Building Back Better: What COVID has Taught PSI About Talent

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By Karl Hofmann, President and CEO, PSI

We announced last week that we would be inviting PSI staff to return to our headquarters office starting July 6 and expecting them back later in the fall.

Like other D.C.-based offices, PSI is grappling with what a “return to office” looks like as infection rates fall, injection rates rise, and the city begins to reawaken. 

Even as we contemplate these steps, we are mindful of the vastly different situations across our global operating environments, with India top of mind right now. Keeping our people safe, while also figuring out how to keep delivering on our mission, has been the brilliance of our country leaders worldwide.

But none of us expects to go back to a pre-COVID “normal.” The pandemic has changed the way we all work and interact for the foreseeable future. At PSI, we’re leaning into this reality with some key investments and commitments that we think are necessary for any modern global enterprise.

Work From (Almost) Anywhere

Under our new “work from (almost) anywhere,” or “WFAA” philosophy, we are embracing the reality of a distributed workforce in the U.S. and making the necessary investments to be an employer of record in half of U.S. states, with more to come as we gauge our staff’s requirements. We know that many talented headquarters staff left the D.C. area during the pandemic, decamping to places that are a better work-life fit and perhaps lower cost environments elsewhere in the U.S. We want to keep them, and enacting policies that are accompanied by reasonable and transparent guidelines will facilitate that.

Much as we do for our overseas operating environments, we’ve decided to consider the U.S. as one single labor market for salary purposes. Locality pay, an approach under which we might pay people differently depending on where they reside in the U.S., is not a choice we’ve made. The complexity and burdens of such a system outweigh the benefits to PSI and our work, and would potentially undermine our main purpose, which is to find and retain the highest-quality talent we need.

Globally, we recognize the need to compete for talent everywhere, and we need to be able to accommodate that competition through flexible and adaptive hiring policies. Already, PSI maintains a talent center in Nairobi, where we house our digital health work and talent, and a mini-hub in Abidjan. PSI also already works with our Dutch-based European partner, PSI Europe, and we see no need to change that partnership. And we’re creating a virtual talent center in the UK, which will allow us to be an employer of record there without investing in expensive bricks-and-mortar infrastructure.

These dispersed talent centers support our PSI Global Network’s infrastructure in 40+ operating environments.

As we embrace these “WFAA” policies, we are very mindful of the risks of too much dispersal of our talent. Our own staff highlighted these risks when we asked them: the challenge to robust collaboration, and the need to sustain PSI’s culture and connectedness across our diverse and dispersed employee pool are areas our staff told us to pay attention to. They’re right.

Flexibility and Wellbeing

Will these new approaches help with our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion journey? We think so. Already we’ve committed to achieving 50 percent underrepresented gender identities across PSI’s global leadership cadre – we’ve surpassed this goal – and 50 percent underrepresented ethnic, racial and other groups – we have work to do – no later than 2025. Ensuring continued progress toward these objectives requires a creative approach to finding and keeping the right talent.

With overarching commitments to flexibility in our work, and greater wellbeing for our employees, we want to ensure PSI is positioned for success with a global and holistic view of talent.

We believe that no modern global enterprise can thrive without such an approach.

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