As we’re now several months into navigating a global pandemic, it has never been more important to create and follow people-first policies, lean in and demonstrate authentic leadership. And as Director of Employee Experience at Cornerstone, those are needs I take quite seriously.
At Cornerstone, there are a few pillars we’ve leaned on that have helped us get through this period of stress and uncertainty. These include being authentic in the workplace, leading by example, and treating each other with care, empathy and patience. We have also doubled down on our emphasis on wellness and continue to reinforce how much we value our team staying healthy and being well. Thankfully, existing practices have helped us in this regard. Even before COVID-19, 40% of Cornerstone’s workforce was remote, for example, and we’ve always promoted flexibility through policies like unlimited paid time off. But it’s still been a moment of learning for us all.
Below, I’m sharing a few of the measures we’ve taken to ensure that our people are truly supported and cared for, at work and in their personal lives.
As an organization, Cornerstone implemented a work-from-home practice in LA, where our headquarters is based, and around the world at all of our global offices about one week before social distancing guidelines were in place in the United States. While roughly 40% of our workforce had experience working fulltime from a remote setting, it was a new experience for many of us, including myself.
I found myself basically glued to my screen, unable to find the separation between work and home or know when to stop working. One of the first things our team recognized during this period was the risk for burnout, as well as the need to give ourselves permission to take a break and step away. Gosh, was that freeing! We immediately discussed our shared experiences and generated a remote working tip sheet full of best practices for leaders to share with their teams.
We offered employees a stipend to enhance their remote workspace with computer monitors, desks, chairs or whatever else they needed. This is partially because we wanted people to feel comfortable during this challenging time, but also because as remote working becomes the more in-demand option, we want our people to be equipped to work from home successfully even after returning to the office becomes an option. It feels so important, now more than ever, to be prepared for whatever life may throw at us next.
Global Wellness Day is dedicated to recharging and gives our employees a chance to take a break, reschedule meetings, get outside and focus on whatever it means to them to refresh. For our ongoing commitment to employee well-being, we also introduced a new wellness platform, BurnAlong. It provides access to a wide range of classes than can be taken together with family and friends.
We recognize that this moment in time is not only affecting how we work, but our mental wellbeing, too. As part of our directive for implementing shorter meetings, we intended to give our team back those hours and encourage them to use that time to go for walks, play with their children or pets, meditate or simply catch their breath. We all need space to breathe.
We know that the current environment can be particularly stressful for working parents. As a new mom myself, it’s wonderful to see colleagues welcoming children into our meetings and understanding when parents get distracted. This is where leading by example has really shone. We can’t authentically tell our employees to take a break or to focus on our families if we aren’t doing those things ourselves. But I’m happy to say that our leaders have really pushed this need for work-life balance. In fact, during an all-hands meeting with nearly 2,000 people, our CEO’s kid demanded his attention. While it wasn’t what he had planned for, he set an example and demonstrated a real, authentic human moment by excusing himself, calmly stepping out of the room and rejoining us a few minutes later. In that moment, I felt inspired and more deeply connected to the company than ever before.
Now that every day is Bring Your Kid to Work Day, we have chosen to embrace it. We do this by offering a daily Bring Your Kids to Work Activity that specifically invites kids into their parent’s workspace with assignments that are created for and geared towards them so as not to alienate them from this new working construct. Projects range from coding games to art activities to story time and everything in between.
Approximately 40% of Cornerstone’s workforce was already remote prior to COVID-19. Because of that, we already had employee resource groups in place to help these employees feel connected to their colleagues and build camaraderie. Naturally, as a result of moving our entire workforce remote, this group has blossomed to give our employees even more support as they adjust to a new normal. While initially the focus was on best practices for working successfully from home, we’ve seen a shift to more personal sharing and game playing. Groups have formed for dog lovers, book worms and environmental enthusiasts.
In the space of supporting working parents in particular, our working parents group has become significantly more active over the past few months. Through their hosted listening sessions, working parents have a sacred virtual space to be vulnerable with their colleagues, recognize that they’re not alone, seek advice and support, and offer much needed recognition for their superhuman efforts. Our company culture is one that already values the whole life of our employees and the working parents group is invaluable for offering support. As the school year ramps up, we’re planning to introduce a global pen pal program so that our children can get to know each other and learn more about the various cultures that make up our diverse team, too.
At our core, Cornerstone is a learning company, and we try to always give our team opportunities to grow professionally and personally. Learning is easily accessible through our LMS, but this moment called for additional curated options. In response to the pandemic, we now offer a daily Development Hour that ranges from playlists to TedTalks to virtual tours and intriguing interviews. The goal is to engage our global team, make them think differently, start a conversation and inspire them to make space in their day for learning. Our employees teach their peers skills they’ve mastered in their personal lives, like how to use an InstantPot, make a TikTok or do yoga at your desk. Of course, there are also more business-related sessions, like one on learning the art of negotiating.
As a global team and in partnership with the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, we’ve also launched a free learning platform called Cornerstone Cares. The resource provides trainings on staying safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, tips for remote working and managing stress, best practices for K-12 teachers transitioning to an online classroom, and new trainings that address the need to bring awareness to and mitigate our unconscious biases. We’re also piloting our Always [email protected] tutoring offering with our clients so we can ensure that their working parents have access to skilled tutors and new confidence in their children’s education while having a little more bandwidth in their day.
I can’t stress enough the importance of the safety and wellbeing of our people – especially now. I believe this experience has been a true test of our ability to connect with others and practice authenticity, transparency and empathy.
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