The secret to Jillian Pap’s HR success, she figures, is that she never expected to end up in the field at all. “My background was in marketing, and, frankly, I was always much more inclined to operate on the business side. I thought that’s where I would land.”
Pap’s personal strengths and professional mind-set read like a laundry list of potential stumbling blocks for HR in general: she’s business-focused, risk-tolerant, and owns a true entrepreneurial spirit. “My experiences give me a much different lens as I’m developing programs and priorities for our employees,” Pap says. The director of people for Goodway Group leverages a nontraditional skill set to drive superior results for a nontraditional staff. She relies on culture, motivation, and technology to connect to an entirely remote workforce.
While Pap has headed more traditional HR functions, her overseeing a remote staff raises so many interesting questions about HR’s core responsibilities in building culture and making employees feel like part of a larger community. These initiatives can easily be taken for granted when all employees are under the same roof, but Pap has to be especially cognizant of just how her function can better unite an employee group that might otherwise feel disconnected—not only from each other, but from their employer.
“One of the most important things overall in our priorities that is our North Star is the idea of bringing back the human component to a lot of these functions,” Pap says. “When I interviewed for this position, I didn’t have a video call with the team interviewing me. It was just a call, and that struck me as odd. It became clear to me over time that we have the technology but just weren’t leveraging it properly.”
Over the last year, Pap figures that about 98 percent of all company calls now employ a video component. It may seem like a small change, but at the granular level, all of those small changes amount to more meaningful and consistent interaction for remote employees. “The best part about the video calls is that it wasn’t a mandate, it was just organic change,” Pap says. “People have just seen how much more effective it is to see someone, get a better idea of whether or not they’re having a bad day, and recognize other indicators you would see if you were passing the person in the hall every day.”
Pap says HR has also focused on building communities, virtual or otherwise, within Goodway to both foster interaction and combat a common thread issue. “We have a high-performing, driven employee population, which is important with a remote group,” she explains. “The downside is sometimes people can’t turn it off; we can see people are working more.”
The company endeavors to help employees find more balance in their lives, which includes connecting regionally close employees together for monthly interactions, coworking spaces, or maybe just catching a ball game together. Onboarding is also a beneficiary of this push through the “buddy program.” New hires are connected with tenured employees to help them acclimate to the company and set them up for success. The pairs meet regularly to help connect new hires to the right resources and answer any questions.
“I think what have previously been seen as ‘soft skills’—communication, collaboration, and flexibility—are really now just a job requirement.”
HR is also working to improve its own feedback with its employees. The performance management system was, in Pap’s words, “blown up” in 2018. “We collectively realized it was not working, and so we’ve done away with ratings and those painful once-a-year awkward conversations,” Pap says. “We’re focusing on that North Star of personalized human experience and continuous coaching conversations.”
One area that hasn’t needed tweaking is the vendor partnership with LawLogix. “They’ve really provided a seamless employee experience,” Pap says. “We’ve heard such positive feedback about how stress-free moving to their dashboards and technology has been, and it’s one less thing that our employees need to worry about.”
Leading a remote workforce, however, is something Pap spends a lot of time not worrying about, but continuously looking to improve. “I think what have previously been seen as ‘soft skills’—communication, collaboration, and flexibility—are really now just a job requirement,” Pap explains. “It’s so easy for me to ping someone on the team channel, but if you don’t have the credibility and trust you’ve worked hard to earn, it can easily be misconstrued.” Building relationships with employees one doesn’t see in person takes more intentionality and many extra steps of work, but Pap says it’s crucial to being effective in her role.
Through all of these challenges, Goodway is the right fit for her because it’s a company that is intent on embracing change. “We use a phrase a lot here, ‘Learn, unlearn, relearn,’” Pap says. “We provide amazing opportunities for everyone to be challenged, become their best authentic selves, and live that motto.”
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