Episode 363: Being a Disruptor in HR With Jessica Williams, VP of People at Refine Labs

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Episode 363: Being a Disruptor in HR With Jessica Williams, VP of People at Refine Labs

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I consider myself to be a disruptor in the HR space, and I don’t want to do things like they’ve always been done. So I have a whole quote on, like, burn it all down and let’s rebuild it.

Episode 363: Being a Disruptor in HR With Jessica Williams, VP of People at Refine Labs


Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Workology.com, as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools, and case studies for the business leader, HR, and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:37.86] Welcome to the Workology Podcast powered by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. These are two of the courses I offer. One is for certification prep and the other is for HR recertification for leaders. This podcast you’re listening to is part of a series on the Workology Podcast that is focused on the roles and responsibilities of the Chief Human Resource Officer or CHRO. The CHRO is sometimes called the VP of People or the Chief People Officer, and this is an executive-level position that deals with managing human resources as well as with organizational development and implementing policies of change to improve the overall efficiency of the company. The CHRO podcast series here on Workology is sponsored by the HR Benchmark Survey. Share your HR insights at www.HRBenchmarkSurvey.com. Now, one of the reasons I have kept doing this series is because there is a lot of mystery around that CHRO role. I want aspiring CHROs to know the types of skills and experiences they need in order to promote into a CHRO role. Along with us hearing from senior HR leaders about how they’re partnering and collaborating with each other and their executive team and peers. But before I introduce our guests, I want to hear from you. Text me “PODCAST” to this number. It’s 512-548-3005. 512-548-3005. Text in the word “PODCAST”. Ask me questions, leave comments and make suggestions for future guests. Did you love this interview? I’m just going to tell you, you are going to love this interview and I can’t wait to hear from you. Today, I’m so excited to be joined by Jessica Williams. She’s the Vice President of People at Refine Labs. With an educational background in psychology and sociology, Jessica applies her experience in DEI leadership, development and people management to help employees seeking upward career mobility or new employment opportunities. She is also the founder of Hidden Gem Career Coaching, where she utilizes a consulting approach to understand the candidate’s past and future in order to showcase their abilities as a hidden gem in corporate America. Jessica, welcome to the Workology Podcast.

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Jessica Willams: [00:02:59.37] Hi. I’m so excited to be here.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:03:02.01] I’m so excited to have you, too. I want to talk a little bit about your background. Talk to us about how you got your start in HR, and how has your work evolved over time into your current role?

Jessica Willams: [00:03:12.27] Absolutely. So in my current role, as you said, I’m a Vice President of People. I’ve been in the HR people ops space for about ten years. So ironically, I had no clue what HR was when I got into it. I actually signed a six-month contract to be a recruiter when I decided I wanted to defer my medical school entrance and for six months I said, okay, I’m going to do this job. And I had moved to Houston and I decided this was going to be just a placeholder, but that was not the case. Ten years later, I’m still doing it. And so I had an amazing mentor in my first job who basically sat me down and said, I can make you a generalist. I’m going to teach you everything that I know. In this way, when you want to move into management, you will have a knowledge of a little bit of everything. And that’s what she did over the next three years. I stayed there and when it was time to leave, she actually was the one to tell me, You should apply to be a manager, but it’s not going to happen here because it’s it was a small HR team of two, which still is to this day. And so I moved up. To move up I had to move out. And so I did and I’ve progressed since then. Most of my roles have been one and only so being the one and only HR department, department of one, which has its own challenges. And here recently, in my last couple of jobs, my newest, I think, the niche for me is startup early stage companies being that first HR hire to build out the team, build out all the processes and procedures really excites me because I, I consider myself to be a disruptor in the HR space, and I don’t want to do things like they’ve always been done. So I have a whole quote on, like, burn it all down and let’s rebuild it

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:04:54.87] I love it, I love it, and I love that you can come in and set it up for success and thinking about the future as the organization grows. You don’t have to deal with the problems of the past. It’s, it’s yours to to kind of shape for the future. Talk to us a little bit about the size of your company and your team, as well as the organizational structure in terms of where you sit, who do you report to?

Jessica Willams: [00:05:23.52] Yeah. So right now at Refine Labs, we have around 125 employees as we speak right now. I report directly to the COO and my team that’s up under me, I have eight people. So I have two people in people operations. I have a director of employer branding, which is my secret weapon. And then I have the rest of my team is on the talent recruitment side. So we sit directly with operations. So actually as of today, the enablement team, which is our training and development team, is going to be moving to my team as well. So we will have people, operations, and enablement all sitting together under one umbrella with me, which is going to be very impactful because I think if you think about people operations, we are enablement services. We’re doing everything to enable everyone to do their job effectively. And so positioning ourselves in that way and also seeing like, what are we doing to effect business outcomes, not just quote unquote our employees happy. I hate when people are like, Oh, we’re here to make people happy. No, we’re not. What is the business outcome and how are we impacting? That should be the priority for all business units and that includes people operations.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:06:36.03] Spoken like a strategic HR leader. It’s not just about happiness or hiring and firing. It’s mostly not about those things.

Jessica Willams: [00:06:44.40] No, we can’t make somebody happy. We can make sure that you’re safe in your job. You are psychologically safe. You can speak up, you can do all those things, but we cannot make you happy. So. Yeah.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:06:55.53] Yeah. That’s an inside job.

Jessica Willams: [00:06:57.36] Yes.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:06:58.74] One thing I wanted to ask you. You mentioned employer branding for such a small organization. Can you talk us through why you have or how come you have an employment branding person on your recruiting and HR team?

Jessica Willams: [00:07:11.22] Yeah. So this is actually the first time in my entire career that I had somebody dedicated to employer branding previous to this. First of all, I didn’t even know what the terminology employer branding,even though I was essentially tasked with doing the job, it was just rolled up into what I was already doing. But when I started at Refine Labs, my COO and I sat down and we thought through how are we effectively recruiting, how, what is going on on the career side. Like all of these small things that I was technically doing, but I did not have the time to give it my all. And so we talked about bringing in someone like how do we get someone that this is their bread and butter and this is what they do all day? And I just want to clarify, when I think about employer branding, I think about they are there to enable the recruitment team to find the people that they need. So you can think of it the same way as like marketing and sales, working together, employer branding and recruiting, working together.

Jessica Willams: [00:08:04.20] And even though we are small, we decided to invest in someone so that we want top-tier talent. And the way to do that is how are we branding ourselves. And I will say with Refine Labs, we have, most of our employees are below the age of 30. They’re very tech-savvy. And so we need to be in all the places that they are if we want them. So that means TikTok. I’m not personally on TikTok, but we have a TikTok account and that means all the places that they are. That’s where we need to be. And someone that is focused on employer branding could get us there. And it has changed everything since the day he started. Now, mind you, he has many years of experience in employer branding. It has been phenomenal, even rewriting our job descriptions to make it almost clickbait whenever people are scrolling through social media. So even though small things that you don’t think of when you think of recruiting, you should in this day and age, be thinking of.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:08:58.17] I love that. And, and I love that you all are using TikTok for, for recruiting and employer branding campaigns. Keep in mind, for those who are listening, that Refine Labs is in the marketing agency space so this totally makes sense to me. So, we’re not saying that every company that has 150 employees should have an employment branding person, but this works for them and their culture and the kind of people they want to attract.

Jessica Willams: [00:09:28.35] Absolutely. So. And like I said, I’ve never had it before. So in any other job I’ve ever had, I’ve never had somebody doing it. It was an expectation of the people operations team, which means it normally fell by the wayside. So having somebody that this is all he does is think about how are we branding ourselves? What is the messaging? A lot of it is internal communications as well, because not only are we trying to get new employees, we are trying to we have to almost sell to our current employees of what are we doing for them while they are here.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:09:57.57] So I want to talk a little bit about you stepping into this role because you joined Refine Labs in 2021 and which is the second year of the pandemic. Let’s talk about maybe some of the biggest, biggest challenges that you faced in your first few months on the job. Talk to us about that.

Jessica Willams: [00:10:16.15] Yeah, this makes me laugh because the first, when I was interviewing and I told them this, when they told me they did not have an ATS system, I laughed and said, okay, well, if you hire me for this job, I want that. I want a contract signed in the first week. And that’s exactly what happened because they were tracking everything with Google Docs. They were, it was just a hodgepodge of getting things done. Now, mind you, they were doing it. It was getting done. But the time and efficiency wasn’t there. So the number one challenge was there was nothing in place. So which is my strong suit, because I want to create what I think is the correct way to do things. However, it’s a double-edged sword because there is nothing in place. So week one was an ATS system. Week two was deciding that I did not want to do an employee handbook. What we’re going to do a culture playbook. So, to truly help people understand what is it like to work at this company, where it is fully distributed, you’re going to be working wherever you want to work. We have people that are nomadic. They literally travel around the world and we have other people like me, that work in my living room.

Jessica Willams: [00:11:15.91] So that was the first activity. My first three months was I’m going to write a culture book and we are then going to use that culture book for recruiting and then also to help our current employees see the vision. And so that was the first three months of really me digging in. We did conferences with employees, I did one-on-ones, and it’s really hard to write a culture book when you don’t know the culture. So it forced me to literally meet with every single employee and at the time we only had 45 employees. So I met with all 45 people and ask them, what is the culture right now and what is, what is our, quote-unquote, North Star? What do we want our culture to be in the future? So the biggest challenge was knowing that I had to create something from nothing and then wanting to build a culture and be mindful of how we were building it. Because a culture is going to get built whether you shape it or not, so you might as well shape it into what you want it to be.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:12:09.31] So I got a little twitchy when you started describing the fact that you didn’t have an applicant tracking system, but it makes sense. 40 some employees still, I just can’t imagine.

Jessica Willams: [00:12:22.51] It was mad. I was like, Oh, I’m not doing this.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:12:26.02] No. And working on your identifying the culture and then being able to communicate that and putting that together into something that can really help candidates and employees understand what y’all are about.

Jessica Willams: [00:12:40.33] Absolutely.

Break: [00:12:40.99] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell and you were listening to the Workology Podcast powered by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. We’re talking about the role of the CHRO with Jessica Williams, the Vice President of People at Refine Labs. The CHRO podcast series is sponsored by HR Benchmark Survey. Share your HR insights at HRBenchmarkSurvey.com. Before we get back to the interview, I need to hear from you. I need you to text 512-548-3005. Put in the word “PODCAST” on your text. 512-548-3005, “PODCAST”. Send me questions, comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you.

Break: [00:13:30.89] Benchmarking and data is crucial to HR leaders. Workology’s HR Benchmark Survey is an always-on survey and just by taking the survey at HRBenchmarkSurvey.com, you’re signing up to get comprehensive quarterly results, white papers, and other research from the survey right to your inbox. It takes 10 minutes or less to complete. Visit HRBenchmarkSurvey.com.

Compensation Mapping as an Initiative to Disrupt the Workplace


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:13:57.78] So you mentioned at the beginning that you are a disrupter, and I love that. I think that’s fantastic. I want to talk a little bit about one of the ways that you are disrupting the workspace. And there’s an initiative that you all have created that’s focused on a company minimum living wage. So I want to know more about that and then the analysis that you did to use for compensation mapping and then the kinds of conversations you had with company leaders about this leading up to the change.

Jessica Willams: [00:14:29.58] Yeah, so that is a big initiative for us. So as of May 1st, we rolled out a minimum company wage. So every employee at Refine Labs makes a minimum of 75,000. And this has been transformative for the employees that it impacted. For employees it did not impact, it impacted our culture in such a positive way. And then for recruitment and our employer brand. So the way this came to be is for several months I have been researching. I’m a learner at heart. I’m always seeking to learn whether that’s books, podcasts, I do it all. And one of the things that I had been watching was there is another company out of Seattle that had instituted something like this years ago. And I heard about them and I had basically been following them to see how did it work out? Did it work? And they had instituted a minimum wage of 70,000, and this was several years ago. So when I was doing the research, I started with them as a case study and then did a lot of research on like what is a livable wage right now, knowing that at Refine Labs we don’t have people in a certain place. I am personally located in Dallas, Texas. Half of my team is in California. I have four in New York. They’re wherever they want to be. So a physical location was not going to be what we use to test it out because that wouldn’t be important to us. So, took the information from this case study, did some research, found several documents, but the most important was was from Princeton University that talked about livable wages and where people are and all of those important things.

Jessica Willams: [00:16:02.94] So, I took all of that data and I think it’s very important as a people leader to bring people along on the journey. So I knew that if I took this information and went directly to my CEO without betting it out with the rest of the leadership team, he would shut me down. And I’m used to that because I go to him all the time and he says no, and then I come at it from a different angle. But this time I decided to be very strategic. So I first went to my COO and got her input on how, how would this work in our operations? Is this something that fits the culture that we want to build? And brought her along. So once I got her input and we were on the same page on the business impact, we then went to the CFO and because, obviously, this involves us changing people’s salary, this was going to have a major impact. And I actually thought I would get the most pushback from her, which I respected, because she is there to protect what are we spending the money on. So she and I did an analysis on the current state of the business. How many people would this impact right now? And at the time it impact, I believe, about 10% of our employees. And then what is, how is this going to impact us in the future, knowing that we have roles that were projecting out from this day forward? If everybody is making 75,000, what is the impact to the business? So we did all of those things, realized this is worth it for us to do it.

Jessica Willams: [00:17:24.33] And then me, COO, CFO went to the CEO and mind you already had their buy-in and sold it to him and said, This is what we want to do. This is the business impact, this is the why behind the what. And he said, Absolutely, let’s do it. And we happen to have an offsite coming up. So we announced it when we were actually all in person together in San Diego. And it was amazing. There were tears shed. There were people that were coming up to me that this did not impact. So they made well over 75,000. But because we did this, they were so proud. So but I want to say there is always some naysayers. So it’s not like this was just I had an idea and it went through. There was definitely pushback. I actually got pushback from employees, from employees and leadership that had an employee, maybe, on a tip or performance improvement. And they were like, Oh, you’re giving them mixed messages. What if we just don’t give these people the increase? In my stance was absolutely not. If we say everyone, we mean everyone. So even if you’re in the middle of needing to improve your performance, the baseline is 75, you will make 75, and we will continue to do performance management. So I want to just say that because even when I look back, it wasn’t as easy as I just made it seem. There were many, many steps.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:40.47] I think it’s important. I want to go back to what you talked through. And I feel like when I put this podcast together and then we produce like a snippet, the process of you walking people through the change and the people that you involved in the change. You didn’t just say, Hey, this is what we’re doing and this is what’s happening. There were steps and you brought in different key members of the leadership team to help you along the way to make this a reality. And I think that is such an important part of the change management process that we don’t often think about.

Jessica Willams: [00:19:18.82] Absolutely. It was bringing people along with me, and I think it’s the advocacy part. I knew that I could make the case, but it is a stronger case if I already have two other people in the C-suite that are brought along with me. And a lot of times I think that’s where we missed the mark. We just decide, this is a great idea. I’m going to champion for it whenever you could have gotten other people to advocate with you. And so that is why I decided to do it that way.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:19:42.79] It just makes the change management process. First off, executive buy-in is so much better. And then for others, as you’re walking through and making this announcement, hopefully, you have different key people in the organization that are willing to support the change and talk others through it so that we can move from kind of announcement to acceptance maybe a little bit more quicker.

Jessica Willams: [00:20:07.48] Absolutely. And that absolutely did happen. It was like once we got the A-OK from the CEO, it was pretty quick. Like, I started, I started setting up meetings to talk to the people this was going to impact. So we actually told them before we told the rest of the company because we didn’t want them to find out like in a large conference room with everyone. So we told the people that it was going to impact in one-on-one meetings. So I started that the next day and I was already updating people’s salary in my system. So yeah, we were like, as soon as I got a yes, I started making it, making it happen.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:20:40.81] I love that and I really hope that others take from this in terms of trying new things and not necessarily following the old way that we’ve always done things in human resources with geolocation and compensation by geography. And there are different methods. There are different strategies that can work for you. You just have to step out and do your research and then put it into action.

Jessica Willams: [00:21:09.13] Absolutely. And one of the things I would say is don’t give up. Like, I truly, I get told no all the time and I, I don’t care. I will still keep going, like, I will. Someone will tell me no and I will ask why. And then I will come back in a different way to address why they said no the first time. So I was very determined that even if the CEO would have said no, I was still going to go back and come back again. So I think sometimes we get it’s disheartening if you’ve worked hard on something and someone says, No, not or not yet, but don’t give up like that’s. I don’t believe that. That’s the end of the conversation.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:21:43.57] I love that. Well, I want to switch gears just a bit. You talked about the importance of career coaching, and this is a lot of what you do as well. I want to talk about career mapping, and you mentioned that you rolled this out fairly recently. I wanted to ask what the impetus behind the initiative was and is and how it’s going.

Jessica Willams: [00:22:06.16] Yeah. So we recently rolled out career mapping for every single employee. And the reason we did it is we have quarterly employee engagement surveys and we receive feedback from employees that basically said they don’t see a path upward or forward or if they do, they don’t know how to actually get there. And I have found this in all of my career to be very common that people say that they want to move up, but they do not have instructions on how to do that unless they have a good manager that will explain it to them, that will coach them. And as we know, that’s not the case for most people. So we decided to create these career maps for every single department. So every department has a master file of career mapping and it shows you even if you don’t want to be a manager. So there’s a leadership track and there’s an individual contributor track because I am of the mindset that everyone is not meant to be a leader. We have a lot of people in leadership right now, not at Refine Labs, but in general that are battlefield promotions. They’re there, they’re good at what they do. So they must be a good manager too. And that is an absolute lie. So we have made it okay that if you want to be an individual contributor, you can still move up and you can still advance without any direct reports and it will not impact your compensation.

Jessica Willams: [00:23:18.40] So that’s a major thing because in most companies you must have someone reporting to you for you to get more money, which even as I say that out loud, sounds so silly to me, but that is the truth at most places. So we decided to do these career maps in every department and to divide it up between if you want to be a leader and if you want to be an individual contributor, knowing that people will change their mind. Like someone can say right now they’re on an individual computer track next year, maybe they’re ready. They’ve done some training and they want to go to the management track and that is okay. And we have made them visible to everyone. So every department has one and everyone in the organization can see every department. So if I, for example, was on the people team and thinking, Oh, eventually I want to go over to marketing. I could see those tracks and I could talk to my leader about what were the core competencies I need to get there. So it literally outlines what core competencies you need, what skills in your current role do you need to demonstrate to get to the next level. And this is also a part of our strategy for performance reviews, which we do every quarter.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:24:20.98] This is great, and I think that you are absolutely right. It’s okay to change your mind. You might want to be a manager one day and then I mean, heck, I want to be, like, seven times a day I change my mind. Like, do I really want to have people on my team and at my company? Or do I want to be a freelancer solopreneur? I mean, it’s kind of a giant squiggle, like, somedays the answer’s yes. Sometimes, it’s no. It’s okay for employees to be the same way. And you are providing them with a kind of a roadmap and career map that helps them understand if they do choose whatever choice they, they make, how to get there and what that looks like.

Jessica Willams: [00:25:01.69] And I will say that the salary is on these documents. So we have we believe in transparency. So there is no reason to hide what the salaries are. So when you go look at the career maps, you will see this is the salary range for this role. And if this is something that you want to do, this is the range that everyone that is in this role is in. So that’s another big thing is that we don’t hide. You don’t have to go through me to see what the salary range is for a role. And we also put it out there on our job postings. So we also make it transparent for employees that are currently here as well.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:25:33.46] Do you feel like because you’ve done that, that you have higher quality candidates or candidates who are more serious about the job when you have them on the job postings and the job listings?

Jessica Willams: [00:25:44.86] Absolutely. And I actually tell my recruitment team it needs to be a part of the first conversation. In the first intro conversation, you need to be talking about compensation because we don’t want to waste their time and we don’t want to waste our time. And I, I know from all the things that I’ve seen and from my own experience that a lot of times we like companies keep that information like, Oh, well, let’s get to know each other first. No, you don’t need to get to know me at all if you can’t pay me what I want to be paid.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:10.57] Absolutely. I just happened to be on a conversation in a Facebook group and the candidate was saying they had 11 interviews before they brought up the salary conversation, which is insane. Like, I would not talk to someone, myself if I was interviewing for a job, which I’m not, but if I was, the first thing would be like, what is your budget for this position?

Jessica Willams: [00:26:32.53] Yeah. If it’s not listed, I’m already red flag and then if it’s not brought up in that first conversation. No, shut the door.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:39.73] Moving on. Moving on. Let’s talk about interesting perks. I think this is such a fun topic and something that I think more employers are thinking about. Refine Labs has a no meetings on Friday rule. What other perks have you been able to introduce to them?

Jessica Willams: [00:26:57.37] Yeah, so we have the no meeting Friday which was in place before I got here, which is a wonderful thing. We now have also implemented Summer Fridays, so we have every other Friday off in the summer to allow people to go spend time with their family or quite frankly, do whatever they want to do, but take some time off. We give people their birthdays off. We actually just won a scholar, a Google scholarship so that every single one of our employees is going to be able to do a learning and development through Google to get certified in, like, project management or around, items around marketing. So we’re actually rolling that out in the next quarter. Every single employee has been given a Google scholarship. And so that is something we’re very, very excited about when it comes to learning and development. Another thing is unlimited PTO and not just unlimited PTO. We actually have a minimum because a lot of times people say, oh, you have unlimited PTO, but it’s actually the culture doesn’t allow you to take the time off. We don’t believe in that. So we have a minimum. You must take at least a week off every six months, and we have it set up in our system that if you don’t, it will trigger me and my People Office Manager to reach out to you and ask you why you haven’t taken time off.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:28:06.97] Can you add me to your list? Because I need, I need somebody like you that calls me and says, Hey, Jessica, I notice I haven’t put any time off on your account.

Jessica Willams: [00:28:17.02] Like, what’s going on? You need to put time off right now. But it actually has been very helpful that we, we even have a Vacation Slack channel where everyone puts their vacation pictures and tells us about it. So we have a culture of take your time off. And we, I push the leadership team to put their vacation pictures to talk about their vacations so that it is in our culture that you are allowed to take your time off. And for example, our CEO just got back from Greece. He put his photos in there. He put an insight into all the things that he did to show that he is taking time off.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:28:48.13] I love that. I feel like half my friends have been in Greece in the last month.

Jessica Willams: [00:28:51.94] I want to go, too.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:28:53.83] I’m going to the Dominican Republic in a few weeks and I’m, I’m looking forward to that. You know, this vacation thing is no joke. And sometimes we as leaders have to do the thing and tell our people to take the day off. In fact, that’s what I told them. I told Kelly on my team on Friday. I was out on Thursday. I was like, I think you need to take the day off.

Jessica Willams: [00:29:14.11] Yeah.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:29:15.13] Please do.

Jessica Willams: [00:29:15.46] You have to be an advocate. Because if not, you create a culture where you have unlimited time off, but people are actually aren’t taking it and they’re burnt out, and we don’t want that. So we decided this is what we’re going to do.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:29:25.57] I think it’s fantastic. Time off is so important because honestly, I am the most creative and productive once I get through the deluge of emails but when I come back and I have some of the best ideas while I’m on vacation.

Jessica Willams: [00:29:38.41] Yeah, we have, our CEO is so funny because every time he comes back from a vacation, he’s like, I had, I have had an epiphany and like tell us the whole company about his epiphanies, whatever they might be. And another thing I want to say that I forgot is we actually have a mental health week off as well, so we give everyone a week off. The company is basically shut down so that everyone can take time off at the same time for mental health.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:30:01.54] And when is that for you and the time of the year?

Jessica Willams: [00:30:04.72] So that is at the end of the year. So right after the week after Christmas, we are shut off, we are done and we are taking time off. And we do that because, obviously, we know that if you take a day off today, you still have work waiting for you when you get back. But that’s not the case if the whole company is closed.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:30:20.02] Agreed. Yeah. You can’t you can’t just give it to somebody else because that’s never fun. Like you go on vacation, but your entire team suffers because they have to do all your work the week that you’re out. Let’s talk about career advice. So what is the best career advice you have ever received? Talk to us about that.

Jessica Willams: [00:30:37.87] Ooh, well, this is a little bit unconventional career advice because it came from my mom when I was little, but I was actually a very, very shy kid. And one of the things she used to always tell me that I still think about and she would say, even if your voice shakes, you still speak. So, I say that and I tell my team this like, no matter what happens, you speak up, you, you advocate for other people. You do what you need to do but don’t back down just because you’re scared. Scare doesn’t mean stop, it means go. So no matter what happens, even if your voice shakes, you still speak.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:11.29] I love that. Like, we should be doing the things that scare us.

Jessica Willams: [00:31:14.41] Yes, absolutely.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:15.43] Right? That means we’re out of our comfort zone and we’re in the growth zone. So I love that. And I definitely think you embody that as we’re walking through all the different projects and initiatives and how you approach HR, you are, are definitely in that space and I, and I love that and thank you for, for coming on here and sharing all your just helpful resources and points of view. Really appreciate it.

Jessica Willams: [00:31:44.05] Absolutely. I think it’s fun to have these conversations because, to be honest, I want everybody to be doing these things like I want everybody to feel the sense of joy that I feel going to work. But I know from my own limited experience that I have not always felt this way. And so it takes a special company and like a company that really cares but that can support you in that way. So I want more HR leaders to be doing the same thing.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:32:11.33] I love it. Well, so if let’s say you happen to have an opening at Refine Labs in HR, where can people go to apply for, for that job?

Jessica Willams: [00:32:22.16] Absolutely. So they could go to RefineLabs.com/careers or I am very, very active on LinkedIn. And I have a lot of people that reach out to me about jobs just on, you know, sending me a direct message. So I absolutely welcome that. You can just type in Jessica Williams at Refine Labs and find me on LinkedIn.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:32:40.04] Perfect. Well, we’ll link to your LinkedIn profile, the careers page at Refine Labs and any other resources that you think are, are important to, to share to the HR community. I so appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today. It’s been wonderful.

Jessica Willams: [00:32:54.23] Yeah, this has been amazing. I think now is the time with everything that has happened in the world for HR to be different. And we, we can and we should.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:33:03.38] I love it. Thanks, Jessica.

Jessica Willams: [00:33:04.79] Thank you.

Closing: [00:33:06.11] The CHRO podcast series on Workology is sponsored by HR Benchmark Survey. Go to www.HRBenchmarkSurvey.com and take our HR Insights survey. We want to hear from you. I love these interviews. I love this topic. It is so interesting to me. I’m such a nerd. I love hearing about CHROs, VPs of People and how they’re connecting the dots to strategy and operations and just enhancing the overall business operations. The CHRO or VP of People doesn’t just lead HR within the company. The company depends on the leadership of this person to set standards and benchmarks for everything, from company culture to career mapping to learning and development. I love talking to Jessica. I love all these things that she’s doing and I thank her so much for taking the time to share her experiences with us today. If you loved this podcast interview or if you didn’t, whatever, I want to hear from you too. Text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. That’s 512-548-3005. Put in the word “PODCAST” when you text me in. You can ask me questions here and leave comments and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. Thank you for joining the Workology Podcast powered by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. This podcast you’re listening to is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. That’s me. That’s you. Let’s change the workplace together. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell. Until next time you can visit Workology.com to listen to all our previous Workology Podcast episodes.

Connect with Jessica Williams.



– Jessica Williams on LinkedIn

– Careers at Refine Labs

– CHRO Job Description

– Episode 352: Three Elements for Growth, Change, and Strategy With Noelle Burke, Chief People Officer at ESW

– Episode 358: Thinking Like a Business Leader to Drive Success With Sung Hae Kim, Fractional Chief People Officer

– Episode 359: Being the Supplement to Communication With John Reeves Whitaker, CHRO at NPH

– Episode 361: CHRO Series – What Skills and Experience Do You Believe Are Absolute Requirements for a CHRO Role?

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