We interviewed Josh Berman, our Director of Culture Enablement who is an American based out of San Francisco and Kath Rau, Head of People Operations, an Australian based out of our company headquarters in Melbourne.
This has by no means been an easy year for HR teams the world over, but as we get closer to the US presidential election, American HR departments are faced again with the task of supporting employees through more potential emotional turmoil.
So what actions can a company take at this time to support the wellbeing of its employees?
At Culture Amp, our leaders have been actively encouraging our employees’ civic engagement and recently made the decision to give all US employees November 3rd off, as our first-ever Civic Duty Day. In the interview below you can hear some considerations our HR team took in the decision to create this paid day off, and how they’re hoping to support employees through it. While we recognize this isn’t an option available to every company, below are a few of the reasons why Culture Amp made this choice for its staff.
Where did the idea of a Civic Duty Day come from?
Josh Berman: It sprang from many 1-on-1's that were happening across our People and Experience (P&E) Leadership team, it was on everyone’s mind.
Personally, it’s something I, as well as many of our other leaders in the US, feel passionately about, and I think in a democracy Election Day should be a national holiday. I was happy to put together a case for our P&E team to review.
Kath Rau: Currently, Camper (What we internally call Culture Amp employees) wellbeing is top of mind. As a team, we’re constantly looking at ways we can address this. We’ve seen through pulse surveys and conversations with employees throughout the company, this election is a weight on Camper wellbeing that we wanted to proactively address.
How did you build the business case?
JB: When putting together a case, it was key to connect Civic Duty Day to our mission and values as a company. This is more than just a day off work.
At Culture Amp, it’s our mission to create a better world of work – to amplify the experience, and the impact, that over 100 million people are having at work. But to me, that is more than just through having companies buy our product.
Who we elect who runs our country has a massive impact on our experience at work.
And secondarily, we are an employee experience platform. The key to our product is making sure employee voices are heard. This is true in a democracy too, as voting is how we give feedback to our government.
KR: Like Josh said, aligning to our values as a company was key to the business case. I also think the fact that this is a nonpartisan initiative was important in believing this was the right thing to do for everyone.
We want to support Campers in making their voices heard, but we’re not telling them how to vote. If Campers also want to work on that day, they are welcome to do so.
What were some of the considerations?
KR: When our P&E leadership discusses any company strategy, we really try and pick it apart and look at it from different viewpoints. As a global company, it’s essential we get as many perspectives as possible.
In this case, I brought an Australian perspective. It’s a different experience as our voting day is always on the weekend. But, what I really wanted us to determine – and this is criteria we use to make a lot of our People decisions – is it fair and consistent if we do this and would we also do this for other big events or moments within our other countries of operation? These may not be elections, it could be something else that really matters to our Campers.
And we determined that yes it was. We decided that for other countries when there are key events during the workweek, we will also provide the day off to support our Campers and provide time for reflection.
For example, we provide options for our Australian employees in how they choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) Australia Day.
JB: One specific area we discussed was whether we need a specific day off for Civic Duty Day. Campers already get one Passion Day a quarter that they can use for volunteering, could this day fall under that?
But we know that asking Campers to take their volunteer day could be a barrier for them to actually take the day off. Because the history of voter suppression is systemic in the United States, it was important for us to address the day systematically as a company, in a way where employees didn’t have to make a choice.
KR: We also realized that the US election is not just on the mind of US Campers. Our Campers in Australia and the UK care, too. We made the choice that, for Campers outside of the US, they can use their "Passion Days" if they'd like to take that day off, but also encourage them to be part of conversations or activities related to the election.
When does executive support come in?
JB: I think before even building the business case, we were having conversations with our executive leadership.
KR: We try and get our leaders behind everything we do on the P&E team, so our initiatives are really driven by the company and not P&E.
We’ve actually had a lot of “thank you’s” from Campers since we made the announcement, but I really think we were able to do this because of the culture we’ve created at our company – which is everything from the way Didier is as a CEO, to the actions of every Camper. It says a lot about our Culture journey.
It’s clear at Culture Amp we acknowledge that these experiences outside of work really do impact life at work. And we acknowledge that the lines of professional and personal are blurred, especially this year.
But I know, not all companies are going to be able to do this.
Even if an executive team won’t sign off on a full day, you can start with making sure employees feel supported in setting aside time during the day to vote. Things like removing nonessential scheduled meetings, or telling employees they don’t have to use paid time off to vote could be smaller but important steps that could be greatly appreciated.
JB: It was also nice to see that other companies are taking a similar stand. We’re excited to join The Civic Alliance to publicly state our commitment to voting and provide additional resources to Campers. Besides Civic Duy Day, we’re providing Campers materials on canvassing and information on how they can get involved in poll working if they would like.
What is the impact you’re hoping to have with Civic Duty Day?
JB: We want Campers to have a feeling of being able to make the world a better place and use their voice. Civic Duty Day is a really important way we can be authentic in that goal and support our Campers. Hopefully, they feel empowered to do that.
KR: When I think about it, even if we get one person to vote who normally wouldn’t or one person who was able to be there as a support person for someone who was feeling really challenged on the day, that would be really powerful for us. I think of all those moments – which I know many of them we won’t know about since they are personal – but, we want to enable them to happen.
Also, for our other Campers around the world, when a moment like this comes for them, we will be there to support them.
How are you thinking about supporting Campers post-election?
JB: We're working on a communication plan that considers different election outcomes. We're also looking at how we can enable our Mentors (Managers) to find the right level of support to give to their Mentees on November 4th. Campers will have varying degrees of reactions, I remember in 2016 (in my job before Culture Amp), there were a lot of people who had very emotional reactions to the election results, and who ended up needing to take the day off. We need to be mindful of not putting major company events on November 4th, and reaffirming access to wellbeing resources like our Employee Assistance Program will be important.