Workplaces have forever changed and the role of HR is now more important than ever as a result of the pandemic. Tina Beaty is the Vice President of Marketing, SHRM, an association that creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. She shares her PR and marketing strategies to change the national dialogue on DEI and workplace culture.
Cause the effect you want to see at work. Download SHRM’s workplace conversation starter cards here.
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About the Host:
HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: TINA BEATY
DOUG: The pandemic has put so much attention on HR and best practices. Tina, do you feel that trend is going to change even after the pandemic hopefully resolves itself?
TINA: Absolutely, there are so many changes that we were pushed towards during the pandemic, but many of them were changes that were coming anyway. The pandemic just accelerated it a bit. But many of the workplace changes are here to stay and we will continue to see evolution in the workplace. HR has actually been working on a multitude of improvements and innovations in the workplace for the last couple of years. The pandemic simply shined a light through major media cycles on some of that work and again accelerated a little bit of it. But this was for a large majority of most HR departments across the globe, something that they were already focused on because we know that the workplace is changing, the workforce is changing. The demographics of those within the workplace are changing. The needs of businesses are changing. And so, HR is always looking at that constant evolution.
DOUG: Yeah, and HR has become so much more top of mind for businesses in all areas, not just PR and communications. Maybe you can tell a little bit about the role of SHRM, your organization, and then we’ll get into how you go about communicating those issues.
TINA: Yeah, absolutely. So, we’re the voice of all things work. We really look at that space that is the intersection between employers and employees, because we need both of those groups to really work together to make sure that both businesses and people can thrive, because that’s when we’re going to see the most positive impact for society. You’re exactly right that HR was thrust into the news cycle during the pandemic, but we’ve been seeing senior leaders of workplaces, and we’re talking non-profits, we’re talking huge corporations, we’re talking mom and pop businesses starting to really feel the need to focus on their people strategy on their human capital before the pandemic started. It just really became the primary focus during the pandemic. I think one of the great changes that’s here to stay is that there is the realization of how critical that human capital is, the strategies, the policies, and that it needs to work for everyone. Doesn’t mean that it’s one solution for all workplaces, but it does mean that everyone at the end of the day needs to go home and feel like they belong at the place where they work.
DOUG: Right, and it’s keeping employees happy, there’s also recruitment. And one of the challenges for leaders is how they go about recruiting people who are different from themselves. Do you have any tips in that area?
TINA: Yeah, DE&I strategies are critical. We’re seeing a lot of focus on diversity and inclusion, which is fantastic. The racial reckoning that America has gone through and continues to focus on is what we need. On the other hand, it is not just about the boxes around diversity, it’s not about saying, well, I have a few people who maybe look this way or think this way. That’s only part of the puzzle. What is most critical, especially in the communications industry, it is the diversity of thought, the diversity of race and gender and all of the different mixes from society being represented within your workplace. But then once you hire them and can bring them through your pipeline, it is then making them feel not only like they’re included, but that it is truly safe for them to show up at work for who they really are. And that’s why we’re really starting at SHRM to focus on this idea of belonging and acceptance. It’s kind of phase two of the DE&I push that we think workplaces will start to see over the next couple of months.
DOUG: Given that you’re a black belt in taekwondo, I probably wouldn’t want to compete with you in that sport, but you were talking about a card game or using cards as a way to actually get into the difficult conversations that in many cases need to take place at organizations. You mentioned you even give out cards at your upcoming conferences that you have. Could you maybe explain a little bit about what the cards are and how they work?
TINA: Yeah, absolutely. So those are the workplace conversation starter cards and what we have found, especially recently, when you’re trying to tackle race relations in the workplace, or you’re looking at toxicity of managers, or DE&I in general, those are some pretty heavy topics. And as the communicators know, words matter. And we’ve realized through SHRM’s research that the workplace, managers and HR were feeling uncomfortable about how to start critical conversations, especially when it comes to culture, society’s biggest issues showing up at work, race relations. They just didn’t know where to start, what words were ok to craft that question. And so, what we did was took all of SHRM’s research and pulled out some of the best stats that can really inform and power an entire conversation. And we put them into, yeah, a deck of playing cards where honestly, a workplace can get them, and they can kind of have fun with it. It shows that we can have safe and productive conversations on these really critical topics. You pull out of the deck one card; it offers you a stat, so you’re grounded in research. It’s not too lost in theory; it is very specific. And then it gives one or two question prompts.
DOUG: How and where can these cards be used?
TINA: The great thing is the workplace conversation starter cards from SHRM, and they can be downloaded on our website. They can be used in big staff meetings, in convenings, they can be used just a manager with their direct reports, or it could be colleague to colleague. Go get a cup of coffee and have one card used. We’re not saying you have to ask all of the questions in one sitting, right? t’s just about one critical conversation over one cup of coffee to move the national dialogue forward on some of these critical topics.
DOUG: Yeah, I thought one of the interesting things you pointed out is people who have the flexibility, work at jobs where there is flexibility assume that that’s more widespread than it is. So even at your organization, you’ve had people go back to work at a high level just to be able to understand and provide guidance to the people who don’t have the luxury of becoming part of a hybrid workforce. But there’re serious issues involving vaccines. Any guidance on how to work through those at an organization?
TINA: Yeah. At SHRM we have been thankful to come back in a very safe capacity and we are back in the office full time. Because as the voice of all things work, we’re looking across industries. White collar, blue collar, pink collar, grey collar, the whole spread around the globe. Some offices are still able to be remote if that works for their culture and their type of work. But many other industries – hospitality, healthcare, never had the option to go remote. They are an in-person, full time type of employment. So, a lot of HR leaders are really looking at what do we do right now, what do we do in a few months, and what do we do six months or a year from now. And they’re mapping all of that out. You mentioned the vaccines. That obviously is a critical piece of the puzzle to come back safe and have it match the ethos and culture of what every individual company has. That’s what HR is looking through that lens. What works for us, let’s be aware of the mandates, the laws and the rules, but then it has to work for us as an individual organization. We at SHRM spend actually a lot of time synthesizing all of the information around vaccines because some of the federal, state, and local are actually offering contradicting information right now. So, we are issuing articles once a day trying to break that down, so that workplace leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and HR can really figure out what works for their staff.
DOUG: And as we start to wrap up, it’s really great conversation with great information. Maybe a little bit of a look at how you, since this is your day job, market your organization to get these messages, increase membership, increase engagement. What are some of the approaches you’re taking that are working?
TINA: As a marketer for SHRM and a communicator, we are looking at delivering our message in omni-channel capacity. We are a mission driven organization. So first and foremost, is making sure that our end audiences and our stakeholders really understand the mission that we are here to create. And that is to create better workplaces for a better world. I know it sounds like we’re going to boil the ocean, but we truly believe that if we all work together, HR and people managers, we can create that better world. And so, we get to use a whole multitude of tools in our toolbox to reach that end audience. We do paid, earned, owned, social, the whole media mix. Which really is quite fantastic and I’m very thankful to have an amazing team on the marketing team here at SHRM.
DOUG: Well, hopefully we won’t be boiling the ocean, or at least we’ll save that for our climate change series. But given the tactics and approaches that you use, do you have any advice for, this will probably be forwarded to a lot of HR managers at communications firms because it’s important, how can they go about communicating what they’re doing both internally and externally?
TINA: What I think would be most critical is making sure that the communicators out there are thinking about how they communicate up and down when it comes to workplace culture. And so, by that I mean, talk to your HR person today in a way that you’ve never have before. Ask them what you can do as a people manager and then go to your team and get some feedback from them. How are they feeling from a culture and belonging standpoint? Are you having the right conversations with them? And it’s ok if you’re not, there’s always room for improvement. But at SHRM, we firmly believe that it is going to take all sides of the coin to make sure that workplaces are positive and productive. So as a people manager, you have as much impact as anyone on the world of work.
DOUG: Tina, it’s really been fantastic to speak with you, and we’re going to have a link below the post so people can go there, download those cards to really use them as effective conversation starters in their organizations. Great advice, definitely something that I hope a lot of people in communications and outside of get to see and share.
TINA: Yeah, absolutely. I’m sure the PR viewers here are the strongest communicators out there, so it’d be fantastic for them to take these conversation starters and start their own conversation within their communication circles.