Why this digital company believes office work is essential

As companies around the world roll out permanent remote work policies, the Envoy work platform is reopening and welcoming employees back to the office. While many will work a hybrid and flexible schedule, the company is bucking the trend that has seen organizations focus primarily on accommodating remote work; Instead, Envoy is investing in enhancing the employee experience across all workspaces, including helping employees get to the office and providing free meals when they’re there.

It’s no wonder Envoy is taking this approach, as the company’s platform has evolved to cater to a hybrid workforce and is used at companies like Pinterest, Hulu, and Slack. The organization’s unique focus on the modern employee experience is part of what attracted new chief human resources officer Annette Reavis, who joined the company in November. Now, among her priorities, she is focusing on doubling the workforce over the next year.

Reavis has experience at high-growth companies — she spent a decade as vice president of human resources at Facebook starting in 2010 — and plans to leverage those lessons for her new role.

HRE: Envoy’s goal is to significantly increase headcount over the next year. Especially in the context of the Great Resignation and the high turnover rate in so many companies, what is the basis of the work you are laying out for this effort?

Annette Reavis

Review: We are so lucky to not have a very high turnover rate, but we always make sure to think about the employee experience and how we can continue to make it really strong. The other element is understanding the market; we recently did a compensation survey to make sure we know the market. We also keep the bar high on who is hiring. We have one of the best recruiting teams and work hard to determine who is recruiting. These pieces together will help us be able to double our income and talent over the next year.

HRE: In this context of rapid growth and external hiring, what role will internal mobility play?

Review: One of the things we’ve done is hire a people growth manager who has the experience, and part of that is helping employees grow their career paths. Our next step will be to better map the different careers and prepare managers to know what people want to do. [with the company]. We are going to start doing in-stay interviews, where we meet our talents once a quarter; we will train managers to do this so they can get people what we need to do to keep them at Envoy.

HRE: What is your approach to remote/hybrid work?

Review: We think people need to get out of their homes and back into the office, in a hybrid way, not six days a week, but they need to come in and collaborate and work closely with their peers and honestly get to know other people . And we must allow this to happen safely. So we have three things right now: people in the office if they live nearby, hybrid people who only come a few days a week, and we also have teleworkers, but it’s a lower percentage. So far the returns have been around 80%, all good; people think it’s awesome and get excited [about coming back into the office]. I was just chatting with someone in the bathroom as we both put on our lipstick; you can’t do that at home. We have a percentage who have unvaccinated children at home or who live with someone else at high risk and they are the ones we have one-on-one conversations with to determine the best path for them. But no one said, “I don’t want to come in and collaborate.” It’s a lot more that people want to come in two or three days and then spend the rest of the day at home. We are also putting measures in place to ensure access to childcare resources and we are considering shuttles to cover the first and last mile to help people get to public transport. And we offer lunch five days a week and breakfast two days a week. When people are here, we don’t want it to be a hardship.

See also: Hoping for hybrid and remote success in 2022? Look at your leaders

HRE: You’ve spent a decade on Facebook. What corporate culture lessons did you learn from your time there that you will leverage at Envoy?

Review: I feel very lucky to have spent 10 years at Facebook; they have the best people in the world and I learned a lot going from 14,000 to, when I left, 40,000 employees. One of the things I brought with me is the ladder. I talk a lot about scale about whether the processes in place are designed to outlast us all; we can’t just do our best for today, it has to last into the future. I drive my colleagues crazy because I always say, “It doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit!” The other thing about Facebook is that we were able to hire people who really believed in our mission. On good days everyone was fine, but on bad days, like when privacy issues hit in 2009, we had no [employees] on Facebook or tweeting or talking to the press negatively because everyone believed in what we were doing. So here at Envoy, we make sure that our people really believe in the mission of what we do, and we look for that when we interview talent; we have questions to make sure we are the right place for someone.

HRE: Faced with the continuing uncertainties of a post-pandemic world, what do you see as the main role of HR?

Review: Our role is to help our organizations make the transition. We need to stay ahead of upcoming trends. [Employers] need someone on the team to know what’s happening in the market, how the rules are changing, and HR can be the leader in that regard. As the world continues to open up, we need to make sure that we provide a safe environment for people to come to because the world is going to remain hybrid. I don’t see anyone coming back to four or five days in the office; I think it will be three days, max. Right now it’s all about COVID, but that’s forever now, so we need to figure out what we need to put in place to make sure we’re building an engaged environment in the new hybrid world.

Related: Here’s how tech companies are rethinking for hybrid

HRE: What do you know now about HR that you wish you had known at the start of your career?

Review: Well, I started out as a tax accountant! I think I’m lucky that I didn’t come through HR the traditional way; it gives me more of a business perspective. I think the thing I wish I had known is that you can’t make everyone happy all the time, but people who are unhappy can lead happy people to be unhappy. It only takes one or two people to get the boat moving, so investing your time in those one or two people is just as important as investing your time in the masses.

HRE: Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

Review: My children. I am a widowed mother of two boys; my husband and I were married for 19 years before he died. He was the love of my life and I had no intention of remarrying, which meant I would be a single mother with two children for the rest of my life. My eldest is a senior at George Washington and my youngest is a freshman at Loyola Marymount University. Every day I am so grateful to these young men and to be their mother. So it’s on them that I spend the most energy! I also regularly read romance novels and enjoy spending time with friends. I am a connector; just today, I reached out to five people I hadn’t spoken to and said, “Let’s get together. I want to look back at the end of my life and make sure that I did everything and used all my energy for the people I love and love and did a job that I love. It’s a successful life.

Jose C. Birney