At our webinar, “Women in Legal Ops & Tech: Adjusting to a New Workplace Normal,” Nicole Guyer, Senior Consultant at CDS, led a discussion with Beth Clutterbuck, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at Relativity and Sasha Yablonovsky, President of CareerBuilder.
In Part III of a four-part blog series, the women discuss ways in which employers and managers can support their employees and set them up for success in these challenging times.
Read on for a lightly edited transcript of their conversation. To start with Part I, click here.
To watch the recorded webinar in its entirety, click here.
New standards for compensation and benefits
One of the things that’s been on the top of my mind since the pandemic started. We’re seeing people move to different locations, different cities than where they started their job initially. How do you think salaries will be affected as people relocate to cities that are, say, less expensive or more expensive than where they originally started?
Not the million-dollar question?! It depends. There’s no silver bullet. I think for the most part, what we’re seeing is companies are truly trying to keep people’s salaries and benefits the same as they’re moving around, again, in an effort to invest and treasure the employees that they haven’t already invested in and the employees that have invested in the employers by staying and being local and working through the madness. And then there’s some companies that unfortunately are not in a position to do that. And so they adjust based on where the folks have moved to, the employees have. There’s no silver bullet. And it’s really hard to make a recommendation, because again, we’re all here essentially to ensure that the company is successful and then in turn, the company invests in us as its employees. And I think that’s a really sobering reality there. There’s a lot of things companies would like to do that they are not able to afford. So no silver bullet. We’re seeing a mix of things. And it’s irrelevant whether it’s an SMB business or a large enterprise business. It’s really been a mixed bag.
Yeah, I completely agree with that. I think some are toying with if they’ve got critical mass in a city or state sticking with that as their market data. Some are thinking about going to national market data with regards to looking at salary and total compensation. I think benefits is a very interesting one to separate with regards to just ensuring the quality of benefits and how that stacks up regardless of location. I think that there certainly has been a trend to take the country with the best and try to replicate it if you can afford it. Once again, that’s very much dependent. And also really focusing on that culture, the quality of experience, the wellbeing you can provide, the overall experience, which is you can’t necessarily put money on that, but that’s sometimes especially what we’ve found out in the last 18 months, people will take that over money a lot of times.
100%, that’s very, very accurate. And this pattern started pre-pandemic and accelerated further over the last 18 months. Is that for about a year leading up to the pandemic, most candidates were no longer just looking at salaries, they were looking at perks, what benefits do you offer? What flexibility? Do you do yoga Zoom classes? Do you bring in speakers that will help me upgrade my skill set? So I completely agree. That is actually more valued by candidates and has been for the last, I would say, two and a half years, if not longer than salary.
It’s OK to not be OK: making room for mental health
Here is a question that we received from the audience: “How have mental wellness benefits changed in your company?” And to expand on that, do you see companies providing more mental wellness benefits? We hear a lot about burnout or people working longer hours because we’re working remotely, and that can lead to anxiety and stress. So companies will offer mental health or mental wellness benefits, at the same time, we’re still working a ton of hours. So how do we balance that? I know it’s a very open ended question.
I think every company is very different; not everything will work for everybody. But at CareerBuilder, for the summer, we implemented four-day work weeks. We just saw that being a complete necessity for us. It was not an easy decision, because running an organization, you have to weigh all of the pros and cons, but it was a necessary thing.
Something that we did as an organization when all of this started was we created an internal group of employees – not managers, not leaders, but employees. And this group essentially helped us make decisions on how we deal with the pandemic, how we deal with being fully remote, and how we prevent burnout. This group of people, this panel that we created of our own employees, spoke to their peers without the pressure of leadership, giving them what their thoughts are. And they came up with ideas on behalf of our teams. We did this globally. We’re in 13 countries. So by country, we did this. And then they came to the executives to present what they think makes sense.
One of those things was in the summer, let’s do a four-day work week, we can be productive. And if we see that it’s not working out, the executives reserve the right to cancel it, because at the end of the day, we all have to make sure that our organizations are thriving and not hurting. Otherwise, we can’t provide a stable work environment for our employees. That was one of the things we did.
The other thing we implemented very early on during the pandemic is what we call Thoughtful Fridays. Thoughtful Fridays were Zoom-free and meeting-free days. Of course, we met with clients. Clients are always a priority, but as far as internal meetings go, just don’t put it on the calendar, use that time to catch up, to strategize, to think through things to better support your clients.
Those are just two of the things that we did. Now, everybody is different, every organization functions differently, but there needs to be these kinds of carrots that allow our employees to take a mental health day or to try to prevent further burnout.
I do agree with Sasha. At Relativity, I’ll split it into two. One is we very early on introduced a wellness framework around physical, emotional, financial, social and purpose. And we did different activities based upon that.
Physical, we had physical challenges where we wanted to get people moving, we wanted them to get away from their screens. So we had competitions. We introduced the Pelotonians. So the group that had Peloton would ride together. We had all sorts of really fun challenges where we would get the plank contest to get people up and moving. We also introduced Headspace for the whole company, an app that people could use to go and meditate. We have twice weekly meditation. We introduced Zoom yoga, which actually was a huge hit. Looking at our EAP, making sure that we had global coverage for EAP. Telehealth.
So, in each one of our pillars, we tried to ensure that we were being as conscious and as proactive as we possibly could. We also looked at our different kinds of demographics. We created parent panels to really address the different dilemmas that our parents were facing. And we did things like we paid for summer code camps for kids, so that they had activities. We had training to come in and help our parents understand how to deal with all of a sudden, having everyone at home, all together, and it’s a bit… With three here at home, I’d try to homeschool and work. It was really challenging, but I learned some really good tips. We also looked at our solo-at-home employees. And we put together game nights and book clubs and buddy events where we matched people up. So we did a lot of things on wellness.
Leading strategies to protect against overwork and burnout
With regards to workload and burnout, at Relativity, we have two weeklong company shutdowns, one in the summer and one in the winter, which is really helpful, because with the whole company (obviously not the whole company, there will always be people doing service, support client stuff, but the majority of the company is shut down), it’s a different experience than when you go on holiday and come back to all of your emails and all of your work.
We also introduced the concept of your envelope of time. And this is something that we trained from our CEO, Mike, all the way down through the organization – understanding what is your envelope of time. Everything that’s going on in your life, what is the envelope of time that you can commit to doing your work well with quality and on time? And then discuss that with your manager and potential cross-functional peers.
The concept is at some point you always draw a line, you always go into annual planning with like 20 things and seven end up on the list. There’s always a line. And if circumstances change in your life that say, “Hey, I can’t deliver with the quality that I want to on those seven, but I can on five,” as a manager, I would much rather have that conversation and agree we’re going to push back those two or actually not do them this year or reprioritize than have my employee deliver seven not well, and also be in a state where they’re overworked and unsustainable in their activity. So we did a lot of things like that.
And another thing that we just introduced, actually – and it sounds little, but it’s made a big difference. Hour meetings end after 50 minutes. So there’s a 10 minute break. And all of our half-an-hour meetings now end at 25 minutes. So there’s always a break between meetings. So you’re not going Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, or meetings, meetings, meetings, whatever platform you use. To create that walking-around-the-building space. That’s helped a lot.
Collaborating across work styles and schedules
That’s wonderful. What technology have you seen being successful to assist employees collaborate and properly track KPIs when working remotely?
I am such a fan of asynchronistic work. You don’t necessarily have to meet in a meeting unless you’re making decisions. If you’re sharing information or collaborating or trying to work through an idea, throw it into whatever platform you use, Google doc, Word doc, collaborate, you’ve got everything there, SharePoint. And I have my roadmap and my OKRs in a simple Excel that we update every single quarter with regards to our progress and our tracking. The whole HR function has access to it. Everyone can see from my HR leadership team down, all of the activities where we’re tracking. It’s around transparency, it’s around collaboration, it’s around being proactive, and once again, intentional around what tools do you use for what type of activities.
I really try to limit my meetings for decision making or where in the asynchronistic docs, it’s very clear that we do not have consensus and we absolutely need to get on a call and walk through some things. So there’s a whole slew of technology, like Miro for collaboration. Lots of things that are out there, but you can even start with just the basics and just get that habit of collaborating virtually.
Yeah. We use Microsoft Teams to collaborate online together. We built a couple of our own dashboards internally that work for us in what we do internationally and nationally. And then to Beth’s point, SharePoint. SharePoint’s been… I know it sounds old, but it’s still very interesting. SharePoint works. So yeah, all those things.
Understanding and measuring productivity
Have both of your companies found a way to measure productivity since you’ve implemented those changes?
Yes, we have. A lot of it is meeting deadlines. That’s one-on-one. If you see that your project is starting to slip, obviously productivity is going down. But all of us at our organizations have some KPIs or SLAs for our clients. We all have clients somewhere. You measure those on any good day – pre-COVID, post-, doesn’t matter – because we all have some contractual obligations. You continue to measure that throughout. And you look at deadlines and timelines you set as a leader with your employees and as an employee with your leaders. Those are the things you continue to measure too.
We did also invest in a couple of technology pieces to help our teams track their projects and to be able to report on those. But for the most part, it was making sure that we had to reiterate on some of the KPIs with our clients. For a lot of companies throughout the globe, the question is: How can you ensure that you will continue to support me, and the level of service will not decline with people working remotely and not being 9-to-5 or whatever that means, whatever the hours are? And it’s going back to reinforcing the KPIs. You still have your team, we vowed to do this, this hasn’t changed, it’s not going to change. Those were the big things.
Then we provided additional training. We encourage other companies to do additional training for their managers. There’s a fine line between really micromanaging your team when they’re working remotely and managing just enough. So actually, our company partners with DePaul University. And throughout the years that CareerBuilder has been in business, several times a year we offer these complementary courses for managers and teams, and they vary in the topics. Over the last year and a half, we really focused on things like how to prevent burnout, how to lead through change, to go remote, and those kinds of things. So again, it goes back to really investing in skilling and training during this time. That’s how we kept up with productivity as well.
Huge +1. The only thing that I will add is that very early on in the pandemic, we didn’t know what the impact was going to be in the organization. And it was a time of intense self-reflection. The analogy I will use is, you need some spare change, and you don’t know where it is, you’re lifting up all the cushions in your house and you’re running around and you find all sorts of things you didn’t realize, because you weren’t intentionally looking. So we went through that process in preparation for, “Oh my gosh, we don’t know what we don’t know,” and we found a lot of things that we could either be more efficient or that we could cut, that we could just stop doing that we weren’t even aware had been a legacy thing.
So very early on, we did a lot of this activity, which set it up so that not only did we meet productivity in many aspects, we exceeded it. And so that was a huge lesson to not wait for an event like this, to actually do the cushion-searching periodically, because it’s amazing what you find when you go looking.
Click here to read Part IV: Silver Linings: How Women in eDiscovery Can Rebound and Gain New Ground