4 Ways the Pandemic Changed Our Approach to Human Capital
The pandemic was the catalyst for a series of rapid changes that fundamentally altered the way business is done.
Human capital is a broad term that includes everything from experience, skills and emotional well-being to other characteristics that clarify how workers provide economic value. Prior to the pandemic, my company, Domino Data Lab, operated well in the human capital context. Like many companies, it had an approach that leaned toward siloed management, analog or on-site experience and location-specific hiring procedures and branding.
However, by paying attention to the realities the pandemic created, the organization was able to improve the employee experience, implement new options for emotional well-being, bring managers and teams into a better sense of community and shift recruitment to be more geographically distributed with greater multi-dimensional branding.
Before Covid-19, employees spent a week attending the company's academy in-person for onboarding. Once the pandemic was in swing, most workers had to go remote, which meant moving to Zoom as a primary means of communication. While we were already making heavy use of remote collaboration tech prior to the pandemic, we had to shift to using these tools almost exclusively.
Because we didn’t want people in front of a screen for a week straight, we shortened the academy to three days. Sessions were spread out over a month, as well. We took more care in the details of this shortened, off-site experience to ensure people felt seen and welcome, right down to what we included in the welcome packages we sent to their homes.
Because we’d already embraced remote collaboration before the pandemic, the transition to fully remote work was perhaps a little smoother than it might have been had we not had prior experience with the tools. However, our measured response to the pandemic allowed us to fine-tune our methods and approach to such an extent that we now foresee continuing to employ remote collaborating tech whenever it makes the most sense to do so.
Prior to the pandemic, the term “remote work” really referred to the ability, by choice, to perform work tasks at any time, anywhere, typically through digital setups. Although people have used this same term to refer to the way people are working through the pandemic, there is, in fact, a distinction in that what many workers have to deal with are emergency setups that are neither preferred nor ideal. It is the first time that many modern companies have experienced having their entire workforce offsite, and it is the first time they have had to deal with the emotional well-being of the entire organization head-on.
One of the things Domino kept hearing from workers related to their well-being during the pandemic was that they were working too many hours and needed time off. In response, we introduced a pandemic-era benefit called Domino Day — one day a month when everyone had the day off. We also created no-meeting Thursdays, when no internal meetings were scheduled.
We also introduced a wellness stipend of $500. The main thing with the stipend was delivering a maximum number of options it could be used for that were more inclusive of the whole person because we understood people need very different things to be well.
Pre-pandemic, Domino had about 30 managers. All of these managers were incredibly adept, but they all danced to their own beat. At the same time, unlike many businesses, our organization continued to hire aggressively throughout the crisis and brought on approximately 20 additional managers. The challenges thus were how to eliminate previous siloing to get existing and new managers doing things in a consistent way with the same KPIs across the organization.
To start, we created a management framework that helped managers understand what the company was going to hold them accountable for and how they would be measured. We then rolled out a training series that clarified exactly what it meant to be a manager at our company and what the behavioral/procedural expectations were. This included guidance on how to promote workers and how to create psychological safety within remote environments. We custom-built the series to make sure it centered around the values specific to our team and would be scalable for our organization even in the face of new crises. Because managers couldn’t be together in person, the training series also served as a vital forum to build community.
Approach to recruiting
When Covid-19 forced employees to go digital, we became more open to the idea that we could hire under a broader geographical footprint and began to incorporate tools that would allow us to reach more candidates from different locations. However, our extended hiring efforts remained intentional and targeted, relying on data to inform us about where it made the most sense to focus hiring. This enabled us to expand our potential talent pool in a highly focused way.
Because hiring wasn’t limited to our primary office locations, we wanted to ensure that anyone, anywhere could get a sense of our work and culture. One strategy we put in place was a career website designed to show what life is like in the organization and present opportunities. Within that, we built a blog that highlights individual employee stories. Then, we had a handful of key employees talk about their roles on a podcast. We connected that audio to positions on the career website so people can listen as they fill out their applications.
Moving the entire process online in this type of way is challenging because it requires both a clearer talent brand strategy and a sophisticated interconnection of a variety of tools and processes. Addressing these things means an organization can obtain the customized human capital necessary to meet goals in a scalable way.
Human capital has always driven organizations and will continue to do so. The crisis has forced companies to identify strengths and weaknesses, and to act with more immediacy than they might have done if the crisis hadn’t hit.
This included the realization that the leadership team needed to build its leadership cadre and lead remotely, together and all on the same page. We thought carefully about the employee experience, what we were doing to support workers, how we trained our core leaders and adjusted how we recruited for the digital environment.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution for how to move forward into the post-Covid environment, our story demonstrates that a willingness to observe and respond can have incredible value. While we acknowledge that we still have work to do because there’s always room to improve, getting feedback that can guide shifts in your own organization ensures you can find and tap the best talent for long-term success.
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