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Navigating Change in a Post-Pandemic World

 

A panel discussion on considerations, designs, and decisions HR and business leaders are making that's shaping where and how we'll work on this (current) side of the pandemic.
[Video Replay]

The last several months have been unlike any other seen in modern times. With the green light to reopen, the yellow light to hold off, etc., there are many considerations at play as the pandemic has changed us all forever.

From this experience, companies are deciding what to bring forward, leave behind, and never repeat. 

Our panel of progressive business leaders explores how they're balancing the need for connection, collaboration, productivity, flexibility, and inclusion/fairness in a new hybrid office environment.

Key expected takeaways are:

  • Ways of working and decision-making utilizing the best of hybrid work environments.
  • How rhythms-of-business, meeting structures, and workflows improve inclusion and equity without bias of presentism.
  • How to navigate the new demands for location flexibility (i.e., work-from-home or work-from-wherever).
  • Optimizing for in-person collaboration, relationship building, and connection needs.
  • Tools and mechanisms provided employees to help manage the change and incentivize new ways of working.

Featuring Panelists:

      • Kate Zimberg
        VP, Employee Experience and Enablement
        F5 Networks

      • Lizanne Vaughan
        SVP, Chief People Officer
        Getty Images

      • Seth Rosenbloom
        Senior Consultant, Effective Organizations
        Waldron

Moderated by:

      • Kim Bohr
        Chief Operating Officer and Head of Effective Organizations
        Waldron

Video Transcript

Originally recorded August 3rd, 2021

Kim Bohr:

Hello, everybody, welcome. So happy to have you here with us.      

I'm Kim Bohr, and I am the Chief Operating Officer of Waldron. I've been with Waldron for about three weeks prior to the pandemic that launched us into all of this. Thus, a little over a year and a half. And I've found this to be a very dynamic opportunity to lead in a way that none of us really had experienced before. Let's get started. The first question I'd like everybody to share their thoughts, and Lizanne, I'll ask you to start, is around, "What are those foundational principles that you and your team have held close? In this process of decision-making? In a course, considering you're a global organization?" Can you share a little bit of that with the audience?  

 

Lizanne Vaughan:

Sure. So we live by a set of leadership principles, and everything that we do at Getty Images is driven by those leadership principles. And so we start with those. And you know, the first one, there is transparency and trust. And so one of the things that we adopted very early on in the pandemic, and we've really doubled down on as we've moved through our future planning, has been being really open about what we know and what we don't know—and being really clear about why we're making the decisions that we're making, and trying to give people as much context as possible.

Because one of the things that we recognize is in times of stress, it's really difficult for people to navigate ambiguity. And one of the things that we are all experiencing right now, with the news in the last week, is yet another setback, if you will, in terms of introduction of even more ambiguity. And when you have that, along with your normal business pressures, along with life, you know, whether it's parenting and what our schools going to do, and the impact to our employees, making sure that we were super transparent about the things we could control, the things we could help, the things we could support. And the things that we couldn't were really important to us.   

And so, as we started thinking about what would a post-pandemic world look like, we really focused on the same three things that drove our decisions at the beginning of the pandemic, and that is the health and safety and well-being of our teams and their families—number one. We're very lucky. We are in an industry that is entirely digital, our products are entirely digital, we're not manufacturing, and we're not retail. And so we have different decision points that we can make. And we recognize the privilege that comes with that. But we started with that, number one. 

Number two was that we wanted to do our part to contain the spread of the virus and make sure that we were exercising good citizenship. And then number three was making sure that we were making decisions that sustained our business, regardless of what the external forces would be and how we would move through that. And those are the same three foundational points that we use to guide our decisions going forward. 

Kim Bohr:

Wonderful. Kate, What about your firm?  

Kate Zimberg:

Love Lizanne's response and how much of it is reflective of what we've done as well. And I think, I suspect what you'll hear from all of us, as we go through this conversation is really grounding whatever decisions you're making in your company's culture and values. And similarly, at F5 networks, we've done the same.  

So we have a set of behavioral statements that we have. So kind of our value statement, one of which is we help each other thrive, one of which is around embracing and enhancing diversity and inclusion, one of which is around really being owners. There are a couple of others in there as well. But we've really embraced those three, in particular, as we've thought about this, how do we take care of our employees and their families and help them thrive during this very difficult time? Both now? And then in the go forward?

How do we recognize that there is not a single solution that works for everybody? You know, there's the analogy that we used early on of ‘rolling the same storm, but we're not all in the same boat.’ Remembering that and making sure we're thinking about that from a broad application of a diversity and inclusion lens.

And then recognizing that fundamentally, we trust our employees to do the right things, and to produce and remain effective in their roles, and to continue to strive to do the best for F5 and as their owners in the company and making sure we display that trust by really enabling them to do the work they need to do in a setting that is not in an office anymore. Those were some of our guiding principles.   

And from a leadership perspective, really around creating clarity and alignment, which is one of our three leadership principles, as Lizanne described, being as transparent as we could be, communicated frequently, admitting, you don't know me yet, on many of these topics, as we've all been learning, as we've been going through. Sharing, oh, we'll be back in the office in two weeks. And then two weeks later, saying, we don't know when we're going to be back in the office. Set a target by when we'll give you an update, but know that we're working on it until then. And being really open and transparent about that, as well as, of course, what we do know and can do and what we do know and can't do. But I think all of those were core and remain core to our thinking as we plan for the future.  

Kim Bohr:

Wonderful. Seth, what would you add to this?  

Seth Rosenbloom:

You know, it's first off super consistent the ground in health and wellness, being a steward of the community. What's been amazing to see is the degree of listening and engagement with employees through the storm. I think that dialogue, presence of leadership that I'm seeing in my clients has been really high, virtually albeit, you know, but with employees. I also think that understanding the flexibility and how we work is permanently changed. And that the pandemic created a stark, shocking, new normal. We're not going to return to an old. There are new ways of working that are now sort of requirements. And there are new levels of flexibility that our workplaces are going to have to adapt to. And so I think the conversation and the listening and the dialogue with teams and employees around shaping what the will look like, as we can assemble in the future, has been a pretty key component. 

Kim Bohr:

Absolutely. And so if we think about the, you know, as you all described, right, these founding principles that have been the guiding factor, and what we're going through even today, can you each share a little bit more about what your ideal structural return is at this moment, or perhaps areas that are maybe being reconsidered, as you think through, you know, everything that we're facing? Lizanne, I'd love to have you share first with us on that.  

Lizanne Vaughan:

Sure. So, like everything else that we do, we take a very much a test and iterate approach. And so when we believe in doing is setting out some frameworks for how do we think things might work? How do we think we should operate within those frameworks? And then we're also again, really open about, let's learn, because we're in an unprecedented time, and some things that we think will work a particular way may or may not work out that way.

So just with that, as a backdrop, what the approach that we have taken, I think it's important to ground us in, you know, like, Kate was saying, with F5, we've been very clear with employees, we have no idea when you're going back to the office. And we're in no hurry to do so. And in any of our offices globally, we've seen some locations come back and have to leave again, you know, our Sydney office is a great example of that, which just recently went back into lockdown. And that is incredibly disruptive in and of itself. And so that is one of our smaller offices, and not as many people went back that we thought were going to go back when it was able to open.

And so we learned a little bit about behavior then, and we've used that to inform other decisions. But we have very clear decision criteria in a pandemic environment as to what will go back. Once we're in a position where our offices can open and that criteria have been met, then what we've done is we've taken a very open approach because the biggest lesson we've learned over the last year and a half is when you treat employees like the adults that they are, they actually behave that way. And we have had the highest engagement that we've ever had. We have had incredible business results as a result of that engagement over the last 18 months. And I think that's driven by a lot of what you were speaking to Seth, and it was greater transparency and communication. We had consistent open feedback loops between partnering with our global advisory committees and our employee resource groups, as well as open forums that we regularly did at the very beginning of the pandemic. We were doing them weekly, and then we moved to bi-weekly and then monthly, and I still drop a monthly communication out to just keep everybody informed.

So when we go back, we will go back. Everyone has the ability to work from home, up to 50% of their time, without any kind of approvals needed. Beyond that, they have the ability to be flexible and work 100% from home or up to 100% from home if they're aligned with their manager on that. We've been really clear that we don't want to be a 100% remote environment at this moment in time and that we would prefer to be a hybrid environment. We see the offices evolving into more gathering spaces so that people can collaborate in person.

We also recognize that with 1600 employees, we have 1600 different work styles. We have very different needs across teams, functions, cultural implications. And one of the things that we've learned over the last year is because managers weren't in the day-to-day, necessarily, with their employees in the way that we were pre-pandemic in the office. When you remove some of that oversight, it allows people to work in the way that they best work. Now, that's a huge generalization. And I recognize that, and you know, you still have to manage people and all of that. But one of the things that we learned was by loosening the reins, and instead really focusing on outcomes, this is what we need to have happen—letting people get there just worked for us. It just really worked. And so we're really trying to keep what's worked really well over the last 18 months and carry that forward. 

Kim Bohr:

Love that. Oh, my goodness. So Kate, what about your organization? What are some of the structural pieces that are coming together for you all right now? 

Kate Zimberg:

So I think first and foremost, I want to acknowledge that about two years prior to COVID, we had created a what we call freedom-to-flex program, which at that time, made it possible for any employee to be able to say I want to work either full or part-time remotely. So we had already put that in place. We were getting reasonable adoption. It wasn't certainly high, but it was also pretty reasonable. And then certainly COVID made it so we all embraced freedom-to-flex whether we wanted to or not at the moment. But it certainly made it real for all of us. But what was great about that is we already had a philosophy and a program to support anyone and everyone remotely. 

Like Lizanne, we would say we want a hybrid solution. We want some employees to say, "I want or need to be fully at home." Some employees will say, "I want or need to be fully in office." And there are many reasons for either of those choices. And then many of us, actually more than half of the population, has said, "I want to split my time, about two to three days in office, and the rest at home or in some other remote location." So for us, it's been really critical throughout this period to be able to say to our employees, we were freedom-to-flex before. And we are freedom-to-flex after. We are not changing our commitment to that program. And so for any employee that's wondering whether we're going to change our stance on that, we're not.

We have just a very, very few teams where they have to be on site. A receptionist is hard to do remotely. There are some instances where they need to be on site. Lab, those people need to be on site. There are very few other roles that actually need to be on site. We're giving our employees as much flex as possible. And then figuring out how do we support them through that. A lot of this is figuring out as we go along, location by location. One of our learnings was there's "think about the global foundations of what we want to be true based on our culture and who we are as a company?" And then really modulate that based on local requirements.

Our Australia offices also opened and closed, our offices around the world opened and closed. So it is very disruptive. So with our Seattle offices, we've opened only just 20% at this point. The reality is probably 10% at most are actually coming in. We have a lot of employees who said, "Yeah, we're open, but I'm still not still not going in just yet. I'm going to wait until the school starts," or whatever. And even then, we've been "masks will be required," "no masks aren't required if you're vaccinated," and now we're reconsidering masking over again. And so it's just the constant transparency and openness of we're figuring this out as we go. 

Kim Bohr:

Absolutely. And Seth, what would you add to this too? 

Seth Rosenbloom:

You know, I think I'm seeing across my clients a tap on the brakes in terms of how quickly they're reassembling in different workspaces to all the dynamics that Kate and Lizanne spoke to. I think there are some existential questions about 'what's the purpose of the workplace?' I've got a spectrum of clients. I have some that were in-person five days a week, and it's really the way they knew how to work, to global companies that had a very virtual footprint. And I definitely see a re-understanding of when we come back together, the workplace as a cultural anchor, like a mixing bowl for collaboration and communication. 

I think I also see, to lead in an environment where people are disparate, and there is so much change, the work of management leadership, to communicate, to communicate in different ways, and to engage in different ways, has grown enormously. And it really changes the focus of how you lead. Because you don't have the benefit of, you know, management by walking around, you can't get the pulse by just engaging in-person and informal interactions and what you really learn how we do it. And so, I think learning those new muscles of engaging multiple ways, oftentimes on the same types of information but using different formats and different ways of communicating across different time zones, is becoming a new norm.

And it may even get even more complicated when we begin to have people in person in some interactions and people that are not. And, how do we sort of stitch that together?  I think this will be the discovery the teams are going to learn as we come back together. And, you know, like I think Lizanne has said, I'm kind of learning, this is really emergent. You know, there's not a formula, there's not an answer, we're going to learn as we go. And I think I'm seeing my clients kind of get comfortable in; we are going to set up some frameworks and obviously let people have a voice and how they want to work and engage. But know, this may shift over time.  

Kate Zimberg:

I just want to jump in real quick in response Seth is talking about.  As I think about all these conversations that we're all having every day now, it is not lost on me that these are topics that, as an HR function, we've known for a long time we've need to address. People who have been working, whether it's the individual working from home for some reason or global teams, and how do we address this? And I suspect there are plenty of people who've worked from home for a long time, while the rest of their team was on-site, they're like, finally you're paying attention to the problem. But it's not lost on me that this has been an ongoing problem.

And finally, what we face is not just an opportunity, but our requirement to solve. And so it's really an exciting time from that perspective. And I think the learning opportunity, the experimentation opportunity, both Seth and Lizanne referred to is critical for all of us right now.  

Lizanne Vaughan:

Yeah, I just want to add to that because I think one of the most amazing things that I've seen happen over the last 18 months is people's preconceptions about things. And their openness to their preconceptions being shattered. And what I find is, you know, there are folks on our team across the business at varying levels, who were, like F5, had a flexible working principle, philosophy that we applied pre-COVID. But there were always the resistors—saying things like "innovation happens when you're together." And, there is some truth to that, right. There are studies that support that perspective. But what we have found is that people who were very resistant to that in the past, not all of them, but many of them have opened their minds and their hearts to the differing realities of their employees.

And I think when you step back, and you think about it from a diversity, equity, and inclusion perspective, the thing that I am incredibly proud of, is, as I've read every statistic that's been coming out about the way the pandemic has adversely impacted working women. And I think about in this time; we've promoted more women than we have historically. And, you know, I don't know that there's a correlation there. But I look at those numbers. And I think one of the things that this experience has done for us is - if I take down my virtual background, you're in my house. This is what it looks like. And when I'm working with my colleagues across Getty Images, this is what they see. And they see my kids walking in and out, and the pets are climbing all over the place. And the same is true for everyone else.

I think it's introduced a degree of empathy that you cannot avoid. You know, to Kate's point, it's a requirement, you see this, the challenges that new parents are dealing with a colicky child. And yet, they're still working their tail off at 10 o'clock at night to try to get whatever it is done that needs to be done to be able to let their team keep things moving. And I think there's just greater respect for the individual challenges that people face every day, absent a pandemic.  

Kate Zimberg:

What's so critical to that is our executives are demonstrating that, and I think it sounds like Getty definitely has and F5 have as well. When the CEO is trying to lead a company-wide meeting, and his teenager comes and asks for something, there's nothing quite like that to say, 'he's lived my experience.' Or an executive is on the call and the UPS person comes to the door, their dog goes crazy, and they're "Hold on, wait." Those moments to say, okay, they're as human as we are. They're in a struggle, and then they remind themselves to appreciate the struggle we're all going through. So, I think it's just so important we're seeing the humaneness of everyone we work with, in a way we never have. 

Kim Bohr:

I think those are just such important points that you all have shared. And you think about the idea of empathy, and you know, in our transparency, and just we talk about, you know, the whole person, remember, the whole person comes into work, and for many years, it was frowned upon to think that you might have personal challenges that you have to deal with, right? And here we are now, as you all have said, we're thrust into it. And there's this now level of vulnerability. And we all become real people, regardless of our titles, which is just incredibly powerful and hopefully something we really harness and take with us. And don't forget about it as we keep moving forward.   

So, we're getting some great questions in the Q&A box. But before I make a shift to those, I want to ask, "Are there any other things that you might be finding or are worth sharing with the audience helping in determining some of these different tracks that you all are considering?" 

Lizanne Vaughan:

I will say that the community of HR professionals and, frankly, executives across the board, that have been willing to share what's worked for them and what hasn't worked for them. Whether that's, our facilities team was trying to figure out what hotelling looks like, because we've never done that before. Or, trying to figure out how do you engage a 100% workforce when you may have had a few people remote before but not entirety? And that openness, I think of sharing, I have found to be invaluable across the board. 

I've talked to CEOs, I've talked to Chief HR officers, general counsels, and people across all disciplines who have just been incredibly open and willing to share their failings as well as their successes to that help you lead. And so I just hope that doesn't go away because I've found that to be an incredibly helpful thing. 

I also think technology, even though I confess we have a love-hate relationship with Zoom, going back to the DEI perspective of things, we've all been reduced to the same exact size video box. And I cannot tell you for a global organization that speaks 14 languages, that sits in 30 different offices across more than 30 countries, at every level of the organization, that has fundamentally shifted the dynamics. It has fundamentally altered power dynamics. Not entirely eradicated them, but it has shifted that. It has shifted communication, all for the better. We have built in some mechanisms going forward where we hope we won't lose that. 

Kate Zimberg:

I think those are great examples. And Lizanne talks about the external connections and leveraging those networks, and just learning from others. I will echo that. Every week, there are multiple benchmarking best practice type calls with colleagues, whether it's a group or a panel like this, or just one-on-one. It's a recognition that we're all facing the same problems. No individual company has to solve it alone. It helps every one of us competitively to get it, but it helps all of humanity to get it right. And so, I think just being able to continue to lean on that.

And then internally, Lizanne referenced the technology piece, which, yes, is critical. The other piece of that I would add is this scenario we're in has really increased the amount of internal collaboration. We have groups like our technical services, our IT team, the HR organization, and our global workplace services teams. Before, it was a lot of "hey, here's a thought, let me toss some things over the wall." Now, it is a collaborative working partnership, where we're saying we need to find a way for employees to communicate and collaborate more live together.

So, "how are we doing that?" Then the technical services team is taking away that need and desired outcome and thinking more creatively than ever about, "is it a Teams, is a Slack or is it something else?" And then we're pulling that together in meaningful ways as we talk with real estate and others. And that's something I also hope we don't lose. We've built new relationships and new partnerships that are invaluable to employees. And really, all of us are touching employee experience across those teams, but why not partner more together? So, I think that's something that I look forward to continuing to expand on, wherever the future takes us. 

 Kim Bohr:

Excellent. Seth, anything to add, and then in the tools you've seen use with your clients.  

Seth Rosenbloom:

You know, I think that the equity lens has been really helpful as we think that not everybody has the ability to access or to be as agile in either a hybrid or remote environment. So what levels the playing field in terms of access to information, ability, and agility to use take the technology tools to the fullest to bolster and foster relationships? Many organizations have huge onboard numbers of people during the pandemic, and their experience of being part of a working relationship is so different from those that knew "the before time".

And so, how is management and we in our teams making the space to allow those relationships to build? How are we using time? I think there's a question here about being spread across time zones. Multinational companies have had this challenge before. How is time not ported or used as a leverage tool by some at the detriment of others? How's recognition shifting? And so I think, to the spirit of what others have said, in this call, it is forcing a lot of new practices.

There has been a great leveling effect. You know, now that office that was three time zones away is another video box, right next to the leader, on Teams or Zoom, which is really different. And how will we preserve some of that when we come back together and not fall into a pattern around presentism? Or fall into inequities about who's got more ability to be closer to the sun? Or to be in presence more, just because of a myriad of reasons? So, I think it's truly game-changing. But I have found that many of the same ways that both Kate and Lizanne are thinking about it, through that equity lens, it's been really valuable.  

Lizanne Vaughan:

But I think one of the things that you're saying, Seth, that really resonates for me, and is a good reminder, is you can't carry through the good, and you can't eliminate things that aren't working if you don't have 100% leadership alignment. And, I think one of the things that we have worked really hard at, and I think we'll always have to work hard at because you're dealing with human beings who are inherently unpredictable, is constantly gut checking.

We say this, "this is how I'm thinking about it. Are you thinking about it the same way?" As decisions are getting made, when I get this question, this is how I'm answering it, "Are we aligned?" and making sure, because we all know, especially when you're dealing with multicultural organizations, you can all be using the same words and meaning very different things. We've learned to really try to do that gut check because as we're going forward and make decisions, we want to make sure that we're taking into account those different perspectives. 

Kim Bohr:

You three have just set us up for moving into some of these fantastic questions that are coming in. So let me give a moment to read this question, and it expands a little bit on what you each have been talking about. So the first question I'll read says, "Do you have any tips on communicating across time zones? For instance, we instituted adding our time zone and working hours to email signatures. So any little tips like that, that anybody is open to sharing?" 

Lizanne Vaughan:

That's a great idea, actually.  

Kim Bohr:

Yeah. I think so too. 

Lizanne Vaughan:

I really like that. I might just go ahead and do that.  

Kate Zimberg:

Well, I'm going to admit, I don't know that we do have good tips. I mean, I think this is the perennial struggle, even pre-COVID, of how do you manage the global time zones? I do think we have, as a company said, from the very beginning of COVID, that we need to display more empathy and appreciation for everyone's personal situation more than ever, including time zones. Because, as we're all working from home, the blur between work and home is just greater than ever, where it's hard to turn off. And some people didn't want to turn off because they thought, "Well, I don't have anything else to do." 

So, as leaders and managers and HR professionals helping to draw those boundaries, but using that as a reminder that that also means we need to take care of our colleagues in other locations, other time zones and be thoughtful about what works for them—operating in a give-and-take. So, not always scheduling for the needs of the West Coast time zone in the US, making sure sometimes we schedule for the needs of other time zones. I don't know that we have a good solution other than just really intentionality and that empathy that carries into that part of the individual conversation as well. 

Lizanne Vaughan:

Totally echo everything that Kate said, and we try to embed a lot of that into the practices that we have. We do have some practical tips that we offer to folks. There are a lot of apps that you can download. I happen to use PolyTime, which allows you to enter as many different locations as you want. At any given time during the day, you can kind of scroll through and see what the times are. Slack now has the functionality that it displays the time wherever the recipient of this Slack is. And, just introduced recently, the ability to delay send, so you're not sending something to somebody at two in the morning if they have their notifications on and are like me and sleep with their phone...which I don't recommend. Do as I say, not as I do.

One of the other things that we've tried to do is really encouraged individual team and cross-functional leaders to recognize that they may not have visibility to everything that everybody else on that team is doing. So one of the things that we've really tried to encourage, and we've put out a lot of tools and tips and tricks in our management training and in our employee onboarding, is setting expectations of communication.

So, for example, if you can't make a meeting, that's okay. All meetings are recorded. And you can't expect the business to stop because you can't make that meeting. So we're going to proceed, but you can watch that recording at a time that is more convenient for you. And if there are takeaways, you know, the rule is you can't give everybody who's not present at the meeting all the homework, that's not fair. But you do have to like set expectations. There will be a follow-up by either Slack or email to remind you, since you weren't in the meeting, in case you don't have time to catch up in the next 24 hours if there's anything that's immediately needed.

And I think it's a constant reminder of communicating and being effective communicators, which we're all learning to be in this world. And I don't know anyone who does it exceptionally well. And I think it's different when you're dealing with people in different time zones and in different languages. But you just have to approach it with intentionality and attention. 

Kim Bohr:

So the next question is, "Are you noticing any changes in turnover or increase in applicants to any of your organizations based on some of what we're all experiencing?" 

Lizanne Vaughan:

We had an interesting exchange where we all thought that we were experiencing much higher attrition rates because it just felt more active, but when we pulled that data, we're not. So, that was kind of an interesting perspective to have. We definitely see higher than last year, which makes total sense, and I would have expected that. But not higher than normal. We are, however, seeing a lot of applicants across pretty much every role. 

Kate Zimberg:

I would say we're at the same spot as far as applicants go. Hiring is brisk. So which is, which has been great. We see heightened attrition. So initially, we went through a few months where it felt like something's going on here. And for a while, it was still below pre-COVID levels. Now we've started to tip above it. But as we talk with other companies, and in light of all the great resignation research that's out there, it looks like our attrition, although heightened, is still below what a lot of our peers are experiencing. So, I attribute a lot of that to the cultural pull of F5. It's a culture that people want to remain with as much as possible. So it's definitely Top of Mind. We want to get ahead of it before it starts presenting. 

Kim Bohr:

Seth, are you seeing anything in any of the companies that maybe aren't as large as the two we have here that are trending in any particular way? 

Seth Rosenbloom:

Probably similar to what both F5 and Getty see, the war for talent is certainly accelerated. And now I think the playing field for talent has shifted in newfound flexibility. And a lot of companies that never would have thought of nationalizing or regionalizing, or even globalizing where they draw their talent from are. And so, I've got some smaller clients that never in their wildest dreams would think about employing an Associate Attorney that wasn't in the same time zone as the majority of their clients. Well, now all bets are off. And, they realize to attract talent, they need to offer new levels of flexibility. 

There are going to be a lot of lessons to learn around how you create culture and cohesion in environments that never had to do that in a virtual way and never had to really accommodate people working in different time zones. Nationally, across the data, it is a time of high turnover. The pandemic has changed a lot of our lives. People are adjusting and figuring out what they want. And it's been a labor market, at least in many sectors, that is a seller's market. We see that shift. We're learning how to engage remotely is going to be a newfound key because diversifying your talent pool is now available —diversifying not only from diversity but from where people reside. 

Kim Bohr:

Absolutely. It's just everything's opened up now. I'm going to combine this next question and see if either Kate or Lizanne either of you has this experience right now. "Has performance assessment changed in this new world?" And the second question may be somewhat related, "Are you seeing changes in compensation at all, anything that you're starting to evaluate there?" 

Kate Zimberg:

No, quite frankly. We were in the process of changing out our performance management approach of eliminating ratings and going to a much more frequent one-on-ones, constant, adaptable, goal-setting kind of approach. We happened to roll that out during COVID, but that was already in the works pre COVID, and we're sticking to that. I do think it has helped to encourage more connection with managers, more connection with others around work and goals. And allowing more adaptability of those, as the world just changes so quickly.

People, rather than once a year looking at their goals, are now weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, whatever makes sense for them, looking at them to adjust priorities. Hence, that was where we are at that moment. So that was already in place. That will continue. Compensation, we continue to look at the market and continue to run the market analysis on roles and experiences and whatnot and use that to inform compensation, but we haven't made other adjustments based on the pandemic. 

Lizanne Vaughan:

I would say we're quite consistent. Performance management we were already in the process of re-evaluating. We're kind of always in the process of re-evaluating because, let's face it, nobody likes performance management. It's always something that we're talking about and refining. That continued as per normal, and we've made some changes, but they have really little if anything to do with the pandemic.

I do think the one thing that helped inform us, though, was the change in communication. The way that people have opened up more in this virtual environment. We find that in most instances, the communication is crisper between managers and employees. And so we have tried to double down on that and really help strengthen those skills. Because of that more frequent touch base, a culture of constant feedback is really useful to most people in their development. It also feeds development because development doesn't necessarily equate to progression, but it is incredibly important to employees.

And so we've always focused on that. And that's data we've had from our engagement survey for a long time. And compensation, we are moving into different markets, and some skill sets to try to find folks. We're relying on benchmarking data to inform that, which is the same practice we've always applied.  

Kim Bohr:

So the other question that's popped up is, "Are you reprioritizing any of the leadership competencies through this period?" So, for example, "Are certain leadership competencies rising to the top and becoming more important, maybe more focused on skill development than what you perhaps focused on prior to this pandemic?" 

Lizanne Vaughan:

We focus on our leadership principles, and we have competencies that relate to those principles. And I would say we certainly have learned that communication and transparency is, is paramount to moving forward. It's the foundation of trust. That context is what allows people to navigate ambiguous circumstances. We've certainly looked at what those skill sets are and build programs to try to support furthering their skill sets. But those competencies were always required or expected.

I think the other thing that's changed for us, though, has less to do with pandemic-related issues and more around social justice and the concepts of anti-racism in the organization. Moving not just from an organization that is diverse and inclusive and creates a culture of belonging, but one that actually rejects racism and discrimination in all of its forms. That has been something that has been a learning journey for me personally, for my team, and for all of our employees and leaders. We've been really investing in that. It is a new muscle for us as an organization to shift thinking to anti-racist frameworks for things like resolving complaints or things like discipline or things challenging management situations. Really starting to apply a different restorative lens to that has been a real journey for us and one that I think will be on for a while. 

Kate Zimberg:

Yeah, from the F5 perspective, first of all, I feel like you could have just had Lizanne or me because I would just echo everything she just said. Yes, everything. I would add and echo a bit is, we don't talk so much about leadership competencies at F5. We do focus more on our principles, and as with Getty Images. Buried under those are some competencies. We are not changing our principles. We put those out about two years ago. And we feel strongly that they are the right principles there then, today, or tomorrow.

What we have done, though, is that we look at responding to the pandemic, to racial and social injustice, natural disasters, whatever the crisis at the moment might be, is how do we continue to frame in those principles? To continue to put our response in that lens, to reaffirm, to demonstrate, to embed. We rolled out a hybrid working model and resource toolkit to our managers about a month and a half months ago, and everyone wanted a model. I am like, "Okay, we'll give you a model. But all of the resources in the three-pronged model, and really the model itself, are all tied back to those leadership principles." 

We say a part of it is clarity and alignment in those conversations between the manager and their employee regardless of where they choose to work from. That is leaning on that principle of creating clarity and alignment. And now we'll give you some new tools that tie to that. But this principle does not change. It just shows up in new ways. And similar to finding and shaping brilliance, now we get to hire new places we didn't get the hire before. It doesn't change the principle. It changes how we enact that principle. And so that's how we've been approaching it, regardless of what the moment that is. 

Kim Bohr:

Wonderful. Seth, anything to add?  

Seth Rosenbloom:

Echoing the same sentiment, it's an amplification of certain principles or values—communication as a discipline for a leader. Now, leaders really have to almost have their own communication shop because how they're engaging, how they're communicating is so much more consuming and important and critical. You don't have the luxury of just face to face. People are working much more sequentially. I take one meeting, and then I take a different Zoom meeting, and there's not a cross between the two. The time it takes to thread a message and to drive change, and to drive engagement is slower. It's different. Having those communication skills to lean on is really key.

On the other side, to the other point, we see a social awakening and understanding. There is a shift from a sort of stakeholder capitalism that believed in DEI as principles and sentiment to now there's a structural role to play that we play inside organizations to create greater equity. The pendulum is moving. The sentiment the awareness is key. I see that evolving beyond an understanding of bias into structural change. I see leaders, and I see the way employees and people are engaging is really around driving towards structural change and working backward, for 'How we're wired? How are we acting on our beliefs to make that happen?' 

Kim Bohr:

And, Kate, what were you going to add to that too? 

Kate Zimberg:

Seth was talking about the communications and that increased empathy that's needed in the leaders, and one thing that I've appreciated is going from a communication approach, whether it's about a reorg, or what are we doing with COVID, or whatever it be, of 'Here's what you need to know. Here are the facts. That's it. Sign off' to instead now a communication style, especially among our executives, of "Let's make sure we always weave in empathy in the right way." Ensure we always weave in that human first aspect of the company.

And one specific example we had several months ago, a rolling out organizational change, and a message had been drafted for our CEO to send, and he came back, and he said, "There is no empathy in this message. I'm not sending this." And the few of us that are working on it, we're like, "You're right." And so we took it away, we scrapped it, rewrote it, and really put the employee at the center. How will they read it? Doesn't have the right empathy? Yes, we get the points across. We get the business facts across. We're really shifting and testing ourselves and testing the executives on 'Are you displaying enough empathy?' in whenever those messages are. And it could be celebratory empathy to the positive end of it. Or it could be we hear you, and this is painful, and this really stinks. But here's where we're moving. So either end of that spectrum, but really just recognizing where employees are emotionally and mentally throughout the journey. 

Kim Bohr:

Love that? And that final question is, "How is culture changing because of the new workplace?" You know, it is what is challenging? And what is provocative? I think, throughout our time, you each have touched on that a bit. But is there anything else that stands out?  

Kate Zimberg:

Yeah, I don't know that I would say culture is changing. I think, 'How do we all feel connected to the culture? Fundamentally, here at F5 and so many other companies, culture is very slow to change. It takes dramatic leadership change or some other major effort or situation, but I do think it is increasingly difficult to be connected to the culture--especially as we think about new hires, and those who really thrive on that interpersonal, live connection, who really need that experience and exposure to others, and in a much more in-person way to feel that connection. And I think that's what's hard.

And as I think about the future work, personally, that's what keeps me up at night. How do we foster and really help employees, wherever they are in the world, whatever level they are at, maintain that interpersonal connection with each other, both for their own emotional and mental health but also because that is how they connect to F5. That is how they connect to us as a company and remain feeling like they belong, and they are included, and they are engaged and productive. So that's what worries me the most as we look forward, 

Lizanne Vaughan:

This is what I find the most fun about the job that I have. It is the most fun part of what my team does in terms of, and what I try to remind them of across the board, is every single thing, every action my team takes every single day impacts an employee's experience, at some point in their journey whether that is in the candidacy stage, a promotion situation, an org design, or launching benefits. What I have found that that pandemic has given us, and I've seen this in other contexts, but I think it really holds true in a corporate environment. It has, over the last year, laid bare the fractures in our foundations. And when you think about historical HR as a compliance-focused function, it's really about making sure you're getting the most out of your workers and making sure that you're following all the rules.

And what we had started on a journey of at Getty Images prior to the pandemic was really shifting that dynamic. It was really, 'Are we actually taking people into account? Are we actually thinking about things from our employees' perspectives and weaving their experiences through everything that we do? Are we writing things for them to consume? Or is it full of HR jargon?' And if I don't understand what it is, with a law degree and 15 years at this company, how is somebody who's brand-spanking-new going to understand what it is? What we've tried to do is really think about how do you flip the way that we approach things from the rule mongers, if you will, to the culture facilitators? And are we putting in place benefits and processes that are accessible, that are understandable, that is simple? The answer to that is 'no,' of course because we're unpacking decades of process and legal frameworks, and in all the different countries that we operate in.

But I think just applying that lens for our own function has shifted the culture of our function for certain. And what I see happening is it's shifting the way that we can then better support leaders to support a more virtual environment. We're applying those things ourselves. We're living it along with them. So as we're thinking about onboarding in a remote environment, it's not an esoteric academic exercise. It is something that we each have had to do. As a result, what I've seen is an increase in collaboration and really thinking about things. So what I take away is the need to think about the employee experience holistically. I'm not the sole person responsible for an employee's experience, nor is my team. It is not the CEO's sole responsibility. It is every single employee's opportunity to influence the experience of their colleagues. And that's what we try to really instill is we all own that, not just HR, not just the leadership team. 

Kim Bohr:

And I think that's just such a fantastic place to stop. Thank you all so much. I have one announcement I want to share. But first, I want to thank our panelists for their time and expertise. Thank you, attendees. This has just been an incredibly enriching conversation that I have a lot of notes I'm taking away and back into my own world as well. Thank you all so much. 


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