Interview with James Norwood, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at isolved

James Norwood, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at isolved joined us for a quick chat to discuss the impact of 2020 on the gamut of HR services and the importance of driving employee culture despite today’s challenges, with the right HR automation:


We would love to know more about you James…what is your new role at isolved like? Tell us about some of the new plans you have in mind here.

I have been living in Orange County, California for about 20 years, yet I still root for my boyhood soccer team from across the pond, Brentford Football Club who are in the division below the English Premier League. I am also an avid weekend cyclist and a gardener, apart from being busy with business most of time…

Professionally, I love my new role as isolved chief marketing and strategy officer as it is incredibly exciting at a time when managing the end-to-end employee journey from hire to retire has never been more important. The pandemic has exposed every organisation’s weaknesses by shedding light on their digital infrastructure, culture and employee experience. isolved helps companies to change and evolve their employee experience with consumer-grade HCM technology so people can achieve their goals while organizations foster a collaborative and purposeful culture. Businesses are starting to refocus on what matters most: people, and that is something very positive that happened in a very difficult year. Helping more and more companies get our people-first HCM technology is basically what my job is all about.

How do see the businesses’ needs for HR Tech have changed this year – what are some of the ways in which you feel HR tech innovators can enhance their offerings to meet these changing needs in 2021 and beyond.

Change always comes with disruption. If it weren’t for Uber, taxis might still be only accepting cash. And if it weren’t for Amazon, retailers might still be in store. Car manufacturers might still bury their heads in the sand about electric if it weren’t for Tesla – the list of disruptors can keep going on and on. But honestly, we didn’t expect a global health crisis to change how we think about human resources’ role in the company. It happened to be very rare when HR was given its fair share of organizational dry powder, but with the onset of pandemic, there came a greater need for digital enablement, empowerment and engagement. With investment opportunities increasing, leaders must improvise their technology stack by focusing on smarter automation for the HR and payroll practitioner and greater self-service for the employees they serve.

While HR Tech innovators have responded to the 2020 global pandemic crisis in different ways – there’ve still been a lot of lags that businesses have had to deal with when it comes to steering through a changing tech landscape and addressing dynamic challenges during this time. What are your thoughts on some interesting ways in which businesses have used their HR tech stack to create better employee wellness practices during this time?

2020 was truly an opportunity to really think every step thoroughly and scrutinize the “we’ve always done it this way” processes and explore better options.  Key Training Center is one the isolved customers, which is one of Florida’s largest non-profits serving the developmentally disabled, gives an incredible example of how they’ve utilised this time to improvise the employee experience. With the help of isolved, they moved from monthly pay to biweekly pay in less than a month – even though they had been paying employees in that frequency for over 50 years. They also took this time to change open-enrolment providers. Once again, they were able to achieve this with the help of isolved, in less than a month and pass on nearly $1K in savings yearly to each employee. While there was certainly a lot to be done in 2020, it did provide us a chance to think through on what was working and what wasn’t.

As HR leaders try to meet the business needs of the new normal; what are some of the top thoughts you’d share with them when it comes to implementing HR Tech to drive business goals and enhance employee practices and policies?

A misconception is floating around that employees are going to think HCM technology is fun to use. On the contrary, the reality is quite different, the best HCM technology gets out of the employee’s way. They can do everything, get hired, get paid, change benefits, record their time, share their opinions, learn and grow without ever knowing how the technology is working so effortlessly in the background. HR tech isn’t about “fun to have” for businesses to reach their goals and strengthen employee experience, it’s about “must have” to accelerate results, enhance performance, boost productivity and lower down the risks. The HR tech that will drive companies forward is smartly connected to prevent the employee ever experiencing any friction.

Tell us about some of the top tech trends and in‐demand skills you think will rule HR / HR Tech in the near‐future?

I remember I had asked isolved Chief People Officer Amy Mosher a very similar question quite recently about what was important pre-COVID and what is going to be even more important post-COVID, and many of the opportunities and challenges were the same: business and employee compliance, talent acquisition, talent retention, compliance, digital services. What separates employers though are the differences such as radical workplace flexibility, caring employee engagement, wellness and wellbeing. There’s no rewind button on flexibility and no backward momentum on caring about a person individually at work. The future of work all relies on the individual: when, where and how they want to interact.

Please tell us a little about the employee culture and experience at isolved.

 As a company based on employee experience, we must have a standout employee experience ourselves, right? And I think we really do or at least we work hard at it because we value it. All of us work hard but it is always fun honestly. Fortunately, we have a full-time employee engagement manager to help onboard new employees, manage community efforts for current employees and help our leaders with ways to engage a distributed workforce. As you may suspect, we also leverage isolved People Cloud to employ, enable and empower our own team members.

And lastly, before wrapping up, what are a few of your biggest takeaways and tips on working effectively from anywhere….and adjusting to the new normal.

There are, in my opinion a few different types of people in this light, a few camps of remote workers: those who have been remote for some time, those who have been remote but are used to travelling or heading into an office occasionally and those who have never been remote before this year. Regardless of whichever type one belongs to, it was a huge shift for everyone. The most productive remote workers are ones who make their day work for them whether that’s blocking off times in their calendar to focus or to take a streaming exercise class, starting their workday earlier or later than “normal”, working from the same setup each day or changing it out as the day progresses. The whole point is, all of us certainly need the autonomy and flexibility to make our workday ours, to be our best selves and prevent burn out when it would be easy to work around the clock.

Thank you, James, for answering all our questions!

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