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Leadership in Human Resources with Lisa Van Ess

Leadership in Human Resources with Lisa Van Ess

Podcast published: May 15, 2020

Human resources departments have the difficult job of helping employees navigate through a lot of change right now: working from home, changing processes, potential furloughs, and more. Luckily, Lisa Van Ess, Vice President of People & Culture at Magic Hat Consulting is here to help.



How should HR departments and leaders be responding to COVID-19? 

  • HR should look at employees like clients, and they should look to be accessible to their clients. 
  • Now is a time to be “human, vulnerable, and authentic.”
  • “It’s a time to challenge the norms.”
  • HR also needs to stay informed to changes within the county and state.
    • What is shut down? What is an essential worker and an essential business?
    • Laws / policies are changing hourly.
  • Be decisive and strike a balance being an employee advocate with what’s best for the employer.
    • Know what you don’t know. 
  • Work from home environment
    • People get work done when you’re not looking at them. 
    • Easily understood, effective
    • Services haven’t changed – it’s the environment that has changed.
    • Manage performance based on the quality of work – not where it’s done.
    • Agile practices – Check-in / SCRUM
      • Check in at the end of day as well. Helps connection and focus. 

What key tasks need to be addressed in light of all the change that has been happening and is likely to continue happening?

  • BIG change: use of Zoom
    • Have has security issues
    • Orchestrating policy for video policy 
    • Human side: give some time to get ready 
  • “Can we have a video conference or meeting?”
  • Keeping Schedules / Meetings
    • Know your people and what they need. 
  • Suggestion: start with a text. Low commitment, you can add humor and gifs.
    • Ask permission before a call or video.
  • Text on phone = informal. Chat clients = more formal / work
  • “Ask how people are, really.” Have a pulse on how your people are doing.
    • Checking in with your people is super important. 
    • It can get lonely at the top. C-Suite generally get forgotten.

How are or how should HR change the way that they support their folks in a coronavirus world?

  • Now is a good time for a lot of benefit brokers to share information. Push it out to your employees.
    • E.g.: Is insurance covering telemedicine?
  • Do some development and training / coaching.
    • Help your employees grow while at home.
    • eLearning via Zoom, for example.
    • Day-to-day admin has changed.

How are or how should HR change the way that they communicate with their folks in a coronavirus world?

  • What if you have to furlough, reduce staff, etc.
    • Be honest and transparent.
    • These are hard things because these layoffs are due to outside forces, not some performance issue.
    • Be available.
  • “You wanna be in HR? Be a business person first.” – Lenny LaRosa
  • “The only surprise to give an employee is a bigger bonus.” 

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