This article is part of our new State of Employee Feedback Series which will interview a diverse mix of HR experts and thought leaders with a goal of better understanding their perspectives on the current state of and future of HR.
The following is an interview we recently had with Alexia Vernon (She/Her), Founder & President, Step into Your Moxie.
One of the biggest changes in the HR industry as a result of the pandemic and racial uprising is a shift from focusing on compliance to supporting employees with mental health. HR teams must ensure that all employees, particularly those who were most impacted by the events of the last two years, are given the support they need to thrive – in and out of the workplace. HR leaders are tasked with looking at what is happening in their companies that might be having a widespread negative impact on mental health (i.e., systemic injustice, a lack of support for employees working from home, a culture that tolerates unconscious bias, a lack of onramps for women who take a leave of absence, etc.) so they can address it.
While, long-term, I think the changes to feedback that remote and hybrid work has introduced are a good thing, short-term, the challenge has been ensuring that feedback is no longer something that happens only during a performance review or when employees are underperforming. And rather, feedback is something that should be happening on a regular basis, and those who are giving it need to make it behaviorally specific and actionable. Teaching managers and team members how to give relevant, informal, and frequent feedback through a screen is different than training people how to conduct a face-to-face performance review. However, the investment of time and energy is well worth it.
1. Ensure that feedback is being delivered live (even if it’s virtual), in real-time conversation – versus over email or through a messaging platform.
2. Let employees know what success in their role looks like – and include mindset, behaviors, and skills. Too often employees know what project success looks like, but the first time they are told they were being measured on “growth mindset” or “allyship” is in a performance review.
3. Enroll employees in the feedback development process. People receiving feedback can identify what is and isn’t working in a way that those doing most of the feedback delivery often do not see or experience.
4. Give behaviorally specific examples of what is and isn’t working and keep individual people’s responses and impressions anonymous.
For HR to remain relevant, it needs to be intersectional. HR leaders and teams must be trusted partners to the C-Suite. HR needs to understand short and long-term business goals and align their work accordingly. Similarly, HR needs to understand and support talent development – from recruitment and onboarding to performance management, to training and ongoing leadership development. HR, in its role of developing, reinforcing, and addressing dysfunction in culture, also can be a partner to diversity, equity, and inclusion teams and initiatives. Too often HR is brought in to protect the interests of a company when there’s been a personnel issue. HR should be leveraged more proactively to ensure all employees understand how to treat fellow employees with dignity, own and repair harm when it’s caused, and create a culture where brave, uncomfortable conversations can happen so employees can speak up for themselves and for employees who have experienced marginalization.
One of the biggest shifts in my work is from being the person who designs solutions to the person who helps people prepare for and excel in high-stakes conversations. I’m spending a lot of time role-playing conversations – helping employees find the words, the persuasive communication skills, and use body language that amplifies credibility, likeability, and trust. With increasing frequency, I’m also being asked to support leaders and critical teams with their messaging when they report out on policies – whether that’s related to Covid, remote work, or how to address microaggressions. I see this role as a corporate communication partner increasing in the years to come.