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Microsoft’s Chief People Officer shares 5 tips from top wellbeing and people experts

“From wellbeing luminary Arianna Huffington to Think Like a Monk author Jay Shetty, Kathleen Hogan’s People Talk interview series features conversations with some of the most fascinating minds on the topics of people and wellbeing. I get so much out of these chats, and so I invited Kathleen—Microsoft’s Chief People Officer & EVP of Human Resources—to share with us some of the top tips she’s gleaned from her guests so far. From embracing learning to keeping it personal, there are so many great takeaways in her post below—read on!” – Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365

When I stepped into my role several years ago, I embraced listening and learning to understand the needs of our people and opportunities for their success. Years later and in the midst of the pandemic, those two skills are still at the top of my list as we all try to get a handle on new ways of working, the importance of self-care, and the value of every employee’s experience. Thankfully, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some of the most valuable sources of education and insight in the world and I didn’t want to keep their ideas to myself! That’s why I launched People Talk, a video series where I chat with inspiring individuals about topics facing our industry.

As COVID-19 continues to upend our lives, it’s never been more vital to understand how we can empower employees to prioritize wellbeing—both at work and at home. Over the past year, I’ve collected top tips from People Talk guests that can help employees focus on well-being and care. I’ve embraced them myself, and I hope you’ll find them valuable as well

1. Move your mindset “from struggle to grace”

When I spoke to Arianna Huffington about what Chief HR Officers (CHROs) can learn from the pandemic, she said something that struck me. Arianna admitted that in her own life, she’s often thought of challenging moments as a struggle, but she’s working to see these challenges as opportunities instead. That’s helpful advice for anyone, but Arianna gave a great example for CHROs and other people leaders in the pandemic.  

She said that while it’s natural to focus on the extraordinary obstacles that COVID-19 has created, it’s also opened doors for leaders in our field to make serious impact across our organizations. Because for the first time, everyone is seeing the importance of the people-first approach “that [CHROs] have been advocating for years, sometimes decades.” And they’re realizing that putting people first “is actually essential for business.”

Watch the full episode.

2. Spot. Stop. Swap.

For anyone who needs help moving their mindset from struggle to grace, Think Like a Monk author Jay Shetty can help. Jay is a great source of powerful, actionable advice to create positive new patterns of thinking. But as he points out in a recent episode, having negative thoughts isn’t inherently bad. The trick is to not allow those negative thoughts to control us. To do that, he offers the “Spot, stop, swap” framework to help develop a more positive mindset.

It works like this:

  • Spot: Develop the awareness to notice and recognize a negative thought as it appears.
  • Stop: Pause to identify the cues that trigger these thoughts. Is there a pattern of time, place, or person that triggers the thought?
  • Swap: Once you learn to “spot” the thought and “spot” what causes it, you can replace it with a habit or action that makes you feel more inclined towards a positive mindset.

As Jay says, if you practice this framework, you’ll find that you can sustain it over time to build happiness.

Watch the full episode.

3. Redefine equity

When I interviewed Harvard Business School professor and “culture fixer” Frances X. Frei, we talked about how—in the new hybrid model of work—we can avoid turning offsite workers into “second-class citizens.”

She answered with a question: How are we defining equity? Is equality about equal treatment, or is it about “equal access to thriving?” Frei pushes us to embrace the latter.

Let’s say you meet with onsite employees, whom you see all the time, once a week. Consider meeting with a remote employee—who doesn’t benefit from serendipitous in-person interactions—twice a week. It’s a simple, practical suggestion, but it shows how we can be thoughtful about helping all employees thrive by considering their access and correcting for inequities.

Watch the full episode.

4. Keep it personal

A conversation I have frequently with my HR peers and cross-functional colleagues at Microsoft is: How are we using technology to put people first?

I loved what Chin Yin Ong, Head of People at Grab, had to say about how technology enables us to personalize experiences. With many opting for hybrid or remote work, we must rely on digital solutions to personalize employee experience, benefits, and every employee’s journey in an organization. As we’ve tried to innovate and keep things personal in the digital world, we’ve realized it’s also making employee experiences more inclusive. Features in Teams like raising your digital hand, chat, and fun custom backgrounds help employees connect and feel included.

Watch the full episode.

5. Embrace “infinite learning”

Forget “always be selling.” The mantra for the workplace of the future should be, “always be learning.” Sales will always be critical of course, as will software development, finance, HR, manufacturing, marketing, and all the functions organizations rely on. But across every organization, in every role, we must embrace our Growth Mindset and learn every day, so that we can keep up with the pace of change.

In the first episode of People Talk, I asked several of the world’s top HR leaders about the critical skills of the future. They each offered a unique perspective, but learning came up again and again. As Olivier Blum, CHRO at Schneider Electric put it, “Capacity to reinvent yourself, capacity to learn, and therefore capacity to be curious, is probably one of the most important skills you need to develop.”

Meanwhile, PwC’s Chief People Officer Micheal Fenlon shared his company’s term for the new focus on upskilling: “Infinite learning” (I may need to borrow that one).

Watch the full episode.

Want more People Talk insights? Follow Kathleen on LinkedIn for updates and links to past episodes.  

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