Here’s How HR Leaders Are Keeping a Pulse on Remote Teams

April 7, 2020
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All across Southern California, HR teams are working overtime and, in many cases, learning how to manage and engage fully remote workforces for the very first time. While the initial challenge of moving workspaces into the house and settling in for what may be months of remote work is over, HR professionals are now figuring out how to simulate all the events, feedback and small, face-to-face interactions that help define a company’s culture.

So how are they doing it? Three Los Angeles HR professionals took us through their remote culture toolbox to show us how they’re keeping employees informed, productive and happy in an otherwise anxious time. 

 

Alvina Ng
Director of People & Talent Acquisition

What is your HR team doing differently in light of the COVID-19 crisis, and why?

As a nimble startup, I believe that one of our greatest assets as a team is that we are able to adapt and act fast. The COVID-19 crisis escalated quickly, and at STEEZY I synced up with our co-founders to quickly formulate a response plan within a couple of hours. We were able to corral everyone and galvanize the team into working from home ahead of the “safer at home” state-wide mandate.

From there, we created an internal communications space on Asana within our “command center,” a one-stop shop of resources for employees. We included tips on optimal ways of working from home, tips on how to deal with anxiety during this unprecedented time and our stance on the status of our company’s health. Anxiety stems from the unknown and from feeling helpless against things you cannot control. My job during this time is to empower employees with information through transparency.

 

What HR tools or culture surveys are you using right now to keep a pulse on how your team is doing? 

We had been utilizing Gusto as an HRIS to be our catch-all for payroll and benefits, so it made sense to conduct pulse surveys through Gusto as well. Through these monthly pulse surveys, I am able to gain thematic team insights and provide additional support as necessary. The questions can be adjusted as we see fit, so it’s a nice way to see how our team feels about specific topics and then aggregate the information. We also make a point to pulse check personally with team members to see how they are doing so that pulse surveys are not taking the place of real-time discussions — even if they have to be via Slack or Zoom these days.

I’m also a strong proponent of having a consistent learning and development program to engage with employees and develop specific skill sets. To continually iterate on the content provided to team members, I send out surveys to gather feedback and to ensure both the content and structure is relevant to our employees. Even though these sessions will have to be moved online for the foreseeable future, it’s a good way to keep the team connected and learning during this time. Of course, we also hold weekly staff meetings with everyone in the company, as well as virtual movie nights, game nights and happy hours to stay connected with one another.

Another initiative we use to gauge how employees are doing and the overall morale of our team is called “Culturebowl.” STEEZY’s Culturebowl is an annual hackathon-like, value-centric off-site created to discuss STEEZY’s values and the culture we want to create. Our team is split into small groups, where each group is tasked with brainstorming one idea that could move the culture needle within the company. Some of these ideas are then taken beyond Culturebowl to be executed in our day-to-day. We are continuously working to further engage with the team.

 

...We’re about fast results and quick iterations if something doesn’t work.”

How are you leveraging the information you collect from these tools and surveys to inform decision-making or drive new HR initiatives? 

At STEEZY, we’re about fast results and quick iterations if something doesn’t work. For example, there have been a couple instances where pulse survey results reflected that our employees weren’t sure they were doing enough to succeed in their role. Serendipitously, a group of employees had started creating a 360 feedback playbook as an outcome of our Culturebowl. I am partnering with this team to translate the content into a detailed learning and development training session instead, and to follow up the session with the playbook. Adjusting the content to be relayed through a training session will offer an opportunity to discuss feedback issues live, which may help further inform any additional one-on-one coaching or training that needs to be done.

I am also currently in the midst of designing a management training series which will take a deep dive into all aspects of management. The series will tackle the core differences in expectations and behaviors transitioning from an IC role into a management role, understanding the definitions of a non-exempt and an exempt employee, how to develop trust in order to coach employees and how to navigate difficult conversations with an employee.

 

Donielle Williams
Director of Human Resources

What is your HR team doing differently in light of the COVID-19 crisis, and why?

Our HR team is currently focused on what we can do to alleviate the stress and anxiety of this moment by remaining positive and transparent. We’re regularly communicating to our workforce about the effects COVID-19 is having on our business operations while providing a continued sense of job security and well-being.

We are committed to maintaining our culture and some sense of normalcy. We are doing this through various channels as we shift to serving a fully remote workforce. Working from home during this crisis brings new stressors to employees, both personally and professionally. We are helping manage that stress through weekly virtual guided meditations with our health and wellness coach, hosting virtual happy hours, encouraging open communication, conducting daily mental and emotional check-ins, initiating employee pulse surveys and providing constant updates and resources for our teams.

 

What HR tools or culture surveys are you using right now to keep a pulse on how your team is doing? 

As a company, we have a robust HRIS that allows us to monitor employee sentiment through our community feed and customizable survey tool. Now that we are operating entirely remote, we are encouraging intentional peer-to-peer interactions through our company community platform.

We recently launched a pulse survey which is a way to gain quick insight into the health of our company. In light of the current crisis we determined that an “employee wellness check during COVID-19” survey would help us gain a better understanding of how employees are feeling about company communication, work-from-home struggles and personal and professional anxieties while providing a channel for asking questions.

 

We are all learning how to operate in our new normal...”

How are you leveraging the information you collect from these tools and surveys to inform decision-making or drive new HR initiatives?

Initially, we set out to utilize this information to start conversations and ensure employees feel confident in the company’s leadership and communication. We are all learning how to operate in our new normal, and we want to ensure our teams are physically and emotionally equipped to continue business operations successfully while working remotely for an extended period of time.

As we collect the information and spot trends, we can begin to measure employee morale, engagement, satisfaction, health and motivation. We can then leverage the data and implement new HR initiatives that support our workforce and ensure productivity. By reviewing the results of the tools and surveys, we will look for actionable opportunities to maintain positive company culture and identify recognition and development opportunities to demonstrate the company’s commitment to the long-term success of our employees.

 

Stephanie Love
Senior Manager of Organizational Development

What is your HR team doing differently in light of the COVID-19 crisis, and why?

With the rapid shift into an extended remote working environment, we’ve become laser-focused on the well-being of our employees as we all adjust to the new normal in the wake of COVID-19. To do this, we’re providing more frequent updates on what’s happening with the business, opening new channels of communication for employees to engage with one another and providing an anonymous place for people to share anything that they may not be comfortable talking about in person. During this time, our goal is to make sure employees feel safe and supported, no matter what they may be experiencing at home — whether it's balancing work while caring for a child or taking video calls from a couch. Overall, we’re making sure that we really listen to the needs of our employees and are using that information to drive our decisions.

 

What HR tools or culture surveys are you using right now to keep a pulse on how your team is doing? 

Listening to the needs of our employees right now is crucial, so we’re leveraging tools that enable them to start a conversation about what’s going on or get access to key information in real time. Slack has been instrumental in helping us build community among our employees, and we’ve seen a huge spike in engagement on the platform. It’s within those channels that we’re seeing ERGs form naturally as people start to lean on one another, especially with our working parents. Employees also have a direct and open line of communication with their managers through our 15Five platform, which encourages weekly dialogue around how people are doing and helps teams stay aligned on priorities. And we’re relying on our anonymous “always on” listening tool, AllVoices, as a place for employees to share anything they don’t feel comfortable talking about in Slack or with their managers. We chose these tools because they allow us to remain agile and respond to employees’ needs honestly and openly.  

 

...This experience has helped employees form connections with each other and break down the silos between offices and teams...”

How are you leveraging the information you collect from these tools and surveys to inform decision-making or drive new HR initiatives?

The feedback we’ve gathered through our AllVoices platform has directly influenced how we’re managing our executive communication channel. A lot of us are new to working from home and people were feeling disconnected from our leadership team, so we held multiple virtual all-hands meetings with small groups where people could address leadership on topics that were most relevant to them. Each meeting featured a robust Q&A session where the executives answered every question that had been submitted through our anonymous feedback tool to ensure employees felt heard and informed.

Through conversations on Slack, we also learned of our employees’ passions and talents outside the workplace, so we decided to put resources behind the topics that were trending. This led to employee-taught “self-care” classes and the emergence of an “impact program,” complete with virtual volunteering opportunities in response to COVID-19 and a sustainability committee focused on reducing our social footprint. The best thing about both of these is that it brought people from different locations together around something that mattered to them, and we plan to shape our employee experience and engagement programs around what we’re learning going forward. Ultimately, this experience has helped employees form connections with each other and break down the silos between offices and teams, and we believe that when we return to our offices, we’ll go back with stronger communities than we left with.

 

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