Last week I attended the HRPS Annual Conference in Scottsdale. This was my first time attending and I was representing the HR Leadership Group of Northeast Ohio. The HRPS organization is part of SHRM, and is SHRM’s Executive Network. This year’s theme was The New Talent Ecosystem, and many of the speakers talked about the rapidly changing role of CHRO’s.

Among the list of outstanding speakers was Stuart Crabb, Director of Learning and Development at Facebook. His presentation was titled Positive Leadership and Culture in a VUCA World. VUCA is an acronym meaning volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, and certainly applies to the world of CHRO’s.

Stuart described a new leadership paradigm that is required in VUCA times, including moving away from a problem solving mentality and towards a mindset of making sense of dilemma, and organizing for uncertainty. He pointed out that highly positive organizations with highly engaged employees have tremendous potential to outperform their peers. So the key is to create a positive culture filled with engaged employees. Here are some steps Facebook has taken to do just that.

In building a positive culture, Stuart described six building blocks:

  1. Inspiration – with leaders and employees inspiring each other
  2. Meaning – starting with the corporate purpose and emphasized in the work itself
  3. Respect – so that trust is high
  4. Caring – for each other and for customers
  5. Compassion – demonstrated with kindness for others in times of suffering
  6. Forgiveness – avoiding blame

These building blocks are tied to the Facebook Vision of connecting the world’s 7 billion people in order to make the world a better place. My description looks very clinical, but as Stuart described Facebook’s purpose and culture, I could feel the appeal of wanting to work there.

Facebook uses these building blocks to set expectations for managers in the company. Here are the seven elements required for managing in the company:

  1. Show care
  2. Support people so they can grow in their areas of strength
  3. Set clear goals and expectations
  4. Give clear, actionable feedback
  5. Provide resources and remove obstacles
  6. Hold people and teams accountable
  7. Recognize people and teams

Stuart pointed out that moving into a management role at Facebook is considered a lateral move, meaning no pay raise. That is intended to make sure people are making the move because they feel managing is a passion rather than a way to earn more. Facebook understands the critical role of the manager in keeping employees engaged and happy, and wants people who are committed to managing well.

Facebook’s journey toward developing a highly positive culture filled with highly engaged employees in a VUCA world created a wonderful learning environment. Stuart generously shared some valuable lessons he learned along the way, including these:

  • Connecting people to a vision that is exciting and meaningful is key for employee fulfillment
  • Engaged leaders are required in order to inspire people to take action
  • It is important to strive for personalization at scale during growth in order to create an intimate and positive experience for each employee
  • Roles and people should be aligned around strengths and reinforced throughout the employee lifecycle
  • The most effective way to express organizational positivity is through the language and lens of organizational values
  • Data wins arguments
  • Many times bad performance is tied to a bad hire, so remediation is usually not a good investment – better to hire well

Facebook’s growth and impact have been impressive, but Stuart said they have a long way to go, with 1.6 billion active users on the way to 7 billion. Along the way, Facebook may also help crack the VUCA code. Good luck Facebook!

For help in designing and implementing talent programs that will help you retain your people, please contact us.


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