When Tracy Keogh was appointed as Chief Human Resources Officer of HP Inc. she quickly emerged as one of the world’s leading figures in the technology industry. Talking to The HR Digest, Keogh describes “The HP Way,” the changing nature of the industry, and how she balances the heritage of an 81-year-old company with her own fresh approach.
Interview With Tracy Keogh
The HR Digest: You oversaw the second-largest split in business history (Hewlett-Packard Co. into Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc.), and under your leadership, HP is known to have a diverse and innovative corporate culture. Can you share your learnings and best practices with us?
Tracy Keogh: The split was an opportunity for us to relaunch our culture and re-emphasize our values as we built our new company. We thought of ourselves as a $50 billion startup as we reinvented all things in HR – everything from talent management to development to rewards to hiring and employee experience. One of our best practices was questioning everything we did and then co-creating new solutions with our employees. That helped us clearly articulate the company we wanted to be – innovative, customer-focused, collaborative and fun.
We determined what really differentiated our company, such as our commitment to diversity and inclusion, and used them to drive decision-making. That’s why we intentionally created the most diverse board of directors of any U.S. tech company (currently composed of 58% minorities and 42% women).
We must have focused on the right things, as we have seen employee engagement increase by more than 30% since we launched the company and we rank in the top quartile of peer companies.
How are you going to shake things up next?
There is no lack of opportunity to reinvent ourselves on an ongoing basis! Recent events such as the global pandemic have accelerated the work we were already doing in creating the workplace of the future. Mobility has accelerated and we are discovering new ways of working and supporting a fully remote workforce. We have never been more connected to our employees or their families as we navigate these difficult and uncertain times. We are reworking all our HR strategies with these changes in mind.
We’re seeing many jobs becoming more automated in the future, so we are working to upskill and reskill our people as the world changes rapidly. Through our own internal HR “think tank”, HR Labs, we monitor megatrends that impact the workforce and then translate them into innovative employee programs. For example, we’re rolling out a digital literacy program with our Chief Transformation Officer Marie Myers so all of our employees can stay relevant in the modern economy and accelerate our digital transformation journey. The key takeaway is that we must stay agile and continue learning.
We are facing one of the most harrowing and far-reaching crises of our lifetimes. Amid this coronavirus crisis, what should be the priorities of HR leaders?
Never has HR been more important and I am so proud to see how the function has been standing up and leading through this crisis. The top priorities for HR include 1) keeping employees safe and healthy, 2) ensuring the continuity of our businesses, 3) communicating with employees transparently and authentically, and 4) supporting employees in every possible way to increase their productivity.
Starting in mid-March, we instructed HP workers worldwide to start working from home. Since that time, we have only brought back essential roles (i.e. manufacturing and R&D) to work on site. For those employees, HP is taking measures to keep them safe, including travel restrictions, site visitor restrictions, in-person meeting postponements, requiring face coverings, physical distancing, alternate staffing shifts, safety signage, and enhanced cleaning and sanitization practices. We also have an in-house medical doctor who regularly hosts virtual office hours globally, to answer employees’ pressing questions.
With an ongoing pandemic, coupled with racial injustice and natural disasters such as the wildfires on the West Coast, none of us are immune to the mental and emotional toll of the crises we’re facing. Caring for employees’ mental health is critical. HR leaders will have to put more emphasis on that area if they haven’t already.
We started offering mental health benefits to employees before the pandemic, but we’re now also offering virtual sessions on reducing stress and anxiety, practicing gratitude, meditations, and more as part of a new employee engagement program called “HP Spirit” born at the onset of the pandemic. The goal of this program is to put employees at the center of everything we do and provide everything they need to stay safe and productive as we get through the pandemic together.
Compared to other Silicon Valley giants, what are the qualities that make HP special and unique?
I like to think HP is the best-kept secret in Silicon Valley! And that is attributable to our people and values.
Our founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard are renowned for creating “The HP Way,” management by walking around, and the open-door policy. They were very connected to their people and that spirit persists today. Our culture is not political but collaborative and non-hierarchical. Its essence is openness and respect for each other, which allows employees to bring their whole, authentic selves to work.
This allows them to be more creative and innovative. Naturally, diversity and inclusion are core to what we value, and are actually the impetus of our business strategy—because we believe that innovation, stemming from people of diverse backgrounds, drives business success.
We’ve been very intentional about embedding diversity across our business — from creating a diverse leadership team and hiring underrepresented talent (in FY19, 63% of new hires in the U.S. were from underrepresented groups) to pledging to double the number of Black and African American executives inside the company by 2025 to influencing our channel partners to increase diversity and inclusion through the new HP Amplify Impact program.
How would you describe your personal approach to leadership?
As a leader, my goal is to create an environment where my team can do their best work and have a great impact on our organization. I want them to feel nurtured and inspired, and to learn more from working with me than they could anywhere else. I am dedicated to teaching at all levels to create a world-class function. Over my career, more than 40 HR leaders who have worked for me have gone on to lead HR at other companies.
Chief Human Resources Officer, HP Inc.
Tracy Keogh has worldwide responsibility for HP’s strategic human resources activities and employee communications. She leads all aspects of HR including workforce development and organization effectiveness, total rewards, talent acquisition, global inclusion and diversity, HR processes and information management.
PHOTO: HP Inc.
A version of this interview appeared in the October 2020 issue (p. 54) of The HR Digest.