How COVID encouraged this leader to innovate, perform under pressure
During the five years that Angie Wideman-Powell has worked at ClearCompany, a talent management SAAS provider, she has been promoted three times. One year after being hired as a customer success manager, she was promoted to HR business partner. Two years later, she moved up to HR director. Then in April, she became vice president of people.
Her career climb reflects her unique abilities to produce under pressure, especially during the pandemic. Just last year, for example, she developed and implemented creative practices to retain employees instead of laying them off; enhanced the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; co-led a coronavirus response team; and helped office workers transition to remote workers.
Like many other organizations, COVID forced the company to delay hiring for several months. But instead of laying off recruiters, HR redeployed them and others working in stalled areas to different departments like finance or marketing.
“They were incredibly grateful that the company was keeping them on and busy,” says Wideman-Powell. “They were appreciative of getting an opportunity to try something new and build experience in [different] areas.”
In March 2020, HR published a best practices guide for working from home that contained tips from current remote employees about how to stay productive, structure your day and be successful. A similar guide was published for managers.
Still, the pandemic triggered more problems than solutions. Wideman-Powell met with people managers at the organization every quarter, held weekly recruitment meetings with hiring managers and conducted employee surveys every six months. The information gathered was invaluable. She knew which employees were top performers, who was struggling or at risk of leaving, how satisfied employees were with their compensation and who needed to be managed up or down.
Across state lines
In the past, HR had been focused on hiring workers in the five states the company was registered in to avoid administrative issues and reduce compliance and reporting risks. But now, some employees wanted to take advantage of this remote environment and move elsewhere.
Wideman-Powell proposed an effective solution to the company’s leaders: adopt a PEO (professional employer organization) structure. This strategy allowed the organization to expand hiring into new geographic areas and access new talent markets. Senior leaders bought into the idea, which enabled the organization to recruit nationwide. Within six months, the company had increased under-represented minority groups by 5%.
Although the company was previously dedicated to building a diverse and equitable workforce, the Black Lives Matter movement strengthened its commitment. Wideman-Powell led several diversity initiatives to increase awareness among employees and make meaningful change.
Among them was the creation of a DE&I task force composed of individuals from every level and department who focus on community, hiring practices, learning and products. Job postings were also revamped to exclude language that may unintentionally disqualify underrepresented groups. Identity information was then added to the company’s application so HR could analyze applicant sources for diversity and promote diverse representation.
Likewise, employees can also join an online book club to discuss books that focus on a wide variety of DE&I issues, ranging from race and gender to disabilities.
“Angie’s commitment to her organization’s wellbeing was what set her apart from others in a significant way,” adds Rising Stars judge Leslie Mikus, VP, talent leader, at Merge, a marketing and advertising agency. “From ongoing and thoughtful DE&I practices to a proactive and scalable COVID-19 response, she exemplifies HR leadership under pressure.”
In the center of it all
Looking ahead, Wideman-Powell plans on gaining more knowledge and experience in compensation and building an automated, self-service training system for employees to replace many of the company’s in-person workshops.
Her personal interests are just as diverse as her abilities. While living in Hawaii for 11 years, she raced outrigger canoes and won many island races. Several years ago, she relocated to Colorado, began competing in triathlons and spends time with her dogs.
Wideman-Powell has also moved from working at the edge of HR to its core. Now armed with three HR titles and direct HR leadership experiences, she is getting the recognition and opportunities she deserves.