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Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Steve Alexander, Associate Editor
Bud Wayne, Editorial Executive
Christy Rivers -
A Talk with HR
Founder and CEO
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – May 4, 2020
CEOCFO: Ms. Kakes, what is the idea behind EffortlessHR™?
Ms. Kakes: That is a great question. Back in the day, when HR was called personnel, I started my career many years ago, so I have over thirty five years of HR experience. When I started consulting in 2001 most small businesses did not have a system. They still needed HR assistance and they did not know what to do, when to do it or how to do it. I looked around and I kept asking, “Do you not use any kind of a program, any automation to help you make sure that your information is correct and that you are gathering it and is consistent.” They looked at me like a deer in the headlights and said, “Well, we have a spreadsheet with this and we have a spreadsheet with that.”
I have used some of the bigger HR systems and they were too big for small businesses. They had too many bells and whistles and it would be very confusing. Plus, it became very expensive for small businesses. Therefore, I bit the bullet and decided, “Oh, I can build that,” and so I did! I hired a programmer and said, “This is what I want.” I went through three programmers before I found the right one and we built it and we launched in 2008. EffortlessHR is an oxymoron, but it is a very comprehensive, easy to navigate and cost effective tool for small to midsized businesses, although we do have some larger clients that use us as well. However, our main focus is for the small to midsized business that do not have an HR professional that needs assistance.
CEOCFO: Would you cover some of the standard things that one would expect and maybe some things that people would not think belong in HR or that could be handled through a system?
Ms. Kakes: It is a matter of gathering the data and using it effectively. That is because when you start using spreadsheets it is very easy to make a mistake. You start keying and typing in information and if you are not really good at proofreading you can mix up numbers, you can mix up dates and so on. This program will help you gather the employee information, keep it consistent and easy to navigate and access. You can access it from any kind of a computer, an iPad, notebook, iPhone, smartphone; whatever it is that you need. We have State and Federal laws. We provide the posters – State and Federal. The only thing we do not do is payroll.
CEOCFO: Different states have different regulations. How do you keep abreast of what is in place, what is changing and perhaps, maybe even a time like now with COVID, where things are springing up that people need to know?
Ms. Kakes: That is so true! That is one of the hardest things, because we are a small business and I am the HR person behind it. I belong to SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) and I have other contacts with Workforce, BLR, and other HR groups. I am constantly updating our Handbook Builder. Our laws and regulations and our posters are constantly being update. It is a matter of seeing something and thinking, “Aha, this needs to be posted on our site, so that our clients are aware of it.” We provide state and federal information. I do not get into the weeds with many local regulations. California is a little different. We have some things for Los Angeles and for San Francisco of course. New York City is also another area that has specific laws for just New York City. However, it is mostly for the state of federal requirements that are coming through. We have announcements that we put up on our site to let our clients know that this is something they need to be aware of and then we make updates.
We also have a great relationship with Enquiron®. They provide a lot of compliance assistance. This is really important with the Corona Virus epidemic that we are going through right now because there are constantly changes that are happening. For example, I just had a request for some information about bringing a child to work, if that is dangerous, what the legalities are regarding that, do you need a policy for it. Therefore, it is a matter of constantly being aware and available to help a client. I am not an attorney, but I have access to attorneys if I have a specific question that I cannot find a good, clear legal answer to help an employer I can ask an attorney.
CEOCFO: Are you offering a single solution and people can use the components that they want or is someone able to just get specific pieces?
Ms. Kakes: We do not do the modules like many of the other HR companies do. The only standalone module that we have is our Employee Handbook Builder. We have many clients that just use that. We have some clients that just want to see data collection. We have some international clients that just use it for collecting employee data so that they can run a report on names and addresses and so on. They do not need our laws and regulations because they are not US clients. Therefore, it depends on what they are looking for. We interact with payroll companies, but we do have a time clock that they can disable if they have their own payroll company timeclock that they use.
CEOCFO: What do you provide that businesses are not taking advantage of the way you would expect? What are people missing?
Ms. Kakes: I think they are missing the ability to really communicate with their employees, keeping them apprised of what is happening. We have, what we call, the company bulletin board, where every company can provide important information to their employees. Also, we have an employee portal but not every client will use the employee portal. The employees can access the system for their information. You can build a hierarchy within the organization, so supervisors will have access to just their employees. I find that many companies, as they grow, they do not understand how important that can be, to make people self-
CEOCFO: How would a company get started with EffortlessHR? What is involved in an implementation? How do you help the concerns about making a transition?
Ms. Kakes: As I said, it is really easy to get started. We do have a fourteen day free trial. We do not ask for any credit cards or any other information. I can do a demo and show a client how to effectively use the program, but they do not have to do that. They can start putting information into the system right away. There are no set up fees. There are no installation fees. There is no pre-
We have help guides and quick starts that well help answer some of the questions. We have a support line. We get back to someone within twenty four hours if not sooner. My programmer is great! I am always the one that is saying, “I think we need to add this function to the system; what do you think? This is how I think it should work.” He will build it. He will give it to me to test it to break. If I break it then he knows it is not ready to be pushed out. Also, since we are a subscription based program, everything is done in the cloud, so any changes we make is live when it happens.
CEOCFO: You provide white label software and have a reseller program. Is that a big component for you or somewhat ancillary?
Ms. Kakes: It is just kind of ancillary. We have several clients that use this private label extensively and they love it, because we can brand it with their brand and it becomes their program and they can add clients to the system that way. The only problem with that is if we add something that is very helpful to all of our clients, we cannot always push it out to the private labels, because it is branded with our name. However, for the most part it has worked out pretty well. We have several organizations that use just the Handbook Builder. They provide handbooks to all of their clients at a very reasonable cost. We also do a lot of handbook reviews. Clients that have had a handbook for maybe ten years and realize, “Maybe I should have this updated.” They will send it to us to review and we will let them know; state and size specific policies that need to either be added or removed.
CEOCFO: How do you reach out to potential clients? If someone is looking, not for you specifically, but if they do not know who you are, how would they EffortlessHR?
Ms. Kakes: That has probably been our biggest stumbling block, because none of us are really heavy marketers or salespersons. I spend all of my time and effort in building the program to be as robust as it is right now. We use blogs and SEO. We have tried Facebook ads, but that is not really our target market. We have tried some outside salespeople and unless they really understand HR, and because we can provide national coverage to every state, it is hard to find the right type of sales force. Therefore, we are looking at other options, probably through LinkedIn and things like that.
We tried eMarketing campaigns and you have to have someone to really monitor that. As I said, we are a small company, so we are still struggling with that. However, right now what we find is that if someone has an HR issue and they do not know what to do or they cannot find an answer, they will Google and they will find us that way or through word of mouth. We have a lot of referrals.
CEOCFO: Do clients tend to stay with you once they have started?
Ms. Kakes: Yes. Even with the Corona Virus epidemic that we have, we have only lost two clients that had to close the doors. What I told them is that we will hold their subscription open, so when things get better they can return and we will not charge them for the months that have been past, that they are closed, and they will be able to reactivate without any difficulty.
CEOCFO: Security is an issue with everything, everywhere. How does that come into play at EffortlessHR?
Ms. Kakes: That was one of the big things when we first started. My programmer came from working with a government agency that was highly secure, so he understood the need for security. I said that we are working with people’s information, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses; all of that. It needs to be highly secure. Therefore, we have military grade encryption. We have backups in the data center and that goes to another data center, so we have multiple layers of backup. Knock wood, we have never had any outages.
CEOCFO: Are there particular industries or types of companies that are of focus for you?
Ms. Kakes: I did a white paper several years ago and found that the biggest industries were insurance, technology companies and medical; healthcare. I have noticed lately that there has been an upturn in more of the trade companies, automobile agencies, plumbers, electricians; so I think it depends upon what the country is going through.
CEOCFO: Would you give us an example of how EffortlessHR really is effortless? What would you have done that may be a little bit different to make a particular function as easy to navigate as it should be?
Ms. Kakes: Yes. Once you gather all of your information, one of the big things is that HR departments need to have the ability to do is to compose and provide reports to management as to what is happening. Once you have the information, it is just a matter of building that report. We have a great customer report writer that is very easy to use. You just move over what you want to have on that report, download it into an Excel spreadsheet and then you can make that as pretty a document as you wish. Then you have that information that you can give to your management team. We have onboarding, we have forms. It just makes it really easy. It is kind of intuitive when you are looking at it. You have different screens that are very intuitive as to what it is asking for and what you need. You can track time off. You can track benefits. You can track any personal device that you give to an employee, like a laptop or a credit card or the keys to the front door. You can inventory that and have that available.
There are two things that our clients really seem to love the most. Every administrator and supervisor and being set up with this, has what we call a Tickler file/Reminder Calendar. On that calendar is the birthdates of the employees, the hire date of the employees, the review date of the employees and when any skill, license or certificate is going to expire, it shows up on that calendar. They have, at their fingertips, information that will help like, “It is Suzy’s birthday, let me send her a birthday note,” and they can do that right from the system. They do not have to get out of the system. They can send a note to Suzy such as, “Happy Birthday, glad you are having a great day.” The other thing is performance review. I am a great believer in letting employees know how they are performing. Just like companies want to know, so do employees. We do have what we call “employee notes.” It will date/times stamp it as you enter information, such as, “Suzy is great with the customers, they love her,” or “Suzy is always late, we have talked to Suzy and she needs to improve.” Therefore, when you get ready to do the performance appraisal, all you have to do is print out your note report, attach it to your performance review, and that is your documentation.
CEOCFO: What is ahead for EffortlessHR?
Ms. Kakes: Getting through the next few months, like everybody else! We want to grow the business of course, like everybody else. However, it is not just that. We want to be able to level the playing field for the small to midsized business owner, so that when they have employees, they know that they can have access to a system that will help them communicate and grow their business just like some of the larger companies that have these big, powerful HR departments.
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“We want to be able to level the playing field for the small to midsized business owner, so that when they have employees, they know that they can have access to a system that will help them communicate and grow their business just like some of the larger companies that have these big, powerful HR departments.” Lola Kakes