Jo Deal, CHRO of LogMeIn, speaks to HRT about the techniques of managing a geographically distributed workforce. She also elaborates why HR leaders need to understand an employee’s individual needs and accommodate them for a better work-life balance. Jo leads the global people strategy with a focus on attracting, developing and engaging talent.
The “Future of Work” is one of the most pressing issues for CHROs right now. One key element in this is man and machine working alongside. How do you see this changing the way man and machine ‘employees’- communicate, collaborate and engage with each other?
We are seeing a dramatic shift toward a more distributed workforce as employees are increasingly prioritizing some aspect of remote work, while organizations are quickly understanding how they can benefit from it. In fact, of employees 50 years or older often work away from traditional offices already, along with 70 percent of millennials – and this number is growing. Gartner predicts that half of the future workforce will work outside the traditional office setting most of the time by 2020.
Organizations have different versions of what remote working is, but we all contend with balancing job and personal priorities. While technology has become all-consuming in the workplace, it is also what allows us to always be connected to create a continuum of work and life.
Given the shift toward the always “on” workforce, it just makes sense to offer employees ways to make time for home and work life outside of the traditional home or work hours.
The benefits that come from offering that flexibility range from improved talent attraction and retention to greater team productivity and results. However, to achieve these benefits, companies need to ensure their remote workers are still engaged and connected. By leveraging reliable communications platforms, virtual collaboration is just as seamless and effortless as it would be in-person, allowing people to connect and engage with one another.
Woman, man and machine all have a role to play here. The key is working alongside as opposed to against one another while harnessing the power of AI and the intuition, passion and energy that comes from human connections. A truly forceful combination.
The concept of learning and development is changing drastically. How have you seen L&D evolve over the last few years and what should a CHRO be prioritizing, when it comes to developing a L&D strategy that delivers in the new decade?
While there has been an emphasis on knowledge workers in the last decade, a shift more towards “learning workers” is happening. As competition for talent in the marketplace intensifies, a company’s learning strategies have become a powerful tool in attracting new talent into an organization as well as supporting people’s career growth. If we hire capable, skilled talent from diverse backgrounds with a desire to learn, and we can provide new knowledge or skills on demand, the resulting adaptability matches the fast pace of the business we are in and allows us to pivot and seize opportunities more quickly.
A capacity for learning and the ability to adapt and apply learnings to new situations can be a key differentiator, and we need to design our L&D strategies with that fast to market agility in mind.
Classroom learning still has its place but the audience wants on demand, bite sized learning that is very specific to their needs. The talent development strategy also has to serve a globally distributed, tech savvy population.
A distributed workforce is the new normal. How can CHROs embrace technology to optimize productivity from such a workforce? What are the mistakes you see companies make when it comes to managing a distributed workforce optimally?
This begins with the right leadership mindset. Out of sight can mean out of mind for some leaders which limits the possibilities for workers who aren’t based at HQ or a key office . Simple things like using video for every meeting can help remove any perceived barrier that distance can bring while using technology to share documents, information and working drafts mean that everyone can work effectively together as if they were in the same room. As we design our collaboration tools, our focus is on that “in room” experience and making it seamless for those inside and outside the actual meeting room.
Managers need to understand and respect cultural differences, time zones, and take time to know each of their people and what drives them, whether it is someone you see at work every day or someone who is 5 or 5,000 miles away.
Technology doesn’t replace the need for managers to manage, to provide real time feedback or coach for improved performance, though there are great tools and technologies that can enhance and help them do it more effectively, especially when they aren’t co-located.
How can smaller companies leverage communication and collaboration technology to punch above their weight when it comes to their employees?
Often smaller companies have less to work with in terms of resources and budget, whether that be travel limitations or having enough people to work on new projects. Travel becomes less necessary when you can collaborate via video and have the benefit of a high-tech virtual meeting room where you can build meaningful relationships. Being able to offer flexibility on how you work can open new talent pools to a smaller company that may not have the large power of a brand name when it comes to hiring . The abundance of cloud offerings and online content targeted at the SMB company makes investing in talent programs much easier. Finding smaller scale and cheaper solutions that still provide great development and learning opportunities, competitive rewards or effective communications is always the priority. It also means that a company of any size can compete more easily with the big players in what they can offer their employees.
Employee engagement and retention doesn’t need to be that complicated. It can seem overwhelming to compete with all the cool offerings some brand name companies provide, (think rock climbing walls, free sushi, onsite massage) but if you get carried away with the “cool,” you sometimes forget the fundamentals. Engagement boils down to simple factors for employees: What’s my job? What’s expected of me? What does success look like and how does my work align to company goals? When building a recipe for engagement, CHROs need to bake in these ingredients first and foremost. Then when you start icing that cake, pick just a few decorations and do them exceptionally well. It is too hard to compete with the big budgets the large tech brand names set aside for employee experience, so start off identifying what your unique value proposition is going to be and exceling at it.
HR is increasingly seeing themselves not as workforce facilitators but as the ‘owners of productivity.’ What mindset and process changes does a CHRO need to activate in their team to make this a reality?
Employees need to have a clear understanding of the role being asked of them, while simultaneously having the skills and coaching to perform at it. As a CHRO, engagement is a top priority and we have many initiatives in place in support of that, but sometimes CHROs forget about all the small supporting pieces in HR operations and benefits that can help remove the friction and distractions for employees. Providing benefits that promote a healthy lifestyle allowing an employee to bring their best self to work, removing the distractions of day to day life with legal assistance or something as simple as on site dry cleaning can add up and make a difference to people’s lives, letting them focus on more important things.
Everyone needs something slightly different to make their life easier and adopting a thoughtful approach to balancing scale with individual customized need is key to success.
You cannot do everything for everyone but you can pick the things that can help from productivity distractions and make the majority’s lives easier.
To earn a place in the Boardroom, HR needs to be able to connect their role to business outcomes. How has your approach to performance, metrics and results evolved and how are you able to demonstrate the value of HR to the C-Suite at LogMeIn?
As any organization grows, there is danger of everyone moving in slightly different directions and slowing down progress. It’s important to set corporate priorities and then cascade those throughout the company such that each employee aligns their individual or team goals to those top five business goals. It is no different for HR. Our talent strategies have to be aligned to the business priorities and specifically to business outcomes . Measuring against your spend, understanding the business case as well as the talent investment to support that case is important and, of course, showing an ROI on any project helps you secure funding for the next one. It is not optional. The biggest spend on most balance sheets, especially in software or service industries, is likely to be against people related costs and we should measure that investment, report out on the associated metrics and use that data to improve our performance the same way any other function would.
I believe that HR already has its place in the boardroom in many companies, but to maintain our place there, it is important to speak about the business first and talent strategies second.
People programs need to be designed in absolute support of driving business results, whether they be in the areas of candidate experience, reward programs or understanding employee engagement. As a CHRO, you have to understand the business, the products, the markets and the competition and speak that language first.
What are your top tips for HR leaders to develop a data-driven mindset in the current business environment?
Being data driven is one of the most critical skill sets an HR leader can have. Many companies have no assets other than their people and the cost of human capital is high, even higher when it is not managed properly. It is important to be cognizant about spending that money while ensuring an optimal return on the programs being invested. That is where data comes in, and the adage of “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is very relevant.
There are many obvious data points to look at, from time to fill to cost of hire, training spend per employee, and of course metrics showing attrition, but there is a need to dig in deeper and bring more data points together to see whether future outcomes can be predicted. Think through these questions: Can we build a data lake? Can we put corresponding data in from other sources (e.g. sales performance, prior company experience)? And what can we learn when we go and swim in that lake? At LogMeIn, we have been looking at our first-year turnover recently and noticed a correlation between one particular level of management and higher attrition. That helps us know where to focus our management development efforts.
There are great reports and tools included with core HRIS systems that can help get anyone up and running with thinking about data, but having analytics or data scientist skills within the HR function is one of the smartest hires you can make. Those skills are hard to find so consider bringing an intern in and letting him or her wade around in your data one summer, to see what is missing or what trends can be spotted .
Being able to show how investment A produced return B makes it a lot easier when you are asking for the next investment or choosing how to prioritize your spend, and without data, it’s almost impossible to make correlations or understand the ROI on your prior programs. For me, HR work is part science and part art – having some help with the science part makes it a lot easier to figure out how best to engage the amazing talent we have at LogMeIn.
How will millennials change the way CHROs approach employee experience, employee engagement and retention? What should be the high-priority things People leaders need to prepare for today to ensure they can keep pace with employee expectations in 2020 and beyond?
The statistics and articles on millennials suggest that none of them are looking for a long career with one company – many of them value giving back as much as they value their salary. You don’t want to stereotype one generation, but there are some common trends to think about and plan for. If someone is looking to get some skills and learning from their current job to move fast into their next one, how can you deliver that content? How can you think about offering development and career growth without it always equaling upward promotions? Providing opportunities to learn and grow, transparency about career levels and expectations around promotions can help show a clear career path that may break that statistic suggesting millennials will only stay for 18 months
Ultimately, the key to success with any generation is for the manager to be open minded about listening to expectations rather than dismissing them because they are different from his or her own experiences. While it may be tempting to point out that you had to earn each promotion after five years’ effort, it is important to acknowledge that millennials have grown up seeing ‘go getter’ entrepreneurial talent achieve success without waiting. They have also experienced many things through the power of social media and have been awarded trophies simply for participating, all while their parents were able to give them many things they couldn’t have.
Understanding how that influences their expectations and providing a clear objective and fair guidance on what is achievable and what may take more effort, requires designing reward and recognition programs with those expectations.
Of course, all of this has to be done while bearing the rest of your workforce in mind and making sure talent programs suit their needs too.
The challenging thing about engagement is that it is unique to everyone based on so many personal factors and desires, but, understanding and working on the most common factors will certainly boost satisfaction and productivity for the many.
LogMeIn simplifies how people interact with each other and the world around them to drive meaningful insights, deeper relationships and better outcomes. LogMeIn has grown to become one of the world’s top 10 SaaS companies with a leadership position in every market. With a platform that supports two million daily users, 200 million customer engagements and five billion voice minutes per year, they have not only capitalized on but helped invent the modern way of working – flexible, dispersed, mobile, efficient and productive.