Sandra L. Rivera is Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Intel Corporation. She leads Intel’s Human Resources organization and is responsible for driving greater business results through a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion as well as being responsible for the company’s policies and programs related to human resources worldwide.
Before assuming her current role, she led the Network Platforms Group, which was a global organization of over 3,000 employees that drove the transformation of network infrastructure to Intel-based solutions and enabled breakthrough ways to integrate Intel’s silicon and software portfolio to create greater customer value. The organization was one of the Data Center Group’s fastest-growing businesses, enabling Intel to become a market leader for network logic silicon, an annual $20 billion market segment.
Rivera joined Intel in 2000 as a marketing director after the acquisition of Dialogic Corp. Before joining Intel, Rivera co-founded and served as president of The CTI Authority and served as president of the computer telephony division at Catalyst Telecom.
In this exclusive interaction, Rivera shares her thoughts on how Intel reimagined the way they work in the times of the pandemic and what the future of work would look like as we reimagine our organizations for a post-COVID-19 era.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
How has the pandemic hit Intel? What were your top challenges and how did you overcome them?
While we have had to be nimble and adjust to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, our top priority remains the same: protecting the health and well-being of employees while keeping the business running to deliver for our customers. This meant everything from safeguarding our essential workers to making sure that other employees were able to adjust to a work-from-home situation. Frequent check-ins and over communication certainly have helped and we have had an increased focus on offering solutions for mental health and well-being as well.
What is your work-from-home forecast for after COVID-19? What trends do you think will stay for the long-term and why?
The pandemic has accelerated the future of work in many ways. Working from home is here to stay for many people, and I expect many companies to be much more flexible in where and how work gets done. I believe more companies will offer hybrid work options where they allow employees to work both from home and on site. I also believe companies will continue to push for truth and transparency in dealing with challenges and decision making. We’ve now also seen a more personal side of many of our colleagues, which has given us all a little bit more empathy into everyone’s situations. I hope we continue to check in on one another and ensure we’re all doing OK.
What does work culture mean for you for the post-pandemic world? How has Intel amped up its work culture? What have you learned from employees in terms of their expectations?
Work culture post-pandemic means we have to be fearless and we have to focus on working together as one team. We are One Intel because we work together to bridge gaps, break down silos, collaborate across teams and around the world to understand key challenges, solve customers’ problems, and succeed in new markets. None of us can accomplish very much without our teams. We’re all learning, growing, and finding new ways to move forward in our journeys, both personally and professionally. Our employees expect us to listen, understand, demonstrate flexibility and we’re focused on increasing transparency and adaptability in our culture.
How are you balancing the new ways of working? In your blog, you said, 'We reimagined the way we work'? What does your new work equation look like?
For employees who have shifted to the work from home life, many are also balancing being educators, parents, and caretakers on top of their jobs. It’s been challenging to manage our worlds blending together. However, the pandemic has opened us up to new ways of working, allowing us to be nimbler in ways that we historically did not think possible. We have had to quickly find solutions so that each one of our employees has the resources they need to be productive, from tech services to at-home care and everything in between. Adjusting to this setting and mindset proved that we can do things differently, and successfully. We’ve been able to continue to keep our customer commitments, stay on track and on time with shipments, and increase our manufacturing volume with greater demand for our products in a learn from home/work from home environment. We are evolving our culture in order to operate with greater speed and agility which better positions us to prepare for a future we can’t always predict.
How are you helping your organization in building adaptability and instilling resilience in your employees?
As a company that builds world-changing technologies that enrich everyone’s lives, being resilient and adapting to change is in our blood. We have built a culture of building solutions to tackle challenging problems, even for those that are intangible. That is what my team and I commit to everyday – figuring out how to make Intel the best company it can be and a major part of this is ensuring our employees are supported and encouraged to keep moving forward. We are increasing our investment in resources and solutions that focus on the mental health and physical well-being of our workforce to ensure everyone is healthy as we pursue our mission to create world-changing technology.
Intel has over 100 thousand employees spread across 46 countries. Which of your well-being and remote talent management measures have worked really well for you and why?
Our employees’ safety and well-being are our priority. We have built a strong culture of technology innovation and having positive impact in the communities where we operate, but as the marketplace evolves, so will we. A part of that is listening to our employees to understand their needs. Practices that have worked well have spread rapidly to other teams throughout the company and little things are making a big difference. For example, encouraging meeting-free Fridays and other ‘no meeting’ zones, shortening meetings by starting 10-minutes past the hour, encouraging employees to take days off to disconnect, and building in time for learning and development. These are ways we have found success in encouraging our employees to prioritize taking care of themselves and balancing the additional workloads we are all facing now.
With many workplaces now being forced to operate remotely, and flexibility being the new norm now, do you think the crisis will eventually help allow more women to remain in the workforce while balancing home and work life?
I do believe this gives women more opportunities to remain in the workforce. When you’re able to spend more time at home and create your own schedule, you don’t feel like you’re putting one part of your life before the other. This flexibility takes the pressure off, not only women but men as well. In fact, I’m hoping this pandemic helps us all be more empathic and understanding toward each other. However, this won’t happen if we don’t offer new ways for our employees and especially our working parents to contribute. We have a number of programs that we’ve rolled out, including job-share, flexible work schedules, part-time options, and additional offerings for physical health, mental health, and online tutoring to support families.
How digitized is your HR environment? How are you gearing up to help the business seize the opportunities in 2021 and continue to meet partner and customer demands?
To continue to evolve as a business, learning has become an essential part of our culture, not only to gain a competitive advantage but to help employees grow their careers. We are continuing to create an organization where employees are constantly able to learn and leaders are always developing their skills. Much of Intel’s future growth outside our core business demands that we learn how to compete in new markets, with new customers, using new business models, while also designing and building products in new ways. With the shift to remote work, we have had the opportunity of continuing to foster a learning-oriented culture even when at home, which means that our tools and resources need to be digitized.
What are your top lessons from the pandemic? Can you share one initiative that you want to take on in the coming year?
One thing that we have learned so far from the pandemic is that we need to keep being intentional about building a culture in a remote work environment and continuing to evolve our culture as things change. We want to ensure we are reinforcing our culture during company and team meetings and create an environment where our employees can bring their full selves to work, which might mean surprise guest appearances from pets or kids in meetings. At the same time, maintaining and encouraging employees’ individuality remains key. We have a multi-generational workforce with different skills, motivations, and aspirations, but we are aligned globally around serving our customers in the markets in which we participate. We want to continue to harness that individuality, that innovation, that expression of each of our employee’s experiences, expertise, and capabilities to live into our purpose: to create world-changing technology that enriches the lives of every person on earth.