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Sage-Gavin: HR innovation, from 7 women in 14 days

By: | May 5, 2020 • 5 min read
HR Leadership columnist Eva Sage-Gavin is a distinguished HR thought leader and former CHRO with more than 3 decades of broad experience in Fortune 500 global consumer, technology and retail corporations. She currently serves as the senior managing director for Accenture’s global talent & organization consulting practice and as a technology Board Director. She can be emailed at hreletters@lrp.com.

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, coined one of my favorite thoughts: “When you hand good people possibility, they do great things.” In my decades in the work world, I might even say they do “amazing things.” In my CHRO roles in consumer and technology companies, I’ve coached teams that have astounded me with their dedication, drive and results.

As I speak to CHROs and CEOs about the human toll of COVID-19’s economic impacts, I see that many of them feel their people’s pain. I believe that compassion makes them better leaders. And I saw that compassion, along with swift action, with the launch of the People + Work Connect platform, just a little over a month ago.

Designing a New Standard for Cross-Industry Collaboration

People + Work Connect is an Accenture-designed employer-to-employer platform, co-created with CHROs from Lincoln Financial Group, ServiceNow and Verizon. It connects organizations that need more workers with companies that are having to lay off or furlough workers. Created to help keep people employed during the pandemic, the platform is meant to lessen the economic stress so many workers and companies are experiencing. From consumer goods to manufacturing roles to engineers, People + Work  Connect is designed as a business-to-business connection to help get people to work fast and to exchange knowledge with HR professionals globally.

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What is most inspiring is how the efforts of a few human resource, technology and business leaders can create good for so many. Pat Wadors, chief talent officer at ServiceNow, put it well when she shared: “I’m so grateful that curiosity has sparked new ideas in the midst of crisis. Working together, we are stronger and more creative than when we’re alone.”

As the solution took shape and continues to evolve, it has been a reminder of what a powerful force for good we can be. We are in the business of people. And people have never needed our leadership more.

From Idea to Reality in Just 14 Days

Accenture hosts a forum for global CHROs that meets regularly, in person and virtually. We convened virtually during COVID-19, when members let us know that the crisis meant they could use each other’s wise counsel more than ever.

During the meeting, executives spoke from the heart about what they and their people were experiencing. As some lamented potential layoffs, others were in industries struggling to fill their newfound demands for workers during COVID-19.

It didn’t take long for the group to do the math on supply and demand—and realize companies could band together to help their people and to ease some rather urgent business needs. Within 48 hours, we built a steering committee. We held briefings and sought input from 1,000-plus senior human resource and business leaders, and public sector officials. Then, in just two weeks, we stood up a free, B2B platform that is helping put people back to work. More than 700 companies expressed interest in North America alone.

Here is how a couple of senior HR leaders from global companies describe the impact:

Donna Morris, chief people officer, Walmart:

“Walmart is committed to helping put Americans to work, while also helping better serve our customers during this unprecedented time. We’ve set a goal to hire 150,000 new associates by the end of May and, right now, we’re adding 5,000 people every day. We’re thrilled to be a part of People + Work Connect to help us continue finding great talent to add to our team.”

Jeanne Mason, senior vice president, Human Resources, Baxter:

“Our essential medical products are being used by healthcare professionals on the frontlines of this pandemic. Intense demand for our products is creating additional employment opportunities—800 in the U.S. alone. We look forward to collaborating with People + Work Connect to help us find talented, passionate individuals to join our Baxter team.”

As seasoned leaders, I know you are feeling the heft of responsibility on the shoulders of these executives—and possibly on your own shoulders. How wonderful that we are cooperating for the greater good. None of us is in this alone.

Short-Term Spring, Long-Term Impact

I find it encouraging that, during this difficult time, the learnings from this model could help us work differently—and smarter—in the future. As Christy Pambianchi, executive vice president and chief human resources officer of Verizon, put it: “While the current pandemic has been the impetus for People + Work Connect, we expect this type of collaboration to become the norm going forward.”

This effort came down to seven women building on each other’s ideas, changing the way businesses collaborate on talent around the world. People + Work Connect is addressing workforce needs from the frontline to the executive level. By the end of April, we had well over 100,000 jobs in play. A diverse group of companies—from Baxter and Frito-Lay to Nordstrom and Marriott—are onboarded.

Lisa M. Buckingham, executive vice president and chief people, place and brand officer for Lincoln Financial Group, put it well: “A small group of CHROs came together because we share a passion for making sure that we—and the companies we represent—are remembered for addressing this tough moment with compassion and a sense of responsibility that transcends the business we do every day.”

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I want to recognize the group that took the kernel of an idea and is changing the HR and business world so very rapidly: Accenture CEO Julie Sweet; Accenture Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer Ellyn Shook; Accenture Senior Managing Director Gloria Samuels; Lincoln Financial Group Chief People Officer Lisa M. Buckingham; ServiceNow Chief Talent Officer Pat Wadors; Verizon Chief Human Resources Officer Christy Pambianchi; and myself. I’m proud to work with these women and our amazing teams, and I’m proud of what we’ve made happen for the work world in a very short time.

People + Work Connect is just one example of where I believe our field is headed—to a future that is wiser, more collaborative, more compassionate. And that mix, in my experience, has always led to amazing results, for people and for the business.

Be well. We have an uncharted journey before us, but we’re all in this together. And some of the most amazing solutions have come from times of uncertainty.

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