EP 66: Implementing Talent Optimization into Your Business with April Moldenhauer

Implementing Talent Optimization into Your Business

We speak on the subject of talent optimization within organizations quite often on this podcast, and this is something we often help other organizations implement, as well. The use of proper talent optimization within a company can make a huge difference in its success. So, in this episode, we will be speaking with April Moldenhauer, Human Resources Director at Amwood Homes, about her experience implementing this into her organization using Elevated Talent Consulting.

What You’ll Learn In Today’s Episode

  • Several reasons you may want to implement talent optimization. (4:10)
  • How to create retention and comradery. (7:00)
  • How to recognize your team members in a way that feels meaningful to all involved. (9:30)

Actionable Takeaway for HR Professionals

  • Set clear expectations and review your data. (18:15)

Actionable Takeaway for Executives

  • Bridge the gap between you and your supervisors. (16:50)

Ideas Worth Sharing

“Everyone is different, so when you look at your employee culture and recognition, how do you have that tailored to everyone?” - April Moldenhauer Click To Tweet

Resources In Today’s Episode

Enjoy the show? Use the Links Below to Subscribe:
















Click Here for Audio Transcript

Traci Scherck: Welcome to talent optimization my name is Tracy sherck and i’m the chief talent officer here at elevated talent consulting.

Traci Scherck: And we have a special treat for the next two weeks, and so often we talk about tailing optimization and all the different disciplines of it.

Traci Scherck: In kind of chunks as standalone and today, and next week, we are chatting with one of our clients and how we actually implemented talent optimization in their business and their experience with with that so April Moldenhaur how’re welcome to the show.

April: Thank you i’m so excited to be here.

Traci Scherck: yeah and so April is with Amwood homes and April has a really interesting story and April has a really interesting story of how she entered into HR with blood and really grew an HR department from the ground up so April, would you want to share with us.

April: yeah i’ll just kind of i’ll start with my story, so I.

April: Prior to and what homes, I actually worked in Amazon, so I was in a bigger kind of corporation, this was my first journey and a family owned business.

April: And I have always had a background in operation, so I actually started as our operations manager at a production facility in Madison Wisconsin.

April: And I started in August of 20, which is quite a trying time, if you look at the world and everything that was happening at that point.

April: But on top of coven and workforce challenges, we also had some operational challenges within the business and one of those particularly was our production facility and montezuma so.

April: i’ll just kind of start with the timeline so march of 20 obviously Covid came.

April: Building industry at that time really kind of went in a different direction you were looking at people that started remodeling homes, rather than building new homes and.

April: That was a kind of an adjustment to the new life that everyone was living, working from home, and so, then we ran a few different promotions with our customers and really got a major influx of orders, and so we.

April: were kind of like a fire hose right where you had all these orders and the hose that we’re somehow trying to make their way out and so that was really the summer of 2020 and our story.

April: Then comes along August of 20 and August of 20 I believe August 10 the ratio of storm went through iowa’s i’m sure many of you remember and.

April: Okay, but that is ratio, I was just gonna say so as ratio is a ratio is an in kind of described as an inland hurricane so kind of a mix between a hurricane and a tornado.

April: But, really, really strong winds and so in the matter of 15 minutes, we had a plant destroyed in iowa so.

April: At the time, we had to production facilities, one in Madison one in Toledo iowa and like I said in the matter of 10 minutes we were down to one plant with an influx of orders so trying to.

April: Balance that time I stepped in two weeks after the storm happened and.

April: operationally I really focused on how we increase capacity and Madison and when you look at that you really do that two ways right one is increase efficiencies and productivity is.

April: The other is increased the the TEAM members that you have on your team and so quickly put on an HR hat and looked at recruiting and staffing and.

April: Really, the best way to optimize our operations and continue to grow our customer experience and so that was kind of my original journey then take another.

Traci Scherck: Lessons about that, though.

April: yeah.

Traci Scherck: So we’ve got April of 2020 so Covid just hits we have folks scared to death to come into work, because of.

Traci Scherck: What the new protocols are stating we’ve got a plant that just kind of .

Traci Scherck: Just disappeared overnight.

Traci Scherck: yeah or the middle of the day.

Traci Scherck: um and then we’ve got never really having an HR department, there was new leadership that was just brought in house staff morale.

April: yeah I you know I staff morale I really think the masks impacted staff morale and so many different ways, you know you looked at.

April: Just your daily connection wasn’t there you know people came in and did their job, but.

April: I would say satisfaction was really down in the dumps you know you had break rooms that were spaced out you didn’t have that camaraderie amongst employees, then you add the mask and you lack that verbal connection and nonverbal connection with people.

April: And so I wouldn’t say it was poor, but I also wouldn’t say it was great I think the biggest downfall, we had was our onboarding experience so.

April: You had people coming into an organization that didn’t know people didn’t have a means to connect with people in the break room.

April: didn’t have team Member cookouts anymore, because we weren’t you know that was just wasn’t a normal thing with Covid, and so it was really.

April: All the walls of getting to know your teammates gone, and so we really had to look at how do we bring people into the organization and optimize why they want to be here for us and so.

April: We looked at it very differently and we looked at our position title, so what were we recruiting for and initially I started with assemblers and that’s kind of the job title we were trust assemblers.

April: But really when you look at the meat of what we do we’re framer, so we are trying to attract the talent of people that are framing out in the field and bringing them just indoors and so they’re framing inside rather than working in outside all the elements so.

Traci Scherck: positives to that it was yeah so we we changed our job title to really like highlight what we do and highlight position in itself.

April: Then we looked at compensation right market analysis and that was kind of multi multi factor, so we looked at what was our base pay.

April: How are we advertising that base pay what was our referral bonus for employees, again we know, one of the best ways to bring people into an organization is through referral.

April: Not only do they truly know the inside of the organization, but they have that buddy that natural connection that keeps them engaged every single day.

April: And then we looked at sign on bonus, so I think we quickly saw at the end of summer for 2020 sign on bonuses went from $200 maybe at most upwards to $10,000 for some truck driving position so trying to balance, what was the right.

April: way to implement that and the right amount, so we ended up doing a combination of a sign on and retention bonus, so we have it built out but it starts now and kind of goes progressively through the year.

April: And I will say that that brings a lot of natural conversation people come up to their supervisors and say what’s my next payment coming, so I think it just kind of naturally build that connection and conversation between manager and supervisors session, please so.

April: After that we then looked at saying.

Traci Scherck: yeah I love, how you said that like these unintended consequences right of the policies that we put in place, so we want to.

Traci Scherck: Create retention and we want to create camaraderie we didn’t think that our retention bonus was going to create camaraderie throughout the year, and yet Those are some of those unintended bonuses that are a gift from coven right, so we can say okay.

Traci Scherck: yeah this thing.

April: Right and I, you know I mean I we’ve kind of like done some friendly like a recognition and competition amongst the team to have like.

April: Someone that recognizes that a certain number of employees, like let’s celebrate that so again it’s a way for us to think differently about how.

April: Our team Members feel engaged to work at and what every day, and I think.

April: that’s one thing that’s been lost, specifically for us in our corporate environment is that day to day office talk right that.

April: The talk about the coffee pot that used to occur that now all of our team is remote and you lose that sense of.

April: hey what did Sally do over the weekend, you know and it’s and we’re trying to build some of that back in and.

April: I would say 2020 2021 we had a really strong focus on production and now as we head into 2022 it’s looking at total organization, how do we rebuild from a very quick change and pivot to go remote for something that’s never happened in our organization in the past.

Traci Scherck: yeah, and so what have you learned.

Traci Scherck: yeah.

April: I you know I think I learned every day, every day, I continue to have conversations with employees and.

April: I hear different things for stuff depending on the location, I also think, depending on the department and.

April: I think that brings a big learning in itself but everyone’s different, and so, when you look at your employee culture and recognition.

April: How do you have that tailored for everybody, you know, some people want.

April: The big recognition, where they have their name posted on a PowerPoint across the business that everybody sees and can celebrate maybe a success that they have.

April: Other people want something that’s more intimate I want a handwritten Thank you note that’s left under my keyboard that no one else sees but feels really meaningful to me in my heart,

April: um so one thing that we also did that I should have mentioned earlier, was we created core values at the end of 2020 and so that was really mission critical in our organization to say.

April: What is the foundation of our business and what do we as a team stand for, and so we created eight different core values foster integrity delivering a positive customer experience commit to the plan.

April: Practice good health, safety and well being so we looked at all of those as our foundation and, ultimately, in turn, this year will actually be creating a team of our culture committee so.

April: Looking at those core values that’s the heartbeat of our business and how do we really integrate those into our business, and so one of our tasks is our core value Culture Committee will be.

April: Looking at what our events, we want to have every single month so, is it a team Member luncheon is it a potluck is it.

April: Just simply celebrating St patrick’s day with cupcakes in the break room What are those different events that we can do that either bring people from remote work into the office just to celebrate to grab a treat to see their co workers or.

April: Also, how do we recognize our TEAM members at home, so it is kind of one of those that naturally forces us to have those conversations.

April: With TEAM members on our team that are working in many different environments saying what do you want here’s your platform for us to gather feedback and a plan for us to execute to so it kind of goes hand in hand, where it naturally holds us accountable.

Traci Scherck: And what I love about this is you’re including individuals, regardless of where they’re at, and the fact that you have three locations, on top of remote, because some folks just have to be there because if you’re building trusses.

Traci Scherck: And so you have to do that.

Traci Scherck: in framing them out, you have to do that in the plan.

Traci Scherck: But the other thing that you know I really heard you say throughout this is, you know what your business strategy is and the business strategy changed a bit through 2020 through 2021.

Traci Scherck: So you shifted that but you’re also crystal clear on what your business results are and what that culture looks like within it, because that has a direct impact on the people.

Traci Scherck: And the people that you bring in how you nurture your folks how you grow your folks and what their needs are right.

Traci Scherck: yeah and so, for most folks listening to our podcast they know that we’re a huge proponent of predictive index and predictive index tells you what they want, in a way that you can actually go back to them and say.

Traci Scherck: hey April I you know I believe from you know what we’ve talked about that this is what you want, is that and how am I doing with that.

April: And I think to Tracy you hit right there with one we have had very strategic and critical conversations in our business as far as direction and what our employee value proposition is and.

April: that’s tied directly into the hire program and that was the foundation of what we did is we built off of week one to say.

April: Who are people who is our team who’s in our org chart what is our employee value, what do we want to be known for and if it’s.

April: let’s say it’s flexibility looks different in every aspect of the business, we have remote workers that have more flexibility being at home.

April: We have production workers, but they have the flexibility compared to other manufacturing environments to know that their hours are X, Y amp Z rather than.

April: All over the board, are working Saturdays are working nights right so so looking at one value that we stand for, within the organization and how that fits in different departments locations and teams are so I think.

April: Really, that was the foundation of the hire program and then we went into descriptions of roles right and.

April: I think that was again kind of another critical conversation that we’re actively having today to say.

April: What are the roles in our business today and really getting a foundation of those and building out and updating job descriptions, you know, I think.

April: When you haven’t had HR as a natural kind of LEADER within the Organization for 40 or 50 years.

April: You don’t have visibility to those changes you don’t have visibility to role dynamics that naturally changed when you went remote, you know, or you added a new team Member because it was a needed position, but now that change someone else’s role right and so.

April: Over time, as we’ve started to build out job descriptions in the organization, I even start getting comments to say, well, we need to update that job description now because of X, Y amp Z so.

April: you’re starting to see value from other leaders understanding how job descriptions really build the Foundation and.

April: I you know step two beyond that is now next year we look at we have these roles right, these are our foundation, but now what roles don’t we have that we need that are going to really help us achieve that direction that we’re headed.

Traci Scherck: yeah and with those roles that you’re creating sometimes it’s saying what’s our talent pathway so folks that want to grow within the.

Traci Scherck: organization know what that pathway is especially if we have some introverted TEAM members that aren’t going to come ask.

Traci Scherck: They just want to document and say okay what’s how do I win in this position, and what do I need to do if you know growth is a priority for me, what does winning look like here, what does winning look like in the next level position and what do I need to do to get there.

Traci Scherck: Because we have so many folks that don’t want to ask because we built this YouTube culture right i’ll just look it up and figure it out, myself and.

Traci Scherck: also have to provide that back to to our TEAM members in a way that works for them and it’s not my buddy because we’re all created differently, but we’re all created perfectly the way we are but we’re not created perfectly for every job.

April: mm hmm yep absolutely couldn’t agree more.

Traci Scherck: So kind of looking at this journey that you’ve taken, and you know we lovingly kind of call this, how do you optimize the people inside your organization, while hitting those business results you know what have you seen this kind of that big Aha.

April: I would say so, for us, I think one of the biggest Aha we had was when we were trying to hire for our production people and I.

April: Just I wasn’t getting candidates right and again we’re in a very tough market, this is five months after coven you still have the unemployment stimulus going on, you know you have people that are still afraid to come into work and so.

April: What we did was we looked at five key metrics we looked at job title we looked at location and specifically for our Madison facility.

April: We looked at the bus line like How are people transitioning to work, then we look at schedule so kind of vocation and schedule go hand in hand, but what are the hours that we expect our team to work and.

April: I will tell you we originally our schedule was 5:30am to 4pm like that’s a 50 hour workweek first off and second at 530 in the morning, like.

April: People don’t want to naturally work that early you know and as you talk about people’s natural tendencies, some people are morning people, some people are night people and.

April: right there we automatically screen anybody that is doesn’t want to get up at 530 in the morning, so.

April: Had that critical conversation, then we looked at benefits, so we talked about culture, but how do we attract people with our benefits and benefits are so much more than just.

April: health benefits right, so we looked at our vacation policy we looked at offering an employee assistance program to our team we looked at redoing our handbook like having clear structure and expectation for our team.

April: We looked at so many different facets within benefits and.

April: We added different benefits when we talk about the health benefits as well you know we added in FLEX spending we added daycare FLEX spending.

April: Things that people have never had the option to have before so again comes at a small expense to the business, but when you look at.

April: Ultimately, the results it’s going to drive your people that are engaged you naturally you naturally pay for that right, and so.

April: making sure that we had some of those critical conversations and then the fourth the fifth one excuse me, was growth plan so looking at the foundation of how people naturally grow within our organization and.

April: One of the Aha things that I had was when I put all of that together.

April: Every single year I look at those five things right, and so this year i’m looking at benefits again as i’m reviewing our handbook for the next year and going.

April: time for a maternity leave and parental leave policy right and so looking at some of those and going.

April: Okay, how do I have that foundation, so you know at the time I was just like okay i’ve got to change a few things to make us start getting candidates and on ironically, it was all the foundation of every single question we need yourself, ask ourselves every single year.

Traci Scherck: yeah I love it I love it.

Traci Scherck: As we kind of go to close today and we’re going to tease.

Traci Scherck: Next week to.

Traci Scherck: yeah, but what is what’s a key takeaway that you have for the our CEOs and our executives listening to our conversation today.

April: I think one of the biggest takeaways is how do you bridge the gap between yourself and your supervisors and even beyond your supervisors down to your team and.

April: i’m so excited because next week we’ll be bringing on a team Member from our team that actually.

April: Left to our facility when we had the ratio storm in iowa he came to montezuma for a short period of time.

April: And then left shortly after that and, ironically, just came back and joined our team, about two months ago, and so Dave.

April: tells a really good story, as far as how he’s connected beyond his production peers, but with his supervisors, with his leaders with his director of HR with the CEO and beyond, and.

April: And how you know think critically when you walk through you know, are you setting the expectation of culture that you want your supervisors to drive every single day, and that includes saying hi to the team.

April: You know, making sure that they have safety gear, but on top of that, making sure your right wearing your pp as well, so really setting that expectation and that tone.

April: To say hey i’m here to help support you like.

April: I I i’m driving the safety culture, not because I want you to be safe, because I want our family here as a team to be safe, and that includes me right we’re all in this together so.

April: I think it’s a matter of breaking down some of those silos but really setting the tone to say, this is the culture that we want every single day.

Traci Scherck: I love it I love it.

Traci Scherck: So for our your HR peers that are listening in today what’s the key takeaway that you have for them.

April: yeah so I obviously coming from the operations background i’m driven by data that is something that I am just accustomed to, and my prior roles and experiences.

April: I think when I came into the HR role, I really had to ask myself, like what is the data we’re looking at you know I have, I have a team.

April: And I have people but do I have their expectations, do I have a job description do I know what they want, like.

April: there’s what are their natural tendencies, so when you think about your people it’s so much more than just a person right it’s what they want it’s their desires it’s their expectations it’s their natural traits or natural tendencies so.

April: Look at yourself look at your organization and So how do I have data on my people because data is one of the most powerful tools, you can have.

April: Not only to make sure that you continue to move your business forward but to build teams that you need right, and when you look at HR one of our strategic goals is building teams that optimize results, and so you need data in order to be able to optimize teams.

Traci Scherck: awesome love it Thank you so much for not only coming on today, but the work that we’ve done over the last couple of years because it’s been so fun and watching you grow and your role has been just amazing.

Traci Scherck: So with That being said, if you are listening in and you’re curious about the higher program that April had talked about, we have a new cohort of that program starting.

Traci Scherck: In May, and so there is information in the show notes on that, and if you want data we have a link, so that you can get some free data as well.

Traci Scherck: So with That being said, join us next week, as we have a conversation with even learn a little bit more about his story and his journey from the employee perspective and and have a fantastic rest of your week thanks so much.