Continuous change and improvement are the norm at BlackRock, and COVID-19 has amplified our culture of innovation tenfold. It has forced us to rethink how we engage with our candidates and with each other. But we haven’t stopped there. Below are insights from six women who are rethinking the future of work at our organization and beyond.
In the future, we will lead with empathy
The shift to remote work has come with a blending of our professional and personal lives. It has forced us to bring a greater spectrum of ourselves to work and to let our colleagues into areas of our lives that we historically may not have. In a recent town hall meeting with the entire company, Rachel Lord, Head of Europe, Middle East and Africa at BlackRock, talked about her challenges parenting two teenage daughters, managing chores around the house, taking care of her dogs and navigating her job. This is just one example of how our leaders have role modeled what it means to be open and vulnerable as this merging of work and life reaches new levels.
Photo credit: Toretha McGuire (Managing Director, Talent Acquisition, New York)
While sharing more about our lives outside of work was driven out of necessity, it is having a profound effect. We have been getting to know our colleagues and our candidates on a more personal level which has helped many of us develop greater compassion for each other. “This situation has actually helped humanize us and relate to each other better,” shared Kelsey Rogut, Associate, Talent Management in BlackRock’s Atlanta office. She added, “while the pandemic has been completely devastating, I think all of us will have been forever changed in some way. Personally, I now feel more connected to the people I work with even though we haven’t been physically located in the same place for months. My hope is that we all continue leading with empathy and kindness.”
By establishing these more intimate connections the prioritization of home life has become less taboo. And ultimately, it has put a spotlight on some important leadership qualities that are not always highlighted in the business world by illustrating that empathy, transparency and compassion are qualities that not only generate trust but also drive performance.
“Up until now, we always thought we were not prepared to work in a fully virtual environment. We thought working remotely would have an impact on connectivity or productivity but look how well we’re doing,” said Neerja Nath, Vice President, Lateral Recruiting in our Gurgaon office. Of course, technology and infrastructure play a role, but a big piece of what’s worked well is the way our leaders have reached out to employees and candidates to keep communication going. She added, “there has been a lot of trust in how our leaders are managing the firm during this unprecedented time.”
As we continue to connect with candidates, we are doing so with empathy. Rachael Galaszewski, Vice President, Talent Acquisition Operations in BlackRock’s Wilmington office, described that, “this new virtual environment has led to more authenticity in our conversations with candidates. The first thing people do when they connect is ask ‘How are you? Are you safe? How’s your family?’ I know my team has appreciated this more human element. It’s uplifting, especially for those who have been self-isolating during this time.” By asking how candidates and colleagues are feeling, we’ve been able to demonstrate aspects of BlackRock’s culture like compassion and curiosity even though in-person touchpoints have come to a pause.
Photo credit: Brooke Coby (Director, Talent Acquisition, New York City)
As a firm, we’ve had a real re-focus on making the experience feel more human and personalized for our candidates. The recruiting function, not just at BlackRock but everywhere, has become more operationally focused. Brooke Coby, Director, Talent Acquisition in BlackRock’s New York City office shared, “the advances in artificial intelligence and other tech solutions are incredibly exciting for those of us doing the hiring but we know that what candidates want, is to hear from the actual people at the companies they’re interested in working for…and, at BlackRock, we often say that ‘without our people, technology is irrelevant.’”
This belief applies to all our business areas. Good recruiters impact candidates’ experiences, the process affects their perceptions of the firm and how they’re treated matters.
Concerns for the health and safety of our employees and candidates are leading us to make decisions that put people’s well-being first. This has become a filter for all our processes, programs and decisions during the coronavirus pandemic. It started by enabling more than 95% of our workforce to work from home and shifting interviews from in-person to virtual. It led us to decide not to make any COVID-19 related layoffs this year and to honor our commitment to summer interns and full-time graduate analysts to whom we had extended offers. It spurred us to re-think the onboarding experience for employees who are joining the firm in an entirely remote setting. And it pushed us to survey our colleagues more frequently so we can learn how they’re doing, what they need, and then act on their feedback.
This behavior of putting people first is not shortsighted, it’s being absorbed into the culture of our organization. For example, Kelsey, who creates professional development content for BlackRock noted, “I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how understanding and engaged managers have been with their teams during this time. Many leaders have come to our team for help because they’re worried that they won’t do right by their employees.” Specifically, we’ve noticed an increase in requests for learning & development content from managers so they can make sure the people on their teams are supported in the ways they need most, and we’ve observed hiring managers get more involved in the onboarding process since they haven’t been able to greet their new hires and welcome them in person.
We’ve seen that technology can enable flexible work environments and help people feel supported in a remote workplace. One way this has presented itself is in the amount of control we have over our day, whether that means taking a call while walking outside, prioritizing childcare at a certain time of the day or making time to buy groceries for ourselves or our neighbors, we have more freedom to manage our time. Brooke confirmed this in her own experience sharing, “I have felt that people are more understanding. Do what you need to do for yourself. Manage your own calendar. Tell people what’s going on. Don’t hide your personal life.”
As leaders, managers and organizations, we will need to continue to demonstrate the ability to prioritize both personal and professional lives. And it gives all of us a moment to reflect on the role we want work to play in our lives, to be clear about our needs and to ask our employer (or future employer) to support us.
As a global company, we’ve always collaborated across teams and time zones by building virtual relationships with colleagues in different offices but when conversations with our local colleagues became remote, it meant there was less of a distinction between relationships with colleagues we typically see in person and colleagues in other geographies. “Last year, I spent 3 months on the road and I truly believe the in-person presence is something that can’t be replaced. But what I’ve learned, is that by keeping a steady connection point with the people I work with across the world, I’m able to achieve just as strong of a partnership,” shared Noreen McEnaney, Director, Talent Acquisition in BlackRock’s New York City office.
Photo credit: Victoria Didilica (Associate, Campus Recruiting, London)
New challenges are amplifying our natural inclination to collaborate across teams, to crowdsource ideas and to share tips. “With the need to shift our campus recruiting events and programs to be delivered virtually, we were suddenly in a situation where there were a lot of new activities going on,” noted Victoria Didilica, Associate, Campus Recruiting in our London office. “But we weren’t afraid to ask for help—help from lateral recruiting, from the wider HR team, from the tech team and others. And at BlackRock, everyone is always willing to help,” she said. As we grow as a firm, we will continue to build input sessions into our projects and processes so we can benefit from the collective brainpower of our peers.
With more of our interactions moving into virtual formats we will also find new opportunities to engage potential employees with varying perspectives spanning academic majors, socio-economic backgrounds, gender, ethnicity, ability, veteran status, and other seen and unseen diversities. Candidates can also take advantage of this inclusive mindset by reaching out to people at organizations they’re interested in and having conversations with companies they might not have considered in the past.