Culture Renovation Spotlight: Getty Images

Getty Images is a British-American visual media company and probably the best known and largest supplier of stock images, editorial photography, video, and music for business and consumers, with an archive of over 200 million assets. Getty has distribution offices around the world with headquarters in Seattle.

We recently interviewed Lizanne Vaughan, Chief People Officer, and asked her about Getty’s approach to hybrid/flex work, return-to-office, vaccines, and other pandemic-related topics that could impact the corporate culture. Here are some highlights:

  • Early pandemic decision making. Vaughan noted one of the things they did very early during the pandemic was get aligned on a framework for decision making that was underpinned by their leadership principles. Using those as a foundation, they came up with a three-pronged framework: (1) protect the health and safety of employees, (2) do their part to stem the virus, and (3) ensure the viability and sustainability of the organization’s future. Although their business was initially impacted negatively, they had determined right at the start that they would not to lay off any of their workforce, because they wanted to remain agile and ready for when the world reopened. They did, however, institute voluntary pay reductions across the board, with senior leadership taking the biggest cut (due to a business rebound, everyone was eventually made whole).
  • Transparency and communications. Leadership initially held weekly calls that provided an equal platform for employees to ask anything, and no topics were off limits. This built immeasurable trust with employees, and Getty Images has decided to continue these internal calls monthly. The company also created an internal COVID-19 communication site, which included tips for working remotely, and links to tools and resources such as building resilience and other timely topics.
  • Flexible work. The company is a digital organization and the option of flexible work is strongly encouraged. Employees can work from home at least 50% of the time; beyond that they need managerial approval. So long as COVID-19 is a health concern, no one will be required to return to the office. Managers are also expected to be flexible. In particular, Vaughan noted that people are treated like grown-ups, they rise to the occasion and often exceed expectations. This approach aligns with a key recommendation in i4cp’s From Cube to Cloud study: “Let managers manage.”
  • Grounding in data. Getty takes an evidence-based approach regarding employee health and well-being through an engagement listening strategy (full and pulse surveys), but also leveraged their employee resource groups (ERGs) to gain employee input. They also conducted topic-specific surveys, such as return-to-work, hybrid work, etc. Based on the data, there were clear inflection points that enabled them to pivot when necessary.
  • Acknowledge mistakes and change. Vaughan noted that keys for good leaders are authenticity and transparency around mistakes, and when changes need to be made. Be empathetic and leave “space for grace.”
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