Recruitment & Retention

This HR pro is tackling the puzzle of employee engagement

“If folks are spending the majority of their adult life working in a corporate space, how do we make sure that it’s going to be impactful for them?”
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Jen Fong

· 5 min read

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People work has always been an “interesting puzzle” for Jen Fong, Customer.io’s VP of people. Fong has spent most of her career in tech, and has been with Customer.io since April 2022. She’s most excited about finding new ways to make work better for employees. “If folks are spending the majority of their adult life working in a corporate space, how do we make sure that it’s going to be impactful for them?” she said.

Fong said one of the most fun parts of HR is figuring out what programs and benefits would be most beneficial to the employee population, and squaring those with business goals. She got her start in external recruiting, and although she didn’t love the “sales” aspect of it, she did love understanding company culture and the needs of candidates and playing “matchmaker.”

Companies have to do better; Fong said: “There’s this assumption or expectation of loyalty, right? But loyalty is earned both ways.” Fong sees the ongoing RTO struggle between leaders and employees as a glaring example of this. Companies need to make sure they’re listening to the employee voice, and when issues arise, it’s because leaders aren’t doing enough to make sure employees are being heard, according to Fong.

What’s the best change you’ve made at work?

Over the years, I have been part of several projects I am proud of. However, at Customer.io, I am particularly proud of our efforts over the last year to implement more robust programs and initiatives for improving employee engagement. I work with an incredible team, and together we have worked hard to revamp our performance review and management process. Performance reviews often have a scary reputation, but properly communicated and structured, they help to encourage and foster open communication channels across the company, significantly improve performance, and support organizational success!

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

One of the biggest misconceptions about my job is that people think it is primarily focused on procedures and policies, but it is not. While these are undoubtedly aspects of HR, they are not my only areas of focus. In reality, my job revolves around people! I ensure that our team members are happy, productive, and engaged in their work. I work closely with the rest of the executive team to ensure that our people strategies align with Customer.io’s overall business goals. This means that I am constantly considering how we can attract, develop, and retain the best people in the industry.

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What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

I firmly believe that organizational success does not have to come at the cost of employee well-being. Both can be achieved when team members connect with the company’s values and the company prioritizes creating a positive work environment. It is so fulfilling to see individuals, teams, and the company thrive together when the right systems are in place to support this.

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

Recently, I’ve seen a growing emphasis on employee well-being. I think that many employers have started to realize the importance of creating a flexible workplace and strong culture and how that directly contributes to better performance, higher engagement, and employee happiness. And as the line between professional and personal lives continues to blur, it is becoming increasingly important for employers to support their staff in a more holistic manner. This includes providing resources to help employees manage stress, promoting work-life balance, and offering opportunities for personal and professional growth. By taking a comprehensive approach to employee well-being, employers can improve their team’s overall health and happiness, increase productivity, and drive business success.

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

I love the trend toward increased transparency and authenticity. However, it’s crucial to be mindful of the potential risks of oversharing. This can be detrimental or even cost you your job. To avoid this, I encourage you [to] carefully consider what you share, who you share it with, and your intent. Also, more training may be necessary to help employees understand expectations and policies related to ethics, confidentiality, and codes of conduct. People should also be aware of how posts on their personal social media platforms can be misrepresented and the impact they can have on their professional image. In the digital world we live in today, we need to be cautious of conflicts of interest and inadvertently crossing professional boundaries with colleagues.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.