Jill Pappenheimer Uses Tech to Transform Soft Skills

BPM’s Jill Pappenheimer champions cloud-based technologies as a way to bring about meaningful cultural changes that stick for employers and employees

Jill Pappenheimer, BPMPhoto: Courtesy of BPM

Effective human resources requires a combination of hard and soft skills. Organizations’ money is saved and productivity rises when employees are empowered and aligned with the company’s business objectives. Achieving those outcomes requires leaders to think differently about HR and utilize technologies that complement these practices.

That’s where Jill Pappenheimer comes in.

Jill founded Options4Growth in 2012 as a means to elevate the way employers engage with people and the way people engage in their work, combined with cloud-based technology tools. In late 2018, BPM LLP acquired Options4Growth’s HR consulting practice to complement the CPA firm’s advisory service offerings.

Prior to joining BPM, Pappenheimer also worked with her former business partner to develop Insights, a performance management tool offering all-in-one solutions for “purpose-driven” companies, many of which are nonprofits.

“Insights facilitates ongoing feedback (guided one-on-ones) transparency and alignment with organizational objectives,” says Pappenheimer, who is now a partner at BPM. “It helps identify obstacles and barriers employees face and offers the ability to course correct. It shows employees how to own responsibilities and move the needle of individual success and that of their organization. This kind of behavioral change can only be lasting if it is facilitated by a tool to ensure stickiness.”

Pappenheimer shares an example of a client who benefited from the technology—a nonprofit afterschool program whose administrators wanted to ensure educators stayed true to the objectives of the organization and remained engaged in their work.

New Year, New Laws

In addition to keeping up with technology trends, Jill Pappenheimer and her team focus on helping companies incorporate new legislations, such as California’s AB5 and SB 1343.

AB5: Employees vs. Contractors

In effect: January 1, 2020

This law ensures gig economy workers at companies like Uber and Lyft are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation, and other benefits. Many organizations are having to rethink how they engage independent contractors.

SB 1343: Sexual Harassment Training

In effect: January 1, 2021

This law requires all employers based in California with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees, not just supervisors, every two years.

“They used Insights to be able to execute on identified strategic objectives and create accountability with their teachers,” she explains. “The CEO was worried in particular about one teacher leaving. But through the use of Insights, they discovered a hidden passion and created a development goal—writing a newsletter, which the teacher really enjoyed and has become a successful communication/PR vehicle for the school. It aligned an organizational need with the teacher’s personal strengths. The CEO has found the tool to be pivotal for their organization.”

This is not unlike some successful client engagements in Pappenheimer’s work since joining BPM. She shares that throughout every encounter, structural challenges are met with those soft and hard tools that, in combination, bring about meaningful changes for employer and employees alike.

Recently a CFO at a technology firm brought Jill’s team in to support an unfortunate problem—senior management’s reputation of intense vitriol as a means of communication. Pappenheimer’s team determined that while change at the top was needed, the middle and lower ranks of employees had to be addressed as well.

“We had to make sure policies and practices at the firm honored its people,” she says. “We also made sure that managers in the middle ranks had coaching and training skills. It’s an unfortunate fact that managers are usually skilled at functional levels, but don’t have strengths with people skills.” Senior management then was coached to emulate this culture—and shed the yelling.

Another firm—a consumer food products company—was struggling to keep up with their significant growth. Throughout a 15-year period, the company grew from 15 to 1,200 employees with only one HR manager, who was not modernizing and scaling the people management function sufficiently. Pappenheimer and her team went to work, introducing new technologies for employees and the HR team that streamlined their processes as well as engaged employees differently and at a higher level..

“The right performance and human resource management tools are instrumental and can be game changing for HR team and the entire organization. Companies are hesitant to make the investment in HR, and specifically HR technology, but the outcome can be hugely impactful,” Pappenheimer says. “These are opportunities to create growth through people by ensuring clarity of roles, line of sight to organizational objectives, and engaged, cohesive teams that are collaborating and having fun. It doesn’t have to be a painful, expensive, or yearlong undertaking to create positive change through facilitated technologies.”

“Clients ultimately have to embrace HR technology, one way or another.”

Pappenheimer adds that it is important to stay on top of technology trends and tools, such as artificial intelligence (AI). “AI is highly undervalued in the HR industry, and the potential for its use is enormous,” she explains. “It can be powerful in recruiting talent and in identifying where a candidate will be a cultural fit with an organization.”

While AI tools can be effective for HR departments, its various applications can raise questions in terms of usage, particularly with regard to privacy issues, such as data compiled from scanning social media and employee emails.

“I have concerns, even if it could help us understand people better,” Pappenheimer says. “Clients ultimately have to embrace HR technology, one way or another—they have to. In the twenty-first century, honoring people and aligning employees’ work with organizational strategies is as important as finance.”

With the right application of new technologies along with old-fashioned human respect, the soft skills of HR don’t look so hard.