✍ How do you help a business owner see the need for a formal HR program when they’ve gone 40+ years just “winging it”?

Context: Trucking industry, 140 drivers (30% company, 70% contractor), 40 full-time staff (not including drivers). Family-owned business second/third generation. For example, no performance reviews, no ombudsman program, just an “open door policy.”

Katie Gerson, Human Resources Manager at DeNOVO Solutions, LLC:

This is tough, and not everyone may agree, but when it comes to pursuing with the harder pushes on leadership, I stand on the hill of data. Each industry has its niche elements but they aren’t too different than the repercussions of bad decisions. The approach that has worked for the last 40 years isn’t going to continue to work as more and more generations are in the workplace.

Pulling the data points that are going to mean the most to the leadership is key. What does they care the most about?

If the profitability of the company is the priority, then finding the the cases that show how the company could lose money may be the right step, i.e., Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), harassment/discrimination, lawsuits that show how similar lack of policy and programs impacted the employee, etc.

If the priority is maintaining the employee culture/moral- look for the data that is going to support the goals, i.e., growth opportunities, training, promotion/pay increase etc. and how to make it equitable.

It’s a tough sell, but showing how it will ultimately save the company financially down the road can be the tipping point for some leaders.

Lisa Van Lenner, VP, Operations, People & Culture at Mythical:

In this particular instance, I thinking leaning into the compliance portion of HR would help the argument. Depending on the state, I would imagine this field has a lot of legal requirements and pitfalls that a solid HR person would be able to help identify and avoid.

I’ve also found that noticing those legal issues is a way into understanding the efficiency of the business. Maybe there are classification errors that would ultimately save the company money, or the lack of record keeping means some stellar employees are not being recognized who would ultimately bring this business to the next level.

The benefit to a well-run HR department (even a department of 1!) goes beyond safety and compliance and could lead to advances for the business itself.

Rachel Ackerman, Director, People Operations at Barstool Sports:

Definitely agree with what Katie said regarding data. Compiling black and white statistics helps to support the business purpose. Data in addition to showing what kind ROI could be had in the implementation of a process or system. Like how much time or money could be saved to be put into other projects.

✍ How do I build a learning culture in my company and promote Learning & Development opportunities that people actually want to make time for?


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Context: A Fortune 500 oil and gas company that recently went through business transformation. People are busier than ever!

Erin McCann, Head of People Operations at 86 Repairs:

Folks will make time for L&D initiatives that fill a need they have (and likely find any excuse they can to avoid group learning if it’s a topic that isn’t interesting to them). I’d start with doing a needs assessment in the organization that your SLT and Leadership team align with and ask for their buy-in to promote upcoming sessions, particularly with folks on their teams who need a skill upleveled.

It would also help to incentivize folks – what are the two-three things they’ll take away from the learning that will have a meaningful impact in their day-to-day? Could this give them new skills that may lead to a promotion?

Lastly, make it fun; even dry subjects like finance can be engaging with the right content and facilitator.

  • Add some gifs, simple but effective
  • Add a random pop quiz (h/t the move SPEED)
  • Play music
  • Give away a prize

And: make sure there are planned micro-learnings after the sessions you hold. Folks will lose ~70% of the content you present the minute the session is over. Repetition is key!

Cassandra Babilya, Head of Employee Experience Strategy at Amazon: 

Everything Erin said! Plus, I’d evaluate if you really are creating time and space for your team to invest in themselves.

Create a learning roadmap that spells out exactly what the L&D opportunities and expectations are (including growth, hard skills, and compliance). Are they spaced out or do you tend to pour on all at once?

Another way is to dedicate a block of time each month or quarter where everyone is focused on development—no internal meetings, adjust estimated output for that time, don’t expect folks to fit it in on their down time.

Jessie Fields, Talent Development and DEI Leader at C2FO: 

I’d echo Cassandra’s idea of a dedicated “Development Day!” That could be a really cool way to set the tone and introduce the programs. Keep some of the topics business-centric, and leaders will have a harder time saying no.

I always build a learning strategy that hits on two outputs – learning that is Served Up and learning that is Self-Serve. Provide an engaging and diverse menu of options that suits a handful of different objectives, and always communicate what’s in it for the employees.

This is an exciting start to a long journey ahead – good luck and have fun!

Hebba Youssef
Hebba Youssef

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