Life is Good is an apparel and accessories wholesaler, retailer, and lifestyle brand, committed to spreading the power of optimism.
Colleen Clark, Head of Optimistic People
Colleen describes herself as an “accidental” HR professional. Before joining Life is Good, she began her career in a retail store, where she gradually assumed more and more responsibility. A few years in, the CEO flew out to the store to commend her on her performance and understand how she managed to do her job so well. “He told me, ‘you’re the best people-picker I’ve ever met.’ I had no idea what that meant!” A few months later, the CEO called her to let her know he was starting a Human Resources department for the company and wanted Colleen to run it. “I thought he said Human Racehorses, and I told him that was the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. We still laugh about it.”
They worked together for the next several years, as the company grew at a rapid pace. When potential compliance concerns arose, the CEO took them seriously and arranged for the greatest HR experts he could find to come in and train them. “I got my HR education from true experts––including the legislators of some of those compliance laws themselves. It was an amazing way to learn the HR function.” Over the next 20-odd years, Colleen has been able to put all these learnings into practice. “[My experience] has really refined my understanding of what HR can be, and more importantly, what it should be.”
“I'd moved away from ADP in a prior role. To find it in a progressive company like Life is Good was disheartening. With ADP as our only people platform, we had no HRIS, no intranet, and no integration with other talent tools.”
When Colleen joined Life is Good in 2014, they were using ADP as their HR and payroll provider. “It was embarrassing for me as the leader of the HR team to reference this system. ADP was so archaic. We’re a pretty progressive company. Learning we were using such an outdated system was really disheartening.”
But Colleen wanted to make sure it wasn’t just her view. “I asked our employees ‘what do you think about our review process?’ From the owners of the company all the way out to remote employees, the feedback was unanimous. ‘We believe in reviews and what they can do, but that system… I hate it. I try to avoid it.’ Usually, people don’t have strong opinions about their people platform, as long as they get an accurate paycheck. To hear this kind of passion was a signal to shop for a new solution.” That feedback, combined with her own discoveries about the many manual, one-off processes Life is Good had cobbled together, made replacing ADP one of her first priorities.
When Colleen asked employees about their ADP experience, she consistently heard that people couldn’t find information they needed or figure out how to do basic tasks, like completing a performance review. Even simple things, like signing in, were obstacles. She knew that finding an intuitive, easy-to-use system would save time and encourage use.
Colleen’s top priority was a new HRIS and intranet, but she knew that she would soon need to tackle payroll and benefits too. She was looking for an integrated system––a Swiss Army Knife solution––that she could implement piece-by-piece and seamlessly connect all touchpoints of the People function.
“With a small team serving so many different kinds of people in different kinds of jobs, in multiple locations, integration and digital access were essential.” Life is Good needed a solution with a solid foundation and room to grow.
Finding the magic bullet
With the feedback she got from employees, Colleen and team set out on the quest for something powerful and simple. Something ‘cool’ was on the wish list, too!
“We did a ton of research. We brought in five vendors to present to our leadership team. One of those vendors was a small startup we thought had it all. I remember thinking to myself ‘this is what we need––a platform where easy, simple, integrated, and social come together and intersect with great data and reporting.’”
But that system was missing some critical pieces. For starters, they couldn’t comply with Life is Good’s Payment Card Industry (PCI) requirements, and that was a deal-breaker. “I was pretty dejected, but my optimism won. I believed there were smart people out there who were solving the same problems we were facing. I was right.”
She eventually met Kevin, an Account Executive at Namely. “I told him about our pain points and gave him our wish list, figuring if we hit 80% of it, we’d be delighted. He asked if I’d considered Namely. I told him, ‘No, because I have no idea what it is!’” Kevin guided her through the Namely strategy and product features. It was love at first sight. “It was Harry Potter time. We had our magical solution.”
When it came to getting leadership buy-in, Namely was an easy sell. “Our team was so tired of struggling with ADP, they would have said yes to any improvement that didn’t cost more.” Fast forward a year, after the Namely HRIS was implemented, and it was a natural to add the Namely payroll and benefits modules. “This was a much more significant challenge because my Finance partners had a greater role in the decision this time, and they had a lot of confidence in the tried-and-true reputation of ADP. Namely was a start-up and they were hesitant to switch to a solution that was still so new to the market.”
Colleen arranged three reference calls through the Namely sales team––people who had made the same switch from ADP. “Once our VP of Finance and Payroll Manager had a chance to voice their concerns and ask their questions about practically everything, they got much more comfortable. The users’ first-hand experiences were compelling, and were instrumental in getting the buy-in we needed to continue building out our Namely platform.”
The ROI of Using Namely
Colleen likens Namely to the entryway of a house. “It’s where you keep your everyday essentials like your keys, shoes, coat, umbrella, and your mail. Everything that you really need to get through your day is just inside the door, one click away.” If Namely is the foyer, the rest of the house consists of other systems that work in tandem. “For example, Box is more like the attic. It’s where we store stuff we might need some day, but don’t use very often. You want to keep it, but not in your front hallway. Nobody wants to sift through every old document to find the one they need right now. For everything employees need to access quickly and easily, leave them in the Namely foyer!”
“When I joined Life is Good, employee feedback helped me realize we could improve communication. We value clarity and openness, so at first I was confused by the feedback.” Colleen learned that a big source of frustration was that people didn’t know where to look for essential information. “It’s no good to have to dig through your inbox for that one email you need to sign up for benefits, or go to the ‘attic’ to find the company expense policy. The newsfeed and resource portal changed all that. At first, I was only one posting to the Namely feed. Eventually, an employee approached me and asked if he could post something on Namely himself. It didn’t take long before others started posting. Now it’s our go-to source for what’s going on in the company and the community.”
What stood out most to Colleen during the evaluation process was that Namely would enable customization of the most important employee interaction vehicles. “We change our performance reviews, goal setting process, and other workflows as our needs change. Not only are everyone’s goals visible, they are now seamlessly integrated with reviews. That was huge because for us, goals are tied to compensation. With ADP, both were very labor-intensive and difficult to access. With Namely, it’s simple.” Beyond performance, Namely’s custom profile fields have unlocked a wide range of opportunities, from light-hearted to business-driven. “We often surprise employees with gifts for big events––like custom t-shirts when the Patriots win the Super Bowl.” By collecting t-shirt sizes in a special Namely field, the team can run a report and know exactly which sizes to order. Same goes for food preferences and commuting options. “We also integrated our competitive salary information in Namely by position, using a custom administrator-only field to track market compensation changes.
From day one of implementation and beyond, Colleen and the team at Life is Good have been wowed by Namely’s “magical” level of service and support. “We couldn’t consider leaving Namely because we could never break up with our Support Consultant, Chris Lee. We love him. He is the best partner we could ever hope for in ANY kind of support scenario: smart, kind, patient, responsive. Plus, he really understands our business and unique setup. I sometimes wonder if he’s AI—he’s that perfect.”
“Namely frees us to spend more time making it easy for people to do the right things. Our load is lighter so we can deliver more to the teams we strengthen and support.”
Getting buy-in from senior leadership was easy. “We are easily able to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, share wins, track goals and more. Our leadership team also really appreciates the easy access to organization information, such as names, roles, photos, and so on, through the Namely app.”
“We recently had a new VP of eCommerce join. He needed no formal Namely training and, after a few weeks on the job, volunteered this: ‘I love Namely. I can’t even believe this exists. If I were ever to leave this company, I would have to work somewhere that uses Namely.’ His reaction speaks to the incredibly simple user experience Namely provides. Knowing executives can get so quickly up to speed on their own is a testament to the UX design.”
With the efficiencies achieved by using Namely, the People team at Life is Good is better able to share the company values. “Namely is so versatile and easy to use that whoever is managing payroll and benefits doesn’t have to be the same person. With that in mind, we’ve reconfigured the roles on our People team. Now, one person is responsible for talent acquisition and loading new hires into payroll, and once they’re hired, another person takes over lead benefits and onboarding (we call it the ‘Power Up’). Namely has allowed us to spend less time administering and explaining our systems, and more time focused on making it easy for people to do the right things right.”
“Think beyond everything you know about what a people system can do for you. Give yourself freedom to imagine what it could be. Make a wish list. Most likely, you’ll find it’s all there in Namely.”
“What we learned about implementation could be really helpful to other companies making the switch. Don’t bring all the ‘junk’ you have in your old system into Namely. You won’t need it.”
“When we switched to Namely, it gave us a clean structure and a fresh start. If I were going to do it again, I would have made a list of questions that could help us audit and revamp our practices before our implementation. Namely is so progressive and accessible that a lot of our prior practices were upgraded and updated just by switching.” Even if you miss your opportunity during implementation, never fear. “If you brought some ‘junk’ through to Namely, it will show up. Use the visibility and reporting that Namely provides to constantly evolve your processes.”
Life is Good is one of 1,000+ companies that use Namely to streamline their HR, payroll, benefits and time management needs.
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