Quickly adapting to new workplace cultures and trends while creating workplace practices that reflect the core needs of both, employers and employees during an uncertain time is a role that HR will have to evolve into. Elaine Davis, Chief Human Resource Officer at Continuum Global Solutions joins TecHRseries to share her point of view on the changing role of HR in what she calls the ‘’now time’’ and not ‘’downtime’’! Catch more here:
Tell us a little about yourself Elaine …from your journey in HR been so far, we’d love to hear about the biggest ways you’ve seen workplace culture and HR in general evolve in the tech / B2B marketplace especially.
I began my career in IT, not HR. I supported HR Benefit and Payroll applications and platforms. Over the years, the emergence of great HR technology as table stakes in recruiting and staffing, engagement and culture-building has been astonishing. I’ve been part of many HR technology ideas and launches and with every iteration the outcomes have been measurably better. HR technology, particularly with respect to engagement with potential employees, employees and even alumni employees has probably been the most exciting to see; especially where AI is playing a role.
Like many HR executives, I’ve seen, been part of and been affected by the emergence of HR as a leading indicator of enterprise success. I’ve never been someone who waited to be told what my role was; I’ve always carved out a bigger one for myself because I believed – always – that I was a business executive with specific expertise in the people dimension. And not the “HR person” who was the last to know about enterprise decisions or initiatives.
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The role of the typical HR is evolving because of the Covid-19 pandemic as is the role of HR Tech in enabling better HR processes, what are your thoughts on this – how will the HR Head of 2025 need to shape up to cope with changing work cultures?
There’s a fundamental, foundational reason for the existence of HR leaders that will never change. And that is protecting the enterprise’s ability to exist. It means that the company’s viability as a compliant, profitable and reputationally-sound institution is the entry price for doing all the fun stuff. And it is not inconsistent with everything else that HR does – in fact, it gives purpose to everything HR must do, can do and should do. In 2025, the Head of HR – grounded in the protection of the company’s ability to exist – needs to be spearheading the most flexible, agile, and nimble set of business responses possible. Policies, practices, platforms; all have to be fluid, people-centric, and fit-for-purpose. Quickly adapting or creating workplace practices that reflect an uncertain, changing – even chaotic world will underpin the most successful businesses.
Given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global workforce, we ‘d love to know your observations on what some of the biggest companies with largely distributed teams did during this time to ensure employee productivity and motivation– out of these, which practices would you tell more companies to follow during this downtime?
It’s more like “now time” today, not a downtime! This is where we are, and the most nimble among us are reaching for communication and engagement capabilities that are immediate, flexible and even spontaneous. No more “quarterly town halls” – whether in person or by virtual media. We need to be able to get to one, ten, or an entire division of people quickly and without a lot of production to share information, drop a little knowledge, humor, inspiration – whatever – whenever we want to. This is how we will keep our teams connected and engaged on a daily basis.
Tell us a little bit about the HR policies or easier processes that were implemented at Continuum during this challenging time, what are some of the near-future changes planned to help employees balance the new normal better?
Well, a huge one is children in the workplace. Because the workplace is now the living room or the dining room – and the kids are home! We simply have to be generous, creative and supportive of our workers who are doing it all – raising the future generation of leaders while driving business outcomes.
At Continuum, we are looking at helping parents of school-age children with tutoring and homework help, or even just supervision of children during working hours. This is extremely challenging for people and for children and we have to solve for it. On the bright side, hearing children in the background of meetings has gone from being an annoyance (and something almost always connected with women), to being part of the work landscape and increasingly removed from gender. We all need to be part of the next generation’s success and it’s OK to hear them yelling in the background once in a while.
How do you see this pandemic impact the global talent marketplace and workplace; how would you advise teams to revisit their work culture and talent hiring and retention strategies during this time, to suit changing economic and job trends?
Some of us have known for years that it’s possible to work “remotely” and be highly productive and successful. Once you embrace that concept, the world becomes your talent pool. From a Talent Acquisition perspective, it’s the most freeing and exciting aspect of what generally has been a challenging set of circumstances. Candidates and employees can increasingly become consumers of place and employers can become almost solely focused on fit and skill.
As new technologies and innovations enable more HR tasks, what changes/predictions do you see for the overall HR and HR Tech realm giving the evolving work cultures of today?
For me, the HR tech arena has almost limitless possibilities in recruiting/staffing and communication and engagement. The ability to reach people on any device or platform, in any language, in any corner of the world with information that is relevant to them at a moment’s notice will help keep people connected to each other and with the enterprise.
A few general thoughts / tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?
In a pandemic, taking care of people is Job One; it’s the only way our economies are going to survive. If you don’t take care of people, you will not have a business. At Continuum, we moved 80% of our global workforce out of our physical sites around the world during the middle two weeks of March. At the time, we were terrified that our people would contract the virus and be ill, exposing their families and communities. So, we literally closed our doors, but stood in the parking lot handing out a computer and a headset to every employee willing and able to work from home. At the time we were protecting our people, but in reality we were protecting our business. In some parts of the world a job with us is all that is standing between someone and poverty; making it possible – quickly – for them to work from home, kept food on the table, and kept our business going. It was a good lesson for us in doing the right thing for people and that being completely consistent with doing the right thing for our business. Nice when it all works out!
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Continuum Global Solutions customer care services and call centers have been embraced by top companies worldwide. Fortune-500 clients rely on Continuum’s vast expertise in customer care management. Continuum customer care and call center solutions leverage world class voice, chat, email, and social technologies. We have over 15,000 employees in major international markets and serve tier 1 clients across multiple industry verticals.
Elaine Davis is the Chief Human Resource Officer at Continuum Global Solutions