Michelle Berg, CPHR at Elevated HR Solutions, Top 10 Inspiring HR Leaders of 2022

Deborah Mcfarlane
Chief People Officer

Michelle Berg, CPHR at Elevated HR Solutions Certificate

“Listening Uncovers Opportunities”

As the United States’ largest light industrial staffing company, EmployBridge places more than 400,000 contract workers in jobs annually. With a deep focus on delivering specialized workforce solutions to a diverse set of industries since the 1990s, the company’s colleagues (employees) are passionate about championing their associates and helping them unlock their potential by finding fulfilling job opportunities that change their lives in meaningful ways.

In March 2020, Deborah Mcfarlane joined EmployBridge as Chief People Officer to lead the HR organization and serve as steward of its cultural evolution. She focuses on delivering an exceptional experience through empowering every colleague to have a voice – an essential part of building a high-performance culture capable of innovating quickly to get ahead of the changing needs of the customer.

Throughout her 20+ years of HR leadership experience, Deborah has learned the importance of having a listening strategy embedded in culture: the closer you are to the source of the feedback, whether that’s colleagues or customers, the more relevant the solutions will be. Direct feedback from a broad range of people gives you an understanding of the mass sentiment to ensure your HR solutions are truly meeting the needs of the business and your people.

As a people-centered leader, Deborah’s HR team focuses on creating and enhancing processes for data gathering and analysis for HR KPIs. The newly formed Talent team stood up a listening strategy to obtain direct feedback from employees who were experiencing significant change. This included establishing a new tech-enabled, scalable listening platform that was easy to use and able to synthesize the data to deliver actionable insights to leaders.

A listening strategy done right ultimately will help challenge beliefs on base cases, uncover facts and give you a deeper understanding of your people and how you can better connect to solve company challenges. Her HR team collects direct feedback from colleagues through quarterly pulse surveys, which helps to inform HR solutions that drive high performance, develop new career paths, and create the best experience for colleagues. Leaders are empowered to see global trends in the results and can take actions at the local level to support colleagues.

In addition to gathering real-time feedback on employee sentiment, this listening strategy supports creating differentiated talent strategies and service-delivery models – a combination of all these pieces is key to delivering an HR organization of the future, one based on data-driven solutions.

To better drive service delivery, the HR team established a People Success Center (named by colleagues) to support colleagues, associates, and the associate relations team. Colleagues and associates can open a ticket or call to connect with an HR specialist for answers – giving a constant feedback loop and data feed that helps drive benefits and program solutions for colleagues and evaluates these solutions for clients.

Along with the feedback gathered through the People Success Center, the company’s marketing team conducts an annual Voice of Blue Collar Worker survey. This survey enables a better understanding of the retention and engagement drivers among their workforce.

Looking at a combination of survey data and case details from associates who call the People Success Center helps inform what solutions they can offer associates to create better work conditions, enhanced benefits, and more. The information is sent back to business leaders to ensure those voices are heard and to create strategies with clients to help manage the workforce and keep associates engaged.

“Our people come for the business and stay for the purpose,” says Deborah. “They are passionate about helping change other’s lives through placing them in good job opportunities at great companies.” Deborah believes the differentiator in their tenure comes down to culture and fostering an environment where colleagues feel they can be honest and candid with their feedback because of a listening strategy that supports solving real issues transparently and leveling on what can and can’t be done.

Deborah and her HR team’s biggest upcoming initiatives will focus on enhancements to onboarding, leadership development, and incentive compensation. “We know from direct feedback that people want career development, and we want to drive retention of our talent and help find the best possible talent to service our customers,” says Deborah.

Improvements to onboarding will get their colleagues up-to-speed as quickly as possible with the information they need to support their customers day-to-day. They will focus on knowledge growth and on development through multiple roles so that regardless of where an employee sits, they will be a one-stop, full solution with a complete understanding of the organization and the industries it serves. Incentive compensation designs are about making sure top performers are rewarded to drive retention and motivated to deliver the best customer experience.

“Keeping HR initiatives aligned to the business needs and leveraging these differentiated talent strategies is how you do best-in-class operations, add M&A capabilities, and create high-impact work while delivering on initiatives most important to colleagues,” adds Deborah.

EmployBridge HR solutions are cutting-edge because they are listening directly to their colleagues and associates to address the issues of today. “Listening uncovers opportunities,” notes Deborah. “HR solutions are not one size fits all – the goal is to gather data globally and implement locally.” Having the listening mechanisms in place to do this has been one of the biggest HR priorities and has enabled the organization to remain nimble. IE




Deborah Mcfarlane
Chief People Officer


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