OfferZen Updates: Employee Engagement in a Remote World: New HR Operations That Will Stay

Employee Engagement in a Remote World: New HR Operations That Will Stay

By Brendan Jansen op de Haar

We recently hosted a webinar with Agustin Bianchi, Senior Director: HR Tech and Operations, at Activision Blizzard King, and our very own Bailey Kropman, Head of Operational Design and Performance at OfferZen, to chat about what HR looks like in a remote world. They unpacked how HR operations are adapting to better support remote workforces by sharing their own companies’ experiences, as well as how they’ve been working with tooling to make this easier.

Transcript of the discussion:

Brendan [00:09]

Hi, everyone, super excited to welcome you to the OfferZen Equalture webinar on Employee Engagement in a Remote World: New HR Operations That Are Here to Stay. I’m Brendan, and I head up the extension of OfferZen based out of Amsterdam. Before we jump in, to make sure that you get the most out of tonight’s conversation, there are some things to keep in mind. There are three tabs on the right of your screen, chat, Q&A, and polls. You can post questions throughout the session in the Q&A tab. You can also upload the questions you like increasing the likelihood of them being asked and the chat area is for your comments, ideas, or random thoughts on tonight’s topic.

Brendan [00:53]

We’ll also be posting a few polls during the conversation, and there you can cast your vote on the poll tab. Finally, we are enormous fans of swag. Swag is a thing you will need to learn about OfferZen, and we’ll be sending some of you a swag pack just for participating tonight. To qualify, join the conversation by posting a question or voting in the poll as just mentioned, or adding a comment in the chat. It is that easy, and we’ll be sure to select a few of you to send that swag pack to later.

Brendan [01:30]

Then, OfferZen is South Africa’s largest online, talent marketplace and developer community around four years old, and it’s a reverse talent marketplace where you can get exclusive access to thousands of vetted software developers, product designers, product managers and data scientists across South Africa, and now also the Netherlands.

Brendan [01:55]

We’ve recently launched in the Netherlands and now we are working with Equalture tonight to bring you tonight’s conversation. That’s one of the things that we like to do. We create a unique experience by adding value to the tech community, which is super important to us. We really believe in the power of community to drive connections and therefore help grow the local tech ecosystem.

Brendan [02:18]

So, thanks a lot for joining us tonight and making that community a reality. I will not be moderating tonight’s conversation – that will be one of the founders of Equalture, Charlotte, a female entrepreneur, role model from Rotterdam just like her sister. They’ve been doing an amazing job, and she’ll be hosting tonight, so over to you Charlotte.

Charlotte [02:41]

Well, thanks for the nice intro, Brendan. My name is Charlotte, and I’m one of the founders of Equalture, like Brendan mentioned. We are an HR tech start-up based in Rotterdam. What we do is we offer a team composition technology, and that means that we help scaling companies in building the right team composition that they need to be able to up-skill, which means that the people in the team represent the right skill sets, personality traits, etc.

Charlotte [03:11]

Of course, with that vision that I really do believe that people are the most powerful resource that you have in your company, and eventually your team is the make or break factor of your company. We should never underestimate that.

Charlotte [03:25]

A very important aspect of having a successful team is it also helps to keep people engaged once they enter the company. That’s what this webinar is all about tonight in a remote setting, of course, because that’s what the current situation has caused, unfortunately.

Charlotte [03:44]

So tonight, we are going to have a chat about employee engagement in a remote world – how to deal with a situation in which you need to keep your team engaged and motivated if you’re not able to see each other. We have two amazing guest speakers that will share their experiences on this topic. The first of them is Agustin, who is a Senior Director of HR Technical Operations at King, and we have Bailey, who’s Head of Organisational Design and Performance at OfferZen. I could introduce you guys, but you are better doing it yourself. Bailey, we can start with you.

Bailey [04:23]

Cool. Thanks. Excited to be here. I am heading up organisational design and performance at OfferZen. The main focus is on how to really build an organisation that can scale and that can grow globally. Now we’ve expanded into Amsterdam, basically at the start of lockdown and we’re moving into distributed teams, and high growth scale-up mode, so my role here is to really look at making sure we have a solid foundation to do that. So, I’m very excited about how to face some of these really difficult challenges exacerbated by the pandemic and moving into high growth, which is really exciting.

Charlotte [05:16]

Cool, thanks and after the introduction, obviously, I’m also very curious about how you actually experienced this period yourself. Agustin, you can give a quick introduction first.

Agustin [05:26]

Sure. My name is Agustin Bianchi, and I’m based in Barcelona. I head up the HR Technology and HR Operations at King, which is now transitioning into a wider role where King is part of a bigger group of companies – Activision Blizzard – and King, as you know, is working in the entertainment industry and video games. My role is about enabling employees and managers to perform their people cycles in the most seamless way possible, looking for automation, for self-service where possible and making all of those sometimes tedious HR cycles to be as smooth and easy to do as possible.

Charlotte [06:17]

Cool, thanks. Agustin, we can start with you. How were the past six or seven months – I think it’s already seven actually – been for you working fully remotely?

Agustin [06:30]

Yeah, well we already had a flexible working policy depending on the team – mainly the ones that didn’t require some special technology or piece of equipment in the office –where they could have some remote working or working from home. King was born as a digital company already so we had that advantage that I know a lot of other companies didn’t. My team was already remote. I’m based in Barcelona, but part of my team is in Barcelona, some in Stockholm, some in London. So we were kind of used to it, but it is an absolute truth that those office interactions, those brainstorming sessions and all that value that you can get from being face-to-face is completely lost.

Agustin [07:24]

For me, professionally, it was a concern about how the team will cope and how productivity will be affected. Personally, it has been tough because my preference is a balance to be able to go to the office when needed and required, or to stay at home when needed or required, and for me to not be able to do that is clearly a liability, at least for me.

Charlotte [07:52]

I can imagine. How was it for you, Bailey?

Bailey [07:57]

Yes, incredibly stressful in general, and for everyone at OfferZen the pivot was quite real. We were roughly around 76 people and we had just had a merger with TryCatch and expanded into Amsterdam, so a lot of the plans – how you think you’re going to do that and going to support different teams totally shifted.

Bailey [08:26]

We have a very high-touch, in-person culture, so the move was quite far from our norm. We had a remote day once a week, so we were semi-prepared, and I think being a digital company and very focused on documentation, transparency and continuity, certainly set us up to ease into remote and transition. So, we were very lucky in that way.

Bailey [08:59]

What you lose, as Agustin says, is so real. I think for myself during the pandemic, I was certainly riding on adrenaline – whiskey at times – but it was just around that sense of responsibility and drive to create clarity. Being the lead in a people ops space is really around how we set shorter-term goals and create some clarity, so that was the real focus. I guess that’s what really pushed us through. But now that things are settling, we are urging people to take some time off and regroup because it has been emotionally pretty taxing for everyone.

Charlotte [09:40]

Yeah, I can imagine. And I need to say it’s really impressive as we are 15 people here, and I felt that 15 people were already a challenge to communicate well to and keep people engaged and motivated, and you were around hundred then. Agustin, for you it was more than 10 thousand employees in all different countries. What was the biggest challenge you faced – a really practical one – on day one?

Agustin [10:10]

I guess there are many challenges, but the scariest one is when people start creating silos. Preventing silos in time of uncertainty is critical. People are scared, and when things like this happen, people tend to retreat and do their own thing and just try to get by. In my eyes, the depth of an organisation is to promote collaboration, to promote ideas, and bounce ideas with each other.

Agustin [10:52]

We promote agile, fast working, fast decisions, failing fast and then taking the right course back again and all of those things that you can easily do when we’re in the office or meeting people are gone. It’s gone. So, preventing silos I believe during these times is critical, and it’s one of the biggest challenges.

Agustin [11:17]

There are more. Another big concern that we had, given the size of the organisation, is mental health concerns. A lot of people are experiencing these times in different ways. Some are coping better, some aren’t, and some need a little more support. It is not different to anything that you should be doing in a team or in an organisation before, but it’s become a lot more relevant to be able as a manager to have that trusting relationship with your team.

Agustin [11:59]

When your team talks to you about their feelings, they open up, and they express when they are unsure, uncertain, or insecure, it’s critical, and it’s also a challenge for many organisations, many teams and many managers. So, I would highlight those two.

Charlotte [12:19]

Yeah, of course. The COVID crisis has caused a lot of stress, anxiety, and insecurity within companies and so forth, and also within teams and individuals. How did you both try to measure or monitor the level of stress or anxiety among your employees to respond to this?

Bailey [12:46]

Yeah, I can jump in. I think everything went into kind of a crisis management mode, and I’d love to say to you all that we had a pulse check or a tool in place, but that wasn’t the case. I think, where we helped mitigate some of it was around as I said before, being proactive around creating transparency and clarity – short, sharp bursts of goals, having a higher frequency and cadence of communication, and creating a lot more feedback loops.

Bailey [13:28]

Having the tools instilled – let’s have that one-on-one conversation, let’s equip people with asking the right questions, noting that the world was changing so much and that even if people weren’t affected at work at OfferZen, their partners might have been, so trying to bring awareness around what kind of questions to ask to help draw out what was really happening, what people were feeling.

Bailey [13:54]

I think during the actual lockdown in South Africa, we were always kind of banding together, and it was go go go, and it was survival for most – the feeling of survival. The real crux for me around measuring and managing stress and wellbeing is now. So, things are relaxing people have endured and sustained a level of speed and have been in survival mode, so it’s how we manage this transition into self-awareness and recognising signs of burnout. These are the things we’re pivoting towards now.

Bailey [14:29]

I think the one side is trying to create an awareness around what that looks like and because it creeps in and everyone’s been enduring it for a long time. We’re launching a how to build connection guide, a burnout guide, and trying to reframe how you can lead in a remote space to pick up these cues which you would ordinarily see if you were in office.

Bailey [14:57]

It wasn’t so much in a crisis that there were those key things to create guiding stars and something to connect you but it’s actually now in this transition period when you take your foot off the gas and kind of resume, what really happens? We’re pretty concerned about it now and how to manage it and equip leaders to manage it.

Agustin [15:15]

Now, if I may jump to something Bailey just said, and she said it many times – keep it simple, keep focusing step by step, and it’s not news, but it’s very important to reinforce the ‘why’, not just ‘what needs to be done’. It’s not just having task-oriented goals and measuring performance but also measuring it first through communicating the vision and constantly reminding people about why we are doing this. Why is this important and how is this difficult, how might it help the organisation help your team, help your personal development?

Agustin [16:00]

The incentive needs to be more. It’s not enough to just reward performance goals, for example, or if you completed this task, you’re rewarded, but also encourage developmental goals and reward people that are feeling that they’re adding value to their careers. That package where you don’t only focus on the task, but you also focus on the person, helps a lot with all of that anxiety. So, that’s also critical.

Charlotte [16:34]

Yeah, also both of you raised the urgency for tooling because I can imagine if we need to mention one positive thing for HR when looking back at this health crisis, it’s the fact that tooling becomes more relevant and maybe more urgent or people start understanding why you actually need it and why it’s not a ‘nice to have’ but actually ‘a need to have’. Is it something that you are experiencing as well?

Agustin [17:06]

Yes, I can jump in here. Yes, absolutely. You know, it was very easy before to just get up from your desk, go to someone in HR or somewhere else and ask for help, ask for hand-holding when you did not really understand what you were supposed to do as an employee or as a manager and get help or get someone to do it for you.

Agustin [17:31]

You could do an email, but when you are in the office and you have that physical presence, it was more effective. Now it’s not that easy, and people still have lots to do. So, the tools are critical, and how those tools are focused on the user experience and the employer/manager experience is critical because you may have completely unintuitive tools that are not fit for purpose and then, in the end, it just makes things even harder.

Agustin [18:02]

So the tools are evolving, and many tools can help in a situation like this, and, as Bailey just said, they didn’t have a pulse survey or tool to test how people were feeling and get some immediate feedback. Luckily, we do have that, and we used it. The results that we got back were very interesting. When we thought that the pandemic was more or less over and we started to create the back to the office plans that are now in a drawer somewhere, we asked what would be the most important thing for them in returning to the office, and they were very mixed results.

Agustin [18:53]

Someone said, let’s just get fewer people in the office, some other people said just get more space or desks, some people said let’s just get temperature checks when you first get into the office, and anyone with a high temperature cannot go in, some people were even saying, let’s just all get tested every week, many different interesting results.

Agustin [19:17]

Then we also asked whether they want to come back to the office and their results were 25% said yes, please get me back to the office, I cannot stand to be at home anymore. Those were mainly parents, the other 25% was no. We don’t want to go back to the office. I’m fine here. I just want to keep working remotely, but most people just want to have flexibility. I believe that would be one of the most positive outcomes of the situation and changing the ways of thinking that were very challenging before for many companies but are now becoming a reality and are a lot more feasible to senior leadership.

Charlotte [20:14]

Definitely. And for you, Bailey? Is there a tool that you now use or a process that you follow that you didn’t consider before you started?

Bailey [20:26]

I guess there’s a couple. So, we had a very strong Slack culture using Slack, and Google Drive and documenting things and how we structured the Drive is very deliberate, but I think what’s really surfaced for me, and I’ll comment on the type of tools we started using, is actually around what specifically you want the tools to do.

Bailey [20:53]

I think we defaulted back to trying tools or this one wanted to use it for something and what became really important is how we want to drive the usage of certain tools and share that more widely. We’re now trying to drive that, looking at a tool directory and areas of responsibility. Who owns that tool? What’s it for? Was it useful because I think the classification of do we want this tool to be for productivity or do we want it to be for engagement? What type of communication is important using which tool? I think we start to confuse Slack with synchronous versus asynchronous and how you want people to engage.

Bailey [21:37]

I think in a remote world, setting guidelines and that expectation is just really understanding that mindset shifts around what you want to achieve and then using the tool in the right way to achieve it. Before, I think the default was, well, this is a great tool to integrate, and we haven’t been as deliberate about using it to its full functionality or equipping everyone on how to use it.

Bailey [22:02]

I think that was a big thing from a tooling perspective that’s come out, and actually setting that structure in place and then HR operations, is recognising how integral automated HR workflows actually are when you are distributed or remote and how we start to scale systems.

Bailey [22:25]

And like Agustin mentioned, it’s about employee experience, and the focus on the integration of tools, maximising usage, and how people engage with them is a real focus of mine. So, that automation and integrating HR workflows will really help us scale, and it’ll improve the employee experience tenfold, I really believe in it.

Bailey [22:53]

A few of the hacks and tools that we’ve implemented that we didn’t have before is Donut. It is super cool for setting up and trying to replicate those moments of interaction and engagement. We’re using Miro widely, and it’s fantastic. Donut is a tool that integrates with Slack, which sets up random coffee chats, as well as random little prompts to get to know each other or learn more about each other. So, that’s been really cool in trying to break down those silos and to get you to interact with people across teams or more widely. And then I guess, Miro and other tools that were used in pockets, but not across the board, everyone’s now kind of adopting.

Charlotte [23:55]

What are your learnings about breaking down silos? Because what I experienced for instance here – and I mentioned, we are a small company with only three different teams so communicating should be very simple in this situation, but of course, there’s a first for everything. When fully remote, how do you make sure that your sales team or engineering team or support team keep having a conversation with each other?

Charlotte [24:26]

If everything is on Slack and it’s not about you grabbing a coffee and having a chat at the coffee machine and accidentally picking up a conversation from another team, which gives you more perspective on “Hey, they are working on this maybe I need to align it with my own work” for instance. How do you try to keep those communication flows streaming between the different teams or departments Agustin with 10,000 people over different continents?

Agustin [25:02]

It depends on the size of the organisation, you can talk about a lot of different ways, but for an organisation like ours, we need to be a lot more forceful, if you want to call that. You need powerful goals it cannot be something that is just a conversation or a recommendation - do that, if you feel like it, try to talk to this guy or this other team to see what they’re doing, see if anything that they are doing would make sense for us so we can benefit from it. You cannot work like that. It’s not scalable, it needs to be part of a system it needs to be part of a goal in collaboration.

Agustin [25:48]

I keep going on about collaboration. Collaboration needs to be a key-value and then you should measure the performance in your team. The toolbar is critical and one thing that Bailey was just saying, and I wanted to comment on is, she mentioned about the HR workflows. I was thinking about all these organisations that have an HR tech team and have more technical people in HR.

Agustin [26:22]

Some organisations work directly with IT, and IT has a lot more responsibility for those HR systems, but the reality is, sometimes there are conflicting priorities, and in a time like this when we have to move at lightspeed to adapt our processes, our systems and our workflows to this situation if we have to rely on other departments and other teams to scale our organisation, we wouldn’t have made it, we wouldn’t have been successful if we didn’t have an HR team.

Agustin [26:54]

I am trying to evangelise people about this topic. It’s very important, of course, depending on the size of the organisation, to invest in having technical people, HR tech people in the function, it is critical, it helps, you to look at things with an HR lens and no disrespect to the IT people but when you sit in IT, you have a much more technical view - this is your task, this is your functionality. If it works, it works, and the user experience is not well considered.

Agustin [27:32]

The HR tech people have a different lens and a different exposure to what HR means and what matters. So that is critical. Collaboration is key and the way we encourage people to talk to each other through goals.

Charlotte [27:56]

No, no, absolutely. It’s actually interesting because you mentioned Bailey that you are now working on a lot of new HR workflows. Can you provide us with an example of a project that you’re working on and also why especially now it is so relevant that you started working on this?

Agustin [28:16]

Go ahead, Bailey.

Bailey [28:22]

If you want to scale you have to start removing highly administrative tasks that delay turnaround time from the HR team or create bottlenecks so that they can be automated and create a real, really seamless employee experience.

Bailey [28:43]

I think that’s my focus and now that people are remote, waiting on this backlog it is not scalable, and it doesn’t feel like it creates the environment. It also doesn’t create a lot of autonomy to drive what employees or leaders want at the time, and so I think it just became quite real for me.

Bailey [29:06]

We’re still at the size where it’s manageable, but if I shift my focus, and I have concurred with Agustin, I want to grow the team thinking about global distribution, distributed teams and expanding, I want the people I’ve seen to be able to be a source of innovation and drive employee experience.

Bailey [29:29]

Thinking about those workflows has come up even more. I see the reliance on more manual intervention within the people space, and the key is around understanding what systems we have, and how you create that source of truth and use it to the full functionality- looking at the tools that we have at OfferZen and at the holistic ecosystem for employees and then how we want to try and build on that.

Bailey [30:02]

Onboarding is a great example of what we can automate to create an experience that doesn’t require all of our interventions. So, yeah, I think onboarding is going to be one of the areas that we are going to tackle on how to adapt to this so that flow is quite seamless from when you accept to, you know, now.

Agustin [30:32]

I was going to mention onboarding, I think it’s the perfect example. We used to get people in the office, give them the tour, introduce them to people, all of those things are great. You can’t do that anymore, but you still need to have people, you still need to get them to know the company, to get to know their colleagues, other departments. You need to enable that through technology, so that’s one big shift that all companies are going to go through.

Charlotte [30:59]

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Bailey [31:01]

It also helps you scale, and you know this quite well, we could talk more about AI in our space, but it helps you start or positions you to get into the space to track data in a process using analytics. If you don’t shift towards a more technologically savvy environment, you lose that ability to track and use data down the line. I’m sure for both of you, that’s definitely something I’m sure you use, but you have to be quite deliberate about it if it is not something that’s part of your roadmap. I think that’s also a reason why.

Agustin [31:48]

One last thing, I think, is worth mentioning to your question, Charlotte is how do you measure collaboration? We’re not doing this currently, but I would have loved to be doing this, but there is this concept of [skull] owner organisational network analysis. All of this, data, it’s floating around from all the people’s interactions, everyday interactions on Slack, on Outlook, that’s so valuable and if measured and reported in the right way, without revealing any confidential information, that aggregated information on how people interact with each other, could deliver such interesting results, and could lead to interesting initiatives to promote collaboration, and will also give you so many good tools to deliver change effectively.

Agustin [32:42]

If you could have all the aggregated data for the meetings, all the slack conversations, all the emails that float around, you can identify key influencers, we can know which teams are working best and delivering the best results. What do they do, who do they talk to, who do they interact with and use all of that information to transform your organisation.

Agustin [33:06]

I know some companies are doing it, but there’s still a lot more to do, and that’s something I’m planning to do when I have the green light and the time in our organisation, but that is the future of how to measure collaboration and effectiveness.

Charlotte [33:30]

Yeah, definitely. I think HR analytics is something that not a lot of people were talking about a few years ago and all of a sudden it has become a really important topic because I think people start to see how it can actually help you instead of causing more overheads.

Charlotte [33:45]

I hear things like communication is key, keep it simple, high frequency, make it clear, communicate your vision and your mission very clearly. Start worrying about data, implement the right tools to keep people engaged, motivated, and let people communicate with each other.

Charlotte [34:09]

Reflecting on the past seven months now, are there things that make you think “hey if we could do it all over again, this is something that we would definitely do differently next time”

Agustin [34:23]

I can give you one. We hire from all over the world, right? We hire from all over the world, and we move people to our offices. Of course, that was impossible. It is impossible right now, and it doesn’t work. It’s not sustainable. It’s not something that we can do. So, the pool is smaller.

Agustin [34:48]

By doing that we had to concentrate and look deeper into more local environments in different places that we hadn’t looked before. I think that there were a lot of opportunities and instead of looking for talent globally and always in the same places instead we’re expanding the pool, you’re fishing locally, regionally but also removing and looking very closely at biases that you might have.

Agustin [35:32]

It goes with diversity and inclusion as we know it’s a trending topic right now but what I would do differently, compared to what we were doing before we had to shift through the pandemic is the sourcing locally to find the right talent and the right candidates. It’s not enough, but there’s a lot more you can do to find talent locally, regionally, wherever. Try to look somewhere else, not the usual places, the usual universities, the usual job boards, try to expand that and you will be amazed at how much talent you can find.

Charlotte [36:19]

And more focus on potential rather than track record only.

Agustin [36:23]

Yes.

Charlotte [36:24]

Cool and what about you Bailey?

Bailey [36:27]

Yeah, that’s a really difficult one. I think that there are certain things I would shift, but it probably comes to lessons I’m learning now mostly around preparing leaders for the outcome of remote work that we didn’t anticipate at the time because there just wasn’t actually time to do it.

Bailey [36:52]

That kind of preparation is going to be a long transition into a new way of Leading - in picking up what isolation feels like, how do you play to different types of preferences and motivations within teams, how do you recognise your own motivation waning or feeling isolated?

Bailey [37:14]

I think we were incredibly focused on how to create engagement, focus on the organisation and driving performance in this time, that was really difficult, but, with a real expectation on leaders to help the teams but not really being as cognizant from the outset that this was going to be such a new world for all of us to lead-in. I would definitely want to be more prepared to prepare them for some of the things that we’re starting to notice because people are completely remote for this amount of time.

Agustin [37:56]

One comment on that and I was just thinking of something, another lesson that we learned is that we used to have, some remote teams and some people on-site and usually meetings where we had four or five people around the table in the same office and then some people on the screen remote. Suddenly everyone became remote, and those people that used to be in the office who would maybe talk at the same time, not allowing the people on the screens to participate because the interaction was a lot more difficult.

Agustin [38:33]

They found themselves in a situation now where they had to listen to each other, they had to mute, they had to pause, they had to pay attention, even though a lot of people, including myself, sometimes multitask in meetings doing something else but I think that one positive outcome of everyone going remote is that when people get back to the office and they have meetings, and they still have some remote people participate in those meetings hopefully, they will become a lot more respectful of those people that are remote. Listen a lot more, wait their turn to speak instead of speaking all over the place and not allowing people to hear. So, I think it’s going to create a better meeting philosophy.

Charlotte [39:25]

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve got a few questions from the people joining the webinar, so I wanted to ask you all a few of them. Hopefully, I know who the question was from. I have a question from Annika, and she is asking, did you find that agile tools helped during remote working and I think Agustin that one is for you.

Agustin [39:48]

They definitely did. If you are agile, regardless of you being remote or not remote, agile tools always work. I find them very useful. The fact that it allows you to work in sprints, make fast decisions and, correct the path immediately, or in a week or two, it’s critical, and I believe it’s the way every company should work where possible. They definitely do work and if companies started using them, once they went into lockdown, I’m sure that they found the value in them and I’m pretty sure they will not let them go once they go back to the office.

Bailey [40:39]

Yeah, I think also we underestimate how valuable agile tools are for all teams. I think there’s this preconceived idea around the type of work you have to do to use certain agile tools, and I’m hoping that there will be some shift of the balance so many more things can benefit.

Bailey [41:04]

I think some of the roles are to equip, train and get people to understand how you can be masters of many of these tools, no matter what function. That’s been quite a nice shift that I’ve seen where many teams, no matter the function, are adopting Agile or project management tools to help them streamline work processes and flows.

Bailey [41:27]

That’s been really useful, it creates transparency, and everyone can collaborate. So these are all great tools and hacks in terms of collaboration, where you include people how you give them visibility or assign them as a contributor and that starts to drive a different way of working.

Agustin [41:44]

And you don’t need the tools. The truth is that if you understand the Agile methodology, you can just use spreadsheets if you have someone who can drive it properly. The tools of course help because there’s less work to do, but you know, tools are not a must. You can do Agile without the actual tools.

Charlotte [42:04]

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I have an interesting one from Amina as well and if I’m interpreting the question, correctly - I think the question is, a lot of organisations are changing a lot of things at this time, and I do believe, by the way, that this is a perfect time to start thinking about your current process and innovating your company but of course, people can also get a bit tired of constant change, and a lot of things are already changing for a lot of people also privately, so how do you measure whether people still are okay with the level of change that you’re executing in the company?

Bailey [42:48]

I think it’s hard to measure change fatigue or if they’re still okay with more change coming. I think that’s difficult to measure, I think you need to keep going back to what your key principles are and how you want to bring about change in the right way. How do you monitor and evaluate what you expected the change to do and whether that’s working?

Bailey [43:13]

If you can create, especially at this time, and the focus area for us is to create as much clarity around decisions we can make right now. It’s about creating a guiding star or that NorthStar or that clear clarity around what principle we’re not prepared to trade-off here to give those pockets of certainty.

Bailey [43:38]

I think you can have an expectation of resilience and adaptability if you give people something to attach to and that sense of we’re moving to that, there is a guiding light, or something inspirational that we can attach to you, there’s clarity around that, and that’s not going to shift.

Bailey [43:57]

Moving the pieces around brings about a lot less fatigue. You can see the pathway and we’re getting there, there might be some shifts along the way. So I guess my default is to say, what kind of clarity can we create around remote work, around our mindset, what we’re thinking of within remote, the building blocks, how are we going to reconfigure the office, those sorts of things when you say to people, this is the framework that you’re working within.

Bailey [44:31]

Following that you can evaluate, was that change successful, how are people feeling, what is morale like, how do we implement those surveys or feedback loops? I think there are multiple ways to do that, I don’t think you can measure exactly the change fatigue, but you have to know if there is burnout, what’s morale like and have we successfully implemented, what we set out to achieve and that comes with lots of context and constant touch points along that change management journey.

Agustin [45:04]

Yeah, I agree with that, totally, I would just add, usually when there is that much change it is because you applied the change in certain patches and didn’t solve the root cause of the problem, and then you have to fix it again.

Agustin [45:22]

So, it’s really important that when you are embarking on a change journey, you’re fixing the actual root cause of whatever you’re trying to change and also that you don’t apply the change in silos. You have something that doesn’t work in your organisation and your team you need to find out if that is a problem somewhere else.

Agustin [45:44]

You need to make sure that whatever change you go into is not a wasted effort, and you have to do it twice or again somewhere else because that was a problem for them as well.

Agustin [45:54]

Whenever you go into a change program, try to go as quick as you can, try to not start from scratch, make sure that you identify the root cause, where those changes are, doing it in a harmonised way. [inaudible] try to streamline and simplify whatever change you make. Don’t make it more cumbersome, more complex, with more approvals, more processes, and more steps. Try to simplify, try to always make it smaller and to use accountability and trust as the lens that you’re looking through to do that change program.

Agustin [46:40]

You have professionals, or everyone that works with you are professionals, they should be trusted, they should be doing their job. So, do you need all those steps, do you need all those controls and checks, do you need all of that or can you get rid of some and make it simpler, and then measure how that goes. Measuring that will have an impact on your data and your processes and then you can make a correct assessment.

Agustin [47:05]

The other thing I would say is that right now, during this COVID times, we are constantly monitoring how much time off people are taking and we compared how much time people took off at this point in time in 2019, compared to 2020 - 60%, less. So, people are taking less time off because they cannot travel, they don’t know what’s going to happen. They just staying at home so they say “why don’t I work?”, and that’s causing burnout. So encouraging people to take their time off, even if they have to stay at home even when it is not what they want, push as hard as you can so they do take that time. It’s critical and helps with that change.


Charlotte [47:53]

Yeah, absolutely. Completely agree.

Bailey [47:56]

Sorry, Charlotte. I’ve just thought as HR professionals, there’s also the responsibility to prioritise. It’s about noting what do you want to change, how much of it and what impact you expect. I think we often fall into a trap where we don’t quantify the impact of initiatives. It’s for people, and it’s supposed to be great for everyone, but I think there is a lot around having foresight and prioritisation in terms of what that impact is, anticipating it, thinking a lot of those steps through and then prioritising when those changes are the best to implement. I think maybe that something a bit more practical is building out your roadmap, so you have some foresight into what’s coming.

Charlotte [48:46]

Yep, absolutely, completely agree on that. Another question from Oliver and for everyone listening, there is a tab on the right of your screen, a tab for questions. If you do have any questions you can, put them in there. Oliver is asking both of you. Have you found any fun ways to do online team building? Interesting one.

Agustin [49:14]

It depends on the time in the week, the time of the month it all depends. Sometimes, you put a team-building activity in, and you need to make sure that people understand it’s optional that they don’t have to join it’s just if they feel like doing it or if they don’t have anything else to do. If during that team building activity, you can share a glass of wine that’s even better.

Agustin [49:44]

But usually, when you do some kind of competition, you can do something related to work or you can just do something completely unrelated that doesn’t have anything to do with your day to day activities. Make sure that it is short, that it’s optional, that it’s dynamic.

Agustin [50:10]

About the question, have I found a way? - no, I haven’t. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes people just don’t want to, and they are just joining because they feel they have to and I constantly look at those faces, and I say, hey, it’s fine you can leave just don’t do it. But leaders need to be there, they need to be promoting it, they need to be championing it. They need to be aware and read people’s body language and just allow them to be open. It’s a tough one, especially these days. I haven’t found a specific one.

Charlotte [50:56]

How about you, Bailey?

Bailey [50:58]

We don’t necessarily run team building as you get the one team function together to run a team building, but we are trying to be really proactive around creating connections and opportunity for collaboration. So, it leads back to your question around how you break down those silos. We’ve planned out a quarterly calendar now of a series of different types of events. I think these tie into the collaboration question, and I think it also ties into that creativity and connection so trying to do things that bring people out of just that constant online feeling.

Bailey [51:52]

What we did was we looked at what types of interactions we wanted to promote, and some of it was a full team like global, so we’re running team events for everyone. And I guess Agustin we’re still small enough to have that sort of thing but the really cool one that came up for us was we had a magician, which was lots of fun and really just wow, it was cool.

Bailey [52:19]

When you see a whole bunch of people gasping at magic tricks it’s awesome. And so that was a fun one and really engaging. We ran a hint hunt, a treasure hunt exercise, and looked at how we can create breakaway rooms for smaller teams. Those types of interactions we found that to be really positive, from both a measurement and understanding kind of engagement. We’re using the events as a dipstick into which people attend, and we always ask for feedback after the event. Those are good tools on how we get that type of feedback.

Bailey [52:55]

That’s the fun side, the team events, which we found have been really cool and those have been great. Then different things internally so using a show and tell, to bring people together to look, ask questions and engage and our product team is doing show and tells weekly now.

Bailey [53:23]

We also have a ‘WTF’ lunch, which is an interesting topic that happens within the organisation. It’s around bringing people together to ask questions, to engage, to surface thinking and to create that kind of team building and connectivity.

Bailey [53:38]

My advice, or what I’m doing around collaboration, and team building is to split it at different levels. So, I’m trying to think of individuals versus teams versus cross-functional teams versus the all and pinning virtual events, to those with different types of interaction. That seems to be helping to create better engagement for that specific outcome. And the sillier, the better, I think.

Agustin [54:11]

I remember something that we did that was quite fun. We used this tool called Menti. You can go to their website menti.com which allows you to create a virtual room where people can log in with their phones or their laptops, and post questions and get immediate results.

Agustin [54:36]

I can share the screen, and I will be posting a question there, and people will be answering. They can make it multiple choice or free text. If you create a fun quiz with questions that are related to the company or related to something else, you get people engaged, answering those questions and you don’t put that many rules in you just let them fly and write whatever they want or say whatever they want. You can make some silly questions, with silly answers and it becomes fun, and you just start commenting. Using that kind of tool gives you immediate feedback, it’s quite engaging, and it works quite well.

Charlotte [54:36]

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I got some valuable tips for my own team building. There are a lot more questions, but unfortunately, we need to go to the last one, but I think it’s a really interesting one from Sharon. Considering the changes in HR processes due to remote work, what are the skills that you will need more now as an HR professional?

Bailey [55:46]

There’s so much on new roles, and I think HR is in this position now where we’re starting to get fancier with different types of roles. We ran a remote survey with our dev community recently, and I think the stats were around 91% of developers are going to choose remote work.

Bailey [56:11]

The way that you engage and create that collaboration and experience, and we saw from the insights that came out of this report, is that the reliance or the enjoyment of using tooling, is helping all of that, it’s helping productivity, it’s helping with more intentional interactions. So definitely from our developer community, that’s what they’re going for, and I think from an HR skill set, this idea of employee experience, applying technology and an understanding of how you build that employee experience is going to be so important.

Bailey [56:50]

So highly analytical, more systems orientated skill set, more experienced design so maybe around more product focus types of skills is really going to aid HR teams going forward. It is about building a system or service design for a product that is going to equip you for scaling because remote is certainly here to stay.

Agustin [57:18]

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more Bailey, I would say you are still going to have those strategic senior HR people who are going to be partnering with the business and an organisation. We have those people each one with their teams and our HR partners in their business teams. Everything is moving, my HR operations team is becoming more and more an HR projects team, a process improvement team or a process design team and are very much tasked to find efficiencies everywhere they can and remove any manual process that they still have, then find solutions and partner with the tech team.

Agustin [58:07]

So operations and tech are constantly partnering to improve that experience to remove manual work, to enable managers and employees to do things by themselves because that work still needs to happen, the relationship and all the government requirements are still there for each country.

Agustin [58:28]

All the HR life cycle transactions for employees still need to happen. Performance Management, talent management, compensation management, all of those things still need to happen, but it can happen in a way that managers feel that autonomy, feel independence, feel it’s easy and that they understand it. So, HR operations are moving away from doing tickets and hand-holding managers through everything towards an HR process improvement team.

Charlotte [59:03]

That is interesting because I think the largest shift is in terms of how people perceive that group from an overhead administrative staff to HR being the department where you need the tech to innovate your company and make it more efficient.

Charlotte [59:22]

So, to get the positive outcome out of COVID that’s a really positive experience that’s happening in our industry.

Charlotte [59:31]

Unfortunately, we’re running out of time. Bailey and Agustin, I really want to thank you for all of your insights. I hope you enjoyed being here as well. I am going to ask Brendan to come back on stage for a second because I think that he’s going to wrap it up.

Brendan [59:48]

Yes, I am. Thanks a lot, guys. That was a super, insightful conversation. Also, it’s really cool that we live in four cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Cape Town, and Barcelona, not the worst cities in the world, to be honest.

Brendan [1:00:05]

Before I announce the swag winners, two more things. Bailey, you just mentioned a great report that OfferZen has done about how developers view working from home. I know, enormous amounts of effort went into that report, and we’re keen to share it with the attendees ahead of making it public. So be sure to watch your inbox for that email, so you can get your hands on that report.

Brendan [1:00:35]

And then if you enjoyed today’s webinar, we’ll be hosting another one on the 17th of September about levelling up tech hiring advice from software makers, and that is a conversation with Arjen de Ruiter, who’s the VP of Engineering at SendCloud which is Europe’s number one shipping tool for online stores.

Brendan [1:00:54]

So, two things to keep an eye out for. The swag winners are { } and if you would like swag join us on the 17th of September. Thanks a lot, guys for all your insight, great conversation and to everyone that attended have a great evening.


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