HR lessons for 2022 from a chief people officer

4 minute read
How will the changes to HR in 2021 affect HR leaders in 2022? Joan Burke, chief people officer at DocuSign, shares her thoughts with The People Space and outlines how the cloud-based agreement management business has been addressing the challenges

HR lessons for 2022 from a chief people officer

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how and where many of us work, fundamentally changing it forever. The introduction of hybrid work, as well as managing the immense impact of lockdowns and social distancing, has required careful management. But when done properly, the rewards can be great. Traditional office-based ways of working are no longer the only option and 2021 showed that long-held views around productivity and presentism were wrong. But this is not a concrete ending to questions around the workplace and HR leaders will continue to question how best to meet the organisation’s and employee’s needs.

During the last 18 months, at DocuSign, we have encouraged our employees to prioritise their health and wellbeing above all else, ensuring we can support their whole selves. While there can be no doubt that offices provide a great place to collaborate and build relationships, feedback from our employees during the pandemic indicated that they valued spending less time commuting, which gives them time back to enjoy outer-work endeavours that supports their health and wellbeing.

We look back at the biggest changes to HR in 2021 and discuss how these developments will impact HR leaders in 2022.

Support for new and junior employees is more important than ever

Across every industry, the relationships we have with colleagues form an important part of our professional development and integration within an organisation. But in the rapid shift to remote and hybrid work, it quickly became apparent how difficult it is to build meaningful networks and relationships. This was especially true for junior employees who often learn from those around them and new employees who didn’t have the luxury of building relationships before the pandemic.

To overcome these challenges, here at DocuSign we created ‘DocuSign Connections’, a new global employee development platform that enables employees to connect in a variety of ways – including career mentoring and peer coaching. The programme bridged gaps between peers and helped address a key concern: how do we maintain and expand our ability to build relationships?

HR leaders must work harder to ensure that new joiners and junior employees are given the opportunities needed to build these relationships, thereby facilitating their ability to grow while embedding a strong employee experience – especially at a time when employee experience is under pressure.

Technology changed how we approached recruitment and onboarding

The technological adaptations required to withstand the impact of the pandemic on the workforce is one of the biggest shifts across organisations we have seen. Employers were forced to roll out home-based equipment for all employees, set up new platforms such as Zoom and Teams for effective collaboration and learnt how to manage workflows from different locations. Yet one of the most positive impacts has been on the recruitment process.

While hiring may have been hindered by the need for physical interviews and tests, the pandemic allowed organisations to interview multiple candidates from remote locations and access talented candidates who might have been inaccessible under more conventional circumstances. But remote working also meant HR leaders had to become more creative when onboarding new employees. A candidate’s proximity to our offices is no longer certain and as a result we are able to hire the best talent irrespective of their location. Equally, at DocuSign we developed alternatives to our pre-pandemic employee engagement apparatus. Before the pandemic we ran an orientation module once a month in Seattle, where we flew new employees from around the world to attend a two-day programme. After Covid struck, we quickly pivoted and created online alternatives that proved successful with new joiners, particularly as our CEO Dan Springer, was able to join and greet new employees, giving them direct interaction with senior executives.

Many people might feel losing the physical aspect of recruiting means HR leaders fail to grasp the full picture. But there will be others like DocuSign who found that virtual recruitment and onboarding made us more creative, featuring sessions with the CEO which candidates loved. Going virtual also helped us bring on a more diverse group of candidates. In 2022, HR leaders should embrace digital recruitment to ensure equality and fairness while attracting the best possible talent.

Corporations leading with compassion and empathy

Across every industry, the pandemic ensured employee health and wellbeing has been thrust to the forefront of the company agenda. This, in turn, has seen organisations lead with compassion and align employee needs with the wider company agenda.

At DocuSign, we encouraged managers to be flexible with their team’s needs, helping them to move past being a work manager and becoming a people manager. We initiated a programme which focuses on helping managers understand what is meaningful and impactful for individual employees, allowing them to tailor their approach to the needs of the individual. It’s important for HR leaders to find new ways to support managers, whether that be new tools, resources or ways of work that helps them manage a team with individual needs. 

What does 2022 hold for HR?

In 2022, the impact of the pandemic will not wash away easily. But beyond the negative impacts faced by so many people, the pandemic has given HR leaders an opportunity to adapt and make positive change.

Many organisations have found that the shift to hybrid and remote work has been an adjustment but, in many ways, it has opened up new opportunities for HR leaders to improve their processes, rethink policies and re-imagine the way we work. The pandemic highlighted the importance of supporting employees, both in the transition to work and in their wellbeing, while changing how we approach recruitment and onboarding. Yet HR leaders must ensure managers are well-placed to effectively build, inspire and direct teams while creating an inclusive culture. The transition we have seen is a once in a generation shift, but like any difficult transformation, it also provides opportunities to reshape organisations for the better.

Joan Burke, pictured below, is chief people officer at DocuSign

Joan Burke DocuSign

Published 9 February 2022
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