I love a good panel discussion. Strong panelists can play off each other, bringing out new insights that the moderator may not have expected. I’ve enjoyed being a part of these panels and leading them. So it is fitting that the first session I sat in on at Unleash was the CHRO panel, with CHROs from Tyson, Barry-Wehmiller & Zappos (I LOVE listening to Zappo’s share insights) and led by Holger Mueller. The main focus for employers in the 21st century? Becoming People-First.
Obviously, this is something that I’ve been talking about, that we’ve been talking about on #HRSocialHour for a while, but it seems the pandemic put this first and foremost for strong employers. And what I heard from these 3 employers is that if you weren’t doing it before the pandemic, you are very much late to the game and will need to play catch up — quickly!
First, crowdsourcing information has always been one of my favorite ways to learn and the pandemic brought that out full force. One of the best lines of the conference came in this panel “there is no HR certification for this.” Federal regulations and guidelines changed weekly during the beginning of the pandemic and companies needed agile HR professionals ready for the challenge as the changes were thrown at us. Unfortunately, many weren’t able to shift and employees suffered. And we saw people more willing to make changes that suited their personal needs than ever before. Let’s be clear: the pandemic put ALL employees in the driver’s seat for the first time, ever. And as such, there has been a shift to a more balanced approach to the employee-employer relationship.
We’ve seen a lot of talk about “return to work” which, yes, is my LEAST favorite phrase – most never stopped working. Language matters, so let’s call it what it is “return to the workplace.” Rachel McCoy from Zappos, shared “We are into welcoming people back when they are ready, not forcing them back.” We are seeing this right now with Apple and their “hybrid” requirement to return to the office. We need to give people a reason to return if you want it to be a truly hybrid environment. [Later in the conference, another speaker mentioned that they want folks in the office, but not to just answer email. Bring them in for work sessions, for meaningful meetings, but not to get on Teams.]
Kate Bischoff has been giving some awesome handbook lessons lately, and one of the biggest downfalls of the employee handbook is that we write policies to the lowest common denominator because we are expecting employees to mess up. So we try to anticipate and play the “what if” game to determine how to handle these, typically, one-off situations that don’t affect 99% of our staff. I LOVE that Zappos is changing that!! Imagine working in a company where the handbook tells you how to succeed and not just how to not-fail (because those are not the same, right?). Can you imagine the flexibility you have given employees when you stop penalizing them for attendance? Obviously, this forces employers to have actual conversations with their employees to determine why they might not be succeeding. This will force you to train your supervisors on how to have these conversations, to give timely, effective feedback that will help employees.