HR@Home Ep7: Dana Bennett, VP people & capabilities at Mozilla

Today, we’re talking to Dana Bennett, VP people & capabilities at Mozilla. Dana is responsible for all aspects of human resources including talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion, learning and development, and organisational development. Before joining Mozilla, Dana was Vice President of HR at Palo Alto networks and a Senior People Leader at Apple, where she worked for over a decade and prior to those roles, then Dana worked for eBay, E-Trade and applied materials.

You can watch the episode below, or read the full interview underneath.

What do you feel is the single biggest challenge you’re facing as an HR leader during this COVID-19 pandemic?

Dana: Right now the biggest challenge that we are facing is about how do you lead with empathy but drive performance, so it’s a balance that we want to make sure that we’re striking. And we want to be incredibly empathetic. This is a pandemic that we’ve never experienced before and people need a different type of balance.

People need a different type of work, environment and flexibility. And at the same time there’s a business that needs to be run, and we really want to make sure that we are meeting our goals. So it’s striking the balance between those two things of leading with empathy, but making sure you’re also driving for performance.

From an organisational point of view, how has your business adjusted to the COVID-19 challenge?

D: It’s definitely been a challenge that we’ve been going through. An interesting thing about Mozilla is that we were over 50 per cent remote prior to COVID-19, and specifically in the UK, we’re about 69 per cent remote. So the actual change to being a remote environment hasn’t been as challenging.

However, this has brought just a huge set of different challenges to everybody, not only throughout the world but specifically for organisations. What we have been able to do are a couple of things that I think have been really important.

One is being incredibly transparent and leading with a ton of communication. So what I mean by that is we send out weekly emails that update employees not only on what’s going on specifically for their country, or for their jurisdiction, but also what is going on at Mozilla and how are we moving forward - leading, like I said, with empathy, but also balancing the business as well.

We hold weekly all company meetings, where the leadership team has an opportunity to share with the employees what is going on from a leadership standpoint, what is going on with the business, and also just open it up for a Q and A - and we try to leave about 50 per cent of time for Q & A.

I think the third thing that’s really been valuable is that we were able to at the very beginning run a program where we gave employees up to $1000 to be able to expense anything that they needed to create their office environment to make it a better environment for them and if you were already remote just to create your wellbeing to really make sure that we were giving employees, leaders and managers an opportunity to settle into this new environment.

So we’ve really focused on that transparent communication, really focused on it being consistent as well. And then giving opportunity for the employees to get settled into this new environment, not only for their physical space, but also their wellbeing.

What piece of advice would you share with HR professionals about how to keep employees productive at this time and connected?

D: There’s a couple of different things that I would throw out there that we’ve experimented with and played around with specifically at Mozilla. One of those is creating different types of spaces for people to connect.

We of course connect via Slack and Zoom, but how do we do that differently? So creating different types of channels that people can opt into, making sure that people have an opportunity to create Zoom meetings that are different from our normal day-to-day.

For example, it was a grassroots effort and some employees were able to create a pet parade Zoom once a week, where everybody jumps on with their different pets and animals. A different leader put together a ‘Mini Mozillians’, where all the kids can join in on the Zoom and really see like how the families are tied into Mozilla. And so it’s creating that unique way for people to connect.

I think the other thing that I will go back to is just this constant and consistent communication, and keeping it incredibly transparent as much as possible. Mozilla has always been a really transparent company, but we’re stretching that even more right now just to make sure that employees, managers and leaders have the right information to lead.

And again, pulling back into that empathy piece: How do you make sure that you’re getting the right information so that you can make the right decisions, coming from a place of empathy and driving the business?

Businesses are now starting to highlight ‘Zoom fatigue’. What are your thoughts about this and have you found it occurring in your business?

D: To be totally honest, I am sure that it occurs with individuals and what we’ve encouraged people to do is, if you’re feeling Zoom fatigue, two different things.

One is that being available via phone is completely okay, so sometimes it’s like going outside to take a phone call, or making sure that you’re able to do it outside of where you’ve been working all day, is really important. So we’re encouraging employees to do that.

The other is creating that balance and that space to make sure that you have times in your day where you are giving yourself your lunch break, or your daily walk if you needed to do that while you were in the office or when we were pre-COVID-19. If you had blocked that time out on your day, even when you were remote, making sure you continue to do that; because Zoom fatigue is a real thing.

I will say that since Mozilla was such a remote environment prior to COVID-19, most people have figured out how to really adapt and how to create that balance with their life. But we’re making sure that we’re giving tips and tricks to managers and leaders as well as encouraging individual employees to make sure that they’re constantly aware of that for their own wellbeing.