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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 below as Alana Fallis—Director of People Ops at Quantum Metric and occasional writer—shares her wisdom with us.

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

I’m currently based in Tampa, Florida. I relocated here from NYC during the pandemic.

How’d you get to where you are today?

Well how much time do you have? 😄

I took a roundabout pathway to HR. Believe it or not, my original goal was to be an actress, and I graduated from a serious theater conservatory 10 years ago. As I went about trying to find my way as an actress in New York City, I was juggling 3-4 jobs nannying, tutoring, working in restaurants, among other odd jobs to support myself. I started gravitating toward more small, young companies where I could do creative work, like writing and editing. 

Over time, I felt more compelled to build a meaningful career, and reflected on all of the things that I loved most about my previous jobs. An experience I had loved was when I was working in the back office of a restaurant and got to do some recruiting, for example. I loved language and communication, I loved being a part of people’s self-development, I loved making work a happy place to be for my colleagues. I looked for the intersection of my innate skills, what I enjoyed spending my time doing, and where there was opportunity in the market, and decided to pursue a career in HR. 

I had a couple of rules though, I wanted to work in start-ups because I wanted the ability to work creatively. I knew that an extremely structured corporate environment that was bureaucratic in nature wouldn’t suit me. To this day, I still couldn’t do what I do at a bank, for example. I tailored my resume to highlight my relevant experience, got my first entry-level job in HR, and the rest is history.

I hear a lot of people say that they “fell into '' what they do today, but I don’t feel that way at all. I didn’t get here by accident, I made a series of deliberate choices. I found my way by seeking out environments where I could learn and grow. I always took on challenging work and surrounded myself with experts. Today I’m Director of People Ops at a really awesome tech start-up.

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

I am very routine oriented. I wake up, take the dogs for a walk and listen to a podcast, get ready for the day, and sit down with my coffee, usually before 8am. Having a ritual that you look forward to for the day’s small moments makes all the difference. 

Also, I find it helps to block off time in my calendar for a break. Its hard to solve problems if you have brain soup, so sometimes that means doing a half hour workout or exercise break during the day.

Something I’m working on is shutting off at the end of the day. My company is a global one, with people in time zones all over the place, and the work, quite literally, is never “finished.” 

There is always something to do, so my adjusted goal is to get things to a place where I can leave them for the day and pick them up again tomorrow. Otherwise, I’ll find myself working on projects and answering emails well into the evening if I’m not careful. Start-up life! 

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How do you describe your job to others?

My elevator pitch: I lead a small but mighty team of HR practitioners. My team helps design and operate the employee experience, from when people join the company to when they leave, and every major moment in between.

office snack alana fallis quote graphic

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My true favorite is my team, I have an awesome team. But for the job itself, I love getting to take chances and try new initiatives and programs. Sometimes they work and sometimes not, but I have a lot of flexibility to try new things. I also love solving puzzles, and I get to do that several times a day in a variety of ways. 

What’s your biggest challenge as a People Operations leader?

The world changes so fast. It’s more important than ever to keep on top of the way the wind is blowing, and the changing expectations of your workforce.

At my company, we regularly do this by surveying employees and getting as much face time with the people in the trenches as we can. I also keep my finger on the pulse of what is going on in the world of HR more broadly by reading and listening to podcasts, etc. A good place to start is the excellent People Managing People podcast, and I also love Modern People Leader and People Problems.

What do you think is the biggest misconception around HR?

People were saying this when I entered the field and I still find it to be true: most leaders don’t see how to employ HR as a strategic pillar of the business. Yes, we can do office snacks, yes, we can help throw fun events, but “culture ambassadors” is a piece of what we do and not the whole picture. 

HR should be part of the strategic planning process, so that we can partner with senior leaders and executives to align our people to our business goals.

How has technology impacted the HR world?

In so many ways, but something that comes to mind: having a robust digital employee experience is becoming more and more important. The tools and resources people use have a significant influence on their level of satisfaction at work. 

Remote work is becoming the norm, and our HR tools have to not just support that experience, but leverage it for increased engagement and efficacy.

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

We built our entire employee recognition program on a platform called HiThrive—it’s an awesome tool. Their team helped us build a custom integration with our swag vendor, Sendoso, so that our employees can use the points they receive to shop for company branded merchandise right on our rewards platform! It’s super cool.

Additionally, we have been using Mystery to facilitate our company’s virtual events, and they do a fantastic job. They have so many great and creative options.

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

Implementing HiThrive, described above, for the reason that it blends employee experience with tech functionality and automation. Using the HiThrive tool, we have created a multifaceted employee rewards programs that includes: 

  • Allowing employees to give each other shoutouts using points that they can then use in a store, to purchase an Amazon item, a piece of company swag, a giftcard, or a donation to charity
  • An automated service award program, ie: automatic sends when employees hit a work anniversary
  • Automated new hire kits and swag sends
  • Ability to award monetary prizes for initiatives (for example, winners of a recent company trivia received HiThrive points as a prize).

We see sky high engagement with this tool, utilization ranging from 80-100% monthly, which is a marker of success.

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

This is not specifically work related, but it is my favorite: “Don’t let other people’s ideas of who you should be cause you pain, because they don’t have a clue.”

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

We continue to hear about talent shortages, and that remains true. Big tech companies in San Francisco will throw a lot of money at people, and that can be tough to compete with. Most HR practitioners know: in certain industries, your people could very easily walk if they just want to make more money.

But more than that, the pandemic ushered in a significant change in where we work, how we work and our relationship to work in general. It’s created this catalyst where people are prioritizing the search for meaning at work, beyond their base salary.

The expectations of the workforce are evolving, and while this is not a bad thing, companies are continuing to find themselves re-evaluating what they have to offer talent out there. 

Lastly, and most importantly, what’s your favourite office snack?

Oh man, it’s been a few years since I’ve been a regular at an office at this point, but what I could not resist were cheesy salty snacks. Herr’s Baked Cheese Curls are absolutely criminal! 

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.

Finn Bartram
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.