Rhonda Morris, CHRO at Chevron, was installed recently as one of five new fellows of the National Academy of Human Resources, earning recognition from the nation’s most prestigious HR organization for her work during the pandemic and throughout her career.
Morris, who is the first Black woman to hold a corporate officer position at Chevron, led the energy company and its 40,000 employees through significant changes over the years, including the transformation of the HR service delivery model that shifted 55 HR information systems across the globe to a single platform and the transition of 30,000 of those employees to remote work due to COVID-19 in 2020.
She recently shared her thoughts about the challenges facing HR heading into 2022.
HRE: What are your biggest concerns as an HR leader today, both in your organization and industry and in the profession at large? Why are these items at the top of your list heading into the end of 2021 and looking ahead to 2022?
Morris: Our No. 1 priority is always the health and safety of our workforce. The last 18 months have brought significant challenges to our employees, both at work and in their personal lives. We hear from them that burnout is a watchpoint given the stressful circumstances of the COVID-19 impacts. As we transition to 2022, we will continue putting employee health and wellbeing first, and this includes an incremental focus on our HR team, which has been front and center supporting our employees in addition to managing their jobs and personal COVID-19 impacts.
HRE: The role of HR changed dramatically last year and continues to evolve with the pandemic and other shifts in the world. What are the most important skill sets HR leaders of tomorrow will need to fulfill those roles?
Morris: If the events of last year have revealed anything, it’s that leaders and organizations can make tough decisions quickly and pivot when needed. The workforce now has a different baseline of expectations from employers. HR leaders will need to be empathetic, flexible, have exceptional influencing and listening skills coupled with an ability to quickly adapt with robust decision quality. These attributes will keep employees engaged and motivated. At Chevron, we’re increasingly focused on the energy transition and on recruiting people to help solve energy’s greatest challenges. Our future workforce may come from different sources than where we have traditionally found them.
HRE: We’re curious about the role of technology and your involvement in HR and/or work technology. How much has that shifted in the past 18-plus months? Is that still developing? Are you collaborating with new partners on technology? What have you learned?
Morris: Technology proved to be indispensable for all of us over the past 18 months, and it has dramatically accelerated trends that have been in motion for several years. We’ve learned to manage and work remotely in a remarkably short time frame, and now we’re learning how technology can help us accomplish more nuanced tasks, such as talent development. For example, we’ve established a partnership with BetterUp to use technology for virtual coaching to support over 5,000 supervisors as they seek to develop themselves and their teams.
HRE: What has surprised you the most about how workplaces have adapted to the sweeping changes that have taken place since March 2020–from remote and hybrid work to urgency around DEI progress to pressures around employee mental health, physical safety and so much more?
Morris: It is not a surprise, but rather a confirmation of the resiliency of our workforce. In 2020, they faced not only the pandemic and racial unrest in the United States, but also natural disasters in California, Texas and Louisiana, corporate-wide restructuring and an acquisition, and yet they continued to deliver results and support each other. We have learned what our employees value and realize that leaders need to view the workplace from different angles. It sheds light on the work that we need to continue to progress, including mental health and wellbeing, transparency into our decisions, inclusivity through all layers of our organization and frequent multi-faceted, effective communication.
Check back soon to hear from the other new fellows: Michael O’Hare, CHRO, The Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.; Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and chief human resources officer, Accenture, plc.; and Perry Stuckey, senior vice president and CHRO, Eastman Chemical Co. Click here to read thoughts from new fellow Kerry Chandler, CHRO at Endeavor.