We often have the opportunity to come together with HR and business leaders to discuss challenges and share experiences.  Our April 15 roundtable was a little different – in a very good way. 

The topic was “What Was Your ‘Best Move’ In 2020, personally and/or professionally?” What came out of this vulnerable conversation were personal stories of somewhat unexpected successes or “triumphs” as one leader called it, as well as some realizations of things that needed to change going forward.

A common thread among all the stories shared was that the pandemic has shown us how truly human this experience is, how connected we all are, and how resilient HR and business leaders are.  We talked a lot about the importance of a positive mindset, finding opportunity in crisis, and listening to our team members.

What follows is a recap of some of the thoughts shared. We hope that we can continue to lean on one another for connection, support, encouragement and growth going forward.

Work Life Balance

Some leaders shared the positive impact that slowing down and spending more time at home had on their family dynamic, both with children and in marriage. Others shared the challenge of being “always on” in this virtual environment and the need to have boundaries and focus on self-care.  One working parent said she “took a pause on busyness” and really learned the value of being present during her time with her children.  Another leader switched jobs right before the pandemic hit and at the same time, she was taking care of a sick parent.  She really had the opportunity to take a pause and reflect on how she was spending her time.

Another working parent with small children shared that she really struggled with managing her time with the 24/7 response that seemed necessary as she supported an essential workforce. To help with boundaries, this HR leader empowered her managers to give them ownership of the procedures to follow and to work with essential staff to keep the operations running safely and smoothly.

One HR leader of an essential business shared that the flexibility that work from home has created for their workforce has been a huge win. She remembers how she struggled for years as a working parent of four kids.  Their company is now putting more emphasis on taking care of their people and their health – and in turn their patients too.

Lastly, one leader shared the importance of HR modeling boundaries.  They encouraged team members to cut all meetings by 10-15 minutes, to pull back time for self and their teams!  This deliberate effort to focus on team effectiveness, wellness and resilience has been well received.

Professional Growth

Some leaders experienced significant professional growth (some sought out and some dropped in their lap out of necessity!)  One leader shared that early in the pandemic, she decided she was going to lean in and wasn’t going to let any opportunity pass her by.  She wanted to be prepared if something would happen to her full-time job, so she started developing herself, doing contract work, and invested in real estate!  She said she learned a lot; some opportunities failed while others flourished, and it changed her mindset so much that she’s considering what’s next for her now. 

Another HR leader very honestly described the additional responsibilities that came about during the pandemic as ‘scary’. As a parent to small children supporting an essential workforce, her first response was negative, but she quickly pulled herself up and started looking at the opportunity.  She has gotten to do things in her role that she would never have expected to do – like running a vaccine clinic and vaccinating over 400 employees and family members. This is a great example of how opportunity may come amid chaos and uncertainty.

Communication, Collaboration and Feedback

The best move in 2020 shared by one of HR leaders was the opening of improved corporate communications.  The company was really forced to provide other avenues to share messages such as more regular emails from the CEO and use of other electronic channels, creating even more connection than when people were in the office! This organization has also placed more emphasis on team member feedback – asking what is most important to them as they return to the office and how they can incorporate their ideas.

Another leader of an essential business shared that they were in the midst of a merger and there was a lot of uncertainty. The CEO started virtual town halls every four-six weeks and they have received a lot of great feedback that this is so much more than just an email – it’s an opportunity for real-time two-way communication. These town halls have really breathed excitement back into the organization during this transitional time.

A leader of a global organization shared that the company mindset is shifting.  They have stretched their minds about what digital collaboration looks like using tools like Mural.  They are being very intentional with tools and practices to not only work more effectively but also to get to know one another on a more personal level.

Balancing Accountability and Empathy

One of the greatest challenges of the pandemic has been leading and managing a remote workforce.  One leader shared that they helped leaders to lead better by communicating often and setting clear expectations. The organization was very transparent and committed to keeping team members but there was a need to balance accountability and empathy.  Some leaders did this naturally but others needed coaching. This approach led to some performance improvement plan success stories!

Big Wins

An HR leader of an established family-owned business has struggled for some time to earn HR a seat at the table. COVID was the opportunity that allowed HR to come to the forefront and show that they are not just benefit administrators.  The HR team has been able to implement a new talent review process in the midst of the pandemic and things are looking up for HR from here.

Another HR leader shared that their essential business made an existential pivot when the pandemic hit. They decided to respond instead of reacting to come out of COVID substantially different than their competitors.  They empowered their team to cut costs, change their business model and offerings to clients and build a platform that’s now offered in the marketplace.  It was a positive distraction to what was going on around them and it was a real game changer to drive their business forward in this crisis.

Lastly, a few of our HR leaders shared that they added a four-legged friend to their families during the pandemic and this has brought so much joy to their lives 😊

Renewed Appreciation

Hearing from HR leaders over the last year and especially during this session has really shined a bright light on the work that you all do as leaders in your organizations, within your families and in our community.  We are humbled and honored to be able to bring groups together like this to discuss challenges, support one another, lift each other up and to share and celebrate successes.

We look forward to future similar opportunities with you.

Additional Resources

If you are interested in further reading of lessons learned and ideas as you move your business forward, here are a few good reads:

Workplace Lessons Learned During the Pandemic (shrm.org)

More Workplace Lessons Learned During the Pandemic (shrm.org)

How the post-COVID workplace will change business for the better | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)

How to Manage Remote Direct Reports (hbr.org)

April Client and Non-Profit Spotlight

Trent Hillis, Director & CFO M1 Bank | Founding Member

1. What was your organization’s biggest learning in ’20? Your personal biggest learning?

Good customer service can be hard to come by in many industries.  We are proud of the M1 team of always being a market leader in customer service.

2. What good news came out of 2020 for your organization? For you personally?

Personally – had my first child – a boy in September.

Organization – completed Phase 1 of 2 of our new M1 Clayton Headquarters, at the corner of 7 North Bemiston Avenue and 7801 Forsyth.  We look forward to Phase 2 of our project which will be a full service retail banking facility. 

3. What are you excited about for 2021? 

 Continuing great banking and community relationships, in addition to developing new ones. 

4. Why did you select the Kaufman Fund for your nonprofit donation? Why are they special to you?

M1 has partnered with the Kaufman Fund since the bank’s inception in 2018.  The Kaufman Fund does tremendous work for our veterans in St. Louis, and we are proud to be a part of such a great organization.    The Kaufman Fund provides real, tangible help to our self-less veterans.  The Kafuman Fund staff and management is 100% volunteered, with no paid employees.  Some of the major programs of the Kaufman Fund include free dental care, legal care, and mental health services.

Learn more about The Kaufman Fund, their story and the difference they make in our community!