Season 2, Episode 1

Attract, retain, protect: Supporting people in the new world of work

May 27, 2022

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Episode details

In the first episode of season two of the HR Trends podcast, Clare Morin speaks to Brian Kropp, Chief of Research and Distinguished Vice President at Gartner, and Polly Nicholas, Senior Vice President and Head of Solutions at Unum Group, about the fundamental shifts happening in HR and how business leaders who respond to the holistic needs of their employees will win the talent and retention game.

  • As the lines between work and home have become blurred, it's caused a reconsideration of the place of work in an employee's life. Says Kropp: "When we take this step back and treat those people who happen to be working for us like human beings, and where work is part of their life, not a separate thing from their life that has to be balanced in a work-life balance type of way. How do you support that person's work in a way that improves their life?" [7:55]
  • This requires a different approach and a new type of leader. "Employers have an opportunity, maybe even an imperative, to understand those needs of the people they have that are part of their organizations," says Nicholas. "I believe that we are redefining that employee experience in this moment and that the employers that invest in — all the way up to the CFO — that experience are going to be difference makers. They're going to be the companies that succeed in the future." [9:35]
  • This shift can also be seen in what employers and employees want in terms of benefits. Recent SHRM data shows that the second most important benefit for employers was time off and flexible work and leave, with retirement now down in sixth place. "That is quite a material shift in how we think about the needs of employees and how much they're changing," says Nicholas. [11:40]
  • Employee leave programs are becoming focused around personas. "Even the leave and time off conversation used to be this big block of people who just needed to take time off. And tomorrow, it's about a persona," says Nicholas. "And it's how we begin to shift thinking about leave policies and compliance, to what does a person need who's planning a leave? What does a person need when they have a very unplanned event and there's an emergent moment happening? How are those needs different? And how are we surrounding them, and back to Corie Barry's sort of scaffolding, how are we surrounding them because there's this opportunity to offer solutions that do just that." [28:20]
  • Supporting employees in this broader, more holistic way also pays off financially. "When organizations are more effective at meeting the mental health needs, the family needs, the community needs of their employees," says Kropp, "Those employees perform at a higher level, are less likely to quit, they are more engaged with their work, they sleep better at night, and the list goes on and on. By improving the lives of our employees, we help the performance of our organizations." [13:15]
  • External shocks — the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and the war in Ukraine — have turned ideas about good management on their head. "The focus up to now has been on efficiency, on reducing costs as much as possible," explains Kropp. "When we have a management strategy that is maximizing efficiency, we also have a strategy that is unwittingly maximizing fragility. It's like inflating a balloon with as much air as possible right up until the point where it breaks. Which is fine if there's nothing in the environment that can cause a balloon to break. What we've realized is there's lots of things in the environment that can cause the balloon to break." [31:00]
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Brian Kropp headshot

Brian Kropp

Chief of Research and Distinguished Vice President, Gartner

Brian Kropp oversees the lines of business that support Chief Human Resources Officers and their leadership teams. He works with this cadre of leaders to develop strategic plans that will attract and retain top talent. Dr. Kropp has authored more than 40 research studies at Gartner, led more than 200 strategy sessions with executive teams at Fortune 100 companies and more than 300 Executive Education sessions across the globe. He is a frequent contributor to CNN, The Economist, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and other top media publications. In 2021, Brian has been named to Human Resource Executive's Top 100 HR Tech Influencers and Engagedly's Top 100 HR Influencers lists.

Polly Nicholas headshot

Polly Nicholas

Senior Vice President and Head of Solutions — Unum Group

Polly Nicholas is the Senior Vice President and Head of Solutions at Unum Group. With more than 20 years of experience driving growth and operational improvement and a passion for connecting people, purpose and results, Polly leads Unum's rapidly expanding solutions businesses, attracting new clients and expanding the support provided through a suite of technology-first solutions including Unum Total Leave, Unum Behavioral Health and Unum HR Connect. Prior to Unum, Polly held leadership roles at global firms Alight Solutions and Aon Hewitt.

About the host

Clare Morin headshot

Clare Morin

Content Marketing Manager, Unum

Clare Morin is the Content Marketing Manager at Unum and a journalist who's spent the last 20 years interviewing hundreds of thought leaders on topics ranging from wellness to culture, finance, human resources and technology. Born in the UK, raised in Hong Kong and based in the U.S. since 2009, she brings a global outlook to the HR Trends studio.

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