Meet Alex Genetti, Head of People at Enable – a SaaS platform that drives trusted trading relationships between B2B trading partners. As Head of People, Alex spearheads all things people-related including development, engagement, benefits, and HR administration matters.
Prior to Enable, Alex worked in the mental health space as People Operations at Two Chairs. Prior to that, she held the same role at Scout RFP (acquired by Workday) and Livongo. Alex has extensive experience in managing every facet of the employee lifecycle, including designing and implementing employee onboarding programs, benefits and total compensation management, policy development, payroll management, HRIS configuration and employee relations.
We recently connected with Alex to discuss how she got her start in the industry, her best mistake, as well as her thoughts on how company leaders can make HR a value within their organization.
In our latest Faces of HR, meet Alex Genetti.
How did you get your start in the field?
I got quite lucky in this realm. I started my career in tech with a Business Development position. That role taught me a lot about myself, namely highlighting the fact that I hated losing more than I enjoyed winning – personal traits that sales roles don’t support well. I had had very little exposure to an HR function at this stage in my career, but I loved the “People” aspects of my sales job. As the company I was with relocated their sales engine to Scottsdale, I was lucky enough to land an entry level HR Assistant job while reporting to a Chief executive. Being in sales taught me how to work a phone, and how to work with people. Getting to then transition to HR helped me fine tune those skills and apply them to what can sometimes be dry or difficult situations. I’m thankful I have such a rounded tech experience that’s led me to the stage I’m at now.
What was your best mistake and how did you learn from it?
Well, I’ve made more than a few, and I’m proud to admit that. I’ve been in situations where I’ve landed and expanded in a new country with less than perfect variable compensation agreements, or overly rich benefits packages. I’ve slipped up and sent the wrong spreadsheet to a key employee with sensitive information in it. I’ve made plenty of mistakes. But what I’ve been able to take from each of these mistakes is a control that I have been able to operate through since.
Working in the start-up world for so long, there have been countless opportunities for me to tackle something for the first time. Often, that “first time” is never great, but what I do get from that first time is a blueprint of how to do it next time.
Although the biggest setback I’ve given myself is in the hiring realm. Mistakes will come and go, and projects will come and go, but it’s key that HR leaders have the right size team in place to grow through them. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had a headcount debt – and that always leads to projects being deprioritized or KPIs falling short. If I’ve learned anything from my many mistakes – it’s hire ahead.
What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?
My favorite part about working in HR is the fact that we (HR teams) have the opportunity to reach past the business. The work we do goes home with each employee: their pay, their benefits, their leave support, their value. We’re often the first to learn about babies, or engagements. We get to extend into our employees lives in ways other parts of the business can’t or shouldn’t. Creating programs that celebrate employee milestones or curating a leave program that puts the employee first brings such joy to me and the teams I build – it really makes what can be sometimes a thankless job feel very fulfilling.
Although you might say that my least favorite part of the job is the same thing as my favorite – sometimes the business is forced to make decisions that negatively impact an employee or an employee group. Delivering and managing situations that are outside of an employee’s control is taxing and something I’ve always carried home with me as I’ve had to do them. Layoffs, restructuring – anything we do impacts our people – and those impacts, unfortunately, can sometimes carry a lot of emotion and unfavorable outcomes. I do carry some solace in knowing that, if I’ve done my job well, I’ve created the most positive experience of a negative outcome as one can, but it only softens the blow so much.
It sounds like through your experience you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry. Please elaborate here.
There’s been a negative connotation around the term “HR” for many years. I’m sure everyone has heard a few nicknames given to HR departments around the world. When I joined Enable, it was really important to me that the team felt comfortable coming to us, that we weren’t seen as policy enforcers or, my favorite, the “fun police.” We made the strategic decision to call ourselves the “People Team” to mitigate this and to drive home the fact that while we do exist to protect the business, we also exist here to advocate and protect our people.
Whenever an Enablee (what we call our employees internally) joins Enable, they are put through our EnableYOU onboarding program. Part of that program is a town hall with each Executive within their first month. During my town hall, I open the meeting with a slide that has the faces of each People team member at Enable, and I speak to the safe space we have crated within the People team. My goal with that slide is to one, humanize a department that has been long thought of as in-humane, and two, deliver a message that can get lost in translation quite often: “We’re here for you”.
Aside from our internal messaging and DEI efforts, we’ve built this sentiment into our People Programs, as well. Our Performance Review and Progression Program, for example, carries three goals. The first goal is each Enablee knows what is expected of them. The second, each Enablee knows where they stand against that expectation. Finally, the third goal is each Enablee knows someone cares about them and their career. We’ve built each of our programs and processes with the employee in mind.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic gave many employers a new way to worry about their people – aside from simply psychological safety. Many of us office-based leaders had to step into the physical safety world as well. Enable chose to look at this as an opportunity to show our people just how dedicated we were to their overall safety. We created new family resources for our people and designed a Covid Response Program that was aimed at giving everyone piece of mind that their workplace and colleagues were safe.
How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization?
The term “HR” is very broad. It can encompass payroll, benefits, performance, engagement, compliance, employee relations – the list goes on and on. HR leaders can bring value to each of these functions individually but figuring out how they can all work together in a barrier-free way that is consciously scalable is paramount.
One thing that is consistent across each of these functions is that they can very quickly become a barrier to an employee or a manger. My job is twofold: to make sure there are no barriers to completing any work or goals effectively, and helping the business scale safely through these functions.
Think about it: You’re a Customer Success Manager trying to complete a project for one of your customers against a very tight deadline. Your pay is incorrect. Your rent or your mortgage is due in 3 days and you’re worried that the payroll team can’t fix their error in time for you to make that payment. The odds of that Customer Success Manager being able to put all their effort and brain power into that customer project are very slim. Instead, they’re worried about another aspect of their job that has gone wrong – they’ve hit a barrier.
We as HR leaders need to get the basics right before we can pivot to helping the business grow. If we can’t give our employees a barrier-free working environment, scaling is an even steeper hill.