Why ‘culture through Zoom’ wasn’t a barrier for this tech company

Iron Mountain's head of HR has embraced Zoom town halls and one-on-one meetings to extend the data storage company's close-knit bond.
By: | November 2, 2021

When Edward Greene started as chief human resources officer for Iron Mountain less than a year ago, he had an interesting set of challenges. Not only did he have to become acclimated to his new position during a pandemic, but he also moved from a company of 10,000 employees [Boston-based Eastern Bank] to one with 24,000 workers, spread out over 53 countries. His primary mission quickly became helping to enhance the storage and information management services company’s corporate culture, primarily over Zoom.

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HRE spoke with Greene recently about his new role, the challenges of hiring and achieving DE&I initiatives, and what he looks for in HR technology.

HRE: You started as CHRO of Iron Mountain in January. What was it like joining a large global company during a global pandemic? 

Greene: It has been a challenging and invigorating time joining a place like Iron Mountain— … [managing] a little more than 24,000 employees globally and spending the first part of my onboarding on Zoom. … I have become a fan of the level of intimacy that you’re able to create on Zoom. You’re able to move across the whole organization rather quickly. 

HRE: How do you build a corporate culture over Zoom?

Greene: The good news is we already had a strong corporate culture. It’s more of, how do you continue to thread the learnings through the organization? [This means] having regular town halls and meetings to bring people together, getting used to the gallery view through Google Meets or Zoom and then having that consistency for one-on-ones.  

Related: Why Amazon’s HR tech crisis could happen at your company too

HRE: How have you approached hiring during the pandemic?

Greene: I will tell you, it’s been very, very active. I just hired a new head of talent acquisition to come on board and work on taking a fresh look at our whole hiring process … because of the virtual nature in the hiring [and] the dependency that we have on the job boards as a major feeder for our growth. The good news is we are in the midst of significant transformation. That’s one of the reasons that I was attracted to join Iron Mountain.

HRE: How do you reduce bias in hiring? 

Greene: I’m proud to say we’ve been a little old school in the talent acquisition space. We are starting to take a look at some of the AI tools, but we are doing the hands-on work in our hiring. We think very directly that we are interviewing folks and matching those skills. We have not moved yet into an aggressive AI space to do a lot of that kind of matching. 

HRE: Are you addressing diversity, equity and inclusion? 

Greene: Five months ago, we brought in a new head of global diversity equity and inclusion, a woman by the name of Charlene Jackson. She’s actively working with the whole company and partnering very aggressively with all of the talent elements within Iron Mountain. I’m also in the market for a new head of talent development because those really are the two important areas as you think about attracting talent. And then it’s developing and retaining the talent as well.

HRE: Are you employing a vaccine tracking application to check the status of your employees? Do you have a mandate?

Greene: We, like many companies, are figuring that out. We have not placed a mandate and we are being very mindful of the culture that we’re trying to create here at Iron Mountain in being inclusive. What we are doing is building a real listening campaign, where our CEO and some other leaders listen to folks to learn, why do we have this vaccine hesitancy out in the marketplace? Many companies are wrestling with those issues. We have not solutioned it completely yet. 

HRE: What percentage of your workforce is hybrid?

Greene: Right now, the majority of employees are tied to an office. We have a big piece of work going on right now called “Return to Office.” One of the things that we did was to say, for 2021, we were not looking to require folks to be back in the office. We are working in kind of that remote space. We’re putting together a formal program that we will roll out in Q1 of next year and, hopefully, [by then] we will have a better handle on COVID-19 and Delta and all the other associated variants. But we’re really trying to create the right kind of framework that acknowledges the positive learnings that we’ve had over the past year-and-a-half.

We know we have to have some form of a hybrid workforce to be competitive in this marketplace. Fortunately, we’ve been able to prove that we’ve been very successful with people working remotely. We also have a huge part of our workforce that’s on the front line, and they have been working directly through the pandemic in terms of taking care of our customers, our drivers, our warehouse workers, etc. 

HRE: Bravo for calling it “return to office” and not “return to work.” 

Greene: Well, that’s the thing. A place like Iron Mountain is very familial, and we will do anything to support our clients. We create the right kind of environment for our employees to be successful as they are trying to support customers through [challenges such as] a pandemic through social injustice. You name it, we’ve had a lot going on in the past couple of years.

HRE: How are you dealing with the Great Resignation?

Greene: We’ve been fortunate. If you would have asked me when joining Iron Mountain, what were you most passionate about, it’s been the manager—starting to look at how do we support the manager population—because that’s how you scale and grow an organization. We all know that, when people leave companies, they leave managers more so than leaving companies. We’re trying to equip our managers to have that dialogue, to talk about what’s going on, to be able to talk about their careers. We instituted a new management development program to focus on how we support the manager. 

See also: What’s behind the Great Resignation? Blame burnout

HRE: Do you have a technology wishlist? 

Greene: We’re a Workday shop and we’re in the process of optimizing Workday. I would love everything to be seamlessly connected so that I could speak to each of those different segments [of the organization] at one time. [I wish] I had immediate access because that’s what drives employee engagement—that connectivity through a shared platform that’s easy to access, and that you can put information out and receive information back that creates the kind of whole community for the Mountaineers. If I could wave a magic wand and have that done, I would be a happy camper.

Phil Albinus is HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children. He can be reached at palbinus@lrp.com and followed on Twitter @philalbinus.

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