It’s Time To Customize Your Approach

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Friedman CHRO Lindsay Gaal on why it’s more important than ever to look at each employee’s needs individually.

Post-pandemic, age-old HR challenges still exist—employee engagement, talent management, compliance requirements, compensation, healthcare coverage and additional benefits—but they are being handled much differently in this “new normal,” says Lindsay Gaal, COO and CHRO of Friedman LLP.

For Gaal and Friedman, an accounting, tax and business consulting firm headquartered in New York City, the key is considering each employee and  each area in which a company does business individually. She spoke with StrategicCHRO360 about how organizations need to think in terms of “several paths forward.”

How do you expect to foster employee engagement and enhance talent management in the post-pandemic hybrid environment?

There has been a very heavy focus on return to work, hybrid models and the logistics of returning employees to work. There has been very little focus on creating a culture, engaging employees and advancing employees in a hybrid environment. Historically there was one path forward, but now there need to be several paths forward and several ways to engage your employees, not just one way. A traditional Happy Hour only, a Zoom Only Happy hour—those won’t work anymore. We have to get rid of the mindset of doing things one way.

At Friedman, we have been planning for and executing a multi-prong approach to engagement and advancement. We have always focused on customization, however it is an even greater focus right now. It will be developed as the hybrid model is developed so that we can adjust, accommodate and engage our employees as their needs change. We always ask ourselves what is in the best interest of our employees. Now, that question will become what is in the best interest of each employee, creating several layers and levels to accomplish a customized answer for each employee.

For firms that have offices located in multiple states, how are HR professionals able to keep up their current workloads with the added pressure of compliance in more locations?

There are a lot of compliance nuances when hiring employees nationally, and for firms that did not previously do this, it can be tricky. Employment laws across states are very different, and in some cases states are in lawsuits with one another on how to define what it means to be an employee.

We have been investing in greater research, publication tools and resources where we can set alerts and customization notifications on compliance areas of impact to our organization. We are attending more compliance conferences and webinars than ever before and often on very focused topic points.

What about rising salaries in this ‘new normal’?

Market salary is a very loose term these days, with employees moving all over the country and gaining jobs from employers everywhere. You used to be able to offer salaries commensurate with the geography, but employees in lower income geographic regions are obtaining jobs in higher-paying cities and being paid those rates.

This is not an area that impacts us as greatly, since we are predominantly located in higher wage regions. With that said we are hiring nationally and we see the salary ranges increase in those lower wage cities and suburbs.

How do you plan to combat potential issues around employee healthcare coverage, and what creative ways are you implementing to improve your other benefits offerings?

For years the focus was on rising healthcare costs, but ironically during Covid that was less of a focus. There was less of a concern due to managing all the “new” that came with COVID and also because there was a decrease in usage of health benefits because people were not leaving their house to go to the doctor. I anticipate that 2021 and 2022 will be the worst years yet for healthcare.

At Friedman we are looking toward alternative and creative healthcare models. There are ways to model your health plan using alternative methods, but still providing the same level of coverage and care for your employees. We are working hand in hand with our broker to ensure we are looking at every possible way to lower cost and mitigate risk. In addition, we are looking at new fringe benefits to align with our multi-prong approach to engaging employees.

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