Everyday assumptions of safety, face-to-face meetings, commuting and travel—our routine of work has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we await advances in medical progress, we will review the impact of recent financial upheavals, shockwaves affecting employment and small business, and multiple scenarios of economic recovery at both macro and micro scales.
Jennifer Christie, Chief HR Officer at Twitter, and Michael Piwowar, Executive Director at the Milken Institute and member of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, along with Dan Deets, Head of HR Transformation and Services at Wells Fargo, provided their perspectives on the new reality and future of work. They explored recent disruptions but also innovations—including the unprecedented transition to a work from home model, effects on employee productivity, and potential long-term impact on employment policies, workplace design and corporate culture.
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. And welcome to the New Realities and Future of Work Conference Call.
At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. Also please be advised that today’s session is being recorded. If you require any further assistance please press “star” “0.”
I would like to hand the conference over to your speaker today, (Mr. William Inman), Vice President of Wells Fargo Government Relations and Public Policy. Thank you. Please go ahead, Mr. Inman.
William Inman: Thanks, Misty. And thank you, all, for joining us. We’re excited to have so many clients with us today. We hope you are all doing well and staying safe. I’m William Inman with Wells Fargo’s Government Relations and Public Policy and we’re excited about our panel today focused on framing the future, the new realities and the future of work.
Our moderator today is, Dan Deets, Wells Fargo’s Head of HR Transformation and Services. Dan oversees a team that brings together HR strategy and transformation capabilities, people, process and technology with those delivering HR programs and services for Wells Fargo. He has a passion for employee experiences where we put people at the center of processes. Over the past several months, Dan has also led Wells Fargo’s COVID response for human resources, ensuring the right benefits, policies and processes are in place to ensure workplace safety, business continuity and support for employees affected by the pandemic.
Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Dan spent five years at KeyBank as Head of Human Resources for Corporate Investment Banking, Technology and Operations, and all administrative services. Dan also held numerous leadership positions at Bank of America.
Our two panelists, Jennifer Christie and Michael Piwowar, actually worked in the White House at the same time though in different departments. Jennifer Christie is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Twitter. Prior to joining twitter, Jennifer was the Senior Vice President and HR business partner for the Global Consumer Services Group for American Express. In this role she was responsible for developing and executing the talent organizational and leadership strategy for the business.
She also served as their Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Global Executive Recruitment and was responsible for developing the company’s global diversity and inclusion strategy, and led executive level of recruitment for all business and staff groups worldwide. Jennifer also spent two years as a special assistant to the President of the United States in the White House office of Presidential Personnel.
Michael Piwowar is the Executive Director of the Milken Institute Center for Financial Markets. Dr. Piwowar served as a commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange commission from 2013 to 2018. He was first appointed to the SEC by President Obama and was designated Acting Chairman of the Commission by President Trump until May 2017. During the financial crisis and its immediate aftermath, Dr. Piwowar served in a one-year fixed termed position at the White House as a Senior Economist at the President’s Council of Economics Advisors in both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.
Dr. Piwowar is currently serving as a member of the American Workplace Policy Advisory Board, providing advice and recommendations to the Interagency National Council for the American Worker on ways to encourage the private sector and educational institutions to invest in and increase demand driven education training and retraining including training through apprenticeships and work based learning opportunities.
Thank you all for joining the discussion today. Dan, I’ll hand it over to you.
Dan Deets: Thanks, William. And welcome everyone. Jennifer and Mike, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. I’m excited to hear your perspectives from both the business point of view and the public policy point of view. And as I think about it when we talk about work we are ultimately talking about people and their livelihood which is intensely personal and emotional – and so although we’re talking about this topic from a business perspective I just want to take a minute to recognize the level of personal impact that all us and many around us have felt due to the pandemic.
And for me, as you heard from William in the introduction, the last six months have been clearly the most challenging in my career. And yet transformational as I think about the amount of change to support our clients and our internal business operations at Wells Fargo has gone through. I’m interested to hear your points of view, as well.
So let me begin just by asking how these past several months have been for each of you on a professional level as you lead through the new realities and uncertainties that we’ve all had to face. So maybe we’ll start with Jennifer. Could you share how you and your company have managed to navigate through this difficult period over the last six months?
Jennifer Christie: Thanks, Dan. And thanks for having me. And yes there’s no question that this year has been challenging on many fronts. And especially for our people and all of us. I can tell you that – when I think about how we’ve been able to navigate this change, I think about two things that really helped us – help us do that.
One was, about two years ago actually in 2018, we embarked on our workforce strategy that was very much focused on positioning us for the future of work. We just had no idea how fast the future would get here. But our focus on that was really making – making our organization more capable of working in a more distributed fashion. Really truly trying to get out a very heavy headquarters and office-centric way of operating. Just because we really saw down the road that companies would shift and employee perceptions and the way they wanted to work would shift.
And we were – were not ready for it. So we really started disrupting ourselves by increasing remote work, increasing flexibility and starting to move our workforce and evolve our footprint outside of San Francisco, in order to get ready for the future. But again we didn’t really know how fast that would come. But it did help us pivot when this hit and we decided, made that decision to send everybody home.
The second piece is something that actually was mentioned earlier. I think in your bio about being people-centric and putting people first. That has been our North Star since day one of this crisis when we decided in early March in the midst of a lot of uncertainty about the virus on the impact on communities and people. We said you know out of an abundance of caution we’re going to take that step and do what we think is the most important thing to keep our people safe and the communities where we live and work safe.
And so that’s – and that has been our North Star since day one. All of the decisions we’ve made since then about whether we open offices or not and how we are giving choice to our people has been really driven by keeping them safe and putting them first. So I think those two things see into the future and disrupting ourselves early on, about two years ago to get ready for this, and also just putting people first.
Dan Deets: Yes, I love that idea of putting people first and having a North Star. It’s compelling and clear. Mike, let me turn to you. From your perspective, how are you advising organizations on navigating this challenging period?
Michael Piwowar: Yes, we’re really doing it through our network of experts. So at the Milken Institute we’re really fortunate not only to have a number of experts in public health and medicine and financial markets and other areas, but outside sponsors and other stake holders we have a vast network of people that we can rely on.
And so what we’ve been doing since the COVID crisis hit is doing a number of convening some public some private. Some of the public ones are available on our website. We have a conference call series where we get together a panel of experts and our chairman Mike Milken has his own podcast series.
And it’s really channeling the information that people have in their various areas of expertise, so early on there was an appetite for a lot of information just about the virus itself. What’s the likelihood of finding a vaccine or a therapeutic or a cure? And so we tapped our experts and talked about that.
What is the likely timeline? What are people working on? What are the likely things that are going to be fruitful in terms of providing comfort and relief from that? In addition, in the health space, we’ve learned that there are some organizations and some people that can move very quickly to a work from home environment, and are – and it’s very stable and it works very well.
But in other places, it presents a number of challenges, and we saw that there was a rising concern about some of the mental health issues related to that. So we had some – brought in some experts and talked about some of the mental health challenges.
And then on the economic side, just to gain an understanding of what is exactly was going on when we shut down the economy? What effects it was having; talking through those is very helpful in terms of people planning forward.
And then also then talking about as Congress moved to solutions in terms of economic stimulus bills – what are things that could be helpful? And we found it not only useful for other people inside of our network, but we also found those conversations useful to ourselves, so that we can then turn our policy work towards working with Congress and the administration to implement some of these potential solutions.
Dan Deets: Thanks Mike and thanks to both you and Jennifer for the setup and the broad perspective. I’d like to turn us to the depth and current state of the economic crisis. So as many on the phone now, in the second quarter we had the largest GDP decrease and economic contraction on record and a collapse that one might estimate could have been worst if it had not been for government aid.
And with the exception of last week that was just under the wire, the U.S. experienced 20 straight weeks where unemployment claims exceeded one million. So in addition, you had 800,000 people file for benefits under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, which supported – I’ll call it non-traditional workers through unemployment benefits. So Mike, I’m going to stick with you. Can you elaborate on what we’re seeing now from an economic standpoint, and how you see things in the near term?
Michael Piwowar: Yes, so one of the questions I’m often asked is how does this compare to the global financial crisis that we saw in 2008, 2009? And as William mentioned, Jennifer and I were both at the White House at the same time, and who knew the global financial crisis would be the easy financial crisis of our generation.
This one is much different. On the surface, it looks like it – there’s a lot of similarities where you have an economic recession. You have Congress coming in with a stimulus package, and you have the Federal Reserve coming in, standing up various liquidity facilities for the short term – to make sure the market keeps running and those sorts of things.
But really they’re very different crises, and if you think about the global financial crisis, it really started in the banking sector where a number of banks were the problem. Where you had some of the banks were under-capitalized.
You had a lot of exposure in the over – over the counter derivatives market, and government officials and the regulators and in fact counter parties didn’t really have any information in terms of what all these counter party exposures were.
So there was a lot of fear and uncertainty in that, and there were concerns about runs on the banks. Wells Fargo, I will note, was well capitalized and was not as exposed in the over the counter derivatives market.
In fact, was a part of the solution in taking over Wachovia and a number of other instances during the crisis, but a lot of the other big banks, right? We had the failure of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs almost failed, and a number of other instances there.
This crisis is very different. It started, of course in the health sector, and you had initially – you had – we had a supply shock to the economy. So we had it – it started over in China and lot of U.S. supply chains are over in China, and so there was a supply shock in terms of getting goods and services back to the U.S. market.
And then when the virus hit the United States, our economy shut down, and so then you had a demand shock – where you had people literally just sitting home, not going out, not going to restaurants, not traveling on airplanes, not going to hotels, and then – we had a conversation with the CEO of Hyatt Hotels who – in April and May their revenues went down 97 percent.
Imagine being a CEO of a company and for a few month period your revenues go down 97 percent. I mean that is just – it’s unbelievable. And so to your question about the government coming, this is really unprecedented and so what the government tried to do was – is try to alleviate the problems with the individuals that it was hurting the most.
I think one of the lessons from the global financial crisis is when you have government coming in and providing support, and some people call that bail out. If you have bail outs of large financial institutions or large auto companies, but you don’t have bail outs for individuals there’s a political risk of a backlash that comes from that.
And we saw that with the rise of the Tea Party on the right and the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement and some of the progressive movements on the left. And we still have messages of that, and so the current administration and Congress was very sensitive to that and tried to at least to tailor some of these benefits to the individuals that hurt the most. It’s a work in progress and they’re still working through it. So I think those would be the major differences between the two crises.
Dan Deets: Thanks Mike for the insight, and I had not heard the comparison and the labeling of ’08 as the easy financial crisis. I mean that puts it clearly in perspective how difficult this period is. And so Jennifer from your point of view, can you talk a little bit about Twitter and how you’re handling this difficult period that Mike described where you’ve got employment changes and you’ve got labor contraction. Can you share thoughts on what can best be done by the private sector?
Jennifer Christie: Sure. So it’s interesting, as we entered into this year we had just locked down our next three-year plan. And so, obviously that went out the door when this hit, and we had to really kind of quickly pivot and figure out how to we reprioritize. And Mike talked about the demand shocks. One of the trickle-down effects about that if you will was the advertising spend being reduced pretty dramatically which had an impact on our business, but at the same time the number of people on our service was growing pretty rapidly.
So we had this kind of dual thing happening where we had needed additional resources in certain parts of our organization around customer service and engineering and the people who are monitoring the health of our platform as it – as it continued to grow, but in other parts of our organization, events, and marketing if you will, even part of the recruiting organization that was ramping down where we had more of a hiring slowdown, we had to kind of think about how do we shift priorities, and how do we shift our resources in a way that helps us run really fast in some areas and slow down in others.
And one of the things in addition to kind of reprioritizing on top of a plan we just set is that we launched what we call a Tweep exchange. So our people we call Tweeps, but we recognize that there were some groups that had some bandwidth. And so, we opened up a practice where they could raise their hand to go work in other parts of our organization where the work was surging. And we put together some very quick training programs to up-skill people in kind of new ways, and we had a really great take in by people who really just said ‘I want to do something that helps our service, that helps us stay relevant, and helps us continue to have our impact, and right now I’ve got time, so sign me up’.
And so, we were really able to almost get an army of people that were able to come and run at some of the areas where the work was really surging. And what I would say if I zoom out when you – we also have the private sector, I think going forward that’s something that we’re going to really need build muscle around. How do we pivot quickly? How do we re-skill?
How do we look at some of the industries that probably aren’t going to come back to the same levels that they were and that – the impact that has on workers who are going to be looking for something new to think about getting into a different career or learning a new skill. And how can we, the private sector, open the doors for that and bring people in and get them on board maybe mid-career or later in their career in a new way and to help them continue to accelerate their own progress?
Dan Deets: Thanks, Jennifer. I appreciate it. It’s an amazing example. One more policy-related time for you, Mike. So it seems like without the CARES Act and the subsequent relief efforts the crisis may have been much worse, and you have lawmakers now on both sides who are working it seems on a new relief package that includes extending unemployment benefits but no deal yet. So can you – can you talk about what you expect from Washington in the near-term and maybe give us a brief update on the politics at play?
Michael Piwowar: Sure. If I may, let me just say something positive about Twitter. So as a Twitter user, I found Twitter to be extremely helpful to me as an individual and as a manager just in terms of getting information about the virus. I mean, I – for like a two – the first two months of the crisis the first thing I did in the morning when I got up was spend an hour on Twitter looking through all the various sources of information whether it was an original source of information or people that I now followed because they didn’t trust – I view them as trusted information sources to help me sort of filter through what’s important.
So early on our masks were important and how important it is to social distance and all those sorts of things, so just kudos to Twitter for having that platform available so that you can crowdsource this information from folks that were able to provide great information to me.
Now back to your question, Dan, about Washington, D.C. Yes, you’re right. The CARES Act, and there’s – depending on how you count, there’s already been sort of three sort of stimulus bills in Washington, D.C. targeted either to the health effects or to the – direct economic effects from the crisis have been extremely helpful.
They helped stave off going into a greater depression. They’re short-term fixes like the unemployment benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program and some of those things, but they were meant to – intended to sort of fill the hole for the temporary downturn that we were going to – we were going to have from the economy.
As this – as this goes longer and longer, you’re going to start to see and we already have started to see how much of these things need to be permanent versus how much of these things need to be more targeted, tweaked, and those sorts of things. So you saw that in Paycheck Protection Program where I forget how many frequently asked questions are on the Treasury’s website and how many times they’ve recalibrated that program to make sure the money’s getting where it’s going, the unemployment benefits, is it the right level, is it creating disincentive for work and those sorts of things.
And what you saw through the first set of stimulus bills that came through was overwhelming bipartisanship. Even the most fiscally conservative members of Congress recognized that we needed as a government to spend massive amounts of money to put into the economy, more importantly put into the hands of individuals to stave off something worse.
Now that the lockdowns are starting to open up, the economy is starting to open up a little bit, it looks like the beginning of potentially a V-shaped recovery or economists like all kinds of different shapes. I’m worried about a W-shaped recovery where we go up and then we have a second wave of the virus and it goes back down again.
But there seems to be a little bit of breathing room now and what you’re seeing in Congress is sort of the typical call it politics call it just the normal way that Washington works now is you have sort of an impasse now at – right at the moment or you have the more physically conservative members of Congress are starting to question the need for just throwing massive amounts of money and want more sort of targeted relief.
And then folks on the other side of the political spectrum are using it as an opportunity to put additional things in a stimulus bill that aren’t necessarily directly related to the crisis and there’s a negotiation going on with that right now.
And then what you’ve seen is the president has come in and decided to break the impasse in his own way by issuing executive orders to try to get some money directly in the hands of people and that’s being played out right now whether that’s actually constitutional or not that he can do that sort of thing. So, that’s what’s going on. You’re going to continue to see both sides sort of do we’ll call it Kabuki theatre, play to their bases and those sorts of things.
But what they’re doing in the background you can be sure there are some serious people who are negotiating. And then of course they’re looking at poll numbers and seeing who gets blamed for this and who has bargaining power and are they going to meet halfway or is one side going to get more out of this. I’m an internal optimist in Washington D.C. that something at least short-term will get done. But that remains to be seen.
Dan Deets: Thanks, Mike, and like you I’ve always been a loyal Twitter user and I have several epidemiologists and policy experts who are now in my list of folks I follow which was I never would’ve guessed it for sure. So I want to turn us to leadership and leading through disruption. So, obviously the economic disruption you guys have articulated extremely well. It’s led to organizational disruption as well for companies both big and small.
So maybe I’ll start, Jennifer, just asking for Twitter which is one of the most well-known, most progressive technology organizations on earth how do you guys continue to respond to the change and the disruption and what things are you doing differently for your employees?
Jennifer Christie: Yes. So, first – I mean, it’s so great to hear both of you talk about what Twitter as a service means and it is our singular purpose serving the public conversation, that’s what we do, it’s what we get up for every day.
And during this like I said before it’s our – our north star is how we focus on our people and that’s what we’ve done since we’ve sent them home and we’ve really looked across everything that we do to say what needs to change, what needs to evolve for this situation.
And one which was mentioned earlier today which was first and foremost is a thing that I – that’s always top of mind for me is the wellbeing and particular the mental health of – and wellbeing of our employees. This is unchartered territory; we don’t have a playbook for it. But we know that it’s causing different stress and anxiety for everybody. And all of our employees experience this differently and have different things that they’re dealing with.
And so, we said what can we do? So around that, we’ve have a clinical psychologist on staff for a while now running our global wellness program. And she’s been able to really ramp up our efforts around mental health support through our associates and with modern health where we provide counseling and coaching for all employees and – or have the ability to – and have had the ability to scale that as the need has increased.
And so, she hosts ‘ask the doc sessions’ and office hours and things like that just to really make it very open to talk about those issues and know that we know people are dealing with lots of different things and their wellbeing and health and emotional wellbeing is first and foremost for us. So we’ve leaned into really thinking about those resources.
We’ve also had a lot of conversation and listening sessions with our parents who are dealing also with a lot of different types of challenges and have looked very flexibly about working hours and reduced schedules, how we can think about our caregiver benefits and be – using those more flexibly.
We also have been supportive of temporary relocations for hundreds of our Tweeps. The muscle that we had started building due our workforce strategy part of that was people being able to just move and go work in other places, keep their same job but do it from another place as part of the work that we’ve been doing.
And so, we had to scale that when we had so many of our Tweeps coming to us saying that if I – if this is going to be kind of for a prolonged period of time that I’m going to need to be kind of sheltering in place, I need to do it somewhere else. I want to go be near family, etc.
So we were able to facilitate very quickly to move people could get situated where they needed to be where they can be most supported and feel most safe. And so that was another thing that we focused on.
We also looked at our ratings and our performance management system, and said you know what; this is not the year to put the extra anxiety of everybody around what is the rating going to be and all of that. Everyone is working as hard as they can. And we keep shifting priorities and we keep asking them to take on different things and as we continue to kind of pivot and respond to this crisis. And that’s good enough.
We know that they are working as hard as they can. And so let’s take a step back and let’s suspend our normal ratings process and instead focus on monthly check-ins, reprioritizing, really understanding how people are doing back to the mental and emotional wellbeing and let that be our focus this year and let’s see where we come out on the other side.
But it’s been – whether it’s supporting our parents or whether it’s thinking about the different benefits that we have and how can we be flexible around them it really comes back to how do we make sure our people are doing well and can be supported during this time.
Dan Deets: Thank you for that. So, we talked about the various sides of companies from large to small. So, in the small business space across the U.S. there are countless companies now faced with unanticipated new challenges. Mike, could you talk about your recent work on the board of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Group and specifically the work you did to expedite the economic recovery and get Americans back to work?
Michael Piwowar: Sure, so the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board is an advisory board to the Department of Commerce and it’s actually chaired by Secretary Wilbur Ross and Ivanka Trump from the White House. And it’s comprised of leaders from industry, education labor, there’s a number of CEO’s, governors, university presidents, non-profits, and folks in – with labor unions and those sorts of things.
And we were convened to provide recommendations to, as Jennifer was mentioning, even before the crisis, there was this need for companies – the industry and the government to come together and talk about the fact that there’s going to be a massive need for upscaling and rescaling within the labor force over the coming years. And so it was thinking about that and trying to get ahead of the curve.
And once COVID-19 hit, that really accelerated the need for a lot of the work streams that we were already working on, and so back in May we came out with what we call a call to action, and it was organized around sort of three sort of immediate workforce recovery role – goals. So if we’re going to – if the economy’s going to recover, there’s going to be not only money has to be spent in terms of getting hands – giving money in the hands of people, but also in terms of rescaling them for these new jobs that Jennifer was talking about.
And so, one of the goals was to come up with ideas on ways to expedite American workers return to the employment by thinking about multiple career pathways that implements skill-based hiring processes. So if you think about the way the United States we think about education and training, it’s – most of it is through the traditional sort of four year college degree and it’s a credential based environment.
And many of the people on this board are recognizing that it’s really – it’s that credentials don’t matter as much as the actual skills that you have, and there are many different types of ways enabled by technology, enabled by creativity, enabled by employer-led training programs that can get people the skills that they need that aren’t necessarily through these traditional programs that are out there.
And so there was already work and I’ll give one example. Tim Cook from Apple said that they’ve now given a curriculum to one or more community colleges and said to them look, if you put people through this curriculum, we will hire them as coders, we will hire 100 percent of them. This is what we need, we don’t need a four year college degree, we need two years of very hard coding skills and we will hire everyone in this.
And there’s even more sort of creative ways around it. And one of the things – the recommendations that we made was that – the second one was that there are – at the government level, there were policies out there that actually are obstacles to be certain things. So if you think about the federal student financial aid system, it’s very much tied through the traditional, what is called federal title IV programs, that are there.
And so we made recommendations as to make that more available for other sort of life-long opportunities, right. And the jargon that people use is high quality short-term market aligned credential program that’s stacked towards having a good human capital portfolio. Another is expand the employer provided education assistance, right.
So there’s tax subsidies for providing workforce development, and the cap on that, $5,250 a year, has not been increased in decades, even though the cost of education has gone up. And the scope of it, it should be opened up to provide people that take advantage of that from some of these other opportunities that are there. And then finally recognizing that COVID-19 has brought forward, a trend that we were already seeing, which is a technology-based education and training, right, we’re already seeing a movement towards that, but this has really, really accelerated it.
And it’s brought to the forefront, particularly whether it’s high school, college education or even workforce development education, but there’s kind of the haves and the have not’s, right. There’s often talked about the broadband deserts in rural areas, but the reality is if you look at the people that don’t have access to broadband, there’s three times as many people in urban areas that don’t have access to broadband, simply broadband simply due to cost and other reasons, other obstacles that are out there. And so, if we’re going to be moving towards this as a way for people to get educated and also once they’re in the workforce to upscale, rescale and further their career, there needs to be – we need to really build the technological infrastructure to go along with that.
And so we made recommendations about some federal – a small amount of federal money to get help spurred at the local level to make it much more affordable for the average person.
Dan Deets: Thanks Mike, and I’m going to stick with you here and turn the topic to social responsibility. I can’t comment on the credibility of my source here, but I did see a reference to a K shaped recovery, and it seemed to point out the, what we all see as at the forefront, drastic inequities, whether that’s employment opportunity or income disparity. So, do you think that Washington can play a leadership role here in addressing these inequities, and I’m kind of interested in what role you think these issues might play in the upcoming election?
Michael Piwowar: Yes, so the answer to that is an unambiguous yes, and actually think about the 2016 election. It already played a role in that, right. If you think of who were the Trump voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan, right, these were the people that were felt like they were left behind in an era where we had globalization and we had supply chain shifting overseas for cost reasons and those types of things.
And so there was this real feeling, if you talk to these people, that they were left behind and there were these inequities there. And then now fast forward to over the last few months with a lot of things that were prompted by the killing of George Floyd and some of the other questions about inequities in other dimensions that are out there. It definitely is going to play a big role in this election.
I think people are really attuned in terms of not only the presidential election, but also in Congress in terms of which party and which candidates are going to be able to address those things. In terms of what can Congress do, I mean, I’m proud to say at the Milken Institute, I have Aaron Betru as my senior director who works for me. He’s been working on these issues for a long time, trying to figure out ways in which you can improve access to capital in underserved areas.
And he’s done a lot of research showing that the role of small minority deposit institutions and community development financing institutions, can play a very, very pivotal role; and in fact, large banks like Wells Fargo can play a very large part in that in terms of providing mentor and training and expertise in those types of programs, so that’s very, very important.
Also, we’ve been doing a lot of work, in 2017 Congress had passed a Tax Cut and Jobs Act, and part of that is designating these things called opportunity zones, which were economically underserved areas designated by all of the governors, which provided tax incentives to provide investments for either real estate or into opportunities for new businesses in those areas.
And we were already working very hard trying to figure out how to make it work at the federal level in terms of the regulations, to make it easier for the money to go into businesses. And then also doing trainings for state and local and government officials, to make them aware of the program and to be able to tailor it to their needs.
Now it turns out, the way that the legislation is written, it doesn’t really work that well for corporations to take advantage of these, but now that we’re seeing in the COVID-19 crisis, as I mentioned, we had the supply shock and companies are really rethinking their supply chains. So pre-COVID, it was all about optimizing, what can you squeeze out in terms of efficiency for the lowest amount of cost. The keyword now when we talk to people is resilience. How are the supply chains going to be resilient to the next unknown shock, whatever that is.
And there’s a lot of talk about repatriating supply chains back into the United States, and that’s going to create a lot of job opportunities. And one of the things we’ve been recommending is that if we’re going to do that anyway, why don’t we do a couple simple fixes to the opportunity zone legislation so that companies will be given tax incentives to provide those job opportunities in those underserved areas where they need them the most.
And so I think – like I mentioned, we rely on our network of really smart people out there, and just simply from listening to people and hearing their ideas, we’re working together to try to come up with some creative ideas on these. And we’re getting a lot of traction – a lot of bipartisan traction, I should mention, on Capitol Hill. If this next stimulus bill does start to move forward, we’re optimistic that some of these things can be incorporated. And so we’re very heartened to see that there’s a lot of bipartisan interest and more equity in economic opportunity.
Dan Deets: Thanks, Mike. Jennifer, what do you think can be done in the private sector in terms of turning the tide with regard to both social responsibility and taking a stand against inequality?
Jennifer Christie: Yes, obviously companies can be a force for change in the world, there’s no question about that. And I know at Twitter, we do see our unique role in the world as giving a voice and amplifying under represented voices in communities. So there is a lot that companies can do. But I would say, it has to start from within.
At the end of the day, you can’t really demand that the world be a better place if you role modeling that to your company and really providing an environment of inclusion and really focusing on things that matter to your employees. And they’re making their voices very heard.
So I think starting from within, and we have been – part of our workforce strategy that I’ve mentioned a few times, was very also focused on expanding the diversity of our workforce, which is why we wanted to tap into broader talent pools and not just focus on the Bay area, which really opened up a lot for us in terms of reaching our diversity goals.
But it’s something that we’ve been working on, and when things that have happened recently come to the fore and really – our employees are raising their voices and talking about what can be done, they know that the commitment is there because we’ve been demonstrating that we’re here and we’re trying to make this progress for them and with them.
What we’ve done more recently, I would say is – to make our employees feel heard, especially during these times, is we launched something called, hashtag – which we of a lot of hash tagging. We launched #TakeCare, which is a program that’s co-sponsored by our ‘Blackbird’, which is our business research group for employees who identify as black and their allies, that fosters dialogue between our Tweeps, black therapists and wellness experts to process race related trauma and promote resilience. That’s one thing that is more recent. We also have launched Twitter Together talks, which foster open conversations about racial equality and anti-racism and social justice here at Twitter. Our first session was with the New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Kendi on how to be an anti-racist, and that was followed by a session with Janet Mock, for our conversations around black trans lives matter.
And then across our portfolio of training that we’ve had in place, we’ve revisited and revised it, especially our unconscious bias training, and we’ve launched a new series of allyship workshops for our Tweeps. So we’re infusing it across all that we do. We are – we report out on pay equity, we have a diversity dashboard that we make available to all of our employees where they can go and look at what the diverse makeup is of any team across the organization.
So I think it’s – we’ve really leaned into transparency and accountability around these issues internally, and it just gets me back to the first point I made. I think you’ve got to start there, and then there’s so much you can do. If you’re really walking the walk internally and your employees see that that’s something you’re committed to, I think you’re then able to think about what kind of force you can be in the world to make change in these areas, depending on what your company is and the impact that they can have.
Dan Deets: Yes, I appreciate that a great deal. That’s a lot of innovation in terms of how you’re running Twitter. I’m curious if you see other innovations coming out of the crisis on the technology side?
Jennifer Christie: Yes, I think this is a time where innovation is going to be at the fore, and one of the things that I’m really hopeful for is more innovation around some of the intangibles about working. I think we’ve got the way to do video chats, and some of the ways that people have leaned in to working during this period of time. But some of the things that we’re really focused on going forward is how do we create a real level playing field?
Whether you’re working at home or you’re in the office, you still have access to that informal communication – that relationship building, the culture. And so we’ve – we have really seen our usage of Slack go up very organically as we think our people are trying to connect with each other in more informal ways and recreate some of those hallway conversations and drive-by notices in way of interacting when you’re in an office.
But I do think there’s a way that technology can help us there. Mike also mentioned, I think it’s very important around learning. How do we think about onboarding people in the remote environment and constantly upskilling them as our world continues to evolve? I think it’s going to be really important.
And we’ve learned a lot actually by talking to companies that went remote right from the start. So companies like GitLab and others that – not that Twitter’s goal is to be fully remote, that may be way down the line, and that’s not what we’re trying to drive for.
We’re trying to drive for really maximizing flexibility and choice. So whether someone wants to work in our office every day, or they want to be at home, or they want to split their time we’ve got a place for them.
But by talking to companies like GitLab, for example, who do everything from day one fully remote we’ve learned a lot about how they think about relationship building, how they think about on boarding, how they think about knowledge management in an environment where you aren’t learning by the casual conversations and you don’t have the physical space where you have access to things.
So I do think that coming out of this – and you’re already starting to see start-ups with different ways of setting up home offices, and different technologies along collaboration and communication. So I think coming out of this we’ll emerge different ways of working that will support a better level playing field than we have right now.
Dan Deets: Thanks for that. And as we conclude here, I’ll just ask Mike one last question here. If you had a short forecast, or any tidbits for our listeners here that might inform the rest of their year?
Michael Piwowar: Yes. So J.P. Morgan, the man was famously asked what’s going to happen to the stock market over the next year and he confidently answered it will fluctuate. So there’s still a lot of uncertainty out there, but I think in terms of looking forward, as Jennifer mentioned there’s a lot of challenges from dealing with individuals within the corporation, right? I was writing down a number of the diversity initiatives that Twitter’s doing – that’s fantastic.
We had a great energy at the Milken Institute, particularly with the young people about wanting to do something. And so one of the things we did was started a diversity and inclusion task force, and they’ve already broken up in to subcommittees.
And one of the conscious decisions that we made was that it shouldn’t be the senior management, it should be the folks that are not necessarily senior managers – the more junior staffers and stuff, and let them work together, and come up with ideas, and have it be sort of a bottom up approach in terms of the things that we do.
We have a wellness program. We – it’s – we tried a bunch of things, some worked, some didn’t. If you look forward who knows what’s going to last. I look back, and when we first went to work from home we tried to replicate a lot of the things that we did in a work environment. So we tried virtual happy hours and that worked for a few weeks and then that sort of died out. It was kind of fun with the virtual backgrounds with Zoom and that sort of stuff, but that sort of died out.
But we’ve got this weekly wellness program where we bring in experts, that seems to have taken hold. Interesting, one of the most popular things we’ve done is one of our employees is a yoga instructor on the weekends, and she now has Monday morning yoga classes by video that’s become one of the more popular things.
And the reason why I mention that, if you look over sort of the next six months, the next year I think we’re going to see a lot of really, creativity, in terms of how companies are going to be doing this as it becomes more permanent. The CDC just came out yesterday, and Anthony Fauci came out saying this could be a really tough fall, and we may be having to work from home for months rather than weeks on this.
And I think at the end of it, it’s going to be still a transition. Dealing with some of the issues with thinking creatively with parents I have one of my employees, his wife gave birth to their third child at the beginning of the pandemic. They had a first grader, and a preschooler – and they could not have any of their family come over and help, they couldn’t bring any nannies in and so it was a challenge.
And so we very quickly decided for him it was – however he got his work done during the week. If it was the middle of the night, or weekends, or whatever – we would try to be as accommodating as possible to work around his schedule for him in terms of meetings and those sorts of things.
And I think you’re just going to continue to see more of that. And again, I’m an optimist on the workforce front too. And the companies that are the most creative, the most welcoming, the most forward looking on this they’re going to be the ones that are – it’s going to get out there, right?
People communicate about their companies, and it’s going to – people are going to develop reputations, and people are going to follow what people are going to be doing. And so it’s going to be, I think, a race to the top in terms of how we’re going to be dealing with this in the future.
Dan Deets: Mike, thanks for the forecast. Thanks to you, and thanks to Jennifer. It has been great getting to know you both. I want to thank you each for your time today. And my hope for the listening audience is that this has been a valuable and informative discussion. We look forward to sharing more insights with you in the weeks ahead, and in the meantime I wish you an enjoyable, and importantly, a healthy remainder of the summer.
Michael Piwowar: Thanks.
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today’s conference call. Thank you for participating. You may now disconnect.