CHRO COVID-19 Action Recording: Discussing COVID and Racism with the Board, with F5's Ana White - 8/14/20


In response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp holds a weekly series of standing calls to help HR leaders navigate this unpredictable time.

On i4cp’s August 14, 2020 CHRO/HR Strategy COVID-19 Response series call, HR leaders from a wide range of organizations were joined by special guest Ana White, CHRO at F5 Networks, a company that partners with top tech companies to improve app security and speed of deployment. She was interviewed by i4cp Chief Research Officer Kevin Martin. Here are some of the highlights from the conversation:

Guiding principles have been key to managing through recent crises. White described the guiding principles that F5 Networks has followed to manage through the crises of the past six months: 

  • Be human first. Do the right thing.
  • Take an agile and adaptive approach.
  • Create clarity. Uncertainty in personal lives leads to employers looking for clarity from their employers.
  • Empower decision making . Act locally, think globally

A renovated culture has served F5 Networks well. In 2019 i4cp released a seminal new report, Culture Renovation: A Blueprint for Action. One of the organizations featured in that study was F5 Networks, and White noted it has been clear that their strong culture has served them well during the crises of the past six months. The BeF5 culture has five key elements:

  • We are owners.
  • We choose speed. 
  • We obsess over customer needs.
  • We create a more diverse and inclusive F5.
  • We help each other thrive.

White noted that the company has really doubled down on these behaviors due to the multiple crises of the past six months, and employees have also demonstrated expertise in areas, e.g., mindfulness, that leaders didn't realize they were expert in. She also noted the importance of giving recognition during a crisis, as nothing is worse than people working really long hours and not being recognized and appreciated for it.

There is so much to be done to fight racial injustice. White described how F5 Networks is focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and racial injustice issues. First, HR has partnered with their FAB group -- F5 Appreciates Blackness -- to create a platform for communications and actions on racial justice. Together they created a pledge to improve DEI, that thousands of employees have now signed. The organization also treated Juneteenth a little differently than many companies, leveraging it for education by having an outside speaker, some relevant trivia contests, and using it as a day of celebration. They are further focusing on these issues in three ways:

  • Individual, e.g., focusing on unconscious bias and microaggression, providing skills for allyship, etc.
  • Institutional, e.g., reinvented recruiting process, being proactive around retention, revamped performance management program (e.g., getting quality feedback), etc.
  • Systemic, e.g., external philanthropy projects (e.g., eliminating racism fund), partner on Reboot Representation, STEM education grants, etc.

The future of work will look very different. White described how at F5 they are looking at all aspects of work critically: what is the best that has been realized during the COVID-19 pandemic, that they want to keep going forward? Some examples include:

  • Agile learning and work practices, increased attention to well-being, and a stronger focus on D&I.
  • Accelerating their digital transformation, which has proven hugely valuable during the crisis.
  • They will likely continue to support more remote work, even after a vaccine is available, while also re-envisioning their corporate workplaces.
  • Leveraging a much broader talent pool for those roles with remote work flexibility.

In addition to this recording, please see the the i4cp Coronavirus Employer Resource Center for new research and next practices to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.



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