2020 redefined the future of workplaces! Virtual teams of today have answered long debated questions around productivity, efficiency and ownership, the pandemic forced us into virtual working models of magnitude previously inconceivable. Global and Local business continuity in middle of lockdowns and restrictions have been made possible through human resilience, swift & concise HR policies and IT modernization of the 21st century. Teams, Webex and Social Media Lives have replaced traditional meeting rooms, lobbies and boardrooms. The benefits of virtual working overweigh the alternatives (at-least for now) but it draws new challenges of finding work-life balances, sustaining human connection within teams and mental-physical well-being of employees.
As we approach the second half of 2021, we wonder what the future holds for work from home, the trends in virtual working, challenges involved for Human Resource leaders in imbibing the company culture and ethics in the “new normal”. We have our Human Resources leader Christine Kinahan answer all this and more during my recent conversation with her.
Q&A with Christine Kinahan, Vice President, Human Resources, Schneider Electric
As echoed through our One Voice engagement survey results last May, the team rallied together in the face of unprecedented challenges. We saw very little disruption for our customers and key stakeholders, and a tremendous resolve and tenacity from our people and our leaders. In this extreme, unconscionable year and beyond, we continued on our growth trajectory despite the sometimes demanding pressures. While for the most part we were all working remotely, we are a diverse workforce dealing with a myriad of unique personal situations, from becoming teachers to our children to facing isolation or health issues. We leaned in very hard to our new ways of working and encouraged flexibility because we needed to adapt quickly to allow our employees to manage within the constraints of their ‘new’ normal work and home setting. We strived to develop continuous listening skills and a speak-up culture as well as taking mindfulness and well-being seriously. I’ve been on virtual meditation calls, virtual yoga calls, mindfulness sessions, virtual walking meetings and much more this past year. We don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to how our employees should manage their daily schedule or workloads; we do have a strong desire to continuously listen, improve and innovate on how we can create an environment that embraces inclusivity and well-being.
Now more than ever, we need to continue on the resolve of 2020 and focus on ensuring that we limit the braggadocios behavior of a 24/7 work/work balance. Rather, we seek to equip our employees and leaders with the skills of emotional agility as we build competencies for our digital future. We need to continue to build strong leadership and critical technical competencies that set us up for future success. Likewise, we will also continue our journey on diversity, equity and inclusion. We need a workplace that is not only aptly skilled for the future, but also has the ability to innovate and continue its growth trajectory. We want to continue to be recognized for our thought leadership, and we will only be successful if we have a workplace of diverse voices that can experiment, take risks, celebrate failures and ultimately turn barriers into prosperous endeavors.
I have been in this position for almost ten months, working remotely. I have only met Manish, EVP Home and Distribution, one time in person, for my interview, but still we have been able to forge a relationship across a 12+-hour time zone difference. Each and every employee exchange I’ve had has happened remotely – even with members of my own team! And while that’s not ideal, it’s a way of life for now. With the absence of travel and the organic coffee breaks that happen in the office when you cross paths with colleagues, you have to make a true effort to continue to check in, connect and grow authentic human connections in order to be successful in this mostly remote world. Our success is a testament to the leadership of the team, the camaraderie and transparency we share and the respect we have for one another.
It’s critically important that we continue to monitor our workforce and help them prioritize their tasks, overcome barriers and show up engaged, refreshed and present. I mean ‘present’ in the sense that distractions are limited, focus is sharp and people feel both mentally and physically nourished as best they can in today’s context. We as leaders and HR professionals can provide this by role modeling vulnerability and championing well-being activities – normalizing re-charge breaks and walking meetings, for example, and ensuring after-hours emails are limited and our employees are getting the right opportunities to have influence over their work priorities.
Did you find the conversation informative? Make sure to follow Christine Kinahan on LinkedIn!
In my series of interview with leaders on impact of “new normal” on their area of expertise, I recently had an eye-opening conversation with Zoe ZHU, SVP – Supply Chain at Schneider Electric to get her take on the ever changing challenging field of Supply Chain Management. Read the full interview here