Operating a 12-University athletic conference with 24 sports, thousands of athletes and televising a whopping 850 regional and Olympic-level sporting events per year, is not all fun and games. In fact, the skill development, practice, and passion required for the 45 employees of the Pac-12 Conferences and the additional 170 employees of its unique Conference-owned television network relies on exceptional high performance, just like the athletes they support.
The Pac-12 represents athletic competitions for leading state and select private and technical universities across Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. It has led the nation in NCAA Championships for 14 consecutive seasons and in 53 of the last 59 years, earning its moniker as the “Conference of Champions” with over 526 total NCAA team titles.
Managing all HR programming for Pac-12 Conferences plus HR strategy for the Pac-12 Network falls to one person, Anna Roberts, the VP of HR. Anna joined the organization in 2011 inheriting an exciting, big job — and a lot of very manual, paper-based HR processes. She quickly found that it was an onerous job to keep all the balls in the air in order to support a team that is nearly always on the road. Yet she managed to preside over her very manual process for six years because every HR software solution she reviewed, required too much time and too many resources to launch and support.
In 2018, Anna’s benefits broker at One Digital, Jeff Fallick, introduced her to Zenefits. She immediately saw the difference in not only how the HR platform would streamline her work, she saw a significantly easier — and mobile — option for employee engagement.
Building a team to perform, in and out of stadiums and bleachers
“We are purpose-driven to develop the next generation of leaders by championing the student-athlete. To do that, our employees need to innovate to continue to improve on what we deliver to student-athletes and their universities. And, I have to provide a great employee experience.”
“I needed to set up a more proactive HR operation,” says Anna. “The landscape in sports is always changing, the way people watch sports is changing and in response to that, our employees’ jobs are changing. So I need to be able to build an employee team that is nimble enough to respond to that change.”
Anna’s role: supporting a college conference and a media company is as unique as it is varied and complex. For starters, the conference side of the business is non-profit and the media network is not. The compliance mandates for each are also distinct. And mental health — especially in such close proximity to students — is also fundamental. So streamlining and automating many of the people program details is crucial to help Anna stay ahead of bigger priorities.
Employee well-being tops Anna’s priorities. Working with a number of former athletes, she recognizes the need to support a competitive, but also positive workplace. She believes that having the people tools in place to be more effective and efficient contributes to that well-being. For Pac-12 those tools range from healthcare and time off selections to regular performance discussions and mindfulness practices.
“Having a tool that is quick and easy to use, allows our team to focus on their jobs. Further, because our team is traveling the majority of the time between schools, championships and tournaments, having Zenefits on their phones is a significant time-saver, and contributes to less stress for everyone involved.
Zenefits is a game-changer for me and for our business.
Vice President of HR
“Our benefits enrollment and performance reviews with Zenefits were so much smoother and easier than any other year. It was a life-changing experience for all of us.”
People analytics: Posting points on the board
Anna is always evaluating the Pac-12 organization, considering the right roles that will support the organizational priorities now and into the future. She relies on Zenefits for analytics to provide context to back up her recommendations around Equal Opportunity, fair and competitive salaries, leadership development, culture and more.
“I use data from Zenefits to do a lot of convincing on things we need to do for our staff. I am in there all the time; It is so easy to pop in for data-driven perspective on our organization.”
Anna’s own perspective on shifting from manual HR processes to using Zenefits was crystallized when she used the tool to make her first hire: “It was easy and fun setting everything up. The offer letter and supporting materials looked lovely. But with my first hire, I was nervous about how it would work. A day later, I got an email with acceptance and all of the completed onboarding paperwork —even a passport photo. It was done; I didn’t have to remind anyone. Zenefits is a game-changer for me and for our business.”