How is Hallmark Getting Hybrid Work Right? 11/10

The Getting Hybrid Work Right call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders on all aspects of hybrid work. On this week's call, i4cp' s CEO Kevin Oakes and Senior Research Analyst Tom Stone facilitated a conversation with special guest Jessica Noble, Vice President, Employee Experience at Hallmark. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • Hallmark corporation is comprised of three distinct companies: Hallmark, the traditional company you think of with greeting cards, ornaments, and their retail operations; Hallmark Media, the cable conglomerate with the Hallmark channel, Hallmark movies and mysteries, Hallmark publishing, and a streaming service; and Crayola, which was acquired in the 1980s.
  • Noble leads employee experience and communications for the first of these three companies, which was first established over 100 years ago, in 1910. Her role includes total rewards, talent development, and other traditional HR areas, in addition to internal communications.
  • Hallmark has a very caring and celebratory culture. Given their product lines, employees often get bigger birthday celebrations at work than at home. The shift to remote work in 2020 meant major changes to these kinds of events. Recently they are trying to reclaim some of their past approach, given the ongoing mix of remote and hybrid work.
  • Hallmark has a very diverse workforce, ranging from about 2,500 corporate office employees (HQ is in Kansas City); many employees in manufacturing and distribution plants; and about 10,000 part-time employees at retail stores. Only the HQ corporate employees of course shifted to remote work in early 2020.
  • In April of 2022 Hallmark instituted a "no hard edges" approach to return to office, giving managers the discretion to work out the frequency of office time vs. remote time for their teams and employees. They have found that the work-life balance for employees has been a major value. Most employees come in 1-2 days a week, with some more, and some none at all. Wednesday is the day that the office is most full.
  • This approach makes the most sense for now, though they are being purposeful about when to gather employees together in-person, to help reclaim the former culture of events that they had pre-pandemic.
  • Noble noted that they have provided managers with guidance on tools in order to take an intentional approach to work flexibility. Oakes noted that trust is critical to these issues around hybrid/remote/flexible work.
  • Noble has setup a culture sub-team, to serve as the eyes and ears of employee sentiment on these and other issues, as part of a broader employee listening strategy.
  • Noble also said they leverage storytelling as an approach to share the practices of some leaders as models for others.
  • Noble noted that their approach to remote and hybrid work has impacted recruiting both in making their organization more attractive to many employees who are looking for remote or flexible options, while also less attractive for some candidates who would prefer more certainty about an office environment.
  • Previously, Hallmark's onboarding experience was very experiential and very centered on an in-person experience. The pandemic forced them to change it to a virtual experience, with a combination of self-paced video-based content and some synchronous online sessions with leaders. More recently in 2022 they have been able to reintroduce some in-person elements that include more traditional Hallmark cultural elements, and they will fly in remote employees to have this on-site onboarding experience.
  • Regarding their non-office employees, i.e., those in manufacturing, distribution, or retail, it has been a challenge to balance messaging regarding flexibility and work experiences for employees. They have been very careful about their communications, e.g., not saying to HQ employees to work from home "for their safety." They also have provided many benefits, such as additional free food, etc., for those employees who must work on-site.
  • Importantly, some employees in manufacturing and distribution facilities have been offered flexibility in the form of 3x12 work shift schedules. Interestingly, when offered the interest amongst these employees was very high as many wanted four days off per week.
  • To try to reduce burnout, Noble noted they have introduced "no-meetings days", which is the second Tuesday of each month. These are days employees can use to catch up on projects, emails, etc., or focus on learning. They have also instituted one hour a day (flexible) for employees to set-aside for wellness activities. Overall, Hallmark has leaned into empathy, care, and wellness -- in part because doing so leads to greater productivity overall.
  • During the call, we ask the following two participant polls:
    • "As part of your employee listening strategy, how often do you seek employee input?"
      • 42% Once or twice a year
      • 30% Quarterly
      • 0% Once a month
      • 2% Weekly
      • 26% We take an “always on” approach to employee listening
    • When surveying employees…
      • 16% We only ask Likert / multiple choice questions; we don’t have write-in comments
      • 66% We review and analyze write-in comments manually
      • 1% We get write-in comments, but we don’t do much with them
      • 16% We review and analyze write-in comments using technology
        (NLP / Artificial Intelligence)

Links to resources shared on the call: