Take Your Employee Benefits and HR Function To The Next Level

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Business Podcast » Employee Benefits » Take Your Employee Benefits and HR Function To The Next Level

Take Your Employee Benefits and HR Function To The Next Level Featuring Lauren Winans

Take your employee benefits and HR function to the next level. In today’s environment, employee benefits make the difference in attracting great prospects and retaining great employees. What are good benefits? What are prospects and employees interested in? Other HR policies and procedures? You can get all the right answers by reaching out to firms that do this every day and have specialized knowledge in HR.

About Lauren

Lauren Winans is the Chief Executive Officer and Principal HR Consultant for Next Level Benefits, an HR consulting practice offering clients access to HR professionals for both short-term and long-term projects. With 20 years of human resources and employee benefits experience, Winans possesses a deep expertise of HR best practices and what resonates with employees. She founded Next Level Benefits in 2019, offering HR teams access to former corporate HR professionals on-demand when they need them most.

Winans’ experiences at various global, multi-generational, geographically dispersed organizations have prepared her well for assisting clients of all sizes and from any industry.  Prior to becoming CEO of Next Level Benefits, Winans served as a senior HR leader and responsibly managed all aspects of health, welfare, absence management, and retirement at General Nutrition Centers, American Eagle Outfitters, and CONSOL Energy. While working for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Winans acquired an extensive knowledge of the health insurance industry.

Throughout her career, Winans has been focused on improving culture and enhancing the total rewards offered at the companies she has worked for and provided guidance to.  She is strategically focused yet tactically proficient, and brings a holistic perspective to each client project.  

Winans is a member of the Business Journals Leadership Trust, a non-profit board member, and an active volunteer for patient advocacy. She is also a graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Management and Robert Morris University with a Master’s in Business Administration. 

About Next Level Benefits

Next Level Benefits provides HR consultation, freelancers, and project managers for your team. Each team member has at least 20 years of corporate HR experience from such companies as American Eagle Outfitters, Ariba, Ascena, Citigroup, GNC, Hess, IBM, Levi Strauss, Netflix, TBC Corporation, and U.S. Airways. Led by Lauren Winans, Next Level Benefits temporarily fills in the gaps on your team.

Next Level Benefits can help develop sustainable HR strategies to align your company’s brand, mission, and organizational goals. They can create HR communications plans that educate and engage as well as provide HR consulting. They can fill in gaps and partner with existing teams to accelerate progress, assess current processes, develop roadmaps, and draft HR process manuals to train your existing staff. Next Level Benefits can lead planned or unplanned projects such as new vendor implementations, audits, and M&A activity.


Next Level Benefits Website

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Business Podcast » Employee Benefits » Take Your Employee Benefits and HR Function To The Next Level

Full Transcript Below

Take Your Employee Benefits and HR Function To The Next Level Featuring Lauren Winans

Thu, 7/15 12:05PM • 1:02:05

Estimated reading time: 51 minutes


work, employees, hr, employers, organization, people, pandemic, opportunities, important, benefits, remote, folks, workforce, feel, industries, step, job, reach, concern, perspective


Lauren, Roy Barker


Roy Barker  00:00

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Business of Business Podcast. I’m your host Roy. Of course, we are the podcast that brings you a very wide variety of guests. That can speak to a lot of diverse topics today is no different. We’re excited to have Lauren Winans. She is the chief executive officer and principal HR consultant for Next Level Benefits, an HR consulting practice. Offering clients access to HR professionals for both short term and long term project. With 20 years of human resources and employee benefits experience she possesses possesses a deep experience. Excuse me had deep expertise of HR best practices, and what resonates with employees.

She founded Next Level Benefits in 2019. Offering HR teams access to former corporate HR professionals on demand when they need them most. Lauren thanks so much for taking time out of your day, and welcome to the show.  Thank you,

Lauren 01:15

Roy really happy to be chatting with you today,

Roy 01:18

We’re gonna delve into this, you know, HR. I think this is such an awesome time to be talking about. You know, attracting retaining employees, and how we can do that, you know. Through a combination of lots of different things and benefits is one of those. But before we do kind of talk. Tell us a little bit about your journey, you know. As being an HR, something you’ve thought about, since you were a little kid, did you get into a job and just kind of fall into that, you know, how does that come about?

Lauren’ Story

Lauren  01:35

I fell into it, you know. I think much like most people, you know. Kind of fall into, you know, whatever it is that they end up doing with their lives. So, yeah, I started out actually working at a health insurance company early in my career. So I learned everything you could want to know about medical insurance. And when I couldn’t take it any more of what I had learned at al. I decided to kind of move on to the employer side of things and work. Joined an organization as an entry-level Benefits Administrator. And really kind of, you know, started my HR journey from there. And it’s been, you know, 20 years now, of being within the HR function.

You know. Like I said, you know, primarily focused on employee benefits. But, you know. A lot of other areas of HR kind of fall within my wheelhouse all the different disciplines of HR, including recruiting and talent management, compensation, you know, HR, leadership, organizational development, all of these different areas kind of converge and come together, you know, to really kind of create the best employee experience. And that’s really what I’ve been focused on for my entire career. And I’m really happy to have had the opportunity to fall into HR because it is, it is a really, you know, great industry to kind of work within. It’s really, you know, it’s necessary across all industries.

Fractional Help

Roy Barker  03:09

Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it kind of relates back to the health insurance days, I’m sure that you know, it’s always changed. And the minute you think you’re on top of something. New rules, regulations. Or even employee wants, employer wants, demands, all of those things play into an ever changing field. You mentioned are I mentioned in your intro. That you do on demand, so for just not for, you know, we want to talk about some other things. But I just want to clarify that. So, growing company that may not can afford a full time HR professional. They can reach out to y’all and get kind of fractional help. Is that correct?

Lauren  03:48

Absolutely. Yeah, fractional interim services is really kind of our sweet spot. We have a lot of folks on staff that have at least 20 years of, of HR experience. Just like myself, in many cases more than you. They can really step in and help in a variety of different capacities. And from an on-demand perspective. You know, there’s there’s could be projects that come up that are unexpected, where you just need some extra hands. You know. It could be that, you know, you have an open position. Or you have someone out on maternity leave or leave of absence. And you really need a pinch hitter just for a handful of weeks or months. All those sorts of things are things that we can help with on an on demand basis. Yeah,

Roy Barker  04:31

I think that’s a, you know, one of the benefits about the gig economy. And of course, about this electronic age is that is so valuable to people. Because I mean, you know, it’s probably been going on for five or 10 years, but not that prevalent. But back in the day, it’s like if you couldn’t afford the full time professional, you just had to do without. Or muddle through. So I think that such a valuable offering to growing businesses or you know. Even people that are just, even if they want to stay small. That they can reach out, get that professional help. And not have to, you know, be out the entire salary for somebody.

Lauren  05:09

Yeah, and, you know, honestly. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to start the consulting firm is, you know. I really have a passion for what I do. I just wanted to be able to help more employers. And more HR teams and more business owners, you know. With my skill set. So it’s a great way of just to kind of, you know, help out those who, you know, might not necessarily have, you know, our level of expertise. We can jump right in, get started, you know, not have to spend a lot of time figuring out what next steps to take. Because we’ve been there. We’ve, we’ve done that. And it’s a great way to kind of, you know, leverage our experiences working with those who might not necessarily have the sort of expertise in-house.


Roy Barker  05:49

Yeah, and it’s a, just like we talked about earlier, there’s so many components to it, that it’s just much better to reach out, get a little professional help. Because what I found is, you know, when we skimp on these types of things, we eventually end up paying more for either. So it’s always,

Lauren  06:08

always, always especially, you know, there’s a lot of compliance potholes when it comes to HR. And so yeah, there’s, you definitely want to make sure you’re doing the right things in the right ways.

Roy Barker  06:18

Yeah. And the other thing too, for somebody like yourself. It’s probably easier to manage. When it’s not an emergency or not a crisis than trying to sort out that crisis situation. So for sure,

Lauren  06:31

for sure. Yeah, I’ve been in situations where, you know. Department of Labor audits, and, you know. HIPAA compliance audits, and all sorts of things that you kind of fall into over the course of your career. And yes. It is much easier to do it right from the beginning, then to do it wrong.

Workforce Issues

Roy Barker  06:51

Well, let’s jump into the benefit side of this. Because, you know, we’re in a, I don’t know, if it’s unprecedented. I hate to say that just yet. But we could be in a very unprecedented time with this, the work from home issue. That some people are like, Hey, I’m not going back. But you know. Also it’s like, what, with people more hesitant to pay more money. You know, they try to make up for it in this benefits packages. And different things like that. So what’s what’s, what’s your view of, of our world? Right, this moment, you know, coming out of the pandemic, and trying to navigate that process? Yeah, you

Lauren  07:31

Know, I think that, you know, we have a variety of different, you know. Issues and concerns kind of coming together at the same time. And so, you know. I think there’s a lot of folks that might, you know, want to blame the workforce shortage on. Or the turnover tsunami. Which I keep hearing, as a great, you know, great moniker for it. You know, they want to blame it on the pandemic. Or they want to blame it directly on increased unemployment benefit levels, and amounts that are, you know, getting issued to those who have open claims right now. And I totally agree that those are two, you know, contributing factors.

But I think there’s also a few other things happening here. And, you know, there’s also, we have, you know, baby boomers that may have accelerated their retirement. For a variety of reasons, you know. We have, you know, folks that are coming out of college. That aren’t necessarily looking for entry level or hourly positions. They want, you know, they want a better position coming out of school than maybe is available.

You know, and ultimately. I think there’s folks who have been working for home from home for a while now, you know. At least almost a couple years at this point. Who don’t see a reason to have to go back into the office. And they’re going to look for, you know, an employer that is going to be flexible with them. So they can continue the flexible lifestyle that they’ve been living for the past couple of years. So I think all of these different things are really coming to a head all at the same time. Which is really, you know, a shame. But also, I think it’s accelerating the future of work at the same time.

So, you know. Part of me is excited to see where this, you know. Leads the workforce, generally speaking. But the other side of me is really feels for employers. Who are having a really hard time, you know. Staffing positions, keeping either businesses open in some cases. You know, I think it’s, it’s a critical issue right now. I think there’s a lot of different ways to tackle it. But I think there’s a lot of different factors at play as well.

Roy Barker  09:35

And you mentioned the, you know. The people leave in the workforce. That’s something I’ve heard a lot about lately. Is just that there’s so many people that have decided to retire. Or they’ve made a conscious choice that because of vaccination rates, not being where they need to be. If they’re vulnerable, especially. It’s like I’m just gonna set this one out and stay home. Or, you know, go do something, you know. Who knows what, you know. Some little side hustles or whatever enough to make ends meet. But not go back into the workforce.

And I think, you know. That’s had a huge impact. Because you see it in it’s not just confined to, you know. In the beginning, it was restaurants. Nobody wanted to come back. But every day on the news now, it’s, you know. Truck drivers delivering fuel to fuel stations. It’s, well, you know, and then it’s caused a lot of shortages in the grocery industry. And of course, they’re coming back out. And I’m like, we don’t want to hoard, but it all gets back to supply chain issues.

Lauren  10:36

Yep. Absolutely. I think that there’s a lot of open positions right now in some really critical industries. And it’s really it’s, over time, it’s going to continue to impact us in a negative way. And it’s going to be very interesting to see how employers respond in that way. You know, I think right now. There is, you know. Naturally, a desire to want to fill open roles with whomever is able. To provide that level of talent or expertise. Or just simply a warm body in some cases.

You know, but, you know, to your point. I think there’s some folks who exited the workforce permanently. Whether it be retirement or whether it be, you know. What, medically, you know, based on my health, I’m not sure I can handle this environment, you know. And we have a lot of, you know. Women who have had to exit the workforce to care for their children, because of, you know. The childcare shortages and increased costs. So there’s, there’s so many. There’s so many issues and problems right now, you know. It really is kind of, you know, scary in a way, you know. But ideally. I think that there is a way to really kind of meet in the middle. And find ways to get creative about how to fill these roles.

It’s it perhaps it’s not, you know. A one for one headcount backfill, you know. Maybe it’s like you were saying before you know. The gig economy is alive and well. And maybe there’s opportunities for freelancers for contractors. For folks who want to work part-time and are not interested in full time work. I think there is opportunities to get creative on how we can adjust work for strategies. And really kind of solve for some of the societal issues we’re experiencing.

Remote Work

Roy Barker  12:23

Yeah, yeah, I think that that’s the bigger overarching concept, I think, is being creative. You know, one thing I jotted down was, you know, the remote work. And I think, and then you mentioned women, is that, you know. Well, I’ve worked from home for probably 20 years or more. I really get it and I get it more. I actually get it more for the women because of childcare. And, you know, something else that we talk a little bit about, too, is that the, the poor daughter-in-law. Is usually the one that takes care of all the elderly people in family too. I mean, it’s like, you know, we just get through with the kids.

And now it’s, you know. Taking care of the parents, and it never ends. But unfortunately, it’s seen as well, you’re not dedicated to your job. Because you want to go out and take care of this. And I had a conversation not long ago with a, she runs a remote company consulting company for technology. And, you know, she’s totally remote and made that as a conscious choice, because it’s a couple things. Number one, we spread that talent. Well, we spread our gathering of talent over, you know, maybe the US or a wider area.

So we’re not confined to who’s available, and right in our area. But then also all these benefits of, you know, being able to be closer and run. If you had to go pick somebody up from school. Or you have a sick child, they can be laying in the other room, they don’t need a lot of attention. And, you know, if you’re writing a report, maybe we have a deadline. You know, it has to be through by Friday. But really doesn’t matter if your key stroking at nine in the morning or at nine at night? As long as you get a good report turned out.

So, you know. I am certainly an advocate of, of, like I said, and, you know. Unless you have to have a piece of equipment. That remote work is just, it’s such a benefit and for the employee. For the employee, and sometimes for the employer. People tend to work more or they feel this, you know. Like, myself, I feel this obligation, like. What a blessing that, you know. I always want to make sure I’m giving just that little bit more. Is that going to be a huge enticement going through this tsunami? If it materializes?

Lauren  14:44

Yeah, absolutely. I mean. I think that those who are used to remote work at this point. Regardless of how many years they’ve been doing it. I think, have realized that there’s more benefits and there are drawbacks. You know, I think that there are some drawbacks. Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely some some social drawbacks. And you know, feeling like you, you know, live at work. Instead of working from home. Right. So, um, you know, there’s definitely some drawbacks. But I think that, you know, the, the flexibility kind of outweighs that in a lot of different cases. And most positions that can be handled from a remote environment.

You know. I think that employers are seeing firsthand through the pandemic. And even now, you know, hey, we were just as productive, in fact, maybe even more productive. Um, and, you know. Perhaps we, you know, should really consider this and we kind of hit the nail on the head to. From from a turnover tsunami perspective. The best way to be competitive and expand your talent pool. Is being open to a remote and even a hybrid workforce environment. Because that means that you can get, you know, folks, if you’re based in, you know, New York. You can actually get some folks in California that maybe you couldn’t have gotten before. Because you were, you know, you were based on, you know. Getting people who are local and wanting them to come into the office.

So your ability to obtain really talented individuals, you know. you expand that pool pretty quickly. When you, you know, acknowledge that remote work is just as productive. That you can, you know, do the same work as you did before. But I, I, you know, other side of the coin, there are some jobs that do require you to go into an office or a manufacturing facility, or a plant of some sort. And, you know, those jobs are the ones that are the hardest to fill right now. And I think there needs to be from an employer perspective, and acknowledgement that it’s time to overhaul the rewards that we are offering employees who do need to come on site for some reason.

So we need to be looking at compensation, we need to be looking at benefits, we need to be looking at development opportunities, and training opportunities, and cross training, which I think is something that’s kind of fallen by the wayside, in a lot of cases, all of these sorts of things, I think, you know, employers need to get a little more dynamic and creative.

Roy Barker  17:24

You know, and you mentioned earlier about maybe, instead of hiring one full-time worker, maybe we hired two part times, I think that, you know, the remote plays into that too, that I may not even want to get up and struggle to drive an hour to work three to four hours and then drive an hour home. Whereas, you know, if we have that pooling, it’s like, if you got two people, one works in the morning, one works in the afternoon, if the job is suited, then you know that the remote aspect even helps that even more.

Lauren  17:55

For sure, and you know, them dispersing talent amongst time zones is actually really helpful too, for a variety of, you know, different, you know, industries and services, like customer service, for example, you know, is one of those ones that, you know, a lot of the larger corporations have kind of moved to a remote environment and have been even prior to the pandemic, and it allows them to service their customers for longer periods of time during the day because of it. So there’s, there’s definitely advantages.

And I think if we can kind of we as employers can kind of step out of, you know, the paternalistic view of needing to physically see each other in the office every day, if we can step out of that. And just accept that time has times have changed. You know, I really do think that, you know, employers can get creative around what offerings they can change, and enhance to really increase that employee value proposition and make people want to work for them.

Hybrid Schedules

Roy Barker  18:52

Right. Yeah, you know, years ago, when I did work in an office, I feel like this helps me control my day much better. Because, you know, working in an office that I jokingly say that, you know, I started out with the, you know, the open door, and then it was, you know, had to close the door and then I had to, like wedge a chair up underneath the door to keep people from coming in. And then it’s like, you know, it’s every, it’s just some of its socializing some of its just office talk, but it’s like, you do all that from nine to five and then you know, about go eat dinner and then about six, you can really sit down and get your day started into your work from, you know, six to midnight.

So, you know, from those perspective, that’s one reason why I love it. I just feel like so much more productive when I’m at home. And but also, you talked about the college kids coming out and I guess they’re not what I hear, I’ll let you expand on this is that they’re not looking for the traditional opportunities. Like you know, I’m I’m of a certain age that we came out of a school and we look for a company in this Explain that we liked and maybe not like, but we went there and you stayed for 30 years? And it’s just not that mindset is long gone.

Lauren  20:10

Yeah, yeah, it’s it’s long gone. There’s some unfortunate aspects of that. And then there’s also some, you know, it’s changing the way that we work, and it’s changing how organizations craft their people’s strategy. And so there is some benefits to that mindset shift. But yes, there are there are, you know, folks that are coming out of college, you know, folks that, you know, are, I guess you would call them? What is it Gen Z, maybe Gen, Z and millennials that, you know, are not necessarily as you know, loyal to an organization, but are, you know, really looking for organizations that can benefit them in their lifestyles.

And so, you know, employers that are able to kind of make changes and a lot of ways to their people’s strategy where they can really kind of customize and create some sort of, you know, personalized benefits, compensation, you know, really try to attract that mindset to their organization. Yeah, I think that they’re really they are able to get those folks that are younger, right out of college, I think those that employers that are not necessarily as skilled at identifying what that age bracket is looking for, or having trouble getting some of those folks into, into their, their organizations. And, you know, ultimately, you know, would you love to have your employees stay, you know, 2030 years? Yeah, of course, but I think there’s, there’s some pros and cons to that, too, right?

You know, you’re getting fresh set of eyes on things and a new way of doing things. And, you know, one of the, you know, I grew up in the retail industry, so a lot of my HR experiences was at retail organizations, and there’s high turnover, and we in a retail environment, not just in the stores, but also in a corporate and distribution center manufacturing facilities.

And so, you know, the one benefit of that is that, you know, you get to see what other competitors are doing from a process and creative perspective, because those co-workers that you have now came from those places, right, so there’s a lot of opportunity to kind of learn and grow, not only, you know, at an employee level, but also as an organization to learn and grow, because you’re basically stealing your competitors, ways and learning a lot from that experience.

So, you know, I think it’s really just an acceptance, you know, situation at this point, we just have to accept that those that are coming out of school are not going to be sitting in the seats for probably any more than three to five years at most. And that’s just a fact. We just need to kind of, you know, accept it and move on and develop strategy around that. And, you know, just be prepared for when folks leave the organization. And, you know, how are we going to manage to that?

Benefit Offer

Roy Barker  23:09

Yeah. So, what are, you know, we don’t have to get into in-depth, but what are some of the benefits that you may look at offering that college graduate? You know, one thing I hear a lot about is, causes, you know, like, sometimes companies do, like, where you get 235 hours a month to go work on a cause that’s really meaningful to you. But what are some other things that? Yeah, that’s good offer to get get a new college graduate interested in working for them?

Lauren  23:40

Yeah, I mean, social responsibility is a big one, you know, any, any way that an organization can kind of tie its overall organizational mission and values to social causes, is really important. You know, to younger workers, they’re looking to work for an organization that aligns with their own personal values, and where they want to volunteer and dedicate their time. So they’re much more selective in that way. And so I am seeing organizations not only, you know, infusing volunteer opportunities within the organization, but also championing any sort of volunteer work that an employee wants to do outside of the organization by providing them with some paid volunteer days to go and do those activities within their community.

And I think that, you know, younger workers are also looking for, you know, the remote flexibility that we’ve been talking about. They also want some help with saving for retirement. So any sort of benefit that can help them whether it be a 401k match or financial planning services and guidance, tax preparation, all those sorts of things are, you know, hot topics, and also student loan reimbursement is really you know, a hot benefit right now very trendy in a lot of different organizations. You know, the student loans that kids are coming out of school with these days is astronomical, and they really need some help to try to pay those down.

That’s where you can kind of, you know, create some sort of, you know, a loyalty program, if you, so to speak, if you are willing to reimburse for some, you know, student loans, then, you know, you can ask for, you know, loyalty and tenure and service in exchange. And, you know, that is, you know, sort of, you know, the best way to kind of, you know, keep folks in place is, you know, hey, I help you, you help me sort of thing, and I think those are all areas, you know, in addition to the obvious, right, health insurance, comprehensive, you know, health insurance is always, you know, key and critical. And any sort of, you know, paid time off and flexibility is also critical. Yeah.

Flexible Scheudles

Roy Barker  25:52

Yeah. And how prevalent is that with the flex time, you know, I know, it’s working from home is one thing, but also flex time, like, you know, as long if I come in at nine to six, or 10, to eight, or, you know, five in the morning until two in the afternoon, again, you know, we get back to, it’s the job for sure. But for the most part, you know, if we overlap, where we can be in meetings, and you know, now with, with zoom and teams and things like that.

I don’t know, I just kind of wonder if those old days of having to get around a conference table may be gone. Because I don’t necessarily need to slide you anything across the table for you to look at, I can put it up on my screen, I can email it to you. It’s anyway, but kind of talking about that. About that flex time, how important is that? And how is that for the employer to offer would be the next question.

Lauren  26:52

Yeah, you know, I think it’s, I think it’s really important, I think, especially as remote work continues, and folks that might be working for a company headquartered in one timezone. They’re in another, I think, it’s really important to have a level of flexibility, not just due to time zone differences, but also, you know, just due to lifestyle differences, right there, they’re early birds that like to get up and get cracking.

Then there are also folks that do better, you know, working in the evening, and, you know, it’s a matter of preference, it’s a matter of lifestyle, if you have young children, you know, also if you’re taking care of elderly parents, I mean, there’s lots of different factors, I think that could, you know, arise. So I think the more flexible an employer can be the better. And I think a lot of employers, what they do is they Institute core hours.

The you know, the ideal situation is that, you know, 90% of your population is is online and available during core hours. And so depending upon your industry, and you know, where you’re located, you know, those core hours are typically between nine and three, at least some window within that timeframe, it might not necessarily be a full six hours, but you know, it’s usually somewhere between nine and 10 into where the the majority of the employees are working and available in case collaboration is necessary.

Or, you know, a team zoom call is required, or if someone might need to drive into the office, because perhaps they’re local to a headquarter or a hub office. You know, those are typically, you know, the hours that make the most sense, but outside of those hours, really, providing a level of flexibility is the most important thing right now, for a variety of

Roy Barker  28:38

like myself, you know, I live in Fort Worth, Texas, and you know, there’s a lot of industry and a lot of jobs in Dallas. So you know, I just got my car and just took off over there. I don’t know, maybe, you know, 45 minutes. But the problem is, and one reason why I’ve never accepted a job from over there is because on any given morning, you know, you could have 234 wrecks in between and this 45 minute drive can take you two hours and 45 minutes. Not that I didn’t you know, it’s like, you know, because it’s the old adage of, well, you need to plan and you need to get up so do I need to leave at five o’clock every morning and get there you know, way before time are in.

It’s tough but I think with being flexible, where we know that if people are you know if I was to get in that nine or 930 if I do my time, that’s really all that matters. Like he said, If I’m overlapping if we’ve got core hours when we need to collaborate, but you know, the awesome thing about technology is you know, we can talk on the phone, not holding it up. Of course we need to be responsible drivers and have it on the speaker but I know if you’re sitting in traffic anyway, you’re not really driving too fast, you know, so I don’t know there’s so much with it. We live in such a great time both for the employer and the employee.

That You know, I just feel like there’s certain ways that we can work around with the hard and fast rules, like I said, Unless you’re working on an assembly line where you just have to be there. You know, when something comes rolling by the, you know, put a tire on it, or whatever, we just, there are ways that we can find to kind of meet in the middle, get the job done, but yet be empathetic of the employee situation as well.

Lauren  30:25

Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think that employers who are willing to make adjustments and accommodations and kind of really assess, you know, how their workforce can continue to be productive with, you know, flexible opportunities, I think are going to be the ones that sustain themselves continue to attract talented individuals. You know, I think that those organizations that are, you know, maybe not necessarily as open to change, or open to flexibility, you know, aside from those that, you know, have to have it because of the type of product that they make, or the type of business that they’re in, you know, those that are resistant to change, just because they’re resistant to change.

I think are the ones that are going to struggle. And, you know, I think we all know that, you know, it all comes down to the talent that you have within the organization, right, you know, you want talented folks with the skill sets, you need to become successful, to continue, you know, to drive revenue to drive shareholder value in some cases. And, you know, I think that, you know, competing for talent is is incredibly important right now,

Organizational Development

Roy Barker  31:38

yeah, well, you know, one of my slogans is, I think that we in HR, I think that we need to look at it, like sales and marketing is that we always need to be marketing, for good talent, and we shouldn’t, there’s, you know, we could have two or three episodes on that about, you know, being proactive in recruiting, and not getting, you know, and we can’t always help it.

But a lot of times, we can be more proactive, where we’re not just taking a pulse and saying, you know, I think that thank you got a pulse, we’re going to be good, you know, being able to really select those employees, because what they end up doing is it just gets in a vicious cycle, we create the turnover, maybe they are not trained up, they interact poorly, with our customers with other employees, things don’t get done.

So it can lead to a whole lot, I would love to see. All industries, just be more proactive in that and get out in, like I said, market for the talent, don’t just wait for, hey, we had a job opening. So we need to fling out some kind of a, you know, electronic ad to see if we can get somebody to respond, because you can talk to this too, because that sets off another cycle is we get 2000 applicants and about, you know, 50 of them are actually qualified people that you want to look at, but you got to pay somebody to sift through the other, you know, not to 150 applications to try to write those out?

Lauren  33:10

Well, you know, I think that, you know, this is kind of where organizational development is so critical. And I think some employers don’t get it right, unfortunately. So if you are within an organization that really does organizational development, well, personal development training, you know, they employees are able to kind of access and really figure out what they’re good at. Once they can figure out what they’re good at, they, they tend to gravitate towards, you know, opportunities that allow them to be successful. And so I think a lot of folks that end up applying to random jobs just to apply in hopes that they’ll get a call back, might not necessarily have had the opportunity to work for an organization that saw their value and helps them figure out what they were good at.

And so I think you’ve got some, you know, folks that are just applying to apply, and, you know, those that are genuinely qualified, they may or may not even like doing that. So, I think an organization that has a really robust development program that includes those personal professional development training, and has really great leadership, that can kind of spot Okay, you know, what, you know, so and so is, you know, working as an executive assistant, but they’re actually really fantastic at communications, we probably should give them an opportunity to maybe sit over here for six weeks, and figure out if maybe that is more fulfilling for them and more valuable for us because that’s where their skill set is.

And so I think when you’ve got an organization that has the opportunity to do that, Sort of development, whether they’re small or large, really, you know, any employer size can can be effective at doing this, I think that helps to not only create, you know, employees that want to stay with you, because they see the value in working for you. But it also helps to cultivate the workforce in general. So if and when that person leaves you and go somewhere else, they’re probably going to apply for the right job this time, and they’re gonna, they’re gonna find the right, you know, job for their skill set, and not necessarily waste the next recruiters time.

So there’s some benefit to organizational development that kind of gets overlooked. And I think that there’s great opportunity, you know, to really kind of decrease that kind of like, you know, just, I’m just going to click and send my resume here and hopes that I’ll get a call, you know, I think there’s, there’s opportunities there for organizations to look at the bigger picture.

Roy Barker  35:59

And I’ve just written down development as we wrap before you start. And I think it’s good to think about it, not only, you know, what you talked about earlier, the cross functional, but I feel like to we, even if it’s a short period, if we go to different departments, we kind of get a little more empathy for what they’re going through, instead of more like, hey, they just keep dumping all this stuff, or the asking for all this crazy stuff. But if we like seek to understand what their job is, and why they do it, and you know, talk a lot about the communication between sales and marketing.

I think, you know, those are great opportunities, because, you know, marketing is never doing enough for salespeople. salespeople are never close enough for marketing leads that they send over there. But we can seek to figure out, you know, are we getting the right leads, and just opening up that communication, but I can’t, you know, my opinion, I think that the cross, even if it’s maybe not as a permanent move, but if it’s like you said, six weeks, a temporary, maybe, you know, ride with somebody or you know, sitting next to them for a day a week and getting that, but then the other part I think is we’ve overlooked is the development for future leadership.

And, you know, we have to really keep an eye on that. The education component, we can’t be scared to spend the money, I love the old saying I use all the time, his CFO goes to CEO and says, How can we keep training all these people and they keep leaving. He’s like, the CEO says, Well, how can we not train them and have them stay, you know, so we can’t be scared of these people leave. And then the other thing, too, we never know, when they come back, sometimes they may leave for a short period of time, go somewhere else get some more experience, because, you know, as we start working up any company, it’s more of a pyramid, you know, you start getting to the top slots are open, fewer, and far between.

And so the only thing you know, I was gonna say that to back on, you know, not being at the same company for 30 years, the way it benefits employees to is they get a raise, you know, sometimes we stay at the same company, get your two 3%, if you really want to bump, you may have to go somewhere. But again, as you said, in the retail, we train them, they go somewhere else, and they come back with a world of experience and how other people are doing it, maybe refresh some things we’re doing. So I just never feel like training is or development is a bad thing. It’s always money well spent.

Lauren  38:39

It is and I think that some organizations don’t know how to do it well. And those that do, they reap the dividends of it, you know, they they have, you know, really diverse employees within their organization who, like you said, really do understand the cross functional requirements to collaborate, and they understand, you know, process flows and how the organization kind of goes through, you know, this from this position down to this position, how all these different things work. You know, I think that companies that can really kind of, you know, focus on that as a priority, it’s going to benefit them in the long run, for sure.

And I think there’s also you know, and from a leadership perspective, there’s a huge opportunity right now, to kind of capitalize on some of the feelings and thoughts that we’ve had through the early days of the pandemic, and, you know, really kind of, you know, step back, you know, as leaders and really think, you know, when I lead with empathy, I get more productivity, hmm, you know, awful idea. And I think that, you know, it really kind of looking back and reflecting on what a you know, crazy time that we’ve lived Through and we kind of we don’t we still are living through and we will continue to live through.

But those first handful of months when we all didn’t know what was going to happen and what was going to come next, you know, I think if leaders really stepped back and thought about those moments, how their team felt, how they felt, and you know, the type of support that they gave their teams. If they really thought through what worked and what didn’t work, they should really continue those behaviors that worked. I think that leading with empathy is one of those things that was incredibly important during those first few phases of the pandemic. And when you continue to lead in a way that makes you feel good as a person and makes your team feel good.

You’re on the right track, no matter what you’re on the right track, and people are watching you, right. So like the leaders of tomorrow are watching, you know, lead by example. And they will mimic you. So if you, you know, if you take the opportunity to recognize what works, what doesn’t work, and really start to kind of spread and impart your knowledge, you know, that’s the best way to kind of develop your future leaders is just be a great example for them.

Roy Barker  41:13

Exactly. So let’s talk about for just a minute, coming back together for those companies where, you know, we’ve had remote workers, and now we’re bringing everybody back. And I don’t know, I guess I kind of have mixed emotions on this. Because, you know, when, when this pandemic started, you know, we thought probably after a few months, there would be an increase in violence just in the community at large because of things, but it didn’t really manifest until recently. And then, you know, here in our area, it seemed like, crime and violent crime, everything has been on the rise.

And then we’ve had the turbulent times have seemed like that. Sometimes people’s ideologies are at polar opposites, and there’s no middle, we can’t, if, if you don’t like my way of thinking, then I’m gonna call you, I’m gonna attack you personally, regardless of if it’s, you know, the left or the right, that’s not important. But what do you think about when people start coming back? They’ve been on their own, we’ve got all this other stuff going on? Are there gonna be some integration problems that we need to really be aware of, and kind of maybe take some precautionary steps?

Lauren  42:36

You know, I think that I like to approach it from an optimistic standpoint, you know, I really think that there’s a lot of good in people, and that when there’s divisiveness, there’s also an ability to kind of look at things with a critical lens, and maybe a different perspective. So I like to think that as employees come back into the workplace, that they’re going to have the ability to come in with the perspective and the lens that you know, what, I’m here at work. This is a professional environment. You know, I might have different views and different perspectives, but I did before the pandemic, and I’m still going to have them after the pandemic.

And, you know, I did before, you know, certain, you know, racial inequities came, you know, more to light than they ever have before. And I will after, and, you know, I think it’s important for employers to facilitate the proper environment, and address any sort of issues or concerns with with promptness and with thoroughness. But I think it’s also up to employees to remember that we’re all human, we all have difference of opinion. It’s important to be respectful of one another, regardless of where we’re coming from. And like I said, I, I feel strongly that people do have good intentions, they just sometimes get misplaced.

And that’s what human resource representatives are really for, right? You know, to really kind of step in and help when perhaps teams aren’t seeing eye to eye or leaders aren’t seeing eye to eye with their subordinate, their subordinate employees. And, you know, that’s when that’s when you can leverage HR. Those are the exact moments that you need human resources within your organization to kind of step up and, you know, really help the organization through challenging times or any sort of new devices. Have divisive moments.

Policies, Procedures, Handbooks

Roy Barker  45:03

Yeah, and I don’t want to belabor the point of, because I’m sure we both agree on that. The need for policies, procedures, handbooks for everything to be written down documented for us to have documented evidence that the employees have at least seen it, you know, they can’t make it, make them read it. But, you know, just to have that base fundamental is so important. And the other part of that is we don’t, you know, if we’re a smaller company, if we got one, two, it’s the time to start putting it in place, we know there’s no we don’t want to wait to you got 100 people, you’re going to be way behind the eight ball.

So I think that’s another it’s a valuable service of HR, but then it’s also of the on demand that, hey, I don’t have the knowledge, you know, if I’m a plumber, or something, and I don’t really have that HR knowledge, that’s where, you know, the Reach out on demand that could get some of those products from somebody like yourself to really help protect, you know, that’s a risk management strategy, as well, as you know, we want to do the right thing.

Lauren  46:11

Yeah, no, I think policies, procedures process, you know, documents, they’re all critically important for an organization generally speaking, but also for leaders, and HR professionals, when they need to make decisions about someone’s, you know, status within the organization, whether they, you know, need to leave the organization because of a violation of company policy. But, you know, ultimately, you know, things, there are certain things that should not be brought to the workplace, and there are certain things within the workplace that are not allowed, you know, sexual harassment, workplace bullying, discrimination, you know, all of these sorts of things are prohibited by law.

If you are an employer who does not have a solid handbook and solid policies, you know, that can be concerning that only from a compliance perspective, but to your employees, your employees want to work for an organization that is going to make sure that the environments that they work in are safe. They want to feel supported, regardless of who they are, what gender they are, what ethnicity they are, they want to feel as if they can be welcome and included in your environment. And the best way to do that policies and procedures, and effectively enforcing those policies and procedures and taking action when those policies and procedures are broken.

Roy Barker  47:44

And I’m going to kind of give you not a scenario, but talk about something that I want to get your input to, you know, because a lot of times if if, as an employee, if I reach out to you, and HR, you know, we can start? I don’t know, it can set off a chain of events. And so I guess, you know, I guess in my opinion, is if you feel uncomfortable, or something that you’re not sure I would rather you go immediately to HR, either be re assured that everything is okay, or, you know, be reassured everything is not okay.

And here’s what we can do. But I think it’s important that we encourage, you know, we don’t want it to be trivial, you know, like Susie was using my pencil and stapler while I was gone, things like that. But, you know, for the important issues, we need to encourage employees to reach out to HR, let’s get this salt. Let’s Don’t let it fester. Because I also feel like if I’m sitting here feeling wronged, it just builds and then the next thing you do, I’m like, yeah, that’s just piling on. And then it just gets to a level that maybe it didn’t really have to get to. So absolutely, yeah, I

Lauren  48:56

mean, I think there’s, there’s opportunities there. Well, first off, if you are helping your leaders to effectively lead a lot of times the best first stop when you have a issue or concern is and employees to go directly to your to your direct supervisor. Now if your direct supervisor is part of the problem, then of course, that’s not a very good option. But if they are not, you know, that is that is the first stop. If you can’t get what you need out of that conversation or if perhaps they direct you directly to human resources that that is you know, ultimately a good HR department is able to confidentially listen to your concerns, provide you with guidance and advice and ask you if it’s okay to move forward. To help facilitate solving the problem.

There are certain things that are brought to hrs attention that they are required to report So, you know, for example, like we were talking before, I mean, instances of sexual harassment, you know, there is a protocol that comes with that because of the level of severity of something of that nature. But if it’s, you know, you’re you’re, you’ve got some concerns about something that, you know, you want to confidentially speak with someone, you know, in HR a, a full service, proper HR department, is the best way it’s managed that what some employers do, you mainly see it come in a large employer perspective.

But they will actually have hotlines are confidential hotlines, where you can dial in and report any sort of concern that you have anonymously. You can decide if you want to be, you know, not anonymous, if you want to share your contact information you can do so. And whomever is responsible for Manning that hotline has a responsibility and a duty to protect your privacy at all costs. There are policies around privacy within an organization as well, that kind of, you know, help you to, to kind of put employees at ease.

So even small businesses can kind of implement a very similar process. I know I have a client of mine who actually has in their Handbook, that any sort of issue or concern that needs to be handled with a confidential and private nature, that they there’s two individuals in the organization that they can go to, who have been identified and selected to keep, you know, most confidence and, and privacy through whatever issue or concern maybe you voiced to them. And so even a small business can can kind of implement a system, a safety net, for employees to feel safe to bring forward issues and concerns without any sort of repercussions.

Roy Barker  52:01

Yeah, I think that’s important to make the employee feel like, there is a path to address it, because sometimes you feel like if there’s no path, that means that nobody really cares. So it’s just a great piece of proactive work. And the other thing I was just going to add to that was documentation, you know, as the employee, as the employee or the manager, just jot a quick note down, you know, we’ve got so many tools, I use one notes.

But you know, I’ve got a paper book here that I keep, you know, jot down notes, as we’re talking that it’s so easy just to jot down the date, who it is what we spoke about, because if something does come up six months, eight months from now, like I don’t remember that, but then also as the employee, he, you’ve got documented evidence of, you know, what I’ve tried with this person I’ve tried, you know, so anyway, this hate to don’t want to dwell on the negative, but though, that’s an important function of HR, I feel like is that we just have to, you know, have a path to work these things out.

Lauren  53:03

Oh, for sure. I think that documentation on both sides, employer documentation, and employee documentation is incredibly important. There are unfortunately, there are going to be times where you as an employee are going to voice a concern, and it’s not going to be handled the way that you would like to be handled. And, you know, you have to decide, you know, this is not the HR, you know, side of me talking, this is the human side of me talking, you have to decide what you’re willing to put up with.

I think that is kind of, you know, takes our conversation full circle in that, that is also a contributing factor to the high turnover and the workforce, you know, issues that we’re experiencing right now within the US is, people are fed up with certain certain, certain kinds of things, and they’re not willing to put up with it any longer. They’re looking, you know, to go to a different employer or to leave the workforce all together.

And I think there’s nothing wrong with that, in that there’s nothing wrong with as a human being deciding, you know, this action or inaction is not suitable for me, I am not going to play a party to this anymore, or I don’t want to be treated this way. Or I don’t want to work for an organization that condones this or doesn’t take care of this. It’s okay, to move on. You know, it’s okay to make those decisions.

And, you know, it’s also it’s okay, from an employer perspective, sometimes to have to handle it the way that you have to handle it, even though you would rather keep that employee and you know, it’s not going to make them very happy. Sometimes you have to make the good business decision. Yeah. And sometimes, you know, you can please everybody, but it’s, it’s rare, it’s rare, and it’s just, it’s okay, if you need to move on. It’s okay. Some people need to hear that sometimes.

That’s why I try to I try to include that in a lot of my conversation about HR work is because, you know, HR gets a bad rap sometimes, you know, like, sometimes, you know, HR is seen as, you know, a function that doesn’t necessarily work for the people, you know, and, and there are circumstances it’s a tightrope, you know, you gotta, you got to balance the business supporting the business and supporting the employees. And, you know, sometimes decisions are made that does not make the employees happy. And like I said, it’s okay, it’s gonna happen, prepare yourself.

Roy Barker  55:34

I had an instance where, you know, I walked out in my office one day, and this HR guy, I loved him to death. He was awesome. But you know, he was just walking down the hall talking to my boss, I’m like, not what you want to see on Monday morning. Is your boss, an HR guy walking down the hall toward your office?

Lauren  55:52

No, it’s not. It’s not but but, you know, that’s the other thing too. Those sorts of things happen all the time to really great talented people. And so if you ever end up in that situation, know that they don’t want to do it, and they have to do it, and you don’t want to hear it. And you might not have any choice but to hear it. So it

Roy Barker  56:15

Yeah, luckily, luckily, they walked on by and went somewhere else. I was good.

Lauren  56:20

Good. So you’re safe. We were safe. But But like I said, it happens to the best of us, you know, and it’s it’s like I said, it’s business. And you know, sometimes you just have to be like, Alright, time to move on to the next thing.


Roy Barker  56:33

Right. All right, Lauren. Well, thanks so much. We really running way late. I appreciate your time. And what am I doing? I’m, uh, maybe get a commitment out of you to come back. Because there’s so much I want to talk about wanted to talk about Yeah, boarding portion. I feel like that’s gotten to be overlooked. Well, it’s non existent in a lot of places. It’s like, you know, here’s your desk, and there’s your computer. Good luck to you. So yeah, I’d like for you to come back. There’s just so much more in this space to talk about, but appreciate your love today. A couple questions before we go. Number one, what is a tool or a habit, something that you use in your daily life that you feel like adds a lot of value?

Lauren  57:16

Okay, well, really, there’s so many, but I think the one that is probably Top of Mind as of late and something that I’ve been actively practicing is, is creating boundaries, and really trying to craft my schedule, my work schedule, actually my whole life schedule, in a way that works for me. And so, you know, I, I don’t want to start taking calls before a certain time, or if I want to carve out time to really focus on putting a project together without any distractions. I really, I am not apologetic any longer about setting boundaries. And I would encourage that habit amongst all of all of your list listeners, and you know, anyone, quite frankly, because it really does help you to feel a little more in control of our days, that really, they do get away from us quite a bit.

Roy Barker  58:16

Oh, that’s a good point. It’s so hard. It’s so hard to get in the habit. But it can be so liberating for us to just not feel like Like I said, like I was talking about earlier not to feel like during the day, we’ve got all this, you know, it’s more the tail wagging the dog, and then you know, at six o’clock when everybody else is gone, and we can certainly get our work done. So

Lauren  58:39

no carve out that time for yourself carve out if you know, you need three hours to work on something, carve it out and block it off. And that’s I’ve been doing that more lately, and it has been very helpful for my mental health.

Roy Barker  58:53

That’s awesome advice. Thanks for that. So let’s tell everybody, who do you like to work with? How can you help them? And then of course, how can they reach out and get a hold of you?

Wrap Up

Lauren  59:03

Sure. Yeah, you know, we work with clients of all sizes. You know, we have fortune 500 clients. We have my smallest client has 10 employees. So we really are kind of open to all sizes, all industries. We love to work with existing HR teams, as extra hands to help them through complex projects. And we also love to support small businesses or even you know, middle sized businesses who might not necessarily have an extensive team who to handle, you know, HR issues, we can kind of step in and be your advisor, we can also step in and execute. So there’s a variety of different things that we can do.

I mean, from an HR consulting perspective, we really focus on all disciplines of HR. As I mentioned earlier, you know, our team all has a I’m 20 years, at least 20 years of HR experience at corporations across the country. So we’ve really seen it all, quite frankly. And so we can really step in and help in any capacity, whether that is on a project basis, whether it’s on a retainer basis, because you want to have someone to reach out to because you don’t have anyone in house to really handle HR issues. Or whether you just simply need some help, you know, assessing your current strategy and developing something that’s going to work for you.

We can do all of that. You know, where you can reach us, you can check out our website, it is nlbenefits.com. That’s probably the best way to get more information about our services, get more information about our staff, as well as you can get some quotes for some clients and some some of our recent projects that we’ve done. It’s a great way to kind of get more information about how we can help you. And you can reach out schedule a call or send me an email through that website as well.

Roy Barker  1:01:04

Okay, great. Well, y’all reach out, let Lauren help you with your HR needs, or at least let her confirm that you’re moving in the right direction and never hurts to have a second set of eyes on all these processes. There’s always something new that’s coming up. But again, I appreciate your time very much. It’s been awesome information that you’ve given us. So that’s gonna do it for another episode of The Business of Business Podcast. Of course, I’m your host Roy, you can find us at thebusinessofbusinesspodcast.com.

We are on all the major podcast platforms, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Spotify. If we’re not on one that you listen to please reach out I’d be glad to add it. Make it easier for you to listen to us. You can also reach out on social media or on all the major platforms probably hang out more on Instagram than anywhere else, but you know be glad to get a message through there. Also, a video of this interview will go up on YouTube when the episode goes live. So until next time, take care of yourself and take care of your business.

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