Coworkers

Coworking with Lauren Kauffman

She's the SVP, people and culture at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
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Lauren Kauffman

· 4 min read

On Wednesdays, we schedule our weekly 1:1 with HR Brew’s readers. Want to be featured in an upcoming edition? Click here to introduce yourself.

Lauren Kauffman is an 18-year HR veteran who’s spent the last four working at the Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition to helping build the people and culture team that she leads as SVP, she’s been shaping the Inquirer’s hybrid return-to-office plan. Kauffman and her team have been “finding the right balance” between the success of remote work and the benefits of coming together in an office environment.

How would you describe your specific job to someone who doesn’t work in HR?

I strategize and drive programs to support our people—anything from talent and benefits to DE&I and navigating the hybrid environment.

What’s the best change you’ve made at a place you’ve worked?

Creating the people and culture team and function at the Inquirer. We have made a lot of changes and impact overall since 2019…There always was an HR function, but…people in different areas were making decisions without really understanding what else is happening in another part of the business, or weren’t sure what to do with things, so didn’t address things that typically HR would handle…As people and culture has formed, we’ve really rebuilt that team and added new roles to that team that didn’t exist before in the organization.

What projects at the Inquirer most excite you strategy-wise?

The biggest project that I’ve been working on this past year has been our approach to hybrid [work]. The organization has been, for the most part, fully remote since March of 2020…We have been in the process of moving, so we’re going to switch to a new location [in] early 2023, and as part of that, we’ll be coming back to a hybrid model…Going along with that project is the policies and procedures that we’re putting in place [and] really starting to define what our values are and the types of behaviors we want to see in the workplace and the things that we want to encourage people to do, and address, and talk about in a different way. So, we’ve really had to look long and hard at the culture of the Inquirer…The things that we’ve recognized about ourselves since pre-Covid and want to change, and a lot of that is part of our DE&I work as well, so that’s something I feel really passionate and excited about, too.

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What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your job?

That it’s all about firing people or pushing paper. It’s really a dynamic role that involves varied skill sets and tools at different times; when you are working with people, no two days or situations are ever totally the same.

What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

I love seeing changes and transformation happen in the organization, especially because most of them don’t happen without a lot of thought and hard work. As much as I’m often behind the scenes, it is rewarding when I get to directly interact with my colleagues to help them find solutions to concerns or problems they encounter as people or as professionals. I love when someone comes to me and just wants to vent or share their opinions. I feel like they trust me and know that I have their back at the end of the day. As a leader, it’s important for me to have that personal connection.

What trend in HR are you most optimistic about? Why?

I really like that attitudes have changed about the way we work—the remote and hybrid environments initiated during the pandemic have added incredible levels of productivity and balance to our lives. Flexibility sounds so simple, but it really makes a big difference in job satisfaction.

What trend in HR are you least optimistic about? Why?

The push for attracting talent with the most unique perks! I love some free swag as much as anybody, but I believe a strong company culture is built on more than whatever the flashiest discounts or free services may provide…There are a lot of vendors out there in the marketplace that offer services that are unique…I think meditation is very important and giving people the space for taking care of themselves is important, but at the end of the day, you can give people every meditation app in the world, but if your organization is creating a hostile culture or a toxic environment, then that’s not going to keep them long-term in your organization.

Want to be featured in an upcoming edition of Coworking? Click here to introduce yourself.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.