Being People-Centric In The Good Times And The Bad Times

With the macro-economic landscape getting bumpier and windier by the day, we’re heading into tougher times, across all industries. More and more companies are being more mindful of their spending, and many are cutting the sugar from their offerings to employees. This can be tough, but is often necessary in such times, to secure a healthy business.

It’s in these situations that our values are tested. It’s easy for organisations to say they are people-first in good times, but if they don’t have values that truly underpin a human-centric way of running a business, it will be obvious.

Cutting The Sugar 

Right now, we all need to be more mindful where we spend our money. We can’t spend as much on ‘sugar’ anymore, instead we need to prioritise more basic staples from the grocery store. Sugar brings some extra spark, but is really empty calories. It might give a rush for a little while, but it’s nothing that will last. Therefore, HR professionals should avoid these sugar rushes as they don’t deliver strategic, or long-term impact. 

With that said, we should be aware that not everything that’s sweet is sugar. Protein, that will build stronger muscles (or a stronger cultural fabric), can also be sweet. This building of a robust cultural fabric is a necessity to stay strong in stormy times.

Employee Experience (And Belonging)

It could be assumed that what we do as a Community Experience team (CommunityX) at Spotify is sugar. But we disagree: elevating the employee experience in this way is not empty calories! In fact, we argue that HR professionals who understand the paradox of flexibility and belonging know this is the time to dial up the work that creates a sense of belonging through community. Money invested here gives a return on investment by helping employees feel that they belong, which makes it a whole lot easier for them to be and do their best at work.

Retention is also positively affected by creating a strong sense of belonging. It’s like building a house with a firm foundation so that it won’t blow away the day the storm comes, but instead stands strong in the wind. Also, looking further into the future, when the macro-economic landscape becomes somewhat less bumpy and windy, you won’t have to start from scratch building a new house, it is  already strong. That will be a competitive advantage both during and after hard times.

Building A Robust Web Of Connections

At Spotify, our CommunityX team arranges places or spaces, physical or virtual, where people can connect. Connections help align teams, which in turn gives everyone the chance to find their own place and know where to focus their efforts to have the highest impact. Essentially, it makes your talent and your business more efficient. 

Since launching Work From Anywhere, we have proactively worked with tools for building connectivity and we know that with the right set up, we can accomplish a lot via virtual meetings and asynchronous collaboration. For the past year, we’ve also had our internal talent marketplace, Echo, which we know is helping our band members to broaden their network globally and to upskill.

However, these initiatives are not enough. Meeting your team is likely to strengthen connections to your direct teammates or within your function/department but it can also encourage working in silos. There needs to be multiple opportunities and ways for people to build connections. If we can build a robust web of connections, the fabric of our culture will stand against the test of time, or an upcoming storm.

By creating mutual moments that matter, the memories of fun and togetherness that will take us through times of being apart and distributed working. 

Regional Community Building

CommunityX curates opportunities for band members to get together in regions once a year to celebrate our accomplishments and learnings, and to build bridges between all band members within that region (not restricted to teams or business units).

We call these gatherings our mid-year festival. We set a festival theme globally so that every celebration event is always connected to what our brand is, or who we are as a company. Then, that theme goes on tour to every region, where the local CommunityX ambassadors have the autonomy to put their own local stamp on it. 

With a global theme and a platform to share stories and posts in our internal comms channels, even if a band member only takes part in one regional festival, they will still experience the power of coming together, globally. This creates a massive feeling of connectedness and a feeling that the festival actually went on tour around the world.

ROI Turns To WOI

We definitely subscribe to cutting down on sugar during these times, but we recommend caution when doing this. Scrutinise how you make investments in your people, and make sure you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. That can be more costly than you thought. Be careful what you identify as sugar. Building connections and belonging is not something any company can afford to disregard at the best of times. 

In Sweden we call this “dumsnål”. It’s an expression for when you think you are making savings on one end, but it turns out it will cost you more on the other end. It’s the antithesis of ROI. Instead of Return On Investment, you get WOI: Waste Of Investment.

With all of the above said, as HR professionals and humans, we should be mindful of having the utmost respect for difficult times. Many hard decisions will be made and in some cases even ‘connection enhancers’ will have to be removed for hands-down survival. 

In any case, think twice, and really consider your options. Make sure you are aware of the trade-offs of any decisions, and act in a human-centric way, with care and accountability. Remember, when the pendulum swings back again the winners on the talent market will be the companies who treated people with respect and care.

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