This article accompanies Agents of Change.
From turnover to time-to-hire, every HR challenge should be approached with a multifaceted solution in mind, says Jasmine Viera.
That has been the spirit behind the bulk of her work at Crawford & Co., a claims-management company based in Atlanta. As HR director, Viera brings a process-oriented mindset to the company, which employs 9,000 people worldwide.
“There are often several different problems at once, and several different solutions to a problem–if you just Band-Aid one area, you’re not really fixing things,” she says.
A Multipronged Approach
Viera kept that idea in mind when, in 2016, a year after joining Crawford, she turned her attention to the company’s turnover rate, which was particularly high for new hires in the business division.
At Viera’s direction, her team–which today consists of seven employees–developed a behavioral-based interview guide and training for 130 managers, based on a survey targeting key employee competencies, to enhance the employee-selection process. Viera also revamped the exit-interview process, including changing a paper evaluation to a digital one, with open-ended questions.
Within a year, the turnover rate in the business division decreased from 14.2 percent to 11.2 percent.
Also in 2016, the company decided to transition work in its IT unit to India to cut costs, resulting in a reduction of force in the 175-person department. Viera oversaw the selection of which employees would be laid off–including leading a needs assessment and an adverse-impact analysis–and ensured compliance with federal regulations.
“I had done some reductions in the past here and there but this was the largest project I had ever managed throughout my entire career,” Viera says.
In addition to drafting manager communications, Viera advocated for re-employment services for workers who were affected.
“We didn’t have the money that a lot of large companies do to hire outsourcing services to help employees with these types of things. I had to come up with ways that were inexpensive but that would still set up employees for success in their next career,” she says.
Viera filed Trade Adjustment Assistance petitions in each of the three states affected to secure training and job-search assistance for employees. She also worked with state and local agencies to organize on-site meetings about unemployment benefits and other resources. The company offered to pay for training for affected employees to become licensed adjusters.
“At the end of the day, employees came up to me and said, ‘We understand this was a very difficult decision but we want you to know you did everything you could to help us.’ As HR professionals, we have to have empathy but we also have to set our emotions aside and get through some tough decisions to be strong for the employees.”
Employee Feedback is Key
Ensuring the voices of employees are heard has been a cornerstone of Viera’s work at Crawford & Co.
During the turnover-reduction project, Viera launched stay interviews to “understand what causes [employees] to jump out of bed in the morning or what causes them to hit the snooze button,” she says. “That was very insightful.”
She convened round-table interviews with 350 employees who worked in high-turnover departments to glean insights on the root of the turnover issue.
“It was really huge for the employees to feel like their voices and their concerns were a part of this process,” she says.
Employees were also an integral part of a project Viera led to boost applications and reduce the time-to-hire rate for Broadspire, Crawford’s third-party administrator that services claims. She launched an employee-feedback campaign to encourage workers to share their thoughts about Broadspire on job site Glassdoor, on which the company also began advertising open positions. Viera made sure policies and practices were in place if negative employee feedback arose.
“If [negative comments] are not addressed,” she says, “people will fill in the unknown with their own truths. The employer should respond, show them that they care, that they’re heard. And the employer needs to know if something is going on so they can dig in, understand it and fix it.”
The campaign led to a sharp increase in positive employee feedback on the site, and an uptick in the company’s Glassdoor ratings in every category. It is also credited with helping reduce Broadspire’s time-to-fill rate from 48 to 35 days.
Proactive, Not Reactive
While Viera has spent the last decade honing her HR skills–holding titles of HR trainer, manager, supervisor and now director along the way–she didn’t set out for a career in HR. After college, she worked in sales before getting her feet wet in training.
“It was neat to see that, in order to achieve your business strategy, you have to have the right people working for you and keep them engaged and motivated,” she says.
Viera has sought to keep herself engaged and motivated throughout her career by proactively learning as much as she could about the HR profession. Shortly after getting into the field, she pursued her PHR certification but failed by nine points on her first attempt. She enrolled in a formal prep class, expanded her HR network to garner real-world applications and secured the certification later that year.
“I tell people that you can get into HR, but you have to show that you’re serious about it,” Viera says.
The same holds true for her work at Crawford & Co.
Viera spent much of her first year on the job learning the ropes of insurance, an industry that she says struggles to garner a foothold among young talent. She recently took over the attraction and selection initiatives for the company’s domestic talent acquisition, and aims to get ahead of the ongoing talent shortage by changing the narrative about careers in insurance.
“If you want your career to keep moving forward, you cannot sit back and wait for the business to present problems to you,” she says. “As HR professionals, it is our responsibility to insert ourselves, ask questions, seek to understand the business strategies, the pain points, research the situation and offer solutions that take into consideration the business needs, the law–because there’s almost always guidelines–and what’s best for the employees.”