How We Killed Our HR Department

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6 July 2017

I’m a textbook Millennial. Not because of when I was born or anything, but more because my eyes unconsciously roll every time someone talks about Millennials. If you just felt a little eye roll yourself, then welcome. The reason I bring this up is that, as much as we don’t like this label, we’re having a massive impact on how HR departments work nowadays. We’re driving new technologies (and please stop making us explain them) and, most importantly, have different values than our parents and grandparents. If we don’t like a job, we go for another one without thinking too much about it. That causes headaches around turnover, retaining talent, and keeping employees happy for many businesses.

At Enhancv, we faced a unique version of this problem. Because every one of our 19 team members is a Millennial. Considering our entire mission is to help people land their dream jobs, it would be more than a little awkward if it turned out our company is full of dissatisfied Millennials. Ultimately, we decided that for our employees to succeed and stay meant doing the unthinkable: killing the HR department.

Okay, that’s a little dramatic – transformed is more accurate. Our HR department became an Employee Success Department. But it wasn’t just a fancy label. This change actually meant a fundamental shift from thinking more about work environment to thinking about individuals and their development.

Are you having problems with keeping Millennials?

A 14th-century farmer didn’t think much of producing the same amount of wheat every year. Not unlike that farmer, my parents worked the same jobs for decades without thinking much about it. If I tell them I’m upset I haven’t improved myself in my job over the last year, they’re likely to let out a little chuckle. But I’m not alone. Our generation expects both personal and professional development. Without it, they’ll move on to a job that can provide that.

For companies with younger employees, this means it’s time to adapt or die. I’ve seen this problem firsthand, speaking to dozens of companies facing serious issues with keeping Millennials engaged and motivated. The good news is that some have found a way to harness the power of this generation and thrive. Here’s one illustrative example.

Airbnb’s Employee Experience model

Airbnb seems to understand this pretty well. They’ve implemented a “work as an experience” model and today, they’re one of the 50 best places to work and have a 90% job acceptance rate. So what do they do to be so successful?

To keep their employees happy, they transformed their HR department to the Employe Experience Department. Their ‘’Chief Of Employee Experience’’, Mark Levy, doesn’t only do recruiting, talent management & development, and HR. He thinks of ways to create memorable workplace experiences by doing things like providing healthy food or a workspace which has a nerd cave and a place to meditate. His entire position is based on balancing the 5 elements of the visual below in order to create an optimal employee experience (does that make him a shaman?) The result of Levy’s’ efforts creating a workplace as an experience has 90% of employees recommending Airbnb as a great place to work.

Enhancv How We Killed Our HR Department

Enhancv’s Employee Success model 

As a company that helps people find the right job with the right workplace culture, do we practice what we preach? Do we make our employees successful and happy?

No.

Just kidding. We do a lot to achieve this. While Airbnb does a great job making their employees happy at work, we try to go a bit deeper. Initially, this involved our COO and Deni (now the Chief of Employee Success) putting a lot of effort into the ‘’fun’’ part of work. We traveled together, had parties, dinners, and healthy breakfasts. But as our team started growing, we realized that it wasn’t enough.

We saw a potential problem in how companies like Airbnb handled this. The focus on fun and the physical needs of employees overrode focus on their performance, the impact they have in the company, and how successful they feel each month. The visual above represents the way Airbnb does the trick. But, even the name of their strategy, ‘’The Workplace As An Experience’’, signals that the focus is mainly on ‘’Workplace’’, rather than the aforementioned progress and development. That’s why we dug deeper and got inspired by the 3 Fs model a forward-thinking company called Nitro.

The 3 Fs Model and the Employee Success Model

 

Enhancv How We Killed Our HR Department

As outlined in this model, the fun part (a cool office, fun events, travels, team-building events) is really just the icing on the cake (and who doesn’t love icing?). The very foundation of a happy worker is created by the fundamentals and the fringe.

The fundamentals part is the easiest one at Enhancv. It starts with making sure each employee is aware of our values and where we’re heading as a company. (We are still working on outlining our values in more detail, but more on that in our next article.) We also offer competitive salaries and other benefits, such as 25 days of remote working (co-working space expenses covered), a monthly budget for physical exercise (many of us practice Ving Tsun, martial arts, together), a healthy breakfast every Monday (groceries hand-picked by our CEO), and more. When it comes to workplace, it’s a great experience (at least that’s what our guests always say). We have a fireplace, huge terrace and a lot of open space.

Feeling we’re good on the fundamentals, we’re now focusing more on the fringe. Here, we help each employee develop as both an individual and professional. Often, this means pushing them out of their comfort zone, as that’s the place where the magic happens. It also helps stretch our personalities on an emotional and intellectual level to become better colleagues, professionals, and leaders. For example, I, like most people, found public speaking terrifying, completely out of my comfort zone. That’s why I was encouraged to try it out and present the benefits of using Enhancv to 150+ people at a career event. I discovered that I’m actually a natural public speaker and have been representing Enhancv at most similar events ever since.

At Enhancv, we don't believe in a stress-free working environment. A bit of stress is always good. Click To Tweet
And how do we motivate each team member? We let them be a part of challenging projects and tasks that make them learn new things. Maybe you’ve been in a situation when a difficult project with a tight deadline unlocked your creativity and productivity. Well, there is a subtle relationship between performance and a light degree of stress. As described in the Inverted-U Model by  Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, a slight pressure gets the best out of people while also keeping them happy and engaged. That’s why at Enhancv we don’t believe in a stress-free environment. A bit of stress is always good.

Enhancv How We Killed Our HR Department

We also regularly check in with each employee, asking how they feel about our product and company goals. Our team works best when we all are on one page. To check that, we do a short survey twice a year: not too often, not too rarely.

Another great way to work on employee success is having one-on-one meetings. In smaller companies, a CEO does them with each team member. But we decided to do things differently. For example, our CTO has one-on-ones with each member of the dev. team. The CSO talks to the CEO and Customer Success Department. The COO talks to everyone in the marketing team. You get the point. Like that, one-on-one meetings don’t become a burden for the CEO and employees. They help us to keep track of everyone’s feelings, places for improvement, and challenges everyone’s facing. It’s also a good time to update the team on challenges the company’s facing.

One-on-ones have been a real game-changer for our team. It helped us spot small problems before they became huge or just see how’s the COOs moving houses going. We highly recommend them.

The last and best part of helping our employees grow began with hiring Veli, our Talent & Leadership Enhancer. She works with the co-founders to continuously improve our approach to people and culture as we prepare to scale the business. From hiring to learning, development, and succession, she’s looking to create a knockout employee journey. Also, she’s helping each of us create a plan to outline and then achieve our goals. 

Over to you

Nobody ever said making Millennials happy was easy, but it turns out that catering to them has made us a better company. It’s no exaggeration to say that a huge part of our success has come from implementing these kinds of policies. Simon Sinek phrased the problem perfectly when he said ”it’s not enough to have your values on a poster. You have to believe in them and live them.’’

''It’s not enough to have your values on a poster. You have to believe in them and live them.''Click To Tweet

Recognizing this and implementing the 3 Fs model into our strategy has brought significant improvements to our company. It helps us spot the wrong culture fit quicker, which saves money. Each one of us has a chance to talk about their struggles right at the start, which prevents small issues becoming an unpleasant situation. Also, there’s so much more trust within the team, which helps us reinforce our company culture.

In other words, Millennials or not, it’s time to change the way employers interact with their employees.

Tatiana Rehmova

A glass half-full kind of a girl and a believer that everything happens for a reason. Loves writing, editing and researching the newest ways of doing things.

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