‘We are constantly preparing our workforce for growth.’ Longtime HR specialist, COO takes us inside at Hagerty

Coco Champagne was with Hagerty when they counted the workforce in dozens, not hundreds or thousands. She has now spent 16 years in human resources, recruiting, managing, paying and developing the company’s staff. Last October she was promoted to chief operating officer, expanding her role beyond HR, though people are still at the center of Champagne’s job.

She talked to the TCBN in mid-January about her position at one of the region’s largest and fastest-growing employers, what’s unique about Hagerty’s focus on its people and more.

Growth and Recruiting

A ton of what we do [in HR] is recruiting. We have 140 new positions approved for 2019, which will take us to more than 1,100 employees. Many of those new positions will be in Traverse City, but some also in the Golden, [Colorado]; Stamford, Connecticut; Ann Arbor and Stouffville [Ontario, Canada] offices. A big part of the job is backfilling positions. For example, someone starts as a Nationwide specialist on our Alliances team, and eventually sees a position posted and takes a new job on another team. So now we have backfill because of that movement or promotion. We are constantly preparing our workforce for growth. As a leader here I try to get them thinking bigger.

A People Development Focus

Development of our people consumes the largest amount of my time. There’s a lot of time spent on changing the context of how someone is thinking about a problem. All of our executives get one-on-one coaching. We have a really robust curriculum of more than 50 courses here called Hagerty University. There’s a guide posted every year of all the courses; some are required for a certain position or track; some are optional. Some are offered live and some are online learning. They’re built using Salesforce [cloud-based customer management software], but we curate those offerings to what we need here. It’s a great benefit. What the curriculum does is it describes a path for employees to look at the bigger picture and say, ‘This is where I want to go within the company eventually.’

Everything is Measured

There’s a lot of focus on our planning cycle. What are our long-term strategic goals three to five years out, and then we break those down each year with milestones, and then break it down to quarterly priorities. Part of my role is how to communicate all that. So the quarterly goals are set by McKeel [Hagerty], the monthly goals on the manager level and those are really discussed on a daily basis in the huddles [small group meetings] among the 70 or so teams inside the company.

For instance we recently launched a new product, the Hagerty Drivers Club. So with that we have to learn all the parts of the product, how to sell it, service it, respond to questions. That was a fourth quarter goal. So we monitor the call volume, we listen in to ensure quality, we measure sales. Then for a team like accounting, they’ll be looking at how did the invoicing work for that product and how are those invoices being sent within the drivers club.

Or within marketing or media buying we might be serving up banner ads and we want to measure how much lift we got from that, so there are quarterly goals with financial links to them. One time we ran radio ads – which we don’t traditionally do very often – on Westwood One during college football. It was very expensive, but we were able to monitor a real lift inbound in the call center during those periods.

Some measurements are simple, like how many calls or how many claims processed. Some are pass/fail, like, ‘Did you complete that vendor RFP [request for proposal].’ And there are performance goals but also growth goals. If a receptionist wants to move to the call center, they can see the path – they have to take an insurance class, they have to observe someone in the call center, etc.

Upwardly Mobile

New employees work on an ongoing basis with both their manager and HR. It’s great, because you really get to know them and you work with their manager and watch, and when another job [within Hagerty] becomes available, they go for it. Within a team, say we have 100 people. Over the course of a year we’ll maybe lose 20 – 10 will leave, and 10 will take Hagerty jobs. There’s no expectation necessarily, but we’re really trying to make sure people understand what’s expected and where they can go.  There’s a career path and a progression and it’s not one size fits all. We had a new receptionist who came in with a marketing degree and we knew she had an interest. Then, due to growth, we needed someone in the call center, so she moved there. Maybe it’s progressions with additional earnings and autonomy, or maybe they’ll get assigned a special project or maybe they do move to a different team and move up. You really just want to give people every tool for success.

HR Technology

Everything is technology today. Any company of any type or size has to be worried about systems if you’re interacting with people in any way. What they compare everything to is how easy it is to buy something on Amazon.

We use everything on Workday’s [cloud-based financial and human capital management software]. It’s a one-stop ERP [enterprise resource planning] for recruiting, payroll, benefits, performance evaluations, development and planning, succession, budgeting. We transitioned to that last year. There are more modules to come, but the majority is in place now. It really automates so much. For instance I don’t get invoices on my desk anymore. The invoices are immediately entered into Workday and I just see a list of them to be reviewed or approved. Some things are becoming more automated, like we over time need fewer underwriters because of technology building more intelligence into that process, but the reality is our growth right now is outpacing technology.