This time for Fond of Work, we spoke with Christina Hall, SVP and Chief People Officer at social media powerhouse, LinkedIn. Christina is a strategic HR leader with over 20 years of experience advancing talent goals at high-performing technology companies. At LinkedIn, she empowers people to do their life’s best work and manages a global team of over 600 employees.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?
I lead the global HR team, which includes TA; our team of all the HR business partners; benefits and employee experience; people analytics; compensation; HR M&A; HR IT; people ops; diversity, inclusion and belonging; and learning and development. I have a team of over 600 people throughout the world. LinkedIn is just over 16,000 employees, and we have a pretty big global footprint. At LinkedIn, we don’t use any outside recruiters — we do all of our recruiting and hiring in-house, which makes us unique as a people organization.
I’ve been at LinkedIn for about 6 years now. I started off as LinkedIn’s Head of Compensation and HR M&A and I was promoted into this role after LinkedIn was purchased by Microsoft. Before that, I led the compensation team at Facebook during their 2012 IPO, and before that, I led Compensation and Benefits for Intuit.
How did you first get into the HR space?
I first moved into HR at Intuit! I was a practicing attorney for many years and worked for a law firm. Intuit was my first in-house job and I started in their legal department as Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits Council. I handled all of Intuit’s compensation and benefits committee work. It was from that role that I got the chance to move into HR. It was a natural thing for me — I loved it. I realized that the things I loved most about legal were the elements employees cared most about, like employee issues around compensation and benefits. There’s so much when it comes to the way people feel about how they’re being compensated and there’s so much more than what the paperwork says.
Moving from Legal to HR is a unique career path!
Yeah — if you think about lawyering, I think people envision the argumentative debate part of being in litigation, but I was a corporate attorney. You’re trying to document and explain to employees what they’re getting and what it means. All of that naturally leads into HR. There’s a link between the two, and you’ll often see Legal and HR teams sharing office spaces.
What do you like most about your current role?
I love feeling like I have a job where I’m helping people unleash their greatness and do their best work. Working in a place where people take their jobs seriously is impactful — I have so many colleagues who are trying to do their best work, and it’s wonderful to be in a job where I get to think about how I can make LinkedIn the best place it can be for those people. I feel like I make a huge impact.
When you read about trends and the future of work, I have the luxury of knowing that some of these things are implemented in workplaces now and aren’t actually trends at all — they’re real changes that I have the ability to implement or impact. Whether it’s remote work, job flexibility, helping employees with different needs, or thinking about how to make paternity and maternity leave better, that’s the real fun of what I do.
There’s so much change that HR teams need to be on top of. It must be a fulfilling challenge.
Absolutely. And the bonus is that LinkedIn has created a platform where people are discussing work all the time. I think of our company as a microcosm of what we want to see working people doing out in the world. As we talk about the workplace at-large, we’re also discussing what our internal workplace looks like. The LinkedIn community is a representation of employees speaking to each other, and our LinkedIn HR team holds up a model that is disseminated, to some degree, throughout the workforce.
Why do you think HR is an important department for business to have, especially right now?
I think that more and more, as people think about work, we’re starting to move away from this conventional idea of work-life-balance and toward a harmonious mix of work and life. The more that people see work as a part of their life holistically, the more HR professionals should be thinking about things that way, too. You can’t just talk to people like they’re a widget within your Human Capital Management program. Every employee is a person and has feelings — we all have so many directions we’re pulled in. We have to find a way to really engage people and excite people about their jobs.
Do you have a particular management philosophy that you use for your team?
I approach almost all of my interactions out in the world with the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. I certainly never want to talk down to my employees or use dogmatic policies that must be followed at all costs. I want to treat all of our employees with respect for their intelligence and for the skillsets they own. They all have individual characteristics and deserve to be treated as such.
Part of that is making sure employees are validated and recognized for their accomplishments. How do you go about doing that?
I’m a huge believer in recognizing people when they do a great job. I think we all love and crave encouragement and acknowledgement, and positive reinforcement is what makes people want to go above and beyond. In addition to the standard elements of a compensation package — base salary, bonuses, stock — I really think recognition tools are important. In whatever form they may take, I think it’s imperative that people can use real-time recognition to acknowledge when people have gone the extra mile in a timely way.
I think that although a lot of people believe annual reviews are archaic, but most companies still do them. They can actually be a great way to acknowledge continued accomplishments over time, but I can speak for myself — I have a short attention span, and I think it’s important to recognize people in the moment. With the constant use of mobile phones and always on connectivity, we expect people to react to requests and take actions quickly, often outside of the standard 9-5 workday. When I see people do that, I want to take the time to acknowledge it in a timely way.
What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?
I’ve received some great advice about public speaking. I think it’s really important to be able to convey emotion to your audience if you’re in a leadership role. The advice is threefold:
- Know your stuff
- Know your audience
- Know your passion
If you channel those three things, public speaking is a lot more impactful.
What’s one thing you’ve learned the hard way in your career?
The quickest action isn’t always the best. Part of my lawyerly upbringing is that I’m always trying to do things efficiently and as quickly as possible, because that’s being responsive to client needs. I’ve learned over the course of my career that it’s worth taking the time to understand a situation fully before reacting to it. Sometimes taking that extra time is really worthwhile, especially when you’re talking about people’s feelings.
Do you have any advice for HR leaders looking for a similar career?
It’s important to always pick up the phone or have face-to-face meetings to hear about how people are really feeling. Don’t just take the written word in the form of an email or text message and assume you have the whole story.
Sometimes, you get an email that says, “Here’s the situation. What do you want to do?” To my previous point about acting quickly, when you send that to a lawyer, you’ll get advice back right away. In the world of HR especially, it’s really important to take the time and try to understand the nuances of the information you’ve been given. Study how there might be two sides to every story, and the words used to tell it.
Thanks so much to Christina for taking the time to speak with us. Stay tuned for the next interview in the Fond of Work series, coming soon! It should come as no surprise that LinkedIn is hiring, so check out their website to view their open positions.
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