Dominion Energy director: Don't be afraid to say you're not a fully remote company

HR leader discusses performance management, cultivating leaders, importance of communication

Dominion Energy director: Don't be afraid to say you're not a fully remote company

Despite most workers demanding flexibility in their job, the cold, hard truth is that not everybody can work from home, especially electrical linemen.

With 65% of its workforce going into the field on a daily basis, it’s simply not possible for Dominion Energy to go fully remote. That’s why the Richmond, VA-based company has adopted a hybrid work schedule, in which most employees can work remote two days a week. For those whose responsibilities require otherwise, their managers must find a way to provide flexibility in another fashion.

“You have to decide who you are as a company,” said Le-Ha Anderson, director of talent management and development and HR communications at Dominion Energy, during an HR conference in Atlanta. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘We’re not a 100% remote workforce. If that’s what you want, we’re not the company for you.’ Set expectations. If people like them, they’ll come work for you.”

Read more: What’s the best country for remote work?

Anderson has spent nearly a quarter century at the energy company, which serves about 7 million customers in 13 states and owns a majority interest in a number of solar projects located in California. Despite her lengthy tenure at Dominion, she’s been on the HR side for only a year and a half. Yet, she still had plenty of insight to share during a panel on leveraging the talent uprising earlier this year.

“We need to make sure it’s not just people at the top of the organization talking about why change is important and happening,” Anderson said. “Make sure all along the way that supervisors and team leaders know how to communicate that to their teams. Influencers are also critical. That may be a leader or that may be the administrative assistant who has been there forever or someone who always stops at the water cooler. Find those people in your company and use them to help you communicate the change.”

In her relatively brief time in HR, Anderson has focused on changing the narrative of performance management, which typically has a negative connotation amongst employees. She’s organized panels featuring both people leaders and employees discussing good examples of performance management. For non-mandatory events like virtual conversations or lunch-and-learns, Anderson estimates maybe 500 employees attend. But for the first panel, she says more than 2,500 people tuned in and lit up the screen with emojis.

In addition, she’s introduced a “Back to Basics” campaign, in which performance management is broken down into know me, support me, guide me and value me.

“We want to make sure people understand performance management is useful, so let’s focus on the relationship between the employee and manager and encourage them to constantly have conversations about how things are going,” Anderson said. “It’s about both people in that relationship making the time and effort to get to know one another. We’ve also added a development goal to performance management so there’s constant discussion about what is the employee’s aspiration, how do they get there and how can they work with their manager to achieve that goal.”

Read more: ‘Everyone needs to raise their game in terms of how they train’

A byproduct of performance management, specifically the aspiration element, is to determine and develop future leaders in the company. After all, learning and development is crucial to compete during the Great Resignation, in which companies across the United States are experiencing historic turnover. Roughly 77 million Americans have quit their jobs since the beginning of 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic to re-evaluate their priorities in life, employees have been leaving their positions for greener pastures, demanding higher salaries, better working conditions, improved work-life balance and more opportunities to advance their career.

“Leaders can identify those people with potential and suggest on-the-job learning opportunities,” Anderson said. “Perhaps something like, ‘why don’t you join this ERG and I’ll support you if you want to take a leadership role? We’ll continue to talk to see how you’re progressing and to see if leadership is truly right for you.’ Let’s coach employees the moment they want to become a leader, giving them the resources, tools and support they need.”

“If they’ve witnessed bad leadership in the past, tell them we’re going to crush that mold,” Anderson added.

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