An interview on prioritizing the employee experience
An interview on prioritizing the employee experience
This video and the following Q&A do not depict the entire interview.
In planning for the future of work, executive leaders must partner with HR, the board and stakeholders to advance talent acquisition and employee engagement. NRG Energy CEO Mauricio Gutierrez offers his strategy of unifying the organization to prioritize the employee experience.
Mauricio Gutierrez is president and CEO of NRG Energy. He joined NRG in 2004 and previously served as chief operating officer and executive president of commercial operations. He holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the Universidad Panamericana and master’s degrees in mineral economics from the Colorado School of Mines and in petroleum economics from the French Petroleum Institute.
We did three things from a talent perspective to address impacts on our organization. First, we redefined the human resources organization as the talent organization. We recognized that the talent organization had to go beyond just operations; they had to be a strategic partner to help us execute our business strategy and be able to attract and retain talent.
Second, we prioritized the people experience to go beyond compensation and benefits, creating a blueprint of each employee’s journey at every single stage of their NRG career.
Finally, we took inventory of the skills we have today and what we need in the future, ensuring we were making progress in attracting and retaining the talent we need to execute our strategy.
First, we have long recognized that people are at the heart of our company; it’s what makes us successful. Many companies prioritize customers, investors, and shareholders. For us, it really starts with our people.
So, for us, people experience goes beyond what used to be the table stakes of good benefits — it has to go beyond that. I think one thing we have all seen over the past few years is the importance of well-being — not just physical, but financial and mental well-being too. It’s career growth, mentorships, and opportunities to interact with colleagues. As I said before, it’s no longer just compensation and benefits. That’s what I mean by prioritizing people experience.
Here at NRG, we have spent the past few years working to build an authentic feedback culture. It is a two-way communication between every employee in the company and leadership. In addition to regular check-ins, we conduct a short annual “Pulse Check” survey where we assess the Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), plus other key metrics. Then we loop back quickly and share the results companywide. We have surveys and questions about what is on top of our employees’ minds, and then we share those results.
I think it’s essential that we’re open and transparent about what our teams care about and what they’re saying about it, and then to have specific actions to address those concerns or questions.
No organization is perfect, and we have to recognize that we can actually make things better. So we are guided by a mentality of continuous improvement, and that’s what the feedback culture allows us to do.
Listening to our employees is the starting point to having a meaningful and substantive conversation.
There is a recognition today that the purpose of a corporation goes beyond just shareholders and that all stakeholders play a crucial part in creating long-term sustainable value.
When I think about issues and when and how we participate, I always go back to our corporate values. They really serve as a North Star for where we have the permission to involve ourselves as an organization and take some position or action.
One of the most critical responsibilities that any CEO has in a company is the ability to articulate the rationale for the vision. Not just the organization’s vision and purpose but why you need to go in that direction.
Once you can articulate that, not just to the employees but to the board and all stakeholders, that becomes the common thread that allows you to execute that strategy effectively. Not just from a business standpoint but from a talent standpoint and a financial resource allocation standpoint. So, getting all the stakeholders working together toward a common purpose starts by clearly articulating that purpose. That vision is one of the most critical roles of a CEO.
I think of the head of HR, or in our case, the head of talent, as a strategic partner in executing our business strategy. The talent organization for us is much more than a support function. It is an integral part of the team, helping us achieve our vision. I have ongoing communications with our Head of Talent about our strategy and vision. Not just what we’re doing but why we’re doing it. We give each other context — why it’s so important to attract and retain the talent that we need, not just today, but for the future—helping to get buy-in and alignment from the beginning.
In short, having a conversation — an active conversation — is what makes this relationship successful.
I have very open, transparent conversations with the board, and I see them as our partner in setting the strategic vision for the company. Regarding talent, we know that the skills that we have today need to evolve to be successful in the future and to be successful in implementing our business strategy. Once we have the board’s support on where we want to go and why we want to go there, then the rest flows very easily.
You always have to start with the endgame: What’s the future state of your company? What’s the vision? You start there — where you want to be — and then work your way back. The result? Understanding what steps and decisions you need to make today to get you to that future state.
The second thing is: You are the decisions that you make. Make sure that they are aligned with your purpose and your corporate values. As I mentioned before, those become your North Star in making decisions along the way.
As I think back in time across my career, some of the proudest moments I’ve had, and perhaps the most joyous ones I’ve had, are always with the people I’ve had them with. So it’s always this experience I’ve shared with my colleagues.
I have been involved in organizations that have had tremendous amounts of change and that have transformed their businesses. Going through these processes with people you respect and admire and that enrich you is an integral part of that journey.
Watch this on-demand webinar to understand how CEO Talent Champions make decisions differently and gain practical guidance on how CHROs can partner with their CEOs to improve their organization’s talent outcomes.