A blonde woman wearing grey jacket and pearls, smiling against white background.
Niamh Graham. Image: Globoforce

How can HR adapt when employees aren’t strictly motivated by money?

11 Feb 2019

Niamh Graham is the vice-president of global HR at Globoforce, overseeing all HR activities that focus on the recruitment, retention and alignment of the company’s workforce.

Globoforce’s vice-president of global HR, Niamh Graham, has a lot of responsibilities. She oversees all HR activities for the company, both in Ireland and the US.

One of her main responsibilities involves driving Globoforce’s internal recognition programme and managing its company culture and values as the organisation continues to grow and expand.

Prior to her current role, Graham held several leadership positions in operations and she has worked with large multinational music companies.

What are the biggest HR challenges facing Globoforce right now?

Globoforce is expanding rapidly so, for us, attracting the best talent to meet our growth is one of our biggest challenges. Key to attracting the best talent is developing a positive culture, and that is one thing above all else that we look to foster at Globoforce.

We see that the idea of culture is one of the things most sought after by applicants. Organisations with a central focus on culture also reap the financial benefits, as it encourages productivity and benefits each performance.

A company may think it has all the infrastructure in place – pool table, beanbags, hangout spots and baristas – but that does not define an organisation’s culture. Ultimately, it is the people who create and uphold the company culture by embracing its core values. I believe if we can continue to get employees to embrace this at Globoforce, they are more likely to embody the culture as they grow with the company into the future.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on recruitment?

Placing our employees at the centre of everything we say and do is critical to our success. We provide an exceptional employee experience in a work-human culture and that is how we’ve won many awards from Great Place to Work.

I oversee all HR activities that focus on the recruitment, retention, development, engagement and alignment of Globoforce’s workforce globally. I am also responsible for managing Globoforce’s internal recognition programme and driving the company culture and values as we expand in Ireland and the US. We are all recruiters at Globoforce and hiring great talent is in all our goals – I am always on the lookout for new Globostars to come join us!

What are the HR technology trends and opportunities you’re capitalising on?

We are always looking for new opportunities and tech trends to keep our employees motivated to do the best work and be happy at work.

We recently introduced a new performance development solution, Conversations, to build stronger, more trusting relationships between managers and peers. It also creates a growth mindset to help improve performance and build team skills with continuous developmental feedback, check-ins and shared priorities.

We believe that when the manager-employee relationship is transparent and authentic, career conversations and aspirations become part of the normal conversation, and this is the starting point for understanding our people’s growth and development aspirations and opportunities. The solution also facilitates crowdsourced, peer-to-peer feedback, empowering employees to ask for feedback from their peers and to take control of their own growth.

From working with our clients, we see that monetary incentive alone does not necessarily increase performance. However, it is a feeling of appreciation and ‘connectedness’ that really moves the dial.

Within Globoforce, we challenge our employees to think differently, take on new skills, and embrace the latest trends and innovations to improve our products and our culture. One great example is GloboInnovation, an all-company competition that we run annually that invites ideas from different teams aimed at improving the business or creating a new product. The ideas have the chance to make their way into our product roadmap, which raises the internal profile of the individuals who developed the idea and provides a proud source of accomplishment.

In addition to this, we recognise that to attract the most talented employees, we need to create an exceptional candidate experience and, to achieve that, we have improved our hiring process to put the candidate at the centre by investing in more targeted recruiting, adopting competency-based interview processes and personalising job descriptions with videos from Globoforce employees.

What has been the biggest culture change within your organisation in the last five years?

Moving into our state-of-the-art 45,000 sq ft space was a big change for the organisation, but a good one. We took time to plan and design the office for it to represent our mission to inspire greater humanity, productivity and teamwork in the workplace.

The space is all about putting the person at the centre and has digital walls, floor-to-ceiling glass windows as well as collaboration spaces, relaxation areas, a games area and our very own WorkHuman room, which offers a private space for yoga, meditation and amenities for new mothers.

We have grown rapidly and the new space has allowed us to achieve this without compromising on our values.

What key strategies are you using to prepare for the future of work?

Our business is centred on supporting and preparing organisations for the modern workplace and the future of work. At the heart of this is our R&D function. Globoforce is different in that our core products and innovation services are developed in Dublin, compared with Irish operations of other tech companies that often play a supporting role to Silicon Valley.

The team also unveiled WorkHuman Cloud – a new suite of human applications to recognise and celebrate employees’ work and lives, creating stronger relationships and more socially connected teams. Unlike other HR software solutions that manage data, governance and bureaucratic tasks, WorkHuman Cloud is human-centred with a social, transparent, crowdsourced and team-driven approach in tune with how work gets done today.

By empowering all employees and managers to celebrate career and life milestones, recognise ongoing work achievements, and offer developmental feedback, managers can create a stronger, more authentic workplace.

Companies have enough HR software to manage bureaucratic tasks. Instead, the focus of WorkHuman Cloud is on your people – connecting teams, developing talent, and creating a positive workplace by celebrating employees for who they are and what they do. That’s what unlocks creativity, innovation, and drives performance. We see WorkHuman Cloud as the heart of the future workplace.

What is the one thing you think HR teams should stop doing, or start doing differently?

The truth is that employees are no longer motivated strictly by money. They want to work at organisations where they feel appreciated, recognised and can be themselves at work. The ultimate guardian of driving a culture like this is the HR team.

HR managers can have such a pivotal role in an organisation by ensuring values are upheld across all departments, and it doesn’t take a big step change in an organisation to make it happen. Simple things like appreciating and recognising your employees will boost retention rates.

Allowing everyone in the organisation, including peers, to recognise and thank each other helps to champion the employee who emulates the right behaviours, and can set a precedent for others in the company. A social recognition programme can help an organisation formalise this culture of thanks and will lead to increased productivity and stronger employee connections.

What resources can you not live without?

Websites, research papers, analysts and conferences are all great ways to learn and keep on top of things – but honestly, I cannot live without people and human interaction. Collaborating, brainstorming, sharing stories, hearing different perspectives and, most of all, spending time with colleagues (and, importantly, having a laugh together) energises and motivates me hugely!

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