Top Questions from Our Latest Webinar: Employee Empowerment in the Great Reset

Our most recent webinar, “Employee Empowerment in the Great Reset,” explores modeling in the hybrid workplace and how to balance business goals with customer and employee needs. Valerie Norton, CPO at Habitat for Humanity International joined North Highland experts Joni Roylance, Master Practitioner, and Michael Hollar, Vice President, to talk through planning for the future and how to reset for the “new normal.” Check out the top questions the group addressed during the webinar, below.

Joni, what does people-centricity look like in hierarchical structured organizations?

Joni: I always say, “If you want to know what people want, you have to ask the people.” You have to understand what motivates your workforce and use co-creation activity wherever possible. Using these methods will always lead you to the best-right answer – or at least to understand the starting point from which you’re moving. Other trends we’re seeing in people centricity include distributed work and seeing ways of crowdsourcing work. There's a centralized value of having people from multiple parts of the business working on things and it allows for variety from their day to day jobs. More involvement from people throughout the business leads to troubleshooting problems more easily and proactive problem solving. Having multiple perspectives in the room, fresh thinking and diversity of though can lead to better innovation results.

Valerie, how has Habitat for Humanity’s inclusivity changed over the years?

Valerie: On this inclusion journey that we’re all on, the thing that has most significantly changed in recent months is transparency. It’s really important for people to know where we stand as an organization. Representation is a key piece of DE&I, but equity and inclusion are also critical. I've been sharing our DEI data more openly with employees.  We’re working to ensure that leadership reflects the overall HFHI employee population and to close any gaps we have from a gender, race and ethnicity perspective.

Going a layer deeper, we’re also talking openly about where we have representation gaps and what they are, as well as being clear about pay equity, fair promotion practices and retention. We have low turnover, now more than ever.  We are sharing all of this data to create dialogue about what is contributing to these results. We’ve also been sharing the DE&I index, with a subset of questions about people’s feelings of inclusion – how are they treated, does their voice matter and do they feel like they have opportunities for growth. We've asked senior leaders to take the data from their department and have in-depth conversations with team members. We’re asking each leader to seek root causes and examine what is getting in the way of having the environment we want.

Michael, With the assertion that more employees are “taking over the power,” can you explain how that translates and how leaders can get comfortable with that shift?

Michael: There is certainly a power shift, but it is more of an acknowledgement of knowledge that the workforce closest to the work knows the work best. Pre-COVID, a lot of automation conversations were with clients that had a top-down approach to driving efficiency, but they realized they didn’t know where the opportunities were within the organization, saw the technology that wasn’t being used and were asking how to get the workforce involved in the field. The answer is to talk to your people.

When you actually get in the field, you'll see that your people know how the work gets done, what customers need and that they might have found solutions that you weren’t aware of. The role of leadership at a corporate level is to find those good ideas and then amplify and share across the organization so the goodness gets around faster. Leaders should not stifle their people and tell them how to do their work. Understanding roles and knowing where speed and change can happen most quickly is where work happens. Leaders connect the dots, amplify and scale.

In examining the shift from Promotion-Driven to Optimized Learning, how does learning factor into attracting top talent?

Joni: There is an increased desire for more interesting learning programs for employees. Especially with Millennial talent – they are looking at professional development opportunities when they are making employer choice decisions. This means your professional development programs and ability as an organization must answer the question, “How will I grow here?” is critical in locking down the people you seek for your organization. To attract top talent, it may mean that some work to modernize learning programs or to create a more robust one must be done.

Learning programs must also become more accessible, not just a day-long training in a room. The human brain doesn’t learn in that setting. Instead, organizations must come up with short-term or microlearning opportunities, as well as opportunities for workers to develop cross-functional skills that don’t just necessarily line up with their job description.

Valerie: I agree with Joni and want to add just one thing - the use of action learning activities. Getting real-life experience that allows people to exercise that they’re learning. We’re experimenting with creating a “talent marketplace” or talent mobility approach for development. This allows employees to bid on part-time projects around the organization, which creates opportunities for them to learn about other teams and facilitates cross-functional collaboration.

Interested in learning more from the experts? Click here to watch the full webinar recording and check out our latest white paper, Employee Empowerment in the Great Reset.

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