We Want Our People To Do Their Best Work From Wherever They Are Most Productive: CHRO, Neustar

Carey Pellock  is EVP and Chief Human Resources Officer at Neustar. 

As head of Neustar’s Human Resources and Facilities functions, Carey is responsible for leading the overall human resources strategy, global talent acquisition, leadership development, diversity and inclusion, organizational design and cultural development, employee education and development, compensation and benefits, HR operations and technology, employee relations and communication, and effective change management. 

She is also responsible for Neustar’s global facility operations and management, ensuring employees are safe and healthy as we continue to navigate COVID-19.

With over two decades of experience in the human resources domain, Carey Pellock has an extensive background in all HR principles and demonstrated success in strategic thinking, planning and implementation. Prior to joining Neustar in 2012, she spent over a decade at Sallie Mae, which was where she kickstarted her professional journey.

In conversation with People Matters, Carey talks about the digital capabilities essential to ensure continuity of operations and enhance employee experience, return-to -work  challenges leaders must be prepared to tackle and earning employee trust through demonstrated transparency and care

How has Neustar worked towards keeping up both leadership and employee morale through such challenging times?

At Neustar, our values have grounded and guided how we have responded to the pandemic. When the pandemic started, we knew it would be important for our entire team to feel anchored during such unprecedented times, so we crafted six guiding principles to lead everything we did related to COVID-19, including our return to office strategy: 

  • Keep our people safe and healthy
  • Be proactive and decisive
  • Seek input and feedback broadly
  • Be sure to live our values (especially resilience, accountability and respect)
  • Don’t take unnecessary risks
  • Be proactive about mental health

We’ve relied on Neustar’s strong culture and the resiliency of our team as our processes and goals continue to shift with the evolving pandemic environment. Besides considering external criteria from health experts, state and local government officials, and other relevant factors, Neustar regularly seeks the feedback of our team members to ensure we are helping to meet their needs – this has helped our employees feel both informed and empowered. Keeping morale stable during this time has been a challenge for all companies.

I’m proud that early on in the pandemic, we decided to launch a Mental Health framework to support our team across four key mental health pillars: physical health, relaxation, balance, and getting help. 

We knew the stressors of the pandemic could substantially affect our people’s emotional well-being, so our goal was to encourage and support employees to be especially proactive about their mental health. This program is strongly supported by our Executive Leadership Team, which has been critical in making it a valued part of our culture now.  

With several businesses requiring to pivot business models to survive the crisis, have organizations been as responsive to employee needs as they have to consumer needs? What role has technology played in meeting employee needs?

At Neustar, we have focused on staying true to our core values, especially resilience, accountability, and respect. We responded to employee needs by soliciting their input throughout the pandemic and taking steps to address their very real concerns. Our many working parents, for example, expressed concern about how to work from home while helping their children navigate online school. We implemented new communications technology, adjusted our expectations, and provided a great deal of flexibility to help alleviate some of the burdens this new environment was putting on our working parents. 

One positive thing the pandemic has revealed to our team at Neustar is that we can collaborate in new ways. With all 2,000 of our employees working virtually in 16 offices around the world, we really had to think creatively about how to still innovate as a technology company, while keeping our people safe. We have a remarkable team of talented IT professionals running our enterprise systems.

Technology played a huge role in allowing our teams across the world to effectively communicate, collaborate, and innovate without missing a beat. 

What are some return-to-work challenges that leaders must be prepared to tackle? What are some digital capabilities essential for organizations resuming work from office premises?

We have to develop criteria for return to office such that it considers the needs of the workforce while weighing guidance from the scientific community and local jurisdictions. At Neustar, we developed a phased approach to return to office based on meeting infection-rate milestones – and then we were very proactive about communicating clearly things like vaccination status, masking, health self-assessments, cleaning and disinfecting, PPE and hand sanitizer, social distancing, capacity limits and travel guidelines, and more. The challenge for leaders is staying on top of ever-changing recommendations, determining what to do as a company, communicating key information to our employees, and responding to their feedback. 

In terms of digital capabilities, we’ve learned that technology makes it possible to stay connected, collaborate, and innovate. Microsoft Teams will continue to be an essential platform for Neustar, particularly as we seek to mimic the office environment of our hybrid work model. Technology will also play an important role in helping us keep track of where our people are working as an expanded hybrid workforce. 

How are you leveraging digital solutions to ensure continuity of operations and enhancing experience?

We are leveraging digital solutions to connect, collaborate and innovate from wherever we may be working. As we look toward our future hybrid work environment, we will also look to leverage technology solutions that help us understand who is where and when, enabling colleagues to keep in sync and stay productive. As HR leaders, we will need to assume a growth mindset and be willing to explore new and innovative thinking that challenges the status quo in the workplace.

Digital solutions will be critical to helping businesses enhance operations, maintain and enhance their culture, and achieve their goals.

How is Neustar’s working model evolving – remote, hybrid or a majority returning to the workplace?

Neustar has implemented a three-phase approach for a safe return to the office, driven by our COVID-19 Guiding Principles, CDC recommendations, and other internal/external criteria. Returning to the office in the early phases is voluntary. Longer term, Neustar will maintain a hybrid work environment for our employees, which we call NeuWork. During this third and final phase of our plan, employees can decide to be office-based or home-based, with both options including a lot of built-in flexibility, recognizing the unique needs of every Neustar employee.

We have emphasized that we want our people to do their best work from wherever they are most productive. The return to office is voluntary for most positions. We are investing time and resources into creating a hybrid work environment that can be either home-based or office-based – a hybrid environment that will be our new way of work. 

What legal and safety obligations will employers need to consider as part of return to office plans?

We are focused on providing our employees with clear information and expectations about what a safe return to office will look like. For example, all employees must sign and acknowledge understanding of our return-to-office policies and take part in mandatory safety training for each phase of our return to office plan. Neustar is also requiring all employees entering any of our US offices to show proof of vaccination prior to entering a Neustar building or sign an appropriate waiver.

People’s safety remains a key focus area for organizations across the globe. As organizations accelerate efforts to enable a seamless return to the workplace, how can leaders blend the old and new ways of working while keeping people safety and experience central to the emerging workplace and workforce strategy?

Our goal is to ensure employees return to the office in the safest way possible, whether it’s thoroughly cleaning our workstations and common areas or implementing social distancing protocols and travel restrictions. But it’s also important to recognize what our people miss about the “old” way of working.

Connecting in person with their colleagues, grabbing lunch together, collaborating across an actual desk – these are important things that contribute to the employee experience. So as leaders, we have to balance the issue of employee safety with these other factors.

Two important ways Neustar has integrated a pandemic-related “lesson” into our workplace has been in the area of mental health and collaboration. 

While our employees showed amazing resiliency in the early days of the pandemic, we knew forced isolation, worrying about the health of family and friends, and potential financial distress were mentally and emotionally taxing for many. We committed to a monthly cadence of executive level, company-wide meetings where mental health is a focus of discussion. These all hands meetings have provided an important level of transparency and care that has translated into trust. We believe when trust is earned, followership results. With earned followership, we are confident we will be able to weather the pandemic and continue to ensure Neustar thrives.

There are still many issues we will have to face related to the pandemic, so I’m proud we have implemented the right programs and resources so that our team is prepared to persevere irrespective of what we might face.

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