HR Case Study

How Ontraport gets Maximum Value from a Flexible HR System

  • Industry
  • Location
    Santa Barbara, CA
  • Size
    110 Employees

About Ontraport

Ontraport is a SaaS company providing a comprehensive business and marketing automation platform for small businesses. Their mission is to help entrepreneurs deliver value to the world by removing the burden of technology.

  • Ontraport has received a number of accolades for their culture. Since 2015, they’ve ranked among Fortune Magazine’s Great Places to Work for Millennials, 100 Best Places to Work for Women, and Great Places to Work for College Graduates, to name a few.
  • With such a strong millennial workforce, Ontraport prioritizes internal mobility and development. They offer an apprenticeship program wherein entry-level employees spend one day per week in another department that interests them.
  • It takes a great team to make great products. In 2017, Ontraport ranked on the Entrepreneur 360: The Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America.
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Meet Sara

Sara Hetyonk, Employee Experience Director

Sara joined Ontraport in 2013. What began as an Office Manager role quickly evolved into much more. “At the time, we were around 45 employees, but we were getting to the point where recruiting and HR really needed to become two different roles, where it had previously been owned by one person.” At that point, Sara began managing recruiting, and after about a year, moved into HR. She started out as a coordinator, but over her time at Ontraport, her role has expanded into that of the Employee Experience Director, where she oversees it all: recruiting, HR, benefits, onboarding, offboarding, and everything in between.

Sara’s Challenges

“We knew if we were going to continue hiring and growing, something had to give.”

When Sara jumped into HR at Ontraport, they were operating out of several disparate systems that just weren’t cutting it.

As a marketing automation company, they used their own CRM to store basic employee information. But they couldn’t store anything sensitive or private—like social security numbers—because the system lacked sufficient controls over who could access that confidential data internally. “We were using it as a pseudo-HRIS, but it wasn’t secure enough to operate as a true HRIS at that point.”

They were using a different system altogether to manage payroll. As a standalone system, that meant Sara had to manually enter PTO hours, benefits deductions, etc. for each pay cycle—which ran weekly. What’s more, Sara has less than fond memories of processing time off requests. “PTO tracking was entirely manual. We had an automated system for employees to request time off, but no system for actually tracking it. As simple as that sounds, that was our biggest headache.”

It was clear to Sara that the status-quo wasn’t working. Because systems weren’t talking to each other, she was stuck in manual drudgery. “We were about 50 people and were starting to feel growing pains. We knew if we were going to continue hiring and growing, something had to give.”

Ontraport’s wishlist:

+ Single Source of Truth

Linking HR, benefits, payroll, and time off was priority one, not only because of the pain disparate systems were causing, but also because of what it would signify. “It struck us that we weren’t doing things as ‘smart’ as we could have been—which is ironic, because our own business is all about taking separate systems and bringing them into one. It almost felt sacreligious that we weren’t living up to that philosophy with our HR operations. We knew we needed a single solution.”

+ Robust HRIS

No one could deny that using their CRM as an HRIS wasn’t working, but Sara had bigger hopes for an HRIS, beyond the ability to store employee information securely. “Having streamlined historical data for each employee was really important, as was having a centralized place where we could have absolutely everything. We also wanted to drive more engagement with our team. We’d built an internal intranet (dubbed our ‘Ontranet’) which worked well as a resource center, but didn’t allow for any interactions or engagement.”

+ Performance Management

When it came to performance, Ontraport had kissed a few frogs but not yet found their prince. “We’d tried a handful of softwares that got the job done, but they were really difficult to extract data from. They also didn’t have the customizability to make it feel consistent with the Ontraport experience. They all felt very third-party.” Ideally, Ontraport wanted an HR platform with performance included, so they didn’t have to leverage a separate system.

The evaluation

Finding a Kindred Spirit

Sara and her VP of Operations took to the marketplace to shop for a solution. “At the time we were looking, Zenefits was in their heyday, so they were certainly a consideration for us. However, they didn’t have a performance module, which essentially disqualified them from our evaluation. We looked at Bamboo as well, but that was even further from our desired solution, as they didn’t offer payroll or benefits.”

When they started to explore Namely, they knew they’d found the all-encompassing platform they’d been looking for. Given their particular emphasis on performance, they were encouraged to find that Namely not only had a native performance management tool, but also offered functionality around goals, competencies, and skills.

The team was excited by the flexibility of the performance tool. “The performance tool was incredibly robust—there were more options and settings than I could have ever imagined! But beyond that, the fact that Namely offered unlimited custom fields, custom roles and permissions, and things like that really impressed us. The customization of the platform overall wasn’t something we were explicitly looking for from the get-go, but ended up being a huge selling point.”

But what struck Sara most of all was the feeling that Ontraport would have a kindred spirit in Namely, from the product to the people behind the curtain. “The highly integrated and user friendly system that Namely offers really resonated with us, since that’s what we endeavor to provide to our own clients. But more than that, we also had a fairly long relationship with Namely’s sales team. Throughout that time, everyone was extremely helpful, extremely patient, and aligned with how we treat our customers. We don’t treat our customers like we’re robots, we’re very much oriented towards building relationships. Beyond the capabilities of the software itself, that was really what sold us.”

In need of a partner to support your growing business? Take a tour of Namely today.


The ROI of Using Namely

Since making the decision to switch to Namely's full-service HR platform, Sara hasn’t looked back. Here are some of her biggest wins:

“As an HR admin, I’ve seen a tremendous increase in the time I have available thanks to Namely.”

BONUS: Becoming a power user yields unexpected value

While Sara knew she wanted a performance system at the onset of her search, she couldn’t have anticipated the ways she’s been able to leverage Namely to streamline other processes outside of performance. “When we have any sort of acknowledgement—sexual harassment prevention trainings, handbooks, email and internet policies, confidentiality agreements, and so on—we templatize it as a review cycle. All of the essential information is in there, and we have employees initial and the review goes back to them to sign. Everything is time-stamped, so I can easily check in on employees to see when they’ve signed something. We update our employee handbook at the beginning of every year, so being able to use that feature to process over 100 acknowledgements in one fell swoop is the biggest time saver. The performance tool is great for performance, of course, but being able to leverage it for other things too makes it all the more valuable. It’s a little bit out of the box, but it’s been a big win for us, and really speaks to the flexibility and customizability of the system. ”

But it doesn’t stop at performance—Sara managed to customize onboarding templates to make them do more for her, too. “We run required sexual harassment trainings in September and March of each year, and I wanted to find an easier way to make sure new employees were being invited. So, I created custom fields called ‘Sexual Harassment Training Class’ and ‘Sexual Harassment Training Manager Class.’ When someone’s hired, on their onboarding template I assign them to whatever the next class is with that field. When it comes time to organize the class, I can pull a quick report to see who needs to be invited, grab all their email addresses, pop them in a calendar invite, and it’s done. Then, everyone who was in that specific class gets that specific acknowledgement following the training, because of how we’ve set it up in the review tool.”


“We’ve had a lot of success using the tools Namely offers in ways beyond what they’re designed for.”


Sara stresses that in order to get maximum value out of Namely, don’t be afraid to get creative. “Think outside the box. Some of the biggest wins we’ve had from Namely have been things like managing handbook acknowledgements via reviews. We’ve had a lot of success using the tools Namely offers in ways beyond what they’re designed for. Experimentation has served us well.”

Sara has also leaned on the expertise of other Namely power users via our online community, Backstage Pass, for tips and tricks on getting the most from the platform. “If you think Namely can’t do something, talk to some other users and see how they’re handling it or if they’ve found workarounds. Chances are, there’s a solution for what you’re trying to achieve.”

Ontraport is one of 1,000+ companies that use Namely to streamline their HR, payroll, benefits and time management needs.

Ready to see how Namely can transform HR at your company? Take a platform tour today.