The Future of Work In Four Words

This week we continue the Connex Executive Insights Series, produced in collaboration with Connex Partners, an invitation-only executive network that brings industry leaders together from the worlds of HR and Healthcare.

Connex Members are part of a cutting-edge community, finding actionable solutions to their most pressing business challenges via high-value peer exchanges and curated resources including tools, platforms, partners and c-suite networking opportunities.

Executive Insights Series features highly respected and engaging guests who share novel ideas and practices related to the latest leadership topics.

This week’s article is written by Rod Lacey, Chief People Operations Officer at SimPRO.  It is a companion piece to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Employees:  Empowered! that aired on August 30, 2022. 

Short clip from the interview:

Link to the entire interview:

“Character is not only doing the right thing when no one is looking, it’s doing the right thing when everyone is looking. It’s being willing to do the right thing even when it costs more than you want to pay.”– Michael Josephson

I’ve got five kids so you can only imagine how many lessons about doing the right thing fly around our family. Yes, I can see why you’d scream at your brother who has been taunting you for the last hour, but we shouldn’t scream at others. Screaming is not the right thing to do, walking away is. If I had a dollar for every time we’ve had this or a similar conversation… Sound familiar?

If you spend any time around young kids who are still learning how to operate within social constructs, you’ll hear things about what is and is not okay to do. Yet rare is the adult who goes around talking about doing the right thing. They may do it, but they don’t talk about it. Or they may not do the right thing and not talk about it. Just imagine someone walking into the office and saying, “I just cut someone off on the highway because I felt like it. That is NOT the right thing to do.”

If there’s one thing we’ve all learned over the past few years, it’s that change is inevitable. In the past year, I’ve met my colleagues barking dogs and screaming kids over zoom calls, and my team kept their PJ pants on while they gave presentations. We’ve adapted to virtual work, with plenty of humor and a bit of grace.

So maybe, just maybe, we’ll start talking a little bit more about what it means to do the right thing in the workplace.

 

How can we adapt to future work trends?

The changing work environment and relationship between employers and employees presents big challenges for both parties.

Employees still feel added pressure and worries far beyond their office desk. It comes home with them, grabbing an uninvited seat at the dinner table or the kid’s dance lessons as they navigate worries about how to keep themselves and their families healthy, happy and financially stable. It keeps them up at night.

Employers also face the challenge of meeting strategic goals with tighter resources, rising costs and growing inflation.

And while this change comes with challenges, it also presents an immense opportunity for growth and an opportunity to infuse our cultures with a do the right thing attitude.

To face these challenges and lead the future, we at simPRO choose to lean into our values. We turn to our greatest asset, our people, for new considerations on how they want remote work, pay, and their physical and mental health to shape the future of their employee experience and our long-term growth and success as a business.

From this, our new “Do the Right Thing” benefits program was born.

This package is built on our commitment to employee empowerment and values-based growth. Our values, “We Care” and “We Innovate,” drive our belief that our continued growth and future success as a business depends largely on our employees’ ability to thrive professionally and personally.

We believe that the future of work puts the employee at the forefront of strategic decisions by partnering with them to make decisions that affect the employee experience at simPRO.

For us, this means listening to our employees’ candid feedback and getting to know them and their challenges at an individual level. We do this through forums like Firesides, Town Hall meetings and a strong commitment to one-on-one meetings. Employees have the opportunity to submit questions ahead of time, but our leadership team also answers many questions on the spot, with no interest in meeting in secret rooms to deliberate how they’ll respond– even when the questions are tough. Our value, “We Own It”, guides these open discussions between employees and leadership, with transparency leading the way.

We also believe that we must continually strengthen the employee experience by validating, recognizing and uplifting our employees with benefits that support their total well-being– in the face of every triumph and every adversity.

As part of our “Do the Right Thing” program, our Executive team has chosen to take pay cuts so that we can provide an inflationary pay increase of up to 10% for every employee that earns less than $120,000 AUD ($80,000 USD) per year to help combat the impacts of inflation on our employees.

We also believe in the fundamental human right for a person to make decisions about their own health.  We established a $5,000 grant for any US employee who must travel more than 100 miles for any medical procedure, including abortion, for themselves or their immediate family.

These additions not only address the immediate needs of our team. They play a fundamental role in our long-term growth strategy as a business.

We believe that for the business to grow, culture has to grow. To do this, we step forward as one of the first international technology companies to model a human-centered approach to leadership. By pledging this level of support to our employees, we hope to create a paradigm shift in the way companies in every industry think about their employees and the future of work.

 

How do we create a culture of employee empowerment?

The future of work will be led by companies that take care of employees, treat employees well and value their employees. For starters, we treat people as adults.

Our Flex4 32-hour work week allows employees to build a flexible work environment that suits their personal needs without compromising our commitment to our customers or our productivity. Whether this means leaving work a bit early to pick up the kids from school, heading to a therapy appointment mid-day or enjoying a three-day weekend every week of the year, we’ve seen our team produce better work more efficiently when they have the time and work-life balance fewer working hours each week provides.

We encourage employees to constantly look for opportunities to be the best version of themselves, both at work and personally.

If this includes starting a family, we support them with 24 weeks of 100% paid leave for the primary caregiver and eight weeks of paid parental leave for the secondary caregiver as part of our industry-leading parental leave policy.

We’ve had the opportunity to employ incredible people, with a large proportion of our staff employed with us for many years. Many individuals on our team have developed and excelled in their chosen field over the years and step into new roles within the company that push them to grow personally and professionally. This leads to high levels of accountability and pride in the work we do, and also helps with retention. We are able to show employees that we are committed to them and their wellbeing beyond just their role at simPRO. In turn, our employees feel more committed to do great work for us.

It is through this, and with the support of “Do the Right Thing” that our employees can be the most productive, authentic, and healthy version of themselves when they come to work. And when our employees are the best version of themselves, our business thrives.

This is where the name of our program comes from. The underlying philosophy for everything we do is simple: it’s simply the right thing to do.

We hope that you will join us on our journey to lead the future of work, and continue building a world where every field service business is free to build, repair and power their company’s future.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As simPRO’s Chief People Operations Officer, Rod Lacey leads all aspects of simPRO’s global human resources, aligning the people strategy with the company’s aggressive business and customer goals. Rod has nearly three decades of HR experience, having led and transformed the human resource experience with highly successful companies in the technology and online ordering industries.

 

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Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotify,  Amazon Music,  AudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Also, stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.

The Power of Trauma-Informed Leadership

This week we continue the Connex Executive Insights Series, produced in collaboration with Connex Partners, an invitation-only executive network that brings industry leaders together from the worlds of HR and Healthcare.

Connex Members are part of a cutting-edge community, finding actionable solutions to their most pressing business challenges via high-value peer exchanges and curated resources including tools, platforms, partners and c-suite networking opportunities.

Executive Insights Series features highly respected and engaging guests who share novel ideas and practices related to the latest leadership topics.

This week’s article is written by Rachael Kelly, the former Chief People Officer of bar-and-grill-chain Smokey Bones; Kelly is now the CPO at WestDerm, a leading provider of dermatology services under the same PE umbrella.  It is a companion piece to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Informed Leadership:  The Power of Trauma that aired on July 19, 2022. 

Short clip from the interview:

Link to the entire interview:

It’s unnerving to think that, at this moment in time, “ennui” might be the best word for our collective, daily experience. While some have tried, and even succeeded, to get back into the groove of things following all that’s happened in the last two and a half years, there’s a large contingent of the world that hasn’t. We see that reality reflected all around us: it’s mentioned on the news; it comes up in weekly team check-ins; it’s the focus of TIME articles; and it’s become part of the cultural ethos we see reflected in the memes of a Gen Z workforce that’s replacing Baby Boomers at a rate of 10,000 per day according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s something that I, myself, struggle with day-in and day-out alongside many of my industry peers.

In the process of trying to find a witty and interesting way to open this article, I stumbled upon the work of Nakeia Homer, a self-healing guide and author. She released her first book, “I Hope This Helps”, in October of 2020 as a collection of curated quotes, poems, and other messages that drew from her wealth of experience and her own personal struggles. One of its quotes managed to cut through the noise of my Google searching, and in a few short phrases, succinctly captured what today’s workers feel and needed to hear: “You are not lazy, unmotivated, or stuck. After years of living your life in survival mode, you are exhausted. There is a difference.”

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

That difference was well understood by Rachael Kelly, the former Chief People Officer of bar-and-grill-chain Smokey Bones; Kelly is now the CPO at WestDerm, a leading provider of dermatology services under the same PE umbrella. Smokey Bones was hit the way you’d imagine at the start of the lockdowns, and within three days, revenues were slashed by 80%. “We had to immediately change our business model [from dine-in],”explains Kelly, “and it was a question of how are we going to do this and survive?” They were confident that they would be successful, and that they’d even learn to thrive in what they anticipated would be a new normal, but they knew they couldn’t do it alone. There was an opportunity to redefine their business model, but it would take everything they could do to help their people navigate this disruption.

As Kelly put it: “Everyone was on compensation reduction, in a population that already, in many instances, was working paycheck to paycheck. Overnight, the rug was completely pulled from underneath them. They had to figure out how they were going to pay their bills […] and there’s no buffer – you don’t get a month to figure that out.” All that financial pressure was compounded by the other realities of being in a service industry position at the height of the pandemic: having to deal with angry patrons; being the enforcer of not just company, but city and state policy; watching those around you, from coworker to loved one, suffer through the full gamut of tragedy, from sickness to destitution. “In the restaurant industry, you never thought about life and death as part of your work,” explains Kelly, “but now with increased sanitation and all the precautions, it was life and death.” The server trying to make ends meet may not be the first image to come to mind when someone hears the word “trauma”, but that’s exactly what they – alongside most of us – experienced.

The Trauma-Informed Leader

Trauma recovery, like the rest of mental health, is tricky business, as it impacts both the mind and body due to the way in which we respond to stress. The recovery process can be simply summarized into three key steps – achieving safety and stability, remembering and grieving what was lost, and finally reconnecting with the self – but those are all much easier said than done. Walking down that path requires not only considerable discipline, mindfulness, and self-care, but the support of others. While wellness and resilience had always been discussed with a tangential link to the workplace, that connection was crystalized during the pandemic. The workplace itself became a source of undue stress, making harm reduction and employee support not just moral imperatives, but strategic levers. It’s here that trauma-informed leadership (TIL) principles shone as a means of providing the validating, safe, and supportive environment teams needed to meet their objectives.

TIL has its roots in trauma-informed care (TIC), which came about in the 1970s as a response to the physical and mental traumas experienced by Vietnam War veterans. TIC is built on 5 key foundational principles:

  1. SAFETY: Ensuring secure and unconditional physical and emotional protection.
  2. CHOICE: Providing affected individuals with control and an outlet for their voice.
  3. COLLABORATION: Making decisions with – not for – them.
  4. TRUSTWORTHINESS: Clear, consistent delivery on promises and an unwavering respect for boundaries.
  5. EMPOWERMENT: Encouraging skill building and identity through validation and affirmation.

Originally a lens for approaching patient care that better took into account trauma when diagnosing and treating individuals, its principles have since been adapted as a framework to help leaders achieve better team cohesion, cultural growth, and leadership agility. And it’s easy to see why, given that those principles should resonate with nearly any manager or executive that’s participated in a leadership development course. By applying these principles to the workplace, leaders can replace command and control leadership that expects employees to process the situation and roll with the punches – typically to their own detriment – with something warmer. Something more humanizing, that actually delivers on the promise of being able to bring “your whole self” to work, and in turn, speaks to what today’s employee want to see in the workplace.

TIL Praxis

This begs the question: how can your average manager, VP, or Executive apply TIL principles to everyday interactions? What does this all practically look like? As with nearly every other element of leadership, the short answer is, “it depends”. It’s a highly situational process of evaluating the present and immediate evidence and making the call that best aligns with the stated goals. However, there are some general tips to keep in mind:

  • Maintain a watchful eye for signs of stress, frustration, agitation, and depression, as well as for evidence of absenteeism or anxiety.
  • Follow that identification with increased communication and support, using a calm and genuine tone; the focus should be on their health, not the sentiment that they’re underperforming.
  • Prioritize the “why” when making decisions or offering guidance, as that helps build consensus and gives an opportunity for open, candid dialogue.
  • Help in removing stigmas around mental health through marketing/communications, regular team dialogue, and vulnerably sharing your own story.
  • Model the healthy, self-care behaviors you expect teams to practice. The more your team sees you overextending yourself, the more they feel pressure to do the same.

Perhaps most importantly, recognize and respect the fact that every individual on your team is unique, with their own capacity, situation, capabilities, and in turn, trauma recovery timeline. Many of us joined the workforce in an era where the principles of consistency and predictability were seen as virtues, but the world has become too volatile and unpredictable for those to be anything more than general goals. It’s easy for our desires of what “should” be possible to get in the way of what “is” possible if we’re not vigilant in assessing how we interact with and guide our teams. Ultimately, what makes an effective leader isn’t the consistency with which once cleaves to protocol and strategic plans, but one’s ability to recognize, in the moment, when an exception needs to be made.

The Results Speak for Themselves

Redefining how they approach leadership and being comfortable with pivoting helped save Smokey Bones from what seemed like an impossible situation. They managed to tangibly recover as early as October of 2020, and maintained industry-leading growth for 5 consecutive quarters. As it started to work, Kelly and the rest of her executive team began to ask themselves: “what is it that’s working, and how do we codify and memorialize this and continue to evolve our organization? Because we’re not going to go back; we’re going to go forward.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rachael Kelly is the former Chief People Officer of bar-and-grill-chain Smokey Bones.  Kelly is now the CPO at WestDerm, a leading provider of dermatology services under the same PE umbrella.  In her role at Smokey Bones, Kelly was responsible for end-to-end human capital management, facilitating an employee-engaged culture, and serving as a trusted member of the executive team who guided the organization to achieve its strategic goals. Kelly is a career human resources and operations professional, having started with Pizza Hut, where she worked through various roles during her 18-year tenure with the global pizza leader. Her climb through the ranks landed Kelly in her final role as HR Consultant to the National Pizza Hut franchise system supporting 150 franchisees and nearly 6000 restaurants before serving in key leadership roles for other restaurant brands prior to joining Smokey Bones. Kelly was recently named Woman of the Year by the National Diversity Council, along with other accolades including being named Most Influential Restaurant Industry Executive by Nation’s Restaurant News and Top 50 Human Resources Professional by Oncon Icon Awards.

Kelly’s unique vision and approach served well in her time at Smokey Bones during the pandemic, with the team experiencing extreme compensation and environmental pressures, launching multiple virtual brands, and executing a bootstrap recovery of the business.  Under her leadership, Smokey Bones rebuilt culture inside out founded on the concept of humancentric leadership, was certified as a Great Place To Work for two consecutive years, expanded benefits, mentoring, and career path access to all frontline employees, and persevered with industry leading staffing, employee retention and brand performance.

In addition, Rachael has founded HiveStrong, an organization dedicated to supporting abuse survivors through their journey to empowerment.

Rachael spends her time between Smokey Bones based in Plantation, FL, and Dallas, TX where she raises her two special needs boys ages 5 and 8.

 

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Innovative Leadership: Leading Post-Pandemic & Beyond

To navigate the Great Resignation, focus on employee experience

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotify,  Amazon Music,  AudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Also, stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Bringing Your Full Self to Work

This week we continue the Connex Executive Insights Series, produced in collaboration with Connex Partners, an invitation-only executive network that brings industry leaders together from the worlds of HR and Healthcare.

Connex Members are part of a cutting-edge community, finding actionable solutions to their most pressing business challenges via high-value peer exchanges and curated resources including tools, platforms, partners and c-suite networking opportunities.

Executive Insights Series features highly respected and engaging guests who share novel ideas and practices related to the latest leadership topics.

This week’s article features the work of Dawn Foods to have an open and inclusive workplace culture.  It is a companion to Jason Lioy‘s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Cultivating Empathy Through Authenticity that aired on Tuesday, April 26th, 2022.

Here a short clip of the interview:

Here is the entire interview:

It’s staggering to think about just how much time an average adult devotes to work, especially in recent years. Between labor shortages, business model changes, and the ever-present nagging emails so easily accessed by our mobile devices or in our home offices, the reality is that the 40-hour workweek is a pipe dream for most. It’s no wonder, then, why our collective consciousness has been pulled towards the importance of DE&I in the workplace – if we’re to give so much of ourselves to our jobs, then we (rightfully) expect it to be done in a welcoming, warm, and safe environment where we don’t feel the need to hide who we are or the unique perspectives we bring to the table. Maureen Metcalf had an opportunity to explore that concept with Jason Lioy – Chief People Officer at Dawn Foods – as part of the ongoing Connex Executive Insights Series to learn how they’re approaching employee engagement through a DE&I lens.

Dawn Foods is a global leader in bakery manufacturing and ingredients distribution and partners with bakers, retailers, and wholesalers to deliver the ingredients, expertise and inspiration to help them grow their business – a complex process that has more than 4,000 team members servicing 100 countries around the globe. . Despite that, they’ve never lost focus of their core values or rich company culture, both of which are heavily influenced by their family-owned status. They aim to provide that warm, familial atmosphere, cultivating a psychologically safe environment where team members feel they belong, are valued, and most importantly, are respected. That work recently was highlighted in a push for individuals to bring their whole selves to work through Dawn’s internal “I AM” campaign.

In 2021 for Global Diversity Awareness Month, Dawn wanted to celebrate the differences of its team and what makes the team who they are. The ‘I Am’ campaign was simple, it asked people to share something about themselves that might not have been known to the rest of the team. The campaign began with a handful of courageous pioneers, senior leaders, and C-suite executives posting self-made signs on Dawn’s internal social network, Workplace .,  All beginning with “I AM”, they shed light on those elements that strongly guided their behaviors, mindsets, and actions as they navigate the workplace: I AM “a single mother”, or “living with ADHD”, or “the first college grad in my family”.

The campaign connected team members around the world, opened up new conversations, and most of all, it was empowering. The campaign immediately received a wave of attention and engagement from team members, each broadcasting pieces of their own stories to their colleagues. The message from Dawn was loud and clear: you can be your authentic self at work and don’t have to code-switch, because it’s the uniquities underpinning who you are that drive the business. Doing so required immense trust, and by having leaders express their vulnerability first, Dawn was able to create the kind of powerful groundswell that helps define company culture.

A Better Employee Experience

The benefits of the campaign from a DE&I perspective were readily apparent, as it spoke directly to the chief barriers of inclusivity and belonging. However, it also assisted Dawn in their ongoing process of reimagining and strengthening their team member experience. The pandemic forced their corporate team members into home offices for the first time, and while communication and engagement were key foci for their frontline teams, those at-home team members were experiencing a unique and unprecedented kind of isolation. Dawn trusted team members to handle their tasks and do them well and made a point to increase the frequency and quality of personal check-ins and team-based connections. They had leaders stress the importance of personal wellbeing, living that ideology by reminding their reports that they’d be there to support and listen. Their work to develop and execute the “I AM” campaign was a valuable extension of that vulnerability, encouraging team members to be comfortable with one another and seek out all the benefits of psychologically safe, open dialogue with peers.

The same ethos of meeting team members where they have also been reflected in Dawn’s revamped talent practices. Difficulty in recruiting and the prevalence of remote – and now hybrid – work led to a widening of candidate pools into geographies that weren’t previously considered. Dawn also invested in robust virtual onboarding, brand videos, and collaboration tools. From day one, team members are supported, engaged with the business and its values, and connected with others while being accepted for who they really are.

Empowering Leadership

To maintain that environment, Dawn has also recalibrated their leadership skillsets. Soft skills have always been critical, but our “new normal” has put an outsized focus on empathy, and that’s doubly true for any organization trying to signal to employees that it’s okay to be themselves. Dawn is encouraging leaders to practice active listening and make a genuine attempt to understand the unique, individual contexts behind interactions with team members; requiring that they be authentic and honest themselves. In conjunction with resilience and courage, these skills form the core toolkit for meaningfully engaging their team members and actually executing on their promise of a welcoming atmosphere. That, in turn, feeds retention, giving teams the long-term stability needed to drive business performance and bring the full weight of their diverse perspectives to bear – the real goal of any DE&I program.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotifyAmazon MusicAudible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Brandon Hicke at Connex Partners brings nearly a decade of writing, consultative, and market analysis experience to the table. He plays a pivotal role in developing and enhancing the Connex Membership model through engaging content pieces and synthesized industry insights. In his free time, Brandon loves cooking, competitive gaming, pedantic philosophic discussions, and exploring his new hometown of St. Louis with his loved ones.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Overhauling the Traditional Work Model

This week we continue the Connex Executive Insights Series, produced in collaboration with Connex Partners, an invitation-only executive network that brings industry leaders together from the worlds of HR and Healthcare.

Connex Members are part of a cutting-edge community, finding actionable solutions to their most pressing business challenges via high-value peer exchanges and curated resources including tools, platforms, partners and c-suite networking opportunities.

Executive Insights Series features highly respected and engaging guests who share novel ideas and practices related to the latest leadership topics.

This week’s article features the work of Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina, and Fara Palumbo, their Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer.  It is a companion to her interview on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast episode, titled How HR Drives New Beginnings which aired on Tuesday, March 29th, 2022. 

 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) mobilized quickly to transition our workforce to remote work, an open-ended solution with no fixed date on returning to “normal.” Now, we know that “normal” doesn’t necessarily refer to the way things were. We have a rare opportunity to define what normal is.

For Blue Cross NC, normal means giving our employees a chance to determine working arrangements that work best for them and their families. To that end, we’ve implemented new policies that are intended to achieve three important aims:

  • Overhaul the traditional working model to meet today’s needs
  • Continue to deliver excellent service to our customers
  • Draw and retain the most talented professionals

A New Model for Working 

For more than 80 years, most Blue Cross NC employees gathered daily at a central work location, working side-by-side with colleagues, then heading home to their family and personal responsibilities at the end of the workday. As we’ve seen over the past 18 months, that model was due for a refresh.

After our company’s shift to remote work in early 2020, Blue Cross NC leaders looked at how the change might be affecting productivity. We found very quickly that the shift to telework wasn’t having a negative effect on productivity at all. Our employees embraced working remotely with collaborative enthusiasm.

Together, we confirmed there is a vast difference between a workplace and a workforce. There is no magic that happens when employees gather on a campus or in a building, sitting in department groups, eating in a cafeteria. We found that many of the traditional trappings of office life are no longer relevant.

Blue Cross NC is implementing a hybrid model, with employees – those whose roles allow them to work from anywhere – given the power to choose where they will work. Rather than prescribe working arrangements for employees, we asked staff to decide where they want to work; over 73% have chosen to remain full-time remote, while the remainder wishes to either split their time between home and office or work full-time in the office when it’s safe to do so. It’s also not just about where we work, either. Giving employees more flexibility over when they work is an equally important component of our hybrid strategy, too. We believe our employees know what arrangement will allow them to be most productive.

Committed to Excellence

Working remotely isn’t a new concept for Blue Cross NC. For years, we’ve had employees working full-time from home, and our workforce has always had the flexibility to work at home on days when life requires that. Technology has allowed employees to access email, collaborate and share digital files remotely when necessary.

But when working remotely becomes routine, there is a potential impact on corporate culture and working relationships. Our Human Resources team devised some creative ways for all of us to stay connected virtually and maintain morale during what has been a stressful period for everyone.

Virtual meetings and lunches with leaders have allowed employees to talk directly with executives about what’s going on in their lives and ask questions about developments at the company. Our annual Spirit Week – a chance for employees to have some fun while sharing their pride in our collective work and celebrating our successes – was shifted to a virtual experience, complete with the company’s first-ever pep rally, themed dress-up days and an employee talent competition.

To pursue our mission with passion, our employees need to feel connected to each other and to the customers we serve. This means maintaining the culture that unites us in our work. Together, Blue Cross NC employees have shown themselves to be the model of resilience over the last 18 months.

Finding the Right People  

Pandemic or not, a company has goals to meet. Blue Cross NC is in the business of health; we can’t put the pursuit of our goals on hold for any reason.

The current economy is very much a job seekers’ market. Employees of all experience and skill levels have plenty of options. For Blue Cross NC, that means we need to keep the outstanding employees who are already part of our team and attract talented candidates who are looking for new opportunities.

For current employees, we’ve redesigned our career framework with the goal of creating a more streamlined, transparent structure to promote internal talent mobility while strengthening our company’s competitiveness in the job market. An important part of this redesign is to provide employees greater visibility into career opportunities within our company, offering more chances for internal mobility.

To truly reinforce a culture of professional development, we’ve launched a new process that asks employees to formally declare their interest in internal mobility. This expressed interest, when paired with the increased visibility of an employee’s skills and abilities, will open the door to greater collaboration between our Talent Management team and those employees seeking to take on new opportunities.

With flexible work options and opportunities to explore different roles within our company, we hope to not only retain our great team members but also to attract talented applicants for our positions – collaborative team members who want to invest their time in a career, not just a job.

The new business landscape is different. In my mind, it’s better. It’s a working world of flexibility, fairness, transparency, mobility, and professional growth. This is an exciting time and I’m proud to be part of a company that is giving employees the power to take greater control of their work lives.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotifyAmazon MusicAudible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

 About the Author

Fara Palumbo is Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services, and information to 3.8 million members. Throughout her career, she has focused on transforming the talent and culture of teams through a focus on innovation, diversity, and change leadership. During her tenure at Blue Cross NC, Fara has led the transformation of the company’s talent strategy, delivering a compelling and credible employment value proposition and leading cultural change in order to enable and sustain long-term business growth. Under her leadership, the company has achieved and maintained its certification as a Great Place to Work© and has earned numerous recognitions as an employer of choice, including the Working Mother Top 100, Best Companies in Healthcare & BioPharma, Forbes Best Mid-sized Companies for Diversity, and NAFE Top Company for Women Executives. Previously, Fara held Human Resources leadership positions at Citibank in both the retail and investment banks. During her tenure, she led teams engaged in a variety of transformational efforts impacting the workforce. Her last assignment, prior to leaving, was head of HR for the Global Securities Division.

 

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

Rebranding “Resignation” as “Reengagement”

This week we continue the Connex Executive Insights Series, produced in collaboration with Connex Partners, an invitation-only executive network that brings industry leaders together from the worlds of HR and Healthcare.

Connex Members are part of a cutting-edge community, finding actionable solutions to their most pressing business challenges via high-value peer exchanges and curated resources including tools, platforms, partners and c-suite networking opportunities.

Executive Insights Series features highly respected and engaging guests who share novel ideas and practices related to the latest leadership topics.

This week’s article features the work of Renown Health, the largest not for profit health system in Northern Nevada, and  Michelle Sanchez-Bickley, their Chief HR Officer.  It is a companion to her interview on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast episode, Developing Your Culture, Communications & Pipeline in a Crisis, that aired on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022.

 

Here is a short clip from the interview:

Here is a link to the full interview:

 

The Importance of Engagement

Employers have quickly realized the outsize importance of engagement and experience in a world so now dominated by burnout, isolation, and stress. This goes double for any employer that’s public facing – such as healthcare – as the weight of working extra shifts amidst labor shortages, shifting employee expectations, and challenges at home is compounded by dealing with a populace that is itself short on patience. The variables behind the engagement question are many, but at their core, they all tie back to organizational culture, how that’s expressed through HR programing, and whether or not employees feel connected to and supported by their employer. Culture has always been a guiding force for organizations and a chief concern of HR leaders looking to cement their strategic place at the executive table, but it’s now a core business imperative for any organization looking to attract and retain the prototypical post-pandemic professional.

The Challenges

Michelle Sanchez-Bickley joined Maureen Metcalf to discuss these challenges, and in the process, shed light on a refreshingly authentic and unpretentious approach to defining and strengthening culture despite the looming Great Resignation. Michelle will soon be celebrating her 20th year as CHRO of Renown Health – a not-for-profit integrated healthcare network and ACO serving 17 counties in northern Nevada and northeastern California – and in that time, she’s seen more than her fair share of labor challenges, shifting employee expectations, and media trends. Rather than frantically pivot to conform to those outside pressures, however, her strategic recommendation to the rest of her C-suite has consistently been to ignore the hype and maintain course.

Renown for Their Commitment

Renown is, no pun intended, renowned for their commitment to the wellbeing of both their employees and the communities they serve. They are locally owned and governed despite how large their footprint is, with all earnings immediately reinvested into the programs, peoples, and equipment needed to safeguard and advance the health of the lives they touch. They’ve cultivated an employee-centric culture to match that’s reflected throughout their HR operations by staying true to that core ethos, so rather than try to reinvent the wheel for fear that the latest labor craze might be unmanageable, they intend to stay true to who they are, live their values loudly and proudly, and continue to be a compassionate force in employees’ lives. It’s an HR twist on the Field of Dreams approach: focus your effort on building a purposeful, warm place to work rather than split your focus on a buzzword, and employees will not only come, but begin to put down roots.

Altering the “Great Resignation” to the “Great Reengagement”

With a quick branding shift, the negative and toxically self-fulfilling “Great Resignation” becomes the “Great Reengagement”. Leaders are briefed on how the rise of virtual teams and home offices change the tactics of employee engagement, but not the fundamentals. They’re taught how to use the scheduling and Do-Not-Disturb features of their ever-growing tech stack to keep work within scheduled hours, both decreasing burnout and helping keep their own urges to reply to an email at 11pm in check. And they’re instructed on how to make the time in their hectic schedules to develop, refine, and guide the skills of their reports as a means of maximizing not only performance, but retention and loyalty. At every turn, they’re reminded and encouraged to lead with the same empathy and grace that got them named a “Best Hospital” by U.S. News & World Report for ’21-‘22.

Prop Up Employees

On the other side of the employment equation, Renown is further strengthening the programs and resources designed to prop up employees. A partnership with telemedicine providers is helping expand much-needed behavioral health resources to overburdened staff members and their families, incentivized with a $0 copay. New programs – such as those designed to target sources of financial stress by helping rebuild credit, refinance, or improve financial literacy, or those that use coaches to personalize wellness to target the specific lifestyles, needs, and life goals of employees – are being introduced to close gaps in their total rewards and offset the shortcomings of more traditional tools like the EAP. And uniquely, Michelle is looking into ways to emulate the highly democratic energy of their local governance within their employment model through gig-style shift selection. Employees needing to balance work with their many other obligations vying for attention would gain unprecedented flexibility in positions that have been always dominated by rigorous scheduling, and in return, the system would gain an adaptable labor pool that could travel or flex onto openings without the high costs of overtime or temp workers.

A Campaign of Kindness and Listening

Underpinning their Great Reengagement has been a campaign of kindness and listening: a reminder to organization and team leaders that they don’t always need to come equipped with answers and recommendations. Rather, that in times of crisis, what employees often need most is someone willing to listen and empathize with their struggles. By filling that role of attentive listener, living their values of “caring”, “integrity”, and “collaboration”, and holding steadfast in the face of uncertainty, Renown’s leadership apparatus is navigating around the media-driven flashpoint and executing on their mission to make a genuine difference in the health and wellbeing of those within and around their four walls.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

 About the Author

Brandon Hicke at Connex Partners brings nearly a decade of writing, consultative, and market analysis experience to the table. He plays a pivotal role in developing and enhancing the Connex Membership model through engaging content pieces and synthesized industry insights. In his free time, Brandon loves cooking, competitive gaming, pedantic philosophic discussions, and exploring his new hometown of St. Louis with his loved ones.

Photo by Clayton Cardinalli on Unsplash

 

It’s Your Aptitude Plus Your Attitude That Sets You Apart

We are pleased to announce the Connex Executive Insights Series, produced in collaboration with Connex Partners, an invitation-only executive network that brings industry leaders together in from the worlds of HR and Healthcare.

Connex Members are part of a cutting-edge community, finding actionable solutions to their most pressing business challenges via high-value peer exchanges and curated resources including tools, platforms, partners and c-suite networking opportunities.

Executive Insights features highly-respected and engaging guests who share novel ideas and practices related to the latest leadership topics.

This week’s article features an interview with Alice Yoo LeClair, Divisional CHRO at Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC originally published in Inside CHRO, the go-to magazine for HR leaders brought to you by Connex Partners. It is a companion to her interview on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast episode, A Competitive Advantage: Building Communities Within the Business, that aired on Tuesday, January 25th, 2022.

Watch the two-minute video of Alice

 

Listen to the full conversation with Alice and Maureen

  • What is your best leadership advice?

It’s your aptitude plus your attitude that sets you apart as a leader. These two things build the story of your personal brand and can accelerate your development over your peer group. This advice applies whether you have worked at an organization for two months or 25 years, whether you’re a senior leader or just taking the lead as a contributor in a meeting.

  • If you could go back in time and meet your sixteen-year-old self, what would you tell them?

Firstly, when you hear about this thing called ‘Bitcoin’ that goes for sale, buy it immediately in mass quantities! The second thing I would tell myself is ‘chin up’. Over the course of time, you will see a material shift when it comes to Asian inclusion and representation. There will even be an Asian superhero, Shang-Chi, brought to life on the big screen, in mainstream culture. It’s really tough now – but know that the world is going to learn faster, collaborate more and come together as a global community in the very near future.

  • What is the most-read book on your shelf?

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. I discovered this book through Bill Gates’ book blog, Gates Notes, and he cited it in a New York Times article as one of his favorite reads. The theories the author presents about why sapiens, of all the species that have inhabited this planet, have been able to develop enormous infrastructure, technologies, religions, governments and currencies are fascinating.

One of his theories is that as a species, our ability to imagine and apply our imagination to our real-life circumstances is what enabled our brains to create all of these institutions. I recommend it to anyone who is curious as to how we went from hunter-gatherers to doing things like cryptocurrency in the present day.

  • What’s the one film, TV show or podcast you would urge every CHRO to check out, and why?

I have a different approach to this. I don’t actually have an HR industry-specific magazine or podcast that I regularly turn to. What I have curated for myself instead are ‘digital mentors.’ In the HR and business worlds, there are incredible leaders who, through their public content, answer questions and give advice on topics I would have asked them to elaborate on through those mentorship coffee sessions. It was through this curation of digital mentorship that I discovered my career aspiration to become a Chief Experience Officer. I got there from the online presence of an executive named Julie Larson-Green who held the role at Microsoft and Qualtrics.

 

To read this article in full, and to find out more about how the pandemic has shaped Alice’s views on the future of HR, sign up to receive Inside CHRO, the new magazine written by – and for – HR leaders. Brought to you by Connex Partners, the #1 executive network for HR.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Alice Yoo LeClair is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Euromoney PLC’s Financial & Professional Services (FPS) division. She is responsible for leading talent management, DEI, recruitment and performance enablement initiatives, in alignment with the organization’s strategic objectives. In this capacity, she also serves as a member of the division’s executive committee and the group’s HR leadership team. Before joining Euromoney, Alice was the Head of HR for the Americas GTM region and multiple product verticals at Refinitiv, an LSEG (London Stock Exchange Group) business. Previously, she held global people strategy and commercial program management roles at IPC Systems, IntelePeer and Level 3 Communications (now Lumen Technologies). Alice holds a bachelor’s degree in Music from the University of Hartford where she double majored in Piano Performance and English. She also has a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell, Cornell University’s external education unit

 

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash