“Technology moves fast, and in the HR function, it is speed, it is execution, and continual evolution of how you’re positioning yourself as a company in an incredibly tight market space,” says Anna Jackson, vice president of human resources at Gigamon.
At Gigamon, a leading cloud visibility and analytics technology vendor, Jackson leads her HR team to differentiate the brand from other technology companies and create an inclusive and innovative culture.
“Most industries have a technology slant to them now, but when you’re working with engineers and those dealing with cybersecurity, you really have to differentiate yourself and create an environment where people say, ‘I’m proud to work here,’” Jackson explains. “The culture aspect of every organization is vital to both recruiting and retention. Human resources, as the voice of our employees, plays a profound role in tech companies based on our ability to ensure the continuity and growth of our corporate culture.”
With the responsibility of differentiation and creating an inclusive environment on her shoulders, Jackson leans on what she has learned throughout her career to become an effective leader in human resources.
“A leader in HR must have two critical objectives. The first is focused on how HR helps the business achieve its goal. How can we provide programs, partnership coaching, advice, and support to our teams that can help drive the focus and creativity needed to achieve our long-term goals?” Jackson says.
“The second is employee well-being,” she continues. “Our employees are the most important assets at my company, and I believe their physical and mental well-being should be at the forefront of every HR decision. My team is focused on how we can best work with employees at every level to ensure a harmonious environment, as well as create an inclusive atmosphere for everybody to work in a productive and positive space.”
Under the guidance of her mentors, and with a wealth of experience under her belt, Jackson has taken on those components in stride as she leads diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at the company.
Jackson credits the success of her team’s initiatives to executive-level support of their approach to these challenging issues in addition to leading the organization through the pandemic.
Gigamon has just over 950 employees, all of whom are important in developing and evolving DEI initiatives that are easily shared and enacted across functions and regions. “When you’re a thousand-person company,” she explains, “it’s harder to move the needle on major initiatives because of time zones and resource constraints. We’ve taken the approach of really pushing on the internal awareness aspect.”
Establishing this awareness has rested in part on blog posts and the establishment of a Culture Club. Together, these initiatives have taken steps to highlight Pride Month, Black History Month, and International Women’s Day. Gigamon also built out a calendar to celebrate all walks of its employees’ lives.
The company recently added more diverse recruiting measures that are focused on sourcing women to fill typically male-dominated roles. Additionally, these measures focus on ensuring representation across all the roles within the company.
To help ensure broad awareness, Gigamon training now includes unconscious bias awareness. The company has also established an inclusive language program, “to essentially change any offensive or outdated language to be more inclusive because we know words matter,” Jackson says.
Jackson worked with her team to roll out these initiatives while the pandemic forced the company into a new normal. “One of our first steps was to ensure that everyone could take their equipment home to get set up remotely,” Jackson says. The company also provided reimbursement for high-speed internet to ensure that every employee has the additional bandwidth needed to remain productive.
Gigamon went even further and instituted a quarterly Global Down Day, in which all employees are highly encouraged to set aside work to spend time with loved ones, enjoy some fresh air, or just enjoy some quiet time. The company has sent out care packages for the whole family, and worked to allow for a new level of flexibility and updated the frequency of global communications.
Jackson states that all these initiatives are “part of a strategic effort to drive authentic communication within the company so that people could be open and honest about what they were going through as they absorbed the shock of their new normal. These efforts have helped us evolve as a company as we continue to navigate the changing corporate work environment.”
The work put in by Jackson and her team embodies what she believes the future of HR will look like in a post-pandemic world. “HR will have an elevated role,” Jackson says. “People previously wouldn’t bring their entire self to work, whereas now they are and we are ready to support them.
“Our role has matured into coaching and supporting employees on productivity, with a focus shifting to the individual from the group and with mental health also moving to the forefront,” Jackson adds.
With the hybrid-model work environment becoming a more permanent aspect of corporate life, Jackson believes that HR has the expertise to provide guidance in a way it hasn’t before. “Now, HR is at the forefront and has the ability to guide companies through this change, and we are excited about the positive outcomes we can help drive,” she concludes.