Nike CHRO: How investing in technology helps us deliver world-class human resources


In times of challenge, Monique “Mo” Matheson, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of Nike Inc., and her human resources team rely on a mantra used throughout the company: It’s time to be more Nike than ever.

Monique Matheson, CHRO, Nike

It clearly works, analysts and outsiders have noticed. Nike remains the No. 1 sportswear maker with 78,000 employees worldwide, and Matheson, who is a 24-year veteran of Nike, is leading the charge to improve the employee experience during a global pandemic and the Great Resignation and Resignation. return to the office that followed. debate.

This winning spirit is one of the reasons Nike rose to third place in the rankings. HREthe latest list of companies from Most Admired for HR, just behind Target and Apple. This ranking for the Portland, Oregon-based company is up from #8 in 2020 and #19 in 2019. Korn Ferry teams up with Fortune each year to determine the World’s Most Admired Companies, upon which the Most Admired Lists for Human Resources are based. To arrive at HRE‘s Most Admired for HR rankings, Korn Ferry recalibrates the Fortune attribute scores, by isolating four criteria relating to HR: quality of management, quality of products/services, innovation and people management.

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“People are very emotional about the Nike brand. They either love it or hate it,” Matheson says, adding, “We feel like our job brand has [an] an inspiring and ambitious attraction for her.

Matheson says her mission at Nike is to focus on the entire Nike team, deploying HR technology solutions large and small, driving digital businesses, creating engaging career paths or that she is developing strategies to bring employees back to the office. This means investing in cutting-edge HR technology and the employees who will ultimately use it.

“One of the best pivots we made to onboard the leadership team was to make it clear that this investment is not for HR,” she says. “This investment is for the company [and] Our employees.”

This approach, she adds, “will help us to be more efficient and effective in delivering world-class human resources.”

Nike has worked with Korn Ferry consultants over the past few years to help transform its people operations. According to Jane Stevenson, global head of Korn Ferry’s CEO succession practice, Nike leaders not only addressed some of the world’s toughest cultural issues, but they also “owned” the need for change. “They’ve used it to fuel a purpose-driven culture that demonstrates the power of diversity in action and the exponential business results that true transformation delivers,” she says. “They are by no means realized, but they are seizing the continued opportunity to operationally implement the ongoing change and renewal.”

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Focus on HR technology

Matheson credits Nike CEO John Donahoe, who joined in 2020 after serving as CEO of eBay and Bain Capital and as a PayPal board member, for taking a fresh look at investing Nike’s HR technology and giving it some much-needed attention.

Donahoe noted a lack of investment in HR during her early assessments of the company’s entire technology infrastructure, Matheson says, and immediately became a “very strong partner” for her. This partnership, along with an equally strong relationship with the management team, allowed him to build a business case and roadmap for current HR technology investments and their potential value.

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“We created this more inclusive way of thinking about technology and investments,” she says.

Concretely, this means that Nike is rolling out large-scale Workday cloud platforms as well as lower-cost HR tools, including Ten Thousand Coffees for career development, Textio for unbiased hiring of and Miro for visual collaboration, among other solutions. The Workday rollout began in early 2021, and the company still plans to integrate workforce planning, core HR, recruiting, core composition, onboarding, payroll, and reporting. Additional modules will be added later, says Matheson.

Nike has also implemented Qualtrics to glean insights from its global workforce. “We listen to our employees…and turn those ideas into strategy and plans so that we can create that two-way dialogue with our employees,” she says.

Fortunately, Nike employees are more invigorated than intimidated by relying on technology for new HR roles and tasks, Matheson says. “It’s really exciting because you can’t do all of this with just humans.”

His philosophy? “Let technology do what technology can do and let humans do the things that only humans can do.”

This philosophy partly reflects a powerful mindset that Korn Ferry’s Dennis Baltzley, who has worked with more than a dozen senior Nike teams in his role as a global leader in leadership development solutions, sees shine through in three parts at Nike. .

The first is what he calls the will to win through healthy and fair competition. “Nike has shown leadership and will to power through extraordinarily disruptive changes and deliveries,” he said.

Second, Nike executives take responsibility for the challenges that need to be addressed instead of debating strategy. It means “tackling seemingly insurmountable challenges and interdependencies head-on and making progress bit by bit”.

Finally, Nike executives drive hard and pivot quickly, according to Baltzley. “They run the game all the way, and if it doesn’t work, they try something new,” he says. “It sounds simple, but teams have an extraordinary ability to pivot together in a whole new direction.”

As Stevenson sums it up, “It’s proof that organizations can both do good and do well.”

How Nike Pivots Together

The big resignation, COVID vaccine management, and even back-to-office plans and culture have seen the company head in new directions.

Big resignation: Although Matheson says Nike hasn’t experienced a huge brain drain, the company is still focused on employee learning and leadership development to retain employees. It has moved to a digital skills development platform in an effort to track trending data on issues such as employee engagement, overall attrition, and hotspots of employee dissatisfaction and quits.

The digital platform also makes learning more accessible — “the classroom training model or taking two or three days off work to learn is really difficult,” she says — and specific. Nike relies on the platform to create what Matheson calls a “curated learning path” for skills and abilities unique to jobs within the company.

Vaccines: Monitoring and verifying employee vaccination statuses has also been a priority for Nike, which has contracted with a third party to provide a secure portal for company employees to register and verify their vaccination status and reminder COVID-19.

Nike’s retail and distribution centers have a “more personalized approach,” according to Matheson, who adds, “we’re just starting to use the similar portal with our retail field athletes.” (Nike refers to retailers as “athletes.”)

And the company is serious on the vaccine front. Citing worker safety, company employees were told last fall they could lose their jobs if they failed to show proof of vaccinations, and the company made headlines in January when ‘She fired an employee who claims to have been fully vaccinated but refused to enter his information into the company’s tracking portal.

Return to office strategy: Nike’s leadership team strives to include employees in their decision-making on this topic, Matheson says. “It really has to be in partnership with your employees and understanding what they need [in terms of] flexibility, what engagement looks like and how you support them,” she says.

Overall, Nike’s unique role in the world of sport, fitness and recreation is also a guiding principle for the company and for Matheson and its human resources team. Last August, for example, every employee of the company was granted a week of paid leave to rest and recharge. After all, says Matheson, Nike is an athletic company.

“The aspects of sport that are universal – the idea of ​​teamwork, camaraderie, being competitive and having fun – that’s really the Nike culture,” Matheson says. “We need to redefine what it looks like, but we can’t lose this distinctive part of our culture.”


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