Thousands of HR and people leaders spent much of this week at the Transform conference in Las Vegas discussing their problems and what’s working for them. We participated and listened in, and here are some of the practical tips we took away:
Build an artificial-intelligence strategy that positions AI as a partner to human creativity. As organizations figure out how to best incorporate ChatGPT and similar technologies into their work, Abhay Parasnis, CTO of Adobe, argued that generative AI policies should rest on the assumption that these tools are in service of creativity, rather than a replacement for it. “Computers are going to evolve from simply being productivity machines to creative collaborators and partners,” he said. But “the notion of human creativity will be the driving force behind the innovation and progress we see over the next couple of decades.”
Open strategy conversations to all employees. Dean Carter, chief people and purpose officer at the employee-upskilling company Guild Education, shared his organization’s practice of hosting optional "Strategy for Breakfast" sessions. They’re open discussions where all workers can weigh in on the executive team’s high-level decision-making.
Rebrand sick days. Framing sick days as “health days” can make it clear that employees don’t need to be physically ill to take time off, which in turn can help empower them to address their mental-health needs.
Solve problems by adopting the mindset of a new employee. To break out of the inertia and defensiveness that allow bad processes to remain in place, “imagine that you are walking into your first day—it’s your job to figure out how to make this better, and therefore you’ll be rewarded if you can recognize this thing we’ve been doing for the past six months is flawed,” said Ariela Safira, founder and CEO of the mental-health platform Real. “That mindset has really enabled me to think beyond ego and to be much more clear-minded around what makes sense right now.”
Focus on improving the experience of taking paid leave. Complexity across the country and heavy paperwork for employees have resulted in a wave of new startups to make it simpler for workers to navigate bereavement, medical, and other types of leave. For example, one platform focuses on handling end-of-life logistics for employees’ loved ones, providing users with step-by-step checklists and guidance for tasks such as writing obituaries, canceling accounts, and handling wills.
In times of transition, prioritize simple communication and support. “People often focus on the action part of managing through change,” said Elizabeth Gulliver, cofounder of the workplace-connection company Kunik, “but to successfully drive impact and lead through change, you also need to focus on some fundamentals, primarily building relationships and trust within your team and the org at large. At the root of change is communication.” David Landman, global head of talent development at Goldman Sachs, agreed: “We’ve been experimenting with how to best support managers over the years,” he said. “Right now it’s back to the basics. The simpler the support, the better it is, because it’s more likely to be consumed.” As an example, Landman cited how-to resources that guide managers through performance conversations over the course of the year, from goal-setting at the start to a coaching conversation in the middle of the year to a lookback conversation at the end.
The concept of who “owns” workers’ time is changing. Briana van Strijp, CEO of the investment platform Anthemis, highlighted an ongoing shift toward empowering employees to claim ownership of their working hours and supporting them to make good decisions with their time.
Give younger workers something to build. Noting that a majority of Gen Z employees report wanting to be entrepreneurs, Rei Wang, co-founder and chief product officer at The Grand, recommended a “learn by doing” approach to their development, providing them opportunities to create something from scratch as a way of furthering their skills. That could be something like developing a new series of team-bonding events, spearheading an employee-learning series, or pitching and leading a new social-impact initiative.
Go a level deeper in evaluating your partners’ diversity commitments. A tactic to differentiate between tokenism and true representation: Require any prospective partners to show you what their board and advisors look like.
Charter Pro members received a video recap of the Transform event with additional analysis and ideas for leading their workplaces into the future. Pro can help people leaders dive deeper on the most pressing topics of the day, with actionable guidance and specific advice. Learn more about becoming a member.