HR is really all things “people”. The key is getting the respect of the leaders and helping them to see why company culture is so important, and that it starts with how your people are treated. If you enhance culture, you will see higher retention, better attrition and higher participation rates in employee feedback surveys. It’s important that leadership listens and cares and that they have a pulse on what’s happening in the day-to-day.
Meet Danielle Martinez, Manager of People & Resources atShoreGroup, an IT Consulting company that connects people with the everyday world through many aspects of technology. Just shy of 100 employees, ShoreGroup strives to develop their workforce so they can demonstrate their commitment to a customer-first culture. How do they plan to carry this out? By living out their four core values: people, customers, teamwork, and results. And how are they are able to live these out? Because they place focus on their employees.
Danielle began her career at Parabolic Performance and Rehab as a Patient Care Coordinator where her tech savvyness found her in a full-on Front Office Coordinator role. As the company began to scale, Danielle assisted with candidate recruitment and soon enough, became Office Manager/HR Assistant of the newly opened second rehab location. Shortly after, Danielle was offered a Human Resource Manager position with Executive Assistant responsibilities sprinkled in at another company. Being that this was an international company, she learned quickly how to work with different cultures and how to navigate language barriers, genderism and differing religious beliefs.
It was here that through personal experiences, Danielle recognized the importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace. She realized there was a need to provide employees the tools and education to ensure that they were interacting with each other and their customers appropriately, and a need for policies to be put in place. Through these experiences, Danielle learned that while she could have reacted negatively and on the defense, she instead chose to use it is a learning experience to affect change in her organization. As a result, she brought in important programs such as sensitivity training which was a catalyst for changing company climate and culture.
Since then, it has been Danielle’s mission in the HR world to impact businesses from a D&I standpoint. At ShoreGroup, Danielle handles all things culture, diversity and engagement as the head of the HR Department, where given the hybrid nature of her role, she also has a seat at the table with Executives.
10% of her role functions as Executive Assistant to John McCarthy, CEO, who she says is the “Coolest Boss Ever” and who also happened to give Danielle her first shot at “having a seat at the table” with C-Suite level execs. Danielle notes that she has occupied hybrid roles most if not all of her HR career. “It’s my niche, working with executives and the people of organizations. I call it ‘bridging the gap’” [between employees and leadership]. She is also currently the Director of D&I for the Princeton, New Jersey HRMA/ SHRM chapter.
Bridging the Gap Between Leadership & People Teams
Danielle has been able to implement several important programs that puts their people first, making them feel connected to one another and to leadership. The following are examples of initiatives Danielle has brought to ShoreGroup:
- Developed a program known as “Snacks For All”: With a set budget of $1.00 per day forremote employees, each quarter, those employees receive $60.00 worth of snacks sent to their home. The package is carefully curated based on their dietary preferences because customization makes people feel welcomed, valued and included.
- ShoreGroup hosts donation challenges where the company will contribute to donations to a charity of their employees’ choice if employees donate a pre-determined minimum. ShoreGroup recently donated $1700.00 to St. Jude through this company-wide initiative as their way of giving back to the community.
- Handwritten birthday cards for all employees sent to their home. There’s something special about a handwritten note!
- An employee rewards and recognition program where once a month each member of leadership nominates one individual to be recognized for their great efforts and achievements and sends them a gift card in mail, showing that hard work does not go unrecognized.
In her less than one year at ShoreGroup, Danielle has implemented incredible changes. She reports that the culture has shifted since placing focus on employees. She recommends “paying attention” to your people. By looking at benefits enrollment rates and employee demographics, to even surveying employees for feedback on culture, engagement and employee-employer trust, you can learn a lot. As an example, by paying attention, Danielle found that benefits package offerings did not accurately reflect the needs of employees.
She says that by making a switch to benefits that better align with employee needs, both the needs of individuals and organizational goals are met, and people are happier. Additionally, by offering education and resources that introduced new benefits and their purpose to employees, the company began to see higher engagement and participation rates. With this increased focus on people, ShoreGroup’s employees can focus on the tasks that are most important at work, such as providing the best customer experience possible.
Danielle goes on to pose the question: “Why are you implementing benefits for your company that no one is using? Pick a menu that will be utilized. You wouldn’t offer an entrée that wasn’t being eaten at your restaurant, would you? It’s wasted resources. Treat your benefits package that way.” The idea behind HR is to take stress off of employees so that they can focus on their job and be successful.“That’s why I love HR. I get to help our people so they can get back to work.”
Three Final Tips to Share:
Danielle left off our conversation with three tips that I think we will all find useful.
- First she says that when faced with with a potentially harmful situation [to a business] “you can react positively, you can react negatively, or you can just not react at all- but doing nothing is the worst thing you can do.”
- Second is “be slow to speak and quick to listen and not the other way around. If you don’t know the answer don’t making something up, be honest and find out.”
- Last is something she learned from Steven Frohlich, CEO of Parabolic Performance & Rehab, one of her biggest professional influences and the person who gave Danielle her first shot in an HR role. He taught her to fear failure just enough so that it makes you work hard, but not enough to keep you from taking risks, and that if you do fail to get up afterward and try another approach. He also taught her not to be afraid to talk to Executives, which has benefited her throughout her career having allowed her to achieve many accomplishments within her roles by being able to communicate effectively and get buy-in from Executive teams.
Danielle’s passion is the “employee experience” and making sure that from the recruiting/interview process to onboarding and onward, every employee enjoys their time spent at any employer that she is associated with. When it comes to company culture, Danielle has a firm belief that a “good” company culture has a lot to do with the employee experience, which is impacted by diversity and inclusion practices. When she’s not improving the employee experience at ShoreGroup, Danielle owns a HR Consulting company called Sole Hire. Want to get in touch with Danielle? You can find her on LinkedIn.