Meet the hero making employment easy for SMEs

Talking to chief people officer Alex Hattingh, Service Provider Awards winner

HR can be tough for a small to medium-sized business, but Employment Hero is here to make it simple. Chief people officer Alex Hattingh talks to HRD about the firm’s winning approach to engagement, hybrid working, and more.

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Ksenia: Hello and welcome to HRD Australia. With us today, we have Alex Hattingh, chief people officer at Employment Hero. Employment Hero performed exceptionally well at the Australia and New Zealand Service Provider Awards this year, taking home medals in six different categories. Hello and welcome, Alex. It's great to have you with us.

Alex: Thank you. It's so fantastic to be here.

Ksenia: So as I mentioned, employment here won medals across virtually all of our categories this year. Tell us what has made you so successful.

Alex: First of all, we are so humbled and thrilled to have won these awards. I, there are a lot of reasons behind our success. It really does come down to our founder and Ben Thompson and the purpose and reason he started Employment Hero, which was to make employment easier and more valuable for everyone. Ben comes from an employment lawyer background and back in the day when he was an employment lawyer, he saw a lot of small to medium businesses going out there and starting their businesses. And unfortunately they were getting in trouble for not being compliant. And so he felt there had to be a technology solution that would make it easier for them to be compliant. But also, how could he help them take everything off paper? He would see manila folders and filing cabinets and Excel spreadsheets, and in his mind he just kind of thought, Wow, being in HR is just horrible. How can I make this easier through providing a solution to small to medium businesses in Australia? That includes interpreting awards which any employer here would know is a very complicated thing to have to do. And that's modern awards. No matter what industry you're in, it's very, very complicated.

Ksenia: And so a lot of your offering is around just making things simpler for businesses. Tell us, why is it important for you to simplify employment?

Alex: You know, it's not easy to be an employer. So if you think about it, you know, to be a lawyer as as Ben is, you have to go and get a degree and you have to be entered into, you know, into the lawyer world. To be an accountant, you have to get a degree and you have to be certified. You don't need any official qualifications to employ someone. So let's take an example. You start out a business through a pure passion. Perhaps it's baking and then you end up opening a bakery. Suddenly you become really successful. You employ some people. Now you're fulfilling this passion and you're adding to society and you're creating employment opportunities. However, you don't necessarily know what you don't know. So Employment Hero really helps or aids those people to not just make employment easier, but make it compliant for them. I'm sure everybody has seen the unfortunate cases where employers have been caught out for non-compliance, for not paying people correctly, whatever it might be. So a solution such as Employment hero helps to interpret what you need to pay people. It makes sure you have compliant employment contracts, policies, everything at the tip of your fingers, paperless and on an app or on your laptop for all of your employees, which is fantastic, including scheduling, rostering, paying on time, pay slips and a lot of other fantastic features as well.

Ksenia: And perhaps you can also tell us about how your business helps to lift things like employee engagement.

Alex: Yeah, so employee engagement is huge and it's been a really big focus for us always internally at Employment Hero and also within the product and platform of employment Hero itself. And we really did pivot to make sure during COVID when remote work hit and we were all in lockdown, that reward and recognition was a feature within employment hero that was automated. So we have a feature that we call shout outs, and we also have value awards. So shout outs is simply a shout out to you. Hannah Thank you for doing such an amazing job and you're doing your day to day job, but I'm still shouting you out on the platform for everybody to read no matter where you're located. Then we have values awards which have a monetary value attached to them, and as a values champion, it's really about going above and beyond our five values within Employment Hero. And we also provide that to all of our clients that use the platform for their own individual values. And it's just so important to be recognizing people in terms of or related to both your purpose and your values. It means so much to them, especially as we learned during the remote work and during COVID. And we are now a remote first organization, so it's absolutely vital.

Ksenia: And speaking of remote work, that's obviously something we've seen a lot of in the past few years. How do you support businesses in managing hybrid and remote working models?

Alex: Great question. When COVID first hit, well, it must have been almost three years ago. We pivoted and our product team did the most incredible job of just dropping everything and redoing their roadmap or their product roadmap as it pertained to how do we support Australians, small to medium businesses, to get to this remote world of work and managing a remote workforce? And part of the features we placed into the platform were coaching one on one templates, for example, amplifying the reward and recognition and making sure people were using the platform holistically to engage OKRs, which are objectives and key results, placing that into the platform and making sure organizations were able to use that to check in asynchronously with people remotely. So all about trusting your employees during that period of COVID and remote work. You know, we've all been through it. We've all seen it. Some companies have done it extraordinarily well. And if you have a technology platform that can really help to get those goals and be output very much output dominated as well as those important conversations with your manager and then skip level. So those important conversations are one on one with your managers manager. Really important.

Ksenia: So let's talk a bit about the future. What key trends do you see developing over the next 12 months or so in the air space?

Alex: For me, myself, in terms of 2023, I see remote work and social connections as a huge focus and a huge need. We did our own survey in Australia on remote work and what Australian employees wanted and it was well over 50% of employees responded that if they did not have the option for remote work and flexibility, they were going to leave their job. So all employers absolutely need to focus on that option of remote work and providing that flexibility. There's also a huge talent scarcity in Australia. I know we're seeing recessions in the US and the UK. Will it hit Australia? We don't know. You need to though, get yourself, I guess you would say, recession proof. You need to really have that. What you would call Ben has has a great title for it and that is, you know, what's your fire drill in your top drawer? If a recession hits. So you need to have that there. But how do you address the talent scarcity? It's about global remote work. You can find talent everywhere in Australia. So if we can't find it here, go and find it elsewhere if you need to, because the talent is out there. And at the moment, until the government allows more or they loosen their migration laws and allow more talent into Australia, we absolutely have to go out there and find talent elsewhere and we have experienced this at employment hero and it's been such an advantage to be able to hire anywhere in the world. I'd also love to touch on source of skills, so you really need to be searching for people that align to your purpose and your values as well as soft skills or emotional intelligence, I would call it. You can teach anyone with the right IQ as well. You can teach them technical skills. So take a gamble. Hire people if they don't have that perfect fit. And also take a look internally, really look at internal mobility. How can you elevate someone and just bring someone up and put them into an open role, give them the training they need and the space and the encouragement to grow into that role and then backfill them at the lower end of the role. It's a very successful solution to the talent shortage we're seeing. Again, I talked about the looming recession and making yourself as a small to medium business recession proof, and that is making sure as a leadership team you have gaits and indicators that will really show you if you need to take action. Very different for all businesses, however, have those gates or indicators in there so that you know when you're ready. And again, as I said, that fire drill, quote unquote plan, have it in your top drawer. A really great example was during COVID as a leadership team. You know, it was all new to us and no one knew what was going to happen. We all agreed as a leadership team to take a pretty significant cut in our own salaries before we would have ever made anyone redundant. An employment hero. So have those strategies in your back pocket or your top drawer? The next one I'll point on is data security. So if you are a technology company, you absolutely need to have that risk management in place and make sure that you have everything there so that the data of your people or your customers are protected and making sure that you know and communicate that to your customers. The next one I see is being a really big trend for 2023 is the impact of your employees and really highlighting that to them as an engagement strategy. So how does their role really align to your purpose as a company? How do they contribute to your purpose? How are they aligned to your values? And we're seeing that a lot through the surveys we're doing through Employment Hero around what Australians are looking for in their employers. It really is a candidate market out there, so you need to be making sure that you are getting your employer value proposition correct, your candidate experience onboarding, and then your entire employee. Experience life cycle from initially contacting them as a candidate all the way through to them potentially leaving your company.

Ksenia: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for sharing your journey and your insights with us today. Alex, it's been absolutely fantastic to have you.

Alex: Thank you. Yeah, likewise. It's been great. And thank you so much for all of the awards. We're very humbled, as I said, and I'm really, really pleased with them.

Ksenia: To all of you as at HRD Australia. Thank you so much for watching and we will see you again soon.