March 29th, 2021 | Sterling

Embracing Change with Jeaneen Andrews-Feldman, Chief Marketing & Experience Officer at SHRM

What will the future of work look like post Covid-19? As we enter year 2 of the pandemic, we continue to see its impact on the workforce and career landscape. Business leaders are looking to increase efficiency around their processes and implement new technologies, all while navigating engagement challenges and focusing on keeping employees safe.

The current global crisis has not only accelerated the need for digital and operational transformation across all functions and departments, but it has also forced us to change various aspects of how we live and work, requiring us to rethink our methods and embrace changes.

We’ve invited Jeaneen Andrews-Feldman, Chief Marketing & Experience Officer at SHRM, to answer eight questions on how she’s managing the current changes and how these changes will impact the future of work globally.

1. What do you consider the biggest challenge of a CMO these days, especially in the HR space?

The events of the past year have put an incredible strain on individuals and families. That requires more sensitivity than ever. Our marketing strategies and communications must unfold with increased empathy and should be created and developed by diverse teams, where everyone has a voice. We must remember that our audiences are diverse, with different needs and motivations.

At SHRM, we recently launched a new customer-centric strategy that is transforming how we do business across the organization. This model ensures we consistently put our members and customers’ needs first. More than a marketing approach, this is an organization-wide business strategy that will help us more clearly and individually communicate SHRM’s value and guide our engagement and solutions for each member, and ultimately grow our membership by improving their overall experience with SHRM.

Companies these days also need to “walk the talk” in everything they do, as consumers are hyper-aware of current events and highly tuned to hypocrisy. For example, if you are talking about your inclusive culture, but your Board of Directors or leadership team does not reflect that, people will notice and expect you to address it.

2. What do you think should be an employer’s first priority for 2021?

Without a doubt, employers need to lead with empathy, now more than ever. Empathy is not a soft skill. It’s a business skill. It’s what enables people to work cooperatively with others who have very different experiences, preferences, styles, and opinions. It’s also not a skill we can train for—but it is a muscle we can work. This may mean checking in more frequently with employees and providing the resources they need to take care of themselves and their loved ones.

Our people are our most important asset, so it may be time to evaluate your organizational culture to ensure that they are at the center.

And it may mean focusing more on the quality of your People Managers, who play a major role. According to SHRM research, when asked who has the most impact on building a culture of empathy, employees’ top response was their manager—not their CEO, their co-workers, or their HR leaders. That’s why empathy is such a large part of SHRM’s People Manager Qualification.

These days, with so many people working away from each other, Managers are on the front lines when people are struggling with work or stress. This is new for them. It’s important to make sure they have the training and tools to be excellent.

3. How do you think employees are adjusting to full-time remote work brought on by Covid-19? Is it different for a marketing organization?

Even in a changing world, remote work is not a new phenomenon. According to SHRM research, of the 70% of employed adults working remotely during Covid, about half (51%) were already working remotely before the pandemic. What the current crisis has changed is the sheer scale of remote work, with millions of Americans now working off-site.

The structural shift in employment has also made Americans more comfortable, on average, with the concept of working remotely. If employees had the choice, more than 70% would prefer working remotely either full-time or part-time. Only 29% of employees prefer working on-site.

The most significant drawback for all employees including marketing departments is boredom. But to be clear, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t busy, but instead it refers to almost half of employed adults surveyed lamenting that there is no change in scenery while working. And while it may seem easy to close a laptop at the end of the day, 37% of employed adults report a lack of separation between work and home life. This can lead to depression, stress, and burnout, all which impact workers across all functional disciplines. The increased screen time likely doesn’t help with all of this, and doesn’t replace real social interaction, either. Within this same study, we found to no surprise that 41% miss the lack of social interaction.

4. What are some of your strategies to achieve a healthy work-life balance and avoid burnout?

At SHRM, most of our employees have returned to the office. But our CEO has instituted a new policy of remote-work Mondays, which is just what it sounds like, and it’s been very well received by staff. People Managers have been checking in with their reports more frequently, and we have worked to establish a culture of everyone being “camera-on” during virtual meetings as it allows for that connection even if it is virtual.

For those working a flexible work schedule with some in office and some remote, it is important to find the time to separate yourself from your desk and laptop. For me personally, I try to get up and walk around during the day. I have also found that I need to make a concerted effort to stay connected to friends and colleagues. If I’m in the office that may simply be walking down the hall during the day to check-in with colleagues and if I’m remote, a Zoom coffee or happy hour may replace that.

5. What are some of the HR trends you’re seeing today that are affecting recruitment and retention?

We know the skills gap is not over, even though so many jobs have been disrupted. Employers still struggle to fill skilled positions. The trend toward remote work has made recruiting easier since we can source a candidate from anywhere in the country—or the world. But that also means your valuable talent can jump ship easily for the same reason. Now more than ever, retention is a priority. And that means creating a positive, inclusive culture where everyone can grow into their full human potential.

At SHRM, we are also focused on untapped talent, and our SHRM Foundation has many initiatives to encourage and support organizations to hire and develop people with criminal histories, people with disabilities, veterans and older workers—who are too often overlooked.

6. What are business leaders doing to ensure their company is protecting their employer brand, especially during times of uncertainty?

Given the past year where remote work was more of the norm, most employers have taken a closer look at that employee experience and looked for ways to engage and elevate their brand in the eyes of their staff. This goes back to the message of empathy and flexibility as they are both core to employee engagement during uncertainty. Offering an employee the opportunity to work flextime or a couple of days a week remote if their personal needs have changed during the pandemic can create loyal employees. Each organization is different but building that empathy muscle to better understand the needs of our employees like our customers is especially important during times of uncertainty.

7. What are some of the most common concerns you hear from HR leaders when it comes to the hiring process and onboarding employees remotely?

The switch to virtual HR processes has been one of the biggest challenges for organizations to adapt to. Those that did so thoughtfully and effectively are now much better positioned as the world of work continues to evolve (and not just because of the pandemic).

With onboarding, it’s now about building connections, and figuring out how to create those bonds and connections in a virtual session is essential.

A big concern with onboarding remote employees is how to make sure they feel included without making them think you are micromanaging them. Where is that line between having them think they are on their own and over scheduling them? If an employee doesn’t feel included, that will impact their engagement, which in turn will affect their productivity. The most important thing is to keep the lines of communication open, so you know where that line is for each employee, because it is different for everyone.

New employees face a special challenge of integrating with a culture remotely. Their veteran coworkers know and have integrated the culture and were able to take much of it home with them. Without that experience, new employees may struggle.

At SHRM, we revamped our onboarding process to take this into consideration. We implemented more one-on-ones with new employees in addition to their new hire orientation. For example, rather than covering all the technology information during orientation, we had a service desk engineer reach out to them individually, so they received white glove service and knew they were our priority. In addition, our onboarding specialist met with new employees individually to walk them through our intranet and HRIS/LMS systems. These touch points offered the new employees more information, but also gave them an opportunity to ask questions that they might not otherwise have wanted to reach out and ask.

Some new employees may be hesitant to ask for help for fear that they are “bothering” their new colleagues, but these extra conversations help them realize we are there to make their transition to our organization as smooth as possible. We also use the ‘buddy system’, meaning that we connect a more tenured member of the team with the new hire to answer questions that may not require HR or even your new boss to handle, it’s simply a way to facilitate a new connection.

8. What are some of the initiatives you’re involved in to reduce unconscious bias in the workplace?

At SHRM, we are committed to the work we do for our members every day to help them bring about positive change in workplaces that spills out into the world. That includes rooting out bias in the workplace, standing against pay inequities, standing with people and groups who have been traditionally locked out of the workplace, elevating the importance of inclusion, and using our platform for good, around the U.S. and around the world.

SHRM’s inclusion commitment begins with the workplace we build for ourselves. To give you just a snapshot, our benefits are inclusive of same-sex spouses or partners. We plan team activities all year to promote empowerment and partners, and we have launched a diversity, equity and inclusion council with employees from across our organization to help advance a sense of inclusion and belonging.

And because inclusion is not just a matter of race, gender, or orientation, we also recognize and support the hidden differences that people bring to work with them. An example of that is a recent panel we organized during Mental Health Awareness Month to allow employees to speak freely and learn from each other about their mental health journeys.

We also recognize that people’s beliefs and political affiliations are another a form of diversity. So rather than discouraging discussions of politics at work, we have worked diligently to build a culture of trust and transparency. We have asked managers and their reports to make a point of sitting down to have conversations about sometimes difficult topics, and we have showed them what boundaries need to be in place for these to be most effective.

We are very proud of what we call SHRM’s “Culture Club”—a hand-picked group comprising a diverse representation of the employee population that provides input directly to our CEO on what they are seeing in our internal culture. And I will tell you that these conversations can be both uncomfortable and incredibly enlightening.

Inclusion, equity, and diversity are fundamental to fulfilling our vision of building a better workplace and better world. From our hiring practices through the entire employee experience, we embrace and celebrate the unique experiences, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds that each employee brings to the workplace. We encourage diverse points of view which allows us to develop innovative solutions to the ever-evolving world of work.

The global pandemic has thrown us into an entirely new world. The roles and responsibilities of business leaders have dramatically changed since the beginning of the pandemic. Employees trust and rely in their leadership during a crisis to be instructed in how to respond to be most effective in their roles.

Defining priorities and making good decisions now will help to ensure your business is positioned well when this crisis passes. Many employers rely on their business leaders and partners for resources in determining the most appropriate actions to take to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 rather than follow general trends.

Looking ahead

The business world is changing, and HR should adapt accordingly. Managing workplace change can be stressful, especially during uncertain times. Companies need HR solutions that support and enable the business strategy — making it possible for HR to focus on the entirety of work and the workforce.

At Sterling, we help companies adjust to change by working closely with HR leaders to help lighten the lift for your organization, increase efficiency, and support your hiring plans.

Contact us to learn more about how Sterling can help your company navigate change successfully.

As Chief Marketing & Experience Officer, Jeaneen Andrews-Feldman is responsible for all activities related to conceptualizing and implementing an enterprise-wide customer centric marketing strategy. She is responsible for providing executive leadership and management of SHRM’s marketing, communications, membership, events, business intelligence & marketing technology, editorial and customer experience functions worldwide.

Andrews-Feldman is a marketing executive and business strategist with 30 years of experience in both B2B and B2C organizations.

Prior to joining SHRM, she was Senior Vice President, Marketing, at Merkle Inc., (Dentsu Aegis Network) leading the marketing strategy and execution for the performance marketing agency. Over the course of 5 years, she transformed the marketing organization into a strategic asset to the business while gaining recognition with multiple Stevie Awards for marketing and customer experience programs and integrating 10+ acquisitions into the Merkle brand.

Previously, Andrews-Feldman was the Head of Global Product and Channel Marketing at the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), now Gartner. While there, she architected the marketing organization to support 7 practice areas and 54 programs for both acquisition and retention marketing. She also cofounded two marketing-related entrepreneurial ventures in suburban Washington, D.C., one of which was acquired by AES, Inc.

Earlier in her career, she spent more than 10 years in the telecommunications industry at both Sprint and AT&T.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in marketing from the University of Scranton and attended Cornell University’s Executive Management Program.

This blog post is part of a Q&A blog series, where we interview industry experts to get their insights on the latest trends, best practices, and recommendations for building great cultures and foundations of trust and safety.

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