CHRO and HR Leaders Gather for Profile’s First 2021 Virtual Roundtable

Four key takeaways from HR leaders at Profile’s first CHRO virtual event of 2021—Tomorrow’s Workforce—led by Actian Corporation’s Melissa Ribeiro

Profile magazine kicked off 2021 with a roundtable of chief human resources officers. Tomorrow’s Workforce: A CHRO Virtual Roundtable took place on Wednesday, February 24, and featured fourteen HR leaders from a variety of organizations, all of which have had to make major adjustments for their workforces over the past year.

Empowered Founder and CEO Trisha Daho sponsored the event, and Actian Chief People Officer Melissa Ribeiro led the roundtable.

CHRO Roundtable screenshot of attendees
From top left: Kyle Evangelista, President, Profile; Ashley Parish, Digital Events and Marketing Coordinator, Profile; Melissa Ribeiro, Chief People Officer, Actian Corporation; Trisha Daho, CEO, Empowered; Laura Lee, CHRO, MGM Resorts; Steve Bertram, SVP of Global HR, Atara Biotherapeutics; Stella Tran, VP of People & Culture, HighRadius; Michael Alicea, EVP of Global HR, Nielsen; Jennifer Mancuso, VP of HR, North Highland; Hannah Tanchon, Content and Advertising Manager, Profile; Susan Baida, Director of Community Engagement, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; Jeanne O’Connor,  SVP of HR, Billtrust; Julie Cummings, CHRO and Managing Director, BKD

Here are four key takeaways from the discussion:

1. Working from Home

One of the biggest questions was whether an organization was planning on having employees return to the office 100 percent, allow them to remain virtual, or implement a hybrid model. Answer: it depends who you’re asking and what responsibilities the employee has, such as whether they have regular client interaction.

MGM Resorts International CHRO Laura Lee noted that 90 percent of the company’s workforce will continue to work from home with a few opting for a hybrid model.

Nielsen Chief People Officer Michael Alicea noted there are certain markets where his company needs “touchdown spaces. Really nice, smaller spaces, like conference rooms where we can bring clients to. We’re a data and analytics company, so there are some models that are like that.”

The bottom line is that there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.

“The one thing we know for sure is that we’re not going to go back to the way we were,” Alicea said. “We’re probably going to save $50 to $60 million in real estate costs. A portion will be returned to employees—a stipend once a year to work from home, plus a stipend every month—so that our employees are not suffering.

“We didn’t do as good a job when this first happened to accommodate people who live in apartments in New York City, and they have studios,” he continued. “And that really was a hardship for them.”

2. A Wider Talent Pool

One good thing to come out of the pandemic is that the pool of candidates for jobs has widened on a global scale. And hiring via videoconferences has not changed attrition rates or the quality of new hires, Alicea said.

“So I don’t know if that changes over time, and we’ll see,” Alicea said. “But for right now, our research says, ‘Don’t go back, go forward.’”

3. Retaining Talent

With so many employees currently enjoying high levels of flexibility in terms of where they can work, companies are cognizant of needing to maintain a sense of culture to keep employees engaged and wanting to stay with the organization.

BKD CHRO Julie Cummings noted that while her organization has been very successful working remotely, “when we look long term, we see cohesion, team dynamics, and career development really at a risk here.”

Company culture is a major draw at BKD, which can be hard to translate in a remote work environment, Cummings said. “When they’re working at home and they don’t have as regular touch points, or they’re not having somebody who’s really focused and deliberate about their career development,” the CHRO explained, “they kind of look at it and go, ‘Well heck, I can go make $5,000 working for nobody at another state.’ There’s no stickiness factor.”

For this reason, BKD is focused on being very deliberate about weaving development and coaching into “this new world of work type of environment that we have,” she noted.

4. Respecting Time

Participants noted the difficulties faced today by parents who are working from home while also taking care of children who have been learning remotely. Ribeiro noted that Actian’s CEO encouraged employees to block off time to do things for themselves and their families. The company also implemented a no-meetings policy for Fridays.

“So it does help for productivity per se, but also the CEO allows the employees to say, ‘You know? You can block your time. And we need to be respectful. We’re going to record meetings when you cannot attend,’” Ribeiro said. “But it had to come from the CEO, otherwise everybody was going to be burned out.”


Interested in attending one of Profile‘s 2021 events? Check out our Events page to see our upcoming events.