5 Ways To Identify And Retain Fantastic Talent With Carol Wood of Homebase & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Friendship at work is critical. This is why team building events are important. The truth is, your top talent will stay longer if they have someone at work they can talk to and enjoy being with.

Attendance has been a big issue in the workplace for a long time but should it be the sole factor in deciding to let someone go from your team? Our guest today has a perspective on this topic that more companies might begin to consider handling differently to stay competitive.

As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field about their five ways to identify and retain fantastic talent. Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Carol Wood.

Carol is the People Operations Director at Homebase, helping provide HR solutions for the over 100,000 businesses that use Homebase to make managing hourly work easier. Prior to Homebase, Carol helped businesses navigate the tricky waters of human resources, working with companies across the retail, food service, oil and gas, and healthcare industries through her roles as HR Director at Fuddruckers and Achilles Group, a Houston-based HR consulting firm.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I ended up in HR because I had psychology and anthropology undergraduate degrees and a law degree. I ended up at Homebase after working with small businesses, like restaurants and retailers, as an HR consultant. I watched these great family-run businesses, who care about their long-tenured employees, struggle to survive once Wal-Mart entered the scene. Then Amazon became the straw that broke the camel’s back, and many companies permanently shut their doors.

When I learned about Homebase’s solutions for local businesses, I had to get involved. This would finally provide some leverage for local business owners against large corporations, by offering them easy scheduling, time and attendance, and hiring tools typically only available to very large enterprises. With Homebase, family-run businesses actually have a shot at attracting and retaining employees.

Technology gets an unfair reputation for replacing jobs, but technology may be what saves local business. In fact, my brother was let go from a large oil and gas company but is now running a small business and using Homebase to help him do it. We make a huge difference for people. That’s why I’m here.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

During my first harassment investigation, I was given an employee file where an employee had sent an inappropriate picture to a co-worker. When I showed up for the interview, I recognized the employee as a recent graduate and football player from LSU. I went to the University of Alabama and was familiar with LSU players. Quite a weird turn of events, and a good reminder of how important discretion is in human resources.

Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?

The work I’m most excited about is helping local business owners with their own HR questions. While I am the People Operations Director here at Homebase, working with our employees, I also enjoy working with the businesses using Homebase. A lot of our customers are first-time business owners, so they are often first-time people managers too. Helping them figure out how to build a happy team culture is a lot of fun. We’ve done live Q&As, where managers can ask any question on their minds. And we just launched our first labor laws quiz to help these new managers familiarize themselves with federal employment laws.

Outstanding. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill? Please share an example for each idea.

  1. Post to the big job boards. You have to meet candidates where they are searching, rather than just relying on your company’s “careers” page. Services like Homebase can help post your jobs to multiple job boards for free, saving you time and storing all your applications in one place.
  2. Put up a “help wanted” sign. If you’re a tech company, that means making your careers page easy to find on your website. If you’re a local business, that means putting up a sign in your window with some basic information on how to learn more about what jobs are available. While these methods won’t necessarily flood you with applicants, the applicants who do apply will already be familiar with your business and invested in your mission.
  3. Lead with your mission. Early on in the application process, talk about the larger mission of the business, beyond the immediate perks of working there. Get applicants excited about the impact they can have in their community by working there.
  4. Don’t weed people out too quickly. It’s a numbers game. I try to find 100 people to message and do as many interviews as I can. If you’re hiring for an hourly job at a physical location, skip the phone screen altogether and instead offer some in-person meeting times. Distance and commuting time is a big factor in whether or not a new employee will reliably show up for their shifts on time, and may even impact how long they stay in the role.
  5. Be as transparent as possible. To save both you and applicants time, be upfront about the work environment. If you’re hiring for a prep cook to work weekend brunches, say that in the job description, so only people who are available to work those times will apply. Likewise, avoid an introductory wage rate. Lower starting wages may unintentionally discourage great employees from applying and isn’t really necessary.

With so much noise and competition out there, what are the top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

  1. Your mission and your brand. You’d be surprised how much that can be compelling to a candidate. Share a bold vision for why the business got started and what you’re aiming to become. Likewise, having a talked-about brand also helps attract applicants. For a local business, that might mean curating an Instagram profile.
  2. manager and not a recruiter should do the messaging on LinkedIn (ideally, the manager they’d be reporting to).
  3. Your reach out message should be very short, flattering, and compelling. It should say: 1. We are fascinated with your background. 2. The title of the position you are looking to fill. 3. Why your company is an exciting company to work for. The message should not contain a lengthy job description or off-the-shelf language about your company.

What are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?

We actually surveyed 2000 hourly workers a few months ago to ask them how they decide where to work. Here are their criteria:

  1. A friendly work environment
  2. Competitive compensation
  3. The number of hours available

In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends? Can you give some examples of what this looks like?

Yes. Every day there is more and more research about why people behave the way they do and how to motivate employees. For example, one recent HR trend is questioning the traditional performance evaluation with a number rating system tied to a compensation increase. There is growing research that this may not improve performance. More and more companies are moving away from performance reviews tied to a rating system.

Then, of course, there’s the importance of staying up to date on ever-changing labor laws. For example, so-called “ban the box” laws — which prevent employers from asking applicants their pay history — are becoming increasingly common as a way to reduce the gender pay gap.

Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?

Friendship at work is critical. This is why team building events are important. The truth is, your top talent will stay longer if they have someone at work they can talk to and enjoy being with. Friendship at work means employees stay longer.

An easy and free way to create a collaborative work environment is as simple as celebrating team members when they go above and beyond. Celebrate them during staff meetings, and encourage your team to celebrate one another as well. Here at Homebase, we have a “celebrations” channel in our team chat app where employees can also celebrate one another.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The lowest paid workers are disproportionately impacted by life events. When a kid is sick, when they have a flat tire, or just getting to work in a city without good public transportation. When you have an employee who has worked for you for more than a few months, be patient as they handle life. Deaths, divorces, sickness, car troubles, jury duty, and marriages are part of life. That means they’re part of the employer’s life as well.

When an employee is fired because of attendance for these unavoidable life events, we all lose. I read a New York Times article once that said the most effective way to eliminate poverty around the world is to help the people that are working when they face difficult life events. It is those events that send people on the brink of poverty into despair. I will never forget having to sit in a room while a manager fired an employee for being late too many times. She cried and talked about her kid that was disabled that she was raising on her own. She said that the bus for her kid was frequently late because it takes a long time to load kids with a disability. I have never forgotten that. Thankfully, the manager gave the employee another chance and worked with the employee on their schedule. The employee had worked for the company for years. Yes, unfortunately, occasionally employees make up stories about being late or missing work. But, when you can, try to trust them until they prove you wrong. You may have to deal with other employees who think it’s unfair and won’t get the same treatment, but it’s worth it. That is what leadership is about. People aren’t robots. Managing people is messy. Don’t stick to an attendance policy just because it makes your life easier. When it makes sense to make an exception, make it.

A few great and easy ways to change the world:

  1. Share work schedules at least two weeks in advance so employees can better plan their lives.
  2. Short and long term disability insurance. This is so cheap! There’s no reason not to offer this!
  3. Paid time off.
  4. Flexibility on attendance when an employee has worked for you for more than a few months.
  5. Performance-based bonuses. When the business does well, give some back to your employees.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It’s not what people say but what they do.” Especially in today’s world where authenticity and integrity is hard to find.

My old boss, Dan Calvert, I would do anything for. He would call me before a flight to make sure I had everything I needed. It was so sweet and thoughtful. He wasn’t a man of many words but he was always available with great advice when I needed help. I can be really hard on myself. I was especially stressed when a company was being sued by an employee over a decision that I had recommended. He said to me, “you can be sued anytime for anything but don’t let that scare you, kid.” He never criticized any employee. He was brilliant, honest, and hard working. We all wanted his approval and did what we could to earn it.

Some of the biggest names in Business, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?

Warren Buffet. Maybe the biggest benefactor to move women’s health care issues forward and he says so little about it. What a mystery.

Appreciate your insights, Carol!

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