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TecHRseries Interview with Brian Powers, VP of Talent Acquisition and Development at Fuze

During the transition back to a work-from-office or to a more hybrid work model that allows for distancing and safe employee practices, it is critical for leaders and HR to ensure that expectations between employees and leadership are re-aligned to ensure smooth workflows.  Brian Powers, VP of Talent Acquisition and Development at Fuze shares more thoughts while talking about some of the new HR initiatives implemented at Fuze during the height of the pandemic lockdowns. Catch more:

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Tell us a little about yourself Brian…we’d love to hear about some of your biggest HR learnings from your time in the industry so far and your day at work at Fuze!

As VP of Talent Acquisition and Development at Fuze, my job is twofold. The first is to help our leaders find the best available talent for each role at Fuze. The second is to provide development opportunities for Fuzers that will enhance their professional growth while also building the capabilities we need to compete and succeed in the market.

Having held similar roles at Fortune 100 companies and through teaching leadership and organizational behavior at Suffolk University’s Sawyer business School, I have developed a few guiding principles that inform my team’s work. First and foremost is to surround yourself with great people; those who have the passion, talent and commitment to be the best and make a meaningful contribution.

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Second is to act as one of the principal stewards of our company culture; making sure that our values are represented in everything we do. Last, is to always try to balance the demands of the business with the needs of each employee; to design learning and development solutions that are aligned to our business goals while also offering each employee the chance to acquire new skills and prepare for her/his next role.

One of the keys to our success is that we believe it is of the utmost importance to empower employees with new opportunities that enable them to learn, grow and to accomplish something bigger than their day-to-day role alone.

I would argue that I have one of the best jobs in the company.  Our team gets to help great people join a great company with a strong, collaborative culture. And, we get to enhance their ability to perform their current jobs while building a successful career.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic induced remote work has led to its own share of challenges, especially for working parents: what are some of the ways in which you’d advise teams and businesses to help professionals facing these challenges set up better employee support policies…

The severity of COVID-19’s impact on just about every aspect of people’s lives has been unprecedented. It certainly has been challenging for our workers, but it has been especially difficult for working parents with young children.

During this period of uncertainty, it’s crucial to put flexible policies in place that enable workers to adapt their schedule to accommodate for in-home childcare, distance learning for their school-age kids, and other personal commitments.

Fortunately, Fuze has the advantage of already being a workplace that truly embraces distributed work; we have built an operating model around our core technology so we have been developing programs that build upon this strong culture of flexibility and “work from anywhere”.

We have been proactively engaging remote employees and growing our company culture despite the pandemic, designing initiatives that range from parent support groups and mental health resources to wine tastings, trivia nights, and cooking classes.

To provide additional support, we’ve incorporated a stipend into employee benefits that aims to further assist employees who have been forced to work remotely and have had to shoulder the costs of maintaining a hoe office.

Overall, we have asked our leaders to empower their teams to speak up when they need additional support and offer their hand to fellow employees in times of added stress, increasing connection and encouraging teamwork during the pandemic.

What would you say are some of the base fundamentals any flexible work process and policy should include?

 Effective technical infrastructure and platforms that enable seamless and efficient communications experiences between employees are vital. The easier you make it for employees to connect and communicate with the resources they need, the higher the level of overall engagement and productivity. IT plays an increasingly critical role in the process in the wake of the pandemic; rethinking the need for distributed platforms, applications, collaboration tools; support procedures; etc.

The role of the manager needs to reengineered in the sense that she/he must become much more proactive in managing the work and the relationships with their people. This is especially critical today in a remote environment where managers cannot rely on the face-to-face interactions that come with in-person work. As an example, holding regular one-on-one and/or team meetings that cover not only work but also focus on the social connection and emphasis on employee well-being. While HR, L&D, TA can help and build out the programs and content Fuzers need, the day-to-day experience of any employee is dictated by their role, their interaction with their peers, and the goals, coaching and support provided by his or her manager.

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Lastly, there is a need for clearly articulated policy and guidelines around expectations of employees in terms of their work and performance.  True flexibility and empowerment are augmented with a clear set of “rules” to define what good looks like; allowing employees to make well-informed choices.  Interestingly, this also applies to people working too much and often losing a healthy perspective on work-life balance because the office is always open, so to speak.  Companies and leaders need to communicate and role model the behaviors they expect in a virtual work environment (for instance, we have a suggested “no meetings on Wednesday morning” guideline and liberal PTO policy).

As teams and businesses plan their reopen strategies what are some of the top thoughts you’d like to share, what should HR leaders keep in mind?

While some are anxious to get back to the office and some semblance of the “regular routine”, others are much more reluctant to expose themselves unnecessarily to potential health risks.

Striking this balance should be predicated on science and the best available public health information; informed, of course, by compliance to governmental policy.

The decision making process should also include an analysis to determine what work needs to be colocated and to what degree.  Is there work that can/should be remote, hybrid or strictly onsite?  This analysis should leverage the accumulated experience gained during the forced isolation and examine if some roles, tasks and/or processes should be redesigned to optimize performance and results.

Once the decision is made, the issues of implementing the shift and designing a safe workplace come to the fore.  Should the implementation be phased, starting with a core group and slowly building out and responding to lessons learned in real time at each phase.  Should you establish a representative task force to give voice to all parties and interests (as we have at Fuze).  Is this a mandatory return or do employees have the option to opt out; and, what would that  look like?

Designing a safe work environment can entail reconstructing office space to accommodate the compliance with optimum heathcare protocol (spacing of common areas; meeting room configuration/rules; procedures at entrances/elevators/access to the building/offices; use of PPE; etc.  What kind of testing will be put in place and level of readiness to respond to infections (screenings; actual testing; contact tracing; quarantine guidance; etc.).

Then there is the need for regular, to-way communications. Keeping people informed and welcoming their feedback and questions.  Honesty, transparency, and engagement should be baked in at every stage of the process.  Each individual employee must feel supported and heard during times of transition to ensure they are able to do their best work, and ultimately, move business goals forward.

We’d love to hear about some of the HR Technologies / Remote work tools that have enabled efforts at Fuze the last few months. What would you suggest every team that works remote uses and implements to ensure balanced department-wide collaboration?

In order to operate remotely, companies must have the right platform in place to support a wide range of employee preferences. Because of this, it is critical that flexible communications and collaboration technology is provided across an entire company. The Fuze platform was built to empower work anytime and anywhere, which enables companies to transition into and out of remote work seamlessly. This includes the ability to escalate conversations from chat to mobile to video, while never disconnecting, encouraging a natural flow of work that enables productivity when working from home.

We also encourage employees to unplug and step away from their laptop, which can be made clear to team members with tools like Do Not Disturb functions. Simple features, like muting notifications, help to create a more sustainable remote work environment.

How would you advise businesses, especially HR to stay a step ahead of the game as the global economy tides through these uncertain times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic?

2020 has shown us that you can’t plan for every contingency and that it’s much more important to develop an agile organization with a culture that encourages experimentation and learning.  At Fuze, we have been focusing on enabling our employees to act on those values and make them an integral aspect of how we approach our work.

As an example, we have been thinking a lot about the conditions that enable people to be at their most productive, feel fully engaged, and aligned to the organization’s vision.  With a particular emphasis on how work should be designed to accommodate a virtual/remote work environment and the role of leadership in making it a reality.

At this stage of our journey, as a privately held technology startup, we also need to make sure that we take a pragmatic approach to designing work and defining leaderships at Fuze.  Our plan starts with developing leaders with the capability to deliver results and manage adaptive organizations.  Putting leaders at the center of our organization development efforts makes the best use of our limited resources, provides real time, practical data on what works (and what doesn’t cut it), and engages the whole system in the transformation effort.

The goal is to teach managers how to design their work in ways that are functional for them, and then have managers teach these development skills to their teams. By doing this, teams can increase workflow and work together in more constructive ways no matter where they are. These can be put to use regardless of industry and help make teams work together in smarter ways to get more work done.

A few general thoughts / tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?

Above all, embrace flexibility and encourage transparency. It’s also critical to ensure employees feel like their growth path is still clear, regardless of being remote. This requires managers to continuously communicate about feedback, progress toward goals, new opportunities, etc.

Even companies like Fuze that dedicated years to building a remote-friendly work culture need to provide exponential support and transparency to employees right now. This will help combat some of the most common challenges that come with newly remote working environments (e.g. miscommunications) and create a place for employees to feel comfortable in being productive and doing their best work.

In many ways, it comes down to empathy and patience.  Taking the time to connect with our employees and demonstrate that we understand and that their concerns are our concerns.  And, then it is our responsibility to act on that understanding.  Finally, patience, which often is set aside in the best of circumstances, is needed during such traumatic, disruptive, and challenging times.  Creating the space for employees to figure things out, allowing for the time to adjust and learn, and providing coaching and support as a regular part of doing business will enhance productivity in the short term and set the foundation for a more motivated workforce as conditions improve.  In whatever form that improvement will ultimately take.

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Fuze

Fuze is a global cloud communications provider for the enterprise. Our intuitive unified communications and contact center platform enables seamless transition between calling, meeting, chatting, and sharing powered by the industry-leading intelligent cloud architecture. Fuze empowers the digital and distributed workforce to communicate anywhere, anytime, and across any device. Founded in 2006, Fuze is headquartered in Boston, MA with offices around the world. For more information, visit fuze.com.

Brian Powers is the VP of Talent Acquisition and Development at Fuze