On Thursday, July 9th, the Solomon Page Human Resources division hosted a panel discussion highlighting how the human resources and talent landscape is being reimagined and rebuilt during this time. Moderator Lisa Rossi, Vice President of HR Search at Solomon Page, led the conversation with panelists:
- Jasmine Belizario, HR Director of the US/Canada at Teads
- Rian Finnegan, Senior Manager of Employer Branding at Instacart
- Beth Messich, Senior Director of Learning & Development/Talent Management at GAP
- Davina Mazaroli, Head of People at Sidewalk Labs
How have you seen the role of HR and Talent evolve in the last few months, and how do you anticipate it evolving in the future?
HR at its best is when it is a partner to the business. This concept has settled in more and individuals are coming to HR to think things through and find a solution. Now that we are out of the triage stage and more so into the chronic stage of recognizing this situation is for the rest of the year, Beth thinks the trick is to keep their business partnering with HR in the same way. There is a desire to execute business strategies and balance this out with what individuals are personally dealing with. A people-centered approach is a good shift and she has seen more of it from the business then she has seen in the past.
For Davina, she has spent more time listening through an informal approach outside of engagement surveys. In terms of listening, they went fully remote on March 11th and right when they did that, they built an outreach plan. Leadership was assigned to a member of their organization and would have check-in meetings. This was created to understand what real life is for everyone and what it is like working from home. When they did these check-in meetings, they asked three questions.
- How are you doing?
- How has COVID impacted you and your family?
- Is there anything Sidewalk Labs could do to support you during this time?
The information they gathered from this was eye opening. What they found out was that there was a large population of employees that were completely alone. They were having a different struggle than parents juggling childcare. The second theme she touched on was flexibility. Now more than ever, the HR team has to challenge the status quo and identify what had been working that is no longer working. Davina hopes that listening and willingness to pilot things continues in the future.
On the comms team at Instacart, Rian feels that it is critically important for employees to be informed of what is happening within the company. How can their employees understand what is happening, what the goals are, how things are changing, how things are shifting, what does return to work look like, are we thinking about that now? They are working with HR on that as well as rolling out additional mental health perks. It is an interesting time, but a lot of people are relying on HR and internal comms at this time.
How has this time impacted your internal communication and employer branding, including your D&I initiatives and strategies?
For the majority of Jasmine’s career, she has worked on the agency side. Being within the HR teams that Teads currently works with, and as a person of color, she has seen an absence of diversity and more minority groups being represented within the advertising space. While this is simultaneously happening for her as an HR leader, it has been more of a passion to dip further and partner with strategic business partners throughout North America and current global HR leads. Having a diverse talent workforce is key to driving forward innovative ideas. Teads is currently in a position to work with local schools and local programs. There has also been a shift with their global presence. Having the support from the top has been very important for their culture and engagement. They have developed a council to come together and have a conversation with representation from all leaders throughout the globe. In return, this will attract people from different walks of life.
Sometimes when things come from HR, it feels like too much of a program. Fortunately for Beth’s company, they have a Head of Equality & Belonging, which is what they call Diversity & Inclusion, who has been proactively driving this work for the past couple of years. Stepping back, has the company been doing everything they could have and should have? No, but now they have their leaders’ attention. This isn’t going to happen overnight. The hashtags are going to go away. How does this become a part of how they operate? They’ve only seen a civil rights movement start to happen in the past 60 years. Everyone needs to continue to educate and continue to grow. The number of jobs for diversity and inclusion is tenfold.
There are a lot of leaders feeling internal pressure to take action. As human beings, we are biased for action. For Davina, they have been very transparent with their employees. They need to focus on education, dialogue, and the journey. Diversity, equity, and inclusion have always been important. On Juneteenth, they cancelled all of their meetings and sent out podcasts and videos to their employees to listen and watch in the morning. They paired up employees to have one-on-one discussions about what they learned. They received very positive feedback. Sidewalk Labs is committed to quarterly reports on gender and ethnicity in terms of teams and levels of the organization. This holds leadership accountable to change and their recruiting teams to deliver a positive impact in terms of representation.
A unique silver lining of this time is that there is a newly opening pool of talent that was previously unattainable in a highly candidate-driven market. Solomon Page has strategically used at this time as an opportunity to attract and hire some exceptional talent. Have any of your organizations used this as a time to recruit? If not, what seeds are you planting now to scoop up the new sea of talent has recently become available, once the hiring environment feels more stable?
This is a moment where the HR team can partner and have conversations with local organizations. At Teads, they have seen a spike in engagement, whether it be internships or mentorships. Conversations that are happening right now will hopefully lead to in-person engagements in the Fall.
In a time when there is likely to be caution around committing money, what strategies are you using to achieve TA and HR goals--and how has the role of technology evolved in those strategies?
From the supply chain population at GAP, this group is used to virtual learning. People are much more receptive to virtual. They are creating the time and the space for it. The need and desire for connection is so strong.
At Instacart, people have the need for connection, but Zoom fatigue is real. How do they roll out events and programs? They created a slack channel called Virtually Social, which focuses on mindfulness and meditation. In terms of additional tools, Textio is something they are onboarding right now. It is an augmented tool that helps with grammar and language. This has been very helpful with a lot of their communication at this time. Their virtual candidate experience is new as well.
What are the top skills (or the top skill) you’ve developed because of COVID that you wish you didn’t have to learn, but feel grateful for?
For Beth, the level of self-management in every aspect of life has increased exponentially. As for Davina, she is trying to figure out how to sit down for 14 hours a time without going nuts. One thing that she has learned is that intuition and empathy are important. As HR leaders, they must fight the good fight. The skill of persistence to have people go from a “no” to a “yes” in a virtual setting has been an interesting learning. Jasmine has stepped up her game as a therapist. People aren’t always coming to you for a solution, but they miss that interpersonal engagement. We are all in this together and it is okay to not be okay. For Rian, they have spent a lot of time with their partner and they are trying not to project manage the people in their life.
What are you doing to support your employees to help with their mental health?
Rian recommends Spring Health. Employees get free virtual therapy sessions. Davina recommended Lyra. It is a program they have had in place and pairs employees with a virtual therapist via text or video. Not only do they have these resources for their employees, but they want their employees to use them. At GAP, they have an employee assistance program. Aside from that, they have a speaker series with two people per week. Everything from coaches to therapists on topics that they have not necessarily done as work topics before.
A big thank you to our moderator and team of panelists for contributing!
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