Eropa Stein of Hyre: “My life felt out of my control”

We make sure that the communication tools that we use have the ability to segment our discussions into appropriate channels and mimic the authentic connections that are possible during in-person meetings. For instance, we have a separate sales channel, marketing channel, and operations channel. We also use virtual spaces that allow team members to go […]

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We make sure that the communication tools that we use have the ability to segment our discussions into appropriate channels and mimic the authentic connections that are possible during in-person meetings. For instance, we have a separate sales channel, marketing channel, and operations channel. We also use virtual spaces that allow team members to go into breakout rooms.

We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?

In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eropa Stein.

Eropa has a Masters degree in Applied Psychology. Her BAH thesis concentrated on Industrial Organization, focusing on Burnout and Eustress in the workplace. She consulted for a few companies including a well-known event staffing agency. Throughout her time working with the agency, she learned about all of the inefficiencies of the staffing world and became specifically interested in solving shift managers’ problems related to HR processes, Payroll, and Operations.

This led her to start Hyre, an HR software company that helps shift managers in industries such as Hospitality, Logistics, Long-Term Care, etc. manage their staffs’ schedules and overall HR needs. Hyre makes it incredibly simple for shift managers to manage their day to day activities.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

At the beginning of 2020, our biggest clients were hotels, caterers, and event venues. They would use our employee scheduling and temp staffing tool to manage their workers. When COVID hit, businesses had to scale down on workers and our sales dropped to dollars in 48 hours flat! It was scary to deal with such a big change, but we also saw the need for our services in other areas. When it comes to battling COVID-19, managing, scheduling, and hiring a frontline workforce is vital in healthcare. We pivoted to long-term care homes and now we’re working with some of the biggest names in the industry.

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

When you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. This has been relevant to my life last year, when I felt like my business and personal life were spiralling out of control. I started the year at such a high point, it was jarring to go back to square one, dollars in sales, and new clients to prospect.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Having my start-up’s sales drop to dollars was very traumatic. At the same time, my young dog, who was my baby, was also struggling with a terminal illness. I had to give him almost 30 pills each day to keep him alive. Unfortunately, he passed in 2020. My life felt out of my control.

I am thankful that my mother was always by my side, encouraging me and lifting me up throughout this tumultuous time. Without her support, I would not have had the courage to even start my company, let alone persevere when things got tough. Of course, there are others whom I am also grateful for, such as my father and my loving partner, but my mother’s unconditional support and complete lack of judgement has continuously pushed me forward throughout my life.

So how did I deal with these challenges? It was important for me to set myself up with a new routine. One which helped me get a sense of what I could control. For me, that included waking up at 5 am every day and going outside for a jog while calling my mother or listening to a podcast. This got me pumped and put me in the right headspace to take on the day. Focusing on what I could control helped me lead my team towards a successful pivot.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?

Having a team physically together allows for a stronger connection and more authentic conversations to arise. Nowadays, we talk during our scheduled meetings, but it is different from being able to spontaneously walk across a room and ask for a team member’s insight. I definitely miss our in-person socials as well as the energy of having everyone in a room together.

On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?

Internet connection issues have been somewhat tricky to deal with, especially for large video calls. It really helps to connect on a personal level when everyone has their camera on, but, unfortunately, not everybody’s internet connection has the bandwidth capability for that.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space ? (Please share a story or example for each.)

We make sure that the communication tools that we use have the ability to segment our discussions into appropriate channels and mimic the authentic connections that are possible during in-person meetings. For instance, we have a separate sales channel, marketing channel, and operations channel. We also use virtual spaces that allow team members to go into breakout rooms.

Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?

I run a small start-up, so everyone uses some of their own equipment. We do use company phone lines to call or text clients but we often resort to calling one another on our own devices. One time, our account manager accidentally called a client using her own phone and to this day, she still gets calls on her personal device from this client.

Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?

If you want to get your team into a creative headspace, the best way to do that is to change up the scenery. Mozilla hubs is a great, open-source virtual environment where you can choose from a variety of game-like environments, and even a virtual office, to do breakout sessions. Best of all, it allows you to have conversations with different groups based on your proximity to them in a virtual space, fading out other conversations further away. This allows for more authentic connections than a huge group video call. Whether you need to brainstorm your latest marketing campaign or get feedback at a company retro, this is an awesome way to change up a typical zoom meeting.

If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?

It would be fun to have a VR office to see everybody and allow the team to share their screens.

My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?

Now that so many businesses are relying on a remote workforce, there are tons of free creative platforms that facilitate stronger team connections and effective communication.

It is definitely possible to have too many communication channels. My team would benefit from a unified communication system. We make a conscious effort to make sure that the use of each digital tool we implement is not duplicated in another tool. For example, file sharing is done primarily through google drive; and thus, we actively don’t recommend using slack for sharing files. Communication is done on Slack while organizing tasks is done on Trello. Doing the same task on multiple tools can lead to confusion.

The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?

Definitely. I am very interested in VR offices, as I previously mentioned. I see it as an immersive experience for virtual socials to help supplement in-person work, making it easier to share our activities.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?

Like many others, I too have watched Black Mirror. Some might say that we are living in a black mirror episode right now. I can see some Black Mirror-like complications that could arise if all of our interactions were recorded and could be played back at any given time. It would create a bit of a ‘Big Brother’ vibe. It is important that technology enables us to work together better rather than distract or impede us.

So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?

There are no more in-person meetings at Hyre as we all work remote. They have all been replaced with phone calls and video calls. My sales team has developed strong relationships with our new customers despite initially believing that in-person meetings were the only way to land the deal. It goes without saying that society is still adapting to this state of affairs but we are confident that where there is a will, there’s a way. We will find new ways to interact and engage with our customers.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?

Yes, miscommunication can arise in text-based communications. That’s why it helps to have constructive feedback sessions over video calls.

Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?

During our weekly Tuesday all-hands meeting, we start off by bringing up a fun topic for everyone to share insights on. For example, we may all share animal facts or interesting TV shows that we enjoy. Discussing a non-work-related topic helps increase camaraderie!

We also have a weekly Friday show-and-tell where each team member shares their weekly updates and receives feedback from others. It definitely helps to make time and space for these kinds of connections to occur in the workplace. I even organized a company year-end-review presentation that included a 2020 themed jeopardy game. The team loved that.

Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire any movement, it would be to further honor frontline workers throughout all industries, from healthcare to hospitality to manufacturing, etc. At Hyre, we see their efforts and are so grateful for their hard work during this pandemic and beyond. Frontline shift workers keep the world running and I believe that they do not get enough recognition for it!

Another movement would be to equip traditional industries with technology that better supports their frontline workers, streamlining scheduling, staffing, operations, and communication.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

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