All About HR: The Best of Season 1
Welcome to another exciting episode of All About HR! This is the podcast & video series for HR Professionals and business leaders who want to future-proof their organization and learn about the latest trends & insights from industry experts, CHROs, and thought leaders.
In this special episode, we sit together with Dr. Dieter Veldsman — HR Thought Leader & Domain Expert at AIHR — to look back on highlights from the first season of All About HR, including HR skills, the talent marketplace, DEI&B, and wellbeing.
Tune in for our discussion on:
- Essential skills for future-proof HR professionals
- The changing approach to career development
- Rewards, benefits, and belonging
- A holistic approach to employee wellbeing
Watch the full episode to find out more about the most pressing issues in the world of HR and the way forward in 2022.
Neelie Verlinden: Hi everyone, and welcome to this very special episode of All About HR. My name is Neelie
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Dieter Veldsman: And I’m Dieter, and it’s really great to welcome you as we look back at our first season and some of the trends that our guests have shared with us.
Neelie Verlinden: Welcome to another episode of All About HR.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah. So hi Dieter. How are you?
Dieter Veldsman: I’m doing very well, Neelie. You?
Neelie Verlinden: I’m very well too. And I’m super, super excited for today’s episode. So for everybody who’s watching: what we will be doing is that we have identified some key topics that kept coming back during season one. And so today, Dieter and I are going to take a look at some of the things that our guests said during season one. And we’re going to share our thoughts on those things. Now, I think we can get started, probably, with the first topic that we identified, Dieter, and that’s all about data, surprisingly. And I think we’re also going to talk about beachwear, actually.
Dieter Veldsman: I don’t know whether I’ve got an opinion on that one but let’s talk about data.
Katarina Berg: It’s important to really stress that we are data-informed and not data-driven. And I usually use the metaphor of a bikini. You know, it shows off a lot, but it hides the most important parts. And I think they are the same thing. If you let yourself be driven only by data, it could actually lead you down in a rabbit hole. It can make you make wrong decisions because it gives you so much to go on.
Anna Buber-Farovich: I do believe that, especially for us, those who have been here for a while and have a lot of experience, we know in our gut where the data is telling us. So combining the two is critically important. I can tell you that I’ve made decisions based on data in the past and it was wrong, and it was really rarely wrong when I followed my gut. So I definitely encourage leaders across the board, if something tells you that something is off, it usually is.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, so Dieter, I think, great first snippets to start with. We listened to Katarina Berg and to Anna Buber and they were all talking about data and there was the bikini part as well. I love that metaphor that Katarina uses to talk about data. I think the first thing here that is interesting to me is that we hit a distinction between data-informed and data-driven. I think that a lot of the time we are talking about being data-driven. This is actually the first time that I hear people making this distinction. What are your thoughts on this? What are you thinking when you hear them talking about being data informed and not data-driven?
Dieter Veldsman: I think it’s a very good kind of reflection to take on what is the difference between data-driven and data-informed. And listening to the clips, the first thing that comes to mind is I don’t think we should get into a mode where we blindly follow data. I think there is this component to say, and, you know, in some scientific research we talk about triangulation. So are there different things that are telling me or pointing me in the same direction? And I definitely think being data-informed is about saying what the data is telling me, what my experience is telling me and what my intuition is telling me, and are all these things actually pointing in the same direction?
Neelie Verlinden: And I think that’s really important. Yeah. I think that’s very true. And not a question that pops up here is that we’ve often seen that the whole listening to your gut is kind of being dismissed and is being presented as how not to go about things. And yet we do hear people talk about this gut feeling and experience. How can you find the right balance here? The right mix?
Dieter Veldsman: Yeah, I think there’s a point there around that. I think you shouldn’t work on assumptions, but I want to make the point that I don’t think you shouldn’t also just blindly follow because the data tells you to. I think the data is one source of information that you do need to consider. I think as HR professionals, what we sometimes underestimate is that you are also a source of very good information and data. And how do you look towards what you’ve seen before, what others are telling you, and what the data is telling you, and combine those things into insights? I’m not a huge fan of blindly following intuition. I think there are some risks associated with that, but I wouldn’t dismiss it completely. I think then you’re not necessarily looking at all the available information.
Neelie Verlinden: Could I say then that it’s about not blindly doing either one or the other? It’s about not blindly following the data, but it’s also not about blindly following your gut. So in that sense, maybe it’s about using common sense.
Dieter Veldsman: And I think that’s where the sweet spot is. Right? I think the sweet spot is really around a little bit of common sense — using the data, using some of your past experiences, and then also looking at the context, because I think that is also important because data sometimes does not incorporate context and something that might point in one direction in one context needs to be understood differently in another, and try and see the whole picture. And I think that’s also what some of our guests try to tell us: don’t blindly follow, but try and see the whole picture and use that to be able to make your decision.
Neelie Verlinden: Fantastic. I have nothing to add to that, Dieter. And I think, so we started that with the data part. Now this kind of naturally brings us to another key topic that we identified all throughout season one, and that’s all about business transformation and, what’s more, HR owning business transformation. So before I’m going to pick Dieter’s brain on that, we are going to look at another clip.
Manisha Singh: When you want to look at digital HR transformation, you have to look at key capabilities within HR and look at how you build that capability for today and for the future. So having that capability view is very important. For example, let’s say talent acquisition. We can think about talent acquisition as we bring an ATS and implement it. Or we can think about talent acquisition as a capability and say it has CRM, it has the whole chatbot, it has intelligence feeds, it has inner mobility. And how can we build pieces bit by bit? And what can we scale up for the future and destroy?
Khurshid Anis: I do see that HR at least is becoming more open and they know that they can, you know, really influence their business and add a lot of value. But before they do that, they will have to brush up on their own skills and learn new ways of working.
Neelie Verlinden: Yes. So we had Manisha Singh and Khurshid Anis talk about HR owning business transformation. Now Dieter, without wanting to play the devil’s advocate here, I can imagine people listening to this or people watching this video are maybe getting a bit of HR transformation fatigue. So maybe we can start with why are we still talking about an HR transformation or HR owning business transformation? Why is this still so important?
Dieter Veldsman: I think you’re absolutely right, Neelie. I think a lot of people, when they hear the word transformation, they say: Hm, again? Are we not always changing at some point? Surely we need to be able to get there, from an end destination point of view. I think there are a few things yet why we are still talking about the topic. I think the last two years have fast-tracked a lot of things around the fourth industrial revolution. I think it’s also fast-tracked and shaped the role that HR needs to play to be ready for this future of work. And I think that is why the topic is again, relevant for us to discuss. On the other hand, though, I do think, and I really love this realization, and it’s also one of the trends that we also identified at AHR, of looking at HR as a product and not as something that you are done and then you move on. And in that type of mindset, I think transformation becomes relevant because you are continuously innovating. You’re getting feedback from the environment and then saying, but how does that look different? My last point about why I think transformation is still relevant is HR has finally crossed traditional organizational boundaries. We no longer ask the question about, in which function this sits. We rather ask the question to say: are we collectively and collaboratively providing the right solutions? And we see HR teams being constituted differently in that particular way. And I think it is a different angle and transformation. I also think it’s less about technology and a lot more about mindset and culture, which is why it’s relevant right now.
Neelie Verlinden: Dieter, I think that is a very nice transition as well to the third key topic that we saw. All throughout the first season of All About HR and that’s all about skills for HR professionals. So before we talk about that, let’s go and take a look at the next snippet.
Manisha Singh: A couple of skills that we need to sharpen is the whole continuous listening and insight. So that’s one. The second is the whole design thinking. You know, lots of time in HR, we’ve been guilty of designing policies and processes, keeping the one person in mind who might break the rule or take advantage of it. So how do we revise that and design things, keeping employees in mind, and that will help us break the silos? And then lastly, the old art in HR, which was pretty valid. It’s about how do you scale up the change? So I think we need to bring back that art of change management because let’s say you design a new practice, but how do you scale it up? How do we ensure that employees and managers are adopting it and leaders are living it? I think those are the three important things that we are increasingly discussing.
Lars Schmidt: I think executive branding and presence and the ability to influence up and down the organization is a vital component to modern chief people officers and often something that they get zero training in. But then for some people who are lucky, like they have innate abilities in that area and they’re able to do that. For many, they can’t do that. And they need that to be successful. And I would even say, and this kind of connects to that a little bit is, writing and communication, written communication. I think so much of our emails, blog posts, company memos, et cetera. Most of us in HR, we’ve never been trained in writing and articulating our thoughts and ideas in a concise way with written language. And so I think that’s another piece that is really important, but I do agree that T-shape is important. You have to have a deep enough understanding in a lot of those areas, and you’re probably only going to go deep in a couple of them.
Neelie Verlinden: Wow, Dieter. We had a lot of different skills that people feel HR professionals need to equip themselves with. Perhaps to give our listeners and our viewers an idea of what we are talking about, it’s good to start with the T-shaped mentioned by Lars? So tell us a little bit more about T-shaped and the kind of skills that we are linking to that T.
Dieter Veldsman: You know, I think there’s a realization in the HR domain that there are certain things that we believe all HR professionals need to have, which really sits at the top of the T as well. Then as Lars mentioned, in-depth knowledge of particular skill sets or particular domains or technical areas. And what we think about when we talk about T-shaped and I think, you know, some of our speakers also referred to that, is it goes beyond just firstly traditional business acumen, right? There is that. And a CEO once told me, which is something I’ve never forgotten. He said: you need to understand my business to have a seat at the table, but never forget why and what voice you represent. And I think that’s a beautiful thing to think about, that business acumen talks about understanding the external environment, understanding what is happening, but also realizing and knowing how the business makes money. What is the commercial reality that the business is currently facing? It’s my favorite interview question, and I’m now sharing a trade secret here. In an interview, I always ask the HR professional: How do we make money as a business? And that’s one of the best ways to see whether somebody really understands your context. They also referred to the skill that we talk about in terms of data literacy. You know, the ability to work and understand and translate data. And I think also summed up there was that as HR professionals, we are storytellers. And we need to be able to connect data with meaningful insights, with stories that matter in the context to whoever you are speaking to, whether that’s the C-suite or whether you are speaking to the employee on the frontline. They need to understand what this means for them and why this matters to them. And I think that’s a critical skill that we look at as part of the T-shape. The third component there is around digital integration and we’ve just spoken about the importance of business transformation. And I think if you think that digital is about technology, you really need to rethink that because digital is about culture and it’s about the ability of the HR professional to understand how to use digital and how to drive the adoption of digital. The concepts change navigation and change adoption, I think those are so, so important as a core and as a critical skill. And then lastly, to refer back to my first point. You have to be a people advocate and it refers back to this, that even in business acumen, I’ve got a seat at the table, but I am the voice of the people. And you have to make sure that you understand what that means. You have to be the individual that speaks up for the voice that drives inclusivity in the environment as well. And lastly, I think, and this is something that really excites me, is HR’s roles beyond organizational borders. What is the impact that you’re making around HR or leveraging HR for good and using that to the benefit of society? Because we have to have a voice in the conversation about societal issues as well. And those things lie at the top of the T-shaped and that’s a very high bar, but I think that is the expectation for an HR professional to be very relevant in the future.
Neelie Verlinden: That is a very high bar, Dieter, but I mean, it’s good to have a challenge, I think. And I think the beauty of this is that it makes the role of the HR professional a very varied role. It’s not just about the data. It’s not just about change and how you drive change, it’s not just about stakeholder management, but there are all these different aspects to touch on. And I think that’s probably what makes for a super fascinating job to do, right?
Dieter Veldsman: Hmm. I mean, what a great time to be an HR, right? I think if there was ever an opportunity to make a meaningful difference and have an impact, it is now. Because I think, one of the positive things that we can take out of what has happened over the last two years is that we do have the opportunity to reshape and rethink quite a number of things in the organizational environment, and who better to lead that conversation than HR?
Neelie Verlinden: I love that. It’s a blank canvas and it’s up to us really to decide how we are going to paint this canvas.
Dieter Veldsman: Definitely very exciting times.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah. I love it. Oh, right. So we looked now specifically at HR. But we are going to broaden the scope a little bit while we are going to take a look at this next topic that we saw all throughout season one. And it’s about talent, hiring candidates, and by extension talent marketplaces. So let’s start again with a look at the snippet.
Jessica Hayes: The key principle about the progression framework is that the only path for progression isn’t management. So there are different tracks you could be on. So you can either be on a technical track, which is a very common thing for engineering. So you could be a manager or on a technical track, but we’ve also added a third track to those who are more entrepreneurial or have a product mindset. But that basically opens up more options for people to rely on their strengths, to be promoted, and also really helps us explain that the diversity of your background in your strengths is actually a huge benefit to us. We don’t just need 117 managers. We actually need people with different perspectives and different strengths to work together.
Rebbeca Wettemann: If companies and HR won’t do it, the employees will. We’re already seeing employees reach out to say: let me see what other opportunities are available to me, whether it’s in my company or not. In fact, our Work From Home study this year found that one in five employees have taken on a new gig outside of their full-time job to gain new skills and experiment with other job opportunities. That’s a significant number. So again, this is an area where HR can get ahead of this by being the one that enables employees to understand what their career path is, to think about the key skills that they need to get there, but also to understand what opportunities are available so that they see a growth path within their own company.
Neelie Verlinden: Yes, Dieter. So the first thing that I’m very excited about here is that we really see that, more and more, there’s not just one path for employees. It’s not just that the only way is up, meaning a vertical progression, but there are also more and more possibilities to progress horizontally. And I think this is very exciting because, as Jessica said, she said we don’t need 117 managers, but also not every employee wants to become a manager, but they still want to progress and they still want to grow. And that’s, I think, what we saw here, what Rebecca was talking about. If the company is not offering this opportunity to them, then they’re going to look for it themselves elsewhere. So that’s what I’m very excited about, to see this kind of development, but what are your thoughts on this?
Dieter Veldsman: I have to agree with you, Neelie. I love the thinking that is moving into the career domain at the moment. And I think firstly, you know, we’re moving away from the traditional career path that says a career is defined by a number of roles in a particular sequence. And I think, you know, human beings have never really worked in that way. So I think it’s fantastic to think that we are now starting to explore careers more as a collection of experiences over time. Now, whether that is associated with roles, whether that’s associated with levels, I think it provides the opportunity to think very differently about progression. I love the thinking that we are no longer just differentiating, you know, either I want to manage people or I like the specialist technical type of work, that there are other opportunities for people also to apply some of these strengths and some of their passions as part of that. You know, in the old world, we used to have this saying that if you’re really good at your job, I take you out of it and I make you watch other people do it. So I will make you a manager. And if you’re really great at that, then I will promote you one more level and then you start thinking about strategy. So you’re thinking about the work that you used to do, that others are now doing on your behalf. And I don’t think organizations work that way and I don’t think you get the best out of people either. And the last point is, I definitely think if we don’t come to the table as HR, employees will do it for us. And we’re already starting to see that in the trend at the moment around over employment, where people take on a second and even a third job. I think that has become very relevant. We do need to think about the changing notion of the employer and the employee relationship and contract. And what does employment really mean? I think traditional employment, even though it still has a place, you know, the eight to five 40 hours a week, but I don’t think that’s the only way to have a relationship with an employee. And I think we need to think a little bit broader with regards to that. And it’s going to take a big mindset shift for the organization, for leaders, for managers, and HR needs to help with that in order to make this new talent marketplace viable and feasible going forward.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear you talk about this, Dieter, is what does employment really mean? I think here it’s very important that we go to this holistic perspective again, because, and it has been so for quite a few years already now, the traditional form of full-time employment is not the only thing that exists. And because of reasons such as the difficulty to find talent, organizations have, for quite a while, already been working with the people who are having a fixed contract, but also with freelancers and contractors and you name it. So it is already a mix within the organization of people with various types of employment relationships with the organization. So I think there, we need to take this holistic approach, to be honest. Now I do want to make the step specific to this talent marketplace phenomenon, I’m going to call it, that we see now. So maybe we can talk about what we mean by talent marketplace. Let’s start with that.
Dieter Veldsman: Yeah. It’s a very good question. You know, Neelie, we’ve spoken about gig work a lot over the last couple of years, you know? The contractors, permanent employees. And I think firstly, we need to change our language because I think words have got meaning around what we associate that with. So let me make it practical. In a lot of organizations still, being permanently employed means that I form part of the benefit programs, I form part of certain privileges in the organization. And there has to be a shift to say that regardless of your relationship with me, there are certain things that I also think about, you know, a lot of our organizations where the gig workers and the contractors actually outnumber the permanent employees. What does that do to organizational culture, for example? Because the people that you have that you want to connect and commit to you as an employer or not your permanent employees only, and that stretches it a little bit further. So when we start talking about talent marketplaces, it is about redefining what that landscape looks like and redefining the relationships that we have with various stakeholders, role players, talent, whatever you want to call it, as part of pulling them together and aligning them around a common goal. And that’s really what an organization is, right? It’s getting people together with different skill sets and aligning them towards the same direction to achieve a common goal. And I think it has to go deeper than a contract. We have to start talking about the psychosocial contract. It’s that thing that you expect from me. And the thing that I give to you, and maybe we articulated it or maybe we don’t. And I think there has to be some work that we do around how we are going to manage these multifaceted relationships in the standard marketplace. And on the other side, from an individual employee’s point of view, how do we open up opportunities for them? Because maybe the secondary career that you want to have, not only might it be beneficial for me, but maybe it will keep you with me for a little bit longer and maybe I can leverage that skill as well, and I need to be open to that.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, absolutely. I think you made a really good point, Dieter. Basically what you were saying, if I’m correct, is that word matters, right? Because if we say someone is a gig worker, this automatically has a sort of connotation of somebody not being part of the workforce, because it’s like a gig worker or it’s a contractor or a freelancer. So they’re not part of the organization. And I think there’s definitely a lot of work to be done there, to think about this differently, and to, as you said, name it differently as well. Because at the end of the day, everybody should at least be behind the same mission of the company.
Dieter Veldsman: I want to completely agree with you. I think there are some horrible examples and I’ve seen that before. Like this company breakaway where everybody is in this office, but at three o’clock all the permanent employees leave because the company breakaway is planned for that evening. Right. Then the gig workers and the contract workers remained behind. And I think we have to change the culture and change the language. Once you’ve changed the language, you also have to make sure that you put the practices behind it. And you raise the point and I think it’s been such a topical issue this year around belonging. Why do I belong? And do I feel like I belong? Surely belonging does not sit with a legal contract between the two of us around my working hours. Surely it goes much deeper than that and I think that’s the opportunity.
Neelie Verlinden: Nothing to add again, Dieter. So now we are going to the next topic that we identified and it’s about rewards and benefits. Let’s take a look again.
Peter Newhouse: It’s really about inclusivity again. I’m a great believer in diversity. And in my view, everybody’s different. And so to have the kind of reward system that tells you what’s good for you and gives you what’s available but with no other choices, seems to me to be misguided. And so with sufficiently advanced technology, we should be able to manage a much more varied approach to reward, where we basically sort of saying: the company is prepared to pay you a certain amount, how you decide to take that is up to you. It may not change the total cost of the company, but the provision of that can be something that really suits your lifestyle or your lifecycle. So I would say that my prediction would be that the single most important aspect that we all need to work on in reward is making more engagement, making it a two-way street, where you can interact with your reward rather than simply receive it.
Jessica Hayes: You need to have a very good understanding of who you are trying to attract and whether you can attract them. So I think of compensation and benefits as similar to how you think about pricing if you were in a marketing revenue team. You need to understand how knowledgeable and experienced do we need your teams to be, how much leverage are they going to have? What kind of geography do we need them to be in? How committed are we to a remote or distributed approach? Think about what you’re actually trying to achieve. And then if someone in your team says: Well, I’m leaving because I could’ve gotten more money if I went and worked for a San Francisco company. You shouldn’t be basing your entire company’s compensation on that one person. You really should be okay with losing that person, because probably that’s not the kind of person that you want to attract to your subscription product long-term.
Neelie Verlinden: A lot of information here, and a lot of things happening in the rewards and benefits area, Dieter. So I’m not going to say anything for now because I really want to hear from you first. What stood out for you in this snippet?
Dieter Veldsman: I think, Neelie, the first thing definitely was the movement away from a paternalistic reward approach, which just means a lot more flexibility and choice being introduced into the reward and compensation domain. I think it also comes, however, on the other side of the coin with the responsibility, still from an organizational point of view, to educate people about the decisions that they make. So for example, if I just give you a summary of the total cost to the company, and you can choose pension benefits, medical benefits, or whether I take the cash every single month, I think you need to understand what you are doing from an employee perspective. And the employer has to help people make informed decisions. Otherwise, we will end up not with a problem now, but with a problem in a couple of years’ time, when people realize: Hang on, I did not necessarily save for the longer term. And something else that stood out, which I really love in the benefits domain is the personalization component. Which is around, do I really understand my employee as a consumer? Because employees are also consumers and reward is a product. And do I really know and understand what their wants and needs and desires are? And does it then make sense, what I offer? In that space though, you have to be very clear about what you can and what you can’t offer. And I think that’s been something that, as recruiters, sometimes we sell something, we sell an experience that we can’t deliver on. And I think that is going to have to change around the fact that say, maybe we don’t offer all the twenty-five benefits that other organizations offer, but there are reasons for that and it’s aligned to who we want to attract and we want to keep and who we want to be as an organization. My last point, which I think is super relevant and very exciting, is to also start thinking about benefits and rewards in the domain of what’s happening in the world around us, what is really happening, and how things have changed. And I think there are a lot of great organizations doing things for the employees around benefits associated with gender-based violence, for example, or benefits associated with miscarriages, benefits associated with well-being in the sense of looking at the entire family structure. And I think that’s definitely the direction to go in because I think it makes you human. I think it makes you real and relevant as an organization, in terms of seeing your employees in the context within which they find themselves.
Neelie Verlinden: And from there, we are going to another topic and this is DEI&B. Let’s watch.
Hermina Khara: But I think the biggest change I’ve seen is that employees want purpose-driven work, or they want to make an impact, they want to matter, and they want companies to invest in them. Just as employees are investing their 40 hour weeks, sometimes, maybe even 50, 60 right now, in terms of where we’re at, in terms of the pandemic that we’re living in. But I think people want to matter and they want to work at companies that invest in their learning and development. So those are really some of the questions that we get asked right now, right? Like in terms of employees. What is it that we’re doing for them? How do we contribute to their growth and their careers? Those are all things that people want to understand before they actually join companies.
Lorraine Vargas: When you start to look at inclusion and belonging and the way everyone in the company can prosper and thrive, and you start to look at how you pay all different kinds of people at every level, what is the mix of people that you have at every different leadership level? Are all of the voices in the room equally heard and equally celebrated? Can every single person contribute their own unique gift in a way that feels safe? Then you know that you have inclusion and you have belonging, and that actually leads to real diversity that’s sustainable and that makes a difference in your company’s performance.
Neelie Verlinden: We touched on it a few times already during our conversation today, but I think the big one here is belonging, right? So let’s start with belonging. When it comes to belonging though, Dieter, I have this feeling that it’s a term that everybody is using right now because they have this idea that they need to do something around belonging, but there’s a very big difference between talking about belonging and actually putting this into practice. What’s your take on this?
Dieter Veldsman: I think you’re right, Neelie. I think we need to be careful around using belonging as a blanket term for a whole bunch of other things in the organization. I think there is a stance that we do need to take. And for me, belonging links very closely to culture. It links itself very closely towards saying, are we truly an organization where people from different walks of life have the same opportunity to be able to achieve their potential? And I think that’s what belonging should be about. It is about creating trusted and safe environments. I think there’s a lot of good work being done in the diversity and inclusion space around that. But I think belonging has to be around what type of organizational culture do we foster and how is that going to make sure that people feel welcome and that people feel that they can find a space there? The risk we run is we shouldn’t go with vanilla solutions. I think belonging looks a little bit different for everybody. And what I loved about the clips is it also comes down to what do I want from work? How do I find meaning in work? And you know, what workplace is going to be suitable for me to be able to live that out and align my goals?
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah. And I think, and then to basically just come back for a second to the rewards and benefits part that we just talked about. I think once you truly find that sense of belonging in the organization you’re working for, it doesn’t matter as much that the organization is not necessarily offering these 25 benefits that other companies do, right? Because the most important thing comes from the fact that you have found fulfillment and the job that you’re doing.
Dieter Veldsman: I agree. I always think about, sometimes in the employee value proposition space, I’ve asked people: what are your non-negotiables? Because all of us have them, you know, there are a few non-negotiables for me that would make me say no to any employer immediately. And if you are clear on what those are, then I think it becomes a very different conversation. Then it is not about the 25 benefits. It becomes: Is there alignment between what I find important in life and what this organization can be?
Neelie Verlinden: Absolutely on that note, we are going to go to the next clip and I’m not going to say anything more about it.
David Hanrahan: An interesting concept is how do you actually get trust? How do you build trust? So it’s one thing to say, how do you measure it, but how do you build it? What are the inputs to trust? One thing that we talk about in our leadership training is to start with empathy to build trust, right? So I talked about at the beginning, about the brightening experience. It’s about being in a compassionate culture wrapped around an important mission. And so empathy and compassion are different from being nice, right? It’s different than being kind or ruinous empathy, which is a concept that Kim Scott talks about. But a compassionate culture is one that also probably has vulnerability, right? So if your leadership team is routinely vulnerable and they talk about what their own hopes and fears are, what struggles that they’re dealing with in their life and, and sort of shows you what it means to be a human, your leader is humanizing the workplace and is showing up as a human. Then I’m going to start to trust you because, okay. you’re a human, you’re a good person. And I’m going to trust you a little bit more and I’m going to give you a little bit more of me, of myself. And so vulnerability in that sense, at least for us, is an important input to getting to trust.
Neelie Verlinden: This clip is about, among other things, mental health. For me, I think there are two interesting routes to take here when we talk about mental health. So on the one hand, there is mental health for the people within the organization, which is very important. We are going to talk about that. And I think on the other hand, and this is something that we may forget about, but this is also about how we are doing as HR professionals. But let’s start first with the mental health of the people working in the company. What are you seeing in this space?
Dieter Veldsman: I think we need to first acknowledge that mental health has been a conversation even before COVID. And I think a lot of people keep on tying the argument around mental health to the fact that COVID has now happened, so we need to talk about mental health and mental wellbeing. We need to move away from that and to be able to say: But what do we really want to achieve from a well-being point of view? And the first thing I see at the moment, which I’m very excited about, is that people are starting to talk about holistic wellbeing because as a human being, there are different facets and components to you, and it’s not just mental wellbeing, it’s not just physical wellbeing, it’s not just emotional or psychological well being. There are different components that we all need to look at. And, you know, I think we need to see the whole human. Seeing the whole human is all about seeing all the needs and wants and desires that you need to have. The second one is that well-being is a dual responsibility. It’s not just the organization’s responsibility and it’s not just the individual’s responsibility, but both parties need to come to the table with regards to that. And I’ve spoken to quite a few CHROs over the past couple of months, and they all share the same sentiment that they get so agitated when the organization does everything to keep employees safe from a physical point of view during the week. And then if I go on your Instagram feed over the weekend, I see you’re in an unprotected environment, not wearing a mask, not socially distancing. And yet next week, you complained to me as an employer that you’re not doing well and that you’ve contracted the virus. I think it is a dual responsibility that we do need to think about. And I think we need to think broader in a more holistic sense. And then lastly, I think we need to be absolutely practical because I think wellbeing has very often been extremely abstract for people and that is also why we still sit with issues around stigmatization in the organization pertaining to mental wellbeing. You don’t think twice about phoning in sick when you are not feeling physically well, but what if you actually just need a bit of a break from a mental point of view. And I think that has to change and we have to normalize that conversation that will only happen through vulnerability and open conversations and leaders also admitting that I’m also struggling.
Neelie Verlinden: Well, these were all three very good points. And I think firstly, the whole having a holistic view, that seems to be the magic theme all throughout our conversation today, Dieter. But I think the second thing that’s very true and very important is that there’s still the stigma around mental health. And it’s so true because you phone immediately when you’re not feeling well, when you have a sore throat, whatsoever, but you don’t do it as easily when you’re mentally just having a bit of an off day or maybe an off couple of days. Very true. Let’s go to the other side as well, Dieter, because you do talk to a lot of people who are HR professionals and CHROs. How is HR doing, without wanting to generalize?
Dieter Veldsman: I think, Neelie, the first thing is I think HR is fatigued and I think HR is really tired in a few ways. I think the first one is that you’ve been expected to have the answer, or if you didn’t have the answer then at least to be the person that listens to what all the challenges are. And I think a lot of people have projected their uncertainties onto us as HR professionals. And it’s been a really tough period for the past two years. So I think there is some sort of dealing with trauma work that HR needs to do for themselves. Firstly, let’s make sense of what has happened to us and where we find ourselves. Let’s have a little bit of grace also around the fact that it’s okay to be tired. You’re not superhuman just because you carry the HR label. You’re also a human being and this has been tough for you as well. And then I think thirdly around is to say, but what are the things that we can start putting in place? And it will be different for every single individual to re-energize. Because I think what we are starting to realize is that 2022 will still bring additional challenges. These things are not going away. We’re going to have to find a way to deal with them in the normal flow of life. And to do that, you need to be able to build your own resilience from an HR point of view. But ask for help, reach out. This is not a journey that you should walk alone.
Neelie Verlinden: Very true and wise words. Dieter, I want to thank you so much for being here today and for talking with me about these season one highlights. Thank you very much!
Dieter Veldsman: Always great. And thank you so much for having me, Neelie.
Neelie Verlinden: And I want to thank everybody for tuning in as well. I hope you enjoyed the episode as much as I did. If you haven’t done so yet, please do not forget to subscribe to our channel, hit that notification bell, and like this episode. Thank you very much and see you soon for another episode in a new season.