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In our Office Snacks series we interview members of our community to delve into their varied buffets of experience and come away with juicy insights and ideas.

Join us in our next installment as Adrienne Barnard, SVP, People Operations & Experience at Mainstay—shares her wisdom with us.

Hi Adrienne! We’d love to get to know you better, where are you based?

I’m just south of Boston MA—in the same town as the Dunkin HQ! Canton, MA.

How’d you get to where you are today?

Well that’s quite the journey! I think the best way to sum it up is that after a long period of time growing as an HR Generalist and then Director of Talent, I got self reflective. 

I focused on what filled me with joy and passion, and I stayed true to who I am, so I sought out places to work that would welcome that, provide me leadership opportunities, and allow me to help create environments where others could feel that too!

How does your typical day look, do you have a set routine you stick to?

The only typical thing about my days is that they vary! The key areas I tend to focus on daily are:

  • Connecting with people around the org
  • Moving projects forward
  • Supporting program roll outs
  • Strategic planning and thinking for how we grow the business.  
Download our 2024 Workplace Trends Report to stay ahead in a transforming HR landscape. Get insights from leaders on trends that will define your strategies in AI, talent dynamics, and DEI.

Download our 2024 Workplace Trends Report to stay ahead in a transforming HR landscape. Get insights from leaders on trends that will define your strategies in AI, talent dynamics, and DEI.

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How do you describe your job to others?

Usually I just say that I’m an HR Executive, but if they really are curious I tell them that I support the entire employee life cycle and am a trusted resource, advisor and coach to the leadership in the company.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Helping people!

What’s the most challenging?

Dealing with people. But seriously, as a problem solver, a helper and being results oriented, I can be impatient at times. So, since I am working with people bringing all their different approaches, goals and priorities to work, the paths to solutions and success are bumpy at times. It has been a great opportunity for growth for me though! 

What do you think is the biggest misconception around HR?

That we are just there to protect the company! And that we are an administrative function that should sit in finance or operations.

How has technology impacted the HR world?

It has enabled us to be a more strategic function. Technology has allowed us to automate and provide self service for some of the more admin-heavy aspects of employee data and employee life cycle management. I still remember a time when I would have to take paper benefit enrollment forms and enter the data into the systems for employees!

Which are your most-loved tools to help you with your job?

Anything that helps speed up the paperwork process! Right now we use Sapling for that, but there are lots of great tools that put the power in the hands of the employee to get their forms and info filled out! ATSs are fantastic tools too, and I love the UI of Greenhouse. 

They have really empowered a more candidate centric experience where you can review, communicate and set up interviews so much more easily to drive good candidate experience and provide much more streamlined hiring processes for recruiters and hiring managers!

What’s been your most successful initiative to date and why?

Revamping onboarding to make it interactive, engaging and truly provide the new hires with a deeper sense of the company, their role in the company and who to go to for what! 

office snack addrienne barnard quote graphic

My general recipe for a successful onboarding experience is: 

1. Spread it out. Don’t try to cram everything into a new hire's first day, it’s OK if some people are going through orientation on day 3 and some people are going through it on week 3—in fact their different tenures will help them learn from each other too!

2. Get as many departments in the company covered as possible, but keep it short and sweet. You want the new hires to leave with a sense of who does what and why, and knowing who to reach out to in order to go deeper as needed!

Example: chat about what the Client Success team does to set partners up for success, but don’t go into the nitty gritty of every partnership we have and their goals and product usage. 

3. Have the new hires “do something” as part of the process. Some kind of low drag and fun presentation to share back what they learned and a bit more about who they are is a great way to make it interactive AND help them retain some of the learning! 

4. Try to create a “set it and forget it” program. Arrange the format, delegate to subject/department owners to present, and then get it on the schedules in a recurring manner that only requires new hires to be added. This way you ensure the program actually happens and doesn’t require a big lift to schedule. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Slow down. But seriously—pretty consistently in the earlier part of my career I got feedback and coaching to slow down and ensure I was being holistic in my planning, partnership and actions. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge companies face in the current labour market?

Balancing mission, margin and employee experience. In a tight economy, with big goals and an empowered workforce, this will continue to be a challenge. It is really requiring executives and boards to get more clear on how they’re building companies to be successful and be great places to work for the talent pool of today. 

Lastly, and most importantly, what’s your favourite office (home or otherwise) snack?

Even though I knew this was coming, this is hard! I’m usually a salty persons—so I will say when we had good chips or popcorn in the office I was always happy!

What’s your favorite office snack?

Work in People and Culture? Want to share your ideas?

Applications to be interviewed are open to anyone (yes anyone!) so don’t hesitate to fill in the form for an opportunity to share your knowledge and ideas.

By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.