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HR in 2021: ‘Don’t be afraid to say you haven’t figured it out yet’

21 Dec 2020

Linda Hayes of Johnson & Johnson believes that honesty will be key for HR teams next year as uncertainty and new challenges look set to continue.

As head of HR for Johnson & Johnson supply chain in the UK and Ireland, Linda Hayes is passionate about talent, culture and employee experience. Here, she explains the areas she’ll be focusing on to meet staff and hiring needs next year, and gives her advice for HR teams in 2021.

‘People value honesty and it is acceptable to experiment and get it wrong’
– LINDA HAYES

Which hiring trends will continue for you into next year?

Developing, retaining and attracting talented and skilled workers, from diverse backgrounds and experiences, has always – and will continue to be – a key hiring trend for Johnson & Johnson. There is a richness to being open-minded about diverse candidates and the experience they can bring.

We have received very positive feedback from candidates about video interviewing; candidates don’t need extensive time out of work for interviews and travel time. Turnaround time to bring candidates through the talent acquisition process is faster as a result.

Our talent acquisition team are very focused on candidate feedback, regularly reviewing all comments to ensure that we are listening to understand the candidate experience. For us, being adaptable and flexible for the candidate really makes the difference.

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What challenges could crop up? How will your team navigate those?

I believe that a lot of us are asking ourselves questions around how we work and live as we navigate through Covid-19. My sense is that this will continue into next year. Purpose will become more important in all aspects of our lives, both from a work and personal perspective.

In Johnson & Johnson, we have stayed really close and connected to our colleagues both on-site and working remotely to ensure that we know what people need and how we can support them. Wellbeing is very important to us, so we were delighted to see the Government recently launch the Keep Well campaign.

Our wellbeing strategy is very similar to the five themes of this campaign where we try to look more holistically at the whole person, encouraging colleagues to care for both their mental and physical wellbeing, while understanding the challenges that our colleagues face in balancing home and work life.

Linda Hayes of Johnson & Johnson is smiling into the camera against a beige background.

Linda Hayes. Image: Johnson & Johnson

The pandemic experience has allowed us to open ourselves up more as we have been brought into each other’s homes. Everything is more personal and human, and I firmly believe we leverage this experience positively. In some ways the pandemic has helped us all to know each other better.

Whether it’s that little child’s face appearing on someone’s screen during a Zoom call wanting to see what’s happening or dogs barking the house down, it offered us all some welcome and light relief in these challenging times.

How might employee priorities shift?

We have always had a culture of flexibility. However, during the pandemic it was really strengthened with a formal approach to help employees find a better balance whilst juggling personal and work demands.

There is a lot of work currently underway in Johnson & Johnson to ensure that we continue building on this new normal. So, we are happy to see the Government has committed to publishing a remote working strategy.

We understand the benefits of such strategies to the person in terms of better work-life balance, but we can also see the broader community and environmental benefits that flexible working options can deliver. Colleagues want and need flexibility in the new world, and we strive to always keep the needs of colleagues at the centre of everything that we do here.

How can employers align themselves to staff needs at the moment?

Employee sentiment is always important and never more so than in a time of crisis. Employers need to show up for people. I am proud that we have kept colleagues at the heart of everything we do and will continue to do this.

We know that when we receive feedback from colleagues and move quickly to act on this, it resonates so strongly. We responded quickly to the ergonomic needs of colleagues working at home and that has been very well received.

It is important to listen carefully now as our colleagues are under a lot of different types of pressure and are also evaluating their future direction. We strive to create an inclusive environment where each individual can truly be themselves. I passionately believe that each person needs to feel valued to create a great organisation.

What kinds of people will you be looking to hire next year?

With all three sectors of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies (pharmaceutical, medical device and consumer health) present in Ireland, and a broad range of operations covering manufacturing, engineering, R&D, medical, quality, sales and marketing, commercial and IT roles, to name a few, the skillsets that we require throughout our sites are very varied.

I believe the skills that we require moving forward will continue to evolve. However, there is no doubt that digital skills will be important in the future.

We have learned many lessons throughout the crisis. It is hard to beat agility, passion and commitment when faced with multiple challenges. It is this mindset which ensures we can continue delivering our innovative products to our patients every day.

Day after day our manufacturing teams came on site to ensure we continued to deliver products to our patients. People working from home upskilled digitally and many surprised themselves with their prowess.

Johnson & Johnson has been very focused on providing the platforms for colleagues to learn those new skills. Our focus on both personal and professional development is one of our key values and we have a whole range of programmes internally focused on helping colleagues to grow and expand their skills depending on the career path that they would like to build within our company.

What advice would you give for HR teams for 2021?

In my view, it is important to demonstrate that you are listening to colleagues across the business. Think of work more holistically, placing the needs of your team to the forefront, on an equal footing with the business needs.

Don’t be afraid to be honest and say you haven’t figured it out yet. People value honesty and it is acceptable to experiment and get it wrong. More than ever, honest and open feedback loops are crucial. The crisis has increased our vulnerability and having strong leaders who live these values is one of the first and most important steps to take.

Remember we are all human, so be kind and supportive to each other. Lastly, remember that you are already doing a lot. So build on that rather than thinking this is an enormous change. Start with the evolution of mindset; we all need to think differently and work together.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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