The SocialMadeSimple Show- Smily Sharma Ep. 12
On this episode of the SMS Show, Ryan Chiasson, sits down with SocialMadeSimple’s Human Resources Generalist, Smily Sharma, to discuss all things HR: what businesses underestimate about the role of HR, how to use creativity to keep company culture alive in a remote work setting, and more HR advice that businesses won’t want to miss!
“Everyone wants to grow at a company… it’s important for us to not just know what value they bring to our organization, but also what value we can bring to them.”
Ryan: Welcome back to the SocialMadeSimple Show – I’m your host, Ryan Chiasson! Today, we are joined by SocialMadeSimple’s human resources generalist, Smily Sharma. Smily, thanks for hopping on the show today with us!
Smily: Of course! Thank you for asking!
Transition: The SocialMadeSimple Show
Ryan: Why I was so excited to have you on is because company culture has probably shifted SO much for all of the companies that are working from home right now. Trying to keep us connected, trying to keep us out of our day-to-day routines. Since you’ve come on board you’ve brought a lot of great ideas to the table but before we dive into all of those, let’s go over a quick background of you and how you ended up at SocialMadeSimple!
Transition: Getting to Know Our HR Generalist
Smily: Sure! So I actually have a little bit of a rollercoaster of a background, if you will. I studied psychology at UMass Amherst and did a Master’s in education and I originally worked in the mental health field. I really wanted to stay there, but after working in it for some time, I came to the realization that this is something that might not work out for me, specifically, in the long term. Throughout the years I’ve done HR-related tasks in pretty much every single job that I’ve had. So moving forward, I really wanted to not only do it as a part of my job but really make it my full-time career. This is why when I came across SocialMadeSimple, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to learn and build an HR department from the ground up.
Ryan: Yeah! I mean I’ve been with the company for just under 2 years now, which is still crazy. And a lot of those HR responsibilities in the past were put towards the executive team. And we really have a well-established company culture for SocialMadeSimple, but I think a lot of what we have talked about, within the culture committee and party-planning committee, has been about keeping everyone more engaged and getting a lot more involved as a whole. Even with past after-hour events and even during work which I think is crucial because it really just breaks up the monotony of my everyday tasks. This leads me to my next question is: I have no idea what your day-to-day is, so let’s start there!
Smily: The biggest thing I’d say I’m working on is updating our performance management system. I know we had briefly talked about it yesterday in the all-hands meeting, but I want to say that definitely takes up the bulk of my day. Trying to create something that is going to be useful and helpful to everybody, again, from the ground up. In addition to that, I do try to find creative ways just to keep all our employees engaged throughout this crazy remote life we’re in right now. And really valuing the feedback you all provide in surveys, and pretty soon we’re going to be adding hiring to the mix as well!
Transition: The Hiring Process – What It Looks Like & How It Has Changed Working Remote
Smily: Just with COVID-19, everything has to be done online and for me, I’m very much of a people-person and I like to have that office interaction. That’s how you really get to know everybody, meet them, and really show them around. I think that really helps build the image of the company as well as make you think, “this is a place I want to come to work”. Being remote all the time has kind of stripped that away entirely, so it’s definitely new. Definitely different. What I like to do when it comes to hiring, is first, talk to the hiring manager to understand what the full responsibilities are going to be like. What kind of experience we’re looking for, what background, what employees would potentially like to welcome to the company, and setting up that job description afterward.
When those applications do come in, my goal is to see not only if this person has the basic requirements, but also to really catch a glimpse of their personality. Getting a sense of their personality past online or the phone interview. Send that back to the hiring managers, and then they are the ones who really ask the more in-depth questions about their experience and what workload they bring. I think it’s very important for us to not just know what value they bring to our organization, but also what value we can bring to them.
There are a million different companies out there, why are they going to choose SocialMadeSimple? That really needs to be highlighted as well so the person then does feel welcome and think, “okay this is the place I want to grow”. As I said, it is hard to do that right now with covid but definitely always striving for that!
Ryan: Yeah 100%. It’s one of the biggest things that I looked at, especially when I was looking at applying for SocialMadeSimple. I think the biggest thing with the millennial generation going into the workspace, is that I think our expectations are a little high. That’s just my personal take on it, anyone can roast me for that in the comments! The biggest thing is the remote company culture. Just wanting to be in a place where you feel like you can be yourself, you feel heard, you feel like your executive team cares about you, and they have candor when it comes to any type of feedback and reviews. Just like you said with the performance system! Just being able to track everything and really shine a light on it. There are always going to be areas of improvement for every employee but, at the same time, we have to look at it from a more positive light. It’s always something that we can be reminded of and this creates a more organized way to track everything. It’s funny because before you came on, at the office, we had a content room – well we basically called it the fulfillment team room. When I first got in there I thought: Alright, I’m here, I enjoyed everything I saw on the website and this pretty much matches the bill, everyone can kind of be a little bit quiet, but as soon as we got joined in a group setting or when we’re not working ten everyone’s personality comes out.
That’s how I knew I’m at the right company!
Especially when the executives loosen up a little bit, it’s fun to see, which might not always happen (they can roast me for that too if they see this). It’s always good to see!
Transition: Why HR Plays a Vital Role In Any Business
Smily: When it comes to HR, I do believe we’ve really come a long way from the traditional personnel only. It’s not just about paying people or just being there for admin-related things. I think it is definitely critical even when it comes to business functions, to help companies succeed in hiring the right employees, keeping them engaged, retaining those employees, and really supporting their growth and development. I think HR plays a key role in doing all of that, but also developing, reinforcing, and changing remote company culture for the better!
Ryan: Absolutely! The biggest thing that stands out to me, from when I first started, was just how transparent everyone at the company is. Even from the C-team all the way down to being a content specialist. Everyone is very open and willing to share and willing to listen to everyone. Everyone’s opinions matter, so I feel like this is what has set us up for success with the rest of the company.
Transition: SMS HR 2021 Goals & Initiatives
Ryan: Now would be a good time to speak on the things that you have implemented for our company or even just the things we have told you we wanted to see and were a little too shy to ask for.
Smily: Yeah! The biggest one for me that comes to mind, is recognition. Let’s be real, 2020 was a bad year. With covid, people losing their jobs, business not doing well, it’s scary! It’s very scary for any employee – you don’t know if you’re going to have a job tomorrow. So it was tough! With everything going on, I think it’s important to recognize our employees and continue to work with them. They have continued to work and continue to provide results. You can have all the technology and perks in the world but, at the end of the day, if you’re employees don’t know that they’re appreciated or you don’t make it known, it doesn’t send a good message. I think that’s primarily one of the reasons why people try to look elsewhere, the fancy laptops can only get you so far!
Ryan: I think you make an extremely good point there! I think anyone during 2020 had those exact thoughts! For example, I am providing for my company, consistently providing results, and even if you don’t hear anything good or bad, then you just assume.
Smily: I feel like then you just almost assume it’s negative, right?! You’re thinking, “Oh my God am I losing my job tomorrow?!”. It’s tough! To answer the second half of your question there, in terms of improving the remote company culture, I think the biggest thing is that is an ongoing process that still is really implementing that performance management. I think having those clear goals and recognition for everyone to know this is what they have to do to succeed. And I think everyone wants that!
Everyone wants to grow at a company, you don’t want it just to be a stepping stone for a job and then you’re moving on. I know for a fact that we don’t want that either. So definitely the performance management of it, and recognition. Like I said yesterday, we are going to start trying out that new reward recognition program and see how it goes. So I won’t say too much, since it just started! But I think putting those things in place will definitely help us, not just for 2021, but in the long term!
Ryan: Absolutely! You and I have only had a handful of conversations – maybe only one since you started. Really just to get an introduction and through the party-planning committee and things like that. What was your initial approach when you first started with the company? Did you have a plan of action? Did you kind of come in and learn on the fly and just say what you think makes sense?
What was your thought process there?
Smily: I would say it was a little bit of both! I definitely worked with Brad a lot in terms of getting up to date with the benefits, payroll, and how all of that was done. And I think Brad was definitely a crucial part in being very open to the different ideas that I had. He was very encouraging of those which I really think went a long way! So I think the biggest thing for myself to do, was stepping out of my comfort zone to set those 10 to 15-minute chats with you guys to really get to know you, ask you basic survey questions as well, and really get to put a face to everyone. It also helped all of you, to put a face to me! Thinking, “okay, this is somebody that we can go to with any concerns or issues down the road”.
So I think that was the biggest thing that I’ve done since starting remotely!
Transition: How To Keep Employee Morale High When Working Remote
Smily: When coming into a new position especially when everything was totally remote, I’m not going to lie, I was very nervous about it. I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to work. Am I going to do the right things? Am I going to get the feedback? So I think another great thing that I learned was that just interacting with executives like Brad, Corey, and David, they are very open. I can go onto Google Calendar, put something on Corey’s calendar, and he just says, “Alright cool, I’ll be there”, and they talk to me about anything that I need. And I think that’s one of the things that might get a little underestimated when it comes to an executive. I think it’s something that really helps people stay connected as well and people should really take advantage of that! Especially now that we have introduced those C-Suite office hours as well, it’s important to use those opportunities on an ongoing basis to ask questions and really stay connected.
That would definitely be the simplest way of keeping morale high – staying connected. Like I said before, we’ve implemented things such as SMS Family Feud, trivia nights, etc. I definitely want to keep that going in 2021, at least once a month. This way everyone gets to see each other, everyone is communicating not just with their direct team in their department, but everyone across the company is really getting a chance to forget about the work for a minute and have some fun!
Ryan: Absolutely! It’s funny because when I first started, I would see David come into the office with his sunglasses on and think, “that’s the CEO”. He’s like the cool guy CEO with the sunglasses until he gets into the office. He’s definitely going to see this and laugh.
Even when you talk about the C-team being so open! One of the first days that I was working, David and I just had a candid conversation about Tesla and just random tech things which are often what I find us talking about. It’s so nice just to build those connections past: “Yes, I work in business development and you run the company”. Even in our daily sales meetings, the first few minutes we’re always candidly joking with each other and just getting things started in the morning. It’s nice and one of the first things I noticed when I started and it has always drawn me into being more open with them.
Transition: Looking Forward to 2021 Goals For SMS
Ryan: Enough about 2020 because it’s in the past! Even though there was a lot of bad that came out of it, there was still some good too. For 2021, what are you most excited about in terms of new goals, initiatives, etc.
Smily: Yeah – I have a lot of goals for myself so I won’t bore you all with those. Overall, I really want to focus on evolving our company culture so our employees continue to stay engaged and are happy working at SMS overall. I really want to play an integral part when it comes to that, which is why you guys get bombarded with surveys! It is very important for not just this year but past 2021 as well.
Ryan: Yeah, definitely! Even as sometimes cliche the surveys might seem sometimes, it’s important! Even if we do want it at the beginning of the year, and we only have surveys annually, how will you know when things change in the company throughout the year? Especially when we are not in the office and you can’t pick up on things while having those group meetings, being in group settings, and just having candid conversations day-to-day.
Transition: A Final Word of HR Advice to Businesses
Ryan: If you could give a statement or piece of advice to other businesses working remotely, what would it be?
Smily: I’d have to bring it back to welcoming healthy feedback! Your employees are the people doing the job day in and day out, and we should really take what they have to say into consideration. I really do believe that if someone is truly invested in the company and maybe a little too shy to have that conversation with you but they’re expressing opinions in a survey, it helps a company grow in a positive direction overall.
Ryan: I couldn’t agree more and I’m super excited to see how our company culture will evolve in 2021, especially if we can get back into the office to see each other. Don’t want to jump the gun though!
Thank you, again, Smily for joining us today! Of course, all of you folks can check out the rest of our episodes on our YouTube channel and on our website at www.socialmadesimple.com. Until then, I will you folks next time!