Kelley Steven-Waiss: An Opportunity to Thrive
At a moment in history when work culture and individual expectations are rapidly transforming in a way that has never been seen before, HR thought leaders are in a position to strategically guide and drive organizations to adapt and succeed. Simpler Media Group spoke to Kelley Steven-Waiss, whose passion and expertise on this topic is inspiring. She is a writer, speaker, founder and CEO of Hitch Works, and head of workforce innovation at ServiceNow.
ServiceNow is a sponsor for Reworked's Digital Workplace Experience Summit fall event, which took place online on Oct. 12 and 13. Steven-Waiss led a session titled, “Shaping Future Experiences for your People and Workplaces.” In the session, she discussed the state of work in the wake of the great resignation and explored the global trends impacting people and workplaces.
Simpler Media Group spoke with her to discuss some key insights and how her experience has shaped this perspective.
'Have a Growth Mindset'
Simpler Media Group: First, tell me a little about you. How did you end up in this field? Have there been changes in the industry that you didn’t anticipate when you chose it?
Kelley Steven-Waiss: I never intended to be an HR professional, so I landed in the field mostly by following my interest, passion and skill set. I had always wanted to be a journalist, but when I got out of college in the recession, there were no jobs in that field.
I ended up taking a retail management role for the Limited Corp. Little did I know that would be the steps to human resources. Why? Because managing a retail store operations spans customers, merchandising, planning inventory, but most importantly, managing people. I learned a lot about the impact of talent on your business success.
The change in the industry I didn’t anticipate was how much the role of a CHRO would transform from an operational to a more strategic focus. I often say that the CHRO is the COO of the Talent Supply Chain and a key player in the successful strategic execution of any organization. Over 13 years as a CHRO, the role evolved from employee relations to a key driver of the business and the board.
SMG: Tell us about a challenge that had a big impact on you. What were some learnings that you’ve carried with you ever since? Any advice you’d care to share?
Steven-Waiss: Well, I lost my Mom tragically when I was 24 years old. It really changed my perspective because for the first time in my life all the decisions about my professional and personal life were mine and I had to own them.
I learned to not take opportunities for granted and to follow my dreams without limitations. I wrote a 'bucket list' at 25 and many of those items on the list, I have accomplished.
The advice that I would share is to follow what is in your heart and what is your passion and the success will follow you. The mindset you have about yourself will define your possibilities. Have a growth mindset.
There's No Going Back to How Things Were
SMG: You’re leading a session titled, “Shaping Future Experiences for your People and Workplaces.” What are some key takeaways that executives need to know about how the employee experience has changed over the past few years?
Steven-Waiss: Work has become more personal and therefore employers need to care for the whole person. It needs to be about both psychological and physical safety as a shared goal across the organization.
People are no longer resources at the whim of the organization; people have choices and are making them. They want alignment between what the company does and says and what they care about
What has changed most significantly is the focus on what drives employee experience and the expectations of new generations in a hybrid world of work. There is a need for more belonging, inclusion, and digital access to be self-driven and empowered at work.
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SMG: What are some new strategies organizations are using to attract and retain talent, given the events of the Great Resignation? What are some strategies that seem outdated or less effective?
Steven-Waiss: Organizations are bringing a more human-centered approach and personalized, customized experience and solutions. They are treating their people as consumers of their workplaces and thus giving them much more choice across schedules, benefits, physical spaces, and the work itself.
Strategies that are outdated are the one-size-fits-all process and benefit structure. Examples include the annual performance management process, managers being the only 'mentor,' rigid hierarchies, working in the office in a static location, set schedule or role and top-down communications and channels
SMG: What are some of the challenges and expectations organizations have needed to adjust to as the way we work has changed? What further evolutions do you foresee?
Steven-Waiss: Trying to offer personalized experiences and the move from static hierarchies and changing landscape of skills needed to drive the business, means that organizations have to change so many of their processes and become more agile.
Coming out of the pandemic, employees had a chance to re-evaluate and try a new way of working which set a new standard across the world. Organizations can’t just go back to the way it used to be. The expectations for flexibility and choice permeated all industries and all global environments.
More regulatory changes will need to be made to keep up with this expectation as the war for skills and knowledge workers will remain constrained. As the rise of gig work continues, benefits may need to go mobile. Employers will need to manage data and insights to keep up with the changing needs of their employees and to remain competitive.
HR Leaders Can Drive the Future of Work
SMG: As companies continue to navigate economic changes and an ever-increasing need to optimize productivity, what insight can you share on HR’s contribution to the bottom line?
Steven-Waiss: As I mentioned, the role of the CHRO has expanded significantly in importance and influence. The need to manage that supply chain of critical skill — much like a COO is managing the product inventory — is increasingly important to the execution of strategy. Retaining critical talent and having the right people on the right work is imperative to driving financial success.
In essence, the contribution of HR in adapting the operating model of the company — the execution of the digital and agile transformation across a very dynamic and constantly changing landscape — will remain a high priority. There is no better time for HR to redefine and re-imagine itself and for HR leaders to be in the driver seat of the future world of work.
Watch this Digital Workplace Experience session on demand here.