DoorDash’s chief people officer says that HR departments have become research laboratories for new ideas

HR teams are facing increasing pressure to address their companies' talent challenges, such as worker shortages, demands for better employee benefits, and guiding workers through the AI revolution. In the past, finding solutions to these issues would have meant blindly investing in costly or time-intensive initiatives, rolling them out to all workers, and hoping for the best. However, a new approach is gaining traction within the HR community - operating more like a research and development lab by testing new benefits or talent development programs like product pilots.

Mariana Garavaglia, the chief people officer at DoorDash, explains that the people function is starting to operate in similar ways to a product function. This involves experimenting with new initiatives, such as training programs or mentoring groups, by launching them among a small number of employees, analyzing feedback, and scrutinizing any pain points before scaling them to a larger population. 

While Garavaglia acknowledges that this approach can be challenging, as there may not be a perfect direct correlation between testing a program and scaling it to the whole company, she emphasizes that employers should be open to the insights that can be gained from experimenting with different initiatives. For example, DoorDash piloted its global coaching program and a leadership development initiative, which have since been expanded, and components of its manager training program for frontline leaders have been useful for training corporate managers and individual contributors.

Garavaglia notes that the key is to avoid the "big bang" approach of implementing initiatives for everyone at once, and instead focus on testing and learning from smaller-scale pilots. This allows companies to build more efficient and relevant solutions for their employees on an ongoing basis. 

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