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