There’s a global movement happening right now that is empowering HR professionals to elevate their voice and strategic contribution to the company in building a better workplace. Tracy Layney is one such leader whose contributions towards flexible work have inspired a generation of HR professionals to reframe the most important aspects of work-life balance. In a remarkable interview with Layney, we talk about LS&Co.’s employee resource groups (ERGs), what we can do to make the boardroom more equitable, and her key leadership lessons.
Charting the Future of Work and Work-life Balance
The HR Digest: What is LS&Co.’s secret sauce to being recognized as one of “America’s Best Employers for Women?”
Tracy Layney: At LS&Co., we’re committed to creating a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive company and culture. In line with our values, we have instituted policies and benefits designed to support women, and ultimately all employees, in our organization as they navigate the pandemic and beyond. For example, over the past several years, we’ve implemented paid family leave and paid parental leave, as well as extended paid sick leave to part-time retail employees so our employees never have to choose between work and taking care of their own health, a new child, or a sick parent or spouse. We also offer backup child and elder care and recently updated our bereavement policy from three days to two weeks, with pregnancy loss included.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, women became the social safety net of the country and absorbed the shocks to the system. We knew we needed to act to support them. In addition to the paid leave and benefits programs, LS&Co. offers a variety of wellness and mental health support programs. For example, we partner with support experts like Thrive Global to help employees manage their well-being on a daily basis. We also offer employee resource groups (ERG’s) to create safe spaces for employees to connect with each other on specific focus areas, such as mental health, women, parents, and more.
Additionally, we conduct independent pay equity audits every other year to maintain fair and equitable pay for all employees, which we share internally and externally. Through our support and benefits, our ultimate goal is to cultivate an inclusive environment where everyone feels heard, valued and supported.
LS&Co. takes great pride in its employee resource groups. Can you tell our readers more about these programs and how they promote change within the company in practical terms?
At LS&Co., our Employee Resource Groups (ERG) allow our employees to come together based on shared characteristics and life experiences. ERGs are open to all employees and support reciprocal learning, development of future leaders, increased employee engagement, and expanded marketplace reach. Along with providing employees a safe space where they can find people with similar values, ideas, and real-life situations, our ERGs promote change by helping inform business decisions and play paramount roles when it comes to speaking out about current issues.
What is the most effective non-cash motivator?
At LS&Co., we are constantly striving to create a workplace that enables all employees to be healthy, fulfilled and successful at home and at work, because we believe our people are the most successful and motivated when we approach their wellbeing with a holistic approach. One way we do so is by offering industry leading benefits like paid parental and paid family leave.
We’ve seen the positive impact of paid leave in our employees’ lives since we introduced paid parental leave in 2016. Our updated paid family leave benefit built on that momentum, providing U.S. corporate and retail benefits-eligible employees with up to eight weeks of paid time off per year to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.
Included within our holistic approach to employee wellbeing has been to train managers on how to lead with empathy during these challenging times. We implemented “manager reset training” at the beginning of the pandemic, reaching hundreds of people managers in the company to build new leadership capabilities. We also have a number of different ways we create an open dialogue between our people and our leadership, this includes our regularly all company town hall with our CEO where everything is on the table. We further conduct listening sessions related to our diversity, equity and inclusion work and regularly engage with our Employee Resource Groups.
What are the core values that influence your decision-making?
Our core values here at LS&Co. are originality, empathy, integrity, and courage.
- We design and innovate to enable authentic self-expression —originality
- While remaining cognizant of the communities we touch —empathy
- We act ethically, knowing how we make products is as important as what we make —integrity
- And we use our platform to drive positive change, even when it’s difficult —courage
These values fuel a profit through principles approach that demands we choose hard right over easier wrong, work to be on the right side of history, and drive outsize impact. It’s the right way to do business, it makes us a better company, and it assures our people that they are part of something bigger
If The HR Digest readers would like to get involved in advocating for more women in the boardroom, what do you recommend them doing?
I’m fortunate to work for a company and a with a Board of Directors that understands what it means to uphold our heritage and live our values, because we have a great platform and want to use it to affect meaningful change. This includes valuing diversity, equity and inclusion, and I am proud to say that 58% of the LS&Co. employee population is made up of women —along with more than 60% of our executive team. And today, a third of our board of directors is comprised of women. I would encourage readers to speak up and use their voice and platforms to drive meaningful change, including more Board diversity and advocacy for their values in the boardroom.
What’s the key lesson you want aspiring CHROs to take away from your work?
The pandemic pushed many leaders to be more empathetic, to think even more deeply about what their employees really need, and to be very intentional about how they communicate with their organization —and that was especially true for me as I started at LS&Co.
As we look beyond the pandemic, it will be critical for organizations to continue to focus on employee wellbeing —creating a culture of empathy while implementing policies that support employees’ holistic needs.
HR leaders need to think about the steps their companies can take to make workplaces stronger, healthier and more productive —to move away from long hours, the ‘always on’ nature of technology, difficult commutes, which all contributed to stress and burnout which impacted employees’ mental and physical health. Alongside the chaos of 2020 also came unexpected blessings —a chance to come together for the better good, reassess priorities and focus on what matters most while ensuring that we gave ourselves the mental space to process it all.
Tracy Layney is Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Levi Strauss & Co. Tracy is responsible for LS&Co.’s people strategy on a global scale, including diversity, equity & inclusion, recruiting, employee engagement, talent management, compensation and benefits, HR technology and HR communications. She is active in the HR thought leader community and she is board member for the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Foundation.
Photo: Levi Strauss & Co.
This interview was published in the January 2022 issue of The HR Digest.