Combining people and purpose: An insider’s guide

As we settle into 2022, rather than waiting for a return to a pre-2020 normal, HR instead has a unique opportunity to focus on the future and help shape the world of work by better weaving together people and purpose.

The HR function has always played a huge role from a purpose perspective, and in the last few years that’s become more pronounced, Francine Katsoudas, executive vice president and chief people, policy & purpose officer at Cisco, said during Thursday morning’s keynote presentation at the virtual HR Technology Conference and Exposition.

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“We have been working as a company to integrate purpose into everything we do. One role is to focus on how we operationalize that,” she said, noting that, at Cisco, that has involved leveraging tech to ensure all workers have access to the information needed to do their jobs, which can impact areas like healthcare and education.

For example, at the start of the pandemic, Cisco employees were coming to HR for information on how the crisis would impact their work and home life.

As a result, the company pulled together what Katsoudas said she thought would be a quick video conference with some doctors to answer questions regarding COVID-19. What it turned into was close to 15,000 employees joining a virtual meeting with only a half-hour’s notice.

“It shows the critical role companies play and the opportunity we have,” she added. “What it told us was we were going to be a trusted place they went to ask questions.”

Trust ties into culture, and it’s HR’s role to be the keeper of company culture and make sure employees feel that culture every day, added Mary Moreland, executive vice president of human resources for healthcare and medical device maker Abbott.

See also: 3 tech considerations for creating a strong remote employee culture

For Abbott, that culture involves forging on through challenges.

“I think we’ve heard the word ‘resilience’ more in the last two years than the prior 10 combined,” she said. “But I’ve been inspired by our perseverance.”

Resilience means you recover quickly, but perseverance means you keep achieving despite continuing difficulties, she said.

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“That’s how the pandemic has been feeling,” she added. “It’s not one thing, it’s every day there is a new hurdle to cross. I continue to see our employees step up and truly personify our values of pioneering, caring, achieving and enduring.”

The most important thing HR can do right now to connect people and purpose is listen to your workforce and understand what they need—and think how, as an employer, HR can support those needs, said Cisco’s Katsoudas.

“When I think about how we as an HR industry do things, I think too often we say, ‘I heard the best practice is to do this.’ Well, sometimes the best practice is not relevant for our people,” she said.

For instance, while many employers are looking outward at hiring to contend with the Great Resignation, at Abbott, the focus is on retention and development from within.

“How do we take our great Abbott employees of today and make them the great Abbott employees of tomorrow?” Moreland said.

HR tech is helping with the process, she said. For example, the healthcare company has been piloting predictive technology to scan survey data, and in combination with other data points, identify hot spots that could come up in the next few months.

“That can help us dig in and say, ‘What’s going on over here? What do we need to address to help keep these employees and have them stay with us?’ ” she said.

And, she advised, get more comfortable with analytics.

“As the world becomes more digital, we have more data at our fingertips,” she said. HR’s ability to influence within an organization will only get easier when you can bring that data to the boardroom, she added.

Registered attendees can view the full session here.

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Nick Otto
Nick Otto is HRE’s former senior digital editor. He is a professional communicator with more than a decade of demonstrated accomplishments in newspaper and trade publishing. He has spent the past five years covering the employee benefits space and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.