstruct workplace defaults to ensure remote and in-office team members can work together effectively goes beyond having video conference technology setup in each conference room.

It will require us to understand how to better aggregate information, and simultaneously, will put more emphasis on having intentional internal communications design that ensures information and context is available to everyone. Empowering every employee to make daily decisions and do their best work.

Neha: Thank you, Gina, for sharing your HR Tech insights on the best employee retention strategies for 2019 and beyond. We hope to talk to you again soon.

About Gina Lau:

Gina Lau is the Director of People Operation at Scoop, the largest carpooling solution in the country that has put more than four million carpool trips on the road. Gina started her career working in Reebok’s Human Rights and Corporate Responsibility program, where she partnered with field monitors to guarantee acceptable working conditions in factories around the world.

About Scoop:

Scoop Technologies, Inc. is the largest carpooling solution in the country. Scoop partners with some of the world’s most forward-thinking companies, including LinkedIn, T-Mobile, and Workday to offer convenient, enjoyable carpooling to their employees – ultimately helping them be happier, more engaged, and more productive in their day-to-day lives.

Found this interview interesting? Do share your views and opinions on employee retention strategies with us on TwitterFacebookand LinkedIn. We would love to have a great conversation with you.

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