How Hybrid Work Can Empower Employees

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Protiviti is reaping the benefits of its new workplace models, says Scott Redfearn, EVP, global human resources.

At global consulting firm Protiviti, increased hybrid work arrangements due to the pandemic have been empowering for workers, who feel more trusted to make decisions that are right for both the firm and its clients.

So says Scott Redfearn, executive vice president, global human resources at the Menlo Park, California-based firm. Redfearn spoke with StrategicCHRO360 about how to best nurture hybrid workers, the importance of robust upskilling and how a focus on employee well-being can build loyalty.

From your view at Protiviti, what impact have hybrid work models had on the firm’s culture?

Hybrid work has given us an opportunity to rethink how we work. Born out of necessity during the pandemic, we discovered that hybrid work is here to stay at Protiviti and creates an opportunity for us to strengthen our culture. In particular, the dynamics of hybrid work demonstrate a way to build trust within our teams while simultaneously strengthening the empowerment our people feel in their day-to-day work.

Empowerment is a key component of our culture at Protiviti and at the core of our hybrid work strategy. Our people are empowered to make decisions about where and how they work to serve clients, develop additional skills for greater impact and achieve the flexibility that teams need. By focusing on the purpose of what we are doing and the value we are creating, our people are seeing their work in terms of purpose and impact, rather than location. We have seen our people trusting each other to do what’s right for the firm, our clients and our teams—across all levels.

Why are trust and empowerment critical in the hybrid working world?

Since every person, every team and every project has different needs, our people have to work together to make decisions around their day-to-day work. We have chosen to empower our teams to make those decisions, trusting and expecting that they will do the right things. What are the right things? Serving clients in exceptional ways and contributing to high-performing teams who take care of each other are grounded in our culture.

How is Protiviti thinking about upskilling talent as part of empowering staff?

Our people feel empowered when they have options and flexibility, when they have access to valuable tools and resources, and when they are encouraged to grow in ways that are meaningful to them and to our business. Like all aspects of the employee experience at Protiviti, our upskilling strategy seeks to put our people first and inspire them to be the leaders in their own career stories. By sharing openly where our business is going and growing, our people can align their career and development plans to take full advantage of those growth opportunities. 

Upskilling is at the heart of Protiviti’s effort to empower our people for the future. From insights gained in our people surveys, we know that growth and development are of the utmost importance for our people. Upskilling reinforces Protiviti’s core value of innovation, which motivates us to expect, value and deliver new ideas. Additionally, for our clients, as our team acquires new and different skills in emerging areas, we instill confidence in a rapidly changing world.

There are many unique attributes that make Protiviti’s upskilling strategy and programs empowering by design. One element of our approach is to provide strategic upskilling experiences to all in our global organization simultaneously—an example of this is the training on fundamental Agile principles and methodologies that launched for all employees in May of this year.

Similarly, we are equipping all employees with human-centered design and design thinking skills. More than 80 percent of our people have completed fundamental skill-building in this area in the past two years and hundreds more have developed advanced skills.

Other upskilling programs and experiences are more targeted in nature, such as the skill-building journeys designed by our business leaders and customized to facilitate growth in specific dimensions of the business. Investments in our programs have created even more opportunities for upskilling, connecting our people with best-in-class vendors that complement Protiviti’s work and culture.

Finally, at any time our people around the globe can drive their own upskilling choices and journeys by accessing always-on learning to upskill in self-selected topics at a self-defined pace. This is available through our global learning platform, joining cohorts of colleagues pursuing a certification of their choosing, or by pursuing external upskilling experiences. We have found that equipping our people to chart their own paths in upskilling is a more direct approach and provides greater speed in reaching our targets.

How can companies improve retention and position themselves as an attractive employer by promoting ongoing and integrated employee wellness?

Resources and programs that support our people’s well-being not only improve their health, but they also build loyalty. People are seeking employers who care about all dimensions of well-being: physical, emotional, financial and social well-being. At Protiviti, we offer a variety of well-being programs to support our people and their families. We believe this investment leads to more productive, energized employees in their work and personal lives.

Earlier this year, we provided each Protiviti employee with a well-being payment they could use in any way they would like to support their well-being.  Some used the payment toward fitness equipment, while others used it for massage therapy or to help toward a financial goal. These kinds of actions demonstrate to our people that we prioritize their well-being.

We also held a global well-being challenge earlier this year, and about 20 percent of our people participated. Employees shared photos of themselves in motion: running, yoga and pickleball were among the many photos. Our people often enjoy friendly competition, and they said this resulted in increasing their physical activity and taking a break during the workday.

We also know that time away from work to recharge is an important aspect of well-being. We frequently communicated our support for employees taking paid leave and holidays. At Protiviti, we also offer up to 12 weeks as a partially paid sabbatical for our people. We are on pace for a record number of employees taking advantage of our sabbatical program in 2023—a clear indication they value opportunities to refresh and renew. We’re always excited to welcome them back.

Working more remotely and independently over the past two years has taken a toll on the well-being of our people. We are convinced that our people have greater mental health when they are able to share their work experiences and lives with others. Spontaneous conversations, observing leadership behaviors and feeling the support of coworkers are some examples of how working in-person benefits our people, just as remote work can also be valuable. We believe that we need both aspects, and our hybrid work philosophy is shaped by our desire for our people’s wellness.

Healthier employees are more productive and can deliver on commitments to our clients, to each other and to our communities. We place importance on well-being, and we know that our people place a high value on these programs, too. Protiviti has been recognized by our people as a great place to work for eight consecutive years. Ultimately, the investment in and care for our people comes full circle to help foster retention.

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