Annie Shapiro

Annie Shapiro

Annie Shapiro is the Director of Content & Communications at Namely, the HR, payroll, and benefits platform built for today's employees. Connect with Annie and the Namely team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Recent Articles

 Team Namely crowds into the kitchen, ready for the demos to begin. Photo by Andrew Persons. 

Behind the Scenes: 24 Hours at Namely’s Second Hackathon

At Namely, our mission is to help you build a better workplace. And we believe that great HR, payroll, and benefits technology is key to achieving that.

That’s why we spend every day thinking about the future of HR tech, from how we can build features that streamline frustrating processes, to which tools HR leaders need to reach their full potential.

So, what would happen if we empowered every person at Namely to dream bigger about the future of HR tech? What if we hit pause on day-to-day work for a full 24 hours, and let employees hit the ground running, from ideation to build? That’s exactly what we did in our second-ever Namely hackathon. CEO Matt Straz described the hackathon as “an awesome, highly collaborative experience where we invented a lot of great new stuff.”

The results—and the creativity that went into them—were so exciting that we had to share. Here’s a peek behind the scenes.

Setting the Stage

While the hackathon itself lasted 24 hours, the preparations started long before. Employees were encouraged to form teams; judges awarded additional points for forming groups of at least three people. Fourteen cross-departmental teams sprung up, ready to take on the challenge.

Everyone benefitted from internal expertise through a series of pre-hackathon workshops. These gave participants the chance to brush up on their skills before the clock started ticking.

Teams could compete in one of four categories: Feature Enhancement (adding functionality to an existing Namely feature), Tools & Efficiencies (internal tools to improve processes), Tech Enhancement (performance improvements to existing features), and Moonshot (big, bold ideas that are outside of our current platform). There would be a winner chosen in each category, and prizes of $2,000 awarded to each winning team.  

Getting the Green Light

 Let the hacking begin! Photo by Andrew Persons. Let the hacking begin! Photo by Andrew Persons.

At noon, the hackathon started with a big bang: the distribution of Namely hackathon tees (quality swag) and lunch (creative fuel). Our CEO Matt Straz and CTO Teresa Dietrich presented the schedule, rules, and introduced the judges. And just like that, the teams were off!

The hackathon was truly a 24-hour affair. In order to keep the momentum going for those committing to an all-nighter, warm cookies arrived at midnight from the aptly-named Insomnia Cookies. Glow-stick necklaces were distributed and disco lights switched on, giving everyone a burst of energy to get through the home-stretch.

The Winning Ideas

After the hackathon had run its course, employees packed into the kitchen to watch the demos. Presenting teams faced an impressive panel of judges. The judging panel represented a mix of Namely investors and client power users, as well as the CEO of one of our HR tech partner’s, The hackathon provided them with a sneak peek into what ideas are on the minds of Namely employees—and how much we can deliver in just 24 hours.

Teams were judged on business value, innovation, execution, technical feasibility, and collaboration. The competition was steep, but here are the winning ideas:

 Team Namely crowds into the kitchen, ready for the demos to begin. Photo by Andrew Persons.  Team Namely crowds into the kitchen, ready for the demos to begin. Photo by Andrew Persons. 

Recognition MVP

Category: Feature Enhancements

Team: Namely Recognition (Elyssa Albert, Michael Rothbaum, Nick Sanchez, David Lo, and Tyler Sargent)

While our @mentions feature encourages ongoing interaction between employees, Namely Recognition adds a performance management slant. The enhancement allows you to easily recognize your teammates. In turn, managers can see how often their reports are being acknowledged, providing constant opportunities to get a pulse on an employee’s performance. The feature was completely built from start to finish.

Benefits Form Builder

Category: Tools & Efficiencies

Team: Safe Bet (Rob LaHayne, Rhiannon Lococo, Andrew Persons, Annie Rosencrans, Kevin Huang, Sydnie Schnapper, and Michael Chevalier)

Many insurance carriers don’t accept automated enrollments for clients of certain sizes. As a result, our benefits team processes thousands of forms. The benefits form builder takes this manual enrollment form process and transforms it into a seamless digital experience (auto-population for the win).


Category: Moonshot

Team: Ask Namely (Rich Fernandez, Jordan Buffaloe, Arnold Ramos, Jia Borchardt, Daniel Reyes, and Sean Massot)

Imagine if you were sitting in a meeting with an intelligent assistant, who was armed with all of your relevant HR data. That you could have instant answers to questions ranging from an employee’s job title to current company headcount or whether a conference room was available. Enter Namely’s take on the Amazon Echo. The answers to your burning HR questions are only a voice-command away. The Echo was so smart it even told the team when their demo time was up!

 The Ask Namely team collects their prize. Photo by Andrew Persons. The Ask Namely team collects their prize. Photo by Andrew Persons.

Namely Benefits and Payroll

Category: Tech Enhancement

Team: Henry Guillen, David Bryant, Peter D'Angelo, Patrick Tandler, Lanny Watkins, and Anjal Hussan

A team of Namely payroll developers came together to dream up how the latest engineering technologies can be applied to Namely’s payroll interface. Their hackathon work laid a strong foundation for future teams to iterate on.

While the goal of the hackathon is to build MVPs of fresh ideas, a few of our past hackathon ideas are now a part of the live Namely platform. So keep an eye out—you never know when one of these winners might become a reality.


How to Build a Strong HR-Finance Partnership

Human capital costs account for nearly 70% of a company’s operating expenses, according to a 2006 SHRM survey. This means that employees—and the spend associated with them—have a huge impact on the bottom line.

Who is best positioned to optimize those costs and help a company grow? HR and finance professionals, working in tandem, make the perfect pair. Imagine a company with an amazing culture, but no profit margins. And then imagine a company with outstanding profit margins, but unengaged employees. Neither would succeed in the long term. But if you’re able to strike a healthy balance between investing in people and focusing on business outcomes, well, that’s where a successful company can emerge.

“We need to get rid of the misconception that finance professionals do not care about people, and HR professionals do not care about the bottom line,” says Namely CFO, Radhika Samant. “Finance’s job is not to cut costs—it’s to optimize them, and we need insights from HR to best do that.”

Recognize the Opportunities

There are countless opportunities for HR and finance professionals to collaborate, since they have such complementary insights on strategy. HR professionals own the data on employee metrics, workforce engagement, and talent performance, while finance has a 360 degree view of operating costs, the budget, and revenue data.

The good news is that the majority of finance and HR leaders—80% to be exact—are currently collaborating. When HR and finance teams work together proactively (instead of when a payroll crisis occurs, for example), they can drive a forward-looking strategy and bring added value to their roles. It’s about identifying opportunities, proposing optimizations, and then clearly measuring progress.

If you’re not sure where to start or are looking for further areas to partner on, consider a few common challenges: how to build an organizational structure that encourages productivity, how to identify and leverage high performers, or how to quell attrition rates that are affecting the achievement of company goals.

Speak the Same Language

To build an impactful partnership, HR and finance professionals need to speak the same language. You can do this by identifying a common set of metrics to use. When you’re looking at the same information and then bringing two unique perspectives to the table, you can have a productive conversation.

If HR and finance teams are looking at different datasets in isolation, they are bound to come to different conclusions and insights. Fortunately, technology products and integrations now enable HR and finance professionals to seamlessly upload and share their data. On a platform like Namely, those teams can now reference a singular record and source of truth for employee data through an HRIS.

Using this common dataset, HR and finance professionals can work together in a feedback loop. How? Identify a business objective, drill down into the data, propose a solution, and then monitor that same data to examine results. Inputs like demographics, compensation, performance rankings, team sizes and more can now transform into insights about reduced regrettable turnover, better organizational design and a more informed compensation strategy.

When HR and Finance are One

In many growing organizations, HR and finance fall under the same leadership. Of course, there’s an inherent conflict here for someone who is both tasked with managing the budget and thinking about value creation for their talent.

Prior to coming to Namely, Samant was CFO of a fast-growing global company, which was making its largest investment in talent. She recognized that in order for the company to succeed, she needed to effectively engage its employees.

But she didn’t have a clear view of the relevant data, which is why she sees the value of investing in an HR technology. “Namely’s solution solved the very challenges I had witnessed [as a CFO managing HR],” Samant explains.

For other finance professionals who might manage HR, she offers this recommendation: “Make sure that your HR staff has the ability to think big around productivity and engagement. Take those ideas into consideration as you also think about the financial side.”

Finding the ROI

This HR-finance partnership has a track record of proven ROI; companies do clearly thrive when these teams work hand-in-hand. A survey by EY found that when companies’ boasted strong collaboration between HR and finance, they also reported higher earnings and stronger improvement across a range of HR metrics, such as employee engagement.

In a moment when roles are become increasingly strategic, partnering is a powerful method for ensuring that you can take your company and role to the next level—either as an HR or finance professional.


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