The CHRO Defining Moment Is Now

by | May 22, 2020 | HR, Leadership

Here’s a list of best practices

As a principal for Shields Meneley Partners, working with C-Suite clients on career transitions, and as the managing partner for The Sierra Institute, an exclusive, invitation-only peer networking group for chief human resource officers, I have a significant amount of real-world and real-time input when it comes to best practices for the HR world. As you can probably imagine, the pandemic has created a sea-change for this executive function and after a month of my own research, including several enlightening Zoom calls with more than 20 of the most influential human resources practitioners today, I wanted to share the cohort’s list of best practices.

No. 1

Stay in constant communication with all your employees. This communication must be transparent, and the messages need to be easily digested. Worried workers need to hear the plain truth.

“The importance of employee communication cannot be overstated,” Sean Kimble, CHRO of USA Compression Partners, told me. “Leaders at all levels, especially those closest to the men and women running the day to day operation of the business, are often the most critical to keeping the team informed.”

No. 2

The Chief Executive Officer plays an important role in that communication. The CEO is the leader and he or she should deliver messages while support and information need to be curated by the HR leader. One of the best practices my group of HR officers has leveraged is the creation of short videos, pushed out to all employees so that he or she can keep them up to date on what is going on.

No. 2.1

As an overlay to the CEO delivering the message is the tone. HR leaders noticed quickly that employees responded better to messages from the CEO that focused on the health and safety of the workers and their families as opposed to just business.

Rochelle Krombolz, SVP and CHRO, from Tekni-Plex provided me with the following point-of-view:

“At Tekni-Plex, which is an essential manufacturer of products used for medical devices, healthcare products, cleaning products, and food packaging, all of our communications and decisions have prioritized and repeated only three objectives:

1. Ensure the safety of employees and the communities in which we operate,
2. Do our part by continuing to operate/deliver products that are critical to the fight against Covid-19, and
3. Come out of this crisis, stronger and smarter than we were before, and rightfully proud of our decisions and accomplishments.

“It has been critical that our employees trust that we as a leadership team are doing everything in our power to keep them safe, while also reinforcing our shared responsibility, and even duty, to keep people healthy, safe, and fed during the pandemic.  We have also been very attentive to expressing our feelings of gratitude and pride, including telling stories about the heroes in our business who have stepped up in this crisis in so many different ways.”

To be sure, there must be discussion about the business. This is where the CHRO comes to the front to help the CEO. The CHRO must assure employees the right decisions are being made regarding the health of the company.

No. 3

Next up is the Employee Assistance Plan or EAP. This is a time for the team in charge of this program to shine, to be a real resource to all the employees, and ensure the employees have someone they can talk to. The HR department needs to make sure that that EAP is doing that efficiently. The HR and EAP departments need to come together to partner.

No. 4

Another rather touchy subject is compensation. The HR department must communicate to the C-Suite that they need to show they too are feeling some of the pain. I’ve heard of companies cutting executive pay by a certain percentage or even eliminating the regular pay for some period of time to provide the right message to employees about the shared experience and to illustrate company money is being directed properly.

No. 5

A very important function that HR needs to execute during this extraordinary time is to focus on the “human” side of their job. That means reaching out to all employees in some form and especially making extra efforts of getting in touch with people from whom you have not heard back.

No. 6

Make sure the HR team and you are taking care of yourselves. It is easy to forget that while being focused on all of your employees, the senior team and CEO. Take care of your health and well-being too.

“It is the same message we hear on planes to put your oxygen mask on first,” says Michelle Tenzyk, CEO of East Tenth Group. “CHROs and their teams are the frontlines in organizations, which require incredible commitment, integrity and way more than eight hour days. That is why the CHRO needs to stay well, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Their wellness sends a strong message to the executive team and all staff – we must take care of ourselves first in order to help each other.”

There is no doubt this is an exceedingly difficult time that includes a lot of hard decisions that are being made and the CHRO is in the center of it. This function plays a huge and important role in today’s human capital story and this is the time when we look back at it, where the CEO, CHRO, and the executive team came together to execute in the defining moment of their time.