Employment Hero

Ask an Expert – HR Strategy Masterclass Q&A with Alex Hattingh

Do you want to take your HR and people management game to the next level in 2020? Then this is for you!

We recently held a Strategic HR Masterclass with people and culture expert, Alex Hattingh. If you managed to tune in live with us, you would know we received lots more answers than we had time to answer. We didn’t want anyone to miss out, so we’ve put together the list of questions we didn’t have time for, that Alex has since answered. 

If you missed the live masterclass, we’ve got your back! You can watch the 1 hour Strategic HR Masterclass class here. You can also download our Strategic HR Bundle that includes a variety of templates and insights Alex talked about throughout the class. 

In the masterclass, Alex covered many ways you can get strategic in your people management including:

  • Back to basics: HR foundations
  • How to set people and culture goals that align with the business
  • Looking ahead: rising HR trends for the next 

If you want to read through some of the questions asked, read on below as Alex shares her insights from her extensive people management background. 


About 1:1’s, we have these meetings weekly, but they aren’t always documented. What are the risks of that and why do you think we should document them (1:1s)? 

Documentation is important for a couple of reasons. One, as a manager and also from a personal perspective. Having that record to go back on is great because if you have to run straight from a 1:1 to another meeting, there’s a pretty good chance you could forget to follow up on something your employee has asked or needs from you.

It’s also a good record for when you’re holding annual performance reviews, salary reviews, or more regular reviews such as quarterly check-ins. It’s a really great way to make sure you don’t suffer from what I would call the recency effect. This is when these milestones come around, you tend to reflect on the most recent accomplishments or perhaps downfalls of an employee, rather than having that full picture to look back on. You know, 10 months ago employee X did this amazing job that I completely forgot to recognise her for. 

Additionally, 1:1’s are important for followups, questions and to see what they need from you as a manager. In terms of the risks, just be mindful as a manager not take notes on anything sensitive.  


Hi Alex, is it possible to use the Shout Out / Recognise your Peers without linking to hero dollars, so it’s more about the recognition as opposed to monetary reward? And any likelihood that it might be linked to Slack in the future?

At Employment Hero, we started off without using monetary awards and simply doing peer-to-peer recognition and the value shoutouts. The feedback from employees was absolutely wonderful. 

Another thing I learned through going through that process, is just giving your leadership team a bit of a nudge. Certainly, if you’re just starting off doing this or if you’re seeing a bit of a decline over time. I suggest popping something in your calendars perhaps weekly to give your leaders a nudge to reflect on their week and see if there’s anyone they should be recognising that they haven’t been. Leaders doing this is a really important part of your reward and recognition program taking off.  

It’s amazing that you bring Slack up. We’ve actually been talking about that in our product roadmap. We still use Shout-Outs as a non-monetary recognition and people love it. We’re looking at implementing threaded comments so people can interact when a peer is recognised, which is great. 


We’ve had some bad Glassdoor reviews recently and I think it’s affecting us. How can we come back from it? 

My first piece of advice is during interviews and with candidates, be super transparent about it. Let the candidate know, ‘yeah we have actually had some bad reviews on Glassdoor – unfortunately, I can’t go into much details about this, but this is what’s happened’. Another tool you can use is to refer to a spreadsheet of your employees and ask employees individually if they wouldn’t mind going on to Glassdoor and leaving a positive review. 

Now, just be mindful. Don’t blast Glassdoor with reviews all on the same day. Please don’t do a company announcement asking everyone at once to leave a Glassdoor review. It becomes really obvious if someone logs on to Glassdoor and there are 100 reviews on the 4th of January, for example. I’d suggest staggering the requests on a team by team basis.


Hi Alex, Thank you for sharing all these awesome insights! Do you have any tips for creating an effective Onboarding Experience?

Absolutely! Onboarding is vital. There is a really scary statistic from the Abboton Group which is 82% of employees decide on their first day if they’re going to stay for the next 6 months. Now that’s really scary. 

I believe that an awesome first day starts with a great company overview so the employee doesn’t feel lost. This can be by giving them tools around company purpose, your overview, your values. Sometimes we take for granted how daunting and overwhelming the first day can be. Remember back to your first day of school or last job and how scary that was! 

We’ve also found here at Employment Hero that having cohorts can make a big difference. So instead of having one person start on one day, you start a group of employees together. You may experience pushback from your hiring managers, so you need to sell them on the advantages of starting them together. If you’re a small company, no dramas if you can’t. Just ensure that the in-person experience of a new starter is valuable and personable. 

Another thing we’ve introduced here is a Wednesday start. At first, managers weren’t on board, but they quickly realised how much less stressful it was for them! We also have our new starters start at 10am. This allows everyone to get in and get the day started, rather than having a new hire land on you at 9am. 

Advantages of starting new hires on Wednesday. 

  • A manager isn’t stressed on a Sunday night about a new starter starting the next day.
  • The new starter has a better experience because they’re not walking into Monday morning all frazzled. 
  • The team can spend Monday and Tuesday setting up for the week which means Wednesday the whole team can take the new starter out for lunch. You’re just making that first day awesome.
  • The feedback from new starters is awesome. ‘We get bombarded with information on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, which means we get the weekend to take a deep breath and come back really fresh on Monday ready to go.’ 

Be sure to get the small things right like a set-up desk that is welcoming – it sounds basic, but you wouldn’t believe the horror stories about new employees starting on day 1 without a laptop or email account set-up! And make sure you announce your new team members with a little bit about them. If you have forums such as All-Hands celebrate them here also. This all contributes to making their first days great. 


How do you provide your team with access to learning development when some work remotely? It’s hard to motivate them when they’re not in the office. 

I definitely agree with that. I would start with the GROW model and having the manager check in with them and nudge the employee along. Also, if you can have the employee somehow get recognised for the application of learning in their job, you’re going to spark those endorphins. Then, that particular individual thinks ‘oh wow, I just learnt this!’ and ‘oh my goodness, my manager just gave me recognition for that, it must mean I’m more valuable’. They’ll be more invested in their own learning and development. 

With these things, it’s important to ask managers to go back and put themselves in the employee’s shoes. Perhaps the employee doesn’t know what’s in it for them or they’re feeling overwhelmed with work as it is. It could be as simple as asking the manager to allocate time in the employee’s day in which they can focus on their learning and development. Whether it’s reading a book, watching an online video, whatever it might be, just giving them permission to put it in their workday can be really effective. 

In terms of providing access, look at the Options section of the GROW answers and then search resources such as LinkedIn learning. Also, think through if there are any subject matter experts within your organisation who can provide direction here. 


How to get buy-in from managers when they don’t like change?

Nobody likes change, it’s scary and it’s uncertain! You want to take away as much uncertainty as possible. Statistics are really good, case studies or stories are also great. The more you can influence people, the better – and again putting yourself in the shoes of the person you’re trying to influence when they’re thinking, ‘what’s in it for me?’.

For instance, if I’m trying to influence my CFO, that looks very different to how I’m going to influence my Head of Sales. So for my CFO, data, numbers, ROI. Sales, how’s this going to get the sales team closer to their target and make them less stressed and happier in their jobs? 

It’s also important to acknowledge that this change or new approach so it will take time to get cadence.  


What tips do you have for HR working with remote teams?

  1. Regular cadence with meetings is vital for remote teams.
  2. The more you can use videos the better – this creates more of a personal connection. Also with team settings, if you have the person on a screen, they feel more included when they see the room.
  3. Make sure you have a document to share for your weekly 1:1s and team meeting agendas 
  4. OKRs, KPIs, Goals – whatever tool you use – having documented goals is vital.
  5. Communication about anything that has happened in the office is also key so people feel included.
  6. For projects, a shared project management tool such as Trello, Basecamp or Asana provides an incredible platform to collaborate and document tasks. It also allows remote workers to be fully included on all moving parts of a project. 
  7. For team meetings, it can be a great tool to rotate the ownership of the agenda. This will make sure your remote workers are engaged if they own the agenda and have to run the meeting and take the notes.

How do you create meaningful OKRs for roles that don’t have ‘metrics’ or easily tracked outcomes 

I would go back to challenging why there aren’t metrics to track their role. You might sit there and say, ‘there’s no way to track EVP’ however, there is. Linkedin followers are an example of a metric you could use. It helps you see if you’re moving the dial on your EVP.

Go back and sit down with the person doing the job and ask them how they would measure success in their job. You’ll find you can get more insight because they’re the ones living and breathing the role.

It might sound really dry or black and white – sometimes metrics are, but it’s those initiatives behind the key results that can be more meaningful. That sometimes happens between the manager and the employee. You can get there though, it just might require more digging. 


I’m in marketing and want to set time for learning at work but I’m just so busy. How can I convince my manager that I need time to be made for this at work? Or is this something I should do in my own time?

Career development is absolutely something you need to put time aside for during your workday. I also recommend that you book a room to give yourself that private time. I would start by completing that GROW model sheet about your own goals. Use that completed form as a conversation starter to drive the conversation as to what you are trying to learn and develop. It’s important that you link this to your role and how it will help you do better. 

From here, then ask your manager for advice, letting them know you are struggling to find the time to focus on developing these new skills. Let them know you are going to book in 30 minutes a week in a quiet room to focus on this solely. If you need complete space to be learning, ask to leave early 1 day a week for a given period so you can dedicate the time needed to learn your new skills.   


How important is a caring culture and listening to the employee’s concerns for employee engagement and employee experience?

Research is continuing the uptick in this area of showing that you genuinely care about your employee. You may have heard about psychological safety, it’s a complex area, but essentially it’s about giving your employees safety to be themselves and to talk to managers about whatever might be bothering them. 

There’s no such thing as work-life balance anymore (in my mind) – now it’s all about a blend. That means employees might want to talk to managers about something that’s going on in their personal lives. However, if you’re a manager and you ever get uncomfortable, that’s where you do need to refer the employee to professional help, such as an employee assistance program (EAP) which we have here at Employment Hero. AN EAP is where they will get professional help. 

There’s no harm in saying to them, “Alex thank you so much for sharing what you’re going through, but I don’t have the skills or the capability to give you more than the emotional support I’m giving you, so I’m going to refer you on to someone professional who can give you skills and tools to work through this.” 


Tips on how to get managers commitment/buy-in on 1:1 meetings? 

I think you have to go back to the statistics. I think it’s 14% attrition is attributed to not having regular 1:1s with managers. That’s one statistic you can use. If you’ve seen recent attrition or exit data, that’s really good data to use with managers to say, ‘Hey Alex, you just had an employee recently leave, I’m really sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I think the fact you don’t have regular cadence with your employees may have contributed to them leaving.’ From here, you could say let’s sit down, throw the meetings in your calendar, just do me a favour and give it a go. If it doesn’t work, let’s talk about it. 

You can also tell your managers how personally in your roles, it has helped you form great connections with your own managers in the past and pushed you to do better in your role. Often a personal story of the success you have experienced will convince a sceptic. 


As a smaller company, we currently have limited opportunities for progression/promotion. How can we meet employee’s desire for career development/progression when realistically there isn’t anywhere for employees to move internally in the short term?  

It’s a challenge for any small to medium business. This can be a little bit of a controversial one and I guess the next generation would call it ‘a next play’. This is around giving your employees that psychological safety to have those conversations with you. 

For example, if there’s nothing inside your company – and they’re open and honest with you,  you help them decide their next steps outside the company and they help you backfill their role. 

A really great example of this is at Linkedin. In their induction, they provide a statistic that the average employee stays with Linkedin for two years. So, ‘we, at Linkedin will give you everything we can to grow you, keep you engaged, and during those two years, you also give us everything. Please tell us if you want to leave and we will make sure it happens in the best way.’ 

By doing that, you are getting notice, you’re able to backfill the role and hopefully, the employee leaves, learns some skills and comes back into another role with your company. 


If an employee has performed well over the year but there is no room for any annual pay review, is there anything we can do instead to keep them motivated?

Investment in career development is a really good tool. It’s important to be transparent with your employee and let them know that is not a budget for a salary increase this year. It is vital you tell this employee that they have and are performing really well and going above expectations 

You should also ask them where they want to grow and how you can help – there might be a course they want to do, or online learning, or coaching you or another manager can give them.

You could also look at benefits. Is there an option to give them something different such as an additional week of holiday for the year? Is flexible working an option, say finishing each Wednesday early so they can do something with their kids, or simply some time to themselves. Give them some options so they can select what is important to them. There is also nothing wrong if you give someone an additional week of vacation as a reward, it does not mean that you have to give this to everyone. It is about messaging that this is a reward for exceptional performance – this way you are also sending a strong message to everyone else in the organisation. 


How does People and Culture/HR help shape OKRs for functions like Design or Engineering and how involved should we be?

You want teams and leaders to form their own OKRs with their manager/s and teams. You can help facilitate this by joining their meeting if they are struggling by asking questions to guide them. It’s important to start with the top-level company goals or OKRs, and ask how they/their team will be contributing this quarter. 

In short, you’re not a subject matter expert in every field or role. Their leaders know what the teams have to do. You may just need to nudge them a little to get them there. 


Hi Alex, we don’t have a LMS system just yet so when we are arranging training it is via email and it’s sometimes quite confusing around organising calendar invites. Do you have any tips on this so that we aren’t sending out changes and cancellations via outlook? 

You could create a separate “Training Calendar” and give everyone access – they would need to check it regularly though! 

Personally, I still think calendar is the best tool as then it is locked in people’s calendars. You can also switch off the respond action if you are getting inundated with replies that you don’t need in your inbox. 

Hey Alex! Thank you so much for this. It’s so helpful 🙂 I’m very junior in my HR role and the team seem quite stuck in their ways. They’re not big on reward and recognition, so how can I convince management that reward and recognition is something that I think would be beneficial for everyone?

I’m so thrilled you enjoyed it and gained value from the session! We love sharing our insights and learnings. I say go back to those statistics and influence with data. You could also survey your people, even if you have to use the free version of survey monkey. 

It’s also important to be upfront and explain that while you don’t have a lot of budget, you would like to know what your team wants for reward and recognition. 

On the above, to get buy-in….start by asking: “Do you feel recognised for your work?”. The results here will help you guide leadership if the response from your people is negative. You have the data to say to your managers, “look, this is how our teams are feeling so we need to correct this and start recognising them”.

If you survey your team and you’re unable to give what is asked for, please make sure you get back to everyone. Let them know that while a few things were requested, we just don’t have the budget for it at the moment. 


Hi Alex, we’ve had some top-level restructuring over the last couple of weeks. Are there any tips to boost morale even for the short term?

Restructures create uncertainty, so communication is key and required at least weekly. In this time, have your top leader/s recognise how hard and emotional it is to see friends and co-workers leave the business if they have been impacted by a restructure. Showing empathy that they feel the pain is important during this time. 

You must also provide updates on the reasons for the changes and make sure all people leaders know why the changes were made and are openly talking about it during team meetings and asking for questions. 

This is a challenging time and unfortunately, you can’t throw money at a team-building event for example as that would appear even worse as you just had people leave the business.  

An open Q&A lunch session with leadership is a good tool. Put it in people’s calendars, ask them to bring their lunch and have your top leaders there to answer questions. If you think people will be too shy to ask questions, use a tool such as Slido where people can pre-ask questions anonymously. 

You can also let people know that you want to do a team event, however, there is little budget. Plan an event where you leave early, say 3pm or 4pm and cover the first drink. Let everyone know due to budget limitations you’ll cover the first round and then everyone can buy their own drinks. Time together outside the office can be highly effective. 


Any tips on how to best facilitate business OKR planning when there are senior leadership clashes?

You have to call out these clashes first. Where are they? Can you have individual conversations where you let a leader know you have observed that they are “clashing with Alex and I want to see where I can help facilitate an end to the conflict so leadership are on the same page”.

Constructive conflict is really healthy in a team, as long as there’s honesty, radical candor and discussion about the conflicts. However, you need to strongly coach your leaders that they must walk out of a meeting on the same page. Your employees will see the conflict and won’t know what to think. 


Thanks for sharing some great insights. What do you consider as key drivers for a successful goal and performance review process?

OKRs are certainly my recommendation. While they take more thought and work, they make weekly catch-ups clear and easy. They are also measurable. Again, this makes reviewing them really black and white 

Performance Reviews. I recommend either 6 monthly or quarterly. Keep it to 4-5 questions and make sure your managers make it more about the conversation. 


All our staff work remotely as we are an agency, how would you recommend to do 1:1? We have constant phone contact with our staff and they all feel comfortable calling if they have a problem. We try to meet every 6 months but some staff don’t seem interested in meeting at all. 

You need to set-up a cadence that all managers follow. I suggest using data to convince them about your new cadence. 

For weekly catch-ups try to use video – Hangouts or Zoom is great. Slack also has video capability. By using video, managers and team members are connecting and people will be less likely to multitask. 

You should also have a document that a manager and employee share. Employees will get into the habit of adding to their document during the week to bring up in their 1:1. 


Employee communications. What are some HR channels and strategies you have successfully implemented to increase engagement with those working remotely?

Use Slack! It is honestly the best internal communications tool. In slack, you can create different channels. It’s great to create some fun channels that foster bonding and laughing (not just team and work topic channels). At Employment Hero, we have a “social sharing” channel, an “animals being cute” channel, and these are just a couple of examples of channels that foster some fun in your workday.  

If you have a lot of remote workers, encourage your leaders to be updating and communicating business or team updates in a tool such as Slack. To get engagement also use the channel to recognise people, especially remote workers for their achievements and milestones such as anniversaries. 

There are also really good project management tools such as Base Camp and Trello that help teams stay connected and updated while working on a project together. Whilst, I’m not sure how big your team is, I recommend you implement an All-Hands or Townhall, perhaps monthly to start with. The agenda should be business updates; team updates; celebrations (such as milestones; sales or marketing wins). It’s also a really great idea to share customer stories or testimonials in this forum. This reminds your teams about what you do and the impact you have through your service or product. It is very powerful to link this back to your purpose too. Sometimes we focus on telling client testimonials externally and fail to remind ourselves of the amazing impact we have on our end-users.

When you do this, make sure this is a video format so people are seeing your leaders and include a QandA section. You can also always have remote workers present at All-Hands about projects they are working on. This updates everyone else and makes your remote worker feel valued. 

You might also want to consider a monthly internal newsletter to make sure your remote workers are always up-to-date. Have a section for each team where they update this, have a people celebrations section and any other updates people would find useful. 

Sign in