Human resources is a constantly evolving field. We talked to Kayla Dougherty Perkins, the head of HR for Wasserman, a global sports marketing and talent agency, about why and how human resources matters. She shared her insights on attracting and retaining good employees, company culture, and the importance of purpose at work.
How did you get into HR? What attracted you to the field?
In college, I was a communications major and all of my internships were in entertainment. I always thought I would end up in the entertainment industry, but I was offered an opportunity to be an assistant within HR in my first job upon graduation and accepted it. I was always told to never say no to a full time position because you never know what you might find.
In that first job I realized I’m a people person, genuinely caring about others and putting people first. It was then that I fell in love with HR and I feel lucky to continue to work in such a unique and transformative industry.
What is the mission of Wasserman and what are some of the key ways HR helps to achieve this mission?
Our mission at Wasserman is that we are all in the unrelenting pursuit of better. We are always pushing ourselves to do better for our clients whether those are internal– for us, that’s our employees – or external clients of the agency.
In HR, we are constantly asking ourselves how we can make our employees better and we do so through learning and development, training programs, and giving employees opportunities with different clients or to make changes in their career within the company.
How would you describe the internal culture of the company?
Our culture revolves around our core values, one of which is family. We treat each other like family in that we respect one another and of course we understand there can be differences of opinion and personalities, but at the end of the day we are a united family that stands together.
We take accountability for our actions and work as a team to make sure we get things done. Work-life balance and giving back are also big parts of our culture. We know the importance of being involved in organizations outside of the office to not only better yourself for the betterment of the company, but overall as an individual.
What is the biggest challenge you face in finding and hiring new team members?
The market has changed a bit in the sense that the talent pool is getting smaller and smaller due to new competitors coming into the fold every day, which naturally can be challenging. There are lots of companies out there that offer a plethora of employee perks on the surface – catered lunches being an example – that a lot of people put a lot of value in, but they don’t realize that there is so much more that plays into a company culture.
It’s important to try and show the different ways we bring value to our employees, their career, and their career development as opposed to focusing on external factors. For Wasserman, we want people to hear first-hand during the interview process who we are and what we value: truth, inclusivity, service, etc.
We want people to be hired and learn who we are as opposed to putting it out there for everyone. It can be challenging from a sourcing perspective initially, but I think once we start that conversation, it’s beneficial when attracting and retaining that talent.
Do you offer your employees any kind of flexibility, such as working remotely, or staggering their schedules? Why or why not?
Being that we’re in the service industry, we try to be as flexible as we can, but the needs of our clients have to be kept in mind. We have clients in varying locations and with different needs and wants so we try to staff accordingly and properly.
If an employee needs to work remotely for a personal reason, or needs to be in a city where we don’t have an office for the short or long term, we work with them to find a way to do so. We will do everything possible to accommodate various situations within our company. If someone needs to work different hours one day to accommodate their personal life, we try to be as flexible as possible.
What considerations do you think are most important for employees in taking a job with a particular company today?
I think it’s really important that each employee’s own personal values and goals match with those of company they’re looking to work for. It’s very hard to come to work every day and be motivated and passionate about what you do if you don’t believe in the long-term goal of that company.
When interviewing and looking for a job, it’s extremely important that people ask those kinds of questions in addition to thinking about their family and work-life balance. If a value that is important to you is not one you hear about in the interview process, maybe it’s not the right place for you.
Everyone wants the title, the salary, etc., but there is an unseen price tag that comes along with it. At the end of the day, if you don’t enjoy the people you work with and the company’s values don’t align with what you believe, it can be challenging. The environment in which you work is the biggest factor.
What are the biggest challenges in retaining employees and keeping them engaged?
We’re now in a world where people are multitasking in a way we have never seen. You’re at home working on your computer while you’re on social media and the TV is on in the background. The new generations coming in move at such a quick pace and always want to see something changing because that is how a lot of people are living their lives. Many people want to work on a new project every day or expect a quick turnaround and quick change.
What it comes down to is these days people get bored quickly. For us it’s about finding what somebody’s passion is and then focusing on that passion and helping them grow. In the end, they shouldn’t be worried about being here and there, but where they want to be and then continuing to guide them.
How do you see technology and the changing world of work affecting HR’s methods and goals?
When it comes to technology, we try to focus on ways that a service or platform can make our day-to-day life easier. We have an HR platform that does our year end compensation, learning and development, among other things. We also utilize an AI system on our recruitment team that helps us schedule interviews.
HR can be a very heavily administrative department because it’s a lot of following up and completing paperwork. If we can find systems that help us manage our day-to-day tasks, then we can focus on the larger picture and the strategic work of making sure our employees grow. From there, we can primarily focus on our mission and values as opposed to doing mundane day-to-day tasks that technology can now do for us.