As a HR leader whose influence creates social change, what do you feel has been your most impactful action to date?
Empowering individuals to be the architects of their own wellbeing. I look to share knowledge and insights that builds a culture where people feel empowered to link what’s important to them personally with their career. New knowledge is limited in value if we fail to use it to change behaviour and habits. I look to create a culture in which colleagues think about their intrinsic reasons why, and use those reasons as drivers for change. To put what’s most important to them at the centre, not to the side. If people have a strong understanding of their purpose, they are more engaged overall. For example, my current ‘why’ is to be present and to be engaged when playing with my 5 year old son. I still work hard, but this anchor helps me to balance my home and work priorities to achieve this. This is the empowerment we want to provide our people. We encourage discussion through anonymous Q&A sessions, which allows people to open up. I receive lots of feedback that people appreciate this opportunity to ask their most pressing wellbeing related questions, and that this has helped them with their engagement and performance at work.
At the moment, in your industry, what do you think is the most exciting opportunity for HR to change the world?
BCG's purpose is to unlock the potential of those who advance the world. The opportunity for HR is how we unlock potential in our people to do this; how we help our people understand ways they can have a sustained high performance to pursue this purpose. We hire highly driven people – how do we help them maintain this high level without burning out? At the moment we’re piloting the use of physiological data with our leadership, such as heart rate and sleep patterns, to help them understand what behaviours have the biggest impact on their recovery. Knowledge work is an endurance activity, so it’s important to plan your effort to optimise your wellbeing and performance. As an individual, imagine for example you think: 'I have a big presentation coming in three days, I need to change certain behaviours to recover and be ready before this potentially stressful event'. This was a challenge before the pandemic, and now it’s even greater, as we bounce from call to call. Without a commute to book-end a day, we work longer hours, and we are always thinking about work. If you work all night, you must find ways to recover. It’s not just about free fruit and gym membership now; it’s an empowerment piece – having the knowledge of what’s important, what we want, and knowing behaviours to change to get it.
Which particular areas of social and environmental injustice are you most passionate about, and see that your role gives you the chance to create change?
SDG3 is Good Health & Wellbeing and I feel passionately that we can drive change. The problems we are dealing with, due to the pandemic, are not new. The difference is they are now shared and systemic. There is an irony, that it took a communicable disease to highlight non-communicable, lifestyle related conditions – such as chronic stress, systemic inflammation and sleep disruption. The pandemic has helped people to be open to think differently and my role supports my colleagues thinking about what their health & wellbeing goals are and what behaviour change they need to make. Think of this analogy: each morning, most people check their phone is fully charged… what about whether your body is fully charged? I don’t expect my phone to run without battery; if I didn’t charge it, it would run out half-way through the day. It’s the same with our bodies – we won’t be productive – but we don’t treat our bodies as we do our phones? Ultimately, resilience is our capacity to recharge quickly following stressful periods.
How have you best used your position to create a more equitable and inclusive environment in ways that deliver your business goals?
My recent work has focussed on mental and emotional wellbeing; providing education to help people understand the physiology of stress. Everyone experiences stress caused by different things, but our bodies have the same biological response. My work helps people to understand and manage these responses, supporting their performance and engagement. Managing our wellbeing, and so too our performance, helps people from all backgrounds and in diverse situations to achieve their goals in life and at work. Like physical health, everyone has mental health and it’s important that we are inclusive in our support.
What is the one specific action you would like to see all HR Leaders take to make a positive change for the world?
Help and empower people to understand their own intrinsic motivations. This isn’t easy, but it’s powerful. I recently heard Deepak Chopra, M.D., one of the best-known figures in alternative medicine, share a simple, yet powerful daily practise that can help people focus in on what’s most important to them. Don’t worry about the answers, just ask yourself 4 questions on a daily basis: 1) Who am I? 2) What do I want that will make me feel content? 3) What is my purpose and 4) What am I grateful for? If you only have time for one question, ask yourself every day, what am I grateful for? The simple practice of gratitude has been shown to have actual physiological benefits to reducing stress levels.