Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Cris Grossmann on Being an Agent of Change, the Cost of Inaction & Pushing Boundaries

Cris Grossmann’s passion for frontline workers was ignited during his childhood growing up in Mexico City. On summer afternoons, he’d visit both of his grandfathers who worked in factories and each one taught him valuable lessons. On one hand, Grossmann learned how to produce paints and color and, on the other, he learned how a copper factory operated.

Cris Grossman
Cris Grossmann

“These experiences paved the road for me to dive into the fascinating world of chemical engineering with plants, processes, automation and optimization at incredible scales,” Grossmann shared with HR Daily Advisor. “These experiences ultimately planted the seed that grew into the business that is Beekeeper today.”

Grossmann, CEO and Co-Founder of Beekeeper, founded the digital workforce app in 2012. Companies who utilize Beekeeper’s frontline success system can automate paper-based processes, communicate with employees in real-time from anywhere and improve the engagement, productivity, and safety of frontline teams.

Ultimately, Beekeeper aims to empower frontline businesses and their workers with the digital solutions they need to do their best possible work.

“The space of frontline work can be improved as we move forward into 2023,” Grossmann says. “I would encourage everyone whose business utilizes frontline workers to spend some time on the frontline, examine your business from their perspective and see where a disconnect could exist. In fact, I see this as being an overarching theme in 2023. This will be the year when businesses will take immediate action to provide their frontline teams with more stability and support. Following movements like the “Great Resignation,” employees aren’t afraid to ask for what they need and voice where they need support, and it’s our job as managers and employers to let them know that we hear them loud and clear.

“A direct consequence of not listening to your frontline workers is something we commonly call the “cost of inaction,”” he continued. “Failure to address the issues within your frontline will ultimately cost your business millions of dollars overtime in lost productivity, disengagement and damage to brand reputation through poor consumer experiences.” 

In our latest Faces of HR, meet Cris Grossmann.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

A big influence for me is Simon Sinek. He has a gift for taking big, complex ideas and communicating them in simple, powerful terms. His book, “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” or “golden circle” is ubiquitous in business, and it continues to move and inspire people. We used the updated version of this concept to build Beekeeper’s just cause, which is to connect frontline teams to everything they need to do a great job so that they live better lives and businesses thrive. This exercise has been incredibly rewarding as articulating our vision resonates and motivates so many of our employees, customers, and partners to work even harder and more closely with us.

What’s your best mistake and what did you learn from it?

When I was a teenager, I was with my grandfather in the copper factory on the quality assurance team. We had to make sure the equipment to produce copper strip were polished to avoid marks on the strip. We used a piece of paper on a table to track which rolls had been polished and were ready for production and which were not. This information was tracked in handwritten notes.

One day I misread the notes of the previous shift and released the pressure roll before it was ready. This meant the copper strip from that morning’s production didn’t meet quality standards, and it had to be scrapped. We wasted the materials and the team’s hard work and had to shut down the production line for almost three hours to fix it.

I felt terrible! I learned how easy and expensive it is to make mistakes when critical processes depend on paper sheets and handwritten notes to run smoothly.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?

The impact that we can have with frontline workers is simply amazing. On one hand it’s making their life easier at work, but it can also have “unintended” positive effects on their personal lives as well. One example of this is Maria, a housekeeper who used to travel 1.5 hours each way every Sunday to check her scheduled shifts for the week on a bulletin board at work, wasting three hours of her day off. When she realized that she could get her schedule electronically via Beekeeper, she literally started crying. That was incredibly moving to me.

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.

Yes, I do. I think the frontline has been disregarded and forgotten for a very long time! The great frontline disconnect is probably one of the biggest unspoken issues of our times. It’s a toxic inheritance of the industrial age where people and frontline workers are seen as replaceable resources, and the hard work they do is under-appreciated. I think it’s time to change that, and that’s our mission at Beekeeper.

How can HR most effectively demonstrate its value to the leadership team?

HR teams can be the catalyst to bring everybody around the table and make retaining and enabling frontline workers a top priority of the company. They have the unique position of supporting every corner of the business, which gives them great power to be agents of change.

HR can also demonstrate the hidden cost of not acting on the great frontline disconnect. Because systemic issues like high turnover and low engagement have become an unspoken, accepted part of the status quo for HR managers who support frontline workers, companies are losing out on billions of dollars in lost revenue at the end of the day. When our frontline success specialists actually sit down with HR leaders and help them calculate their frontlineturnover rates, recruitment costs, training budgets and onboarding costs, they are shocked at how much they’re spending annually. Frontline organizations who commit to frontline success often see dramatic drops in onboarding time, training costs and more within the first year. 

In short, if HR leaders can rally their executive teams to truly fix the frontline disconnect in their organizations, it’s a sure-fire win once they run the numbers and see their savings. 

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

We are seeing the market realize the impact of the frontline labor shortage. Our current lack of frontline talent is feeding a vicious cycle, and the situation is going to get worse before it gets better as more jobs remain vacant and fewer people are available to fill those jobs. In the next five years, I think companies will pivot their strategy and attack the problem from a different angle. They’ll begin to do everything they can to retain the people they have because they know every lost employee could be permanent and almost impossible to replace. And they’ll work harder to enable their teams to be more efficient and cope with increasing demand with smaller, leaner teams.

What are you most proud of?

The millions of lives we have been able to touch so far with our technology and improve how they work and live! This is hands down the one thing I’m most proud of.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for.”

It reminds me of how important it is to continuously push boundaries, get out of the comfort zone, explore new waters, and dare to go beyond what feels safe. While playing it safe in the short run might feel ok, in the long run it will end up being the biggest risk. You’ll risk missing opportunities to make your colleagues’ lives better, to help your business run more smoothly or miss the chance to serve your community in deeply meaningful ways.

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