Walk This Way: What the #GoogleWalkout Means for HR Leaders

Kathy Rapp Assessments, Change, Change Management, Communication, Corporate America, Corporate Social Responsibility, Culture, Current Affairs, Employee Communications, Employee Engagement, Employment Branding and Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Free Speech, Harassment, HR, in the news, Kathy Rapp, Leadership, Learning and Development, Managing People, Organizational Development, Retention, Sexual Harassment, Talent Management, The HR Profession

The irony of the Aerosmith reference in my title is not lost on me in the wake of the #GoogleWalkout over sexual harassment, gender and pay equality, and transparency in reporting. Check the lyrics if you were born in the ’90’s.

What struck me as I was reading about this protest wasn’t necessarily the fact that Google paid executives to leave (although $90 million is beyond unbelievable). If you’ve worked in HR for any amount of time you know people (and people who should be fired and promptly walked out) get paid to leave ALL.THE.TIME. No, what struck me was the opportunity for HR leaders. Take a look at the formal demands presented to Google’s leadership:

  1. An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees
  2. A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality
  3. A publicly disclosed sexual harassment and transparency report
  4. A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously
  5. The elevation of the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO, and make recommendations directly to the Board of Directors
  6. The appointment of an Employee Representative to the Board

Back to the opportunity.

If you’re in an HR leadership role today or aspire to grow into one, take notes of the ever-changing work landscape. Not only is unemployment remaining at a record low 3.7%, not seen since 1969, but workforce mentality and behaviors are changing. It’s not about XYZ generations, but rather a disruption and a new breed of activism.

The primary challenge most large companies now face is disruption, the response to which requires a new strategy, new processes, and a new set of behaviors.

Among the new set of behaviors are innovation, agility, collaboration, and boldness. From a leadership seat, what traditionally has been rewarded are things like practicality, consistency, self-reliance, and prudence – behaviors that employee protests are NOT made of.

From Tony Schwartz, author of “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working“: “It isn’t possible to truly transform a business without simultaneously transforming its people. This requires understanding and exploring the complex factors, both cognitive and emotional, that drive their behavior”.

What can we do as HR leaders? 

We must invest in leadership development in a significant way because current and future leaders must lead through disruption and use a different set of behaviors. It’s not A PROGRAM or a one-time executive coach type of leadership development. It’s a new way of assessing, cultivating and rewarding leadership.  What are your leaders’ values?  How do they align with the core elements of your culture and business? What is measured, communicated and compensated?

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”Simon Sinek

HR has a huge opportunity to step up in every organization – because every organization is facing some level of disruption and is massively dependent on talent.