LinkedIn’s CHRO Pat Wadors shares how she invests in the workforce to drive HR and business returns.
By Debbie Bolla
LinkedIn has become known for being a great place to work. It sits among the ranks of organizations on Glassdoor and Fortune’s coveted lists of the world’s top employers. But it didn’t happen overnight—it happened with intent. That’s how LinkedIn’s CHRO and senior vice president of global talent organization, Pat Wadors, explains it. Also an HRO Today CHRO of the Year for 2016, the executive says the values-based organization provides a work environment in which employees strive to make one another great. And it’s working: LinkedIn’s employee engagement is in the top 5 percentile globally.
HRO Today had the opportunity to speak with Wadors about today’s pressing issues: engaging talent, creating company culture, retaining millennials, and bringing innovation to HR. Here, she shares some of the secrets to her success.
HRO Today: LinkedIn has the reputation as being a great place to work. How was this built and how does the organization benefit?
Pat Wadors: You earn that reputation through intent. It takes time: you need to get feedback from the candidate pools you are navigating as well as your own employees. Are you being authentic? Are you delivering on your brand promise? And then you tweak along the way. It’s built with intent—you strive for it, you hope you achieve it. To get our type of brand is a net positive. Who wouldn’t want to be considered that way? It’s great for talent attraction and retention as long as you deliver on the promise. We strive to be authentic, so when we promise quality on the outside, it’s delivered by quality process and conversation inside.
Companies that are named great places to work are consistently values-based organizations. That is one strength that I found when I started interviewing at LinkedIn four years ago and remains true today: Decisions are made through values.
To create large-scale change takes two to three years. So when you set out to become a great place to work with intentionality, you have to design where you want to be in three to five years, and reverse engineer from there.
As a leadership team, we created a value proposition that we wanted to achieve. Our values include:• Demand excellence
• Act as an owner
• Members first
• Relationships matter
• Be open, honest, and constructive
How does that manifest inside and outside of LinkedIn? If we say one of our values is ”open, honest, and constructive,” how do members and the world at large see LinkedIn? And how do our employees see that through their experience? Through dialogue, we realized we could improve transparency, performance management, ratings, and conversations around compensation for our employees. It created a platform for us to create programs to ensure we achieved our “open, honest, and constructive” value and our “demanding excellence “value. Then we measured it to see if it was achieved, and if it wasn’t it, then we would tweak it.
For example, a few years ago, I asked my peers—there were about 10 at the time—about how they were evaluating performance. I asked about a rating scale, and each manager confirmed they had a scale in place, but only one team member was communicating actual ratings to employees. We weren’t being open, honest and constructive. Because we live our values at LinkedIn, we made the change to be transparent about ratings. Employees have the right to know their ratings— especially if it impacts their ability to be promoted or developed. The team members lived up to it in months, and employees loved it. We’ve improved our marks in terms of employees understanding their performance by 10 points. So if there is a conflict in our values, we fix it.
LinkedIn is one of the most authentic organizations, and our values are integrated in our DNA language. From the recruiting coordinator that escorted me around the campus four years ago, to the receptionist, to the assistants to the managers to the executives, the words were used and believed. Company values are reinforced through all-hands meetings. They happen every other week, they are recorded, and they are structured against our values. For example, under relationships matters, we will highlight three new hires and their unique talents. We will discuss new products and how they are putting members first. We reinforce our belief system through our products, through our programs, through our cadence. It’s how we do communication. But what I love it that it’s not cheesy. It’s unique;
it’s consistent; it’s how we live.
HROT: How does company culture and environment impact the bottom line?
Wadors: Our culture tenants include transformation, integrity, collaboration, humor, and results. Those culture tenants weave themselves in as deeply as the values do.
As an HR professional, we do what we do because it matters, and it matters because of the profit and loss. On average, 80 percent of a company’s operational expense is related to talent. If you have a more productive and engaged workforce, you are going to have better output, better profitability, less turnover, more intent to stay, and a healthier culture.
My mission at LinkedIn is to create a high-performing, healthy culture that scales. When we live our values and deliver on our promise, competition doesn’t get in our way.
HROT: What strategies do you leverage in order to prevent attrition especially considering your millennial workforce?
Wadors: Our benefits package. We were rolling out more maternity and paternity benefits to improve that experience, and what we recognized is that not every employee is at the family stage. So while we thought we were providing this big compelling benefit program, we were missing lifestyles and personal choices. So we created a program called PerkUp! Through this program, each employee is given $2,000 a year to spend on a menu of benefits: dog walking, personal trainer, massage therapy, childcare. We created quality of life opportunities for employees. Everyone loves choice— choice empowers employees.
HROT: Do you have any innovative initiatives like the HR Hackathon planned for 2017?
Wadors: The HR Hackathons are another way to bring in unique perspectives about engagement that create a sense of belonging in the workforce, improve human performance, and evolve working in a digital workplace. They provide insight to questions that I haven’t even thought to ask yet.
For the Hackathon, we pulled the team of 30 interns together and told them to build a program for peers. They invited between 1,200 and 1,400 interns in the Bay Area as the beta test, and almost 900 of those interns wanted to attend. It blew us away! We ended up accommodating around 180 for an overnight hack fest. We talked about engagement—what drives engagement in the workplace? The creative ideas, the merging of social media, apps, creative thinking, and new processes were just stunning. The judges were just in awe of what they thought of. It changed the talent brand for HR and LinkedIn.
Another program that we beta tested and we are going to roll out more broadly this year is Accelerate U. We are looking to increase diversity hiring around the globe. Accelerate U is a regional-based recruiting approach versus hitting just the top-tier universities that every other company goes after. Before, we used to go after 25 schools; this year, we went after five for a regional focus. We hosted an event in Atlanta this past fall, and we were able to bring in community college students and those attending historically black universities. They came to learn about LinkedIn and possible career paths, and we were able to convert some of those students into hires. We are changing how we recruit by broadening our net and perspective, and changing the conversation. We are also making our job descriptions and profiles more broad—we don’t want unintended consequences from bias. We are being really open in how we go out to the marketplace.
Wadors: We maintained our transparency. We have a high culture of trust. We went from letter of intent to definitive agreement in four weeks. The story never broke. The integrity of the leadership team was a thing of beauty from my perspective as a talent leader. When we announcement the agreement to the company, the communication teams were available around the clock. They had set up websites and sections for FAQs. There were interviews with Satya [Nadella, CEO of Microsoft] and Jeff [Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn] and both CEOs were physically around, talking to talent. By the time we got done—we announced Monday morning early—it felt like business as usual by Wednesday. And you know you’ve nailed it when employees are ready to go back to doing their day jobs. Employees understood the reasons why we went into the agreement with Microsoft and they are excited about the future and being better together. It made sense and we continue to reinforce that to employees.
SIDEBAR: Thinking Outside of the Box
Pat Wadors brings innovation to human capital management at LinkedIn. Recently, she implemented two differnt programs: one that addressed employee satisfaction with benefits and another that tackled recruiting.
PerkUp! Allocates $2,000 per employee each year to use on benefits of their choice. It’s one of the programs that consistently receives the most positive feedback from employees. What’s the benefit of choice for LinkedIn’s workforce? Fitness-related expenses are by far the most popular with gym memberships coming in at number one, followed by fitness classes (yoga, pilates, and crossfit).
Accelerate U shifted LinkedIn’s recruiting approach to a regional one, attending only five traditional on-campus events in 2016, down from 30. At a fall 2016 Accelerate U event in Atlanta:
• More than 130 attendees participated on the day of the event.
• 15 schools were represented among the attendees.
• 30 attendees have or are currently going through the interview process at LinkedIn.