Diligent chief people officer: Respond 'timely and intentional' to employees

Former HR head at Bloomberg and Exelon discusses engagement, mental health, career pathing

Diligent chief people officer: Respond 'timely and intentional' to employees

Employee engagement leads to retention.

That’s become something of a mantra for HR leaders during the Great Resignation, in which companies across the United States have experienced historic turnover. The national turnover rate maintained a consistent pace throughout the summer, with roughly 4.2 million Americans quitting their jobs in June, July and August, respectively, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means more than 81 million Americans have fled their employer since the beginning of 2021.

Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic to re-evaluate their priorities in life, employees have been heading for greener pastures, demanding higher salaries, better working conditions, improved work-life balance and more opportunities to advance their career. As a result, the scales have tipped in favor of labor, with employers having to bend over backwards to attract and retain talent. To combat the nationwide staffing shortage and compete for talent, companies have had to increase their compensation and benefits packages beyond the traditional health care, dental, vision and 401(k) offers.

Read more: Diligent chief people officer on engaging remote employees

In order to meet employees’ needs, HR leaders are tasked with finding out what their workforce desires. For example, take Diligent, a New York City-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) firm. The company sends out regular pulse surveys to employees through a performance management platform that helps managers and employees conduct one-on-one conversations.

“It’s an opportunity for employees to check in and let us know how they’re doing,” Avigail Dadone, chief people officer at Diligent, told HRD.

In the fall, Diligent will conduct its annual Organizational Health survey, which goes beyond employee satisfaction and morale. The purpose of that survey is to measure how employees perceive the business is ran and whether they feel engaged and supported. Dadone takes great pride in how the company has made improvements based off employee feedback.

“Regardless of how they survey employees, the biggest thing companies can do is be very timely and intentional around responding,” Dadone says.

Considering everything we’ve been through over the past two years, it’s only natural for employees to cite high stress, anxiety and burnout. Nearly one-third of employees feel work harms their mental health, according to recent data from Santa Monica, CA-based Headspace Health. Furthermore, 50% of employees claimed to leave their jobs for their mental health in 2021, according to non-profit organization Mind Share Partners.

After COVID-19, the top global stressors for employees remain burnout, poor work/life balance and ineffective management and leadership. More than 80% of employees believe it’s their employer’s responsibility to help with mental health, Headspace Health data shows. However, only 25% say that employers have maintained their focus on mental health in the last year. That’s quite the drop from the 71% who said their company increased focus on mental health following COVID-19.

Read more: Are you doing enough to support your employees’ mental health?

Diligent is one of those firms who has maintained mental health support of its employees. For example, Dadone says, the company has implemented a “Recharge Week” twice a year – in early January and around the Fourth of July. All non-essential business operations are on pause, so nobody feels pressure to check their emails. Additionally, the company has assigned monthly meeting-free days to give employees a chance to catch up on their work.

“The sustainability and wellness of our team remains a priority, and our benefits team is working to stay competitive,” Dadone says.

Heading into 2023, Dadone says her top goal is to continue expanding career pathing at Diligent, making it highly transparent for employees, as well as candidates. Over the past few years, the firm has given workers a taste of new possibilities through its ambassador program, which allows a select number of employees to work from different offices around the globe for three months out of the year.

“We’re working closely with managers and leaders to continue to build role clarity at the individual level, and we’re working closely with business units around how that role clarity transitions to career pathing,” Dadone says. “We’re making that accessible to all employees so hiring managers and other leaders can access that in their conversations with candidates in a polished way.”

With nearly 20 years of experience in the HR industry, Dadone has worked at Exelon, one of the largest utility companies in the U.S. and media giant Bloomberg before joining Diligent in the fall of 2015.

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