“Build a Company That Develops Amazing People Managers,” Says Chief People Officer, DocuSign


 As we prepare for post-pandemic times, there is a need for HR to rethink, and help managers rethink, how we get work done, and with what tools.

– Joan Burke, chief people officer, DocuSign

As chief people officer at DocuSign, Joan Burke invests her time to giving every employee an equal opportunity to succeed, be heard, exchange ideas openly, and build lasting relationships. One of her personal goals, Burke says, is to build a company that develops amazing people managers. This is because she believes that every employee deserves a great manager, and every manager deserves the time and resources to be great.

In this edition of HR Talk, Burke talks about the single biggest obstacle to HR processes and workflows that HR teams are unable to manage in the COVID-19 scenario. She speaks on enabling remote work, focusing on employee well-being, building a culture for the hybrid workforce, and onboarding employees effectively.

Key Takeaways on Building a Company That Develops Amazing People Managers

  • Move away from manual processes and toward modern technologies.
  • Encourage employees to make their mental health a priority.
  • Find a way to connect employees working remotely to the collective office culture through virtual experiences.

Here’s the edited transcript from our exclusive interview with Joan Burke:

1. Do HR priorities really match HR realities? What are the key takeaways from DocuSign’s 2020 HR Technology Trends Report?

2020 has truly tested the limits of what is possible for HR professionals. DocuSign led a study earlier in the year to understand what opportunities and challenges HR leaders are facing today.

One key finding was that these professionals overwhelmingly recognized hiring (28% consider the primary task) and employee benefits (16%) as the top two HR priorities but were running into hurdles freeing up time to focus on those responsibilities.

– Joan Burke, chief people officer, DocuSign

Tedious operations, including hours spent on repetitive document generation for hiring and termination, and payroll tasks, were leaving our respondents with hardly any time to do their most important work. At the time, many admitted that they were relying too much on paper documents to do their jobs. Now several months and a pandemic later, it’s obvious more than ever that something needs to change to help HR leaders realistically accomplish their daily objectives.

Also read: How To Recruit Top Talent and Be Their Voice In This Remote World: Q&A With Databricks’ Chief People Officer

2. What is the single biggest obstacle to HR processes and workflows that HR teams are unable to manage in the COVID-19 scenario? What are some of the ways to manage these barriers and push HR processes to succeed?

So much of the value of an HR team is creating a culture within the office that keeps employees satisfied and productive. A sudden shift to remote work requires a prioritization of HR efforts to adapt that culture to the new working environment.

To be successful, HR professionals need to rethink their function as the physical workplace is going to be a meaningfully different experience for employees when they return to the office. COVID-19 has forced HR teams to face their efficiency limitations. Move away from manual processes and towards modern technologies. And, ultimately accelerate their digital transformation strategies in order to open up their own capacity to invest more time in driving employee satisfaction and retaining talent.

3. What should be the top 3 priorities for modern HR professionals for an easy return to work in 2021? Which strategies should be adopted as they pave the way for digital transformation?

As we look to a post-pandemic recovery world, the reality is that more people will work remotely than ever before. Thankfully, we are in the business of enabling remote work. Moving forward, I believe HR professionals must prioritize these concepts:

  • Provide employees with the flexibility to focus on their wellness: Because we are operating during such strange times, we’ve found talking about mental health and giving employees the resources to support them with managing that through seminars, mindfulness programs, and counseling has been beneficial. We rolled out several benefits, including one called DocuSign Cares, to allow employees to reimburse up to $1,000 to help with expenses related to taking care of loved ones and pets, investing in new home office furniture, subscribing to online fitness apps or classes, and so on. HR professionals should be understanding when employees have distractions around them and when they need to unplug from the job and encourage them to make their mental health a priority.
  • Build a culture meant for a hybrid workforce: Regardless if work is happening at home or in the office, maintaining a strong culture is still critical. Find a way to connect employees working remotely to the collective office culture through virtual experiences and programs. Our employee resources groups have hosted some very creative and compelling speaker series with outside speakers ranging from Warriors players to meditation and yoga teachers who have helped us build connection, empathy, and trust. Longer term, we are looking to get creative with things like how our employees can participate in volunteer work through DocuSign IMPACT.
  • Onboard employees effectively: We have had to rethink how we onboard new employees so that they feel welcomed, including creating special Slack channels that help them connect with each other. While some elements of the onboarding experience can’t be replicated virtually, remote onboarding can offer some unique and positive opportunities. For instance, during the pandemic, my team has been able to add our CEO to new hire trainings. Now all of our new team members get more personal exposure to him and hear how he thinks about our values and company culture.

Also read: Executive Recruitment Marketing Keeps the Talent Pipeline Healthy: Says Paycor’s CHRO

4. Do talent analytics truly enable employers to seek new skills? How can recruitment leaders optimize talent location strategy using analytics?

Talent analytics can help us assess where talent is located and how hiring in those markets might work for our company as we continue to grow and serve customers all over the world.

Remote working is reshaping how HR and leadership think about location in general. While there are some restrictions about where we can legally employ people, there will likely be greater flexibility around where certain roles can be based to do their jobs effectively.

— Joan Burke, chief people officer, DocuSign

In the past, we have been in very competitive and expensive labor markets. In the future, while we know in-person interaction is very beneficial, we may be open to hiring in different locations.

Also read: Can AI in Recruitment Transform Hiring in a Post-Pandemic World? Q&A With DaXtra Technologies

5. What are some of the opportunities for HR teams to increase employee satisfaction and retain talent in a post-pandemic workplace?

The old model of “you must come to the office five days a week” for 100% of the jobs is probably dead. We are proving that it does not need to be that way. As we prepare for post-pandemic times, there is a need for HR to rethink and help managers rethink how we get work done, and with what tools, while engaging and empowering employees.

Modern technology can now help us retain great talent and increase employee satisfaction by offering them greater flexibility. For example, our employees tell us they miss human connection and spontaneous interactions.

-Joan Burke, chief people officer, DocuSign

Yet, they are also enjoying working more flexible hours and spending more time exercising and less time commuting. Before the pandemic, over 20% of our team worked remotely and dialed into meetings. We are dialing in and understanding what that experience is like and how we can make it better.

6. How do you plan to benchmark your technology-enabled talent strategy against your competitors to measure employer branding and candidate experience?

We love data and are measuring our performance against industry benchmarks across everything we do. We have a detailed scorecard for the HR team that we look at each quarter.

For Talent Marketing, we look at our ratings on Glassdoor by employees and candidates. When we develop recruiting ads on LinkedIn, we test different messages and creatives and look carefully at how our campaigns are performing versus benchmarks.

We are also interested in building a more diverse team. We watch how many of our ads engage net new talent who have not engaged with us before and may represent more diverse talent pools.

For Talent Development and HR, we use Glint to run onboarding surveys and employee engagement surveys and then compare our scores versus industry benchmarks. And the list goes on.

We are always looking at how we compete in compensation and benefits across industries and locations so we can continue to offer those most relevant to our employee base.

Also read: Empathy in the Workplace: 12 Ways To Outweigh a Paycheck in the COVID-19 World

7. What trends do you see in the recruitment and onboarding space in 2020 and post-pandemic that will elevate the future of work?

With remote work being the new norm, I think we will see an evolution in how we recruit and onboard talent. For example, video conferencing software has become an invaluable solution during the interview process, helping everyone involved establish a level of comfort and trust. When it comes time to onboard, HR teams need to adapt the process to welcome new remote workers and make them feel like part of a thriving culture.

Gone are the days where standard in-person welcome sessions kick off a new employee’s beginnings at a job. You could feel the excitement in the room, and that energy transferred into good feelings about the company and the decision to join.

As I mentioned before, you can also access executives for 30 minutes who before would not have been able to travel to join you for onboarding. Continuing to find new ways to connect will be a priority for all of us in HR.

Every company is different and has unique needs for new employees, but there are ways to make recruitment and onboarding different and better, and I think we’ll see HR get more creative in these areas with new processes and technologies.

About Joan BurkeOpens a new window :

As the Chief People Officer at DocuSign, Joan leads the company’s global HR function – including talent acquisition, onboarding, learning and development, performance management, employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, the DocuSign IMPACT Foundation, and more.

Joan has 25+ years of leadership experience in designing and implementing innovative HR programs and best practices that create and inspire cultures of innovation and growth. Most recently, Joan served as SVP of global HR roles at SaaS-industry leaders Marketo and Responsys. Previously, Joan led global HR for ZipRealty, ShoreTel, Zantaz, ABHOW, The Industry Standard, and Softnet Systems.

About DocuSignOpens a new window :

DocuSign helps organizations connect and automate how they prepare, sign, act on, and manage agreements. As part of the DocuSign Agreement Cloud, DocuSign offers eSignature to sign electronically on practically any device, from almost anywhere, at any time.

About HR Talk

HR Talk is an interview series that features top people and talent leaders from HR tech and Fortune 500 companies who are redefining the future of work. Join us as we talk to these HR tech and people analytics experts to get in-depth insights, and some pro-tips on how HR tech can best work for you and your people.

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