Crucial People Management Lessons from Accenture, Adobe, and Netflix

Let’s step aside from the broader, macro impacts of COVID-19 on corporates for a second.

At a micro-level, employees, teams, and entire workforces were interrupted in their usual workflows by the pandemic. For some, it meant accepting a furlough or paid leave until work volumes rebound. For others, there was an overnight shift to WFH environments — with all its psychological, logistic, and productivity costs.

Navigating a company through all of this is the CHRO and other people management leaders. Some of challenges in decision making have been around:

1. Certainty of decisions can be taken for granted, currently we do not know enough and are not sure if the decision or direction will not change shortly after the communication.

2. Criticism will certainly be more visible, identifying green shoots will take center stage of communication of management. However, being grounded to the current situation and being hopeful can be way forward.

3. Communication to people has never been more important, we need to aware of the individual or individuals situation at their home the new office so not to put undue pressure and give sufficient space to them to make them purpose drive foremost and the planned approach needs to be moderated.

In my last blog, I asked this critical question: Are CHROs ready to drive upskilling in a post-pandemic world? Are they successfully engaging, retaining, and motivating employees without that essential ingredient called in-person interaction?

There are lessons to be learned here from reputed corporate giants like Accenture, Adobe, and Netflix.

3 Strategic Measures for CHROs Amidst the Crisis

Despite economic uncertainty, established players know that now is not the time for a restrained approach to people management. Nearly 70% of employees view the pandemic as the most stressful period of their entire career. Among them, 62% are losing at least an hour every day in productivity. People managers who are uncommunicative or follow a “hands-off” style only exacerbate the issue.

That’s why companies like Accenture, Adobe, and Netflix are choosing a different route.

1. Accenture CHRO, Ellyn Shook, checks in with the team every day

Before the pandemic, Shook used to sit down with the company’s leadership team on a quarterly basis. Now, with WFH being the new normal, she joins a virtual meeting every single morning to catch up on global updates. This is in sync with Accenture’s consistent commitment to employee health and wellbeing, which predates COVID-19.

Earlier, it had partnered with Thrive Global for a mental wellness course — now, the course is available in bite-sized chunks for employees to access whenever they need, with support resources to deal with anxiety, stress, and loneliness.

The lesson here is simple: most of the human connections we once took for granted aren’t possible in a remote working environment. CHROs can step up and fill this gap with more frequent digital communication, all-hands meetings, virtual events, and the like.

2. Adobe has a customer service portal for its employees

Adobe’s employee intranet is at a whole-new-level. The company operates a cloud-based portal called Inside Adobe, offering a customer service-like experience to its 21,000 employees worldwide. Inside Adobe is a design-led combination of a corporate intranet + a service catalog where you can access personalized content, HR info, as well as IT support.

And the portal is backed by an advanced analytics layer that can ingest and process data on employee behavioral triggers. “

If you’re able to interpret the data, you’ll be able to come up with the right content to improve your engagement,” says Scott Rigby, Head of Digital Transformation, Adobe Asia Pacific.

The lesson for CHROs? Prevention is nearly always better than a cure.

Inside Adobe was able to help employees through challenging periods with free, readily accessible digital skill and data fluency courses. It is advisable for CHROs to stay a step ahead of the crisis, embracing service catalogs or enterprise digital marketplaces (employee-facing) to prepare for the future.

3. Netflix invests in employer branding and CSR

COVID-19 has had mixed impacts on Netflix.

On the one hand, its subscription numbers are through the roof (adding 15.77 million in one quarter). But at the same time, it had to put several high-value production planned and projects on hold indefinitely, deferring future revenues. Through all of this, Netflix hasn’t forgotten to practice compassionate leadership and show the industry community its commitment to people’s wellbeing.

The company set up a $100 million fund for creatives — an industry severely hit by COVID-19.

There’s an important lesson for CHROs here.

An effective way to motivate and reassure your internal community (i.e., the workforce) is to demonstrate a larger awareness of human issues, their implications, and possible redressal measures. Favorable policies like better benefits and flexible hours would, therefore, have clear results on employee morale and productivity.

Best Practices for CHROs Right Now

There are several small but game-changing steps that could pave the way towards lasting change and crisis-readiness.

● Remote-ize employee support to eliminate those tiny moments of frustration that add to negative employee experience.

● Turn employee reviews on its head and gather feedback on manager competence, capability, and performance.

● Stay on track with planned hiring, buoyed by remote employee onboarding, training, and collaboration tools.

● Work closely with CIOs/CTOs to ensure that new technology investments are in line with people goals.

● Invest in CSR, PR, and employer branding to fast-track recovery after the pandemic and retain/improve market leadership.

Companies like Accenture, Adobe, and Netflix have managed to stay on top for a reason — they look after employee wellbeing, for better or for worse, in sickness and health. And their workforce, in turn, gives back in the form of higher productivity, continued loyalty, and an eagerness to upskill for both self as well as for the company.

CHROs who realize this symbiotic relationship will stand to gain a competitive advantage in any crisis scenario.

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Arvind Mehrotra

Board Advisor, Growth Enabler, Strategy & Culture Alignment and Technology Advisor