Susie Lee_Degreed_SVP of Global Business Transformation and DIB Executive Officer, shared with us some best practices in Wellbeing, Diversity, and remote work, that are being implemented in Degreed - the workforce upskilling platform for one in three Fortune 50 companies.
Susie Lee, you are Degreed’s Senior Vice President of Global Business Transformation, Degreed is the workforce upskilling platform for one in three Fortune 50 companies. Tell us about the initiative Business Resource Groups, what is it and what do they work for?
The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) program was set up within Degreed’s business unit, spearheaded by myself as its SVP of Global Business Transformation and DIB Executive Officer. This was a deliberate approach to ensure that DEIB influences how Degreed operates as a company and that change occurred organization wide. In close conjunction with Degreed’s People team, the DEIB team set about driving change from the bottom-up, with leadership engaged with everything occurring.
As a remote-first organization, with employees based in the U.S, Canada, UK, LATAM, APAC, Europe, and Australia, our diversity efforts need to reflect the different opportunities, challenges, and perspectives of all regions. To reflect this, and to deliver change from all levels, Business Resource Groups (BRGs) were set up and led by staff across Degreed. The areas covered include race, gender, LGBTQ+, as well as mental health and wellbeing. This approach enables all employees to have an influence on Degreed’s DEIB efforts, feedback on their lived experiences, educate their colleagues, and become allies.
“Organizations that foster greater diversity are 81% more likely to have higher customer satisfaction”
Boosting the DEIB of your workforce isn’t just the right thing to do, but can also have positive effects on employee satisfaction, retention, meeting business goals and customer satisfaction. According to a report from RedThread Research, organizations that foster greater diversity are 81% more likely to have higher customer satisfaction, 2x more likely to indicate they have met business goal and employees are 2x more likely to give their employer a positive net promoter score and 45% more likely to remain at their organization. So, there’s a clear business case for improving diversity.
Prior to joining Degreed, you were the Senior Vice President of the Global HR L&LD Technology Product Management & Initiatives at Bank of America overseeing digital learning products and strategies for the bank globally. Other leadership roles served during your tenure at Bank of America include VP of Global HR Learning Consulting & Staffing as Canada Card Head, and VP Co-Brand Loyalty Card Product Development & Marketing. What lessons about Human Resources have you learned over the years working for these important companies?
There are a few valuable lessons I could share, but one guiding principle I’ve learned and subsequently followed during my professional career is that aligning the HR strategies with business strategies is critical to success. Bringing a mix of business leaders into HR is ideal in this sense and can also help to ensure that Learning and Development doesn’t get the short end of the stick with business leaders, but rather becomes an integrated focus point of global development in the company. Continuous learning and development investments to upskill and reskill the workforce is what is needed, and the drivers of this should be the HR department in alignment with the business leaders driving this. Learning should never just be a check the box exercise, as is the case for too many companies. Rather, learning needs to be well intended and strategic, to prepare as well as possible for the unpredictable future and be ready for sudden shifts. If this is done thoughtfully, successfully and with the support of business leaders in a positive learning culture environment, the entire company will be in a better position both now and in the future.
“Learning should never just be a check the box exercise, as is the case for too many companies. Rather, learning needs to be well intended and strategic, to prepare as well as possible for the unpredictable future and be ready for sudden shifts”
Covid-19 accelerated the remote work, some organizations didn´t have this model, so some leaders have been struggling with this transition from on-site working to remote work and now some are changing to a hybrid virtual model, based on your experience how can leaders effectively handle this process? What are the Do´s and Don´ts?
Remote workforces are not for a command-and-control environment. You won’t be able to force people to sit at their desks during work hours. Instead, you must place the emphasis on the results. It shouldn’t matter what hours employees work if their output remains the same. What we’ve seen is that giving people the trust and flexibility to work when and where they want gives them the ability to produce their best work.
Not being able to constantly watch employees means you must have an objective structure in place for monitoring their progression, both for the sake of promotions and to ensure they are still delivering high-quality work. Performance review software and learning experience platforms can track upskilling, development, certifications, progress, and accomplishments. In general, tools, especially those that facilitate collaboration, communication, and organization, are critical for a remote workforce. Think about a typical whiteboarding session: with a remote workforce, you can’t pull everyone in a room and sketch on the wall together. However, tools are becoming better and better at simplifying and emulating this collaboration.
Another critical point is that hiring for culture has become more important than ever. With remote workers, businesses rely on individuals who embody cultural principles without the daily traditions and rituals reinforced in a physical office. Each employee is an evangelist and remote workers need to emulate those principles. Reinforcing culture creates a sense of community and a shared vision among coworkers, even if they don’t share the same office.
Degreed holds quarterly Good Deed Days and wellness budgets, can you elaborate on these programs and others you are proud to share with other colleagues around the world to foster a healthy and profitable work culture?
To reflect the increasing importance of wellbeing in the workplace, particularly in reducing the stigma surrounding health conditions (and mental health), Degreed’s People team has introduced a monthly wellness benefit of $75 a month (or country equivalent amount) that could be spent on anything from art workshops, massages, and counseling to Peloton and gym memberships. All employees also get access to Calm Premium subscriptions.
Additionally, the company introduced Good Deed Days to give back to its employees’ local communities. Every quarter, every employee is given a day off to spend on community initiatives. They share this with the wider organization so people learn about the different volunteering opportunities and lived experiences out there, from those relying on food banks, to the important work of shelters, youth clubs, and care facilities.
“In general, tools, especially those that facilitate collaboration, communication, and organization, are critical for a remote workforce”
We also recently introduced an Employee Assistance Program to help all employees be more successful at meeting their responsibilities at home and at work. At Degreed we recognize that from time to time, everyone experiences situations that affect their general well-being. Through the Employee Assistance Program, practical information, and counselling on a variety of topics is available to all Degreed employees worldwide, as well as their partner or a family member.
Complementing these programs is Degreed’s setup as a remote-first organization. This gives employees the freedom to fit their work schedules around family, care, and learning commitments, and tailor their work environment to fit their needs. We continue to look for ways to further improve remote work life and collaboration to grow all together and to be exemplary in fostering a healthy and profitable work culture.