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Reddit Chief People & Culture Officer Nellie Peshkov on Building Employee Trust During Difficult Times

Reddit Chief People & Culture Officer Nellie Peshkov on Building Employee Trust During Difficult Times

I am excited to sit down for a chat with someone I’ve known for years. Nellie Peshkov is the Chief People and Culture Officer for Reddit. In this episode, we discuss her background, her thoughts on remote and hybrid work, inclusion, and so much more.

Nellie joined the Reddit team in February 2020 – mere weeks before COVID shut the world down. Nothing quite prepared anyone for how quickly the pandemic changed things. We discuss how Nellie and her team were able to seize the opportunity during that time to rethink the concept of building employee trust and improve upon their organization’s culture as they entered a new era.

Join Nellie and me as we delve into Reddit post-2020 and her vision as Chief People and Culture Officer.

You can also listen/share the episode directly syndicated on any of these channels: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcast | Stitcher | TuneIn.

Building Trust During the Pandemic

Historians will flag this time as one of the most interesting periods on our planet. I ask how Nellie navigated being both a new employee. She went through her own onboarding process while relationship and trust-building, along with all of the things that come with being a new executive.

“It was a blessing in disguise, I think in a pandemic elevated the importance of the HR functions. So as the pandemic began to grow and increase and you began to realize this is not a temporary thing, then I and my team are looking to figure things out. So people felt, you know, how people feel became important.”

“And my team and I had to quickly assume a role of keeping our company together. And we were granted trust to do that because there's no better prepared function than ours to take action, to help people be healthy, be motivated, being engaged, and really feel supported during the most difficult time personally and professionally.”

The personal experience means as much to Nellie as the professional, “And then the personal level, it helped me, I think in many ways to build the relationships with my CEO, Steve Hoffman and my peers quickly, um, actually all of our employees pretty quickly, because like you said, there was no time to earn trust. So on the one hand, we had to work together as a leadership team and we had to pivot very quickly.”

“On the other hand, when people go through something difficult together and everyone is struggling. Everyone is trying to figure it out. It binds you. It actually builds relationships more deeply and faster. And if there wouldn't be a pandemic, I would be in my first few months traveling a lot. And as it is old, probably less efficient in meeting lots of people quickly.”

Culture Is Found in an Organization’s DNA

I've seen many different campaigns and initiatives that organizations lead, and many of them tend to come from ERG groups. They put the burden on them to do the heavy lifting instead of having some of these more broad internal conversations. So, it led me to ask about Reddit's internal podcast, Courageous Conversations.

"We believe that is how we build an inclusive culture is not just through inclusion training, it's through understanding other people's experiences and then developing empathy and developing the respect for those experiences for those different perspectives, for the different people. And through these Courageous Conversation podcasts, we bring these real stories to life and allow our employees to connect in ways that you can't through training or through just even a one-on-one coach."

"So we have really a communal culture. Our employees, because they believe in our mission of bringing in a sense of community and belonging to everyone in the world. We, of course, send to hire everything. People who are very communal in nature, and they believe in the power of community."

"They're very kind, very supportive. So when you're listening to [Courageous Conversations], and you hear your colleagues share such raw stories and they're so vulnerable and they're granting their colleagues trust by sharing their stories with them."

The Future of HR Is Agile

The way we think about the key pillars of HR is fundamentally different than it was18 months ago. I asked Nellie what excited her most about HR and what will emerge on the other side of the pandemic.

“I think we've proven the ability to flex and pivot and innovate, all of this to do the right thing to help your businesses and your employees succeed. I'm intrigued to keep re-evaluating all the things that we do, whether they're truly impactful and have the answers, maybe not -- to stop it, try without it. See what happens. Did we lose our effectiveness?

“I always talked to my team about experiments and more, not being afraid to try new approaches, not being afraid to fail. I think for the longest time in HR we've been so risk-averse because we are supposed to be perfect as a function. We're supposed to help everyone else out and know exactly what to do. We do not, you know, we, it can meet the moment. We try to solve complex problems together, but more importantly, we'll learn and evolve and keep getting better as a function.”

So the future of HR to me is very agile. Use one of the term buzz words. It's about testing experimentation. And last but not least, and this is a very personal belief of mine: bigger, fewer, and better, meaning only the most impactful programs and processes, and as few of them as possible. So that most of our time as an HR team is actually spent shaping culture and not spent managing programs.”

Sit down with Nellie and I as we discuss pandemic-lessons and how we move into an exciting post-COVID era in HR.

People in This Episode

Redefining HR is underwritten by our friends at Pyn, leaders in modern employee communications for the distributed workplace. A tremendous tool that’s definitely worth your time.