CHRO COVID-19 ACTION RECORDING: ENABLING PEOPLE ON THE COVID FRONT LINE, WITH SANOFI NA'S CLINT WALLACE - 8/28/20

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 28, 2020 CHRO/HR Strategy COVID-19 Response series call, HR leaders from a wide range of organizations were joined by special guest Clint Wallace, SVP of HR North America at Sanofi. He was interviewed by i4cp Chief Research Officer Kevin Martin. Here are some of the highlights from the conversation:
 
Holistic well-being is a major focus. Wallace described an accelerated focus at Sanofi during the COVID-19 pandemic period on holistic well-being. Employees need to be healthy and at ease, as this produces better results and outcomes. In fact, this has been elevated to being a business necessity strategy, in order to promote readiness and optimal productivity for all employees. One approach they have taken during this time is providing new ways to support parents with kids in school, including leveraging Bright Horizons and other providers to support homeschooling, virtual sitters, etc. Wallace also stressed the importance of making sure managers are having discussions with employees around mental health in particular, in order to fight any lingering stigma that might exist in that area.

See also the major new report that i4cp published earlier this year, "Next Practices in Holistic Well-Being: The Performance Advantage."

Taking a coalition approach to tackling challenges. Wallace has military experience, so he noted that you can treat business challenges like global threats, and combat them with a coalition approach. In the case of HR challenges, the coalition might include business line leadership, representatives from talent management and talent acquisition, learning and development, and the relevant HRBP. The coalition works together on the issue, the HRBP and line leader execute the plan, the coalition stands down, and then it can reform (with the same or varied members) when the next challenge arises. He said that at Sanofi these coalitions typically form naturally, based on the skills and expertise needed for each business need. Accountability is critical: Did you meet the goal? Did you exceed the goal? What was learned in the process? What from the experience can enrich the next coalition?

An inclusion and diversity strategy should be multifaceted. At Sanofi, one focus has been on leadership gender parity, and here they have made a pledge to have 50/50 parity at the top levels by 2025. Wallace noted that in recent months the company has had bold but inclusive conversations about race. They have hosted external speakers to discuss various topics (e.g., blind spots and hidden bias). In October they will have a full, dedicated I&D day. They've also provided a learning playlist of relevant content, and an ERG is setting up a book club-like series to discuss some of that content. Quarterly sessions around diversity commitments (called diversity operating reviews) are now being held, just as they have always done for financial metrics. A key is having such meetings quarterly to keep a steady cadence, so that it never gets deprioritized. They are also looking externally to learn what other organizations are doing that might be worth adopting.

Wallace noted one specific learning they had was on the use of diverse interview panels. While generally a good thing, there can be an issue if the minority participants are more junior: do they really have a voice? Or if they make comments that are not aligned with the more senior leaders, could that hurt them in some way? A possible solution they are exploring is using a digital input process to gather information anonymously from the interview panel participants.

Organizations are using varied tactics to relieve stress from the virtual work environment. Participants on the call were polled as to which actions their organization is taking to help employees feel less stressed or fatigued from the new virtual (Zoom, Teams, Slack, etc.) environment. The results show a wide range of tactics that can be considered:
  • 52% Reminding people to consider alternative communication channels (e.g., phone, IM)
  • 44% Reminding people they don't always need to be on camera
  • 33% Setting boundaries (e.g., no meetings before 8 a.m. or no meeting Fridays)
  • 33% Avoiding lengthy meetings (e.g., no meetings longer than two hours)
  • 33% Encouraging walking meetings
  • 22% Shortening meetings (e.g., 25 minutes) to allow time between calls
  • 22% Ensuring breaks are planned for any meeting that exceeds one hour
  • 19% Offering virtual stretch breaks (e.g., yoga classes) during the day

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.