How do smart companies think about human capital? From setting and meeting DEI goals, to managing people in a newly distributed world of work, there are an abundance of factors at play in structuring effective organizations.
Elevate’s panel discussion on this topic, hosted by Lolita Jackson, Executive Director of Communications & Sustainable Cities at Sustainable Development Capital LLP, brought together a number of experts in the field.
Kimmy Gardner Reinking, VP of Human Resources at WWE; Jennifer Krevitt, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs; Erin Merchant, a Consultant currently on sabbatical; and Matt Redler, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Panther all shared their unique perspectives on people management. Read on for practical insights to shape your organization’s strategy.
How do you manage multiple different roles under one virtual roof?
Lolita kicked off the discussion by asking the panelists for advice on managing an assortment of different roles within a single organization. “We definitely have a wide variety of roles at WWE, but it’s really all about the communication that comes from above,” says Kimmy. “You need to have clarity on what the goals and metrics are for the company, and how that filters down to each individual. It’s not necessarily managing in a linear way, it’s about managing the parameters of each role and making sure people really understand what their role is and how it relates to the overall company.”
While in a very different industry, Jennifer has had a similar experience working in the finance sector. “Goldman Sachs is a very large company that has so many different roles. Not everyone is a banker, not everyone is a revenue producer. More than a quarter of the organization are technologists, and more than half are value accelerators for the business. You need to meet all of the talent where they are, and where they want to go. How do you motivate and engage everyone? How do you think broadly about building a culture that’s really meaningful and purposeful for everyone? Culture is agnostic to where you are in the organization or what your role is, but we all need to be rowing in the same direction.”
Erin says the same is true in her role. “When I look at this, especially in the IT function, we have this difference between generalists and specialists. At a mid level, you’re usually looking at how both of these types of people are working toward one unified cause. It’s not necessarily about distilling out their personal perceptions of how they want to function in their role, it’s more about having a certain set of ideals that we are always striving towards.”
What can we expect from workforce structure in the coming year?
As highlighted by Matt, many of our long-standing assumptions about work are now being dismantled, and we’re only beginning to understand the implications for workforce structure. “Now that we’ve separated this idea of physical location from economic opportunity, we’ll start to see companies optimize their roles to hire the best person, no matter where they live. As a result, we’ll start to see companies that are closer to their customers, and we’ll start to see much more diverse workforces. I also think we’ll be forced into new ways of communication to work with incredible people all over the world. We need new processes that eat time zones for breakfast. That boils down to lots of asynchronous communication such as recorded videos and documentation, versus just calling meetings every time a decision needs to be made.”
Another benefit of this type of communication is that it creates a more level playing field for everyone involved. Lolita references a piece she read recently that stated some people of color feel more comfortable putting their ideas forward when working from home, compared to past experiences of in-person meetings. Matt agrees that this can result in better opportunities for people who haven’t traditionally been heard. “As a result of working in this non-meeting way, I think the best ideas are the ones that rise. It’s not just the loudest voices.”
How can organizations set and meet aspirational DEI goals in a distributed working environment?
“What is important is measurable, and what is measurable is important,” says Jennifer. “When we think about aspirational goals, it’s about who and where we want to be. We know that change takes time and that there is an accelerating impact to the work we do in the DEI space. We have to focus on our goals from the beginning of the recruiting process by spreading broad nets to make sure we’re considering a broad workforce… Then, when candidates come into really strong cultures, we need to ensure that they’re able to navigate that comfortably and authentically.”
The shift to remote work and distributed teams will also enable organizations to be more ambitious in their DEI goals. “What we’ve seen is this ability to recruit people, not only in Fairfield County, Connecticut, but to work in different locations. It enables that expansion a little bit more and I hope to see more growth in that capacity,” says Kimmy.
What are your top tips for structuring effective organizations?
“Now is the time for reinvention, but it doesn’t necessarily have to happen with great expediency. It’s really about finding the most intentional ways of rebuilding or readdressing what we assumed was normative,” says Erin.
That being said, it’s crucial to make a start. “One of the lessons I have learned in the last couple of years is to start earlier than you think you need to. How early is the right time to start working on development pathways for people? What are the new ways you need to reinvent your job descriptions so they are malleable to a new type of workforce?,” she adds.
The importance of being intentional with change was echoed by Jennifer. “Senior leaders need to be really thoughtful about what kind of culture they are building, and what culture persists. Being very clear and deliberate about who we want to be and how we want to get there is really important. And when I say we, I mean each of us. It doesn’t matter where you are in the organization. If you think of yourself as a leader trying to build a culture within a culture, it makes for a very impactful career.”
Kimmy says that as organizations re-examine their structure and cultural goals, it’s important to keep change management in mind. “I’ve seen change management that wasn’t done well, where employees felt somewhat lost in the change. It’s so important to make sure they’re brought along in that process. If you don’t include people, the changes become ineffective.”
Matt says it’s essential that we embrace the new world of work, without looking too much to the past. “One piece of advice I would put out there is, we shouldn’t take the way that we worked in the past and copy paste it to the way we’re working today. Specifically, we should focus more on an outcome-based mindset rather than an input one. In an office culture, the amount of hours you worked was the currency. The management style was making sure people were there from dawn to dusk. In a distributed environment, it’s more about empowerment and helping everybody do their best work.”
Ready to learn more about the future of work? Check out the full set of recordings from Elevate, now available to watch on demand.