HR Disruptors: Top four takeaways from our conversation with Payscale’s CFO & VP of People

In the first session of our brand new HR Disruptors series, Retention in the Face of Recession: Compensation Strategies for a Roller Coaster Market, we brought together Payscale’s VP of People Lexi Clarke and Chief Financial Officer James Redfern to talk about creating a close-knit partnership between HR and finance, building recession-proof people strategies, and guiding your company through uncertain times.

Our favorite attendee comment from the live session was, “A CFO in an HR chat?! This is a welcome first.”

Here are some other highlights from the discussion(or watch it in full here):

1. Own your seat at the table.

HR is often stereotyped as mainly focusing on defending the company and driving compliance, but there’s so much more to today’s HR teams. COVID-19 has made it abundantly clear how critical HR’s position is to setting a business up for stability, even during external economic turbulence, global instability, and a roller coaster job market (it’s been a long few years for all of us).

To lean into your well-earned seat at the leadership table, Lexi advises HR teams to develop a top-to-bottom understanding of how your business works, including financial metrics and short and long-term growth goals. This will help you drive important conversations across teams, come up with new ideas that support the most serious business priorities, and craft your people strategies around the company’s big picture.

2. Build strong business partnerships (especially with your finance team).

Get close with your company’s finance leader. They should be your go-to partner to pressure test HR ideas and make sure you’re not missing any key business considerations when presenting solutions to your executive team. James sees the relationship between HR and finance as one of the strongest ways HR can elevate their role across the entire organization and position themselves as irreplaceable business leaders.

Lexi likewise sets the expectation with her HR team to attend and actively participate in meetings like revenue forecasting, sales, and customer experience. She believes this grants a depth of understanding and visibility across the business that's critical in order to drive impactful conversations and develop useful, accurate, and actionable people strategies.

3. Plan for uncertainty to act quickly and impactfully during turbulent times.

What’s the best way to plan for a roller coaster market? Both Lexi and James say the answer is planning for three scenarios: the best, the worst, and the expected. To get stakeholder buy-in from other business units, James recommends bringing a menu of options based on these scenarios. This will help you lead robust, detailed conversations that take every key business angle into consideration. Over time, your realistic options will start to crystallize and you can delve deeper into planning for the most likely scenario, with “what if” questions already answered—so you’re not scrambling with reactive solutions if the worst-case scenario strikes.

4. Listen more and use data to drive employee satisfaction.

We all know that the employee experience is more than social events, happy hours, and recognition. It encompasses every interaction and conversation with your employees— including company-wide business updates and compensation conversations. One of the most important aspects of employee satisfaction is openly communicating the “why” behind the decisions you’re making as a business—including transparency around options and possible trade-offs—so your employees don’t feel blindsided if you have to make some tough calls.

As an HR leader, part of open communication is what you share with your employees, and part of it is what you hear from your employees. Proactively asking for feedback opens the door to more deeply understanding their biggest needs and worries (and also learn what you’re doing well!). A formal listening process means that you’ll be able to collect the right data at scale, bubble up trends across departments and roles, and prioritize what matters most to your team members. If you feel hesitant to ask for feedback that you might not act on, Lexi suggests following her lead: balance a data-driven approach with a heavy dose of transparency so employees feel heard. That way, “You can commit to looking into something without committing to acting.”

Lastly, remember that the people leaders among your employees are some of HR’s most powerful assets—they can make or break your employee experience, deeply impact company culture, and drive talent retention (or churn). Prioritize regular check-ins with your workplace leaders to keep them in the know on the latest plans and changes, and make sure they’re getting what they need to support their team members and help the business grow.

See the full HR Disruptors conversation with Payscale

Learn how HR leaders & finance teams can partner together to retain your best employees and help your organization weather future storms.

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