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Why We Replaced (In)Human Resources with 'Employee Experience' HR departments have an uncanny knack for being disliked by both employees and leadership. One company dumped HR and shares their experience.

By Gina O’Reilly Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Fairly or unfairly, "traditional' Human Resources conjures images of problems, paperwork, and processes with an unhealthy amount of bureaucracy and red tape.

Just recently, BBC's former HR Head, Lucy Adams, spoke out about how she and other senior managers had been "lawyered out" of any personality when it came to employee communications and handling employee issues.

Adams and the HR function were perceived as "being part of a more sinister hidden agenda." unsurprisingly, that sentiment hurt company culture and crippled the organization. There is a lot more at stake than just bruised egos when the HR function fails to be a positive beacon for both employee and company success.

Thankfully, this is but a cautionary tale for Nitro. We don't have an HR department. We turned old-school HR on its head and instead created Employee Experience (EX), a global function whose sole responsibility is to help make Nitro the best possible place to work.

Related: Outsource Your HR

Unlike traditional HR, which was focused on protecting the company, Employee Experience is first and foremost about protecting and supporting employees. As a highly-strategic function within our business, EX helps take the headache out of necessary employee administration (new hire onboarding, payroll, etc.) and makes it easy to navigate the complexities of modern employment, such as healthcare benefits and employee pension fund programs.

EX is here to drive the continuous development and overall job satisfaction of every Nitronaut. Your people are your business and, ultimately, your strongest asset. Therefore, EX is geared toward enabling, supporting and growing employees to be happy and successful. That ultimately boosts overall business success.

EX is centered around three pillars that we call the three Fs – the fundamentals, the fringe and the fun. Not dissimilar to Maslow's classic Hierarchy of Needs, the three pillars are categorized in relation to employee wellbeing and satisfaction on a scale ranging from must-have (the fundamentals), to important (the fringe), to nice-to-have (the fun).

The fundamentals. These are what we consider the basic must-haves for each Nitronaut – competitive compensation packages, excellent healthcare benefits, employee stock options, 401(k) and other retirement savings programs, life assurance, generous paid leave to support a strong work/life balance (including maternity coverage), a safe and comfortable work environment, and a strong core company vision and values.

We believe that this is the stuff that matters most to people, so we work hard to ensure we're at the top of our game and a true employer of choice.

The fringe. The fringe is just short of "must-haves" but still very important to the ongoing personal and professional growth of each employee. That includes career path development, continuous learning (Nitro University), doing good and giving back (Nitro Gives) and meaningful perks (catered lunches, fully stocked kitchens, Body and Mind Program, gym, commuter and car hire discounts, volunteer time off, "You Rock!" Rewards, a day off on your birthday, the list goes on).

Related: Is It Time to Outsource Human Resources?

Employees with the right mindset are much more interested in career development and personal growth than dry cleaning or dog-walking services, so offer perks and benefits that truly add value. The further differentiates Nitro in competitive talent markets.

The fun. Right at the top is where the fun sits and we have no shortage of it at Nitro. Regular events (Wine Club, trivia and movie nights, meet-ups), team outings, friends and family get-togethers, fully stocked office bars, happy hours, and so on.

Fun isn't something you can prescribe but is important when we're asking people to work hard. The challenge for every company is striking the right balance. Too much fun and you're not achieving business goals or encouraging a high-performance culture. Too little fun and you wind up with burnout and unhappy employees. We foster an environment where people want to be, whether they're working or taking some time out to play.

Great products and services create competitive advantage but happy, high-performing, in-it-for-the-long-haul people are the advantage that stands the test of time is people. In the words of author Amit Kalantri, "if you fulfill the wishes of your employees, employees will fulfill your visions."

Create the right work environment, and you'll not only consistently attract the best talent, but you'll keep it, too. Think about ditching HR as you know it and double down on EX.

Related: When a Family Business Should Outsource Human Resources

Gina O’Reilly

COO of Nitro

Gina O’Reilly is the COO of Nitro, a leading provider of document productivity and collaboration solutions. Part of the Nitro team since 2008, Gina has global responsibility for sales, marketing, biz dev, customer service/success, and operations, including employee experience and talent.


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