How Brightmark Cut Down on HR Work by 50% Using Sparrow

play icon false

Sparrow x BrightMark

The revolutionary waste solutions leader uses Sparrow for end-to-end leave administration.

Brightmark is a global waste solutions company on a mission to Reimagine Waste. Using circular solutions, Brightmark confronts urgent environmental issues, working to curb plastic pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Their innovative technology converts organic waste into renewable natural gas and closes the loop on plastic waste by turning it into building blocks for new materials.

Brightmark’s critical work and proprietary technology aren’t just pushing the needle forward on environmental progress—they’re also inspiring companies around the world to rethink their own waste management. The Business Intelligence Group named Brightmark’s “Reimagining Waste into Renewable Natural Gas” project as a Sustainability Initiative of the Year in the 2023 Sustainability Awards program.

Since 2016, Brightmark’s solutions resulted in over 750,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions reduced and over four million pounds of plastic waste recycled. Behind those numbers are a passionate team of engineers, field workers, and executives committed to making positive change. To support them, Brightmark partners with Sparrow for full-service employee leave administration.

Marking key employee moments

Brightmark employees are trying to make the world a better place to live—and Brightmark wants to make their company the best place to fulfill that goal. The company has worked hard to create a nurturing workplace culture, one that prizes positivity, inclusion, and accountability.

“We want Brightmark employees to know they have an HR team and a company who cares about their wellbeing,” said Gracy Cobarrubia, the Senior Director of HR Operations at Brightmark.

To keep their employees happy, healthy, and motivated, Brightmark provides a wide range of benefits. Beyond comprehensive health plans and 401(k)s, the company also offers paid volunteer time, tech stipends, commuter benefits, flexible work arrangements, and generous parental leave.

“The employee life cycle includes all of these incredibly important moments,” said Cobarrubia, “including going out on leave. So it’s crucial to make sure our employees feel taken care of during all of these different moments in their work.”

"Sparrow takes the heavy burden off of our employees and keeps us up to date throughout the leave process."

Gracy Cobarrubia Headshot Gracy Cobarrubia
Senior Director of HR Operations

The challenge: Managing complex leaves with a small internal team

Brightmark wanted to offer excellent leave for their employees, but they didn’t have an effective system to manage leaves internally. “Not having a dedicated benefits team or someone specific to oversee leave was a big challenge for us,” Cobarrubia said.

Before Cobarrubia was hired, Brightmark was operating under a parent company that had their own HR team, but Brightmark didn’t want to rely solely on them. “We wanted to create HR policies unique to Brightmark and introduce new benefits,” she explained.

To build a new benefits structure from the ground up, Cobarrubia and her manager signed onto a separate benefits plan with a broker. However, the change ended up taking significantly more time and effort than the team anticipated. “I spent a lot of time researching and compiling my own resources for leave management, but there was also a lot of back and forth between us and our benefits broker,” she explained.

Managing leaves of absence was challenging. “My manager and I aren’t leave experts, so we found ourselves constantly scratching our heads trying to figure out how to manage payroll and communicate state benefits to our employees,” said Cobarrubia. “Most of our employees are based in California, where the state leave policies are twice as complex as other states.”

"Sparrow's personalized payroll plans have been life-changing. They're super clear and easy for us to understand payment adjustments and issue correct amounts."

Gracy Cobarrubia Headshot Gracy Cobarrubia
Senior Director of HR Operations

Aside from analyzing state leave laws, Cobarrubia and her manager also had to organize piles of paperwork, keep track of compliance deadlines, and address employee concerns. “We were constantly reaching out to our benefits broker with questions and help,” she added.

The process was just as intensive on the payroll side. “Tracking payroll changes and calculating adjustments was mostly manual,” Cobarrubia said, “so it took a lot of time to figure out how much the state was going to pay versus insurance, and how much Brightmark would top it off.”

She and her team were perpetually concerned about payroll accuracy. “When it comes to payroll, you don’t want to make a mistake with payments. When someone is on leave, payment should be the least of their worries,” she explained. “But the process was so confusing that many of our employees struggled to understand how they were getting paid, when they were getting paid, and through what agency.”

Brightmark’s lean HR team quickly found themselves overwhelmed with leaves. “Our benefits broker saw us struggling and told us there were services for leave administration,” Cobarrubia said. “We wanted to find a way to better serve Brightmark employees taking leave, and also streamline the admin process on our side.”

The solution: Partnering with Sparrow for end-to-end support

When Brightmark started searching for leave management providers, they had one overarching goal: find someone who makes the leave process easier for everyone involved. Sparrow’s white glove service stood out immediately.

“We met with a few other leave administration vendors, but what we liked most about Sparrow is how much hand-holding they provide—to both employees and administrators,” Cobarrubia said.

With Sparrow, Brightmark’s HR team doesn’t have to worry about researching state laws, completing paperwork, or following up with employees; Sparrow does it all. “Prior to Sparrow, one of our employees was on a medical leave that ended up having a lot of complications, and that particular leave became an administrative nightmare to deal with,” she said. “When we implemented Sparrow, they took over the leave and sorted everything out.”

Sparrow’s guidance has been especially helpful to Brightmark’s field employees. “Our employees range from engineers and executives to field employees recycling plastics at our circularity centers or working at one of our plants,” said Cobarrubia.

“Some of these folks are literally doing physical labor all day, and they may not have the time to sit at a desk and go through emails and fill out papers,” she explained. “We wanted someone who could take over the process from beginning to end.”

Sparrow corresponds directly with Brightmark employees going on leave, taking care to break down their benefit options, fill out paperwork for them, and even liaise with insurance providers on their behalf.

"I love how responsive the Sparrow team is. They ensure that things are moving along as they should."

Gracy Cobarrubia Headshot Gracy Cobarrubia
Senior Director of HR Operations

“Sparrow takes that heavy burden off of our employees, and at the same time keeps us up to date throughout the leave process, sending updates if someone wants to extend their leave or return sooner,” said Cobarrubia.

Ensuring payroll accuracy was another huge weight off of Brightmark’s HR team. Sparrow sets up automated payroll calculations for Brightmark, generates custom payroll reports, and provides extra payroll support. “For our payroll team,” said Cobarrubia, “it’s been life-changing to receive the personalized payroll plan from Sparrow. It makes it super clear and easy for us to understand payment adjustments and issue the correct amounts.”

With Sparrow’s expert support, Brightmark can rest easy knowing they’re compliant in every aspect. “Leaves are so complex, and you don’t want to risk messing anything up and impacting someone’s pay or benefits,” she explained.

What’s more, at every stage Sparrow Leave Specialists provide compassionate, personalized support to Brightmark’s administrators and employees taking leave. “As an HR professional, it’s always important for me to put myself in the shoes of the person I’m communicating with and do my best to listen and be empathetic. And Sparrow does a really great job of that, too,” said Cobarrubia.

In addition to sending regular updates and reports, Sparrow Leave Specialists make themselves available to Brightmark employees and administrators for all questions and concerns, no matter how small. “I love how responsive the Sparrow team is,” Cobarrubia added. “They ensure that things are moving along as they should, and bring any potential issues to our attention right away.”

"We've cut down on our leave management time by more than 50%. Having Sparrow has been life-changing for us and Brightmark employees."

Gracy Cobarrubia Headshot Gracy Cobarrubia
Senior Director of HR Operations

The result: 50% less admin work and less employee stress

With Sparrow’s end-to-end leave management services, Brightmark’s HR team has been able to spend less time navigating the nitty-gritty details of leave and more time connecting with Brightmark employees during all their big and small job milestones.

“We’ve cut down on our leave management time by more than 50%,” said Cobarrubia. “Having a dedicated resource has been life-changing for us and Brightmark employees.”

Giving Brightmark employees personalized support before, during, and after their leaves helps minimize employee frustration and maximize peace of mind. “When people go on leave, it can be exciting, but it can also be stressful,” Cobarrubia explained. “The one-on-one customer service Sparrow provides has made our employees’ lives so much easier.”

Plus, “having such a devoted leave partner makes my job very rewarding,” she added. “Knowing that we have the tools and resources necessary to keep our employees engaged and motivated is amazing.”

Take the stress out of leave administration and unburden your employees with Sparrow. Explore our offerings or book a demo today.