Now in its fifth month of outreach to the D&I community, i4cp’s Diversity & Inclusion Action Call on August 18th spotlighted some of the actions Lincoln Financial Group has taken to respond to the pandemic, economic challenges, and social unrest. Call leader and i4cp Chief Diversity Officer Board Chair Jacqui Robertson spoke with Lincoln Financial Group’s Allison Green Johnson, SVP, CDO and Head of Culture & Engagement.
Key topics from the call:
This is a time when the D&I function is “in demand and on demand,”
said Johnson. She observed that the function’s role in helping to lead organizations forward during the current challenging times led her to be optimistic. The discussion made the point that the role she described comes with serious responsibilities for D&I, and that moving companies forward may call on D&I leaders to act decisively even when making progress feels uncomfortable.
Ask and listen to understand how employees feel and what their needs are. A heightened focus on communication was among the first changes Lincoln Financial Group made in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and the migration of its employees from workplaces to work-from-home settings.
Within a week, says Johnson, the company sent out an all-employee survey on productivity, asking how people were adjusting. Most (87%) perceived themselves to be as productive as they’d been in the workplace or more so. Another survey sampled opinions on the company’s pandemic response and its support for its workforce. Positive responses noted increased communication between employees and their leaders and revealed workers’ desires for continued communication and connection.
- Leaders set the tone.
Since the onset of the health crisis, Johnson says that senior leaders at Lincoln Financial Group have been meeting every two weeks. The CEO set a course early on by specifying three priorities to rally the company:
- Protecting employees
- Making sure the business could operate
- Leveraging operations to help Americans get through the pandemic
We took those as our marching orders about what we were going to do,” Johnson says, adding that the directives shaped leaders’ thinking about what they could do to support achievement of those priorities. “All of us realized we had to do some things differently to ensure that, at the end of the day, we were supporting our employees and serving our customers in ways that enabled them to move through this pandemic.”
She notes that she and other company leaders were encouraged to ensure that they were being visible and engaging with their teams and colleagues. That also included demonstrating candor and working to “be more compassionate than you think you need to be right now – thank people, ask how they are, and listen more.”
Every Friday, three questions are sent to employees to engage them on specific topics. Examples include how people like to receive communications, the company’s decision to extend its timeframe for returning to workplaces, satisfaction with benefits, use of time off, and more.
That ongoing listening, says Johnson, enables the company to “learn and adapt as we go.” Needs for greater flexibility and leave, especially among parents, were discovered. Lincoln Financial Group added more options to enable childcare arrangements, including involving its EAP and preparing to survey parents to further surface their challenges.
Other Ideas Discussed:
- An instant poll during the Action Call asked if attendees’ organizations had expanded their EAP offerings in response to increased stress on employees caused by the pandemic and social unrest. Nearly a third (31%) reported significant expansion of their offerings in response to the health crisis. And while the greatest proportion of respondents (44%) said they hadn’t expanded offerings, they did note increases in their communications about existing benefits.
- A Lincoln Financial Group video shared further insights into the company’s pandemic response.
- Active participation in the Action Call chat included interactions and questions on such topics as enhancing access to telemedicine and tele-counseling, financial assistance to enable working parents to secure tutors, ensuring the value of meetings, and efforts to support employee well-being.
The recording of the session and its full range of discussion topics is available at i4cp’s Employer Resource Center, which also provides the latest research and practices to help organizations support their employees and respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic.