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Key Takeaways from Launchways’ Remote Work Webinar

The COVID-19 outbreak is changing the way that America works. Even companies that had never had a work-from-home policy are now going fully remote. And companies with flexible work policies are having to expand those policies dramatically. Whether you have always allowed some remote work or you are new to this way of work, odds are that you are having to reinvent just about every aspect of your operations.

And with the virus taking a heavy toll on growing businesses, the stakes have never been higher to get remote work right.

That’s why Launchways gathered a panel of experts to help growing businesses transition to remote working effectively. Our panelists drew upon their experience to outline clear best-practices that any business can implement to help their company run more smoothly in the era of COVID-19 quarantines and fully remote work. If you missed the original webinar, you can still stream it on demand. The hour-long webinar covered important topics that included:

  • How and why companies should put together remote work agreements
  • General best practices and pitfalls of remote workforce management
  • Why communication is more important now than ever and how to get it right
  • How to support your managers in their new role managing a remote team
  • How to interview and onboard new hires remotely
  • How to maintain your company culture while remote

Webinar Overview

Our panelists shared best-practices and pitfalls in setting up and managing a remote workforce. They started by stressing the importance of updating company policies to help remote work run smoothly from the get-go. That includes both creating an explicit remote-work agreement with each remote employee and the key considerations in creating remote work practices, including:

  • Expectations for work hours, communication, availability, and overtime
  • Approved and required channels of communication and work
  • Workflow and accountability systems

Throughout the webinar, the message from all five panelists was clear. In every aspect of remote management, employers need to:

  • Set clear expectations in advance and establish accountability for those expectations
  • Communicate clearly, explicitly, and more proactively than ever before
  • Prioritize employee engagement and connection

Since so much relies on effective communication when teams are working remotely, the panelists addressed how to set up the proper communication channels and routines before exploring the specifics of managing a remote team.

Communicating for Effective Remote Work

Perhaps the biggest risk when transitioning to remote work is how easy it is to lose track of projects, employees, and team progress. Without the routines and casual connections of the workplace, it’s very easy for teams and productivity to stagnate and for damaging miscommunications to arise. When working remotely, it’s more difficult to get a read on how things are going in general.

Our panelists especially stressed the risks of allowing gaps in communication that employees will naturally fill. For example, if an employee is not getting feedback and input on their progress while working from home, they are very likely to interpret it one of two ways: either that the project is not very important and their work is simply adequate or conversely, that they are underperforming. Either scenario will result in reduced productivity and morale.

In addition to exploring the communication risks inherent to remote work, our panelists laid out easy best practices to minimize those risks and maximizing productivity and collaboration, including:

  • Prioritizing synchronous communication such as phone calls and video meetings over asynchronous communication including emails and texts which carry a higher risk of miscommunication
  • Implementing and utilizing an integrated chat system such as Slack or Microsoft Teams
  • Using project management software to maintain and track workflows
  • Establishing a consistent meeting cadence including team-wide and one-on-one meetings
  • Always being proactive rather than reactive in your communications strategy

Other Top Topics for Remote Work

After addressing overall remote work strategy and effective communications, our panelists explored several common areas of concern when transitioning to remote work. The first of these was how to properly support front-line managers during the COVID-19 crisis. Employers face the difficult task of creating business and workforce strategies that will get their companies through the current crisis. It can be easy to forget that your managers face equally daunting and uncharted territory navigating their teams through the outbreak and the transition to remote work. They can easily become lost, which can be crippling to team morale and productivity. Leadership needs to work as closely as possible with managers to create a cohesive approach to remote work, provide necessary resources and feedback, and simply let them know that they aren’t going through this alone.

Next, the panel tackled the topic of interviewing and onboarding new hires in the era of remote work and quarantine. While some businesses have frozen hiring, others are continuing to grow and hire. But fully-remote hiring and onboarding isn’t something that most managers have vast experience with. For both processes, our panelists emphasized the importance of replicating the in-person experience as closely as possible. That means being truly present in video interviews and making “eye-contact” with the camera. More importantly, it means being as personal and hands-on during onboarding as possible. Get the paperwork and IT setup out of the way in advance as much as possible and focus on integrating new hires into the company culture and their teams by creating interpersonal connections within the digital realm. Set up one-on-one and group meetings with key stakeholders, including more casual hangouts and virtual lunches or happy hours to help new teammates integrate.

Finally, the panel explored how to keep your team connected and engaged while working remotely. Largely, this means fostering the social connections that make a workplace alive by creating spaces for people to interact digitally. Schedule digital coffee breaks, all-team lunches, happy hours, and team activities. Many employers are also encouraging interaction by calling on employees to share pictures of their home offices, pets, culinary creations, and more. The panel also explored the importance of deliberate and compassionate leadership during this difficult time and providing actionable strategies for leaders to craft their management approach during COVID-19.

Stream the Full Webinar Today

We have barely scratched the surface of all the insights our panel shared on the complete 60-minute webinar. Luckily, we recorded the webinar for you to stream on-demand. Stream the complete webinar now.

Stream Launchways’ Comprehensive COVID-19 Webinar Today

The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has caused significant disruption for people and businesses alike. But while the challenges are very real, they are made much worse by the amount of uncertainty and misinformation that surrounds the outbreak. To combat the spread of misinformation, Launchways held a comprehensive webinar on March 20th to help business leaders understand the situation and create a comprehensive strategy that keeps their business running and protects their team.

In the webinar, our panel of experts addressed major areas of concern for business and HR leaders amid the COVID-19 crisis, including:

  • Understanding new legislative updates and how they will affect human capital strategies
  • The critical human-resources best-practices you should be following during this turbulent time
  • How this outbreak will affect employee benefits offerings & processes including FMLA, STD, & COBRA

Meet The Panel

Heather Bailey

Heather is a partner in SmithAmundsen’s Labor & Enforcement Practice Group and has practiced in employment and labor counseling and litigation for 18 years. In addition to her extensive experience in all things compliance and workforce, Heather is a member of SmithAmundsen’s COVID-19 Task Force  and has been tackling COVID-19 issues for the firm’s clients and at the firm itself.

Karina Castaneda

Karina is one of Launchways’ HR Client Success Managers and is a seasoned HR practitioner with over 15 years of experience working in employee relations, talent management, and benefits. She has been working closely with Launchways’ HR clients to help them navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

Devon Bellamy

Devon is a benefits expert on the Launchways Employee Benefits team. Recently he has been helping each client review their policies to see how they can protect their employees during the outbreak.

Jim Taylor

Jim is the CEO and Founder of Launchways. He is a serial entrepreneur and has founded and scaled several notable businesses. At Launchways, Jim has spent over 10 years providing business counsel to clients, helping business leaders make the best decisions to grow their businesses.

Understanding Legislative Updates

Our panelists explored the nuances of how upcoming legislation may affect small and medium-sized businesses in the months to come. Special attention was paid to the pending COVID-19 Relief Bill and its impact on several existing workforce regulations. Here are the major changes that were addressed:

Family Medical Leave Act Expansion

The bill will require employers with fewer than 500 employees, as well as government employers, to provide up to 12 weeks of protected leave for any employees who have to comply with a quarantine, care for a family member in quarantine, or care for a minor whose school is closed due to COVID-19. The first two weeks of leave may be unpaid but the rest must be paid at 2/3 of the employee’s standard rate of pay. This expansion only applies to employees who cannot work remotely. And companies with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the expansion, although that remains to be seen.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

In addition to the Family Medical Leave provisions, the COVID-19 Relief Bill requires small and medium-sized businesses to provide two weeks of paid time off for several COVID-related issues including quarantine or exposure.

Notably, Heather pointed out that employers can require employees to work remotely rather than go on leave so long as they can work remotely. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act only applies to employees who cannot work remotely.

Employer Tax Credits

To ease the economic impact of the outbreak and the employee protections, the government is poised to offer tax credits for employee wages paid as a result of the changes to the FMLA and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act as well as sick leave credits for each day that employees are out on paid sick leave. All of these tax credits are applied against employers’ Social Security taxes.

The US Treasury Secretary is also being given broad authority to help employers meet their financial obligations while they wait to claim the tax credit to address cash flow concerns.

Human Resources Best Practices

In addition to reviewing upcoming legislation, our panelists examined human resources best-practices that employers should consider in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Three major topics of conversation included:

Enabling Remote Work

Karina drew upon her extensive human capital management experience to weigh in on what is a very hot topic at the moment: how to enable effective remote work.

Whenever possible, employers should encourage their team members to work remotely to keep their business running without exposing employees to the virus. Remote work is also the best way for companies to minimize their FMLA and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act expenses.

Karina laid out a three-step process for creating an effective remote-work environment:

  • Determine who is eligible for remote work and the reasons why they are eligible: Identifying who can work remotely will help you develop your remote-work strategy, engage those stakeholders, and justify the move to remote work
  • Identify and distribute necessary technology and software: Many companies will have to distribute new technology and roll out new software to help their teams work remotely. From laptops to project management and communications software, you should figure out what your suite will look like and create a strategy for getting the necessary tools into your teams’ hands.
  • Facilitating Communication: Communication is crucial for productivity and collaboration as you shift towards a remote-work model. You not only need to ensure that standard touchpoints such as weekly or daily all-hands stand-ups are maintained via video chat meetings but you also need to implement a more proactive communications policy to compensate for the physical disconnect within your team.

Protecting Employees at Work

While remote-work is the ideal solution during the COVID-19 outbreak, the fact of the matter is that not all employees or businesses can work remotely. Karina outlined best-practices to protect employees when they have to work in person, including:

  • Provide hygiene supplies such as hand soap and tissues
  • Sanitize high-touch work surfaces to reduce the risk of exposure
  • Arrange schedules to minimize employee interaction
  • Minimize face-to-face meetings

Understanding the Difference Between Layoffs and Furloughs

On the legal end of employment best-practices, Heather explored the difference between layoffs and furloughs as strategies to reduce labor costs during the outbreak. While most employers will want to maintain their teams to the best of their abilities, many will have to reduce their workforce as the outbreak continues to take a toll on the business community.

As Heather explained, layoffs are permanent termination events that could leave employers understaffed once the outbreak subsides or expose them to retaliation or discrimination lawsuits down the road. Plus, employers generally have to pay out any accrued PTO at termination, so layoffs could result in significant short-term workforce costs.

On the whole, employers are increasingly opting for temporary furloughs that maintain the employment relationship but render employees eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. While usually associated with government shutdowns, furloughs are a useful tool to help employers stay afloat during the outbreak while keeping their team intact once business returns to normal.

How the COVID-19 Outbreak Affects Employee Benefits

Devon explored the issues that Launchways clients are facing regarding employee benefits and the best practices that have helped them navigate the situation.

The best practices he reviewed included:

  • Make sure employees have appropriate access to care, whether for COVID-19 or other health concerns
  • Understand how your employee health insurance covers and responds to COVID-19
  • Know if you can extend COBRA or State Continuation in the case of an extended furlough
  • Understand and inform your team on employee rights on disability, unemployment, workers compensation, and more

Devon then outlined enhanced benefits that most insurance carriers have added to their plans in light of the outbreak:

  • Free COVID-19 testing in-network
  • $0 copays for telemedicine
  • Free home delivery for prescriptions

Key Takeaways

In the 75-minute webinar, our panelists explored the ins-and-outs of managing the COVID-19 outbreak as a growing business. They explained how to tackle the dual-priorities of protecting your workforce and keeping your business running from the three angles of:

  • Adapting to new legislation
  • Managing your workforce by encouraging remote work, protecting non-remote workers, and reducing workforce costs without causing unnecessary harm or expenses
  • Understanding how the outbreak affects employee benefits and keeping employees apprised of the changes

The panel discussion was in-depth and nuanced: there’s no way that we can capture all of the lessons that the four experts shared during the webinar in a single blog article. That is why we have made the entire webinar available to watch for free, stream the full webinar on-demand now.

Launchways Hosts Compliance Webinar on Recreational Marijuana Legalization

In June 2019, Illinois became the 11th state in the country to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. This January, that law went into effect and was met enthusiastically by Illinoisans: newly legal dispensaries did $10 million in business in the first week alone.

Although it is often viewed as a legal matter affecting individual citizens, legalization introduces numerous complications and concerns for employers. While employers can still regulate the use of marijuana in the workplace, legalization has made enforcing those policies much more difficult and employers risk compliance violations if they overstep their bounds.

Whether you are a business owner or HR professional, you are probably already grappling with the effects of Illinois marijuana legalization. At Launchways, we know that our clients certainly have. So, we decided to bring in a legal expert and our in-house HR expert for a free webinar on navigating legalization in Illinois. We hosted the webinar on February 19th but you can still stream it on-demand anytime.

We want everyone to benefit from the advice that our experts gave during the webinar, so let’s take a look at the key points covered during the lively session.

  • Webinar Overview
  • Legalization Details and Key Distinctions
  • What can employers legally do from a compliance standpoint?
  • Compliance Concerns from Legalization

Webinar Overview

On February 19th, HR leaders from across Illinois tuned in for a presentation by two industry experts.Our first panelist was Heather Bailey. Heather is a partner in SmithAmundsen’s Labor & Enforcement Practice Group and has practiced in employment and labor counseling and litigation for 18 years. She counsels on day-to-day operations, human resources, and management decisions regarding employees, practices, and policies. In short, she is an expert in navigating employers through compliance issues and helping them create effective and compliant employee policies.

The second panelist was Launchways’ HR Client Manager, Karina Castaneda. Karina is a seasoned HR professional with over 15 years of experience working in employee benefits, performance, and staffing. She helps Launchways clients with all of their compliance questions and concerns and provides them with strategic advice regarding talent management.

Needless to say, both panelists know the ins-and-outs of compliance and effective employee management. And they proved full of valuable insights into effectively responding to marijuana legalization in Illinois.

Legalization Details and Key Distinctions

To start the webinar, our panelists went over the specifics of what the Illinois legalization law, officially known as the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, does and does not do.

The Act made recreational consumption of marijuana legal throughout Illinois and enshrined marijuana as a legal substance that employers can not regulate outside of the workplace as part of the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act. The fundamental consequence of legalization and the modification of the Right to Privacy Act is that employers’ enforcement strategy needs to change from regulating use or consumption to regulating intoxication. Luckily, our panelists provided clear guidelines for how to effectively make the shift.

What can employers legally do from a compliance standpoint?

Employers can still take action against employees for being intoxicated in the workplace from marijuana just as they can for alcohol intoxication at work. Where things get tricky is that there is no such thing as a “breathalyzer” for marijuana. Your current drug testing policies will likely catch general drug use, but cannot pinpoint real-time intoxication, making them an ineffective enforcement tool that will expose you to compliance and lawsuit liabilities if you try to use them as the sole basis to prove intoxication at work.

As Karina outlined during the presentation, the law does not prohibit employers from regulating the possession, use, or distribution of marijuana in the workplace. So, employers can treat marijuana much as they already treat alcohol in the workplace, just with a slightly different enforcement strategy. Specifically, they should establish clear intoxication standards based on a combination of drug testing and document reasonable suspicion signs. And, says Karina, employers should update their policies to clarify the company’s stance on marijuana and the consequences of using the substance at work.

Heather delved deeper into effective and compliant enforcement of a zero tolerance workplace drug policy. Specifically, she emphasized the importance of establishing a good faith belief in intoxication as the grounds for any disciplinary action. She advised employers to provide concrete reasonable suspicion checklists and train managers on how to identify symptoms and record them using the checklists. Importantly, drug testing should be used to support these checklists but not used as an enforcement tool on their own.

Compliance Concerns from Legalization

Our panelists explained that employers need to tread carefully when pursuing disciplinary action against impaired employees in light of legalization. In addition to relying on a good-faith belief in intoxication and reasonable suspicion checklists, Heather emphasized that employers must allow employees the opportunity to contest the allegations to avoid compliance issues or potential grounds for lawsuits. However, the burden lies on employees to prove that they were not impaired so long as the employer has provided reasonable grounds for disciplinary action.

Heather also explained that because the Act protects marijuana use outside of work hours and while not on call, employers have to tread carefully so that they do not give even the appearance of discriminating against employees for using marijuana in their free time. That means that you cannot refuse to hire, terminate, or otherwise treat employees differently because of their perceived marijuana use so long as they are not using it at work. Similarly, you may face lawsuits if you take disciplinary action that is not based on a good-faith belief in actual impairment.

Both panelists cautioned employers against the inconsistent or uneven application of drug testing policies given the additional discrimination risks introduced by legalization. If drug testing seems targeted and is not based on recorded reasonable suspicion, you may face discrimination lawsuits. And across the board, clarity is your friend: make your drug policy and enforcement language as clear and explicit as possible and communicate changes to managers and employees.

Heather finished her presentation with a list of best-practices that employers should follow, including:

  • Have a Zero Tolerance drug policy
  • Educate employees on your company’s stance on cannabis
  • Have an ADA process for medical marijuana users
  • Update job descriptions for safety-sensitive positions
  • Train, train, train management
  • Do not rely on drug testing alone to prove impairment

Karina outlined how these changes affect your human resources policies, advising employers and HR professionals that they should:

  • Evaluate current drug testing policies, including pre-employment testing, general testing, and post-accident testing
  • Update employee handbook with a clear policy that states the company’s stance on cannabis use
  • Notify and train managers on policy updates in light of legalization
  • Enlist outside help for areas of confusion or when additional assistance is needed to update policies or train employees

Stream the Webinar for More Valuable Insights

In this article, we covered the general overview of the panel’s advice to employers and HR professionals. But addressing the effects of cannabis legalization in the workplace is such a complex and important topic that it is best to hear from the experts themselves. Stream the complete webinar on-demand anytime here.

Do you need help ensuring your drug policy and testing procedures are compliant? Launchways offers a free handbook and employer policy review. Request your free handbook review today.

Learn How to Win the War for Talent

No organization can survive, thrive, or grow without great talent. With that said, unemployment is at its lowest in nearly 40 years, which means difference-making employees have greater power and more opportunities to pick their landing spot of choice than ever before.

Recently, Launchways hosted a free one-hour webinar focused on how organizations of all sizes can win the war for talent in this highly-competitive market. The webinar included valuable insights from Brad Farris of Anchor Advisors, Adam Radulovic of XL.net, Tim Schumm of Lucas James Talent Partners, and Launchways’ own Jim Taylor.

In this post, we’ll explore some of the highlights and main ideas of the webinar, including:
• The role of employer branding in talent acquisition
• How to create winning recruiting and hiring practices
• How to use the interview process to find the best talent

Mindful Employer Branding
Bringing great talent into the fold and retaining them over time requires having a business that feels inviting, functional, positive, and drama-free. In the past, employees were willing to put up with more due to the perception that there were a limited number of “good jobs” at strong companies, but in today’s environment, hiring and holding onto business-driving team members requires more than the offer of a “good job.”

Now, businesses of all sizes and industries must actively and thoughtfully brand themselves in order to create an identity that is attractive to top talent and invites them to buy into corporate culture. In fact, everything should flow backwards from the brand.

Understanding Your Existing Standing and Perception
No business can leverage their workplace culture – even if it’s a great one – if they don’t fully understand it themselves. Small and medium-sized companies often grow so quickly that mindfulness of company culture gets lost in the shuffle as operations scale up. On the other hand, for large enterprises, there’s often so much distance between leadership and rank-and-file employees that a culture gap – or, more precisely, a gap in understanding of culture – can easily form.

Before any business can create a talent-centric culture initiative, they must form a rich understand of both their existing internal culture and the perception of the organization within the talent marketplace. Tools like employee surveys and Glassdoor can be incredibly useful in informing this work.

Once that understanding of existing culture and perception are in place, organizations can begin the work of identifying culture targets and planning initiatives to get them there.

Articulating a Great Culture
Branding in a way that speaks to top talent requires identifying what is special or unique about an organization and building out from there. In order to achieve that, each organization must articulate what they value from both the business and humanistic sides of workplace culture and consider what’s really special about who they are, what they do, where they do it, and how they do it.

The better an organization can articulate why employment is a positive and valuable overall experience that will improve each employee’s life and not just a “job,” the better they are able to attract great thinkers and workers without needing to jack up compensation. Once those value-based pillars are in place, the next step is to plan how the organization will staff, train, and develop to foster, reinforce, and maintain that culture.

One important note about establishing and building an effective culture: it requires patience. As soon as you and your core leadership team are sick to death of discussing culture goals and articulating what your organization is all about, that information is probably just starting to sink in at the individual worker level. Once you have buy-in at that level, however, promoting your thriving culture becomes much easier.

Web Presence
The internet provides businesses with a powerful, mostly free space to spread the word about their brand identities and individual corporate cultures. A strong, positive web presence helps an organization seem modern with a unique personality and relatable set of values. A weak or negative web presence, on the other hand, will prevent many potential superstars from even applying to work at a company.

For those reasons, digital marketing should be a top priority for organizations of all sizes and ages, not just for lead attraction but also for talent attraction. When an organization’s footprint on the web feels responsive, looks professional, and contains well-planned and well-written content, it gives job seekers an increased sense of confidence and makes a workplace seem future-facing and attractive.

Remember, there are more top jobs out there than top talent, so there’s no incentive for any of those professionals to even consider working in an environment where they don’t have great confidence they will succeed, grow, and build a happier life.

Let’s take a closer look at two of the biggest and most crucial online platforms for businesses trying to establish a strong culture and brand identity:
Glassdoor – Thanks to social proof, if a business has a great team and a thriving culture, Glassdoor can be one of their greatest hiring tools. If the ratings are low, however, it can become a struggle to even create a viable applicant pool for an opening. The more authentic, positive reviews a business can build on Glassdoor, the more attractive they seem to outsiders and prospective applicants.

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is the ideal social media platform for organizations looking to share their company culture with the world and invite others to join the conversation. Using LinkedIn, business entities and their individual leaders can increase brand awareness, build thought leadership, and share company successes – both business and humanistic – with a wide community of industry professionals. A strong, active LinkedIn presence helps an organization present their values and meaningful work side by side, creating a brand identity that attracts great talent.

Recruiting and Hiring to Win
Once businesses have established a talent-centric culture and leveraged online platforms to start circulating that message throughout the industry in a way that attracts talent, they are faced with an equally important next step: actually hiring the right people.

Here are a few guidelines that organizations can use to create an effective recruitment and hiring strategy to ensure they land the right talent.

Have a Plan
Building a great team in the office is just like building one on the athletic field: it’s a process that takes multiple years, requires several key acquisitions, and must be dictated by an over-arching plan or strategy. Hiring employees on a purely ad hoc basis is a recipe for disaster, and signing on new hires without an eye toward cultural fit, values, or long-term potential can be destructive as well.

Each organization can empower themselves and simplify their hiring processes by articulating an organizational philosophy on and approach to hiring. While this seems like a huge responsibility up front, it’s the most direct way to measure twice and cut once.

“Always Be Hiring”
Growing organizations frequently make the classic mistake of building exactly the team they need in the moment. While that sounds like an ideal situation, it’s actually a liability because growing organizations must be able to grow, and with a goldilocks-sized staff, that potential for instant growth is limited, creating the possibility of backslide.

Organizations who don’t want to miss out on great talent are always hiring because that superstar difference-maker might not be searching for a job the same week the office has an explicit need. By always remaining open-minded about the possibility of bringing on the right new team member, businesses maintain their ability to grow and leave the door open to for the right voice to come on board at an unexpected moment.

One of the worst things a business can do to itself is to get put in a position where a hire must be made under duress or an unexpected exit sends work grinding to a halt. When organizations are proactive rather than reactive, however, they protect productivity and provide themselves with more opportunities to connect with great talent.

Fill the Pipeline
Of course, the “Always be hiring” philosophy requires a steady influx of talent and C.V.s, but embracing that constant flow of talent opportunities is a good thing. When a business is constantly talking about new talent and staying in touch with the talent marketplace, it builds organizational confidence that the business isn’t over-reliant on current team members and keeps everybody up to date on talent trends.

One way organizations can keep themselves plugged into the talent market is to set aside one day each month to interview attention-grabbing or potentially intriguing candidates, regardless of specific “needs.” This practice keeps businesses open to great potential opportunities and invites both applicants and leadership to discuss goals, culture, and market trends in a way that helps both sides gauge the potential value of a working relationship.

Never Settle!
Talent acquisition isn’t called “worker acquisition” because, in a business setting, it’s much more important to hire the right person than it is to put a body in the chair. In order to win with top talent, organizations must accept nothing less. Nobody should ever be hired just because a position needs to be filled, and no prospective employee who isn’t a strong fit in terms of culture or skill should ever be hired just to end the process.

Attracting and hiring great talent is more complex than ever, but with a clear approach in mind, the use of the right marketing tools, and a strong understanding of itself, an organization of any size can build a brand, culture, and hiring process that ensure they wind up with the best talent possible.

• Branding is essential to attracting the best talent
o To create a successful brand, organizations must articulate, achieve, and maintain a strong, positive workplace culture
-That culture should reflect what’s unique, exciting, and humanistic about the work at hand
o Web presence (particularly on LinkedIn and Glassdoor) is essential to establishing that brand awareness in the talent market
• Recruiting and hiring should be guided by an over-arching plan and approach but also remain flexible so businesses never miss out on great talent in an unexpected moment or find themselves talent deficient after a sudden exit

These are just a few of the ideas explored in Launchways’ webinar “How to Win the War for Talent: Actionable Strategies to Attract and Retain Top Talent at Your Business.” To gain more incredible insight from our roundtable of talent acquisition experts, watch the free recording of the webinar now!

Aligning Compensation Structure with Business Strategy & Company Culture

Employee compensation represents one of an organization’s biggest and most crucial investments. With the right compensation structure in place, an organization can hire and retain great talent to drive profitable business. On the other hand, a poor compensation structure can lead to a talent crisis or trouble maintaining profitability.

Unlike so many other elements of business or HR, executive compensation is not simply a matter of best practices. While industry benchmarks are an important part of the formula, any compensation strategy should focus on the unique needs, goals, strengths, and culture of the organization.

That means designing a strong approach to compensation requires a great deal of thought, planning, and self-knowledge. Recently, Launchways hosted a free one-hour webinar focused on how organizations can align their compensation structure to their company’s size, strategy, and culture.

Looking forward, we’ll explore some of the main ideas from the webinar, including:
• The value of planning and alignment when it comes to executive compensation
• Creating alignment with a business’ cultural and philosophical values in mind
• Leveraging equity effectively as part of a compensation strategy
• Creating a bonus structure that’s scaled to your business

The Power of Planning and Alignment
Executive compensation would probably be a lot easier if all businesses were the same, but the incredible variety of industries, business types, and corporate cultures in the marketplace means that one-size most certainly does not fit all.

In order to succeed in such a wide-open game, organizations must articulate a clear, well-thought-out strategy to guide their approach to talent acquisition and retention that’s built on a deep understanding of what their business is, where they are today, where they’d like to go, and what they need to do to get there. By focusing on compensation strategy conceptually and not just hiring and compensating employees one-off, businesses can create a more cohesive culture that’s aligned with business goals.

For example, in the case of startups, many key players (especially executives) are often brought onto a team one at a time. This creates a flexible situation in which many early-stage companies create a variety of different salary points, equity offers, and bonus packages on an ad hoc basis to fit employees as they hire.

While that model works well for some startups and may be tempting in the short term, it can be disastrous as a basis for a long-term compensation structure for several reasons. First of all, planning compensation one employee at a time makes it easy to lose the forest for the trees. That means that, after several years of hiring, employees throughout the company could command salaries and benefits packages that have little to do with their current value to the organization and better reflect how desperate the company was for talent at the time of hire.

Additionally, working on a case-by-case basis without a well-structured, well-aligned plan in place can wind up producing a pay scale that feels unfair and demotivating for workers just a year or two in. The more transparency and logical explanation an organization can provide about how compensation works, the more likely they are to connect with discerning talent.

When a business builds a consistent, richly-planned, well-articulated compensation structure, it tells the workforce, “Everybody here is valuable, and we are in this together.” By planning a consistent approach to compensation from the outset, organizations can create a well-scaled core team with a healthy culture that’s positioned to drive both innovation and profit.

Planning with Values and Goals in Mind
If self-knowledge is the key to compensation alignment, the next logical question is, “What kind of self-knowledge do we need?” The short answer to that question is “as much as possible,” but let’s take a moment to think about some specific questions businesses’ should ask themselves about their organizational values and goals as they build a compensation strategy.

Revenue vs. Profit vs. Innovation – The way leaders are compensated must directly reflect their ability to drive business success. With that said, there a variety of different ways to quantify that success depending on a business’ size, position in the marketplace, and growth targets.

A strong approach to executive compensation must identify key growth indicators or KPIs and ensure individual success is aligned with company success. That means compensation strategies may shift as the organization evolves, but only in mindful ways that reflect the work at hand and upcoming goals.

Individual vs. Team Performance – Some businesses are about achieving results no matter what and elevating the difference-makers who got there when others couldn’t; other organizations emphasize collective or team-based success. Each scenario requires a specific approach to compensation, and a lack of philosophical alignment only sets everybody up to fail.

Make no mistake, incentivizing individual achievement or teamwork will directly and strongly shape workplace culture, which reinforces the importance of planning with organizational goals and values in mind before designing compensation packages out of thin air. Both models can be successful in different scenarios, but once again, it’s a matter of industry, goals, and organizational self-knowledge.

Short- vs. Long-term Performance – It wouldn’t be fair to judge or compete in a race if the distance wasn’t established ahead of time. By the same token, the effectiveness of leaders can’t be fairly judged without a business articulating what they really value and expect.

Some organizations philosophically prefer a slow and steady pace; others are innovation-minded and would rather someone step up to the plate and hit a home run than maintain a solid batting average for several years. Again, both styles can work, but getting caught between the two in terms of articulation or finding compensation out of alignment with organizational goals can both be costly.

Aligning Different Elements of Your Compensation Package
Any compensation package includes a salary, employee benefits, and often for executives, equity and bonus opportunities. For a compensation structure to truly work, all those pieces of the pie must be balanced in a way that works for assets and the company alike, building reward, incentive, and buy-in.

Let’s think about how different elements of that compensation puzzle can be implemented or leveraged depending on company goals, size, and industry.

Balancing Base Salary – Base salary is probably the least “unique” piece of a compensation package, as it is generally strongly informed by industry benchmarks. With that said, salary can be adjusted on a sliding scale based on organizational values and growth goals.

For example, an early-stage organization prioritizing growth, innovation, and short-term performance can create strong bonus incentives for executives (more on that later), allowing the organization to place less emphasis on salary. On the other hand, larger, more established businesses who are years or decades past their IPO can align their compensation structure to their market positioning by putting greater emphasis on salaries.

Intelligently Leveraging Equity – In almost any for-profit business scenario, the business itself is the owners’ primary asset. When experienced executives see a profitable idea or great business model, they want to get in on the ground floor and grow along with that company. That means equity offers can be powerful incentives for executives and other leaders to drive growth, achieve milestones, and stay bought in for a half-decade or more.

On the other hand, some organizations’ goals or financial positions might make it advantageous to protect equity. That can be a successful and profitable long-term strategy as well, but in order to win with great talent, those organizations will need to pump up other aspects of compensation, such as salary or achievable bonuses.

Again, the key either way is to articulate a consistent approach that’s aligned to company goals and drives growth – not just to land talent by offering them stock options.

Building an Impactful Bonus Structure – Startup culture has made equity compensation so attractive over the last 20 years that cash bonuses are often forgotten as part of a winning compensation strategy. With that said, a well-scaled bonus structure is a fantastic tool for keeping leadership engaged and maximizing each project or initiative.

Bonuses invite employees to succeed and celebrate alongside the organization they work for and see the true connection between their great work and company growth. In this way, bonuses reward assets for their direct, impactful alignment with company values and goals. That’s why bonuses are great buy-in tools and motivators, both in the long- and short-term.

One of the best ways organizations (even small or medium-sized ones) can provide impactful bonuses that show clear alignment with company values and goals is to provide ad hoc rewards. Essentially, ad hoc bonuses are cash rewards distributed to leaders and/or team members when specific goals are achieved. An ad hoc bonus could come at the end of a timely development sprint, at the completion of a key project, at the closing of a major account, or any other time for organizational celebration.

Creating a winning executive compensation structure is highly complex because no two businesses are alike. Remember:
• Executive compensation must be aligned with organizational goals and values in order to succeed
• Salary, equity offers, and bonuses can all be structured, balanced, and leveraged in different ways depending on company size and objectives, but the compensation structure must match be built purposefully and account for the uniqueness of the organization

If you’re looking for more tips on how to align your compensation structure to your business and culture then download and stream the complete executive compensation webinar now.

Are you a CFO in Charge of HR? What You Need to Know

Are you a CFO in Charge of HR? What You Need to Know

As a CFO, your job isn’t easy even at the best of times. You’re responsible for managing the company’s financial health, capital investments, and return on those investments. And as if that wasn’t enough, many modern CFOs have now been given ownership over their company’s HR.

This change can be particularly difficult because as a CFO, you’re probably a numbers person – now you’re supposed to be people person too? You may well be wondering how you’re going to juggle it all.

The good news is that, with the right approach, managing HR as a CFO can be extremely rewarding and empowering. You get to guide the financial and people side of your business, coordinating the two to maximize your company’s growth. That’s a pretty good position to find yourself in, as long as you know how to handle it.

Launchways recently hosted a webinar that covers some of the most common issues CFOs face while managing HR. In today’s blog post, we’ll cover some of the main points that were discussed on the webinar. In this post we’ll cover:

  • Aligning business strategy with HR strategy
  • Owning and leveraging company culture
  • Examining HR processes
  • Identifying key HR metrics to track and evaluate

Align Business Strategy & HR Strategy

The two main uses of a company’s capital are technology and people. As a CFO who is also responsible for managing HR, you get to guide the success of your investments in human capital. Instead of seeing your hybrid role as an irritating added responsibility, you can see it as an opportunity for greater control over your company’s growth and financial health. You get to use your financial expertise and familiarity with the company’s business strategy to maximize the return on investment in your company’s people.

The best way to do this is to align the HR strategy with the business strategy so that all parts of the company are working in sync towards the company’s goals. That doesn’t just mean approaching HR from a finance perspective, though. For the best results, you must aim to see things from an HR perspective.

It’s important to bring in the right people and to make sure that they stick around for the long-haul. At the same time, cross-department alignment is critical. Every department needs to be aligned with each other and with the company’s goals so that the company can work as efficiently and productively as possible.

Many companies dismiss the impact that HR can have on their growth and continued success. They underestimate the cost of turnover and so under-invest in their people. But the fact of the matter is that talent acquisition, development, and retention are critical to a company’s long-term success. And as a CFO in charge of HR, you have control over these processes.

Build and Maintain Your Company Culture

Company culture is one of the main drivers of employee acquisition, productivity, and retention. A culture based on the company’s mission/vision and in-line with business strategy motivates exceptional employee performance. Employees who are driven by the company mission are not just contributing to a company’s profits in exchange for a salary, they are part of a greater community working towards higher goals.

That matters because providing meaningful work is one of the main challenges that companies face in today’s market. The truth of the matter is that a good salary and benefits package isn’t enough to keep employees around anymore, and as a result, turnover rates continue to increase year over year. By creating an intentional culture that is genuinely integrated into company operations, you can solve many of your HR challenges and reduce talent-related expenses.

When it comes to company culture, you need to establish a strong foundation that will set you up for future success. Mistakes early-on will lead to bigger problems down the road, so it really is worth taking the time to get your company culture right. That’s especially true for growing companies since maintaining a focused and effective culture and strategy gets harder as companies scale. Not taking the time to get things right while you’re still small can come back to bite you as you grow.

You want your team to be aligned with your vision, driven by your values, and focused on your core objectives. The first step to accomplishing that is deciding what your values are and how you can express them in your company culture. After that, you should establish an excellent team of key management-level employees who will direct how that culture will become part of the lived reality for their departments or teams. Then make sure that all of your managers are dedicated to the company’s mission/vision and driven by your culture, objectives, and career progression.

Examine HR Processes

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of how your company operates. In order to effectively guide your company’s HR, you need to understand how the processes in place work and start to mold those processes to support the company’s business strategy.

The first step is to conduct an audit of your HR situation. Take a look at what the current HR processes are and who owns what responsibilities. Examine workflows and interview key employees to get a sense of the current state of affairs. Then, think about what works and what can be changed to establish an effective and sustainable workflow.

The next step is to look at your own responsibilities as the company’s “HR generalist”. Generally speaking, these are:

  • Human capital decisions: who to hire, promote, or fire.
  • Day-to-day people operations: ensuring individuals, teams, and departments are operating smoothly and working together towards the company’s goals.
  • Compliance: making sure that your company is following labor rules & laws regarding fair labor standards, anti-discrimination, sexual harassment and more.
  • Payroll: managing employee salaries, adding new employee files and editing existing files, complying with tax laws.

When examining these responsibilities, it’s a good idea to think about what you can handle yourself, what you can delegate, and what you can outsource to third-party providers. You want to establish a sustainable HR approach that leaves you with enough time and energy to manage your more traditional CFO responsibilities. Think of your managers as allies in establishing and maintaining effective HR processes in addition to the company’s HR professionals.

Once you’ve established your HR processes, it’s time to figure out how to track and evaluate HR performance.

Key HR Metrics to Evaluate

Identifying key HR metrics can be a huge asset when evaluating your current HR situation and future HR performance. That way you can make your human capital decisions backed by concrete data and clear trends. You should look for metrics that you can use to measure performance on the individual, team, department, and company level.

Starting with the broad-strokes metrics, you can establish departmental KPI’s and objectives to track performance between departments. These metrics should help you answer the question of which departments are performing better than others, and why. You also can and should track turnover rates on the company, department, and manager level to measure employee engagement and avoid the costs associated with turnover.

Ultimately, the most important metrics for planning and evaluating your HR initiatives and processes occur on the individual level. After all, HR is about building, maintaining, and leveraging the company’s people power – which is made up of individual contributions. That means that some of the most useful metrics to look at include employee engagement, employee happiness, and cultural health. These may seem difficult to measure, but you can collect invaluable data by gathering employee feedback.

Learn More About Managing HR as a CFO

In this article, we’ve covered several of the basics of effectively managing your HR responsibilities as a CFO, including:

  • How and why you should align business strategy and HR strategy
  • Building and maintaining an effective and sustainable company culture
  • Evaluating and establishing HR processes
  • Identifying key metrics that will allow you to plan and measure the success of your HR initiatives

There’s a lot more to learn about becoming an effective HR leader as a CFO, though. That’s why we put together a webinar that covers many of the key aspects of managing HR as a CFO. Learn what webinar panelists Dan Gloede, President and CFO of Codeverse, Jim Taylor, Founder and CEO of Launchways, and George Nissan, Director of Finance at BenchPrep have to say about what they’ve learned about guiding HR as a CFO.