Compensation, Culture, Collaboration & More

Shelly Holt of PayScale: The Paradigm Shift of Remote Work

Dec 16, 2020 - Joe Matar

Before we get started, here are some highlights from this episode:

  • “If you decouple HR from being a business leader, you're missing out on the true impact you can have,” says Shelly Holt, Chief People Officer at PayScale.
  • Now that we’ve sent a large number of people to work from home, we can’t go back to the way things were. Shelly says we need a new strategy to meet employees’ new expectations around flexibility, compensation and assessment.
  • If you want to get consistent, valuable feedback from employees, learn to respond with “Yes, and…” and not “Yes, but…”

Structurally, the PayScale HR team looks similar to that of most companies.

“Really the difference is how we work together,” says Shelly Holt, the company’s Chief People Officer, in a recent episode of Talent on the Rise.

Shelly oversees a talent acquisition team, recruitment, learning and development, benefits/rewards, employee experience and internal communications; and works with internal business partners and strategic programs.

“Structure is an organizational chart that you look at,” Shelly says. “It's really how you operate that differentiates how your team performs.”

As a tech company, PayScale knows how to be agile. That means inviting input from across the team to solve problems and ensure they’re operating according to what will have the best impact for their company, not bound by best practices rooted in tradition rather than innovation.

Check out the full episode on your favorite podcast app:

Shelly is passionate about growing people and careers, creating a culture of inclusion and engagement and enabling the future of work. She’s not only an HR leader herself, but she works for an HR organization that works with HR leaders. That makes her the best of the best.

From her intimate experience in the space, here’s Shelly’s insight on getting a seat at the table, managing the transition to remote work and communicating in earnest with your team.

Speaking the language of the C-suite

To have a seat at the table, an HR leader needs to know how to speak the language of the C-suite.

That means studying company financials, understanding the business plan, knowing the various functions of the business — understanding, in-depth, how the business works.

“An aspiring HR leader needs to think about themselves as a business leader first,” Shelly says.

Acquiring that business acumen gives you the credibility you need to get the ear of business leaders like CFOs and CEOs. Knowing the business goals your people strategy can achieve helps you speak their language when you explain that strategy or make requests they might not immediately understand.

Your business strategy, financial strategy and talent strategy must all work in concert if you want to achieve goals in any of those areas.

The paradigm shift to remote work

After sending huge swaths of our workforces home for 12 or 18 or 24 months, we can’t turn around after the pandemic has passed and demand that the only way to be productive is to be in an office five days a week.

“We've just said to a large number of people ‘Work from home.’ And we can't go back to the way things were,” Shelly points out.

Beyond the simple expectation of flexibility now, remote work has created a new expectation for assessment.

Managers used to judge your performance based on butts in seats — show up by 8:30 a.m. and don’t leave until 5:30 p.m., and you’re doing a good job. But remote work eliminates that option. It forces managers to assess people based on their outcomes and the value they provide.

So we have to adjust to this new paradigm and plan for where this trend will take us, rather than attempt to return to business as usual.

Shelly encourages you to ask within your organization, “How are we all going to come together and learn from each other? What are we going to do around remote work when it comes to engagement, collaboration, culture? What are we going to do around compensation?”

Talking to other HR leaders can help you find the answers. Shelly’s been encouraged seeing communication in the HR community during this time of major upheaval.

How to pay a remote workforce

As we make this transition to more remote distributed teams, employers are wondering how the shift should affect compensation.

Based on information from PayScale’s remote work compensation strategies report, Shelly says there are three options for setting pay for remote workers:

  1. Employer location: Base salaries on the market where your company is located, regardless of where employees live. This approach ensures employees are equally valued and makes retention more likely.
  2. Employee location: A localized pay strategy is the most cost-effective for your company, especially if you’re headquartered in an expensive location. It can be competitive as long as you pay based on market rates in your employees’ locations.
  3. National or regional median: This strategy would work best for large organizations with a distributed workforce, especially for non-competitive positions.

Any of these could work, but not all of them would work for all businesses. What you choose depends on your business and financial goals and your talent strategy.

“Every business's strategy is different. Every business's growth plan is different. Every business's financial plan is different,” says Shelly. “And so we can't have a one-size-fits-all for compensation.”

To choose a compensation strategy, she recommends considering:

  • Which position are you recruiting?
  • Who are you trying to recruit?
  • What are your business goals?
  • What are your financial goals?

Answer those questions, and choose the strategy that will have the best impact for your organization.

Learn to say ‘I don’t know’

We’ve seen the trend for a long time that the future of work is in soft skills. Your technical skills will always matter, but the value of human skills like problem solving, empathy and humility is on the rise.

“The pandemic has shown us that [human skills] are important, they're important ways that make, in particular, leaders human to their employees,” Shelly says.

In the turmoil of a catastrophe like the COVID-19 pandemic, employees need to hear from their leadership. You may be tempted to stay silent because you don’t have an answer — and many of us don’t have answers. But in that void, employees will naturally create their own narratives. You give up the opportunity for a conversation between the employees and the organization.

You don’t have to have all the answers — but you do have to communicate.

That’s a two-way street: Communicate decisions and the reasoning behind them to your employees, and listen to their input.

“If you're in HR, and you are not out regularly, listening to your employees, if you are a C-level executive, and you aren't regularly listening to your employees right now,” Shelly says, “you're missing the beat. In this global pandemic, empathy, listening, all of those human skills, have never been more important.”

‘Yes and,’ not ‘Yes but’

If you want to get consistent, valuable feedback from employees, learn this simple phrase, “Yes, and…”

Learn to default to responding to employee feedback with, “Yes, and…” to validate their ideas. Too often our first response is a defensive, “Yes, but..” which dismisses their ideas right away. It’s easy to encourage employees to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences. But if they’re constantly met with, “Yes, but…” they’ll eventually stop sharing.

If your employees aren’t sharing? Maybe you need to let them know they can.

Shelly shares some of the best career advice she ever received was simply to speak up.

“I was working with our executive vice president of worldwide sales at the time,” she says. “And he said to me, ‘Shelly, I invite you to my leadership team meetings to hear your voice. You're not here to just quietly take notes. You're here because you have a perspective that is different than my sales leader.’ It was absolutely eye opening for me.”

She shares this story with all new talent she hires — especially the women, who often feel discouraged from speaking up.

“We have a voice, we're invited to meetings for a reason. Nobody invites somebody because they want an extra person in a meeting,” Shelly explains.

This article is based on an episode of Talent on the Rise, Brazen’s new podcast about transformative leaders and how they got a seat at the table. Subscribe in your preferred podcast app.

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