5 Qs With CDK Global’s CHRO On Embracing Virtual Workforce

While discussing key focus areas to keep the workforce intact, Amy Byrne, Chief Human Resources Officer, CDK Global mentions, “Staying close to our employee needs is critically important as we face a highly competitive talent market and our employees are disrupting their routines again as we return to offices in September”


In an exclusive interaction, Amy Byrne, Chief Human Resources Officer, CDK Global ponders how to embrace inclusivity, how people managers are integrating interconnected teams for better performance and also shares her observations on the overall impact on the workforce during this uncertainty. Byrne also discussed an initiative recently launched at CDK Global called ‘Impact teams’ as to encourage innovation in this Phygital era and more

1. In these times, people managers are change-makers; how are they integrating interconnected teams for better performance? How are they grooming middle managers to be able to connect with their respective teams in a better and smoother way?

This is an important question, as the integration of interconnected teams is one of the pieces which I believe has been largely overlooked while we have all been remote over the last year or more. People naturally focus on connecting vertically within the organization hierarchy, but less so horizontally.

The best managers at integrating interconnected teams recognize and acknowledge the importance of building relationships with peers and act as role models in this respect. One of our CDK values is “Own It” and the expectation we set of a manager who role models this behaviour is that the individual sees things all the way through for our customers … looks beyond their own department and proactively follows up with other teams that connect with their own to get the solution over the finish line.

We also carve out a week every year dedicated to building connections - to one another, our business, customers, and our local communities. During this week, in all of our CDK offices, we have planned activities that range from product demonstrations to listening to a panel of our CDK customers, to participate in volunteer activities in support of our Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. It's great to see our employees get together and strengthen their bond with one another and our company.

Specific to making our middle managers stronger leaders, earlier this year, we launched inclusion training targeted at our people leaders. This unique learning journey showed managers how to lead inclusively, which ultimately makes employees feel like they belong and are respected, valued team members.

2. As the companies across industries are accelerating their journey to adapt to automation. What will be the overall impact on the workforce?

Without a doubt, automation has transformed the way we work, and I believe it will continue to do so.

Advances in technology, including user-friendly video conferencing platforms, internal company networking channels like Slack, and broader accessibility to the Internet have allowed us to be less dependent on specific geographic locations to source our talent. We have also learned how to become more efficient and skilled in how we use technology to support our customers, leveraging both “chat” functionality as well as telephone conversations to cater to individual customer preferences.

For these reasons, at CDK, we recently decided to move to remote based working for our U.S.-based Customer Help Desk and Call Center. This move enables us to have access to a broader, more diverse talent pool and build a more nimble team, as well as reduce real estate costs.

I think you will see more and more companies move to a virtual workforce for some roles, which will open up job possibilities for many employees who were previously confined to job opportunities within a commutable distance to their homes. With more job prospects available to employees, as well as less human interaction with co-workers, loyalty to a particular company will likely become a greater challenge. Employers will need to look differently at their employee acquisition and retention strategies and find new, creative solutions to address turnover.

3. How are you as a CHRO impacting teams to embrace inclusivity and innovation in order to address constant changes in the work culture? Tell us about IMPACT Teams.

While diversity and inclusion have always been important to us, during our last fiscal year, we made a significant formal commitment to improving inclusion and diverse representation across CDK Global. In the spirit of let’s “walk the talk” we incorporated diverse representation as a measure in our annual incentive program. I think that’s a really impactful statement – to say we care about three things corporate-wide this year: Revenues, Profits and Improved Diversity. I’m proud of my company for taking that stand.

Another one of our CDK values is “Be Open” and this behaviour of listening and showing respect for one another is a core tenet of the inclusion training we rolled out last year. Our increased diverse representation will only be successful if our diverse populations feel included and respected. And as you suggest, we have to innovate in order to adapt to changing workforce dynamics and changing customer needs. We will only be successful at innovation if we have perspectives from a wide-ranging employee base and everyone’s voice is heard and taken seriously.

To further enhance our inclusion initiatives, we launched our Impact Teams last year. Our Impact Teams are employee-led groups that champion and support our commitments to inclusion and corporate responsibility. These groups help create a more dynamic and inclusive work environment aligned to our core mission and values.

Change in the workforce – like virtualizing roles – led to more opportunities for inclusion and diversity. As an example, with the virtualization of our Help Desk and Call Center, we are no longer restricted by geographical boundaries which have helped us source talent in more diverse communities and attract a wide array of candidates.

4. What is the one thing you would like to implement to achieve a more agile and intact workforce?

If the pandemic taught us anything, it was that we are more agile than we thought. We had to react quickly and implement change at a rapid pace to keep our employees safe. During this time, we also modernized our employee listening approach (historically known as our annual engagement survey) to a more frequent basis. We now survey our employees each week, which gives them multiple opportunities to provide feedback on key areas such as wellbeing, business strategy, inclusion and engagement.

Our people leaders can see their teams’ feedback and scores as their employees complete the surveys. Within the survey tool, managers can reply to anonymous employee comments and strategize on what actions to take based on employee feedback.

This is a tool that I want to see our managers fully leverage during the new fiscal year as we return to a hybrid work situation (at least 3 days in office and up to two remote) for the majority of our employees. Staying close to our employees' needs is critically important as we face a highly competitive talent market and our employees are disrupting their routines again as we return to offices in September.

5. According to you, what will be the focus areas for top leadership in order to thrive in the new normal?

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to build and nourish human connections. Managers have to be closer than ever to their employees and that will require harder work as employees spend more time away from the office. To thrive in the new normal, leaders need to focus on employees and truly listen as they share their thoughts, feelings, and career aspirations.

I honestly believe that nurturing our teams is as important as delivering for customers or achieving a sales goal. Turnover is a real cost which we want to avoid if possible. Having an engaged and loyal workforce is a key to success, and the only way to accomplish that is to build connections and support our employees. By listening and building strong connections to employees, and role modelling our Values as leaders, we can be an employer of choice and sustain an environment where everyone can thrive.

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CDK Global CHRO Interview Amy Byrne Virtual Workforce


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