Mon, 8 June 2020
HP has over 55,000 employees and like many other companies around the world they had to pivot to working virtually during COVID-19. HP was able to adapt very quickly and they have a lot of unique programs and tools in place to support their employees. Leading the way is Tracy Keogh, their Chief HR Officer and co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s global task force for Future of Work. Tracy and I talked at length in a recent episode of "The Future of Work With Jacob Morgan."
How to maintain a culture in a virtual setting
Many leaders may be trying to figure out how to maintain corporate culture when all of the employees who are used to coming into the office every day now find themselves working from home. Tracy says, “I actually think you can maintain your culture. It's with every action and every program that you do even if you're not in the same office. I don't think I've ever seen our culture more alive or evident than during this pandemic. People are very attentive during these times. So I feel like you need to put culture first, as you're thinking about any activities or decisions that you're making.”
A few examples of the things they put into place to help employees working from home include:
Another crucial component here is leaders who are practicing empathy and emotional intelligence. As Tracy and I talked about, now is an important time for leaders to be human beings first and business leaders second. For example, one of the leaders at HP held a meeting where the employees all had their kids on their lap.
The idea here is to take as much of the in-person aspect as you can and move it to the virtual world, but then organizations must build on top of those things with intentionally designed activities and programs.
Digitization and re-skilling
One of the biggest trends Tracy is currently paying attention to is digitization and re-skilling. Realizing this is important, HP has been focused on evolving the knowledge base of their employees. Tracy believes talent development in general looks very different now than it has in the past. She says, “I think we're moving more towards skills-focused versus role focus people, because people move in and out of different roles, but it's those skills that we need moving forward so that we really want athletes who can apply their different skills to solve problems in different ways, depending on the environment and the business challenge.”
HP has also changed the way employees learn. While training is important, they realize that experience and projects play an important role in how employees learn new skills. The company works with employees to map out their career path to figure out what experiences and projects are best suited to where they want to go.
During COVID-19 HP actually took their merchandisers (who work in retail stores showing customers equipment and helping them make product and software decisions) and had them help with their customer service and support teams. HP wanted to find a way to keep these employees paid and on-staff so they focused on the skills that these employees and found other roles where those skills could easily be translated to. HP did the same thing with interns, moving them to a virtual setting (and keeping them paid).
Overcoming difficult times
There’s no doubt we are facing uncertain times, but it is up to us as individuals to decide how we are going to come out on the other side. Tracy says,
“Try to look at the positive of the situation. This is an incredible learning opportunity. This is unprecedented in the world's history, that the whole world has had this kind of issue happen at the same time. And so taking some time and stepping back and thinking about what you've learned, how you've grown, what you've done well, what you wish you were better equipped to do and then figuring out, 'Okay, well, this is what I've learned about myself during this time. Then how do I look moving forward, to make myself smarter, stronger, more resilient, better, and what can I do in the future?' I think it's an amazing learning time. One of the things that I've given as gifts to most of my friends' children is a journal. Just to take time to write, it'll be something historic later on. When you look back that you were there in the pandemic of 2020, and what your thoughts and feelings were. I think taking that inventory and understanding that for people is important, and then looking back and seeing what you've learned and then how it propelled you forward, I think it will be really kind of the best thing to do about this. Take advantage of the opportunity."
For leaders trying to navigate these times, Tracy’s advice is to connect with your people and show your leadership. Communication and listening to employees is key. HP has been taking frequent poll surveys to ensure all employees are supported and feel engaged. She says it is critical, especially in these times, to be transparent and open with employees. Even if you have tough messages to share. Empathy is also very important for leaders to show in this time.