Leaders from Paycom and The Kraft Group explain how they use technology to improve the employee experience

Speakers at our Insider event, Transforming HR in the Digital Era
Insider’s Aman Kidwai speaks to Miranda Blaiklock (c) from Kraft, and Holly Faurot from Paycom

  • Employers have a responsibility to hollistically support employees.
  • Executives from Paycom and The Kraft Group shared their thoughts on the role of technology in improving the employee experience.
  • The conversation took place at the Insider event “Transforming HR in the Digital Era” on June 15, 2021.
  • Click here to watch a recording of the event.

Miranda Blaiklock knows HR teams didn’t have a playbook for handling the people and business challenges during the pandemic.

Chief among those challenges is the responsibility to holistically support employees, said Blaiklock who is the director of benefits, compensation, and HR information systems (HRIS) at The Kraft Group.

“The blur between working nine-to-five has really changed in this new model,” Blaiklock said, speaking at an Insider event on Tuesday.

This goal of holistically supporting workers taught HR teams to invest in technology that can help make employee’s lives easier. For example, Blaiklock said the company recently added a tool that allows employees to clock in for work or log PTO from their phones. It works just like consumer technology, she added.

Holly Faurot, chief sales officer at Paycom, noted this trend as well. Over the course of the pandemic, she said “employees had an increased amount of interaction with consumer technology. We were utilizing apps more than ever last year.”

This increased use of technology in their personal life may be changing expectations for the tech they use at work.

“Employees are coming back into the workplace now with that same type of expectation,” Faurot said. “They want to have the same type of experience that they’ve had with Amazon or maybe their local pizza place. That’s something that companies need to realize. There’s a very, very low tolerance of complexity for employees.”

Using data and feedback to make decisions

Another way The Kraft Group monitors employee satisfaction with technology is through a digital experience score provided through Paycom. The experience score is a measure of how their HRIS are performing, she explained.

“It is a little bit like a game, so just after each month we just take it just like the Patriots just won a game,” she said, referring to the NFL team whose operations are run by the Kraft Group. “We go and look at our game film and the DDX score and see how we could do it better next month, so it’s been a great tool for us and from a process improvement standpoint. It’s really been a game changer.”

Blaiklock also uses HRIS data to make the business case for different employee decisions, such as changing schedules or offering more flexibility. Data helps Blaiklock make the case to finance when they insitute a new workplace policy.

“I think that most HR teams really have to straddle that line of being both the employee, advocate, but also wearing the business hat and I think the challenge with that is being able to speak the same language,” she said.

From Faurot’s perspective, employee data provides plenty of feedback for business leaders to act on. She recommends employers take the time to look closely at how employees are using the technology and even run focus groups.

“Make it easy, lower the complexity and you’re going to see a huge return on that investment,” Faurot said.

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How the HR chief at Restaurant Brands International holds all of its executives accountable for diversity and inclusion

Jeff Housman
Jeff Housman is chief people and services officer at Restaurant Brands International.

  • Jeffrey Housman is chief people and services officer at Restaurant Brands International.
  • Housman has made DEI a priority. All senior executives are now held accountable for DEI goals.
  • Food service overall has a diversity problem. People of color are often concentrated in lower ranks.
  • This article is part of our “HR Insider” series about HR leaders and their noteworthy strategies.

The value of human resources at Restaurant Brands International has always been “pretty clear” to Jeffrey Housman.

But the pandemic made Housman appreciate even more the “role HR can play in supporting people,” he said.

RBI is a 6,300-person company whose brands include Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes. About 100 restaurants belong to RBI (most restaurants within RBI brands are owned by franchisees). Housman, RBI’s chief people and services officer, joined RBI from Burger King Corporation in 2016 and has climbed the ranks since. Housman was named one of Insider’s 2021 HR Innovators.

When he took on his current role, in 2019, Housman led RBI in doubling down on its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Now every senior executive is responsible for cultivating DEI and for making RBI a place where all employees can do their best work.

The foodservice industry overall has been criticized for its lack of diverse representation at the top. According to a 2014 report from the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, ethnic and racial minorities represent 50% of all hourly employees, compared to 31% of general managers. The report looked at 60 brands, including Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, but didn’t include Restaurant Brands International.

RBI has publicly recognized the challenges. A statement published on RBI’s website in July 2020 read, “We acknowledge that we do not have enough diverse employees in our company and in leadership positions,” adding that, “By openly acknowledging our shortcomings, we are creating urgency for action.”

RBI makes DEI every executive’s responsibility

One of the first DEI initiatives Housman’s team spearheaded was a change to the interview process. RBI hiring managers now ask job candidates in their first interview what diversity means to them, and how they’d champion diversity if they joined the team.

And at least 50% of all candidates in the final interview round must be “from groups that are demonstrably diverse, including race.” This goal is tied to bonuses for the entire leadership and executive team at RBI. Chipotle, McDonald’s, and Starbucks have also said they’re linking diversity targets to executive compensation.

Housman’s team accelerated their efforts to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace in 2020, a year in which many business leaders vowed to address systemic discrimination in their workplaces.

RBI released a diversity report that highlighted where the organization was falling short. Leadership, for example, was mostly white and male. Thirty percent of senior leaders were women – an improvement from the year prior – and about 43% of senior leaders were non-white. RBI’s total workforce included 40% women and 47% non-white employees.

Housman’s team led other efforts around inclusion in 2020. Leadership talked about subconscious bias in staff-wide meetings and ramped up training around implicit bias.

Housman is cautiously optimistic that RBI will be able to achieve its DEI goals. “We still have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be,” he said. “But in 2020 we acted on our D&I strategy and made really good progress.”

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How the first diversity lead at Uber and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign cultivates inclusion at HR tech company Gusto

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bernard coleman
Bernard Coleman III is chief diversity and engagement officer at Gusto.

  • Bernard Coleman III is chief diversity and engagement officer at 1,400-person HR tech company Gusto.
  • Coleman was previously the first diversity lead for Uber and for a US presidential campaign.
  • At Gusto, Coleman spearheaded the RISE program to get employees talking about social justice.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Bernard Coleman III calls HR the “operational glue” that holds together every piece of an organization.

Coleman is the chief diversity and engagement officer at HR tech company Gusto. He was also the first chief diversity and HR officer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Uber’s first global head of diversity and inclusion.

He joined Gusto, which employs more than 1,400 people and is valued at almost $4 billion, in January 2020. That was just months before the coronavirus pandemic hit the US and before a widespread reckoning among business leaders around racial inequity. Coleman was tasked with building effective diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and creating an environment where employees could do their best work.

Coleman says HR’s role is to help people have the best possible work experience

Two decades ago, Coleman started his career in politics. When he joined the Society for Human Resources Management as a state affairs specialist, he was inspired to learn more about a career in HR.

“My goal has always been to help people,” he said. He pursued politics because it seemed like the most effective way to reach the maximum number of people. “But in HR,” he said, “you’re almost like this intermediary. A broker, if you will, helping people understand how to have the best possible experience in the workplace.”

Leading a DEI function excites him because he gets to participate in every part of the employee life cycle, which includes recruiting, employee engagement, advancement through the company, and retention. “An effective DEI program needs to be comprehensive in nature,” Coleman said. It must be “interwoven into every aspect of your business.”

DEI work took on new relevance after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Coleman spearheaded the launch of RISE, which stands for Representation, Inclusion, Social Impact, and Equity. Gusto began hosting weekly conversations in which employees could discuss social-justice issues in a safe space. And Coleman’s team at Gusto has trained hundreds of managers and individual contributors on how to build an inclusive and equitable workplace.

From the first time he meets a prospective hire, Coleman is thinking about how to make them feel like they belong. His favorite interview question is, “What must the organization provide in order for you to do your best?”

The candidate’s answer tells him “what type of environment the person needs to best succeed,” as well as “what type of manager I need to be,” Coleman said. “Ultimately my goal is to contribute to and help empower their long-term success.”

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Bank of America’s CHRO Sheri Bronstein shares how she led a crisis response for the bank’s 200,000 employees

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Sheri Bronstein
Sheri Bronstein, chief human resources officer at Bank of America.

  • Bank of America did not make any layoffs or reduce hours during the pandemic.
  • The bank retrained over 20,000 employees for new roles while 85% of the company worked remotely.
  • CHRO Sheri Bronstein shared her approach during this time and what she learned from the experience.
  • This article is part of a series highlighting high achievers in HR called “Most Innovative HR Leaders.”

The past year presented a completely new set of obstacles for Bank of America’s Chief Human Resources Officer Sheri Bronstein. When 85% of the bank’s 200,000-person staff went fully remote, Bronstein’s team was tasked with making sure workers felt secure financially, emotionally, and physically while working during the public health crisis.

“2020 led to more discussions and immediate actions among myself and fellow C-suite executives than ever before,” Bronstein told Insider.

Bronstein was named one of Insider’s 2021 HR Innovators for how her 2,600-person team supported workers over the past year. Bank of America did not make layoffs or reduce hours; instead, it increased its minimum wage to $20 an hour, expanded benefits for working parents, retrained 23,000 employees, and is making progress in representation and pay equity.

The financial services giant saw a decline in revenue during the pandemic but beat analysts’ expectations during its most recent earnings report. The bank’s stock price currently sits higher than its pre-pandemic peak and is on the rise after a promising Q1.

Investments in childcare, bonuses, and DEI

Bank of America provided $300 million in childcare reimbursement and an additional 10 days of backup child or adult care, on top of the 40 they already give, to every employee. Its $6 million relief fund provided grants to those with emergency financial hardships and regular coronavirus PCR tests were offered to employees working in offices or retail branch locations. The company also gave employees a one-time $750 bonus for their work during the pandemic.

Bronstein joined over 40 meetings with institutional investors to discuss the company’s workforce strategy including diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She shared her feedback from these meetings with Bank of America’s Board of Directors.

“This ongoing, two-way dialogue clarifies and deepens the Board and management’s understanding of shareholders’ concerns; in turn, I believe these conversations have led to increased transparency with a focus on workplace diversity and equal pay for equal work,” Bronstein said.

Bank of America has made some progress improving diversity among its ranks. Half of the bank’s global management team is diverse and 54% of the company’s campus hires in 2019 were people of color, according to its most recent Human Capital Management report.

The company also has a new analytics platform for tracking diversity that helps to hold managers and hiring teams accountable, Bronstein said.

In 2020, her team introduced new toolkits to help employees to hold conversations for the purpose of deepening their “understanding through self-education of people’s differences,” she explained. More than 165,000 employees participated in 320 of these conversations, which are meant to be a space for workers to share their experiences with inequity.

“I’ve found that two of the most important skills in HR are having empathy and understanding the power of listening,” Bronstein said. “More often, our society places value on what we project, rather than what we absorb. While there are endless elements of our current reality that we can’t control, I’ve found that the best way to empower our teammates during the pandemic is to create an open dialogue, listen, and acknowledge their concerns.”

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