The recovery phase of the Covid-19 pandemic has encouraged many organizations to adopt remote/ hybrid working arrangements, especially if these programs were not already in place prior to 2020. However, there are some organizations and leaders who remain concerned about a negatively impacted culture in a virtual workforce. For those organizations preparing to introduce or have implemented a long-term remote/hybrid model, a key element in doing so effectively is taking the time to listen to your team and building trust. That goes for almost anything whether it be introducing a new change, shifting protocols, or evaluating Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and culture: listen, build trust, and repeat.
Organizations need to understand the importance of building trust. In a remote setting, if an employee and an employer do not feel like they’re trusting one another, your employee value proposition is not going to be strong and it’s not going to resonate with your people either. People fundamentally need to have a purpose. They need to know why they are here. In this day and age, people have so many options, the talent market is hot and many are making career moves. To combat this and remain competitive, organizations need to make clear what their purpose is and focus on building that trust with their employees. If this hasn’t been a priority for leaders, it definitely needs to become one now.
When we talk about leaders, let’s not think solely at the executive or management level. Everybody can be a leader in their role. And so, I think all people need to work on building that trust. You can feel when trust is broken or nonexistent even in a remote setting. So regardless of being virtual, having that trust is so important because if your value proposition is lacking, your culture is going to be lacking and I’d say that’s where it starts.
Now, I do believe that some in-person connection is extremely important for teams. This is why TPG has adopted a flexible hybrid model. We sought feedback, engaged the team during the updates and changes, and still seek feedback to improve our hybrid strategies.
By now, organizations understand that getting a ping pong table or fancy snacks in the office is not what it takes to fix a toxic culture. Even before the pandemic, organizations were cluing in that those sorts of perks weren’t what people were looking for. When you’re looking at the culture of a company and the employee value proposition, you must listen to the employees, because their needs and experiences vary from one another.
Let’s not forget that a key element in listening to people is actually hearing them! At TPG, we have mechanisms in place to hear our people and get to know them through real conversations. Even in large companies, managers or the team leads or department leaders need to actively listen to both one another and their direct reports. Have conversations that aren’t just about the work, but are about how people are doing.
Create quality connections and be smart about making them effective. At TPG, our teams do regular huddles, whether it be a few times a week or even daily. These huddles are so everyone knows what’s going on and if they are on the same page by the updates from one another. Our project teams work collaboratively and they are effective at using their time wisely so that everyone understands the importance of these meetings and so they don’t feel mundane. One thing we learned in the pandemic was how exhausting being online can be especially for multiple hours per day vs. being in-person. As human beings, we would rather connect in person. It’s natural and doesn’t take up as much energy as when we’re on video. It exhausts you mentally even if you don’t think about it, hence why our meetings are designed to run efficiently and effectively.
Our team members connect 1:1 with others frequently. That daily casual socialization that occurred when grabbing a coffee or lunch has been eliminated during this virtual period. Our team members are quite close with one another so they naturally will set up times with their colleagues to catch up.
Project and Program leads meet with their team members 1:1 at a minimum once a week. These conversations focus on how they are doing as a person, how they are feeling and how their overall wellness is. We can put work aside and understand that employees are people too. This has been very helpful for our organization.
I think in general, a lot of people feel heavier than they ever have before because of what’s going on in this world beyond Covid-19. Whether or not things are getting worse, it seems like it’s impacting us more. Even though war and world events have always occurred, we are extremely impacted by the injustices happening around the world, even within our own country. It’s even more important for our teams to understand that, yes, it’s going to have an impact on how you perform at work and yes, we want to know when you’re having a tough day.
Sometimes you can feel isolated, but I think it’s normal to acknowledge that what’s happening outside in this world is also impacting how you’re doing. So again, I think that’s why it’s really important to ask people, “how are you doing”? I think that goes so far and needs to be a focus for companies. The feedback we received from our team about how they are doing during the pandemic was our driving factor in updating our way of working and policies such as increasing vacation and benefits.
If organizations can set up mechanisms where people can connect with others they don’t regularly work with, that will support sustaining culture. This is also key in integrating new people into the culture.
As a company, we have two entire company-wide connection points each week. One is our mid-week Ops Call where we discuss what’s going on in the organization, how people are doing on their projects, if anyone or any team needs help, and what we are learning. The second weekly connection is our end-of-the-week Social Hour. Having consistent but effective one-on-one connections, but then also team connections are important. These were happening prior to the pandemic, and we’ve kept it going with modifications as we sought feedback from the group to keep them engaging. These have also been essential for our new team members to become integrated with our culture.
David Poirier and the leadership team also meet with our team members regularly. Not only do our people see them in company-wide meetings, but they also have face-to-face time with leadership on an individual basis to provide support, coaching, a discuss professional development. Within these conversations, we take the opportunity to get a feel of where people stand with certain topics. In larger companies, this can be altered to having town halls where employees have the mechanism to ask questions both live and anonymously, depending on people’s comfort level. That way, the introduction of new or altered policies has considered the feedback of the team. But as I mentioned earlier, the key part to hearing others is actively listening to what people are saying.
When I look at our organization, we have a big focus on creating equality and making sure everyone is aware of the opportunities and can access them. What’s special about our culture is that we take time to listen to people about what they are looking for. So even for some folks, who we don’t often see in person, we don’t know any less about them, their goals, or their learning habits than those who we do see in the office. Some folks have medical accommodations or are living with immunocompromised members in their households. We don’t expect them back in the office. I think that’s why it’s so important to make those connections and listen to what each person is saying they need. Each experience is going to vary.
I personally do believe hybrid is the answer. Many companies are adopting “Anchor Days” which are designated days in the office. Our office is open a couple of days in the week for our teams to collaborate, share information, and connect. We even encourage our folks to deliberately keep their calendars lighter on these days so they can connect with other team members on different projects, the leadership team and Shared Services. We did all this through the feedback we received from our team about what sort of return to the office plan worked for them.
You have to witness healthy examples set by leadership in your company. Employees need to see leads take their vacation and actually unplugging for some R&R. Especially in our management consulting industry, leaders need to set an example of what they want their employees to follow and set the tone and expectation for self-care.
Focusing on mental health and talking about it directly is very key. When David or one of our team leaders connect with their team, they ask “How’s your mental health doing?” Not just, “how are you doing?” It can be obvious when someone isn’t their self that day.
When it comes to avoiding burnout, there are signs before someone reaches that point and you always want to catch it before it hits that peak. There needs to be a careful balance of challenging and motivating work, so people aren’t bored, but not to the point where people are overworked. Understanding that balance also comes from having honest conversations with your people. Regular conversations about workloads, how they are developing their learning, and how they are doing matter. For organizations where team leads may not be doing this, having training in place to manage people both from a development standpoint but also checking on mental health is key. It doesn’t have to be expensive outside training programs either. Sometimes this means having leads connect and share insights about managing people.
A few weeks ago, for example, David Poirier spoke candidly about the need for taking care of your mental health on a company-wide call. He addressed the importance and outlined various resources that the team could use. Hearing that advice from the top makes a difference.
At TPG, in recognition of the need for rest and relaxation, we increased our vacation policy for employees. That was an initiative that we put in place to encourage people to take time away. Preventing burnout involves encouraging our employees to create boundaries and vocalizing the need for vacation. Even if you love your job, everyone needs time away. It’s the employer’s job to work around resourcing and project planning in that case.
At TPG, we’ve always had an onboarding process where new hires get set up with a buddy and a mentor to help them navigate their new role. One of the biggest shifts in remote working has been putting that emphasis on deliberately discussing values and operating principles. I think this was an element that was a little bit more natural when we were in person through side conversations or “water cooler” talk. We now deliberately discuss it more often with our newer people.
Onboarding remote has also really involved making sure the person’s connecting with everyone across the team. It requires an extra effort to get to know people, but it’s so important to make those connections so that they can see how every team member embodies our values.
Throughout the pandemic because of our growth, we’ve invested in improving our onboarding and our training programs including new learning modules. This helps get new hires up to speed quicker and get people to understand our methodology and values. For example, one module focuses on integrity and the way we communicate with our clients. We have another module based on a previous client project and focuses on data analytics. I think regardless of the pandemic we had to improve these processes, but because we grew so much in terms of our team size, it just expedited this process.
I think the pandemic has inadvertently caused what has happened in the marketplace. The workforce right now is very hot and heavy with people transitioning and moving jobs. Luckily at TPG, our turnover continues to remain quite low, especially for our industry. In general, there’s a lot of people making transitions right now, so candidates have their choice when it comes to looking for opportunities.
Something that TPG always did was having a coffee chat type of interview style.
Upon moving forward from the initial interview, the second interview is with one of our Management Consultants from the team, and it focuses more on having the candidate interview the management consultant to get a sense of their experience at TPG. I think having that as a step gets people to understand how a person within their potential team would describe the culture and the role. If organizations aren’t creating that positive candidate experience, where the candidate can interview the company, that is not going to work for them.
One positive piece of interviewing remotely has been that it’s just easier to schedule. I feel like we move faster, and the process can be quicker than before because we would have had to coordinate when they could come to the office.
I do think the types of questions we ask have evolved, where we now focus more on the impact this person could make with TPG. The fact is that the job market is hot, so it’s important to have an efficient interview process where the employee value proposition can be communicated effectively to the candidate.
Tell me a little about your career path and what got you here? (Life experiences, skillset, a mentor etc.)
I began University with a focus on finance and accounting. Part of the program was taking an HR course. and I fell in love with it right away. The content was very interesting to me, a different type of feeling than studying for my finance courses. I had never heard of HR; I didn’t know much about HR in high school and so I didn’t think of it. I had a great mentor in that first HR course, it was the course professor. She was a prior VP of HR for a large bank US. She was a phenomenal person to learn from and I think that kind of started my transition into HR. From there, I started learning more about it and doing more research, which helped me decide to switch to the Bachelor of Human Resource Management Program a year later.
My first mentors will always be my mom and dad. My immigrant parents came to Canada in their mid-twenties. They worked tirelessly to make it in a country where everything from their language to their customs were completely foreign. They did this barely knowing anyone and barely knowing the culture. No doubt their tenacity to build a family and home for four daughters in a small southern Ontario town gives me the strength to push through always. I have always been thankful to my family for going through this.
What is something you are passionate about outside of your job role?
I come from a lineage of farmers, so I’ve always had a love for cooking, but being sustainable and being natural with the food I make. I also love spending time with people. This might sound cheesy, but my hobby is literally spending quality time with my family and my friends. I also put a lot of focus on my physical and mental health. It means a lot to me outside of work because it helps me with my work. I know personally that I need to put a focus on my mental health and just like my overall health for me to be able to perform better.
What drew you to TPG and why do you like working here? What sets TPG apart?
I promise that I’m not being biased just to say this because future candidates may read this, but when I was going through my interview process and met with our team members, I was in awe of how genuine people were and excited they were about TPG. I think that was interesting and now I think this is what sets us apart. Every person I met with during my interview process naturally showed how they are connected with the TPG values. So, it’s not like I learned about our values on the first day in orientation, I learned about our values by seeing our people in the recruitment process exhibit them.
I have to say, I’m privileged that I’ve got to work for really great companies with good values and people who exhibit those values, but I think TPG just knocks it out of the park with people actually living those values, embracing those values every single day. When you meet with people like David Poirier and Susan Greenwood, who are such brilliant and strong forces, you understand how strong TPG’s values are. There’s something so wonderful about seeing people who are so passionate about both their people, their work, the clients but then also for their own family and friends as well. So, for me, it was hands down how the team exhibited our values and operating principles. They weren’t just being told to me, but it was apparent in the way David and others described the company and how they exhibited going above and beyond for the team.
The experience was so genuine, and I could feel that when talking to our team. I also love how transparent and honest the team is. We are very open to what is still in progress and what we’re still working on. I think that just made me trust TPG a lot more. We build trust with one another, and I don’t think other companies have that sort of recruitment process based on trust, transparency, feedback, and honesty. We don’t just focus on the technical skills, but rather focus on if they’re aligned to our values. We look at what is coachable and not coachable – you may be able to teach someone how to use Excel, but it’s much more difficult to teach somebody integrity or to have an innate desire to go above and beyond to serve our clients.
I just like the whole process of being open, honest, and direct. I feel like it goes back to our discussion earlier about building trust. I felt it from TPG during the recruitment process most definitely.
I love researching different theories and practices. We do a lot of research here at TPG and I think one thing that I really like about TPG is that for businesses, we look at people and processes and making them efficient and that’s also what we get to do with our own team. So, there’s an element of what our teams do for projects is what I get to do internally as I support this group.