HR Tech Interview with Kathi Winter on Good Work Culture

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“Team members tend to want to stay with an organization that consistently lives its culture and rewards employees accordingly.”

Organizational culture is the most essential lever in a CHRO’s tool kit. It’s the aspect that will have a direct impact on the organization’s business goals. In this HR Tech Interview, Kathi Winter, Chief Human Resources Officer of Nextiva, talks about how organizations can focus on creating a culture of excellence and inclusion to retain the right employees. She is responsible for accelerating growth through purposeful leadership, attracting and developing talent, and building a culture of agility, innovation, and engagement.

Kathi talks about why business and HR leaders must challenge the cultural status quo at work for implementing progressive retention strategies. At Nextiva, the objective is to create outstanding customer experiences by focusing on employee experience and organizational culture. Kathi throws light on how companies can control the narrative of their internal cultures with consistent cultural messaging.

She answers questions on:

Key takeaways from this HR Technologist interview on the importance of good work culture:

  • Understand the components of work culture
  • Learn how to facilitate good work culture
  • Stay updated on the HR Tech trends to follow through to 2020

Here’s what Kathi shares on how to build an intangible ecosystem for your employees:

Kathi, to set the context, how important is work culture for employee retention and recruitment strategy?

Organizations that have thrived across multiple decades, and consistently rise to the top, are those that cultivate their own unique workplace cultures. When an organization is truly committed to operating within its set of ideals, recruitment becomes much more targeted. A company can naturally attract people who aspire to the same ideals demonstrated in the workplace. Retention follows suit; team members tend to want to stay with an organization that consistently lives its culture and rewards employees accordingly.  

I’ve been doing this work for about 20 years and can tell you that employers are putting far more emphasis on workplace culture than ever before. The advent of social media has created an environment where no longer can companies control the narrative of internal cultures. A little more than a decade ago, the only way to learn about how a company worked from the inside was to either read a book about it, or an article in a business magazine like the Harvard Business Journal or Forbes.

Today’s job candidates are checking social media outlets like Glassdoor before even agreeing to be interviewed. I see this as a unique opportunity to attract and retain the perfect employees for your organization. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all “great” company culture. Rather, different companies have different cultures, and that is a good thing. Now companies can tailor messaging to the candidate profile they want to attract. The best companies invest in consistent cultural messaging and then deliver on that messaging once a new employee comes on board.

What are the key factors influencing staff retention? What kind of work culture supports these factors?

Employees join for the company’s “we” and stay based on the “me.”  Employees are inspired by a vision, mission, values, and the work they do inside an organization (the “we”). Top performers are attracted to certain companies based on a company’s purpose and vision, and the role that they may be able to play in that vision. I find that employees who stay are the ones who continue to feel like they are actively able to contribute to a company’s goal or mission and that they are using their talents and skills to help that company achieve those things (the “me”).

It is a myth that free lunches throughout the week and ping-pong tables in break rooms equate to positive internal cultures. Today, people are more interested in feeling like they belong and that their ideas and opinions matter to an organization. Employees who understand what is expected of them, are part of a team that shares the same values and who are continuously challenged to grow, are more likely to stay vs. those who lack confidence in the company’s future and their role in achieving that future.

Learn More: Building a Culture of Organizational Engagement: In Conversation with Joelle Kaufman, CMO at Dynamic Signal

How can technology help HR managers solve the business communications crisis?

Technology is hugely helpful for HR managers because employees, just like customers, are looking for individualized experiences. Team members are looking for customized solutions to meet their needs, but sometimes they prefer solutions that don’t necessarily involve face-to-face interactions.

Take benefits questions as an example. A new employee may be interested in learning the status of his or her new health care coverage. In that case, technology is helpful in answering those questions. It’s the same as many of us with our bank accounts. We want to know what our balance is, we want to transfer money, but we don’t always want to go into a bank to talk to a teller, one-on-one.

Thanks to technology, and the ability to answer customized questions within seconds, HR managers are now able to partner on more complex company initiatives. By giving HR managers messaging around transactional questions, technology frees them up to build stronger relationships with business partners.

How can a good business communication system facilitate the trend of remote work?

Successful business outcomes generally rely on clear objectives, shared values, and the ability to maintain trusted relationships. I’ve found that using a good communication system and structuring how teams operate within that communication system, makes remote work feel effortless. It just becomes another part of how an organization operates.

In what ways can HR leaders build a good work culture that also fosters customer experience and loyalty?

There is a common misconception that HR leaders build great company cultures. The truth is, it is all the leaders and people inside a company that builds its culture. HR teams build the systems and structures to support the culture a company wants. HR leaders can help build cultures that foster customer experience and loyalty by treating their employees with the same dignity and respect as is expected with the customer. The more engaged the employee is, the happier the customer, and the more loyal they are likely to be.

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

Nextiva has experienced dramatic growth since it was launched back in 2008, which has led to establishing operations both domestically and internationally and has opened doors for building new channels of business. We are a technology company and look to all our teams to consider the impact of speed and functionality through technology to help us grow. HR is no different.  We constantly look for ways to leapfrog some of the nuances of rapid growth through technology that eliminates transactions and administration, creates trusted relationships and showcases our values. For example, we recently implemented applicant technology that has built-in tracking for the candidate, allowing them to track their progress in the process. It also contains predictive tools that alert our recruiting team to candidates that may have slipped off the radar or become non-responsive so the team can initiate outreach to those candidates.

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?

At Nextiva, our HR tech stack decisions and direction are predicated on a few key things:

  • First, clarity of our two-to-four-year goals.
  • Second, the scalability of the technology.
  • And third, an assessment of if we are ready for the technology, determining if/how it will be used, and how the technology may deliver the data and analytics necessary to support the business.

What are the upcoming projects at Nextiva you are excited about?

Right now, I’m excited that we are building AI (artificial intelligence) and analytics into our customer experience with NextOS, our business communications platform. We will build the same analytic capabilities into our HR processes.  This will enable us to see all the interactions inside the employee journey and tailor the employee experience accordingly.

Learn More: “Millennials” The Architects Of Employee Experience

As we head into 2020 how can HR leaders gear up for the future?

Data analytics, data analytics, and more data analytics. 

Using the right technology to understand and predict behaviors, as well as inform future strategy, is essential in guiding a business toward success.

Neha: Thank you, Kathi, for sharing your insights on why work culture is important for creating a holistic employee experience. We hope to talk to you again soon.

About Kathi Winter:

Kathi Winter joined Nextiva in 2017 and serves as Chief Human Resources Officer. Kathi brings 20 years of experience in leadership and people operations to her role at Nextiva, with a background at Honeywell, CIT, and most recently imortgage / loanDepot.

About Nextiva:

Nextiva is an innovative tech company dedicated to simplifying business communications, team collaboration, and customer engagement. As the leading all-in-one communications platform, NextOS powers Nextiva’s solutions, including business phone service, CRM, chat, surveys, and analytics.

About HR Talk:

HR Talk is an Interview Series with the top executives at HR Technology companies and HR Departments who are redefining the way HR functions. Join us as we talk to them about their solutions, their insights about HR as a function and some bonus pro-tips on making HR Tech work better for you.

Found this interview interesting? Do share your views and opinions on what makes a good work culture with us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn. We are always listening.

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