CEO Talent Champion:Enrique Lores, HP Inc

An interview on cultivating employee engagement in times of change

This video and the following Q&A do not depict the entire interview.

Executive leaders are seeking strategic ways to cultivate employee engagement in an increasingly fragmented world. HP Inc.’s CEO Enrique Lores shares how he maintains a culture of transparency, strengthens connections and enhances the employee value proposition despite constant disruption.

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Q&A With Enrique Lores

Enrique Lores is the president and CEO of HP Inc. In his more than 30 years with HP, he has held senior leadership positions spanning HP’s Personal Systems, Print, Industrial and Services businesses across country, region and worldwide roles. Lores began his career with HP as an intern and earned his degree in electrical engineering from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and his MBA from ESADE Business School.

I think we have learned in the last few months — in the last few years — that empathy is critical. When we think about how leadership has changed during the last two to three years, it’s showing empathy. Building the ability to listen to what employees really care about — and to respond to those needs — has been fundamental for us in managing the company and for us to do that in a successful way.

When some people are not in the office, we need to continue to have direct contact with them. We need to make sure they feel connected. We need to make sure they learn where the company is going. This is really where we have been focused and that has opened opportunities to do things differently.

What we have really done is make sure that no matter whether you’re in the office or you’re working from home, you continue to feel connected to the company. You feel connected because you understand the direction of the company. You’re connected because you know what your supervisor or what the leadership of the company is thinking. You’re connected because you know the challenges that the company is facing. And we have made a big effort to use technology to make sure that people feel that connection.

We have also made it very easy for them to ask questions. We have designed sessions in a way where we, the management team, talk for a short period of time. The rest of the time is Q&A where employees can ask any question about strategy, operations or personal challenges. That way, we have fostered our culture of openness, of direct contact, that I think has really helped to maintain the culture that we wanted to have in the company.

Well, something we did two years ago was to define what the objectives for the company for the next 10 years are. We needed to make sure that people understood them. They are fairly simple so that really was our way to make sure they could see where the company was going. And, in fact, we made talent one of the top four because we saw that this really was going to be one of the key opportunities and challenges that the company was going to have.

Everybody has access to information. So, to pretend that you can hide things from employees — I don’t think that’s realistic in our current society. They have access to the same information. They see how things are going. They hear from our customers. They hear from our partners.

Something I decided when I became CEO was to make transparency one of my key rules of engagement. I have done that in everything we have gone through. I explain what is going well, reinforce what is going well, but also explain the challenges that we have and the opportunities underneath them. This is how we think about them. This is why we have made certain decisions.

By doing that, I think it is a great way to increase engagement from employees. Because if they understand the logic of the decisions, they may agree or not. But if they understand, they can really support them in a stronger way and feel much more engaged. In fact, employee engagement has grown steadily in the last few years, even though we have gone through a lot of changes, such as hybrid work.

So, the way we decide is we look at three things. First, is that topic aligned to the core values of the company? Second, is it impacting our employees? And third, can we have an effect?

As a global company, it is even more complex because it’s not only about topics that may be discussed in the U.S. It is really what is happening in Germany, what is happening in China, what is happening in Japan and in Israel, or places where we have a lot of employees. So, we need to be very selective. But at the same time, we clearly acknowledge that we need to have a voice. And we need to use our voice in support — or our values in support — of our employees and in support of areas where we really can have an impact.

First of all, we changed the title of the group. We don’t call it ‘head of HR.’ For us, it’s a chief people officer because we want to really send a message of proximity to employees and make it much more human than just HR.

It needs to be a very close partner to the CEO that brings our people perspective and helps in maturing and evolving the thinking around this topic. When I talk to Kristen (our chief people officer), talent is a key priority for her. As I was mentioning before, we have made this one of the top four priorities of the company. The way we structure it, and we define it, is that we want HP to be a school of talent and make learning one of the reasons why people will join the company.

We think that because of the diversity of businesses, diversity of geographies, and diversity of business models, we can offer a unique value proposition to young employees to join the company, to grow their careers, to learn, to become executives or to become great professionals. And this is really what we want to use as a core value proposition to employees.

We mostly work with the HR committee of the board, but for the key issues, we bring them to the main board. We generate discussion. We solicit their ideas to make sure we benefit from the diversity of perspectives that they have and from the experiences that they have.

And I think one of the great things that we have is that the board is really interested in talent issues. They acknowledge how important they are and how important they are going to be for the success of the company in the future. They really want to make this a permanent topic on the board agenda.

When I became a manager of people for the first time, I had a great mentor. He taught me something that has been with me all the time, which is, when you manage people, you need to be very tough on problems but soft on people.

I don’t know of anybody that comes to the company with the objective of, I’m really going to do a terrible job today. They may be able to do it or not, but you need to assume that they’re really trying their best. Therefore, you need to be soft on that side. At the same time, we really need to address the problems that we have and fix them because this is what will really help the company to continue to perform.

You want to excel on your objectives and deliver. But you need to realize that to do that, you really need to focus on people and make sure that you bring the people along with you.

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