Amanda Haddaway: Revamping the corporate industry with HR Answerbox
The 10 Most Influential Women Making a Difference in Tech, 2021
Everyone has a unique way to measure success. For Amanda Haddaway, success is helping her clients solve their most pressing employee management challenges. She states, “When I can fix something that’s broken in an organization or within a team, or solve an issue that’s keeping the business owner up at night, I feel like I’ve done what I needed to do.” With this spirit in mind and soul, Amanda Haddaway, Managing Director of HR Answerbox, is helping her clients deal with management challenges and providing the best solutions.
Behind the scenes
Amanda actually got into HR accidentally, but it hit the mark. She states, “My undergraduate degree is in public relations, and while I was a student at James Madison University, I had an opportunity for an internship with an IT company in Northern Virginia. It was a great experience, but after the internship wrapped up, I didn’t think much about it. Fast forward to my senior year, and I received an invitation to interview on-campus with that same company. The interview went well, and I was ultimately offered a position as a junior analyst.”
Soon after graduation, she was assigned to a project in the Health Systems business unit. While she had been working there for about a month, her project manager came to her and said that their funding had been cut. She panicked at the time but quickly learned that she had a few weeks to find another position internally.
She adds, “One of the jobs that piqued my interest was a position for a junior recruiter within the HR department. I interviewed internally and started in that role soon after. As they say, the rest is history. With that same company, I had opportunities to do professional-level recruiting, as well as college recruiting. I also spent some time working in employee communications and learning and development.”
From there, she had an opportunity to become an HR director at a different company. This position allowed her to create the HR function from the ground up, as she was their first HR person. The owner and controller had been handling those duties prior to her hire.
As an HR director and an HR department of one, she oversaw recruitment, orientation and onboarding, benefits administration, training, employee relations, and compliance. She also had some responsibilities for marketing and IT.
She adds, “At the end of 2015, I left that role to launch my own consulting practice, HR Answerbox. I had done some freelance work over the years, and it got to the point that I needed to either back away from some of those projects due to time constraints or pursue them more fully. I decided to take the leap. HR Answerbox officially opened for business on January 19, 2016. Launching, running, and growing a business has definitely been my greatest professional achievement.”
Hurdles along the way
The biggest roadblock was COVID-19. When the pandemic began in March 2020, they quickly saw their client bookings disappear due to the uncertainties ahead. Their clients are primarily small businesses and start-ups, so many were panicked about what the future would look like.
She adds, “HR Answerbox was able to pivot into an online resource for our clients quickly. Our training sessions were converted to be effective via Zoom, and we launched our Virtual HR Service.”
Bringing change with HR Answerbox
HR Answerbox provides HR consulting and corporate training services to small businesses and start-ups in for-profit, non-profit and governmental organizations. The majority of their clients are located throughout Maryland and Virginia. They work with small business owners, business leaders, office managers, HR, and finance and accounting professionals to help them solve their employee management problems and challenges.
She states, “We teach others about building cohesive, high-performing cultures, so this is obviously super important to us. When I founded the company, we went through an intensive brand-building exercise that helped us identify our core values. These values are authenticity, consistency, responsiveness, quality work, focused on results & problem-solving. They are reflected in everything we do as an organization, and we frequently obtain feedback from clients to ensure that we’re successful in these efforts.”
They are always looking at new and innovative ways to best serve their clients. After hearing several clients talk about the challenges in building great workplace cultures, they have created the Workplace Culture Academy, which they will launch in July. Their program will help organizational leaders build their culture through intentional activities and strategic decisions.
She adds, “Our Workplace Culture Academy takes participants step-by-step through our Culture Canvas© to analyze their existing culture and determine where there are strengths, as well as areas of opportunity for changes. The academy includes a combination of training sessions, tools, resources, and implementation support.”
She further adds, “HR is constantly changing as a result of new and revised compliance guidelines and employment laws. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in local and state laws in the employment arena, and that trend will likely continue for many years. Employees are also changing. Generational differences have brought forth new demands for employers who want to retain the best and brightest staff members. At HR Answerbox, we’re constantly learning and growing to best serve our clients in the ever-changing world of work.”
Life as managing director of the company
While wearing the hat of managing director at the company, Amanda handles the responsibilities of the role with finesse and also acts as lead consultant and trainer. She adds, “I still enjoy working directly with clients, but also taking care of the operational activities, like business development.”
She expresses that she is trying her best to create a balance at the professional and personal front. Being a driven individual, she motivates other young entrepreneurs by quoting, “Do it! Starting a business is exceptionally hard work, but there’s nothing I would rather be doing.”
Future plans for the company
The company is always looking for the best ways to serve its clients. In the past few years, they have rolled out New Manager Bootcamp, their Virtual HR Service, and many other training programs and consulting solutions. They will continue to innovate and deliver creative, tailored solutions to help their clients build great workplaces.
She states, “Our mission is simple: To make better workplaces. We believe your employees matter. We also believe that happy, well-treated employees perform better, stay longer and contribute to organizational success. When HR is done right (and we know a thing or two about that!), it adds value to the entire organization.”