Lori Lewis is a senior human resource professional with nearly 30 years of experience driving business results while making the employee experience a priority in both the professional services and high tech industries. She is Senior Director for Global Talent and Culture at Epicor, a global software leader that provides flexible, industry-specific solutions designed around the precise needs of its manufacturing, retail, distribution, automotive, and lumber customers. At Epicor, Lori leads Talent Development, Employee Engagement, Internal Communications, and Learning & Development, all while focusing on building and motivating global virtual teams.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
How do you see the new world of work? What's your take on the rebound strategies of businesses?
I don’t view this as a rebound so much as it is an impetus to lean in even more to what we know amplifies the employee experience and positively impacts company performance. More than ever, employees want to feel included, valued, and recognized. We have a variety of programs in place to support this, including manager/employee quarterly checkpoint discussions (instead of one annual review) that empower employees to have a stronger voice in goal setting while simultaneously providing a stronger connection with the company’s larger vision. We also aim to encourage employees and foster a sense of team spirit with our employee STAR recognition program that is tied to our company values. When we invest in our employees and keep them at the center of everything we do, that care is passed on to our customers.
What role will ‘purpose’ will play in the world of work after the COVID-19 pandemic? What's the role of business leaders to turn purpose into strategy?
Over the last year, many of us have had time to reflect and think about what’s important to us personally and professionally. As we engage with current employees and potential hires, they want to know that their work makes a difference. And that has never been more evident than in the past year.
Epicor is proud that we get to enable a world of better business and serve as the essential business partners to the world’s most essential businesses. For example, one of our manufacturing customers, which provides medical supplies for blood testing, was able to leverage the scale and flexibility of Epicor solutions to support the increase in orders of vital products in demand due to COVID. Other manufacturers are also using software to rapidly shift from one product line to another or to entirely alter the type of product they make to meet needs. One of our manufacturing customers in the UK traditionally makes medical devices for vision health, but they pivoted to create large breath shields for machines and donated PPE equipment to hospitals and care providers.
What's fuelling hybrid-work strategies in 2021? How will work culture evolve in 2021? What’s your take on enabling employees to be more collaborative and productive in the virtual world?
I believe that what’s fueling hybrid-work strategies this year is the desire to get on with our “new now”. 2020 was a long year, and it forced everyone out of their comfort zone and to reconsider their assumptions and their status quo. We've all learned a lot, and employees and employers are now eager and ready to step into the future with agility and flexibility.
While the energy for the future is here, I do believe that for most companies, their core values and the culture will not change but instead be magnified and translated to the “new now.”
At Epicor, our core values are teamwork, excellence, service, passion, innovation, and integrity. These values are what carried us through the last year, and they will drive us going forward as we continue to foster a collaborative team environment and an engaged, unified culture that reflects our customers.
When it comes to how to make this happen, I think the primary lesson we’ve learned this year is that listening and empathy are important and that a one-size-fits-all approach fits no one. We'll need to carry this lesson with us and apply it to how we approach hybrid-work.
What do you expect this year in terms of new digital innovations and employee engagement strategies?
I anticipate that we’ll see a significant increase in collaboration tools (e.g. Yammer, Slack) that enable employees to chat, share ideas, and innovate within and across teams within organizations. We’ll also see recognition tools that are integrated with collaboration tools and social platforms. People want – and need – to feel like part of the community and be confident that their voice is heard.
How will the learning and skilling scenario change in 2021? What have you learned so far?
If we learned anything over the last year, it’s that things can change on a dime. It’s not practical to spend months developing or delivering training. It may be obsolete or irrelevant at the point of use. I anticipate that we’ll see a shift toward bite-size, real-time learning and skill development that is focused on outcomes and transferrable skills.
Trends like work-from-anywhere have implications for HR policies. Ensuring data security is one. What kind of policies and practices should organizations revisit in 2021?
This is such an important topic because data security is always a concern and priority. If it’s not already part of the required training, IT security awareness training should become part of the required curriculum. And if companies already have IT security awareness training, it should be reviewed to ensure that it is up to date. Additionally, as a best practice, employees should be required to take the training annually. Data security awareness is an HR responsibility, but the actual security and practice is a team effort and the responsibility of every single employee. We all need to hold each other accountable, and we all need to be on guard against threats.
With respect to HR policies and work-from-anywhere, taxation issues are top of mind for me. From an employee perspective, work-from-anywhere sounds perfectly reasonable. It shouldn’t matter whether I’m working from my home office or a second home in another state or country. Unfortunately, it does matter. These situations could result in tax liabilities for the employee and the employer. As a practice, organizations should require HR approval of any extended remote work arrangements that are in a location other than the employee’s home address. And, while organizations are not expected to be tax advisors, they should let employees know that there could be tax implications associated with “working from anywhere.”
With businesses striving hard to bounce from the crisis, What do you think is the future of leadership in a virtual world?
I think the biggest leadership challenge is developing our future leaders. Most leaders today are where they are due to talent, opportunity, drive, and visibility. In a hybrid work model where in-person meetings in an office will be less common and people potentially only come into an office setting a few times a week at most, we will need to be more deliberate – and creative – about where and how we get visibility to and assess leadership capabilities. It will also be important that we create opportunities for future leaders to learn from and interact with seasoned, successful mentor leaders. We’ll need to come up with new ways to create experiences that encourage team members to develop their leadership muscle.
How ready is your organization to reinvent toward building a sustainable future?
What’s great about Epicor is that the service we provide to our customers is more relevant than ever. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but we are changing the way we communicate.
How is Epicor preparing for a post-pandemic world? Can you top three priorities for the company?
Last fall, Epicor gained a new partner in Clayton, Dubilier, and Rice (CD&R). They share our vision for the future, and we’ll be investing heavily in innovation and growth as well as focusing on our 1 Epicor culture and continuing to keep our customers at the center of everything we do.