HR Gets a Breath of Fresh Air with Mike Tinney’s FIX Health app A Step Ahead

The Human Resources (HR) department of any given company is multifaceted, and many employees often don’t know what they do.

HR staff are very employee-oriented, and they are responsible for finding applicants to fill roles, training new employees, administering benefit programs, doing the payroll, and handling terminations. They also perform conflict resolution and ensure that the company’s policies are compliant with laws and fair for the staff.

Given that the nature of their work revolves around the employees and their respective roles, it comes as a bit of a shock that studies have shown employees typically distrust and dislike the HR department. 

According to an article published by Forbes, employees don’t trust the HR department because they feel as though the staff cares more about the company than the individual employees, going so far as to say that their usual responses to employee complaints are to ensure the company is not doing anything illegal instead of trying to improve working conditions.

Employees’ belief that HR staff is not concerned with their well-being seems to be the driving force behind their distrust, with the article showing that almost half of a company’s employees don’t trust HR to help with conflict resolution or trust them to share internal promotion opportunities.

While some employees likely have valid reasons for distrusting others within their company, it is also safe to assume that these employees might feel differently if they were the ones working in HR. Mike Tinney, CEO and founder of FIX Health, not only provides a service that often proves the true care the HR department has for the wellbeing of their staff but he was once thrust into an HR role that provided him with valuable insights into the department that perhaps others should also have.

An Unlikely Position

Tinney was the CEO of a company that was sold and merged with CCP Games, an international gaming company. He became an executive for the merged companies and ran the North American office while simultaneously providing support for the Shanghai office when needed. As one can expect from a merger, the company was in a state of growth, going from 150 to 600 employees.

So how did Tinney go from developer and executive to head of HR? It all boils down to the fact that the HR the company had were disconnected from each other, and the rest of the staff, and they weren’t native to the video game industry, meaning they didn’t understand the company or the products they provided. While they were skilled at their role, they didn’t have enough experience within the specific industry to sit at the executive table, so they had no voice in such places. It was actually at an executive offsite, once the main meetings were finished, that the topic of HR was broached.

“We were discussing how hard it was to find an HR person within the industry and how our hiring was disrupted because of it. Our current HR employees were very much outside of the company in a lot of regards, they didn’t spend a lot of time with the team, they were in different locations and didn’t connect, they didn’t play any of the games, and they couldn’t relate to the relationship the employees had with the craft they brought to the company and how the results of the employees time created the product, what the product meant to fans, or how the employees also had a relationship with those fans,” he said.  

So what did he suggest to solve this problem?

“I volunteered to try to support the HR team, to try to become their executive person on the team, and try to help them better understand the company’s purpose. Help them go through the journey most new hires already went through and that was: what is special about the products we made and why people loved them. Then we had to reverse that understanding and connect how that special product quality interacts with a search for specific people and finding people who have the right kind of mental and emotional DNA to join the organization,” said Tinney.

After he officially joined the department, they added operational processes, led the company through its first round of performance reviews and raises, coached new managers on consistency, and shored up some HR staffing weak spots (including a prototype wellness program). After a couple of challenging years of stability during growth, the department was ready to go to the next level… which was a search for an actual HR C-suite executive. Someone who had international and entertainment experience, with a proper HR education and foundation.

A year after that search, Tinney was able to hire his replacement (and she was a unicorn of hire) and fire himself from HR. All in all, Tinney spent approximately four years stabilizing and ramping up the HR department while growing the company from 150 to 600 people across four continents.

Valuable Insights

One thing that Tinney learned while in HR that surprised him is that people tend to regard HR as the catch-all department for anything that needs to happen for employees, and he learned firsthand that it’s hard to be the Swiss army knife of all things relating to people, especially with a company that is expanding quickly.

He found that no one ever thanked HR for things going well, but if anything went wrong, even if it wasn’t related to their department, they would get treated poorly or blamed for the disruption. A lot of people placed many demands on them, and they were very much outsiders whether they wanted to be or not.

“Some of the HR staff worked hard to integrate themselves into the team and play the games, but it was hard for them. They are expected to do things unrelated to their position and don’t have a seat at the table, but if they do everything well then everything runs well in the background and that is important for the company,” said Tinney. “It’s a tough department, one that tends to get dumped on by all the other departments, but also has to constantly “save the day.” They are unsung heroes.”

HR in a New Light

Several of the lessons and insights Tinney learned while in HR informed the consultative part of his business at FIX Health, a unique company in the corporate wellness space that provides walking and exercise challenges designed to instill healthy habits in company employees through their app A Step Ahead.

“We are one of the only companies in the wellness space that downstream to the sub 500 market, and we go to the sub 100 market as well. Now we do have some employers who are annual recurring customers in the 10,000 plus employee category, and they’re wonderful to work with, but other wellness companies in the space rarely pay attention to the sub 100 employer markets, and they employ about half of the American workforce,” Tinney explained.

The size of the companies they market to isn’t the only aspect of the company that makes them unique, what they provide does as well.

“We do physical activity interventions in the form of a walking and exercising challenge, and it runs on a standalone app on your phone that you install, and it talks to your phone step counter and things like that to get data. We take employees through a six-week program that gets them up to 150 active exercise minutes a week. If an employee completes that program, they’ve done the work and six weeks is long enough for someone to lose some weight and build some habits. Most of our customers now do these things two, three, or four times a year as organized events inside the company,” he said. “These programs are animated, thematic games running on our proprietary app called A Step Ahead. Everything happens in a story format. Think of it like a season of a show. They finish those six weeks and it’s like they finished that season, and they can choose to continue to the next season or not. People typically enjoy our games—we have a 94.4 percent complete rate, and it’s the highest in the industry.”

So how does this relate to HR? The HR department is typically the one who finds, pays for and then implements the wellness app. While the app is marketed as one that can help corporate employees build positive habits, it is also one that can bring together a group of people disconnected by misconceptions and differing roles within a company.

The game on the ASA app requires interaction amongst those who are playing and they work together to achieve the collective goals, this would naturally bridge gaps between employees and allow those who are typically considered to be corporate outsiders to be a part of the team for once. Perhaps once people get to know each other, and in a setting unrelated to their respective work roles, the dynamics within the company could shift, resulting in a more harmonious environment.

“One of my favorite aspects of A Step Ahead, from an HR perspective, is that we can give the HR department something ‘cool and special’ to bring to their company,” Tinney concluded. “With this program, they don’t have to herd the cats or try to convince people to do a chore they would rather not do. What they get is a slick, engaging — dare I suggest ‘cool’ — event to bring to their colleagues. It’s a nice break from TPS reports and HRAs.”

About Mike Tinney

Mike Tinney is the Founder and CEO of FIX Health, which powers A Step Ahead, a wellness app that leverages technology and the expertise of FIX Health’s team of health professionals to help individuals take control of their health and wellness. Under Tinney’s leadership, FIX Health has become a trusted partner for SMBs seeking to provide cost-efficient and fun ways for their teams to stay healthy. To join in the fun, please visit: 

Comments are closed.