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An Exploration Into How We Can Eradicate Unintentional Bias and Discrimination

Human judgment—and the prejudices and unconscious biases that it can give rise to—will always be with us.That’s why Jessica Nordell’s critically acclaimed book The End of Bias comes with the subtitle, “A Beginning.”One approach that can help reduce discrimination, Nordell found during her research, is to use objective criteria in making decisions about health care assessments and corporate promotions, among other examples.“It's not so much about changing hearts and minds as it is about changing the decision-making environment, changing the structure within which people make a decision, so that their own biases are less likely to play a role,” said Nordell, an award-winning author and science writer.In assessing the results of anti-bias and anti-discrimination interventions, Nordell focuses on examining data and looking for measurable change, she said during a session at a From Day One conference in May in Minneapolis, where she is based.“I tell stories about people and organizations and cultures that have actually changed in measurable ways and then try to explain and explore what allowed them to do that,” Nordell told moderator Stephanie Sisco, an assistant professor in the College of Education & Human Development at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.Nordell cited a group of trauma surgeons at Johns Hopkins University as an example of the difference that objective criteria can make. After the surgeons began using a computerized checklist, instead of their clinical judgment to assess patients for blood clots, those patients began getting appropriate treatment at much higher rates. The gender disparity for women, who previously were almost 50 percent more likely to miss out on blood clot prevention, disappeared, even though the doctors had not set out to decrease the bias.Businesses have seen positive results from similar efforts. “One approach that decreases discrimination against women and underrepresented minorities in corporate environments in terms of their ability to be promoted into management is using consistent, objective, transparent criteria for making decisions,” Nordell said.Jessica Nordell, pictured, signed copies of The End of Bias for the From Day One Minneapolis attendees (photo by Cassandra Sajna for From Day One)Where many psychologists see two kinds of bias, prejudice based on deeply held beliefs and unconscious bias, Nordell believes another form also exists: unexamined bias.“That better captures the fact that there’s a kind of unknowable combination of conscious and unconscious things happening,” Nordell said. “If we’re holding beliefs that we haven’t examined and we’re acting on those” that requires “deep, personal introspection and deep grappling with our belief system, with our values.”Nordell told Sisco that she had written about bias and discrimination for years as a journalist but became impatient reporting on those issues and trying to persuade readers to care. She wanted to know what to do about bias and discrimination and wanted to read a book that offered “a thorough examination of what change’s people’s behavior, what changes organizations and what changes cultures to become more fair.When she couldn’t find that book, Nordell wrote it. She spent five years on The End of Bias, which she thought would be an 18-month project.While we may never reach the end that the title suggests, Nordell believes “that we can get a lot closer and we can do a lot better.”“We can relate to each other in much more humane ways than we have,” Nordell continued. “And that’s really my goal with the book, to, wherever we are, move us more in that right direction.”Todd Nelson is a Minnesota-based journalist who writes for newspapers in the Twin Cities.

Todd Nelson | June 02, 2023

Boosting Performance by Promoting Well-Being

The work rules we learned early in our career no longer apply. The last three years have drastically changed what we do and how we do it, as well as the expectations between employees and employers. As an example, Dr. Tom Van Gilder, chief health officer at the virtual coaching company BetterUp, noted in a From Day One webinar that the rate of skills retirement–the time it takes for a skill to become irrelevant or no longer applicable–has declined from about 5 years 15 years ago to just 18 months. “Everything seems to be always in flux,” he said. Change can be good, but this constant state of change is increasing stress. Indeed, a 2021 Harvard Business Review study found that 85% of respondents felt that their well-being had declined in the past two years. The study also reflected a 25% increase in anxiety and depression. Why does that matter? Because employee well-being has a direct impact on performance – of individuals, of employee populations, and of organizations themselves. “There is a relationship between well-being and performance,” Gilder said, but take heart. “Well-being can be measured, and well-being can be improved over time.”BetterUp data, based on about 2 million coaching sessions with people around the world, suggests that, when it comes to well-being, about 5% feel strong, 35% feel steady, and 55% feel strained or unsteady. The last 5% feel stuck. Unlike the people at the very bottom of the scale, most people who languish in the strained or unsteady category won’t likely show up in mental health claims, Gilder explains. They don’t see themselves as having something treatable. “But they're not at their best, they don't feel their best, they don't perform their best.”There are a variety of resources for measuring well-being, including:     •    The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health     •    The HERO Scorecard, developed with Mercer     •     •    What Works Center for Wellbeing in the UK While an organization can try to tackle this issue at any time, it’s best to be proactive and not wait until things are unsettled or bad to start a program that measures well-being and looks for methods to improve it, he said. But regardless of when you start, Gilder says that improvements in well-being can drive performance and help create resilience and adaptability in your workforce.Martin Seligman, the originator of positive psychology, conducted a study of more than a million Department of Defense employees that showed happiness was the number one predictor and driver of success. The people who won the most prestigious awards were those with the highest well-being scores at the start of the study – four times as many in the top quartile compared to the bottom one. BetterUp’s own data shows a 16% increase in performance among people whose well-being improved than in those whose did not.What’s the connection? Gilder says resilience and cognitive agility are predictive of well-being and are also drivers of performance. “Resilience allows a person to adapt more smoothly in the face of change or stress, and it provides a buffer to burnout,” he said.Dr. Tom Van Gilder, BetterUp's Chief Health Officer, led the webinar (company photo)On an organizational level, where there are higher indices of resilience in individuals and across the population of the workplace, there is a greater ability to respond to change and to remain competitive. “As things change, the ability to see which way things are going and to react calmly and efficiently and effectively becomes an organizational predictor,” he said. Companies that have higher resilience have over a three and a half times higher annual return on equity, and almost three and a half times higher year-on-year growth, Gilder added. “This component of well-being is good for the individual and the organization as well.”How can you improve it? Coaching works. Even during the pandemic, BetterUp data showed that those who had coaching on well-being ended up with higher markers of productivity than those without coaching. One of their larger clients, Salesforce, has provided a wealth of data to BetterUp. Those accessing services showed a 75% increase in markers associated with flourishing than those who did not. It led to fewer missed workdays, better health, and an increase in the likelihood of delivering a top performance. The people who are really stuck get the most impact from accessing mental health care services. But there is a large percentage of people who don’t access those solutions, either because they're not identified or don’t self-identify as needing something or they are not aware of these options. Make sure that whatever mental health solutions you provide, through your health plan, EAP, or other benefits, that it is communicated to and available across your entire population. If you provide coaching, know that it isn’t therapy, and ensure that whatever coaching providers you use are trained to point to other resources and refer on as needed. EAPs are often underused because people don’t know about them. There also remains a stigma around mental health care. Be sure you are working to tear down those barriers.Don’t forget about financial well-being, too. In these inflationary times, money troubles and concerns can have an impact on overall well-being. Consider whether financial coaching or financial literacy education could help your employees become more resilient. Younger people may be more likely to engage with digital tools. Find out what your people will respond to and offer it. You may need to offer both digital and real-life options, depending on your workforce’s preference. Consider group options, too. This can help with issues of catastrophizing, Gilder said. “If people organize around specific topics, it can help them develop tools to cope with change and help them see positives that come with it. “We can’t change the rate of change, but we can become more comfortable with it.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, BetterUp, for sponsoring this webinar. 

Lisa Jaffe | June 02, 2023

Retaining and Motivating Employees by Showing Them Their Work Matters

Whether you’re a human resources professional in the private or public sector, motivating employees goes hand in hand with keeping them. And neither task is an easy one.A five-person panel recently went through the ups and downs of that process in a discussion titled “Retaining and Motivating Employees by Showing Them Their Work Matters” at From Day One's Minneapolis conference. It can be tricky to zero in on the intangible but important sense among employees that their work has meaning not only to the company but also the world at large. Part of that equation has to do with having employees buy in to your company’s mission, according to Laura Lorenz, vice president of human resources for 3M’s Transportation and Electronics Business Group.“The focus is aspirational,” Lorenz said. “We’re the world’s largest provider of N95 masks, and during COVID we kept our prices the same. That was a source of pride for our people.”In the public sector, keeping workers motivated and happy can be extra challenging. Toni Newborn, chief equity officer and director of human resources for the City of Saint Paul, said that tight budgets and the structure of the city government can be an obstacle.“We have 15 operating departments that are essentially their own businesses, with 3,000 employees,” Newborn said. “Our challenge was that during COVID, our budget wouldn’t allow people to work from home. So we set up a fund to create stipends for people to make working remotely a little easier–for Internet, for day care. It was a gesture that government employers usually don’t offer.”Ryan Faircloth, politics and government reporter at the Star Tribune, left, moderated the panel discussion (photo by Cassandra Sajna for From Day One)A natural outgrowth of retention effort is a benefits package, and as surveys have shown, the one most sought after among employees is one that provides help in having and caring for a family.“When people talk about work/life balance, what they usually mean is work/family balance,” said Jeni Mayorskaya, founder and CEO of Stork Club, a company that provides family and fertility-based benefits. “Twenty-five percent of women who give birth quit within a year. It will happen if they don’t get the support they need at work. They’ll put their family first.”Another obstacle in the way of attracting and keeping employees can come from above, according to Hannah Yardley, chief people and culture officer for Achievers, a Toronto provider of employee voice and recognition solutions.“I believe more than 40 percent of H.R. leaders don't think their leadership teams are ready to make change,” she said. “Leaders aren’t listening, and if you don’t take action, employees won’t trust you to make the changes they want.”One method for finding out what employees want is by, yes, asking them. Newborn said that when Saint Paul put together an employee engagement survey not long ago, a city employee of some 45 years said it was the first one he’d ever seen. “We didn’t know how important it was for employees to take ownership of city policies,” she said.One important thing to note is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to attracting and keeping workers.“Like everything in H.R., there’s no one simple answer,” said Julie Kline, chief human resources officer for North Memorial Health. “There’s no, ‘Oh, just offer better benefits.’ With COVID, we needed to look at what would motivate our employees. And for them, it was providing a solid foundation. It doesn't sound exciting. But the reality for us was that we really had to look at how we could provide them with stability in their roles.”Dan Heilman is a Minneapolis-based journalist.

Dan Heilman | June 01, 2023

How Family-Forming Benefits Can Save Your Company Money

Picture this: Sarah and Zach are a heterosexual couple in their late 30s, and they’re nervous about how long it will take them to get pregnant, because Sarah has friends who had to undergo treatment. Thanks to her benefit portal, she decides to talk to a fertility coordinator, who introduces her to resources such as nutrition counseling and access to a wearable ovulation tracker. Sarah gets pregnant after 3 months and, thanks to her benefits, has access to prenatal yoga. In the end, she has a healthy pregnancy and delivers a healthy baby.In another case, Emily is a single mom by choice and wants a second child. During her first pregnancy, she needed a C-section, because the baby was breech. She assumed that, because she’d had one C-section, she would need one for her second birth. Emily used her benefits to get pregnant via intrauterine insemination using a donor. Then, after exploring her new company’s benefits, she scheduled a call with a midwife, who asked her if she wanted to attempt a vaginal delivery. Emily then worked with a doula, talked to her doctor, and changed her birth plan. She went into labor and had a vaginal birth. These are just two examples that Allen Niemynski, Account Executive for Enterprise Sales at the fertility and family-forming benefits platform Carrot Fertility, provided during a From Day One webinar, titled “How Fertility Benefits Can Save a Company Money.” He acknowledges that it might seem counterintuitive at first, as family forming benefits are notoriously expensive. But fertility challenges can result in frequent doctor’s appointments and medical treatments with side effects that lead to absenteeism and other expensive consequences. Fertility benefits can help lower overall costs by retaining valuable employees, helping meet DEI goals, and, by intervening early in the process with less invasive options, curbing high-cost claims. Retention always takes significant resources, as replacing and training a new employee can require six to nine months.In fact, what would have happened without access to these benefits? Many companies would have required that Zach and Sarah try getting pregnant for one year before covering assisted reproductive technology–first, intrauterine insemination, followed by IVF (in vitro fertilization). Each round of IUI costs $4,000, while IVF costs $21,000 per round, and many people require more. Preventative care allowed Zach and Sarah to get pregnant without intervention.In Emily’s case, C-sections increase costs; by avoiding a C-section, someone working at a self-insured company would save around $20,000–and would have a safer birth experience. Since education is still lacking, only 13.3% of women opt for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). That’s where robust pregnancy resources come in: talking to a doula reportedly reduces C-section rates when the alternative is medically safe.Allen Niemynski, enterprise account executive for Carrot Fertility, led the webinar (company photo)Fertility benefits allow employees not to use their insurance plan to access these resources, so employers  save even more money when employees manage to grow their families without intervention thanks to preventative measures. Providing personalized care means, say, offering IVF if it’s right for the patient. In certain cases, though, IVF can cause more harm than good and have bad business consequences. Niemynski likens IVF to treating back pain with back surgery. “More than 66% of Carrot members selected non-invasive interventions over surgery as a first line,” he said. For example, one of the first-line resources is discounted access to an ovulation tracker, which measures five different parameters and identifies fertile windows. Here again, the need for education can come into play, as there’s a general lack of awareness that one can only conceive during a limited amount of time in a cycle.“In the last 10 years, fertility benefits were mainly focused in the tech sector, but that’s changing,” said Niemynski. “We’re seeing industries, across all sizes, embrace fertility benefits, and it’s because we really need to. One out of eight couples experiences fertility challenges.” Historically, fertility has been a taboo subject, but people have become increasingly comfortable with sharing their personal stories. Male infertility is also being discussed more and more: the sperm count dropped 60% in the last 40 years. Despite the misconception that most fertility challenges lie within women, 40% of issues actually start with men. “Everybody needs the option to start the family they want,” said Niemynski. Carrot’s benefits extend beyond fertility strictly speaking, and Niemynski favors the phrase “family forming.” Family-forming benefits can help companies reach DEI goals by providing options to the LGBTQIA+ workforce and by boosting equity, ensuring that all employees have access to high-quality care. Supporting a diverse workforce makes smart business sense, as diverse companies experience better business outcomes.Niemynski explains the case of Michael and Nick, a same-sex couple who want to adopt a child. Intending to adopt in the United States, they assume they’ll go through the agency route. But their benefit portal routes them to an expert, who lets them know about common costs associated with foster-to-adopt, agency, and independent options. Michael and Nick inquire about self-guided options and research platforms that operate without an agency. A self-guided route, through which the majority of costs are related to legal work, means that the couple can spend $10,000-15,000, as opposed to $30,000-60,000. They chose this option and welcomed their babies. A benefit package covering up to $20,000 for family forming would completely support this journey. Adoption-related family-forming benefits are crucial for the LGBTQIA+ workforce: 26% of same-sex couples adopt, but only one out of five companies offer adequate resources. In parallel to family-forming benefits, Carrot also offers resources for menopause, a natural part of aging. Since menopause is not a disease, it’s under-researched, and only 25% of OBGYN programs provide menopause training. Still, menopause has a significant impact on health. Changes in estrogen and progesterone affect the brain, the reproductive system, and other organs. These symptoms can also negatively affect life score, decrease productivity, and impair daily activities. 7% of women experience early-onset menopause, which carries the additional risks of osteoporosis, heart disease, and more. Take the case of Rebecca, the VP of finance at her company. At 49, she starts having hot flashes and trouble sleeping. One year later, symptoms worsen: she becomes fatigued during the work day and can’t sleep at night. Her GP says the symptoms are just a part of life. But during a work meeting that offers an overview of benefits, she learns she can find a doctor who specializes in menopause, as well as join a support group addressing the pros and cons of HRT. She starts treatment and finds that her support group is invaluable. “We estimate $10,000 in retention savings,” said Niemynski. “But for a senior leader like her, savings might be much higher.” There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to creating a suite of family-forming benefits, but Carrot does have one rule when it comes to connecting patients with resources: “No Google,” Niemynski said. “There’s a lot of terrible information that can lead you down a dangerous rabbit hole, and that will make people invest money in places that will not help them achieve their goals.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Carrot Fertility, for sponsoring this webinar. 

Angelica Frey | June 01, 2023

After Three Years of Crisis, What Will Keep Employees Engaged and Motivated?

Over the past three years, workers have had to learn how to adapt and build new skills in order to succeed in a constantly changing work environment. In the aftermath of the pandemic, this same workforce is now experiencing extensive burnout. Now, organizations are tasked with finding ways to help their employees exit survival mode, through means of building an inclusive culture that supports a sense of employee engagement.During a panel discussion at From Day One's Brooklyn conference, moderated by Lydia Dishman of Fast Company, a group of panelists offered their perspective on how their business is renewing a sense of meaning among its employees.Widespread Employee BurnoutAccording to Dale Cook, co-founder and CEO of Learn to Live, people often think in two ways when it comes to burnout.“There’s the external forces that we all experience, heavy deadlines, heavy workloads, life pressures. There’s [also] the internal side of how we manage those things on a day to day basis.”He said that when his organization works with partners, they tend to focus on the internal side: the things that are within their control, like reframing mental health, and providing the right tools at the right time. Cook cites his own experience struggling with mental health in college and his access to mental health services as a key influence on his company’s mode of helping others do the same to manage their burnout.And yet, Lydia points out that frontline managers are often the ones truly shouldering much of the burden as they watch their teams get burned out. The key to combating this and building stronger relationships with employees, Dale said, lies in a manager’s ability to be vulnerable with one’s own mental health journey.One of the biggest shifts that Liz Pittinger sees as head of customer success at Stork Club is in the transparency behind communicating any strategic decision-making for the sake of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She points to how fertility journeys and menopause are silent stressors that contribute to burnout. These are aspects of health care that Stork Club incorporated into its benefits portfolio.The critical aspect here is how these decisions are shared to the organization at large, so that people have an understanding as to why certain health care benefits are necessary.Engaging the WorkforceA simple change in scenery could be the key driver in building engagement among employees.At MasterCard, Charman Hayes highlights the value of in-person connection with colleagues. As EVP of people and capability, technology, Hayes helps underpin activities like volunteering, mentorship, game engagement, and learning and development to fulfill human connectivity.“It's been a great opportunity since we've come out of our basements and our bedrooms.”Noting MasterCard’s goal in using technology to bring people together, Charman indicated that human connection can be tastefully met in person where it matters, and they can also be met virtually.Giving employees a sense of purpose through social impact programs is a priority at NBCUniversal. Jessica Clancy, who serves as SVP of corporate social responsibility, said the media company’s Talent Lab allows employees to be “nominated for a learning experience that wraps around inclusive leadership, the principles and values we care about at NBC, and integrates it with social impact.”The full panel of speakers, pictured, discussed how they are focusing on engagement, inclusion, and motivation within their organizations (photo by Cassandra Sajna for From Day One)Clancy said that having employees “not just participating in community service, but actively working on leadership development alongside young people from that community” is an important differentiator.“It really helps employees to think about the skills around empathy, listening, inclusivity that they are practicing in the community, and that they’re going to bring back to the job,” she said.From a leadership perspective, ensuring employee engagement is often personal.“I feel a very deep sense of responsibility to ensure that we are positively impacting lives, whether it's other employees in the organization, fans, especially in the community more broadly,” said Jane Son, co-head of foundation and community engagement at the New York Mets.Encouraging Empathy and Inclusion in the OrganizationAccording to Dale, isolation is one of the leading issues for mental health. “As much as we’ve advanced our conversation together around destigmatizing mental health, it’s still the number one barrier for people in the workforce that often translates into fear of discrimination.”To combat potential discrimination, his organization offers programs and services that are completely private and confidential.For Stork Club, the path to effective inclusion in their mission is simple: reduce the cost of health care.“Every single day, we're dealing with people who are desperate to start a family or not, who don't know if they can financially afford it. When we promote empathy, we start with the member experience,” said Liz.“When our care navigations share member stories with us, we’re getting the celebrations, the picture of their newborns, and we convey that back to the customer and through the entire company to make sure everyone understands and feels connected to what our purposes are.”Discovering the Next Steps in Professional DevelopmentOften, a natural transition from volunteering in the workplace is finding an opportunity to utilize new skills and apply it to positions of leadership, development, and service. This makes internal initiatives like that of NBCUniversal and MasterCard useful for those in leadership to recognize when an individual wants to evolve to the next stage in skill building.“Leaders can talk about the skills they need for projects, and employees can share that they want to build on and develop those skills,” said Charman. “We add this into our talent review process which translates into human resources.”At Learn to Live, there is a strong belief that acts of service is an important part of a mental health journey.“What I'm intrigued about is that interconnection between best practices, community service, and skills building, coupled with how people are working on themselves at the same time. That intersection is something worth exploring for organizations,” said Dale.Tania Rahman is a native New Yorker who works at the intersection of digital marketing and tech. She enjoys writing both news stories and fiction, hot chocolate on cold days, reading, live music, and learning new things.

Tania Rahman | May 31, 2023

Mapping the Human Genome of Potential

“The resume is one of the worst business tools on the planet,” said Scott Dettman, CEO of entry level career matchmaking firm Avenica. “Employers are missing anywhere from about 75% to 83% of the available talent by relying on these antiquated tools.”Dettman’s attacks on the oft-maligned resume only grew more fierce as his talk at From Day One’s live event in Salt Lake City progressed.“This happens because recruiting is heavily based on skills and keywords listed in resumes. So if you don't have those right, you are going to be missed,” he added.Dettman’s passion for this topic is informed by his own experience entering the job market following his graduation from college in 2009, at a time when jobs were scarce as unemployment levels approached ten percent. 400 job applications later, he finally received an invitation to interview for an opening. While he expected to meet with a recruiter, Dettman was surprised to instead receive an audience with the CEO. “Oh, it’s him,” Dettman remembered the CEO saying while glancing over his resume. “You applied for an entry level marketing position. But you have a political science degree. So you have no business applying for this job.” Crushed, Dettman decided that as long as he was there, he’d make the case for hiring him based on his abundance of grit over lack of experience.“And so I shared my story with him, I kind of poured my guts out. I told him everything I've been through, that I grew up in the south side of Milwaukee in a bad neighborhood, that I was born with a neurological disorder and had a lot of health issues, and an unhealthy home environment. But I'd overcome all that and played Division One, college football, I had done all these different things.”The CEO responded, “I'm not going to hire you for this job. But come back tomorrow, I've got a better one for you.”That position ended up being a great fit for Dettman, catapulting his career in vital ways. Eventually Dettman would be the CEO of his own company at just 32, far ahead of the average age of 58. And yet it almost didn’t happen. Dettman points to that experience as proof of the inability of a piece of paper to capture the true essence of a newly minted college graduate’s suitability for any position.“The important thing to note here is that I only accidentally got a chance to pitch myself like that. Most people don't get the opportunity to spill their guts as I did, and tell their story. And that's a real problem.”During his talk, Dettman referred to the irony of leading the presentation at the facility located within Salt Lake City’s famous museum, The Leonardo, named for Leonardo DaVinci. “The first resume was used 541 years ago, created by DaVinci,” he quipped. “We've been doing this thing for 541 years, right? Maybe we can evolve it a little bit.”As bad as he feels the resume is, Dettman said it’s only part of the dysfunction plaguing the talent acquisition equation today.Scott Dettman, the CEO of Avenica, led the thought leadership spotlight (photo by Sean Ryan for From Day One)“Most job descriptions are not well-crafted. They’re vague. They say things like “self-starter” or “collaborative” or all sorts of meaningless things. But at the same time, they're also calling for an increasing number of skills to be present, and skills are important,” Dettman said. “But we should also acknowledge that skills by themselves, without the right fit, without the potential, without the right environment, are almost meaningless. And most job descriptions are written to be exclusive. As are a lot of job postings. And don't get me started on job titles. All these issues contribute to this massive translation problem.”And the dysfunction of the status quo extends to the talent side, Dettman said. “The other side of this is employees are only making themselves available to the companies they're aware of. But a political science major from a state school has no sense for the entire variety of employers that are out there. There's no college course about that. Plus, they don't really know the kinds of jobs they could succeed at, or where they could do them. So it's a recipe for disaster.”Recognizing all these flaws, Dettman determined that there must be a better way, and the outcome was Avenica.“Before we ever take a look at a resume or send a candidate to an interview, we take them through a process called leveling, like in a video game. We have these individuals perform micro tasks on our platform. We'll send them a link, and it'll be to watch a video, and at the end, there'll be an instruction to follow, such as sending an email with the video’s three most salient points. And we're tracking every little movement, every data point along the path,” Dettman said. “We send them proprietary assessments that reveal their workstyle and workplace preferences. So we're building this big data cloud around these individuals. So they're not only demonstrating what their preferences are, what they're capable of doing, their ability to communicate and problem solve, to be responsive and follow directions. They're also demonstrating commitment, grit and intent.”The outcome of this process is a very granular mapping of a candidate’s talent genome, which produces insights offering the same kind of explanatory power that comes from decoding one’s DNA.“And we're mapping that to a hiring partner and their needs. This is the reason why we're focused on early career—because there's no better time to avoid resumes and besides, these people don't have experience anyway,” Dettman explained. Dettman said the data back up his iconoclastic approach, pointing to a particular client company, where 67% of promotions during one mid-year cycle went to candidates found by Avenica. “It just goes to show you that when you free your mind of the constraints that we've created on talent and the way that we look at things and the bias that we use to evaluate candidates, you realize that you can unleash all that human potential, and really make a difference.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Avenica, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Judd Bagley is a Utah-based marketing communications professional and freelance journalist.

Judd Bagley | May 31, 2023

Everlearning: The Key to Your People and Teams’ Growth

In an era of constant change, how can business leaders keep up? Whether it’s collaborating in a hybrid environment, creating policies for the use of AI, or recalibrating benefits packages, leaders are reimagining the post-pandemic workforce. On top of it all, there are still organizational goals to meet. One approach offers a solution: Everlearning. A new way of thinking about learning, evergreen learning empowers individual teams and organizations to develop core competencies and grow their strengths.  Everlearning puts learning at the center of every stage of the life cycle. This shift in mindset makes learning easier to absorb and administer, and creates long-lasting positive behavioral changes in individuals and strong company cultures.SkillCycle combines the entire talent and learning ecosystem with performance management, engagement, and goal setting, all into one hub that drives personalized learning paths. At the From Day One May virtual conference, SkillCycle's CEO Kristy McCann said “Everlearning is a culture of initiative, it is not a point in time. It's meant to be evergreen. It’s meant to continue to help with the overall change and evolution of not only your people, but your organization, and to get them where they need to go.”  To start, companies need to establish baselines. McCann said, “You need to look at the value that we're seeing within our company goals. It's not just about [accomplishing] a goal, it's about how you get there. And what do those competencies and values look like?”Evergreen learning is successful when applied to the employee life cycle. McCann suggested that leaders can look at where they are hitting the most roadblocks in their hiring process. By identifying these gaps, HR can become revenue drivers because they reduce the turnover rate.Kristy McCann, SkillCycle's CEO, spoke at the From Day One May virtual conference (company photo)When companies begin to take action on changes in company culture, McCann said, “It’s all about instilling that communication, but also making sure that you have the accountability within the organization that is connected to people's goals and roles. I have been doing this in organizations where the turnover has been atrocious. But the minute that we took down the turnover, I was able to yield $10 million in revenue. In addition, because we brought down that turnover cost, people have the skills they need to do their job, and we are able to succeed within our overall revenue. This is how you get the buy-in from your leadership team. Drive it from an overall revenue perspective as to what you can do and what you can yield.”Evergreen learning can then be tied to goals, and then tied to the accountability, competencies, and the values within an organization. McCann said, “You're never going to learn everything all at one time. It's going to be constant, even with everything that's going on with AI, and ChatGPT. If we don’t have the skills to do our job, this technology will not be an enablement, it will just be another distraction. We saw this happen within social media. Social media killed critical thinking and inference skills. These powerful and durable skills of empathy, situational leadership, change management, communication, and collaboration are at the heart of everything that we need to do. And if they're at the heart of everything that we need to do, it's going to yield that profitability.”This perspective also measures success versus how many employees left and how much money was lost. Instead, goals and benchmarks are forward-looking. McCann said, “When you're trying to put in an everlearning culture that has a growth mindset, often what hinders organizations is their accountability factor is gone. So we want to make sure that we're providing that evaluation of progress consistently, and how it yields savings.”Often, business leaders are hindered by budget concerns. McCann reiterated that this is where measures and accountability become important. As companies launch cultural changes, every HR initiative should be attached to the company’s bigger picture. She said, “Numbers are going to be your beacon. Engagement is going to be your beacon. Feedback and measurement [are] going to be your beacon. Showing the results of how the company is succeeding is going to be your beacon.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, SkillCycle, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Christina Cook is a freelance writer based in Dallas, TX, where she covers a variety of topics, with favorites including Art, Film, and live Theatre. Her work can be seen on, RedDirtNation, and Christina is also a creative writer. Her children’s book Your Hands Can Change the World was a 2017 regional bestseller.

Christina Cook | May 31, 2023

Elevating Everyday Leadership: The Power of Team Coaching

A high-performing team that is delivering exceptional results most likely has a leader who took the time to stop and listen to its members, says Naysan Firoozmand, global head of coaching at corporate education provider Hult EF.Adopting a team-coaching approach, rather than leading through command and control, empowers employees, enabling them to generate their own solutions to business challenges, Firoozmand told From Day One’s May virtual conference in a thought leadership spotlight on the power of adopting team-coaching skills. “The team needs to be able to express their thoughts and ideas and ultimately take ownership of the solutions that they come up with, often leading to longer-term success, and increased psychological safety and well-being within the teams,” said Firoozmand.Team coaching, he said, develops communication and collaboration capabilities–two of the top skills that employers want today. “People will be equipped with the communication and leadership skills that won’t be superseded by the latest technology,” said Firoozmand, who has been working in the field of leadership development and behavior change for nearly two decades.The team approach differs from one-to-one coaching. Instead, managers focus on working with the group as a whole to unlock collective awareness and capabilities. Team coaching helps employees develop better ways of collaborating to deal with stress, eliminate ambiguity, and identify the group’s strengths and weaknesses, Firoozmand said. “There is a pivotal role around trust, enabling openness, and embedding an open dialogue,” he said. Managers with team-coaching skills, he noted, “know when listening is the answer.”Naysan Firoozmand, global head of coaching at corporate education provider Hult EFA team that is listened to feels significant and more competent, while suspending judgment allows ideas and dialogue to flow. Creating a safe and trusted environment where employees feel comfortable generating new ideas without fear of encountering an unhelpful critical voice is called ideational fluency, said Firoozmand.“Have any of you experienced hearing your own words out loud and realizing how different it sounds compared to when it was just sitting in your head? This is a necessary component of the team’s development, realizing what a terrible idea sounds like, but equally, what value an idea has to the team,” he told the audience.Asking questions is an inevitable part of what a manager who is using coaching skills will do, Firoozmand said. When asking questions, the purpose should be to fuel the curiosity within the team and explore ideas, rather than to gather information. “It’s thinking about the purpose behind the questions. The last thing you want to do is become a facilitator of the group. This is not the same thing as coaching the team,” he said.And while it’s often perceived as quicker and easier to answer each question from your team, resist that temptation, Firoozmand cautioned. “When the question comes many times from each member of the team, you need to listen to not only what is being said, but how and why,” he said.A business culture centered around learning and development will naturally foster workers who embrace progression and are receptive to new ideas, and this ultimately benefits the organization, said Firoozmand. When a coach can notice the subtle dynamics of what's going on in the team, it can be “incredibly powerful,” he said. “It’s really important that they get to know the individuals, so that they have an understanding of the nuances of individual contribution,” he said.Likewise, managers benefit from team-coaching efforts because they gain a skill set that will enhance their leadership and communication capabilities, as well as improve their ability to notice things across the organization that will help them to influence change. “Organizational change is rooted in behavior change,” he emphasized. If it’s time for the team to be doing something differently, then coaching is needed, Firoozmand said. “Quite often, the precursor to being able to do things differently is having the willingness to think things through in a way that you haven’t thought about before. It’s not about learning a new skill or a new piece of knowledge. It’s having a sparring partner, somebody who’s able to hold you to account, hold up the mirror and say, ‘Do you realize what you're doing and how you're doing it, and how that’s impacting both yourself and others?’ And for the person to be able to go, ‘I never really saw that. That’s really interesting,’” he said.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Hult EF, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Susan Kelly is a Chicago-based business journalist.(Featured photo by PeopleImages/iStock by Getty Images)

Susan Kelly | May 30, 2023

Providing Learning & Growth Opportunities for Employees, Even in Austere Times

Finding low-cost learning opportunities can be the difference between keeping an employee and losing them. According to an international poll by McKinsey, 41% of workers who quit their jobs in recent years did so because of a lack of career development opportunities, the most commonly cited reason for voluntary departure.“It’s important that we’re retaining our employees because we need that knowledge internally,” said Nicole Underwood, VP of HR business partners at visual media company Getty Images. The company’s workers are highly specialized, and it can be tough to find replacements. If they’re not able to backfill a vacated position, Getty offers others the chance to volunteer for the responsibilities on the table, opening up reach projects and promotable work. Underwood sees it as an investment “not only in the individual who gets the opportunity, but in the others who are surrounding them and see this as an opportunity to look for their own.” Watching colleagues grow can spark the motivation to do the same.During From Day One’s May virtual conference, Underwood and four other leaders in people operations and learning and development participated in a panel discussion, which I moderated, on how to provide career development opportunities for employees even in austere times.Fellow panelist Madhukar Govindaraju, the CEO at coaching and networking software company Numly, said that in the past he’s been in the unfortunate position of choosing who gets access to opportunities like coaches and mentoring. It’s a choice he’s not willing to accept anymore.“Even in a public company, I could afford executive coaching for only the top 4% of my organization. What do you do with the bottom 96%? Do you tell them to wait until they get promoted? You have to do something about it,” he said.“We do find ways to be scrappy,” said Jennifer Muszik, the head of worldwide field learning at biotech company Biogen. For instance, if you’re forced to roll back a third-party coaching app, replace it with an internal program. “Not everybody can get a coach, but who can get a mentor?” Biogen pays for some of its leaders to train as certified coaches with the expectation that they pass that knowledge along. “They’re going out into the organization and coaching others, then others get the benefit of that skill, and then can apply that within their own teams,” she said.“Internal talent is an amazing resource, and I’m always surprised at how interested people are to hear from one another,” said Greg Hill, the chief people officer at corporate wellness and fitness center operator Exos. He calls it “relatable learning.”The panelists from top left, moderator Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Madhukar Govindaraju of Numly, Nicole Underwood of Getty Images, Jennifer Muszik of Biogen, Gina Larson of Teneo, and Greg Hill of Exos (photo by From Day One)Internal programs have their limits, and not everyone who wants a shot will get one, so panelists recommended selecting workers who already have specific goals in mind. “A lot of people say ‘I want to grow,’ and then when we talk to them about how they want to grow, they’re not really sure,” Hill noted.Gina Larsen, the senior director of talent development at PR advisory and executive consulting firm Teneo, said she likes to identify an employee with leadership potential, someone on the succession plan, but with some obstacle in their way, like a missing or underdeveloped skill.If you’re in a position where you do have to roll back a development program or be more selective with participants, speak frankly, but don’t spook the staff, said Hill. “Personal professional development and career growth is a non-starter, if you don’t offer it in this day and age,” he said. So rather than telling employees, “we’re not doing it right now,” tell them, “we’re going to do it differently for a while.” Some employers are designing elaborate development programs inside their organizations. At Getty Images, cohorts of about 25 employees go through a nine-month intensive where they learn how the business works and receive mentorship from senior leaders. At the end, they’re expected to document and pitch a new business idea.Not all proposals are chosen, but some are. Underwood said that one of the first cohorts came up with a mentoring program for members of underrepresented demographics. “It’s been wildly successful, and all of our senior leadership team has been tapped,” said Underwood. “We’ve seen over 75% of these employees have been promoted into the next role.”If you don’t have the HR budget for learning and development, check the sofa cushions, panelists said. Sales teams have learning and development budgets, and so do employee resource groups, said Govindaraju. “We have had very good success working with companies that have ERGs that are already chartered to drive engagement because now we’re bringing learning and engagement into one bucket.”If budget isn’t the problem, then it’s time, Govindaraju added. The HR department is overloaded, as are people managers, and there’s often little time left for running skill development programs. “Managers [are] already burdened with various things. Now you’re adding an element of learning how to code, and now suddenly you are responsible for the development of your team members,” he said. Teneo’s Larsen argued that austerity doesn’t require sacrificing ambition. When time is a luxury, she chooses fewer but bigger projects. Teneo recently flew in 25 senior leaders from around the world with the remit to collaborate and grow the business plan. It was a huge financial investment–but she was confident in the returns. If they put in $150,000 and just one of those leaders produces a $500,000 increase in revenue, the investment would be worth it.“It goes back to rigor and discipline,” said Larsen. “I think a really important part is not overburdening the learning team, because this takes a lot of time. So if we do an ambitious program that makes a big impact, you say goodbye to another program or two that’s less impactful so that you have the bandwidth and opportunity to make something that [requires more money], but is super impactful.”Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women's experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Quartz at Work, Fast Company, Digiday’s Worklife, and Food Technology, among others. 

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | May 30, 2023

How to Build Skills to Boost Retention on Multigenerational Teams

“With the population aging, one of the concerns we hear from employers is that they’re worried about a good portion of their workforce leaving,” said Heather Tinsley-Fix, a senior advisor for financial resilience at AARP. “Because when they leave, they’ll take this huge reservoir of institutional knowledge, professional networks, and wisdom with them.”How to keep this lucrative knowledge inside an organization and pass it across generations, was the central topic of conversation during a From Day One webinar about building skills to boost retention on multigenerational teams, moderated by Tinsley-Fix.Among the strategies that panelists shared for moving the knowledge and expertise from older generations to younger ones, mentorship was the most popular.“We have a lot of people who have worked on mainframe technologies for 35 or 40 years,” said Shashank Bhushan, chief talent development architect at IT services company BMC Software. “The knowledge that they have is not easily transferable.”BMC Software matches senior team members with younger ones, even sending the older ones abroad for concentrated mentorship time with their colleagues around the world. As a perk, mentors can take a partner or spouse with them, making a vacation out of the deal. But Bhushan noted that you don’t necessarily have to incentivize mentorship all the time. “People take a lot of pride in being able to transfer and transition their knowledge out to younger people and to mentor them,” he said.At Ball Corp., the world’s largest maker of food and beverage cans, long-tenured employees on the manufacturing floor often transition away from overnight shifts and onto special projects that let them train more junior workers on their institutional expertise. “That works better for them,” said Ball’s director of HR business partners Danae Atkins. “It’s more of a stable 9-to-5, or a consulting basis, but it gets them out of the shift work, it gives them that fulfillment, and it also helps us leverage their knowledge.”At corporate real estate firm JLL, Giselle Battley, the global head of early career talent, facilitates knowledge transfer in both directions. The company lets workers at any level opt in to be mentors. “I might go find someone who’s earlier in their career but has a specialty in a space that I want to learn about,” she said.Mentorship and sharing knowledge across generations is all well and good, but panelists agreed that the challenge for most is finding the time to teach, and learn, something new. “Time is a precious commodity, even sometimes more than monetary resources,” said Atkins. “To carve out the time and the space, sometimes we’re able to get creative about this, like pulling all executives into a cohort program, or when we have some downtime in our plants, using that for training time.” You can encourage people to make time by building it into general performance expectations, she said. “If it’s important to your boss, it’s important to you. That’s often what motivates people to be able to carve out that time.”The full panel of speakers from top left, Shashank Bhushan of BMC Software, Heather Tinsley-Fix of AARP, Danae Atkins of Ball Corporation, and Giselle Battley of JLL (photo by From Day One)When time is a luxury, appeal to a worker’s sense of the future, Atkins said. “That point-of-need use has been very helpful for us. If you can show someone how this new skill will help them right now or how it will help them get to the next role, they’re more likely to jump in.”Battley said young workers are eager in this way, and employers can leverage mentorship from older workers in their retention strategy. “Their intent to stay with an organization is really dependent upon our ability to continue to grow them, develop them, and move them into new positions,” said Battley.Employers can’t expect workers to sign up for just any kind of skill development. “If you go into a room and ask people, ‘Do you want to grow?’ All hands will go up. But when it comes down to actual learning, the numbers drop dramatically, and it’s for a variety of reasons,” Bhushan noted. The first, he said, is time. The second is relevance.Younger workers with a career ahead of them are more incentivized to learn, but the knowledge has to fit into career growth, not just knowledge for knowledge’s sake. “There is an assumption that they have more time,” said Battley. That may be the case, “but they don’t want to use that time for this.”Employees have to know that their new skills will be put to good use, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be tomorrow. “That’s part of the wisdom for getting people to engage in the training: It’s good for me here and it grows me here, but I also know that my company is investing in my future, no matter where I choose to make that future.”Editor’s note: AARP, who sponsored this webinar, has partnered with MindEdge Learning to create a skills-building platform for employers to upskill their employees regardless of age. The course catalog includes a range of high-demand skills as well as durable soft skills to enhance productivity and contribute to the growth of your workforce and company. If you’re interested in signing up or just hearing more about these courses, add your name to the Google form here.Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Quartz at Work, Fast Company, Digiday’s Worklife, and Food Technology, among others.(Featured photo by Vanessa Nunes/iStock by Getty Images) 

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | May 30, 2023

Making Diversity and Inclusion Happen on a Very Large Scale

The 2020 murder of George Floyd was a watershed event in the Twin Cities, including more subtle reasons than the ones most often noted.To Antonio Henry, vice president of global diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for UnitedHealth Group, the murder and its fallout provided lessons and incentives for the work he does.“It reinforced the need to move mast traditional DEI training and into tactical planning,” said Henry. “The challenge we face most often is having the time it takes to achieve sustainable progress. We want to do things fast, but we need to do them the right way.”And what’s stopping large organizations from reaching that goal? A number of factors, including lack of education, the ever-shifting social/political climate, lived experience that can either encourage or discourage empathy.“It’s difficult for any of us to say we can effectively walk in someone else’s shoes,” he said. “I want to understand the shoes you walk in, not necessarily walk in them.” Henry was a guest at a fireside chat-format discussion during From Day One’s recent Minneapolis conference. He was interviewed by Steve Koepp, chief content officer at From Day One.Henry said he’s encouraged by seeing organizations be more proactive and deliberate about provoking thought equity and leadership around DEI initiatives.“How do we continue to say, ‘Hey, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this’?” he said. “And the resisters in your organization are just as important as advocates for (DEI) work because they can show you what the pulse of the environment is like.”Henry, whose background is in banking and finance, understood early in his career that it was crucial to connect finance to community. That connection, he found, was even bigger and more important in the world of health care. That has led to what he calls a hyper-focus on people when he’s designing and effecting DEI initiatives.“You have to look at the whole person before you look at them as an employee,” he said. “You need to ask, How do we contribute to the lifestyle they want? The employee’s performance absolutely matters, but you won’t get their best unless you put them in teams that can leverage their true potential.”Antonio Henry of UnitedHealth Group kicked off the From Day One Minneapolis conference (photo by Cassandra Sajna for From Day One)One key to making that happen revolves around the idea of sponsorship, as opposed to advocacy or even mentorship. What’s the difference? Sponsorship, as Henry sees it, creates the opportunity to speak on a promising worker’s behalf in important settings such as meetings, as opposed to simply providing one-on-one coaching. United Health’s sheer scope, more than 400,000 employees, offers its leadership greater and more effective opportunities to sponsor.“It lets you speak about someone’s work, their character, their ability to learn and succeed,” he said. “A sponsor, even if it’s a peer, can not only provide ongoing feedback, but determine how that person is seen in meetings and how their work product is seen.”As far as implementing and fostering DEI efforts, Henry advised working with the appetite for change that comes with volatile times. COVID, he said, has taught businesses the value of employing flexible strategies that might not be considered when external forces aren’t causing disruption in the workplace.“A good DEI strategy will be forward-thinking and agile enough to thrive when things are uncertain,” he said. “It’s those times that cause you to ask if you have a strategy that deals with an employee whose responsibilities might shift because of those circumstances.“I went from business operations to talent management to where I’m focused on social-impact things I wouldn’t have ever imagined,” he continued. “That was made possible because the organization saw me for more than just my current role. Look to your people for aptitudes, things that are special to them, that you can tap into.”Dan Heilman is a Minneapolis-based journalist. 

Dan Heilman | May 30, 2023

Strengthening the Corporate Role in Revitalizing Underserved Communities

Even before the upheaval of the pandemic and the racial reckoning that followed George Floyd’s murder, businesses were seeking more ways to support and elevate marginalized communities in their midst.Today, that work is regarded as ever more urgent. In companies big and small, HR professionals are harnessing novel ways to mobilize their workforces to foster meaningful change in challenged communities.“The importance of corporate social responsibility has grown tenfold,” said Sofia Terzic, assistant vice president, community affairs manager at U.S. Bank, speaking as part of a May panel discussion at a From Day One conference in Minneapolis.In the past five years, Terzic said that U.S. Bank has expanded company-wide programs that pay employees when they volunteer, match their financial contributions and considers their community engagement as part of their performance evaluations.“We have a chief social responsibility officer who is part of our C suite. That shows employees, hey, this is super important to us as a corporation,” she added.Dean of the Carlson School of Management, Srilata Zaheer (photos by Cassandra Sajna for From Day One)Millennial and Gen Z workers hold high expectations that their employers will tackle difficult societal problems. Srilata Zaheer, dean of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, spends her days with college students pursuing careers in business. Part of their coursework requires them to participate in pro bono projects and partnerships with local non-profits.“Engagement is key, especially with the next generation that really wants purpose in their companies. They're drawn to the mission,” Zaheer said.A generational sea change is cresting, according to HR veteran Scott Peterson, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at the Schwan’s Food Company.Peterson recalled an era in the not-too-distant past when expectations for giving were almost exclusively financial; employees filled out United Way donation cards and figured they’d done their civic duty.“It's not just about money anymore, it's about money and minutes. Employees want to spend their time actually seeing the results of their efforts, making a difference in the communities in which they live,” he said. “I think it's been a healthy progression.”Peterson explained that Schwan’s incentivizes employees to serve on nonprofit boards. Because board membership often comes with an expectation of an accompanying financial gift, Schwan’s matches their donation dollar-for-dollar.The full panel of speakers during the From Day One Minneapolis conference.But too many corporate dollars earmarked for philanthropy never go to worthy causes. “Some recent research shows that there’s about $10 billion of unmatched matching funds that go unclaimed every year. Encourage your employees to really leverage those matching funds,” said Patty Healy Janssen, executive director of the Jeremiah Program, a nonprofit that uses education and stable housing to break the cycle of poverty for single moms.“Not only does it incentivize employees, adding even more value, but it also really benefits the organization,” Janssen said. Despite the volunteer hours, engagement and efforts, nonprofits still need money—and lots of it—to carry out their mission.And that’s where today’s employees too often fall short, according to the Carlson School dean.“I'll give you one statistic which is rather scary,” said Sri Zaheer. “Since 2014 at the Carlson School, we've seen a 74% drop in individual donations under $100. At the same time, we're raising tons of money, but it is fewer people giving larger amounts of money. Giving your time and talent, that's wonderful, we need that. But a lot of nonprofits also need the cash. We need to start building up that kind of giving mindset, even if it's $10, to get them into that practice of giving.”Zaheer’s comment about the drop in small donations got the attention of the panel moderator, Minneapolis Star Tribune business columnist Evan Ramstad. He asked the professionals on the panel and in the audience if they, too, had noticed that employee giving had decreased in recent years and expressed surprise when about half of those in attendance put up their hands in agreement.“Wow, fascinating. There's a column in this, I think,” Ramstad said as he surveyed the group. Today, many of the social issues that volunteers tackle through their employer’s outreach—inequities in health and education, generational poverty, hunger and housing—are complex and stubborn. That’s why companies need to take the long view in their philanthropic vision, according to Art Howard, vice president, global diversity, equity and inclusion for publishing company Wiley.“One of the things that we've learned is that this work takes commitment and we're not going to see results right around the corner,” he said. “But if we stay committed to it and build the right partnerships, you have buy-in to moving the needle in the places that you're looking to move it.”Kevyn Burger is an award winning broadcaster and freelance writer based in Minneapolis.

Kevyn Burger | May 29, 2023

Investing in Employee Well-Being: The Business Case for a Healthier Work Environment

“Toxic workplaces are harmful to workers–to their mental health, and it turns out, to their physical health as well,” proclaimed Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, in a  statement last October. In fact, Murthy added, workplaces should be engines for mental health and well-being.But most employees are experiencing the exact opposite phenomenon. In a June 2021 study of 1,500 employees conducted by Qualtrics, 76% of employees report that they have at least one symptom of a mental health condition, up from 59% just two years ago. And 84% of employees say their workplace conditions have contributed to at least one mental health challenge, while 40% of workers say their employers have not done enough to address mental health.Elizabeth Bille, SVP of workplace culture at the workplace training platform EVERFI, is on a mission to help employers have a net-positive effect on their employees’ well-being. “Employees are experiencing more challenges than ever before, both outside of work and inside the workplace,” Bille shared in a May webinar with From Day One. “And indeed, the line between our work and our personal lives is blurrier than ever before.”Equally though, Bille noted that workers are increasingly prioritizing their mental health, “and they want to work for a company that does too.” Two-thirds of employees say that they would take a pay cut to go to a job that better values their mental health.This state of affairs is not just bad for employees–it’s bad for business. Twenty percent of payroll costs are being affected by employee burnout, leading to poor retention and lower productivity. The good news? Investing in employee health and well-being can have a positive return on investment (ROI) to the tune of more than $4 for every $1 spent.New Approaches for Supporting Mental HealthTraditional strategies for supporting employees’ mental health see it as a personal issue that can be addressed by benefits-centered solutions such as wellness programs and days off. In contrast, new approaches recognize that mental health challenges are workplace issues that require people-focused solutions including prioritizing a healthy work environment and team culture and forging more open manager-employee relationships.Elizabeth Bille, SVP of workplace culture at EVERFIA hallmark effort of this new approach is to address toxic workplaces. One effective strategy is to provide training that addresses disrespectful behavior, teaches bystander intervention techniques, and includes culture-building subjects like respect, allyship, and inclusion.Another useful method to address toxic workplaces is by better aligning an organization’s values with the behavior of its employees. Bille provided some tips:•Check your organizational values•Ensure that your values come up in daily conversation•Check reward and feedback systems.•Address toxic behavior–even if not illegal, and even from superstar employees.•Follow up appropriately on complaints.•Hold people accountable.It is also essential to connect an organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy with its employee mental health initiatives. “This demonstrates and communicates that everyone in our organization is welcomed and valued,” said Bille. “It helps to reduce bias, exclusion, and inaccessibility by increasing feelings of psychological safety, social connection, and belonging.” She urges employers to avoid one-size-fits-all mental health and DEI offerings while providing visible support from leadership. Managers Can Play a Role in Helping Employees’ Mental HealthBille suggests that managers be equipped with tools to support their employees having challenges, such as learning to identify the major signs of burnout. Other strategies for managers include adding time to the beginning and end of meetings for checking in, proactively acknowledging challenges and how hard they are, sharing how they are feeling, and communicating genuine care and concern for employee well-being.For managers, supporting individual employees can also have positive results. Managers can ask how their employees are doing and listen to their struggles. “Keep the door open,” said Bille. Asking how they can support employees’ self-care can go a long way–as can reminding employees to focus on the issues we can control. Additionally, prioritizing tasks and finding efficiencies in daily workflows can help promote a healthy work environment.Managers play a critical role in destigmatizing mental health. “Share how you are feeling because it helps normalize talking about struggles,” Bille asserted. “There’s a misconception that leaders need to be stoic, and that’s actually not true. There’s a lot of literature that's been written about toxic stoicism and the harm it can cause when leaders don't show any emotion because they're trying to be strong.”While it may seem daunting to help manage their employees’ mental health and well-being, businesses are not alone. EVERFI has a wide range of resources to help, Bille said, including an inclusive meetings checklist and a DEI facilitator workbook and scenario builder. With tools like these, it is more possible than ever for employers to prioritize their employees’ mental health and support their wellbeing.Editors’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, EVERFI, for supporting this webinar.Riley Kaminer is a Miami-based journalist, researcher, and content strategist. As a freelance tech writer and researcher, he has profiled more than 400 of the world’s top entrepreneurs and investors. His work has been featured in publications including Forbes, the Times (UK), the Economist, and LatAm Investor 

Riley Kaminer | May 29, 2023

Empowering Inclusive Career Growth and Leadership Advancement in Your Company

The art of building an equitable workforce starts with the complicated and expensive process of recruiting, hiring and onboarding diverse candidates.The next step is implementing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) processes, policies, programs and procedures that build internal pathways for promotions and empower diverse workers to ascend to satisfying careers. That deft execution is key to retaining talent and reaping the benefits that accompany a truly diverse workforce; multiple studies find diverse workplaces are both more profitable and more productive.But too often, businesses are not transparent about how they measure behaviors that determine whose career gets elevated. When the process is mysterious to employees, it can thwart their ability to advance, according to Rebecca Taylor, chief customer officer and co-founder of HR platform SkillCycle.“It's being very clear about, these are the behaviors that we expect, these are the competencies for these roles, and really making it clear so that someone could always see themselves in that role,” Taylor said. “They can live those behaviors or find a way to embrace them if it's a skill that they have to learn.”Panelists Rebecca Taylor of SkillCycle, left, and Joffrey Wilson of Mortenson, right (photos by Cassandra Sajna for From Day One)At a From Day One conference in Minneapolis in May, Taylor was part of a panel of top HR and DEI leaders who spoke to an audience of HR professionals. They shared their strategies for building a pipeline to elevate the careers of diverse employees.“The intentional DEI mindset makes sure we are removing barriers for talented individuals. We never want to leave talent on the table,” said Mahogany Ellis-Crutchfield, strategic diversity, equity & inclusion projects lead at Cargill.Ellis-Crutchfield explained how Cargill, the nation’s largest private business, has adopted a range of steps to broaden inclusivity. It has expanded career prospects for its diverse workforce by giving employees a work equivalency option for a college degrees, adding apprenticeships and launching more opportunities for job shadowing.“We revamped our HR system to allow employees to create a kind of internal LinkedIn profile [that's] browsable by certain leaders. It has your work experience, you also put in things like where you'd like to go,” she said. “There's a lot of mystery and kind of this black box around who gets chosen to move up. We want to empower our employees and say, you can take part in that. We've created opportunities for people to participate in their own career growth.”Megan Thompson, Special Correspondent for PBS News Weekend, moderated the discussion.One way Land O’Lakes has changed to achieve its DEI goals is to expand the colleges and universities it has traditionally recruited from, adding HBCUs. The agribusiness and food company has also helped employees burnish their resumes through a mentorship program that pairs talented diverse individuals in the early stages of their careers with top seasoned managers.It’s a strategy that has created growth and empathy in both sides of the mentoring relationship.“Employees are getting higher level access to leadership and leadership has a better understanding, what are some of those barriers (in the workplace)? What are some things that get in the way?” said Philomena Satre, director of diversity and inclusion and strategic partnerships at Land O’Lakes. “When leaders hear the voice of employees and some of the challenges that they face, that really makes the difference.”New employees coming into an organization and existing employees who are leaving can each provide an internal window into where a company may be falling short in achieving success in diversifying its workforce.“Think a lot about how candidates are going to perceive you through that interview experience,” suggested Dannette Hanson, head of talent acquisition for Nielsen.Noting that diversity efforts include bringing women into nontraditional fields, Hanson went on to explain a problematic pattern identified by her previous employer.“Time and time again, our recruiters would do the great work of going after female engineers, getting them excited to come and interview,” she said. “But we discovered through feedback that they offered was, ‘every person that I met was a white male in their 50s, and that's not really a team that I want to be part of.’”Joffrey Wilson, vice president of diversity, equity & inclusion at Mortenson, said his team learned surprising lessons through exit interviews. Wilson said that Mortenson, a construction and real estate development company based in Minneapolis, created problems for itself by not clearly communicating career plans for top talent who had been internally identified as high potential.“Team members that we wanted to retain that we lost, we'd have conversations with folks, there'd be a consistent theme that the organization saw that person in a certain light and that person didn't know it,” he said.Wilson said Mortenson has taken steps to become “very intentional” with high-performing, diverse employees. Leaders have taken steps to routinely intersect with them, customize their career planning and ready them for moving up.“We can communicate to them, no promises, but communicate where we see them going and how we potentially can get them there,” he said. “This may include  Mortensen leadership development opportunities, it may be external opportunities. It could be a coach, it could be a sponsor.”But initiatives to open doors for career growth and leadership advancement have been made more difficult coming out of the pandemic in a changed work place, warned Rebecca Taylor of SkillCycle.“It's been a lot harder for companies who've been adjusting to a hybrid work model or remote work model because all the norms that we knew before have changed,” she said.“It's about always being open to revisiting and revising how you identify high potential in your organization to make sure that you are being inclusive across the gamut with every single role.”Kevyn Burger is an award winning broadcaster and freelance writer based in Minneapolis.

Kevyn Burger | May 26, 2023

How to Transform Your Coaching Into Outcome Based Skills Development

Across just a six-month span, a large ed-tech company enjoyed a boost in customer retention and customer satisfaction, while worker productivity increased as well. Did the organization achieve this by magically lowering prices while innovating its product and raising employee compensation all at the same time? Nope.Instead, its learning and development leader had a clear vision of driving business KPIs with L&D by improving customer churn and engineering throughput outcomes. The executive recognized that first-level managers were in the best position to facilitate such results. So they cultivated a training program focused on that role, enlisting GrowthSpace, the coaching and mentorship platform, as its partner.Omer Glass, co-founder and CEO of GrowthSpace, told From Day One's May Virtual audience during a recent thought leadership spotlight, that results like these start with a simple formula that sports a fun acronym: POP, which stands for “population outcome program.”“This is something you can do basically tomorrow morning and start experimenting with,” said Glass. “It’s very cool. Once you do it, it becomes addictive.”First, Glass explained, figure out what “population” of the workforce you should focus on, based on their potential to drive your desired KPIs. Ask yourself: “Which population is the most important to invest in?” Is it managers or R&D leaders for example?Once you’ve limited your search to a broad group, narrow it down further to the employees within that group who have the most promise in terms of KPI outcome delivery.When it comes to “outcomes,” the goal, Glass said, is to drive performance, reduce attrition and build a promotable base.Omer Glass, the co-founder and CEO of GrowthSpace, led the thought leadership spotlight (company photo)“If you thought of a population, you can think, ‘OK, I want to drive performance for my engineering [team],’” said Glass. “The next thing, which is the most critical thing that you probably ask is, ‘How do I measure it?’ and ‘How do I know I can really attribute the change to what [I] just did?’”He explained that outcomes can be measured in three different ways, through program surveys, leveraging HR analytics and/or the attainment of defined business or organizational KPIs. Glass recommended a deeper focus on the lattermost option, as it’s the most reliable and informative.“The best way to really make sure that you’re attributing the success to your Learning and Development program is to A-B test,” he said, suggesting that the R&D population and the customer success population each be split into halves with the L&D program being the only variance between the groups.Finally, it’s time to design the “program,” with a focus on driving toward the desired KPIs.“You can do mentoring, you can do training, you can do coaching, could do team coaching, workshops, internal mentoring,” Glass said, suggesting one-on-one coaching as the most effective means of development. “But the outcome you’re trying to drive needs to be connected with what you’re doing,” he added. “You need to focus on a program that’s very focused on a very specific metric.”With that in mind, it becomes easier to execute the crucial next step of pairing employees with their coaches for five concentrated sessions across two months, which allows the process to be scaled (or altered or terminated if it does not appear to be achieving its purpose). Outcomes are then measured and Glass said, overall, GrowthSpace partners that engage in this program report a 50% reduction in employee attrition, a 10% increase in promotable base, up to a 10% increase in internal productivity metrics and up to a 7% increase in functional KPIs, such as sales or operations improvements.“We basically help companies achieve their business outcomes, by becoming more business critical, by helping them deploy human-to-human programs,” Glass said of GrowthSpace.A very tech-forward solution with a human touch? Sounds like a viable balance of old and new school approaches team members can get behind.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, GrowthSpace for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books.

Michael Stahl | May 26, 2023

How HR Leaders Can Focus on the Whole Lives of Workers–and Boost Productivity Too

More than a year out since the onset of the Great Resignation, business leaders are still adapting to seismic changes in the workforce. Workforce talent is demanding empathy, flexibility, and respect for their personal lives, while HR leaders are focused on productivity and retention. Leaders are faced with the challenge of creating structure and expecting strong performances, while still honoring the individual needs of their employees.At the From Day One conference in Dallas, Associa’s Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Chelle O’Keefe, said “leaders can focus on the whole person by really knowing who your employees are. Supporting the whole employee isn’t about offering everything to everyone. It’s about identifying the key needs of our employees, and making sure that the benefit offerings speak specifically to who they are and what they need.”While HR leaders are eager to support their company’s talent, CFO’s might have a more tempered response. Thinking about whole-person health may seem like an added cost, especially now with an uncertain market. Liz Pittinger, head of customer success at Stork Club, offered insights into how benefits can actually reduce costs for self-insured employers.First, Pittinger said, “If you’re going in front of the CFO, you need to know the key concepts that are going to draw them in. You need to know your data points. And if retention isn’t your overarching strategy, it should be, given the Great Resignation.”On average, it costs a company 1-2 times the leaving employees salary just to hire, train, and onboard a replacement. So, how do you drive retention?Pittinger said, “The data shows that if you are a company with a strong DEI strategy, you are more likely to outperform all of the other companies that don’t in terms of revenue, market share, and employee performance. Do you have a DEI strategy that’s supporting women?”Pittinger said that at Stork Club, they don’t call it the Great Resignation. She said, “We call it the Great Confrontation. We have millennials out here saying: “We’re going to leave if you don’t have inclusive fertility benefits for everyone. If your company offer inclusive benefits, employees will stay.”She said, “Recognize where women suffer in silence. That needs to go away. And you’re the folks in the room who have the power to drive those conversations forward.”Dr. Lia Gass Rodriguez, chief medical officer at ActiveHealth, said that in addition to a successful benefits package, “you have to think about body, mind, and spirit. You need to take all of the things into consideration. Having a shared understanding of what that is, is key.”When thinking about the whole person, she said, companies “need to be reactive. There are some people who already have high cost conditions.” ActiveHealth takes a data-driven approach to identify what opportunities exist for a person whose health needs improvement, whether in mind, body, or spirit.There are also proactive solutions. ActiveHealth educates its clients with services that will help them take control of their health before it becomes a reactive problem. Rodriguez said, “We take a data-driven approach to try to offer a multi-modal engagement solution. That data can help us predict where additional support might be needed.”She also suggested focusing on deliberate solutions like preventative health. She said, “’you know how we’ll talk about generational wealth? Well, I like to say generational health. Taking proactive steps to manage health and well-being trickles down in a positive way.”Will Maddox, right, the senior editor at D CEO Magazine, moderated the conversation in Dallas (photo by Steve Bither for From Day One)An important aspect of whole person health includes considering how benefits and policies will affect the workers. In any business, there are inherent differences in the amount of responsibility, compensation, and influence that employees have. HR leaders are learning best practices for balancing those realities with a desire for equity and equality in the workplace.Jennifer Chopelas, head of HR for Merlin Entertainments Limited, said, “Some of the successes that I’ve seen is equity and fairness coming from our global key stakeholders. They are essentially putting their money where their mouth is. It’s not a wink and a nod to we care about diversity. No, we mean it, and we want it to be part of our culture. We are filtering this down to our team level. And we want our employees to feel their true authentic self at work.”In companies like Merlin Entertainments, teams have age ranges starting as young as 16, going all the way to post-retirement age. So, a culture of equity and inclusivity translates when working together.Still, potential challenges arise in sensitive conversations. Chopelas said, “In a leadership meeting, we could be talking to someone in their 20’s and someone in their 50’s. The older person might be thinking, am I the right person to talk about race? But, if we’re not willing to have that conversation in a respectful space in the workplace, we can’t reach that goal of equality.”Ultimately, companies need to make their DEI efforts a part of the culture.Chopelas said that at Merlin Entertainment, they are rolling out equity training. In the training, she said, “I ask them a simple question: Within the role that you sit in now, how can you contribute to equity? It might be as simple as senior leadership influencing the budgeting for DEI initiatives, and frontline team leaders can find out more about their employees, and if they need accommodations or a particular area of support.”Finally, Chopelas said, “It’s really about getting to know our teams, building a rapport, and meeting them where they’re at so that we can ensure they have the proper tools to do well in the workplace.”Christina Cook is a freelance writer based in Dallas, TX, where she covers a variety of topics, with favorites including Art, Film, and live Theatre. Her work can be seen on, RedDirtNation, and Christina is also a creative writer. Her children’s book Your Hands Can Change the World was a 2017 regional bestseller.

Christina Cook | May 25, 2023

Equipping Workers With the Skills to Thrive in Times of Constant Change

Alicia Lopez is a true embodiment of Cisco's core belief in “One Company, Many Careers” and the principle that “An Individual Owns Their Career.” Lopez holds the position of head of learning and careers at Cisco, but her journey within the company began in 1996 as an operations manager. Over the years, she has taken on various roles, including chief of staff, manager of business operation and director of operations leadership and intelligence.The software development company has a four pronged approach in its learning and development efforts, all focused on how people’s personal brands, networks, expertise, and experience apply to a career mindset. “Your career shouldn’t just be something when you’re looking for a new job, but it should be something intentional and nurturing,” Lopez told journalist Kelly Bourdet during the closing fireside chat at From Day One’s April Virtual conference.Personal brand is the first line of action. When one thinks about personal brands, it’s easy to associate it with something outwardly facing, such as LinkedIn and Twitter. But it’s more than that.“It’s important that you’re known in your team, but it’s also your legacy: what do you want to create, what do you want people to know you did?” said Lopez.Journalist Kelly Bourdet, left, interviewed Alicia Lopez, right, during the virtual fireside chat (photo by From Day One)Learning and development also places a lot of emphasis on career exploration. The exploratory phase is one of the five mindsets that Lopez discussed during the fireside chat. “We always want to make sure you’re running towards something, not running away,” she said. To that, internal mobility is highly promoted: for the first 60 to 90 days, open positions are solely advertised internally. After exploration comes the establishing phase. “For the best role, you shouldn’t go to the role where you have 100% the skill,” Lopez said. “You always have to move and learn something different.”Once someone establishes themselves, the next mindset is achievement mode. This one is focused on upskilling opportunities. The following step focuses on giving back, and after that, there is reinvention, especially in light of recent technological developments like Chat GPT. “Reinventing is an important space. How do you want to show up and create a different soundtrack?” said Lopez. “How do you want to ensure [that your skills] stay relevant?”This approach also actively helps people interview and optimize their resume “We give a lot of support, which is sometimes met with resistance—part of the pushback was ‘you’re gonna train them to leave us,’” said Lopez. But, “it’s our job to nurture them.” Lopez said.“What we need to acknowledge is that there’s a war on talent, especially in skillsets that haven’t been created,” said Lopez. “One of the things we’re testing is how we can do some reskilling. A lot of places can do upskilling, but how can we help you reinvent yourself when we know what leaders are going to say you need”For now, they utilize something that Lopez calls self-driven reskilling. “We’re offering a variety of learning opportunities, similar to a master’s program,” she explains. “From a cost perspective it’s a break even, but we get loyalty and following, and that’s priceless.”At Cisco, learning is at the forefront and reskilling is rapid. Recently, Cisco started Cisco Illuminate, a quarterly event for all employees. The company takes employees offline for these events. Past speakers include Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Robin Arzon. The last Illuminate event attracted 45% of the workforce. “What we found is that employees are canceling meetings and saying we’re going. Leaders are moving meetings,” said Lopez. The next Illuminate event will focus on teams in a hybrid workforce. “What we’re finding is that we still need connection when it’s relevant. We’re starting to see studies where career is impacted,” said Lopez. “We’re just paying attention, we don’t want to pull people together to have coffee together, we want it to be purposeful.”Angelica Frey is a writer and a translator based in Boston and Milan.

Angelica Frey | May 25, 2023

How Business Leaders are Creating a Purposeful Return to the Office Experience

Business leaders are seeing a direct correlation of employee engagement to employee attendance and presence, emotional wellness, and productivity. With leadership rightfully focused on how to enhance productivity, what can companies do to enhance employee engagement? Jamie Walsh, risk management consultant at Anco Insurance said, “The companies that I've seen be the most successful are focused more on employee engagement, and less on a mandate of returning to the office. How can we make our employees feel like they're being heard right now? And how can we support them and their dependents? Because presenteeism at the workplace can be a direct effect of what's going on at home. If we can support our employees and their family members at a higher level, that actually will enhance employee engagement.”During a From Day One Dallas conference panel moderated by Alcynna Lloyd of Insider, business leaders shared how companies can make employee engagement a reality by creating the kind of experience that re-engages workers with their leaders, their colleagues, and their roles. How can employers be intentional about the office as a welcoming community? Business leaders are learning to guide company culture toward being a consistent space where workers can fulfill their need for connection, purpose, inclusion, and belonging.Dr. Yetta Toliver, global head of diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIB) for Xerox, suggested companies should consider volunteerism to create a sense of purpose and belonging within the company. She said, “What we're trying at Xerox is to encourage employees to come back into the office together, and to create teams to do some volunteering together. We are looking to encourage our employees to get excited about coming into the workspace, but not demanding it.”Calli Hartman, head of customer success for Blackbaud’s corporate impact division, said the key to a successful employee volunteer program is “offering plenty of options for your employees to meet them where they are. Junior associates may have more time than money. Senior members of the company might have less time, and hybrid employees may not be able do in-person opportunities. Also, consider skills-based volunteering. Do your volunteer opportunities activate your employees’ sense of purpose?”While volunteering is known to create unity among teams and a sense of personal purpose, employees want to feel safe and comfortable at the workplace. Toliver said, “Looking through the lens of DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) is ensuring that people feel trusted, and they feel that they're respected. That’s important to consider as we start to bring our employees back into the workspace.”Hartman said that at Blackbaud, she, “leans into education and sharing. We do a lot of workplace education around discrimination, anti-harassment, anti-bias, and belonging. I think that is really critical of meeting our employees where they are. We also want them to be learning to meet their peers where they are and supporting each other as a whole team.”The full panel from left, Yetta Toliver of Xerox, moderator Alcynna Lloyd of Insider, Jamie Walsh of Anco Insurance, Paula Moore of JLL, and Calli Hartman of Blackbaud (photo by Steve Bither for From Day One)Creating a workplace where employees feel seen can also include practical improvements to the office culture, and companies can design whatever experience they think is best for their employees. Paula Moore, managing director of global experience strategy at JLL, said one of the best practices she has observed was last summer. She said, “I worked with a company who did a portfolio savings. They had about $400,000 and they chose to reinvest that into their employee experiences. Because they were listening to their employees, they realized that they had all purchased Pelotons during the pandemic, and there was this huge following. So, they bought Pelotons! Now when they come into the office, they can ride with their peers. From an experience perspective, you can really tailor these to your company’s culture.”Many companies see the benefit of a hybrid work option, and even as businesses are trending towards in-office work, there are still remote employees to consider.Creating employee engagement in a remote team has its own set of challenges, but business leaders are trying a variety of approaches. Hartman shared that at Blackbaud, she hosts weekly win meetings, where the focus is on wins and impact that were made in the previous week. She said, “We’re not focusing on the numbers. It’s a lot of relationship building and connection building, and we've leaned into impact and purpose.”Toliver said the skill of active listening can help create a sense of belonging with remote employees. She said, “This helps our managers do a better job. After 15 years of experience with remote teams, I have learned when my employees sign on and say hello, I can tell whether their energy is high or if something might be going on. It may not be time in the meeting to ask them about it, but I guarantee you I am calling them after the meeting to ask them if everything is ok.”In addition to creating a work environment that is safe and inclusive, Fisher said “Again, it’s allowing your people to be heard. College grads who are evaluating a company want a chance to personally and professionally develop. They are also looking for emotional wellness support and solutions. It’s encouraging, and it’s also a sign that we need to be able to understand our employees better. Then, from there, you can make some strategies and try to build upon the culture that is perfect for your company.”Christina Cook is a freelance writer based in Dallas, TX, where she covers a variety of topics, with favorites including Art, Film, and live Theatre. Her work can be seen on, RedDirtNation, and Christina is also a creative writer. Her children’s book Your Hands Can Change the World was a 2017 regional bestseller.

Christina Cook | May 24, 2023

Changes to Employee Benefits in an Uncertain Economy: 2023 Priorities for HR Leaders

Employee benefits are a crucial ingredient in attracting and retaining workers. But the area of benefits is a shifting one. What are the benefits that employees want, and that employers can afford?That was the theme of a thought leadership spotlight session by Jess Marble the director of growth marketing for Care for Business, a care solutions provider based in Massachusetts, during From Day One's Minneapolis conference. Marble’s presentation, titled, “Changes to Employee Benefits in an Uncertain Economy 2023: Priorities for HR Leaders” took a look at how human-resources executives are trying to optimize benefit spending with an eye on workforce productivity and retention.“It’s an evolving narrative,” said Marble. “Our research shows that 47 percent of employers are trimming benefits. We’re all being a little conservative.”In fact, employers’ concerns about productivity often outweigh their desire to keep workers, according to Care for Business’s research.What are employers getting rid of? Thirty-five percent say adoption and fertility benefits are first on the chopping block, followed by commuter benefits and financial education/wellness resources. What’s being most widely preserved are benefits aimed at workers with kids or parents who need care.“Seventy-three percent of the workforce are the primary caregiver for a child or an adult,” said Marble. “Since 2020, 16,000 child care centers have shut down. So even during times when our budgets are tight, when we’re asking employees to come to work and be more productive with fewer resources, we need to prioritize child and senior care as a way to keep those workers.”Jess Marble, the director of growth marketing at Care for Business, led the thought leadership spotlight in Minneapolis (photo by Cassandra Sajna for From Day One)The burden of employees who pull double, sometimes triple duty as caregivers is imposing. A quarter of parents struggle to find daycare, and about one in six cares for an aging loved one. Not surprisingly, when asked which one benefit they would insist on keeping, 22 percent of workers choose senior care services.“Employees don’t identify as senior caregivers until it’s too late,” said Marble. “Employers lose between $17 billion and $33 billion each year due to absenteeism and turnover related to that issue. Senior care is consuming the minds of your workforce.”As is often the case, that burden falls to female employees. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, employers face potential losses of $840 billion in economic output due to diminished workforce participation of women. How best to walk the line between productivity and retention? An important first step is to survey employees about benefits. Second, advocate for care, and then take your data and use it to shop for the right benefits and their providers.“Don’t ask [employees] what benefits they want,” said Marble. “Ask them what’s keeping them awake at night and go from there.”A frequently overlooked ingredient in benefits packages is proximity, she added.“Provide options that are where they are,” Marble said. “If they have to drive 45 minutes to see a provider, odds are they aren’t coming to work that day.“I am passionate about the mission of making sure that every single one of your employees has child and senior care benefits, because it is the only way that we are going to keep women in the workforce,” she added. “It’s the only way that we are going to bring our economy back to a healthy place.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Care for Business, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Dan Heilman is a Minneapolis-based journalist. 

Dan Heilman | May 24, 2023

Budgeting for Family Caregiving: Tangible Metrics that Drive Impact

Mike Quigg spends every day thinking about caregiving, and not just because he is the VP and head of strategy of the caregiving platform ianacare—where ‘iana’ stands for I am not alone. In fact, he told the audience of a From Day One webinar, he has been the primary caretaker of his mother throughout her 15-year journey with cancer. In this role, Quigg alternates between periods of well-being and more challenging times. “She is on medicare; it was my responsibility to sit through and understand the coverage and allowances, and understand what to do when benefits maxed out. Short and long-term planning,” he told Cara Obradovitz Flavin, national health and productivity consultant of the insurance service provider Alliant.Worker access to caregiving benefits directly impacts an organization. The burden of caregiving leads to increased turnover, absenteeism, decreased productivity, and people leaving the workforce, Obradovitz Flavin explains. “It’s difficult to quantify the need, but we know it’s there,” she acknowledged. “Making the business case for adding benefits is a little different: we have quantifiable success metrics for diabetes, nothing as straightforward with caregiving.” Statistics can offer some perspective: Starting in 2030, BCG reports, the United States will lose $290 billion in GDP per year due to the care crisis. By 2034, adults 65+ will outnumber children under the age of 18.Understanding Consumer Preferences in Terms of UXBenefit platforms that focus on a 100% personalized, 1:1 approach, as well as those that are 100% digital, both fall short in some areas. As for how to weigh the options, Quigg suggested “moving away from what we feel is best and moving to what consumer demands and data is needed. Human beings behave in ways that are tied to immediate gratification, and anything that causes friction reduces the likelihood a consumer will continue engaging with a solution.” Culturally and societally, we’ve come to expect a certain level of ease, and many innovations feed in the ability to self-serve. “People prefer chatbots and FAQs, convenience, and their own timelines,” he continued. “It might feel better to have human support, but solely focusing on that might ignore how consumers behave.” (Is this convenience-focused behavior good for society? That’s a question for another webinar.)A Multi-layered ApproachQuigg believes in a multilayered approach, which constitutes the user experience of ianacare: it’s the ideal third way between a one-size-fits-all approach and the frustrating multi-point solution that leads to decreased usage.Mike Quigg, the VP, head of strategy & growth for ianacare (company photo)“The way we look at this is aligned with considering consumer behavior and demand. What that has led us to put together is five unique layers, a combination of technology-focused intervention paired with on-demand, 24/7 dedicated support,” he says.  “Both are important to appeal to the entirety of the population, no matter whether they prefer immediate access and self-solving or they run into more complex scenarios where an expert would alleviate the burden.” Just relying on one approach is insufficient and would drive away some participants and lower a program’s impact.The first layer is the patient’s social circle: when a loved one is diagnosed with a new condition, one of the things you hear is “friends and family.” It seems quite simple, but coordinating, communicating, and contextualizing what kind of help is needed is a burdensome task for caregivers. Often, they go without coordinating and communicating. This leads to a negative impact on financial, physical, mental well-being. “What we’ve done from a tech perspective is bring people’s support circles into the platform in order to communicate needs to the people who want to contribute,” said Quigg. “It’s a powerful tool: more than 90% of users tap into the personal network, and 90% of tasks are fulfilled by that group.” The second layer is the integration of local resources: ianacare compiled the ability to pull in, by zip code, tens of thousands of local resources that can help with food, lodging, financial and legal issues, finding care, and locating durable medical equipment. As of Q1, 2023, it points to 1.17M different resources for users.The third and fourth layers have to do with expertise, as literacy in health and caregiving across the US is dangerously low. “The average person is going to have a hard enough time following written instructions on a prescription bottle, not to mention benefits and the complexity of the healthcare landscape,” said Quigg. “We created a robust set of expert content to make sure people have the right info they need.” Finally, the fifth layer is a caregiver navigator.The Employer PerspectiveAn employer ought to understand how caring for both children and parents can be a significant burden. “Even employees who don’t have children can be burdened,” warned Obradovitz Flavin. Another challenge is finding maintenance and backup care: “I recommend that employers consider all the situations we talked about, so they develop inclusive policies, with an eye for DEI. it goes beyond child care and elder care.”The financial impact can be difficult to measure. “Presenteeism, absenteeism, decreased productivity, attrition, and retention all paint a good picture. Any measure that reduces distraction and the competing interests of an employee’s focus is going to lead to a more fully engaged and productive employee,” she continued.A good way to garner that data? Listen to workers. What are you and the HR team hearing? Why aren’t people coming back from leave?A well-oiled caregiving machine has both financial and time-related benefits. Quigg cites a study conducted by ianacare, Healthcore, and Jmir Publications to point out that caregivers save 200 hours annually, along with about $10,000 in personal savings, by tapping into local resources. Those savings of time and money reduce stress. “What you can see is that there was a statistically significant decrease in the amount of stress, anxiety, and burden that people felt,” said Quigg. “But I think outcomes are never going to be realized unless you can get people to actually use them.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, ianacare, for sponsoring this webinar.Angelica Frey is a writer and a translator based in Boston and Milan.

Angelica Frey | May 23, 2023

Is Your Company Inclusive About Career Growth and Leadership Advancement?

Corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts that gained urgency after George Floyd’s murder three years ago are losing momentum. As mass layoffs sweep across the U.S., evidence is accumulating: More workers in DEI roles (33%) have been laid off since late 2020 than those in non-DEI positions (21%).“Some of those are the very first roles to be cut,” said Meghan Pickett, leadership trainer at management training company LifeLabs Learning. The disproportionate rate at which DEI professionals are losing positions correlates with sharp declines in diverse hiring, according to Revelio Labs, which tracked attrition levels at more than 600 U.S. companies.Pickett, a Ph.D. candidate in industrial and organizational psychology, shared the troubling statistics during a panel on inclusive career growth and leadership advancement at From Day One’s recent conference in Chicago.Journalist Maudlyne Ihejirika, who moderated the event, said in the wake of Floyd’s murder, corporate America made many promises to embark on or expand DEI initiatives. “We subsequently saw an explosion of DEI officers across industries,” she said.Ihejirika began the conversation by asking, have the efforts of the past three years been successful in achieving career advancement for employees of color and propelling more of those employees into leadership positions?“The short answer, I think, is no,” said Pickett. After Floyd’s death, a lot of companies sought out LifeLabs’ “Behaviors of Inclusion” workshop, she said. Now, “that's starting to ebb a little bit,” Pickett said. “We're really having to push to say, ‘No, this is actually a core part of what we're teaching. It's embedded into what we teach in all of our content.’ So I'm seeing what used to be that commitment wane.”Jamie Adasi, head of inclusion, diversity, equity and allyship (IDEA) for hiring software provider Greenhouse, said she’s hearing about layoffs hitting DEI teams from colleagues at networking events. “I’m seeing lots of cuts,” she said. Still, companies that have ingrained DEI into their businesses and consider these values a competitive advantage have seen excellent progress, said Adasi. “It really does depend on where you're at and the vision and mission of the company and your leaders,” she said.Northern Trust's senior vice president, FaLisa Jones, said the 134-year-old bank’s commitment to DEI has produced measurable results. “Our hiring practices and our recruiting practices were scrubbed. We looked for biases. We ensured that career advancement, senior leadership positions, were more diverse,” said Jones.The bank demonstrated accountability through performance appraisals and oversight at the global, regional and business unit levels, she said. “Those are the things that are going to curb the temptation to go back to business as usual. Those systems that hold you accountable had to be concrete and in place,” said Jones. “We had strong systems already, and this was a lightning rod to make us enhance everything that we were already doing well,” she said.The key now is to make sure progress that has been achieved and sustained in career advancement for minorities and underrepresented groups, Jones told the panel. “We can't all of a sudden grow silent, just because we're comfortable now having a seat at the table. What are you doing with your seat to ensure that sustainability is happening and we're holding executive leadership accountable to what they said they were going to do?” she asked.Representation MattersJones zeroed in on why diverse representation in senior management matters. She told the story of being the only woman of color, representing her organization, on a panel at Howard University. “I got to see this beautiful room of excellence, of people of color, who were hanging on my words, and waiting in line to talk to me afterwards, just to figure out how I got where I am,” she said. With her title, said Jones, comes a responsibility. “There is a generation of people that are coming behind me,” she said. “I realized that it is up to me to do something with it.”Diverse teams are a business asset that adds different perspectives and prevents groupthink, said Mariana González, diversity, equity and inclusion leader for Schneider Electric’s North America operations. “There's ample research that shows that diverse teams are more innovative, they're more creative, they problem-solve in different ways,” she noted.Avoid Blurry FeedbackThe From Day One panel next tackled the problem of blurry language in performance evaluations. Panel moderator Ihejirika pointed out that a common complaint by employees of color is that their annual reviews or work evaluations typically leave them unsure of the assessments.The expert panelists spoke during From Day One's Chicago conference (photo by Tim Hiatt for From Day One)Use of so-called “blur words” that mean different things to different people can be problematic when providing feedback, said LifeLabs’ Pickett. She gave the example of her brother, who was told he was “not engaged” at his job. When pressed, the manager who made that assessment explained to Pickett’s brother that he was observed always doodling and fiddling with things. But her brother has ADHD, and fiddling is how he stays focused, she said.Women tend to receive blurrier feedback than their male counterparts, Pickett noted, citing a Harvard Business Review article on the subject. “I don't think it's an extreme leap to say that other minority groups are experiencing the same thing,” she said. Without effective feedback, people can’t improve and advance. “So it’s really important that we’re training folks to spot their own blurry language, but also to spot it in others,” she said.The panelists shared additional performance development tools used by their organizations: training on inclusive behaviors to emphasize meeting employees where they are in their life stages, requiring all employees to contribute ideas that support the company’s success, and asking people to provide anonymous upward feedback. The latter involves team members giving feedback to managers to help them develop their leadership skills.Taylor Amerman, who leads global social impact at IT services supplier CDW, said she spends a day getting to know each new person who reports to her during week one of employment. The new employees discuss how they like to work, what motivates them, and how they like to communicate. Amerman recommends that managers proactively create the time for feedback rather than wait until an issue arises.Addressing the NaysayersHow should companies go about setting goals to make sure that leadership grows more diverse and inclusive when people challenge goal-setting for DEI programs by comparing it to quotas or affirmative action? Ihejirika asked the panel.DEI programs, said Greenhouse’s Adasi, must measure progress from a baseline and have a clear vision for where they aim to be in one, two, three or five years, just as every other function within the business measures data and establishes those goals. “We literally look at our data monthly, quarterly, yearly. We refresh them, we report back to staff, we report back to the industry at large, our clients. We make sure that the accountability doesn't stop just within the HR function. This is every department’s work, to make sure this is moved forward. …  What gets measured, gets improved,” she said. Without a “whole ecosystem” approach to goal-setting, “you’ll see what we have been seeing recently, which are the layoffs of those teams and really starting to de-prioritize DEI efforts,” Adasi cautioned.Social impact metrics are important, agreed Schneider Electric’s González, but she advised focusing on what she called process goals for achieving a diverse team. That means examining diversity partnerships to support a strong pipeline of job candidates that enables hiring managers to make the best decision for the organization. “We want to be careful of not driving the wrong behaviors or the wrong impression, because ultimately, we want the best people in these roles,” González said.Building a “pause” into employee development plans and training managers to have those conversations can help guide people to the next step in their career paths, said Pickett. Panelists also emphasized the importance of quality learning and coaching solutions for leadership over quick-hit, self-paced training modules, as well as rooting out the causes of measurable DEI gaps to be strategic about how to close them. Pickett said the mantra at LifeLabs is, “If you're not being intentionally inclusive, you're likely being unintentionally exclusive.”Susan Kelly is a Chicago-based business journalist.

Susan Kelly | May 23, 2023

Unraveling the Science Behind Why Volunteering Works

Chris Jarvis divided the audience at From Day One's Dallas conference into two groups and asked us to engage in a thought experiment. He said, “Imagine a happiness scale that ranges from one to ten, where ten is an amazing day, ranging all the way down to one, which would be a pretty rough day. Now, on your way to the conference today, you come across a crisp, clean $100 bill on the ground. There is no one around, so you pick it up and you put it in your pocket. How many points did your happiness level go up after you found the money on the ground?” The audience members in the first group reported their happiness points going up about one point.On the opposite side of the room, the experiment was similar, except instead of spending the found money on yourself, you have to spend it on someone else. I was in the second group, and my response was among the majority. My happiness went up about three points.Why do humans help other people? This is a fundamental question, and the idea behind the company Realized Worth, of which Jarvis is co-founder and chief strategy officer. Why do we help others, and what happens when businesses include volunteering in company culture?This question, and the thought experiment Jarvis offered springs from a study conducted by Michael Norton at Harvard. Whether Norton carried out the study at Harvard, in Africa, or among colleagues, the results were largely the same. When the money was used to help someone else, happiness points were higher. The act of giving is what matters.Jarvis said, “It comes down to a process in our brain called the Reward System. Think of a runner's high. Those naturally occurring endorphins in your brain are part of the brain reward system, and that is built-in neuro-behavior.”Jarvis led the Dallas session (photo by Steve Bither for From Day One)In addition to the reward system, our brains have something called the pain matrix, and that means there are neurons in the brain that light up when you're in pain. But, these neurons can't tell the difference between being in pain and seeing somebody else’s pain. When our pain matrix lights up, we have one of two responses: intervene, or get up and leave. So, we feel compelled to help because it feels good to help, and we feel pain when we see somebody else in pain.“But this last part presents us with a bit of a weird problem,” Jarvis said. “Because empathy is really only felt for those who are like us. It only works for our in-groups. What I mean by this comes from Social Identity Theory. Think of concentric circles of identity: Do we have enough commonality that we can connect? For every in-group that you're part of, it shares some of your interests and perspectives. And this is why we can feel great concern for people that are close to us in proximity and core alikeness.”Jarvis continues, “For example, when catastrophe happens in another part of the world, we acknowledge it, but our pain matrix doesn’t light up. We are easily susceptible to dehumanizing those outside our groups. And this is the great crisis of humanity as a species, the ability to look at another group and say: We’re not safe because of them. They want what we've worked for.”Luckily, there is a solution. “Because,” Jarvis said, “your brain tends to be plastic. It is incredibly flexible, like bones and cartilage when you're younger.” This flexibility is referred to as neuroplasticity.In neuroplasticity, when we are confronted with a situation that doesn’t fit our expectations, a chemical called acetylcholine is secreted, and we grow new neural pathways. Jarvis said, “We need to have experiences that challenge the reality of what we think of as normal. And we need to be guided to this new place.”When applying this concept to DEI initiatives in a company, Jarvis said, “Experience is key. You need to have the experience of the mind and the body, these two things together, for creating memories and for creating new neural pathways.”For Jarvis, this is why employee volunteering is such an important feature of a company's program, especially regarding DEI. Without experiences to challenge the way our brains are wired, we can’t understand the human tendency to dehumanize another group.Jarvis said, “Hidden biases stay quite hidden unless you go looking for them. And if the checklists are there, and we're meeting all the obligations, somehow, maybe we become more insulated. Because we have combined all of these external constructs, but never do the internal work. So, now we know just not how to show it, but that isn’t the direction we want to go. We want a workplace where we can bring your whole self, and we can belong.”He said, “We need to inform people's experiences so that we don't carry these half understood biases and truths forward in life. Then, act. And that's where we'll see the behavior change. As a result of these experiences, we see ourselves differently in the world. Employee volunteering could be the best way to address this idea.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Realized Worth, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Christina Cook is a freelance writer based in Dallas, TX, where she covers a variety of topics, with favorites including Art, Film, and live Theatre. Her work can be seen on, RedDirtNation, and Christina is also a creative writer. Her children’s book Your Hands Can Change the World was a 2017 regional bestseller.

Christina Cook | May 22, 2023

Making the Employer-Value Proposition More Inclusive to the Diversity of Working Families

Jessica Kim has cared for her mother during her battle with cancer, has three kids, and is now caring for her 84-year-old father. “I am living for the need of caregiving support for all ages, all stages,” she told journalist Megan Ulu-lani Boyanton during a panel at a From Day One virtual conference. Kim’s personal story led her to establish ianacare, a platform that helps navigate care in the home for caregivers. ‘iana’ stands for “I am not alone,” and, while unique in its unfolding, her life experience is mirrored in the situations more and more workers are facing as they are navigating employment, caring for their offspring, and caring for their aging and/or ailing parents.“I had my grandmother living with me until she passed at 92, my mother-in-law lives with me, and my son has ADHD and came out as part of the LGBTQ+ population,” replied Singleton Beato, global EVP and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at the global advertising communication company McCann Worldgroup. “I am living in the middle of ages, stages, and life experiences.”Inequities affect the caregiving population, but organizations are striving to create benefit packages that meet and address their needs. Caregiving populations are part of workplace demographics that, while not faced with outward hostility, have suffered from neglect. “Many issues are cultural,” said Kim. “When we think about how we respond to neglect, we have to see how we approach it: not just data or checkboxes.” Mental Health as a Springboard“In the last few years, the common element was wellbeing and mental health,” said Livia Konkel, global diversity, equity, inclusion and corporate citizenship leader at the pharmaceutical company Charles River Laboratories. “Everything we do is centered on belonging and mental wellbeing. We have 5 pillars we work around: career, financial, physical, social, emotional. In all of that, we try to focus on benefits that will serve the whole person: one of the things we excel at is the emotional space.” On a related note, Charles River Laboratories eliminated the four-year degree requirements and added a tuition reimbursement for up to $20,000 “to make workplace easier to access,” said Konkel, herself a first-generation college graduate.The full panel of speakers, from top left, moderator Megan Ulu-Lani Boyanton, Singleton Beato, Shalin Kothari, Kristen Carlisle, Jessica Kim, and Livia Konkel (photo by From Day One)“Financial health is mental health is physical health,” said Kristen Carlisle, VP and general manager of the financial wellness benefits platform Betterment. “You’re not gonna be able to address every single thing, but you need to take time to step back: what’s working, what’s not working. 70% of people say their finances stress them. And when you are the employer, you say you do benchmarking, but in my own experience, I was making okay money but was also a caregiver and I was barely getting by.”Taking a Holistic Approach“What comes to mind when it comes to neglected demographics,” said Kim, “[is that] you don’t solve for what you don’t see: they don’t raise their hands and go to HR.”It’s not an easy issue to address. “There is a lot of work to do: assessing the places in the world where the organization has facilities to understand what the underserved communities are, then building policies from there,” said Beato. “You need to make sure you understand what your folks need.” One example is making sure that one’s workplace and office building are, indeed, accessible to everyone on the spectrum of ability and disability. It’s also important to add policies and consideration for people going through menopause and to create gender-neutral facilities. “You need both the written policies and the physical conditions, [including] space to pray, and spaces where people like my son, who has ADHD, can collect themselves.”The most obvious hurdle, in this instance, is funding. “Since the pandemic, people are more careful in how they spend their money. One of the things we need to improve is to make a business case showing how these implementations decrease healthcare costs, increase retention, and drive down attrition,” explained Shalin Kothari, vice president of people and DEI strategy at the digital automation company Schneider Electric. “We understate the cost of a new hire. There are a lot of hidden costs we don’t take into consideration.”The Leading Role of Middle ManagersIn order for these implementations to be successful and lasting, involvement has to go beyond executive leadership. “You have to ensure that your leaders are invested and also that they communicate and cascade their expectations down the chain to people’s managers, so that when these initiatives are pushed forward, the managers are going to help make the conditions and employees can take advantage of them,” said Beato. “A lot of executives are proponents of an inclusive culture,” said Kothari, backing up Beato. “Middle managers are often overwhelmed. Many of them today have a more diverse, multigenerational workforce, and the expectation is not just to manage their team, but to deliver as well.”Given the way managing people has drastically changed in the last fifteen years, and will most likely continue to do so (compare managing six months into the pandemic to managing three years into it), “We decided to retain career coaching,” said Carlisle. This solution has been a way to help her own company’s middle managers. “We’re a benefits provider, and we provide our own: a whole lot of feedback!”Angelica Frey is a writer and a translator based in Boston and Milan.

Angelica Frey | May 22, 2023

How to Future-Proof Your Employee Experience Strategy

When Rob Catalano decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with his girlfriend, he picked what he thought was the perfect spot for a proposal site, at the top of a mountain after an enjoyable hike. Just before the pair were set to go on what Catalano hoped would be a fateful excursion, authorities closed the mountain to visitors. Disappointed but determined, Catalano proposed at a later time and a different locale. His girlfriend still said yes and, wanting to hold the ceremony quickly, their wedding planning was ramped up in double time. They quickly booked a venue, established a guest list of 250 people and decided on a honeymoon destination. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic swooped in to disrupt it all. Their wedding was delayed, the venue was changed and the guest list was whittled down to 30, with a number of loved ones who would ordinarily have been thrilled to experience the celebration forced to merely send a gift and congratulatory greeting card. Eighteen hours prior to the nuptials, a problem with Catalano’s suit arose and he rushed to secure a new one. More than a year later, when Catalano and his betrothed were allowed to travel and finally embark on their honeymoon, they wound up in hospital beds abroad suffering from a flu bug. However, when people ask Catalano about his wedding experience he doesn’t delve into those details. For him, recalling that period brings nothing but joy. He tells them the proposal—which happened while on vacation in Hawaii—as well as the outdoor wedding they had with family and friends and even the honeymoon were the stuff of dreams. “All in all it was this fantastic experience, an experience I’ll remember forever as a positive one,” said Catalano, the co-founder and chief engagement officer of the employee experience platform WorkTango, during a From Day One webinar titled, “How to Future-Proof Your Employee Experience Strategy: Navigating Through Economic Uncertainty and Beyond.” The relevance of his wedding to the workplace?“​​If we think about our employees and our organizations, we want our employees to remember their experience at our organizations as a really, really positive one,” he said. “Perception is made up of moments. The only way we can contribute to the overall experience of our employees is thinking of that employee experience as a collection of moments that happen on a regular basis.”Workers will encounter unpleasant challenges at work no matter what—just as people do in all aspects of their lives, just as Catalano did across his entire wedding experience. But what companies can do to create an enjoyable employee experience, Catalano said, is develop favorable “moments that matter, the things that really define that overall perception, that overall experience.”Company leaders can do this, according to Catalano, by first adopting what he called the three pillars of the modern employee experience framework: working, living and growing, all of which are cultivated on a nourishing foundation of corporate culture and enablement. The first pillar, “working,” is about “designing an optimal work experience,” he said, and “aligning it towards making employees successful.” The ways in which a given organization might establish this vary from organization to organization. But a foundational principle can carry a leadership team to success: “Companies need to focus on the success of the employees, not on the success of the company,” Catalano advised. “That’s a critical mindset to be in.”In regard to the “living” pillar, Catalano said it requires “a consistent, intentional focus on the employee experience strategy that supports the living human being, not just a working employee.” The serviceable mindset for people managers here, he said, is “focusing on the whole person, the wellbeing needs of a purpose, and the equity and impact of support allowing the human being to recover and return to work.”When Catalano thinks about the “growing” pillar, to him it means the facilitation of an employee “growth experience”—their opportunities to develop as a worker over the long term, a natural inclination. “People want to grow, they want to thrive,” Catalano said. “Employees don’t want to work for business anymore, they want to work with your business. Growth goes both ways [and] if you’re just a company thinking about growth of the company, not your employees, again, it’s not going to be the experience they want [in order] to go on that journey with you.”Rob Catalano, co-founder and chief engagement officer of WorkTango, led the webinar (company photo)Optimal work productivity, comfortable well-being and professional development within an organization are powered by a company culture that has purpose, vision, values and rituals, Catalano said, as well as practical enablement tools that leverage technology, agility and good leadership. Once this framework has been established inside an organization, team leaders can start to build what Catalano called those “moments that matter,” which will help build a truly amiable employee workplace experience. His first piece of advice: Take inventory of what you do well and not so well through self-reflection—keeping in mind the three pillars of experience framework—and thinking about moments in terms of “beginnings and endings.”“When people think about experiences, they typically remember the beginning and the ends and high points,” Catalano said. “When I shared my wedding experience, it started with a proposal and the honeymoon at the end [because] that’s just the way people react and how they absorb moments.”He also said that the employees themselves need to be engaged on the matter, through conversations and surveys that cover what’s working in the office and what isn’t. Some questions to ask include: “What’s been the best moment at work?” “The worst?” “What are your past memorable experiences?”Once they’re understood, leadership should do their best to shape and define the moments that matter, Catalano said. “You can’t control all the moments,” he said. “So how do you define the ones that really matter? And the way to do that is, first, you scribe and identify all the negative experiences that you’ve learned.” From talking to employees, maybe a leader learned that employees didn’t know what to do before their first day or they felt lost in their first week. “That’s not a great experience,” Catalano continued. Find out what isn’t working and figure out “how not to repeat those items,” he said, and instead foster more of what workers respond to positively. When leaders identify moments that matter that employees appreciate, Catalano advised that the leaders “make it a big deal” when they happen. Instead of just a team welcome card, maybe a handwritten note from an executive is in order. “​​The idea is…how do you add excitement and fireworks to that moment?” he said. These outreach efforts should be curated so that they feel not only authentic but uniquely representative of the organization, as well as personal and intentional, too. Instead of a gift card to celebrate a work anniversary or some other achievement, the employee is perhaps sent what Catalano described as a “culture package,” items the worker will enjoy that are somehow tied to the company’s culture, mission and values.“You need to make it recognizable,” he said, adding a third tip. “How do you ensure that the intrinsic motivation and pride that goes into your employees when they accomplish something happens?”Again, the execution of this outreach should be contrived by an individual company, but Catalano said he recently learned of an organization that sent a new hire’s family a gift in a show of appreciation for their support of their job change. “​​These are simple [acts] that create wonderful, memorable moments and contribute to that overall [workplace] experience,” Catalano said. Ultimately, the best way to ensure the success of this approach is to make it “foundational” to the business, Catalano added. “The reality is, once you have all that, now you can start bringing these moments that matter, which influences your better employee experience overall,” Catalano said. And we all know the benefits when you have people that are enjoying their experience: less turnover, more engagement and productivity. That’s what you’ll start seeing in your organization.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, WorkTango, for sponsoring this webinar.Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books.

Michael Stahl | May 19, 2023

A Resurgent Hospitality Company Finds Innovative Ways to Grow Its Workforce

Three years after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, most industries have recovered their lost employees or brought their workforce close to how it was pre-pandemic; except for the hospitality industry.The hospitality and leisure industry has the highest share of jobs lost from the pandemic (6.5%) of any industry except for mining, with 1.1 million jobs still lost. Hyatt Hotels, the multinational hospitality company headquartered in Chicago, has been leaning into new innovative ways to grow its workforce since the COVID-19 pandemic. Jin Ivacic, global head of talent acquisition at Hyatt, spoke about workforce solutions with Edward McClelland, contributing editor at Chicago Magazine, during a fireside chat that closed out From Day One’s Chicago Conference.“During the pandemic, one in three [hospitality workers] left their jobs and 45% went outside of industry altogether,” Ivacic said. “So we knew we had to focus on retention of those that we still had, and reaching out to different talent pools.”The unemployment rate for hospitality and leisure workers has improved significantly from its highest point in April 2020 at 39.3% to 5% in May 2023, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Data. But job openings in the industry have steadily remained around 1.5 million per month after jumping from 900,000 in February 2021, when vaccines became more widely available in the United States. In the pre-pandemic years, job openings rarely entered the seven-digit range. Now, the challenge is filling those job openings.Hyatt, Ivacic explained, has taken an innovative approach to fill those openings in both its corporate offices and on-site at its hotels.Prioritizing Immigrants and at-risk YouthHospitality and leisure is a unique industry in that most jobs do not require a high school diploma or equivalent. With so many avenues to choose from, including front desk work, food and beverage, housekeeping, and management, employees who come in for an entry-level job can easily find themselves rising through the ranks.“It’s really a special industry, because you’re able to really discover a career that you didn’t know existed,” Ivacic said. “When you came in the door, you were just looking for a job, and now that has evolved into a career.”Hyatt has initiatives to prioritize communities with fewer diplomas or formal certifications, such as at-risk youth or immigrants. For example, Hyatt’s Rise High Initiative aims to employ 10,000 at-risk youth before 2025 (with “at risk” described as not in school and not employed).“So this is a typically forgotten about population…but we found that when we invest in them, we get back so much in gains because they’re more loyal. We’ve been able to promote them, and we’ve been able to retain them at higher levels than other employees,” Ivacic explained. “So it takes a little bit more work on the front end with the development, but it’s really hiring that sticks.”She also spoke about immigrants’ historical role in the hospitality industry, especially because many positions do not require a working knowledge of English.The vital part, Ivacic stressed, isn’t whether or not these employees have a specialized skill set yet. When hiring, she often looks for a growth mindset and a willingness to learn so the employee can scale up.“So if they have that growth mindset, then we can really kind of take somebody and move them across a wide variety of positions, again, that they didn’t really know existed,” she explained.Hyatt has also worked to remove barriers to employment for at-risk populations. One of the biggest barriers, Ivacic said, is the lack of access to reliable transportation. So to help, Hyatt launched a pilot program allowing new hires in certain roles to work from home as they grow and learn in their role.Jin Ivacic, the global head of talent acquisition for Hyatt Hotels, was interviewed during the fireside chat session (photo by Tim Hiatt for From Day One) “And it was so successful that we’re doing another [cycle]; we’re actually recruiting for it now. So we’re excited to see that continue to be a pipeline for us,” Ivacic said.For employees who cannot work from home, Hyatt has been testing flex and compressed schedules to take some of the pressure off of employees who do not have access to reliable transportation.Ivacic is also a board member at BUILD (Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development) Chicago, a nationally respected gang intervention, violence prevention, and youth development on Chicago’s West Side.Retaining Talent Through Upskilling and Workplace CultureAnother recent challenge, faced by all industries, has been retaining talent. Although Ivacic thinks this will be less of a concern as employees seek more stable jobs in the face of massive layoffs (such as in the tech industry), retaining talent is still one of Hyatt’s primary goals. One of the ways Hyatt aims to retain talent is through its workplace culture, which Ivacic calls the company’s “secret sauce.”“Our purpose is to care for people so they can be their best at Hyatt. We can’t get to the point of caring for people if we don’t know who they are,” Ivacic said. “So, you know, it’s really built in that we have to know people, we have to meet them where they are, we have to support them, we have to develop them along the way.”Some examples of employee development include diversity business resource groups, heritage celebrations, wellness weeks, and gratitude days. Ivacic also explained that she and her colleagues have seen many people return to the company after time apart.She also noted that new hires are especially interested in company culture when interviewing for a new role. They want to know what the company stands for, both in terms of its relationships with its employees and its greater impact on the world. Investing in employees is a considerable part of company culture. Ivacic sees it as intrinsic to keeping talent invested in the company and creating a pipeline where they can work their way up. “So we’ve really just seen that organically happen,” Ivacic said. “And I think a lot of companies are starting to really put action and intentionality around that upskilling theme.” Future Advice for HR ProfessionalsIvacic recommends three pieces of advice for HR professionals working through this challenging time. First, she noted that time is everybody’s most valuable resource. And because hiring is so busy right now, it’s best to save time wherever possible. That might look like using automation tools to cut out some recruiting, hiring, and onboarding work. The second piece of advice is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for recruiters or HR teams, so testing solutions on a small scale before fully diving in is advisable. Having proof of what works and what doesn’t can help professionals adjust their processes.Lastly, Ivacic stressed that HR professionals need to take time for themselves.“I think this has been a really tough time for all of us. And you know, HR tends to take care of everybody else before themselves,” Ivacic said. “So I think it’s good to kind of pause and protect your personal time as much as you can. Perhaps go on vacation.”Erika Riley is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

Erika Riley | May 18, 2023

How It All Fits Together: Hiring, Equity, Advocacy, and Community

How does a company tie together the roles of chief diversity officer, chief sustainability officer, and chief social impact officer to bring about holistic change? Steve Koepp, chief content officer and co-founder of From Day One, posed this question to Brian Tippens, senior vice president and chief social impact officer at Cisco Systems, to open a discussion on hiring, equity, advocacy, and community, which kicked off From Day One’s Houston conference.Cisco Systems, a company that boasts 80,000 employees, has created a culture in which purposeful work, diversity, equity and inclusion, and social impact operate in concert to make it rank highly as one of the best places to work. In answering Koepp’s question, Tippens noted that organizational constructs such as those at Cisco are starting to combine different pieces related to purpose and impact, as customers truly care about the purpose of the companies they’re doing business with. Currently, certain areas of the workforce are continuing to experience tumult, with hundreds of thousands of workers being laid off, for example, in the technology sector. At the same time, other areas have seen hundreds of thousands of new jobs created in the new year already, Koepp notes. Now that DEI has become a priority to many workers and, presumably, to companies, more workers can pursue opportunities that align with their values and provide the environment they’re looking for, Tippens says.“Gone are the days where every employee has to have a college degree. We can invest in apprenticeships and upskilling programs,” Tippens said. “Certainly, diversity, equity, and inclusion play into how we go out to find that next workforce, which I think is critically important.”Tippens, the senior vice president and chief social impact officer of Cisco, kicked off the Houston conference (photo by Cassandra Sajna for From Day One)Tippens went on to emphasize that the racial reckoning of 2020 particularly influenced how Cisco, which had already been focusing on DEI, now invests even more in social justice and prioritizes having a representative workforce. This effort has included structuring a social justice action office with several areas of focus, including hiring a more diverse workforce, building wealth, and launching even a $50 million venture fund for African American-led startups.“We usually wouldn't talk about the numbers, but it just goes to show how seriously we take this and tie it back to our workforce,” Tippens said. “Our team members really appreciate the fact that we are making investments in communities beyond thoughts and prayers in these troublesome times.”Both Koepp and Tippens acknowledge that picking and choosing what investments will have the biggest impact can be hit-or-miss. Tippens notes that it’s key to communicate with employees to find out what causes they’re passionate about, as well as simply to check in with them about mental wellness amid conversations on social justice, such as the one sparked by the recent murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. These efforts can be extra challenging as a possible recession looms and budget cuts are disproportionately affecting DEI investments and job positions. “Purpose is best done when it's operationalized inside the business and not just a nice, touchy-feely thing to do over in the corners of HR or the corners of philanthropy,” Tippens said. “You’ve got to treat it like a business, which is not to say you're always going to have an unlimited wallet to invest in good and communities. But you can't cut away those programs when they're very much embedded in the business.”Koepp also questions whether companies are still as committed to doing better on the social-justice front as they promised to be in the wake of the tragic murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor in 2020. Tippens anticipates seeing the media doing some naming and shaming in areas where big players have not followed through. He stresses the need to focus on corporate social responsibility to enhance a company’s image and brand and to ensure that the diversity of a workforce reflects the diversity of the communities where a company does business. He says this kind of work can create some level of competitive advantage to help attract members of Generation Z as companies fight for the best talent.Finally, Tippens believes that the world of work will be forever hybrid from here on. Cisco, having already embraced a hybrid model for its global workforce prior to Covid-19, has been particularly adaptive to workers’ needs. He notes that, while the company is leaving requirements up to managers, it is leading with flexibility rather than mandates.“We also have to think about the inclusion ramifications of that, if there is proximity bias for the people who are in the room versus those who aren't in the room,” he said. “And I worry as we talk about being hybrid, and being dispersed, and not having the benefit of being able to do the water cooler chats and have the mentorship from being in the office. I think that's a bit of the challenge to think through and address.”Emilia Benton is a freelance journalist primarily covering running, health, and fitness, as well as lifestyle, entertainment, and personal finance, among other topics. Her work has appeared in publications such as Runner's World, Women's Running, SELF, Women's Health, and more. Emilia is also a 10-time marathoner and lives in her hometown of Houston with her husband, Omar, and Boston Terrier rescue, Astro.

Emilia Benton | May 18, 2023

Employing Empathic Leadership to Unlock Productivity

Empathic leaders will motivate, retain, and ensure more productivity from their employees, several hiring managers said.The Covid era showed managers that employees have varied experiences and living situations that impact their work, as well as their colleagues. This topic remains at the forefront for many employers, says Shelby Stewart, news editor of Houstonia, who moderated a panel titled “Employing the Skills of Empathic Leadership to Unlock Employee Potential and Life Productivity” at From day One’s 2023 live conference in Houston.Being aware of an employee’s needs and challenges can help them perform better.“It simply means that we lead from a place of humanity that we view our employees as human beings and not robots, not machines, not workhorses,” said A. Denise Malloy, global vice president, diversity and inclusion at Johnson Controls. “We view each employee as an individual that's unique, that has a unique set of attributes and a unique set of contributions that they will make to the organization.”Giving employees recognition, rewards, and a path for advancement are all crucial, Malloy says.“It is my job and responsibility as your leader to give you the development and coaching that you need,” she explained. “When you find an empathic leader who really cares and who's committed to the growth and the development of their employees, then you'll find that your employees will thrive. They'll be more productive, they'll be more loyal, and they'll produce better outcomes.”Acknowledging employees for their efforts is “just low-hanging fruit in every corporate environment,” Malloy said. “It takes very little to give an ‘attaboy’ to tell someone that they did a good job. But yet for some of us, it's not our natural bent.”Managers should avoid making assumptions about their employees, said Pedro Neiva Botelho, human resources director, total talent management at Schlumberger.“We started to realize how many assumptions we were making on a day-to-day basis in many of the situations that we have in life and in our personal lives, as well,” he said. “As we went through Covid, we started entering much more into the personal lives of our people and our colleagues on our teams and realized how many of those assumptions actually weren't reflecting some of the initial understandings that we had.”By not making as many assumptions about generations, cultures, and genders, managers can avoid putting people into various categories that are not always accurate, Botelho says.Some managers were making assumptions based on an employee’s generation–for example, concluding that younger generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z, would be “thrilled the most in regards to hybrid work or working from home,” he said.The full panel of speakers discussing the importance of empathic leadership (photo by Cassandra Sajna for From Day One)After receiving feedback from some employees, he learned that many of them found it challenging to work from smaller apartments, where they lacked an office and often completed their work from a kitchen table.“One of the specificities of empathic leadership and the nature itself of empathy is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and be able to view the situations through that lens,” he said.During the pandemic, when CEOs and managers showed, via online video conversations, that they were dealing with life experiences similar to those of their employees, it resonated with workers, says Julie Hulet Keller, executive human resources director, Baker Hughes.“Whenever there's any important initiative in any organization, people are going to look at the top-level leaders,” she said. “One of the things that we saw in our company that I think was just so impactful is that CEOs of our business divisions would show up on camera, in their homes, with their kids around, with their pets around, really showcasing that they have a life, also.”Employers should not, at this point, ask their workforce to compartmentalize their personal lives, since personal matters were often intertwined with professional ones during the pandemic.“What has resonated from an empathic standpoint is that we aren't asking people to undo that now,” Keller said. “I think the best-case scenario is that we figure out ways to move forward.”Managers must provide flexibility to their employees, open the lines of communication, and continue to provide psychological safety to promote inclusivity, says Debi Yadegari, founder and CEO, Villyge.“In order to drive belonging in our organizations, we need to see employees for their full selves, not just how they look on the outside,” she said. “What kinds of invisible handicaps might managers be dealing with? How do we provide organizations with the skills to do that?”Being an empathic leader means taking the time to speak with employees, as 49% of people report that they have left jobs because their managers failed to support them personally, Yadegari says.“That's a huge statistic that basically means five out of 10 high-performing employees have left a job at some point during their career because the manager didn't show up for them personally,” she said.A leader “who shows up” will receive ten times the effort back from an employee, Yadegari said.Empathic leadership needs to trickle down within an organization and is “not just kumbaya. It really drives productivity forward and creates organizations of care,” Yadegari said. “And when managers and companies care, employees care even more about their work.”Morale in the workplace can improve through coaching, mentoring, and acknowledging the needs and goals of employees, says Hailey Herleman, vice president of client partnerships, BetterUp.Data from research says that 60% of employees are languishing, while 55% “of us are just not as awesome as we want to be,” Herleman said. Acknowledging the fact that it is normal to have lower expectations about work will normalize the discussion.“Acknowledgment makes a big difference,” Herleman said. “From our research, we know you can grow, you can achieve, and you can get to where you're thriving.”Ellen Chang is a freelance journalist who is based in Houston and writes articles for U.S. News & World Report, TheStreet, Kiplinger’s and Bankrate. Her byline has appeared in national business publications, including USA Today, CBS News, Yahoo Finance and MSN Money.

Ellen Chang | May 17, 2023

How Career Growth Can Be a Part of Employee Experience From the Start

For all the cultural discourse about employees today demanding greater respect and appreciation, a better work-life balance, and other intangibles like a sense of purpose, make no mistake: money still talks. “We’ve all heard that people don’t leave jobs, they leave their bad bosses,” said Lydia Dishman, senior editor for growth and engagement at Fast Company, moderating a panel for From Day One’s April virtual conference. However, Dishman was also quick to point out Pew Research data that revealed that the number-one reason workers quit is low pay. And what was tied for the top spot? A lack of opportunities for advancement, which Dishman noted is also tied to earnings. The further they move up at a job, the more money they make.Certainly, good company leaders who are dedicated to employee well-being should treat workers better and mindfully develop ways to do so–if only for the sake of productivity, higher retention rates, and a stronger bottom line. But they still need to fairly compensate team members and supply them with the promise of enhanced pay through career growth. This commitment is a win-win for the employee and the employer, but how can organizations make it a reality for their team members? That’s what Dishman’s five panel guests discussed, and here are their key insights:Establish a Learning Culture“Creating an environment that values learning and encourages employees to experiment, share their knowledge and take on new challenges is really critical,” said Angie Maizlish, senior enterprise account executive at Coursera, the online learning platform that focuses on job skills. That’s not only something Coursera advocates for, but lives by. Maizlish says the company recently launched a “Make-AI-athon,” which encouraged team members to engage with the burgeoning AI technology that’s made so many headlines of late and use it to build out email campaigns and other content. “It’s really important again to, right from the start, develop that culture of learning [by creating] learning opportunities,” Maizlish continued. “Secondly, really developing a growth mindset in: ‘How do we learn from our mistakes?’”Maizlish says that in sales, for example–the playground Maizlish operates in everyday—workers experience robust rejection. But persistence and resilience allow employees, based in sales or any other area, to grow from their “failures.”Third, Maizlish says leaders must communicate expectations to establish a foundational understanding of what an employee can do to help a company and improve their chances of advancing within it. Employers should also establish mentorship programming, while providing feedback and recognition for learning accomplishments, too.Take Learning to the “Micro” LevelOftentimes, when a worker starts a new job and is onboarded, they feel overwhelmed by the glut of information projected at them. It’s unpleasant and, really, an enthusiastic employee—like the one you believe you just hired—just wants to be productive. Elizabeth Fiting, chief learning officer at Studio 5, a creative agency that specializes in people development, says that workers are reaching out to learn things as part of their everyday jobs, but generally when it's immediately useful.So, “rather than having content firehosed at them during onboarding,” Fiting explained, where about the highest expectation is that the worker will vaguely remember something being said about a given topic, “and maybe if they’re lucky they’ll remember where to find that information when they need it,” Fiting suggested people managers set up “microlearning” opportunities. Microlearning isn’t just a small chunk of information that a worker can process and take with them. It’s “targeted” and “flexible,” Fiting said, and gives the employee the chance to utilize the information right away, as it is needed.“They solve their problem, and then they move on, which makes a ton of sense when you think about the way that most of us are solving our problems in our everyday lives,” Fiting said. “If you have a leak in your kitchen sink, you’re not going online and Googling, ‘How do I get a plumbing certification?’ You are finding a video that a plumber has created showing you how to fix that leak, you’re fixing your leak, and then you’re moving on with your life.”The panelists discussed the importance of career growth opportunities during From Day One's April virtual conference (photo by From Day One)What does microlearning look like in onboarding—which is programming that Studio 5 not only has in-house but helps other companies develop? Fiting says that, at Studio 5, there’s a practice of communicating what resources are available to employees. When employees get to a given “point of need,” they’re provided a short instructional video or easy access to a job aid that helps them complete a task. This approach, Fiting said, “honors an individual’s experience” and the knowledge they already bring to the job, “while also providing them the support that they need when they need it.”Make Learning a Daily PracticeKelly Woltornist, head of global learning at Takeda, a Japanese multinational pharmaceutical company, says that her company’s people managers use onboarding as an opportunity to teach employees about the company’s history—which actually goes back 240 years—as well as its values, to create a sense of belonging and purpose. But the learning doesn’t end there for workers. In fact, it happens everyday. “We do work in growth mindset,” Woltornist said. “We enable them to be curious, and we teach them how to learn.”Much of this approach is founded upon layers of mindfulness and intentionality. Woltornist said employees are asked to consider, “How do you think about what you’re doing that day?” and “What can you extract from it?” They also identify a skill they can practice in their day-to-day duties, “but do it from a very deliberate perspective,” Woltornist said.Takeda has also recently launched a learning experience platform that boasts high adoption rates and helps establish the company-wide culture of daily learning through a variety of content and interactive features. “​​When people join the workforce, they’ve put their academic career behind them; they don’t like to think of themselves as students anymore,” observed Dishman. “I know that I railed against that the first couple of years after I graduated and entered the workforce.” She says she had a sense of “I got my paper,” proving that she’d already learned everything she needed to know. Since then, Dishman’s realized the value of new knowledge and continuing on through life with “a student mindset.” For her, “Everyday is a school day.”Identify Key SkillsEmployers can make growth a little easier for workers to wrap their head around if they first identify key skills the company will need its employees to develop over time. Not only does this future-proof the operation, it keeps workers engaged through learning.Shveta Miglani, head of global learning and development at Micron Technology, a medical memory and storage solutions company, says this is a vital approach given the quick pace at which external markets evolve. To decipher the areas in which workers may need to upskill, Miglani advises people leaders and other executives to first conclude what their business goals for the next three to five years may be. “Don’t think about moving fast,” Miglani told leaders listening in. “Think about scaling and starting with your function first.”Encourage Employees to Identify Their Goals and Communicate Them to ManagersNarrowing down what employees should learn and how they can grow in ways that best serve their company and their own careers can be achieved through a “down-up” approach, too. Lauren Mendoza, director of organizational development at ABM Industries, a facilities management provider, says that, in addition to company executives figuring out business goals and targeting skills they want workers to develop, the process can also be inverted. Employees should identify their career goals, communicate them to managers and then collaborate on a potential pathway.“If you are an employee, you are trying to think: ‘Where do I want to go?’ ‘How do I want to get there?’” Mendoza said. But employees should first consider, Mendoza noted: “What are you trying to achieve?” Furthermore, employees should identify whether or not they are happy in their current role, or even if they need more time, experience, and education to determine their level of contentment. From there, they can think about vertical or lateral movements, Mendoza said. “Maybe you are in the HR department, trying to become that subject-matter expert of any field within HR, and you want exposure to recruitment benefits, L&D, talent management–so many different areas,” Mendoza said. “Reach out, find a network, create an area where you can find mentors, and know your HR business partner.”An employee’s direct people manager, Mendoza continued, is the person who can talk through available options for career paths and learning opportunities. “‘Are there certain courses that are allocated at different levels?’ ‘Certain courses that are offered to high performers?’ ‘What is the high performer here?’” Mendoza said. “I think that those are all really good questions to ask your HR business partner.”Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books.

Michael Stahl | May 17, 2023

Employee Engagement and the Macroeconomics of Talent

“Unless you’ve been under a rock, employee engagement is a hot topic,” said Matthew Willis, senior vice president, North America of Advantage Club. In a talk at From Day One’s 2023 Silicon Valley conference, Willis stressed his love for “employee engagement, or the employee experience, culture, or whatever it is we're calling it today.” Advantage Club currently works with companies such as Target, H&M, and Bausch + Lomb to run their in-house recognition programs, but intends to take a more prominent role in the coming year as a branded provider of employee recognition and engagement programs.  “Think of it as an Uber for recognition, mindfulness, and wellness,” he said. According to Willis, with 45 percent of employees working from home, and the average cost of hire in the United States at $4,700, the most critical factor for people in talent acquisition, human resources, or people strategy is the employee experience. Because of these numbers and the data from employee satisfaction scores, companies are paying more attention to this issue, or they should be.“Talent acquisition teams are kicking and scratching to get people in, and the job market is still very hot,” Willis said. “So, all of a sudden, the chief executive officer who said, ‘Yes, I was interested in the Employee Satisfaction scores (ESAT), and I'm interested in turnover,’ is now saying, ‘I'm interested in turnover and the ESAT scores, but I'm also interested in our employee net satisfaction score.’”Companies have always been attentive as to whether their customers refer them, but Willis said that businesses are now focused on whether their employees will do the same. As a result, leaders are assessing engagement surveys and analyzing data using metrics that were overlooked three or five years ago. “What we're getting, as a result of this, is a kind of human resources tech boom and the macroeconomics of talent,” Willis said. “We're getting a spotlight on employee engagement, experience, and culture.”Willis said that this moment could be a unique time for professionals who live and breathe this information. But there is a caveat. “The information can be skewed in a lot of different ways,” Willis said. “What we do know is that 90 percent of businesses indicate they recognize their employees.”Working against this data, Willis said, are the statistics showing that 40 percent of employees said they had not been adequately recognized by their supervisor in the past, and 65 percent say they have yet to receive any recognition at all.“So we think we're doing a good job, but if you ask the front lines, we're not,” he said.Willis acknowledges the challenges that come with employees working from home, asking for flexible scheduling, and still wanting to feel like they belong. Also, although compensation is the number-one motivator for workers, employees are showing they need more recognition and credit, as well. And only 21 percent of global employees are engaged at work.“What does that mean on an active weekly basis?” Willis asked. “It means employees are not getting involved with company activities. So, we know there's disengagement, there's silent quitting, there's career cushioning. And there are the layoffs.” These are tough problems for leaders to solve. Conflicting data points make it difficult to find immediate answers, but identifying employees’ needs is the first step. Willis says that recognition culture is rooted in hearing employees, celebrating successes, and creating a feedback loop to create a healthy employee experience and increased engagement. Relating recognition to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Willis adds that, as you address employees’ needs, their motivation rises.“This is consistent in all companies,” he said. “I don't care if your company size is 100 or 250,000.”Willis also notes recurring themes in employee satisfaction surveys: “I want the opportunity for growth. I want a sense of belonging. I want to believe in the company or product,” he reiterated. “We’re seeing a greater need for flexibility and scheduling in the workplace. And we're literally seeing the words ‘recognizing, achieving, belonging’ more, and more, and more.”He stresses that this input predicts a company’s turnover and that leaders should take responsibility for the outcomes.Willis led the thought leadership spotlight (photo by David Coe for From Day One)Willis also points out that the six predictors of job satisfaction, according to Gallup, are culture, autonomy, growth, opportunities, flexibility, purpose, and recognition. However, he cautions that employees’ needs differ depending on factors like generation, business function, and location.“Paying more attention to employees’ needs creates avenues for recognition,” he said, adding that top companies are working on monetary and non-monetary recognition and celebration across channels. This type of recognition can look like acknowledging work anniversaries or birthdays. There is also value-based recognition, when employees receive badges or rewards for living up to a company’s core values. Cultural commitment is also something that can be recognized. “What is our culture?” asked Willis. “Let's ask what we want to see in our culture. Then, let's start recognizing those things,” he said. “Not just with a sales quota for the quarter. How about service? How about above-and-beyond awards? We're creating those awards, and then we're celebrating across the organization.” Willis and Advantage Club are seeing flexible awards and point systems in larger companies with 250,000 employees and above. Swag is still essential, but it’s thoughtful swag. More importantly, they see rewards like online team building, online communities, experiences, wellness, and non-traditional benefits like pet care or self-care. Having buy-in from your leadership and CEO is crucial, Willis adds. Using data and tying the employee experience to metrics is critical, but you have to get support from the top. “Our job is to manage up during this time, as well as sideways, and use data. We have to tie it to metrics,” he said. “And no matter how we slice this or dice that, we may have all the data in the world, but if you have the CEO who has not bought in, it's going to be very difficult.”Willis says the time is now to use recognition and awards to your advantage in your company. If you have the ear of your executives, use it; if not, tie the metrics to turnover rates or absenteeism. “To get executive buy-in, track what you normally do, but then say, ‘We're gonna adopt this new engagement platform,’” he said. “‘And at this point, we're going to tie that into our turnover rates. We're going to anchor that to absenteeism.’”Feedback loops embedded into engagement events create communities, Willis says. One way to be successful in this strategy is to have an engagement manager. “You can create exciting, fun activities aligned with the cultural values,” he said. “You have to keep things fresh. We have an engagement manager for a number of our clients, and they meet with you every month.”The pandemic changed many things about how we work, and Willis says that innovation is at an all-time high in the HR tech world. But employees speaking up about their challenges and needs is primary. “We’ve been talking about engagement and recognition for years,” he said. “All of a sudden, we are feeling the pain, and our employees are telling us about that pain.”The beauty of hearing this message from employees so clearly is that we can do something about it.“At the end of the day, I'm going to join an organization where I can thrive and where I love the culture,” Willis said. “The companies that don’t step on the gas with employee experience and engagement will be outpaced by those that do.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Advantage Club, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Krista Sherer is a strategic communications consultant with a background in journalism and corporate communications. She resides in Sebastopol, Calif.

Krista Sherer | May 17, 2023

HR, How Did You Get So Influential? The Evolution of a Profession

Long before the notion that you could love your work, the HR profession was founded on the fact that work could be harmful to your health. In many ways, the profession's growing focus on well-being is not a touchy-feely detour, but a natural outgrowth from its roots–maybe even a nod to its origins.“The birth of human resources today came out of the concerns for individuals, starting off with their actual physical concerns,” says Barbara Holland, HR knowledge advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “It’s moved well beyond that at this point.” Born on the dangerous shop floors of the Industrial Revolution, human resources has been gathering responsibilities, but not losing any, for 100 years. Where it once was charged with the physical safety of workers, HR’s list of responsibilities now includes employees’ mental, financial, and social well-being, and it’s contending with AI and all its practical, ethical, and regulatory implications.The HR department of 2023 takes on more workload and influence than ever before, and many practitioners are shifting to strategic roles and automating tasks that were once the purview of the “personnel department” of 50 years ago, like benefits enrollment, tax documentation, and fielding FAQs. They’re freeing up time to focus on the more creative elements of the job, like developing leaders, creating equitable work environments, and bolstering employee well-being.How did HR get here, and where is it going? From Day One spoke with HR scholars and specialists to provide perspective about how the last three years of disruption fit into the longer game.In the 20th century, HR went through a tremendous amount of existential change–it evolved from protector of safety to negotiator to compliance officer to paper pusher to strategic business partner–and as of the 21st century, it has come full circle. In many instances, HR has again assumed its role of employee advocate. Now, the profession is tapping into policymaking, giving employees a seat at the table and a say in their working conditions.The Modern Origins of HR: The Safety and Well-being of the WorkerThe modern practice of human resources originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in response to the dangerous working conditions of the Industrial Revolution. “As there were factories and more workers working in one place, that’s really where the whole idea of a personnel department started,” said Kristie Loescher, who teaches HR and management at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.Not only were the physical working conditions dangerous, “the emotional and psychological hazards of working consistently in these conditions were immense as well. Long hours, limited sustenance, and impersonal treatment contributed to an already stressful work environment,” wrote the academics Robert Lloyd and Wayne Aho in their paper, “The History of Human Resources in the United States: A Primer on Modern Practice.”  Miserable conditions led to the proliferations of labor unions and their calls for workplace reforms. For instance, following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, in which 146 workers were killed as a result of locked doors and inadequate escape routes, both the city and the state of New York passed dozens of workplace safety laws in response to pressure from newly formed unions, community organizers, and the general public.Labor unions gave workers a say in their working conditions, and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 compelled employers to give them a seat at the table. Now that there was a need for someone to negotiate with the unions, the discipline of “industrial relations” was born. HR Becomes a Compliance OfficerBy mid-century, among HR’s chief concerns was compliance with regulation. Following the passage of laws that protect employees from discrimination in the workplace–including the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in 1967–installed a department designed to keep the company from getting sued. Its stance was a defensive one, said Holland.Under the new name “personnel,” what would become the modern HR department was steeped in the bureaucracy of mitigating legal risk and all the record-keeping it requires. Exchanges between HR and the workforce were minimal and transactional.Andrea Osborne, who has more than three decades of experience in HR and is currently the VP of people for the product team at the software company Genesys, describes the mentality of the HR department of that time like this: “Here’s your badge, here’s your documentation, here’s your tax paperwork. Bye! I’ll see you on your way out the door.” HR Becomes a Business PartnerThe globalization of business spurred the changes that produced the influential HR department of today. Companies turned their attention to the strategic capabilities of the HR department when, in the 1970s and 1980s, it became increasingly clear the U.S. was now competing in a global economy. In a paper on the international perspective of HR, Randall Schuler and Susan Jackson, both scholars of HR, wrote that “during that period, the focus of business shifted from domestic to multinational to global; the speed at which business was conducted increased; organizations recognized that labor costs and productivity must be address from a world-wide perspective; and many companies realized that competitive advantage could be seized and sustained through the wise utilization of human resources.” SHRM’s Holland began her HR career in the mid 1980s, driven to improve the cool and distant personnel department she encountered in the past. Holland saw transformation beginning to take place. “We were looking to make a difference,” she said. “I came in right on the cusp of the old still hanging on with some organizations, but newer organizations really embracing that HR was more than just a police department and signing people up with their paperwork and then walking around making sure nobody was breaking the rules.”HR operations itself benefited from globalization, according to Holland. “You had influences from other cultures and how people management was handled based on wherever their headquarters was.”Decades ago, the PR department was known for paper-pushing and complicance (Photo by iStock/Getty Images)At the same time, the U.S. transformed from a manufacturing economy to a “knowledge” economy. Where we once made products, we now made services, and that required a new approach to employer-employee relations. “If I have analysis work to do, and customer service work to do, and work that requires more autonomy on the part of the worker, all of a sudden I have to treat that worker very differently. As jobs changed, the way we treated employees had to change,” said UT-Austin’s Loescher. “This whole new area of HR was added in the ’80s and ’90s about employee engagement and development–that if we invest in our employees and give them working environments that are satisfying and then help them develop and learn and grow, they’ll not only be ready for today’s challenges in our business, but they’ll be ready for tomorrow's challenges.”James Bailey, who teaches leadership development at the George Washington University School of Business, noted the influence of social science research in the 20th century, which asserts that people, not factories and machinery and financial assets, determine future business success. “It’s culture, it’s selection, it’s finding the right people, it’s properly motivating them to do their work better,” Bailey said. “Why you can have two firms of equivalent assets and one far outperforms the other is because of the people factor.”Though labor unions declined in popularity by the 1980s, Thomas Kochan and Robert McKersie noted in their 1989 paper “Future Directions for American Labor and Human Resources Policy,” the “rising expectations of workers for increased influence over their immediate work environment and long-term careers.” Following a period of bureaucracy that kept distance between employer and employee, the HR department now had to operate with employer and employee best interests in mind.As companies had to compete in a global economy that could access to talent all over the world, business strategies were adapted to include skills development and employee engagement. According to Loescher, “the profession was changing from one of mere rule implementation and screening of applicants to one where it included connection to the business strategy as well as a connection to the analysis and design of jobs that not only would meet the strategic need of the company, but would be motivating for people to do,” said Loescher.The “personnel” department became “human resources,” and in university classrooms, moved from industrial relations to business schools, said Bailey. HR was officially a business asset. Human Resources Becomes the People DepartmentHR practitioners today will have noticed another change to the department’s name. Just as the change from “personnel” to “human resources” marked a change in the existential purpose of the department, the more recent shift to “people operations” reflects the further expansion of the function in business.“Currently, even the term ‘human resources’ does not seem to convey the importance of human capital as we’ve moved more into a ‘knowledge’ economy, in which human thought, creativity, and innovation are critical to the success of new economy businesses,” said Sherry Moss, the associate dean of MBA programs at the Wake Forest University School of Business.In corporate America, the new term is “people operations,” in academia, it’s all about “human capital management,” marking “yet another step symbolic of ‘We are part of the capital that makes this organization function and we want a seat at the table,’” said GWU’s Bailey. Automation of repetitive tasks, or ones that are at least more easily handled by software and AI, frees practitioners to focus on the strategy of developing talent and better workplaces. As mundane functions are automated, “it will leave more opportunities for the HR business partners to have more human interactions,” said Amy Freshman, senior director of global HR at the HR software company ADP. “Automation will certainly help remove the repeatable mundane tasks. At the same time, what is being asked of HR is changing. In many ways it’s growing, which just adds more to the plate.”As the department gets more involved with the human elements of business, its reputation among employees is changing dramatically. Kam Hutchinson, a global director of talent acquisition who has spent more than a decade working in HR, said workers are more open to interacting with HR than they were in the past. “There’s more of an openness to reaching out to HR for support and seeing them as an advocate for you and not necessarily for the company,” she said. The HR Department of the Future is ProactiveSo, what comes next? As HR cements itself as a key player in business success, where is there to go? HR is no longer just a responsive organization. Its latest goal is anticipation, prediction. For instance, contributing to the excitement around the new discipline of “people analytics” is its potential for predicting things like employee engagement or employee attrition. And the leaders in the department aren’t just thinking about what goes on inside a company, they’re considering the outside influences as well. When Jackson and Schuler wrote their article in 2005, they noted HR’s growing responsibility to monitor the external environment. As people operations is called upon to respond to national crises, social unrest, and mental health needs, that responsibility is even greater today.Holland believes the next HR frontier is public policy. In the last handful of years, SHRM has become involved in influencing lawmakers. Its Government Affairs team has advocated in Washington for policies like paid leave, removing barriers to employment for immigrants, and employer-sponsored education assistance.“Where before we were a reactionary industry or occupation to what’s happening in employment law and things like that, now we’re inserting ourselves to try to actually influence that before the law is made,” said Holland. “HR is trying to actually influence change before it hits us.”Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance reporter and From Day One contributing editor who writes about the future of work, HR, recruiting, DEI, and women's experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Fast Company, Quartz at Work, Digiday’s Worklife, and Food Technology, among others.(Featured photo by Violeta Stoimenova/iStock by Getty Images) 

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | May 16, 2023

Checking In to Reduce Checking Out

The current reality of the workplace leaves little doubt that it is bad for the physical and mental health of many workers. At a From Day One conference in Seattle, Steve Arntz, chief executive officer of Campfire, noted that this opinion is not his alone; rather, it’s shared by the Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy. Dr. Murthy has “‘slapped a warning label’ on work. It is destroying our mental health right now. It’s killing us.” This is not as it should be. Murthy believes that work needs to be an engine for mental health and wellbeing. Instead, work is hurting people physically and mentally, and the results are hitting companies hard in terms of retention and employee engagement. According to a 2022 McKinsey report, 32% of people leaving their jobs say it is because of uncaring leaders. How does a company change from seeming not to care to demonstrating that they do? Arntz believes it is by asking questions and creating an environment where honest answers are not just welcomed but really listened to. Three questions can help lead to metamorphosis: What are you feeling? What are you thinking about that might be distracting you from being present? Who are you right now? Would you know how your team members would answer? “You probably don’t know for sure,” Arntz said.  What Are You Feeling? Researchers have discovered more than 23,000 emotions. You can find a list of 53 that are grouped into five major categories on Healthline. “It can be hard to name the precise emotion you're feeling,” Artntz acknowledged. “But there is a vocabulary.” No one feels anything 100% of the time, he says. “You probably feel enjoyment maybe five or 10% of the time. There are moments when you feel joy and think, ‘This is what work is all about, this is my purpose.’ But it isn’t all the time.”What Are You Thinking Now? The second question hones in on distractions that can take away from work. “We think the big distractions are office politics and Netflix and sporting events and social media. We think everybody's stuck in their LinkedIn feed, that they can't get enough of this thought leadership on LinkedIn. But that's not the case. Friends being laid off, divorce, mental health challenges, finding a therapist, global conflict, inflation: This is the hard stuff people are thinking about now, not social media or what to stream on Netflix.”Who Are You Right Now? If you lead sales people, you might think they’re all outgoing, sociable, sports-loving closers who are motivated by money. But that’s not the case. In three years of research with 200 groups of salespeople, Arntz found that money and rewards were core motivations for only 20%. “It shocked me. At our own company, money and rewards weren’t in the top group of motivators either. [Respondents] were motivated by problem-solving, collaboration, and people. They want work that's purposeful and meaningful, and to do it with people they enjoy collaborating with.” We can often fall into traps of identity rather than figuring out who the people we work with really are.Steve Arntz of Campfire led the interactive thought leadership spotlight (photo by David Ryder for From Day One)Asking these questions is already working at companies. Microsoft does this weekly, Arntz said. They ask: What are you thinking? What are you feeling? And what are your intentions for this time and space? These questions are used in small to medium sized group meetings. Initially, there was concern that meeting time would increase. But this approach actually reduced both the number and length of meetings by 30%. “You start to become connected to each other in a way that helps you to move about the cabin a little more safely and confidently,” he said. “You can move forward productively, come up with great solutions, and collaborate.” These check-ins can sometimes illuminate intense challenges that some people are having, including childcare and finding a therapist, both issues that were exacerbated by the pandemic. Discussing one topic by itself can bring relief to someone who is worrying. But in a group setting, participants may gain insights or information from their peers that can help address specific issues. The name of the company, Campfire, evokes camping trips, where sitting around a dying campfire and eating s’mores can facilitate deep conversations and true connections, sometimes even without eye contact. “You're staring straight in the fire telling each other stories. You are centered. That is what we call campfire culture, and we need to create it in our workspaces. We need to re-create psychological safety.”In her research into psychological safety, Harvard researcher Amy Edmondson says there are three keys to creating a safe space conducive to such a culture: 1. Framing work as a learning problem, which means everyone is there to learn, and work is a learning experience. 2. Being able to readily acknowledge your own fallibility, and sometimes even celebrating it. 3. Modeling curiosity as a leader by asking questions.If you want to grow a great company, invest in your middle layer of management, Arntz recommends. “They are the linchpin, and the linchpin to their effectiveness is conversations.” Conversations about what you expect of a team or team member, conversations about what they expect of you: these are the details that are often missed. “A manager will come to you wanting to fire someone, and when asked why, they say it’s because they don’t meet expectations. But did you ever tell them what you expected of them?”Ask them: What got you here? Where do you want to go? How can I help you get there? “These conversations are a lot less about talking and a lot more about asking questions.” Arntz said. He likes approaching them with a “GROW” model: What are your Goals? What is the Reality of the situation you are in now? What Options have you considered? What is the Way forward? To that he would add the regular check-in: What are you feeling? What are you thinking about, and what might be distracting you? Who are you? What are your intentions for this space? “The future of work will be built on connected leadership,” he concluded. “It sounds like a buzzword, but I think what will differentiate us is what makes us human. Creating and innovating will need this kind of leader.”Arntz says that everyone should ask themselves if their work is meeting the rallying cry of Dr. Murthy and creating an engine of mental and physical wellbeing. The key is connected and caring leaders: “Give a voice to everyone and prioritize connection. Ask someone: How are you? Honest answers only.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Campfire, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Lisa Jaffe is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle with her son and a very needy rescue dog named Ellie Bee. She enjoys reading, long walks on the beach, and trying to get better at ceramics.

Lisa Jaffe | May 16, 2023

The State of DEI: Why Many Efforts Fail–and How Companies Can Overcome the Barriers

“DEI” is an umbrella term, but not all marginalized groups have benefited equally from this movement. In 1985, women made up 22% of management positions in corporate America, while African-American employees made up three percent. Fast forward to 2020: Women make up 38%—a 60% growth in representation—while African Americans still only represent 3.2%.“It’s statistically insignificant. In 35 years, corporate America was unable to move the needle,” said Robert Perkins, chief global diversity and inclusion officer for Mondelēz International, Inc. He believes that this statistic represents the challenges involved in making progress with diversity, equity and inclusion work, and why corporate America has an extremely long way to go to achieve equity in the workplace.Perkins joined John Simons, executive editor at TIME, for a fireside chat at From Day One’s February virtual conference on the state of DEI. As diversity chief for a global snack maker, making everything from Cadbury to Oreos, Perkins revealed that, since 2020, his company has doubled the number of women in leadership roles and experienced 72% growth in the number of Black managers.Perkins shared a “three-pillar strategy” that’s been adopted by Mondelēz: “First of all, we look at our colleagues; workforce representation, at the end of the day, is in my eyes most important,” he said. “You need to look at your pipeline and how you’re building it.”Robert Perkins was interviewed by John Simons of TIME during the fireside chat (photo by From Day One)He continued, “Our second pillar is culture. We’re very focused on engagement and how engagement drives higher productivity and business results,” Perkins said, stressing research that says leaders give 60 to 65% of capacity on any given day, but more when they feel most connected to organization. “That’s when companies are getting better productivity and results,” he noted.The third pillar is community. “Externally, what are we doing in the communities where we work and live?” Perkins asked. “One of our biggest initiatives is around economic inclusion and supplier diversity.” The company’s goal is to spend $1 billion with women and minority-owned businesses by 2024; they’ve spent over $500 million already.“I’d say this is the most overlooked by all of corporate America,” Perkins said of supplier diversity. “This impacts the economic wealth-building of women and minorities, and it has the larger societal impact of creating gender and racial equity.” Perkins also emphasized the importance of internal education and training to bring employees on board with DEI goals. “My subjective statement is that the majority of leaders across corporate America are not comfortable, confident, or capable of having DEI conversations,” he said. His suggestion is for companies to take these conversations “head on” and to invest in education on matters having to do with equity, equality, and representation. Perkins also called for bold, large-scale change to reach the level of equity to which many companies aspire. “We need creativity and to have difficult conversations,” he said. “Otherwise it won’t happen in our lifetime,” he said. Even though the position of chief diversity officers remains one of the fastest-growing jobs since its peak in 2020, Perkins cited a 60% turnover in chief diversity officers since that year. “That’s largely because of their disappointment with the commitment and accountability to DEI goals, and because they don’t feel like they can accomplish what they were hired to accomplish,” he said. Investments must be made across the company, from leadership down the employee ranks. Short-term goals should be replaced by long-term commitments. “It starts with leadership’s commitment to an articulated and defined strategy and goals,” Perkins said. “And leadership’s accountability to the systems in place for measuring progress against goals.”Emily Nonko is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to writing for From Day One, her work has been published in Next City, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian and other publications.

Emily Nonko | May 16, 2023

‘These Are the Plunderers’: A Dim View of Private Equity

Front-line health care workers had a grueling job in the pandemic, and shortages of protective personal equipment and medical supplies didn’t help. Some of those issues made widespread headlines, but the cause of these issues, which led to a widespread loss of human life, has been less well-explored. In their new book, These Are the Plunderers: How Private Equity Runs–and Wrecks–America, authors Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner provide insight on the root cause of these issues, exposing the ways in which private equity groups made billions in health care, while shortchanging Americans when they needed help the most.“We felt after Covid landed, and it was so devastating across the country, that it was really exposing what had gone on for the past 30 years [in private equity],” said Morgenson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who is now the senior financial reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit.“We were watching as the government was trying to set up programs to protect the public [and] here these firms were, right at the government trough, with lobbyists leading the charge, trying to explain that they were systemically important and needed access to the [Federal Reserve Bank], and for the Fed to start protecting and buying their assets,” said Rosner, a New York Times bestselling author and managing partner at the independent research consultancy Graham Fisher & Co.The pair spoke at From Day One’s Brooklyn conference in a session titled “A Dim View of Private Equity: How an Insidious Financial Industry Harms Everyday Americans, Tanks the Companies It Acquires, and Puts Our Entire Economic System at Risk.” Observing these bleak scenes of hardship for working class people, Rosner said he and Morgenson thought it was a “Charles Dickens moment.” They quickly recognized, Rosner said, that “nobody was talking about the fact that those shortages were driven” by the private equity industry. “Private equity had been buying up health care businesses for years, and really eviscerating them,” said Morgenson. They went the route of “sucking the profits and the earnings of the assets right out.”Discussion moderator Robert Boynton, director of the literary reportage program at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, said that to achieve this, the private equity firms made severe cuts to “ventilators, extra rooms and emergency rooms and other things like that, which in normal times perhaps you don’t need, but hospitals are supposed to be prepared for abnormal times.” However, in the minds of the new school of hospital overseers, Boynton said, “the bottom line doesn’t allow that.”Boynton asked Morgenson and Rosner why the health care industry became such a target for private equity firms.Boynton, left, holding Morgenson’s and Rosner’s new book, These Are the Plunderers: How Private Equity Runs-and Wrecks-America (Photos by Cassandra Sajna for From Day One)“Well, it’s 17% of the gross domestic product in this country,” said Morgenson. “It’s a very, very rich vein to mine for these people and you also have government programs that are standing there waiting to be milked or manipulated.”She added that it’s dangerous when profits come into play while individual care for human beings is on the line. “This should be a utility,” said Morgenson. “These hospitals should be things that serve the public, not some financial interests.”Much in the way that the pandemic helped rejigger our cultural outlook toward the workplace–with a growing number of employees prioritizing well-being as much as paychecks–it seems as though the crisis has also prompted an examination of the private equity industry, with people starting to question the sustainability of the business model, Morgenson said. It perhaps couldn’t have come at a better time. “These are extremely wealthy, extremely powerful people; Washington is very happy to see their money and very happy to either act on their behalves of do nothing on their behalves, depending on how that benefits them,” Morgenson said. “I’m very disturbed that that is continuing to be the way they do business.”But can change truly come about? Rosner said it might depend on the level of frustration readers of his book might have after consuming it. The general public still has a say in how the world operates; just look at the corporate response to the wave of worker empowerment the past two years.“Get angry out there,” said Morgenson.“Yeah, get your pitchforks out,” added Boynton.Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books.

Michael Stahl | May 16, 2023

How Performance Management Needs to Change Along With Employee Expectations

Before the pandemic, performance management seemed to be more straightforward. You had certain expectations of employees and you reacted depending on whether they met them or did not. But with the pandemic came the recognition that employees have lives outside of work. Systems grew more compassionate. Employees felt empowered to quit if they didn’t feel seen and heard. At a From Day One conference in Seattle, a panel of experts talked about how their companies have handled performance management in these turbulent times.Staff development was one of the biggest areas of change at Microsoft, said Ki Thompson, global leader of diversity and inclusion for executive engagement. Before, they would hire based on needs. Now, they look at overall corporate strategy, which existing staff may have needed skills, and what competencies they need to acquire to move the organization forward. The company is also changing job descriptions to match future goals and “intentionally working to develop that talent for the future,” he said. “We can’t necessarily buy talent now. We have to develop it internally instead. We have 220,000 employees. I’m sure we have the skill set internally to move forward.”The pandemic brought more compassion to a lot of business policies. At Talkspace, the online mental-health company, leaders strive to find the middle ground between performance and compassion, said Aidan McMahon, the director of employer sales. Sales can be hyper-competitive, she said, and it can be difficult to find that line between business goals and empathy and compassion. McMahon said that knowing that she tends to fall on the empathy side of that spectrum, she makes sure to work the expectations side of management as well.  You can’t be all one thing and succeed, said Nicole Tanzillo, co-founder and chief operating officer of the leadership-development company Ceresa. There is an internal slogan used in the company that “clear is kind,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many conversations I've been in at the team- member level and at the leader level where both sides are frustrated because it seems there are unspoken expectations. Our employees are amazing and talented, but they aren’t mind readers.”Being clear about expectations is critical, Tanzillo said. “You don't have to have a full-blown competency matrix and progression plan, but having clarity around the outcomes that we need someone to drive is critical. We have to talk about how we can get there.” Those conversations are not as common as they should be. “If we're all guessing, it’s hard and stressful.”“We have always had a culture of care at Hearst,” said Maris Krieger, the company’s senior director of talent programs. “It wasn’t ever all about performance and then with the pandemic a sudden shift to empathy. We had it before. But we did become more patient and flexible.” The company didn’t do any RIFs or furloughs or pay cuts during that time. Now the business environment is changing, and people will have to demonstrate their value to the company going forward. But she said that doesn’t mean the company won’t still be patient and flexible.Nicole Tanzillo, co-founder and chief operating officer of the leadership-development company Ceresa (Photos by From Day One)Changing performance management to be more compassionate doesn’t mean there aren’t clear measurements of success. Julie Johns, who is in charge of talent acquisition for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said she thinks about performance as the what and the how. “What is your role, what are you trying to achieve, and what are the outcomes you are striving for? I want to know what ‘good’ looks like to them and what success means to them. Where are they making progress and where aren’t they? I want to know too, how they show up and whether and how they collaborate. Do they bring people along and bring people in? When you aren’t talking about hard numbers, like sales, it isn’t black and white. But you do have to have clear expectations. And I think that moving away from having these conversations just once a year is a good idea. The more conversations you have, the fewer surprises can occur.”The criteria on which you base measurements should change over time, said Thompson. “I used to have development plan conversations with people and one of the top competencies that would come up was the balcony and the dance floor.” That is, about micromanaging what is happening on the dance floor, or looking at something from the perspective of the balcony. “When leaders are trying to develop this competency, it is easy to say, well if a worker is remote, I can’t be micromanaging. But if you are still checking in and emailing them constantly, you are.”If you can’t be in a room full of people, but instead have to influence them remotely, the results might be different, and your criteria for success should reflect that, he added. “Adjust the performance criteria to meet the world we are in today.”One misstep Tanzillo said she made early on was in trying to develop balance between being more directive and telling before asking, versus someone who connects with someone first, understands their world, and then works with them to create expectations. Questions she might ask now: How are you doing? How do you think things are going for you here? How can we help you bridge any gaps? These questions can help create a connection that leads to very different conversations than walking in and telling someone that you’ve noticed something about their behavior or performance. “Almost certainly, they are aware of problems and probably feel worse about it than you. Creating a connection makes it a different conversation.”You hire people because they are smart and good at what they do, said Johns. “When things aren’t going well, call it out early and often. Don't wait for it to pile up into something bigger.”If there is one truth about the last three years, it is that we now understand the impact of mental health on work and workers. Krieger said at Hearst, they understood the additional stressors that were put on employees, and they added more benefits related to childcare and well-being. “What we didn’t do well was figure out how to make these perks work in the new world of work. We had all these wonderful well-being webinars for people, but they had no time to attend them. That was really annoying. We tried, but we still have work to do.”Mental health is always a factor, even when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic, said McMahon. “When you have a team member who may have performance not going in the direction you want, don’t assume it’s because they don’t care or aren’t working hard. Often it’s something deeper.” You can have a huge impact on them just by having a conversation, she said. Ask if there is anything you can do to support them. Be ready to provide them with resources. McMahon also recommends modeling the words and behavior of self-care. “When I need a mental health day, I tell them I am taking a mental health day. They respect that and support me. In turn, they will also ask for mental health days. I encourage people to do what they need to take care of themselves. For me, it is often taking a walk to clear my head. I do that and I come back like a completely new person.”Lisa Jaffe is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle with her son and a very needy rescue dog named Ellie Bee. She enjoys reading, long walks on the beach, and trying to get better at ceramics. 

Lisa Jaffe | May 15, 2023

Empowering Your People to Be Better Health Care Consumers

Offering your employees a health care benefit isn’t where the work ends—it’s where the work begins. When your team is healthy, they’re able to show up more powerfully both at work and for themselves.“What we've learned over time is that your healthy employees actually are happier,” said Patty Starr, president and CEO of Health Action Council, a coalition of employers that works to secure more affordable and effective health care for employees. “And they're actually more productive. They're more able to deliver not only on their personal goals, but also their professional goals and the organization.””What we see as well is that often there's a big disconnect between what employers think and what their employees and family members think,” Dr. Mike Sokol and senior vice president for clinical strategy at Quantum Health, a health care navigation company for employers. Sokol pointed to an internal Quantum survey in which 88% HR professionals said their employees knew how to navigate their health care system, but only 35% of employees agreed.“All of us can get into those times where we're extremely busy, there's a lot going on,” added Miycol Jones, senior director of employee experience and growth at Quantum Health. “It happens with our employees, and it happens with the HR professionals as well. Employers need to be really intentional about making the time to help provide those resources, because everybody's stretched.”These leaders weighed in on how stakeholders can help their employees become more cost-effective health care consumers in From Day One’s webinar panel discussion titled “Empowering Employees to Be Better Health Care Consumers,” moderated by journalist Anna Maltby.Employees Are Hungry for Health Care SolutionsYour workers not only want access to health care; they also want simple, straightforward instructions on how to utilize that health care effectively.“You can provide your employees with a go-to resource for all things health care,” said Jones. “But honestly, a lot of times people just want to [be able to] call someone. They want to get a really quick answer. A navigation partner like Quantum can provide a single point of contact for members and providers.”The speakers from top left, Patty Starr, Miycol Jones, moderator Anna Maltby, and Dr. Mike Sokol (photo by From Day One)Starr agreed. “As employers, we sometimes forget the human side of things, and what's happening in somebody's life on a day-to-day basis that we might actually not know,” she said. “So there might be a whole bunch of chaos, things pulling them like Gumby in a whole bunch of different directions, but all we see is what’s happening in front of us on a day-to-day basis. There's sometimes a disconnect between what our employees need and want at that moment.”When it comes to human resources leadership, part of being effective means knowing about the latest trends and changes in health care that can add value for your organization’s employees.“We're seeing a number of interesting trends,” Sokol said. “One that we're seeing quite a bit now is an explosion of these “point solutions.” We have a number of vendors out there now that are focusing on one specific area, like diabetes reversal, weight loss, musculoskeletal conditions, or fertility management. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of these companies popping up all over the place. And what we're finding is that a number of large and medium and even small self-insured employers are starting to contract with the solutions, but in some cases, they may have multiple solutions in place.”Sokol added that these layers of complexity are causing some companies to engage with marketplace navigation providers, who can track all the changes and ensure multiple plans aren’t contracted inadvertently.Help Workers Improve Health Literacy, EquitablyDon’t underestimate the level of support your employees may need to grasp fundamental health insurance terms, added Sokol.“Do they really understand the basic concepts of health insurance and the health care system?” he said. “If they don't, how can we really expect that they can take care of themselves? [health literacy] really is a very important topic.” Sokol cited one industry study in which only 4% of workers could correctly define the terms copay, coinsurance, deductible, and out-of-pocket maximum.When it comes to health insurance, don’t be afraid to repeat your message often in order to help workers get comfortable with the benefits they earn and deserve each month.“I definitely encourage teaching it all year long, all the time,” Starr said. “The number of people who don't know the basics today is overwhelming. Just keep on repeating it.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Quantum Health, for sponsoring this webinar.Nick Wolny is an editor, journalist, and consultant. Currently a senior editor at CNET, he has previously written for Fast Company, Fortune, Business Insider, and OUT Magazine, and is a frequent television commentator on technology and work life. He is based in Los Angeles.

Nick Wolny | May 15, 2023

Stimulating a Culture of Healthy Feedback to Boost Innovation and Productivity

Achieving a culture of feedback demands first instilling a culture of safety. That was the consensus of a panel discussion at From Day One’s live conference in Salt Lake City, where five expert panelists offered advice backed by stories demonstrating both what to do and what not to do when helping employees feel safe while providing feedback. The conversation was moderated by Robert Gehrke, government and politics reporter at the Salt Lake Tribune.Connie Washington, VP of people at Progressive Leasing, made the case for a culture of safety by defining the manifold benefits of getting it right.“When somebody feels like they belong and they're safe, you get higher engagement, you get better performance, you get better retention,” Washington said. “And so that psychological safety is huge, that ‘I can make a mistake, I can do something wrong, and it's not the end of the world.’”Washington feels that a true culture of safety should be 360 degrees, in that employees should feel safe both giving and receiving challenging feedback.“One of my employees, when I would give her feedback, would go into a death spiral if it wasn't positive,” Washington recounted. “So I figured out a way to converse with her. During a one-on-one I said, ‘listen, here's my vision for you and where I see you being, but for you to get there, you're going to need feedback. And so I'm going to ask your permission to give you feedback. And that'll be the cue that we're going to talk about something.’ And it really changed the dynamic, because she wasn't blindsided by it. And she knew that my goal was for her to continue to grow and to get to the next level where she wanted to be.”The panel of speakers, from left, Carter Lee of Overstock, Whitney Harper of Extra Storage Space, Ivan Iordanov of Zions Bancorporation, Connie Washington of Progressive Leasing, and Steve Sonnenberg of Awardco (photo by Sean Ryan for From Day One)Washington adds that a culture of safety must begin at the top of the organization.“At a previous company, the CEO would host employee lunches and say, ‘tell me, whatever, this is open, let's talk.’ And so one person was like, ‘well, then let's talk. Do you have any idea what is happening and such and such?’ There were 50 people in the room and it made everybody uncomfortable and she walked out crying, and the CEO wanted her fired,” Washington recalled. “Creating that sense of safety, it’s important that people are comfortable and not crying when they walk out of an interaction with the CEO.”Whitney Harper, SVP of people at ExtraSpace Storage, finds that employees will open up in meaningful ways when they are encouraged to go deeper in their feedback sessions.“Sometimes, by asking ‘what else?’ you get to the next layer down, and you're kind of role modeling like, ‘this is safe, I want to hear everything that you have to tell me,” Harper said. “You have to role model it regularly. If you don’t receive feedback each week, it's been too long. Just ask your team members what you can do to help them make their jobs easier. Role modeling that behavior creates that culture of safety.”Acquiring measurable data is good, but quarterly or annual employee surveys are not the best way to get meaningful feedback, according to Ivan Iordanov, VP of enterprise learning and development at Zions Bancorp.“Surveys are the wrong questions at the wrong time for the wrong reason. You’re less likely to hear positive feedback. Or you may just hear generic feedback. Companies need to develop something more organic that’s able to capture the data but not just as part of a survey,” Iordanov said. “One-on-ones and coaching [sessions] are when employees tend to open up, especially when the person they talk to shows empathy and support and it's safe, and there's no fear of retaliation, particularly if the employees want to remain anonymous. If you want to collect survey data, do a survey afterwards. You will be more successful.”Helping employees feel both safe and valued can be as easy as adding a few minutes to company meetings, according to Head of People at Overstock, Carter Lee.“We have a culture document, listing our values and our leadership principles. We like to bring examples of employees living those leadership principles to the surface. And so we start most of our meetings with an example of it,” Lee said. “And I think that creates a safe zone, because you're not only saying these things, but you're highlighting people that do those things in your organization and when employees are saying good things about each other, when we challenge ideas and not people, they're more likely to give feedback all the time.”Steve Sonnenberg is the founder and CEO of the employee recognition firm, Awardco. Understandably, he feels that helping employees feel appreciated is key to building a culture of safety in an organization.  “You need to develop a culture of appreciation, to then create that safe environment where people feel a sense of belonging,” Sonnenberg said. “When they feel they belong and are appreciated, they’re going to feel that their feedback is also valued.”Sonnenberg went on to effectively frame the value that feedback offers an organization.  “It's extremely important to take feedback, process what you learned, and recognize that individual for giving it to you,” Sonnenberg added. “Feedback is a gift. And if it's not received or appreciated as a gift, you might not get it again.”Judd Bagley is a Utah-based marketing communications professional and freelance journalist.

Judd Bagley | May 15, 2023

Making Work Meaningful in an Era of Rapid Change

Paul Rumsey, senior vice president of strategic operation of Atrium Health, believes that purpose starts in small actions. He has urged his employees to block calendars until 9am on Monday mornings and after 2pm on Fridays. Likewise, emails should not be sent in the evenings or on weekends unless the matter is absolutely urgent. Meetings are to be cut from 60 to 45 minutes, or from 30 to 25 minutes. Also, as he revealed to journalist Lydia Dishman in a panel at From Day One’s March 2023 virtual conference, a defining characteristic of Atrium Health is its usage of “Code Lavender.” First developed in the Cleveland Clinic, this initiative is meant to take care of the secondary victim: for example, a nurse who needs to cultivate calm after a stressful situation, such as a difficult diagnosis or the loss of a patient. All of these implementations undergird the purpose of the organization: Hope, Health, and Healing for All.In fact, while a sense of stability might be hard to come by in the work world, a sense of meaning can be both durable and attainable. In 2021, McKinsey surveyed more than 1,200 managers and frontline employees, revealing an overwhelming consensus on the importance of purpose at work: 72% of respondents maintained that purpose should come before profits. Only 42%, however, felt that their company’s stated purpose made a real difference. A major source of this problem are overly generic mission statements like “contributing to society” and “creating meaningful work.”Leaders can examine their own experiences to discover what’s genuinely inspirational and motivating. “I want to be able to look my kids in the eyes,” said Susan Hunt Stevens, chief executive officer of the ESG engagement software company WeSpire, referring to the climate crisis and how it will unfold in the next decades. Tequilla Lopez, who leads the social impact team at consumer electronics retailer Best Buy, has drawn on her extensive nonprofit background to help shape the company’s sense of purpose. “It’s easy for our team,” she explains to Dishman. “Everything we do has a tie to our youth population: ensuring they have access and exposure in a way they wouldn’t ordinarily have.” Identifying the WhyIdentifying the “why” behind a company goes hand-in-hand with addressing business concerns. “Everything we do, I make sure it’s advancing the business,” said Susan Moore, vice president of corporate responsibility for semiconductor company AMD. “If we get untethered from where the business is going, whatever we’re doing may not be sustainable.”The full panel of speakers from top left, moderator Lydia Dishman, Paul Rumsey of Atrium Health, Susan Hunt Stevens of WeSpire, Susan Moore of AMD, and Tequilla Lopez of Best Buy (photo by From Day One)In the case of Atrium Health, an initiative called “Voice of the Team” helps keep track of what’s important to people in the organization. “We do work anniversary surveys; we ask what people are doing, what’s important to them, and we come up with solutions to really address that,” said Rumsey. Lopez also stressed the importance of “speaking from a place of knowledge, not just theory.” Hunt Stevens added a major caveat: “One thing we have to think about,” she said, “is whether the company itself has made purpose a core of its strategy or if it’s just a pair of Mickey Mouse ears.”Between Burnout and Purpose: The Role of BalanceWe can’t talk about purpose without considering the looming risk of burnout. The more an organization wants to accomplish, the more eagerness employees will feel to undertake purpose-driven actions. But to what extent? “It’s a process,” said Lopez, whose reports are often tasked with a lot of travel. “It’s my goal to avoid burnout for employees, so I’ll be the bad guy and tell them no. And honestly, over the last year, we completely revamped the ways in which we engage to make sure there’s enough time to get your desk work done and then be present when on the road.” Hunt Stevens relies on a tool developed by HBS to measure psychological safety, since the highest levels of psychological safety correspond to the highest levels of performance. “We’ve all been in organizations where, even if we’re only working a shift, it’s painful,” she reasoned. “Then we’ve worked in places where going overtime is a flow. It comes down to psychological safety and how safe we feel in groups and on teams. We will see people feel much better about work and life integration.”  (Big) Little Acts of RecognitionEven the most altruistic person needs a pat on the back for a job well done. To Hunt Stevens, recognition and morale boosting start with belonging. “One of the most powerful things I’ve seen are affinity groups,” she said. “ERGs are a mechanism for test-driving leadership, activating belonging, and recognizing people to galvanize impact.” Hunt Stevens also points to an initiative by fellow panelist Moore. During a recent SXSW festival, AMD sponsored an event where attendees volunteered to clean up a river. “We volunteered together at an industry event: this is how I think leaders can start thinking really creatively,” Hunt Stevens. Moore, on her end, has one crucial piece of advice, which can be career-defining for junior-level employees but isn’t labor-intensive: “At the end of emails, acknowledge person X, Y, Z  for their contributions,” she said. “It recognizes a great team and helps people understand what their contributions ended up achieving.” Angelica Frey is a writer and a translator based in Boston and Milan.

Angelica Frey | May 12, 2023

The Workplace of the Future: A Magnet for Collaboration

In the hybrid work era, the future of office culture is an important consideration for business leaders. CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate and investment firm, has 600 offices in 100 countries. Elizabeth Jenswold, senior vice president and global head of people for CBRE, has an inside look at how workplace design can foster a purposeful culture. “An office should be a magnet and a destination,” she said recently. “Not an obligation.”In a fireside chat at From Day One’s Dallas conference, Jenswold told moderator Christine Perez, editor of D CEO Magazine, “Likely everyone in this room is starting to reimagine what the new office will potentially be.”As some business leaders focus on how to bring employees back into the office, each business is taking a different approach. Culturally, Jenswold said, “We have to acknowledge that we’ll all have a different approach, and we have to ensure that people are having an experience when they’re coming back to the office.”At CBRE, offices are used to express their brand. Jenswold said, “That means that we are bringing people together in a meaningful way, and we impress our culture on them by having an environment where people like to come.”“The office environment should be used to empower people,” she continued. The pandemic brought incredible changes to how we work, and Jenswold suggested that, as we move into this new way of working, companies should focus on environments that help employees be their “most productive selves.”To accomplish this, CBRE trains their managers to openly communicate with employees about what it means to be productive at work.She said, “What we’ve designed in our practice more than our policy is to have managers to have open conversations about what productivity means for their team.” This approach requires strong leaders who can have open and honest conversations with employees, can see each employee as an individual, and are willing to be flexible.Jenswold and Perez kicked off the From Day One Dallas conference (photo by Steve Bither for From Day One)Jenswold continued, “That’s a big change in the way we work, for both employees and managers. Not just at CBRE, but across all of our companies globally. What does it mean to be heard?”When it comes to returning to work, whether a company chooses to ask all of their employees back to the office, or a company chooses to remain all remote, employees are feeling the pros and cons of each choice. Jenswold said, “The businesses who have gone to one extreme or the other are having more challenges. The hybrid work environment seems to be the sweet spot.”With this, Jenswold said that companies should carefully consider creating a “harmonious, collaborative environment.” One strategy: offering a more casual office dress code. Additionally, the technology at home should transition back to the office with ease. Ultimately, she said, “We want the transition from home and in-office work to be seamless.”She added that “reimagining the role of your managers” will help with the back-to-work transition. She said, “HR professionals are spending a lot of time on that. What is the role of that manager, and how is that manager helping with this seamless transition, when half of the staff is at home and half of the staff is in the office?”She said, “It’s critical that managers get good at that. How do we replace an inclusive environment for people who aren’t in the same room every day? Managers need to be focused on being equitable versus fair by recognizing people as they are, as individuals with imperfect lives.”Business leaders need to consider creating an in-office experience, which Jenswold says should include all of the technology they need, a quiet space, and a social space. Ultimately, she said, “workers want companies to care about them.” She continued that this includes a healthy environment with clean air, healthy snacks, pleasing lights, and sunshine.The evolution of the workspace speaks directly to the purpose of the office. The purpose of the office goes back to branding and is an opportunity to reflect the values of the company. Jenswold said, “When you think about a reflection of your brand, you have to be careful that you’re authentic. If you’re saying our brand is bold and smart, for example, but have leadership that isn’t taking risks or making good decisions, it doesn’t really matter what your offices look like if you can’t model that for your employees.”Finally, she said, “The workplace has evolved to be incredibly inclusive. Think about all of the people that work for you. Consider neurodivergent employees regarding lighting and noise control, for example. How do we make offices a peaceful place to be, and how can we operate with more humanity?”Christina Cook is a freelance writer based in Dallas, TX, where she covers a variety of topics, with favorites including art, film, and live theatre. Her work can be seen on, RedDirtNation, and Christina is also a creative writer. Her children’s book Your Hands Can Change the World was a 2017 regional bestseller.

Christina Cook | May 12, 2023

The Five Pillars of Belonging: Why They’re Significant

Right now, David Bator is the managing director of the Achievers Workforce Institute, the information wing for the employee-experience platform Achievers. But at a previous time in his life, he worked for a different company, and had a boss that did not make him feel as though he belonged in the organization—at all. Bator was injured in a bike-riding accident on his way to work one day, and though in the moments after his fall, in which he suffered a broken leg and a gash above his eye that required many stitches, his first thought was, “Let me fix the chain on my bike and get to work.” Seeing Bator’s condition, a construction worker stopped him from doing so and, eventually, Bator served a two-day stay in the hospital.Still, he worked remotely from his home as soon as he could, but his manager was so worried about a productivity drop that he ordered Bator to return to the office. Bator walked the office on crutches and paid for car services out of his own pocket for a month so he could commute to and from his job. At one point his boss stopped him in the hall and asked how he was doing. Bator opened up about his struggles managing the commute, his pain and his family, which included a couple kids, while recovering from his injuries. Then came the a-ha moment for Bator. His boss said, “No, how’s your work going? I only care about what goes on here.”“Needless to say, I no longer work at that place,” Bator told a room full of guests, who issued a round of applause. He recounted the story at From Day One’s conference in Salt Lake City, where he led a workshop titled, “The Significance of the Five Pillars of Belonging,” the title of which was initially part of an Achievers Workforce Institute report.“The definition that we came to out of that body of research was that belonging is an experience of connection, security and community,” said Bator. “And it’s really a feeling of being at home, without reservation, regardless of who you are, the job you do or where you do that job.”In order to foster a sense of belonging across a workforce, per Achievers’ five pillars, leaders must ensure that they feel “welcomed,” “known,” “included,” “supported” and “connected. “These five pillars have a particularly elastic quality, to build employee experiences that engage our people,” Bator said. “Again, regardless of who they are, the job they do, how long they’ve been doing it, their level of seniority or, fundamentally over the last number of years, where they physically do that job.”WelcomedStarting with the first of the five pillars, Bator suggested leaders distribute tangible greeting cards signed by team members that welcome new hires to the company. He urged managers of new hires to make sure they provide recognition to a new team member within their first week of work in their new organization. “Do they have the opportunity through things like onboarding surveys, to reflect on the support and the resources that they received during their first 30, 60, 90 days?” Bator said. “These are all great instruments that you can use to drive that feeling of someone feeling welcomed when they join a team or, indeed, your organization.”He added that efforts to help a worker feel “welcome” in the office should be extended to every worker, not just new ones, across their respective stays with the company—which, with this and other steps taken by managers, will hopefully be long and productive ones.   “That feeling of being welcomed is about every space we share with anyone,” Bator said. “It’s about every transaction that we have at work. It’s about every room we walk into every experience. And so the challenge for all of us in creating conditions for hopefully award-winning employee experience, is thinking about what are the things we can do every single day. How do you make every day feel like a ‘day one’ for your people?”According to research from the Achievers Workshop Institute, Bator said if employees are made to feel “welcome,” they are twice as likely to feel like they “belong,” too. If a given organization’s workers are anything like Bator was when he had his unfortunate bike accident, making them feel unwelcome will lead to all the pitfalls that come with poor retention rates.KnownIn making employees feel “known,” at a baseline level, all it takes is a little bit of listening. Give workers a space to express themselves freely and when they do open up, take stock in their values and their needs and try to align with them and supply solutions when possible. This will enhance a worker’s sense of connection with their employer.“Our obligation is to create conditions so that an individual can bring their whole self to work,” said Bator. “And on a tactical, practical level, this can look like a bunch of different things.”Giving more specifics he said making workers feel “known” could be the byproduct of recognizing them for accomplishments and milestones, both personal and professional. Even something as simple as making sure managers know how to pronounce a worker’s surname could have an outsized impact because it shows care and attention to detail. “It means giving your employees the opportunity to use pronouns that express their true identity,” said Bator. “And you can only do [all this] if you begin to ask, and if you begin to create safe spaces for people to share who they are. When you do this, you build trust.”IncludedHelping an employee feel “included,” Bator continued, may have the most significant impact in terms of nurturing a worker’s sense of belonging and better ensuring their engagement and retention. “It’s, ‘Do I have a shot here, to begin with?’” said Bator. “The narrow view, ironically, is when we think about inclusion through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the things that we can do to create table stakes for every single employee. I think the broader view, however, is about creating opportunities for our people to share in co-creating what their employee experience actually looks like.”He suggests building a safe space that gives employees a comfort level to not only make their opinions heard and acknowledged, but to also come up with “a great idea” and have it “heard by the right person in an organization.”Data from recent Achievers Workshop Institute research said organizations that for feedback from their employees at least four times a year have 50% higher levels of engagement, Bator said, while 88% of those employees are more likely to feel valued.SupportedTo make workers feel “supported,” Achievers research says, give them a sense of empowerment tied to their potential long-term success by supplying them with necessary tools, training and resources. Provide them opportunities for professional growth and to have a healthy work-life balance as well.“When I think about what this pillar really means, I think immediately of managers,” Bator said. “Whether you pick social justice, the pandemic, new modes of working, take your pick, your managers are on the frontlines with their people every single day. And what we see is that when an individual has a strong relationship with their manager, they feel individually resilient.”Thus, they are more capable of overcoming challenges, a belief that aforementioned Achievers research shows many workers don’t have.ConnectedAnd calling back to the fifth and final pillar of employee belonging, Bator said, “At a basic level, what being ‘connected’ is about is: Do your employees have the opportunity to build a diverse network, inside their work circle and outside of their work circle?’”He revealed that more Achievers Workshop Institute research shows that when organizations have connection tools, they are great at driving not only connection, but trust and support, as well as other worthwhile sensations. “But what I would argue to you is that connection is much more of a philosophy than it is a cool feature that you can share with your employees,”Bator said. “Fundamentally, it’s about: Is it easy for your [managers] to access the people and the skills that they need every single day so that they can be productive and positive from anywhere.”It’ll be much less of a challenge for employees to sever those connections, with their managers, fellow workers and their general work responsibilities, if they don’t feel a strong sense of belonging. Bator knows this first hand. He has the scars to prove it.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks its partner, Achievers, for sponsoring this workshop.Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books. (Featured image: David Bator conducting the workshop in Salt Lake City.)

Michael Stahl | May 11, 2023

Work Is Changing. Is Your Company Culture Keeping Up?

A strong company culture built on shared values is essential to the success of your team but difficult to define, let alone cultivate, says Mike Kaupe, global director of sales engineering for HiBob, a provider of HR platforms and analytics. Companies first need to understand why a healthy culture is so important, then they must go about the very hard work of creating it.Kaupe spoke during a Thought Leadership Spotlight at From Day One’s recent live conference in Chicago, a city known for its skyscrapers, blues music and deep dish pizza. While those elements have helped define the city’s culture, it’s richer and more varied than that, said Kaupe, who was immersed in different cultures as a child growing up in a U.S. Army family.“Culture is an accumulation of relationships that you cannot copy, and you cannot fake. You can't do it. It's unique to every business, every organization,” he told the audience.For companies striving to build a strong culture, the changing nature of work is making the challenge that much harder, even as it fosters creativity. Your employees may work from home, or in hybrid, flexible or dynamic arrangements. Communication is often through digital collaboration. Engagement is now a tool for shaping culture.Like that gooey deep dish pizza, the layers pile on. Mass layoffs, hiring freezes, the uncertain economy and slowing corporate growth, or none at all, have been added to the mix. Even companies that have been around for many years are re-evaluating their values in the face of these enormous challenges. Amid all the shifting variables, is it possible for an organization to maintain the values that its employees hold dear? “It's not easy. It's very difficult, and very, very challenging,” said Kaupe. “But it's not impossible.”Start By Being HonestThe first step is to be transparent, Kaupe advised. Employees may have different perceptions of their role in the company’s vision. At HiBob, sharing the context in which decisions are made has helped to bring employees on board with those decisions and “gave us permission to continue the mission,” he said.Embracing transparency has meant being inclusive, which has been key to earning employees’ trust, he said. The company looked for policies and procedures that created experiences of exclusion and removed them.“This transparency helped to build the culture of trust that we wanted, and that we needed, across the business,” Kaupe said.Kaupe led the thought leadership spotlight in Chicago (photo by Tim Hiatt for From Day One)What followed next was greater collaboration, as people felt empowered to speak their minds, share their thoughts and be vulnerable. “When employees perceive that their organizations are transparent, they engage better,” Kaupe said. “They have better job satisfaction compared to employees who believe that their companies are not being transparent. They believe that their companies may be hiding something. Why? Because there's a lack of trust.”At HiBob, because a culture of trust was developed, groups and teams started giving each other feedback on how well they were doing, what they were doing wrong, and how they could improve. The process led to a recognition that praising group achievements, and not just giving individual accolades, could help build trust. “This fostered some really cool group cohesion,” said Kaupe.“We've learned that trust, transparency and teamwork are the keys to putting your people first. It sounds like a no-brainer. But this is really, really difficult,” he stressed.The High Cost of Lost TrustKaupe argues that leaders who push their workers back into the office because they think people will be more productive in the workplace environment are directly at odds with employees who believe they are more productive at home. The cost is “quiet quitting,” in which employees may spend months getting paid for doing as little work as possible.Similarly, organizations that use so-called tattleware installed on computers to monitor their employees who work from home pay a price in lost trust. It’s a big cost to pay for that control, he said.“Cultivating culture must start with knowing what your employees really, truly value,” Kaupe said.HiBob has not been immune to the economic uncertainties affecting companies around the globe. As a result, said Kaupe, his team has a different perspective about work, greater insight and more empathy for what its customers are experiencing. The lesson learned is, “we grow through what we go through,” he said.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, HiBob, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Susan Kelly is a business journalist based in Chicago.

Susan Kelly | May 11, 2023

How Employee Coaching Has Evolved to Boost Inclusion

Forget the typical images of corporate coaching: A senior executive dispensing theoretical advice to a shiny subordinate hungry for a small measure of wisdom that will propel his career. Others might think of an executive enjoying lunch with their coach—perhaps a CEO emeritus—who imparts the secrets of corporate ladder-climbing.Or maybe your image of a coach is this: An overloaded middle manager drafted into compulsory coaching duty, offering unwanted and unsolicited advice to an intern who just wants to know if this six-week stint will get him hired.These kinds of coaching have produced homogenous leadership, tired coaches, and wasted time. HR leaders are throwing out the book on coaching and reworking it for a greater purpose: inclusion.As the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion becomes clear to business success, leaders in DEI and learning & development are working together to build coaching and mentorship programs that don’t just produce the same old results, and don’t sap the energy of the coach or the ones being coached, but actually provide value to everyone, making way for the proverbial rising tide.During From Day One’s April virtual conference on how employee motivation can supercharge learning and development, four panelists, who represent companies of creative and technical professionals at the top of their fields, participated in a panel discussion about how employee coaching can be used for inclusion.Effective Coaching Doesn’t Require an AppointmentEmployers don’t need to mount a structured coaching program in order to be effective, said panelists. Though formal programs can help get a company started, effective coaching doesn’t require calendar invites or evaluation rubrics.Panelist Marie Potter, the senior director of culture and development at media company Getty Images, said her company doesn’t have a formal internal coaching program in which coaches and coachees sign up for sessions. Rather, the company tries to instill the spirit of the thing among its staff, and it starts with a unit on coaching in its leadership development program.“We believe that every people manager, every leader, has the opportunity to sit in that coaching relationship with their teams,” Potter said. “This has helped our managers have better conversations with employees at the point of need, whether a one-on-one turns into a coaching session, or whether a performance development conversation boasts some coaching.”The full panel of speakers, from top left, Shivani Dhir of NYU's Tandon School of Engineering, Mary Vinette of Technicolor, Mark Cousino of Kyndryl, moderator Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, and Marie Potter of Getty Images (photo by From Day One)“I’m a big fan of informal programs because you’re not limited by who you can engage as a coach,” said panelist Mark Cousino, the VP of learning and effectiveness at IT infrastructure company Kyndryl. “When you get into informal coaching, it’s more about who can help me solve a particular challenge.”If coaching is a means of making better decisions, everyone is capable of being a coach. This way of thinking opens the door for more people in your organization to contribute to the growth of the team and of the company.Coaches can be found almost anywhere in an organization, not just among executives and senior leaders, says Cousino. “Don’t have them all be your age, don’t have them all look like you. Get coaches and perspectives from all kinds of places, because then that’s really what helps open your mind and gives you a better appreciation for different ways of thinking.”One might look to different “coaches” depending on the problem at hand. “I have somebody that helps me connect the dots that I can’t see are connected. I have somebody that helps me think through decisions I need to make,” he said.Coaching Is No Longer PrescriptiveMary Vinette, who is the global head of learning and development at creative production company Technicolor, has more than a decade of experience in employee training and development. She said the corporate approach to coaching—its purpose and who is considered a coach—is changing.Employers are recognizing the need for coaching that supports better decision-making rather than simply reinforces a corporate “way.” Vinette describes it as “coaching for what it’s meant to be: for human beings to find their own best solutions to whatever they’re going through.”In this way, coaching can be used to solve a range of problems, like when a first-time manager needs help running a large team or a business unit needs ideas for ways to recover sinking revenue.With an Open Mind, Coaching Becomes a Means for AdvocacyShivani Dhir, the assistant dean of digital learning at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, works with employers that are investing in their workforce with degree and non-degree corporate upskilling.Coaching and mentorship work in concert with skill development, she says. “You’re at this pivotal point and you’re developing new skills—what are you going to do with them?” Dhir said. “How are you going to go back and apply them in your organization? How are you going to navigate whatever new opportunity this brings about within your organization?”When everyone in an organization, not just those at the top of the pecking order, can see themselves as a coach, there’s room for those typically excluded from old-school corporate coaching programs to rise, grow, and bring others along with them.Dhir said that Tandon coaches students to return to their organizations to make change, “to be the advocates within their organizations, and identify talent across representation. These leaders have the power and the leverage within the organizations to be able to look for the right signs, look for what barriers to remove within.”Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance reporter and From Day One contributing editor who writes about the future of work, HR, recruiting, DEI, and women's experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Fast Company, Quartz at Work, Digiday’s Worklife, and Food Technology, among others.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | May 11, 2023

Unlocking Innovation Starts With Compensation

If you want to drive innovation at your company, start by creating compensation plans that catch the eye of top talent.That was the big takeaway from a recent fireside chat with Patti Taylor, vice president of total rewards at Xerox, at From Day One’s virtual event, “Creative Total Rewards To Set Employers Apart.” According to Taylor, innovation starts with attracting the people who can help you enter new markets and industries, and it’s never too late for a company to pivot or explore.“Xerox is a 118-year-old company with a very iconic brand,” Taylor said. “And that brand has been aligned for many years to brick and mortar work locations around the world. This core business still exists, and it's quite prominent in our business model. However, we are creatively forging into the future with digital services solutions to meet the needs of today's clients.”Many other companies have similar initiatives. But how exactly do you get started with such an overhaul? Taylor suggests keeping the following advice in mind.Don’t Be Afraid to Get CreativeSkilled workers became increasingly scarce in the wake of the Great Resignation, and some began demanding higher salaries as a result. Taylor encouraged attendees not to count themselves out if the cost of top talent is outside their budget. Instead, embrace creative compensation workarounds.“We need to be thinking outside of our tried-and-true compensation boxes that we've played in all these years,” Taylor said. ”What if we offered more days off? What if we offered an attractive sign-on bonus? Perhaps you find out a little bit more about what matters to the candidate. The total compensation package must become more flexible, and that means it's going to look more individualized.”Patti Taylor of Xerox was interviewed by Nick Wolny during the fireside chat session (photo by From Day One)Taylor says that this customization can push up against org chart protocols but urged professionals to prioritize agility when they can. “It’s absolutely going to stretch our ‘reward muscles,’” she added.Of course, one of the challenges to entering uncharted territory for your organization is that it may mean adjusting or even completely reimagining existing compensation structures and procedures.“We've got to truly figure out what matters and what is really valid and with our positions,” Taylor said. “So first of all, we have to look again at what positions really do work. What we thought was going to go away three years ago is still here, and what we thought would sustain us from all these years before is not often working anymore.” Many companies are requiring decades-old structures in light of the fact that hybrid work is here to stay.To Win Over Decision-makers, Use the DataEnterprise-level changes can be impactful, but for them to work, you need the buy-in of senior leadership.“Always lead with data,” she said. “The C-suite is going to want to see the data, and you’re going to have to show with data how the business is being negatively impacted by turnover.” Taylor shared an anecdote from her career. At a previous company, a finance job had three different people in the role within a two-year period. “I experienced firsthand the impact of just going over and over the same things we thought that we had already set said groundwork on,” Taylor said.As your company explores new ways to attract and retain top talent, compensation and rewards leadership might be the strategic linchpin that ensures future innovation.“Again, I can't get away from my challenge to everyone about being creative,” Taylor said. “Think about what you would want and what you know about what’s important to workers today.”Nick Wolny is an editor, journalist, and consultant. Currently a senior editor at CNET, he has previously written for Fast Company, Fortune, Business Insider, and OUT Magazine, and is a frequent television commentator on technology and work life. He is based in Los Angeles.

Nick Wolny | May 11, 2023

After Three Years of Crisis, What Does It Take to Keep Workers Engaged?

The last three years have taken a toll. Upheaval, changing government guidelines, and concerns over physical and mental health have impacted workers and organizations alike. Retaining employees, as well as keeping them engaged and productive, has become more difficult through the turmoil. At the recent From Day One conference in Seattle, a panel of four HR executives, moderated by Puget Sound Business Journal’s Alex Halverson, discussed some of the strategies that have shown promise in their organizations.  1. Ask them what they want. At Providence Healthcare, a hospital system based on the West Coast, Denise Bowen, who leads the people strategy and solutions team, emphasizes flexibility in the workplace. “We engaged focus groups before we started inviting people back to the office,” she said. Among the factors considered was what work could be virtual and what needed in-person participation.  Surveys for feedback found a 10-point increase in engagement with this flexible model. But there was also a desire for more connection. “We asked them to return to the office based on that feedback,” said Bowen. “We told them how, why, and when to return, and we made it more invitational than a mandate.” Murika Matz, the chief customer officer at the people analytics firm Visier, said talking to employees about what they want is key: “They have to express to us what they are looking for so we can all be accountable.” The last three years there required nearly constant communication between organizations and their people. Moving forward, Matz suggested, keep some of that up by asking team members where they want to go: “If they are remote, ask them how you can help ensure they are ‘seen’.”Alex Halverson of the Puget Sound Business Journal moderated the discussion (photo by David Ryder for From Day One) 2. Be clear with expectations. At Fortive, Shannon Flynn, the head of HR, said they have tried more than once to get people back into the office. The first invitation back was in July 2021. Almost no one returned. With the rise of the omicron variant, RTO was put on hold until May 2022. “Our culture is in-person problem solving, so we really wanted people back.” That second time, the corporate team was required to be in 2 to 3 days a week – every Tuesday and Thursday, with the third day personal choice. More people responded, but leadership wasn’t getting the 2-3 days they wanted.  “Productivity wasn’t the issue. We were missing out on collaboration – especially cross-team collaboration,” Flynn said. Some of the newer hires had never worked in-person, and engagement with them was lower than with those who had longer tenure. Half of all attrition came from those newer hires, too. Last fall, Fortive asked managers to have one-on-ones with each team member and inform them they needed to be in four days a week. “We figured if we said 3-4, we’d get 2-3. So we said four.” It wasn’t just a directive, though. Employees were asked what they needed in order to meet the goal. “We asked, ‘What can we do to get you to four days?’” Flynn’s own request was to be remote one week a quarter. “Those were my parameters. We are trying, through these one-on-one conversations, to avoid any misconstrued group message and to help them figure out how to be intentional about being in-person.”  Managers will be accountable for making progress on the goal. So far, it’s working, and 70% of the corporate team is back full time. 3. Show them what you know. You might tell your people about results, goals, and plans, but it’s better to show them, said Bowen: “Transparency has to be authentic.”  Even layoffs can be transparent, says Janine Yancy, founder and CEO of the online learning and predictive analytics firm Emtrain. “Do employees understand why this is happening? Open the lens so that employees can see what the executives see. Instability comes when there is no visibility of what is going on, and they have to simply receive decisions. That’s when people feel unsafe. There is always some level of business information you can share about what needs to be done to be successful. ”  While executives may craft the policy, HR people should help create the message. It isn’t about performance of the individual, and Yancy said HR can help ease the transition for those impacted by a reduction in force by emphasizing their contributions and strengths and reminding them they are still part of a community. 4. Focus on people, not just the bottom line. Bowen says that if you view employees only as means to an end, they will feel it. “There are still opportunities for talent,” she said. “This can’t just be about business outcomes. They know if there is genuine care, and it’s the right thing to do to show up for and invest in your team.” Flynn likes the analogy of the three-legged stool: individual, team, and business. While business results matter, the stool won’t stand if the other two legs aren’t considered, as well. The last three years have helped individuals become more known to their managers and other team members, said Matz. Zoom calls featured pets and kids and updates on how people were handling lockdowns, isolation, and quarantine. That improved knowledge of each other is one of the things that we should try to hold on to, she said: “There were things we were missing that we didn’t know we were missing.” 5. Be consciously inclusive. Emtrain has more than 100 million poll responses related to inclusion, and Yancy says that, without equity, you won’t achieve inclusion. If you are implementing a RIF, ask yourself if the process is transparent so that people have context. Check to see the impact on key demographics. “From our own research, we know that not everyone has the same experience. White men have the best, then men of color, then white women, and women of color have the worst experience.” HR can’t just be a recipient of strategy, but rather needs to drive it, said Bowen: “We aren’t just about organizational excellence on the back end, but are a partner in shaping strategy. We can help manage culture and experience.” Flynn says that, even in a time when many businesses are contracting, there are opportunities. Indeed, Bowen points out that tech company layoffs were often an opportunity for organizations like hers. “There are other options,” Flynn said. “If they don’t feel connected, if they aren’t engaged, you will lose them. I want it to be hard for people to go.”Lisa Jaffe is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle with her son and a very needy rescue dog named Ellie Bee. She enjoys reading, long walks on the beach, and trying to get better at ceramics.

Lisa Jaffe | May 10, 2023

What Moves Us: How Intrinsic Motivation Has Changed Since the Pandemic

While employers can readily calculate the market rates for external rewards like pay and perks, what’s more elusive is an understanding of the internal factors that light their workers’ fires.Knowing what moves you and your employees, also known as intrinsic motivation, can be the key to increased productivity, better working environments, and improved relationships.  Yet here’s the tricky part: over time, those factors can change among individuals, as well as change among groups. The pandemic, for example, changed virtually every aspect of our working lives. For many of us, it made us come to terms with our most important values, or perhaps changed those values altogether.Attuned, a company that helps employers understand what motivates their teams, focuses directly on intrinsic motivation, which it defines as the individual combination of values and preferences that drive us from within. Knowing an individual’s motivators and playing into them can help increase engagement, elevate performance levels, and improve well-being.Attuned has collected tens of thousands of intrinsic motivator profiles through its 55-question assessment. With its 2023 data, the company has compiled trends that show how the most popular core motivators have changed over time.The company developed a list of the 11 key intrinsic motivators with the help of psychologists and experts in the field. They are altruism, autonomy, competition, feedback, financial needs, innovation, progress, rationality, security, social relationships, and status.After taking the assessment, the assessment-taker receives a score of 0-100 for each of the key motivators. The higher the number, the more important this value is to them. If they score between 68% and 100%, the motivator is a “need-to-have.” They need this motivator to be satisfied and feel like they’re working on something that matters.So how have the most popular key motivators changed over time? Attuned’s team discussed the evolution of its findings from 2018 to 2022 in its State of Motivation Report 2023 and an accompanying webinar. Among the highlights:Increasing MotivatorsTwo motivators saw an increase between 2018 and 2022: security and financial needs. In a time of crisis and uncertainty, it makes sense that these two motivators, which are very popular among people in general, became even more common during the pandemic.People motivated by security have a desire for planning and predictability and feel a need for precisely defined rules and clear frameworks and spheres of responsibility. Security had an all-time low average of 45% in the fourth quarter of 2018 and an all-time high of 65% in the third quarter of 2019, then dipped back to 54% by the fourth quarter of 2022. It is the third-most common of all motivators, but is the No. 1 motivator for women.The increase of security as a motivator can also be explained by the shift from a promotion focus to a prevention focus. “People are moving away from the idea that we need new things; now we just need stability for a little while,” said Paul Kay, head of content at AttunedFinancial needs are the most common top motivator and highest motivator score across the board. Its average scores fluctuated a lot between 2018 and 2022, with a range of 17% between its all-time high and all-time low scores. However, it’s seen an upward trend overall, with a steady rise from the first quarter of 2018 to the fourth quarter of 2022.The financial needs motivator is not all about pay and bonuses. People motivated by financial needs have a desire for financial security and well-being, and prefer activities that generate profit and endeavors that accumulate and safeguard wealth.“I think what we see with these motivational shifts is people don’t jump too often from something being on the left-hand side of those charts, where it’s a low need-to-have, all the way to the high need-to-have. These are based on your values, which are really deep inside you,” said Casey Wahl, the company’s CEO and co-founder. “The way I look at it is something has to happen really emotionally and leave a deep emotional imprint on your brain to shift things up. And I think what we’re seeing in these shifts in financial needs and security is people that were in the middle somewhere, but then the importance just shifted up.”Declining MotivatorsMeanwhile, other intrinsic motivators declined between 2018 and 2022: autonomy, competition, feedback, innovation, progress, and rationality.People with the autonomy motivator want to develop and preserve financial freedom and be able to do things in a way that makes sense for them. They strive for independence in decision-making and time management. There was a 9% decrease between the fourth quarter of 2019 and second quarter of 2022, perhaps as a result of autonomy needs being over-satisfied by the increased prevalence of remote work during the pandemic.“Most people in the time of remote work and work from home probably had more autonomy than they've ever had,” said Kay.  “A need has been over-satisfied for a lot of people. I’ve had more autonomy than I perhaps need and now I need a little bit more structure.”However, because there was only a 9% decrease, it’s a stat worth keeping an eye on in the future.Competition is the second most common top motivator, but saw a decline from 66% in the third quarter of 2019 to 51% in the fourth quarter of 2022. People with the competition motivator are attracted to challenges and competitive situations and enjoy testing themselves against others to determine their level of success.“These I find quite interesting, because, sure there’s a Covid explanation, but I actually miss the competition. I have high competition. I've been craving that,” said Chad Lafferty, VP of global sales at Attuned. “Me being in the office and around people a little bit more has been very very helpful just because competitive people tend to play these little games in their head, right? Like, ‘I’m going to do this just a little bit faster and nobody else knows that you're doing it but you’re constantly competing.”Feedback falls in the middle of the pack among top motivators, and took a deep fall during the pandemic. It reached an all-time high of 52% in third quarter of 2019, and an all-time low of 39% in the fourth quarter of 2022. People who are motivated by feedback need evaluation and recognition in all areas of life, but especially to validate their work efforts and reinforce a sense of worth.Kristine Ayuzawa, Attuned’s director of people operations, wondered if new tech and virtual workplaces have filled a need for feedback, with standard one-on-one meetings and feedback forms. The environment we work in and the tech we use can influence our motivators over time.Added Wahl: “I've talked about how emotions change our values as well, but it’s also a lot from our environment. So what are we experiencing day to day and how is the environment changing our behavior and our habits? All that kind of sinks in and affects our values.”Innovation and progress also took hits during the pandemic. Innovation saw an all-time high of 59% in the second quarter of 2018 and an all-time low of 33% in the the second quarter of 2022, although it did see an upward trend in the second half of 2022.The Attuned team hypothesizes that this decline might be related to many people and companies switching from a promotion focus to a prevention focus. This shift often happens in times of uncertainty and stress. People begin to value stability more and take fewer risks.On the other hand, some people thrive on innovation during economic downturns.“When you get into downturns or recessions, it’s when they say generational startups are created,” said Wahl. “I wonder if that’s partly because there’s less competition, less people chasing ideas, less people pursuing ideas that they stand out.”Progress took a similar downturn from an all-time high of 60% in the second quarter of 2018 to an all-time low of 35% in the second quarter of 2022. People motivated by progress are driven to acquire new skills, expand their knowledge, and grow personally and professionally.Progress might be less important right now as people are burned out in many areas of life, the Attuned team thought. Coming out of a global pandemic and facing a recession can make it difficult for people to want to pursue growth.“It's just a differentiation in where people are putting their attention and what's going to be most critical to them,” said Ayuzawa. “I'm curious to see where things go as things improve.”Lastly, rationality took a strong downturn from an all-time high of 45% in the first quarter of 2019 to an all-time low of 23% in the third quarter of 2022. Rationality is the rarest of all top motivators. People motivated by rationality are attracted to logical, objective, and scientific methods and processes. “You can come up with all kinds of rational explainations for stuff but it doesn’t necessarily lead to emotion,” said Wahl. “So people’s emotions are being affected in different ways. My finances are killing me, my credit cards are maxed out, the interest rates are going up, and I feel that emotional pian every single day. Whereas something like rationality might not drop that chemical bond in your head to move your values there.”The Most Steady MotivatorsThree motivators largely stayed the same over the course of 2018 to 2023: altruism, social relationships, and status.People with the altruism motivator are grounded in the desire to help, support, and maintain the well-being of others and crave mutual support and encouragement in their workplace. It’s the fourth-most-common top motivator, and displayed only a 6% difference in its minimum and maximum values during this time period.Social relationships also stayed fairly steady, with an all-time high of 46% in the second quarter of 2018 and all-tme low of 38% in the fourth quarter of 2022. People with the social-relationships motivator need frequent and mutual social interactions and want to belong to a group. The status motivator can be defined as a desire for reputation, recognition, and respect, along with continuous progress through the ranks. It’s the fifth-most-common of all motivators and its average scores rarely changed between the first quarter of 2018 (53%) and the fourth quarter of 2022 (49%).“The reality that we are social creatures and the reliance we have on other people and wanting to know where we stand in the pack is something that’s probably pretty deeply engrained in us just as humans,” said Ayuzawa. Wahl agreed, positing that the need for social relationships, working for the common good, and being respected are perhaps core human traits.“Slightly above half of the population has these deeper needs for connectivity,” he said. “Maybe those are deeper, stable human desires and we’ve kind of evolved psychologically to get to this point.”Addressing Intrinsic MotivatorsEmployers and managers can use their teams’ intrinsic motivators to help shape their work environments and communications with them to drive engagement and output. However, some motivators are easier to affect than others.For example, the two motivators that saw an increase in popularity over the last few years: security and financial needs, are hard for individual managers to address.“I think talking about financial needs, even though I’ve been running companies and stuff, it's never so easy,” said Wahl. “It’s personal, and people have emotional attachments to it.”However, it’s still possible for companies to address these motivators in the way they offer benefits, their workflows, and their company cultures. For instance, employees motivated by security will feel more motivated when they know what’s expected of them and how a project will play out than they will if there are no standard workflows in place and they’re not so sure of their role.Ultimately, addressing intrinsic motivators will not be a one-size-fits all application. Everybody’s motivators are different, so companies need to find different ways to address different people’s needs.“Finding ways to not necessarily get everybody looking the exact same way–not looking for alignment or everybody in the company to have the same motivators–but for ways to be able to tailor your communication as a leadership team so you can understand each other and appreciate the different perspectives people are bringing to their work is increasingly recognized as being really valuable,” said Ayuzawa.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks its partner, Attuned, for supporting this sponsor spotlight.Erika Riley is a Maryland-based freelance writer. (Featured image by RomoloTavani/iStock by Getty Images) 

Erika Riley | May 10, 2023

A Financial Literacy Plan That Works for Your Employees

In a job market where workers are ready to change jobs for a chance at higher compensation, employers are looking for ways to make their total rewards stand out. Financial wellness tools are becoming a more common feature of benefits packages—if you can’t raise pay, then you can help your employees make the most of their salaries.Why the new emphasis on financial wellness? Workers are preoccupied with money-related stress. More than three-quarters of Americans are anxious about their financial situation, according to a recent survey by Capital One and The Decision Lab, and 52% say they struggle to control their financial worries.“As these pressures start to mount on your employees, they’re going to be looking to you to help them get more guidance on how to build wealth and how to lose this debt,” said Russ Cloughen, an account executive at financial advising company Betterment, during a recent From Day One webinar titled “How to Build a Financial Literacy Plan for Employees.”Everyone is feeling the financial squeeze at the moment. “You’re all being asked to do more with less to retain talent, support diverse teams, and keep productivity high,” said Cloughen about employers’ current predicament. “Employees are essentially doing the same thing.”Companies are in a prime position to help lighten the load, and it’s expected of them. According to Betterment’s own data, Cloughen pointed out, 65% of workers said they expect their employer to offer more financial support than before the pandemic.Betterment's Nick Holeman and Russ Cloughen led the webinar during Financial Literacy Month (photo by From Day One)Templatized financial advice isn’t helpful. Some workers need to prioritize retirement savings and some need to focus on paying down student debt, others need to downsize while planning to send kids to college. Economic concerns change too, and financial wellness tools need to keep up. For instance, workers have shifted their financial priorities since 2020, now working toward saving for retirement and paying down student loan debt more than they did before the pandemic, according to Betterment’s survey.Cloughen and his colleague, Nick Holeman, who is Betterment’s director of financial planning, recommended employers provide financial tools that let employees seek the advice that helps them reach their personal goals. Still, many employers—and workers—think of financial advising as something for the wealthy, who have millions in the bank and even more bundled up in assets.“Everyone needs financial advice,” said Holeman. “It can be as simple as maxing out your 401(k) match, understanding Roth versus traditional [IRAs], or building a three- to six-month emergency fund.” Even within traditional financial goals, there are infinite variations in execution, like how to prioritize what to save for and where to invest when money is tight.Many of Holeman’s clients are just beginning to consider their finances strategically, “trying to figure out the first few steps that you need to take financially, whether it’s covering basic emergency expenses, maybe it’s just trying to contribute to your 401(k) for the first time.”Employers can consider financial wellness tools an opportunity for differentiation, said Cloughen. If you can’t offer a unique set of benefits to each individual employee, at least you can provide a package that can be personalized.People have come to expect personalization. Seventy-one percent of consumers expect companies to provide customized experiences, and 76% are unhappy when they don’t, according to a 2021 McKinsey report. It’s not surprising, then, that employers are looking for flexible benefits options.Employers have the chance to stand out among their peers, said Cloughen, noting that 83% of workers that Betterment surveyed view financial wellness benefits as a sign that their employer values them. “These are the things that are going to help you stand out.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Betterment, for sponsoring this webinar. Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance reporter and From Day One contributing editor who writes about the future of work, HR, recruiting, DEI, and women's experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Fast Company, Quartz at Work, Digiday’s Worklife, and Food Technology, among others. 

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | May 10, 2023

Nurturing Your Workforce With Inclusive Benefits

Health care, retirement, and leave benefits are still the most important benefits for the workforce in 2022, according to the most recent findings by SHRM. Companies ranked each benefit as more essential to offer now than before the pandemic.But benefits aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Not every employee will utilize or need the same benefits, and many might not even know about the benefits that are available to them. “Another big takeaway from this report and previous conversations... is that the emphasis is on making those offerings as inclusive as possible and personalized when they can be,” said Lydia Dishman, senior editor for growth and engagement at Fast Company.Dishman moderated the panel “How Inclusive Benefits Can Help Attract and Retain a Diverse Workforce,” during From Day One’s November Virtual Conference, “Making Your Company a Magnet for a Diverse Workforce.” The panel featured leaders from various industries, including fertility, wellness, and human resources.What Employees Want From Their EmployersThe panelists expressed that they’re seeing a wide range of employee concerns regarding health and well-being. Often these concerns overlap. In addition to working, many employees are raising children, taking care of other family members, grieving, and going through life changes. For these reasons, it’s vital to offer a diverse benefits package to satisfy all employees’ different needs.“It is critical that employers really message the support for all of these aspects of a person’s life,” said Lizzie Wright, Director of Consumer Success at Carrot Fertility, a company that employers can use to outsource fertility benefits. “So bringing an inclusive benefit, like fertility, as an example, says, ‘I’m not just going to give you money to support this, but I’m going to support the emotional component of this journey.’”In addition to signaling care and compassion through benefits, employees also want to feel understood by their employers and free to share challenging parts of their lives, said Singleton Beato, global executive vice president and chief DEI officer of McCann Worldgroup. For example, she wants women to feel comfortable discussing their challenges, whether they’re experiencing infertility or going through menopause.“The emotional state of our folks has become something that we talk about as leaders and that we focus on,” Beato said. “We focus on creating the conditions internally in each of our offices where employees feel that support.”Thus, creating a diverse benefits package involves the less “concrete” benefits employees might expect—like flexible schedules, compassion, and positive work culture—in addition to the more measurable pieces of benefit packages.“I think the opportunity we have is through policies, culture, and tangible benefits,” said Jessica Kim, co-founder and CEO of ianacare. “You have a very clear and visible way of saying what you actually want to bridge and what you want to support.”Another way to build support and inclusive benefits into the company’s culture is by empowering managers to be empathetic listeners and have the tools to help employees, even if that means directing them to somebody who might be able to help in a better capacity. “They are that source that people go to. And so it’s really about—for us—equipping managers with what they need, because we’re asking so much of them,” said McBride. “We’re not making clinicians out of them.”Deciding What Benefits to OfferSupporting employees also means offering help on the financial side beyond a salary and healthcare plan. Carol McBride, vice president of benefits at Mr. Cooper, says financial wellness workshops have been very successful with employees. Most of them have questions about the economic downturn. “People are trying to figure out, ‘How do I emerge after tapping into my retirement, when I didn’t want to?’ Or, ‘How do I just get started when I’m living paycheck to paycheck?’” McBride said.Many companies are extending the types of benefits they offer to benefit a wide range of employees. For example, Beato explained that McCann Worldgroup provides benefits for pet insurance and elder care.“What’s important is that you’re demonstrating that you respect the whole experience of your employee,” Beato said. “So by adding that benefit, you’re saying, ‘Look, it doesn’t matter if I don’t have a cat or a dog; I know that you have one. And it’s important to you.’”The panelists from top left, moderator Lydia Dishman, Singleton Beato, Lizzie Wright, Jessica Kim, and Carol McBride (photo by From Day One)Employers can also benefit from analyzing their employees’ demographics to understand better how they can help the most people. However, Kim cautioned against grouping people of specific demographics together and assuming they have the same needs across the board. She explained that, if “diversity” refers to reaching a number or a statistic, “inclusion” is the mindset of actually accommodating everybody.“When we think about diversity, we tend to center around the checkboxes, such as gender, age, and race, and we tend to build benefits around these assumptions that we think these types of employees need. And we’re obsessed with tracking it and making sure we have the right proportion,” said Kim. “But instead, we need to recognize that so much of people’s lives are untrackable,” involving “different lifestyles, family-care situations, socioeconomic factors, [and] life stages that don’t always match your age.”Mr. Cooper has used analytics and data to broaden the census files they keep for each employee and to create different “personas” that help define employees’ benefit needs. For example, personas can help differentiate people without kids from people with kids, people with dual incomes from people without dual incomes, students from non-students, renters from owners, and more.This data can help McBride and her colleagues get the right benefits for the right employees and make them aware of their options.“I may not get to improve my benefit line-up, but I sure can elevate and talk about and advertise what we’ve got,” McBride said.Looking at some statistics can also be helpful when uncovering groups that often go unnoticed. For example, Kim shared that about 20% of workers identify as full-time caregivers to family members, meaning they provide care for 20 or more hours per week on top of a full-time job. But these people are often overlooked in the discussion of benefits.Several panelists spoke about Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, helping their companies find where they need to improve benefits, either by offering new benefits or by advertising existing ones. For example, a working parents’ ERG might raise the need for more extensive daycare options. “Use ERGs and BRGs to bubble up key needs and concerns, because there’s a trust and authenticity already built in there. [They] can be a pulse of what’s happening beyond surveys and multiple-choice questions,” Wright said. “Then amplify those issues with specific town halls.”No matter how employers navigate their benefits offerings, one thing is clear: failing to offer a diverse package of benefits is to miss out in the talent race. “People want to work somewhere where they feel like all these aspects of their lives are welcomed,” Kim said, “[where] it’s all integrated, so they can do their best work.”Erika Riley is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

Erika Riley | May 09, 2023

Three Ways to Help Employees Overcome Health Care Barriers

Health care plays a complicated role in our country and even more complex roles in our workplaces. Privatized health care makes health care inequities commonplace, and often an individual’s ability to access quality health care is directly tied to their socioeconomic status. Employers have been stepping in for centuries to offer their American employees access to health care. But how can employers further level the playing field for their employees to ensure that they all have access to quality care?Dr. Anupam Goel, Senior Medical Director at Accolade, spoke on this topic during a From Day One webinar. Joined by Katie Blakemore, Marketing and Events Manager at Accolade, Goel discussed how employers can reduce health care barriers with or without the help of Accolade.Accolade is a personalized health and benefits solution that can dramatically improve the experience, outcomes, and cost of health care for employers, health plans, and their members. Compassionate advisors, clinical experts, and intelligent technologies allow Accolade to engage individuals and families at every stage of health care. Health care advocates help individuals understand their health holistically and make choices that fit their life and circumstances.Health care can be a considerable driver in talent acquisition, as job seekers look for employers committed to providing the benefits they care about most. In 2023, this means not only offering a good insurance plan but also helping employees overcome health care barriers.Health Care Inequities vs. DisparitiesTo understand what it means to provide greater access to health care, it’s important first to understand common barriers to health care. Goel explains that health inequities are the differences people might experience when interacting with the health care system based on characteristics that have nothing to do with their health, such as race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and geography. These health care inequities can then lead to health care delivery differences, leading to health care disparities. For example, a person who doesn’t own a car might not be able to access the same providers as someone with a car. A patient with a lower income might not be able to afford all the medications their provider prescribes them. Or, a health care provider might treat a patient differently than others based on their sexuality. Ultimately, employers cannot tackle these challenges independently; they’re deeply rooted in our economy, society, and health care systems. But Accolade has some ways to help. “At Accolade, we’re very excited about providing people with options. So you might say, ‘I just know these doctors in my neighborhood. Accolade, can you help me find other providers who might look like me, sound like me, or come from a place where I’m from, so that a better connection with my health care provider might make a difference in my long term care?’”To help address barriers to health care, Goel recommends these three steps to employers:• Use a health benefits strategy that actually improves engagement• Offer services that address access issues and experience challenges• Provide health care solutions that treat employees like individualsLet’s break down these three action items and how they can help employers with talent acquisition and retention.Use a Health Benefits Strategy That Improves EngagementEducating employees about the benefits available to them and how they can use them can help employees’ overall health and wellness. There are several ways to improve engagement with your health benefits strategy. Employers can remind their teams of the telehealth and mental health resources available to them, advertise their wellness programs, and publicly announce any new changes to the program. One way to help improve engagement with your health benefits strategy is to offer advocates through a program like Accolade. Advocates help individuals understand their symptoms and their providers’ treatment plans. Having a conversation with a trusted person (other than a doctor) who understands the nature of their benefits, copays, and coinsurance can help employees make more informed choices around their health care.“We find that to be very powerful, because in many ways, health care is so complex and so challenging. All the nuances about coinsurance, copay, and prior authorization can be very confusing,” Goel said.Offer Services That Address Access Issues and Experience ChallengesGoel’s second recommendation is to offer health care services that address your employees’ access issues and experience challenges. One of the best ways to address access issues is to provide telehealth services. Employers can check their telehealth service offerings with their health insurance providers. They can also partner with an additional service to provide their employees with more options. “I don’t think it’s going to be any employer’s individual job to get doctors to get back on telemedicine. Having said that, there are large companies across the country with nationwide networks to provide you access to telehealth no matter where you are,” Goel shared. “And no matter what time of the day it is. So we think that’s a real opportunity.”In addition to telehealth services, Goel recommends offering access to second-opinion services or centers of excellence. Second-opinion services allow employees to get a second opinion regarding a diagnosis or health care decision without seeking an entirely new provider.Meanwhile, centers of excellence are medical programs accredited to treat complex medical conditions while meeting the most rigorous quality, safety, and patient experience standards. They can help employees with a diverse range of needs.Some people also avoid health care owing to poor experiences or lack of access to doctors who match their demographics. While employers cannot necessarily do anything to change how many health care professionals, they can help their employees locate professional and responsible providers and increase access.“I think it’d be very difficult for any employer, on their own, to push for doctors or nurses to become more equitable in their interactions with patients. But as an employer, I think the first thing you can do is make a strong push around access,” Goel said. “Can I get members access remotely to services that they need? Can I give them mental health support?”Goel also recommends employers survey their employees about providers who went above and beyond in their care and make a list of providers to recommend to employees in the future. Then, you can use this list when renegotiating your health insurance plan by proposing a special payment system for those providers. “Money talks, and if a group of providers are identified by employees as providing superior service, we should acknowledge that and make a difference in how we pay for it,” Goel said.Provide Health Care Solutions That Treat Employees Like IndividualsTreating employees like individuals shouldn’t be groundbreaking, but the status quo has long been to see them as statistics, especially regarding health care benefits. Treating employees like humans with individual needs — rather than providing a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution — can help acquisition and retention.“We really take this to heart at Accolade. We think of you as more than a total of your insurance claims and all of that. We can figure out what the most important thing to you is by actually having a conversation,” Goel said. “Maybe smoking cessation is not the most important thing to you right now; maybe it’s just getting your medications paid.”Treating employees as individual humans can also help your company own up to its mission statement and core beliefs. Goel acknowledges that not every HR employee has the power to completely overhaul their company’s health care plans, especially when working with a limited budget. But putting time and money toward health care, even in small ways, can help signal your company’s values.Goel recommends asking, “If we are a company that cares about equality, and we say in our mission statement that it’s part of what we believe in, what does that look like? And how can we make that more possible?”A common misconception is that more complex or individualized health care has to be more expensive. This is not always the case, Goel says.“More complex does not necessarily equal more expensive,” he shared. “Advocacy might help our employees understand their health care better than if they were just seeing doctors month to month or whenever they have to go in.”Ultimately, offering employees health care solutions that work for them can be worth every penny you put into it, especially when employees feel invested in, cared about, and supported.“We like to think that everyone deserves someone to support them,” Goel said. “Our teams are happy to do that work. And we’re proud to say that we think advocacy is a part of every American’s right as a health care user.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Accolade, for sponsoring this webinar.Erika Riley is a Maryland-based freelance writer. 

Erika Riley | May 09, 2023

Looking for New Talent? Focus on Potential, Not Credentials

If a company is experiencing difficulties in acquiring talent, which many report to be the case today, a solution may reside in a simple change of approach: Broaden the search. Such a shift, particularly on the part of companies in the technology sector, where the need for talent is always on the rise, could prove a powerful elixir to the perceived talent shortage in the job market. It would also help address the lack of representation in the industry. For years, tech companies have cited “pipeline problems” as the reason why so few of their workers are women and people of color. But too-restrictive hiring processes with bloated prerequisites for candidates, such as the absolute need for a college degree, may also be to blame.“​​Companies who are still requiring college four-year degrees for a major set of jobs—they can still require that, [but] they’re just going to have a lot of open jobs,” said Kim Mitchell, VP of program strategy at NPower, a nonprofit that creates pathways to careers in tech for military veterans and young adults in underserved communities. “There are not enough people going to college to fill the demand for tech talent in particular, [and] as we look at the broad range of open jobs, the requirement for [a] degree is simply not going to allow someone to reach their goals.”Mitchell’s remarks were made during a recent thought leadership spotlight, “How Employers Can Get Out of Their Own Way in Measuring Talent.” Her advice, to tech companies and other organizations struggling to build a workforce, especially a diverse one, is to consider non-college graduates, young people and veterans who, in lieu of robust formal education, still boast desirable skill sets.“A degree is not always a proxy for someone’s ability and their aptitude, their competence and the skills that they’re able to demonstrate,” Mitchell said. “Just because you’re not on a path to college doesn’t mean you need to take a vow of poverty.”Kim Mitchell, VP of program strategy at NPowerDiplomas also don’t necessarily symbolize the grit a candidate might possess, or their motivation and potential commitment to a position. These are all character traits Mitchell said she’s observed in the talent that’s come through NPower over the years. She added that there are many trades and skills “in areas where individuals can obtain a set of credentials that are not necessarily a college degree.” NPower program participants, some of whom do have degrees–including veterans whom Mitchell described as “struggling with translating their transition to civilian life into a career”—get started with what Mitchell called a “behavioral-based interview.” This step helps determine the prospect’s level of interest in technology and willingness to commit to a career in the sector, as well as what experiences they’ve had that may be, according to Mitchell, “a proxy for skill similarity.”She said that 81% of NPower graduates—those who’ve earned industry-recognized certification—land a job in tech. But NPower isn’t done with them yet. The organization tracks their graduates’ progress and provides more advanced training and education, too, supplying them with the tools to achieve higher-level jobs.“And when employers open their doors and receive this talent, and they then create a culture that is receptive to individuals who may not have had the [traditional] path, but who are able to contribute as much, if not more, then you also have a greater level of commitment,” Mitchell said. “You also have someone who is willing to pay it forward and want[s] to pour [effort] into other young talent and entry-level talent.”Mitchell welcomes what she and others observe as a “skills-based movement” in labor, with a “de-credentialing of positions.” This pivot will not only open up more advancement opportunities for those already employed but also give previously ignored talent the chance to get started on a fulfilling career of productivity. And, in the face of a labor shortage, it will help companies struggling to staff get the talent they need, from sources traditionally perceived as unlikely. “Their focus is on what someone is able to do,” Mitchell said.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, NPower, who sponsored this thought leadership spotlight.Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books. (Feature photo: iStock by Getty Images)

Michael Stahl | May 08, 2023

What Women Want: A Future for Women’s and Family Health

Gender balance has been an issue in the workforce, well, forever. But more and more companies are pushing harder to move the dial. One way of ensuring that women apply for, are hired by, and remain with an organization is to focus your benefits package more on their needs – especially when it comes to health.“Because of Covid and other factors, women are exiting the workforce in greater numbers than men,” said Christine Geissler, head of HR for the global nutrition business at Reckitt, the makers of Enfamil infant formula, among other products. “To stop that loss we need to figure out how to better support women and families in the workplace.” That’s about more than just keeping the women you have happy in their jobs, said Mamta Elias, the vice president of strategy at Ovia Health, a women’s health and parenting benefit company. “The business case for a diverse workforce is clear, and we know benefits are an important piece of that equation,” said Mamta during a From Day One webinar on women's and family health benefits.What Are Family-friendly Benefits?Ovia recently surveyed working parents and employees of childbearing age about their existing benefits and where they could improve. Among the results:• Nearly 80% of respondents said they would gladly leave their current role for a lateral move to a company with better benefits. • More than 96% of respondents consider family-friendly benefits to be important. • 55% of respondents didn't consider their employer to be family-friendly.  • Most employers offer at least around three months of parental leave, which is at least partially paid.  • 44% of respondents said their leave was paid at 100%. • Only 22% of respondents said their benefits were easy to understand. • 63% didn't even know if they had family-friendly benefits like parental leave, adoption support, surrogacy benefits, or maternity support. • Respondents wanted digital tools for maternity support, perinatal mental health support, and pumping-friendly work environments.  • They also wanted financial support for childcare, as well as for caring for elderly or sick relatives. • They wanted support for all paths to parenthood, including surrogacy, adoption, and fertility assistance.Elias says the survey also asked which benefits matter the most. Flexibility was at the top of the list. Respondents also wanted fully paid parental leave of at least four months so that they wouldn’t have to drain their PTO and sick leave before tapping into parental leave. They wanted flexible scheduling, remote options, and gradual return-to-work options. And the desire for flexibility goes beyond postpartum: “People need flexibility, no matter what phase of their life or family building or family supporting they’re in,” Elias said.The full panel of speakers from top left, Christine Geissler of Reckitt, Hannah Wilkowski of BuzzFeed, Mamta Elias of Ovia Health, moderator Anna Maltby, and Dr. Jaime Knopman of CCRM (photo by From Day One)“There is a large spectrum of generations currently in or entering the workforce,” said Hannah Wilkowski, global director of benefits for BuzzFeed. Some younger people aren’t ready to start a family. But they may want to know more about contraception. Maybe they're new to a city and want to find a new OB/GYN. Being able to offer fertility benefits like IVF or egg freezing for those who are just starting their parenting journey can be as important as providing resources for those who are pregnant or have a young baby. There also needs to be attention to people entering menopause. “We want our employees to feel seen and heard,” she said. “Different people need different things. Providing the resources necessary makes their lives easier, and makes BuzzFeed a much better place to work for everyone.”Finding Solutions that WorksJamie Knopman, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist with CCRM, said there has been a huge shift in what employers cover. “Embryo and egg freezing used to be available only to couples and women when they were older, and only if they had the financial resources to do it,” she said. “I didn’t have $10,000 to freeze my eggs when I was 28, but I probably did when I was 40. But my eggs weren’t good by then. I could freeze all I want and they probably won’t make a baby.”Now, more companies help women take advantage of technology when they are younger. Then, when they are ready, those eggs are available if needed. The pandemic also exacerbated the push towards freezing eggs and embryos, in part because, as people sat at home alone or with their partner, they started to think more about what they wanted from life. “Women came in droves to freeze their eggs or to make embryos with donor sperm,” Knopman said. Sperm banks were tapped out for a while owing to the demand.Offering egg and embryo freezing provides options for families, Knopman said. While they may not be sure at 28 if they want to be a parent or carry a pregnancy, they won’t have to face fertility decline in their late 30s. They just need to open the freezer, pull out their 28-year-old eggs, and make a baby.Solutions can cost a lot of money, but Wilkowski said you can make a difference by looking at redundancies in the benefits you offer. Is something offered in two different places or with two different vendors? Are you paying for benefits that no one is using? Know what they use, what they like, and what they wish they had. What are the problems they are experiencing that keep them from being their best, most productive and engaged self at work? “When we understand the problems and perceived gaps, we can go find a solution,” she said. Geissler suggested that companies regularly evaluate what they spend and ensure that it aligns with the company’s vision and goals. Who do you want to attract and keep? Are you fixing a gender imbalance? Are you a company whose ethos and products have an obvious alignment with specific kinds of benefits? Since Reckitt is in the formula business, women’s, mothers’, and infants’ health had better be included in their offerings. “We over-index in supporting women and families. We support environments where healthy babies and families can thrive.” Reckitt offers 26 weeks paid parental leave, something that is vanishingly rare in the United States. “But we should over-index in that area because the importance of babies and families is our message.”Elias says that having an organization where women’s and family benefits are respected and utilized, and where everyone sees the value and importance of those benefits, requires having an open and supportive work culture. “Everyone understands the ways in which women's and family health can impact people's personal and professional lives. We need to highlight why this should matter to all of us in an organization.”Lisa Jaffe is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle with her son and a very needy rescue dog named Ellie Bee. She enjoys reading, long walks on the beach, and trying to get better at ceramics.

Lisa Jaffe | May 08, 2023

Changing Women’s Health Care Through Grit, Grace, and Humor

Women and people of color who have experienced any sort of health issue know that our standard of care is somewhat abysmal.“We don’t deserve a second-class medical system just because we were seen as second-class citizens for such a long time,” said Surbhi Sarna, Y Combinator partner and author of Without a Doubt: How to Go From Underrated to Unbeatable.“I wanted other people to understand the importance of women's health,” Sarna told moderator Rosalie Chan, senior tech editor of Insider, in a fireside chat at From Day One’s 2023 Silicon Valley conference. Sarna said the experience of turning her health scare into a success inspired her “to change the state of women's health care.”The Journal of the American Heart Association concluded in 2022 that women were less likely to be admitted when presenting chest pain in the emergency department. The study also confirmed that women and people of color waited longer to be seen by physicians.Sarna had an ovarian cancer scare in high school and suffered from debilitating pain. It took months for medical professionals to tell her she had a complex ovarian cyst. Grappling with invasive blood tests and ambiguous ultrasounds, she was left with the options of surgery, the possible side effects of a biopsy, or allowing the mass to dissolve independently.Ultimately learning it was not cancer, Sarna wanted to make a change in the world of women's health and began working on raising capital to create a first-in-kind microcatheter for the detection of ovarian cancer.“And so the idea was born,” she said. “But women's health in 2010 was the least sexy area for raising venture capital. So, talk about being doubted! I always had to go in front of a room of men and say the word vagina because it's part of women's health.”Sarna says that responses to this clinical term were perplexing, with men leaning either in or out. In addition, the fundraising process was nightmarish, with people telling her that women’s health was “bikini medicine.” Nevertheless, she proceeded.“It took me a year to raise $250,000 to build a prototype,” she said. “Doubters even said the market size was too small. Yeah, women only make 50 percent of the population – tiny market size.”Additionally, it was difficult to attract male engineers to the project of creating a women’s health device with a young female chief executive officer at the helm.“Eventually, I did find a team who believed in it,” Sarna said.She recalls that the strategy of putting fear into her donors' hearts finally worked.“If they didn’t invest in me, they would miss out,” she said. “I told them nobody else understood this disease state as well as I did and that I could write a textbook on it. Of course, the first several checks written were all from women, but women who believed in it.”Sarna’s doubters only motivated her more, driving her to raise $20M in venture funding and to complete three clinical trials with two first-in-class FDA approvals. The result: nVision Medical, which developed the first microcatheter for the identification of ovarian cancer. In 2018, Sarna sold the corporation to Boston Scientific for $275M, more than 15 times the money invested and one of the most significant exits in women’s health. She stayed on for the following two years, running the organization in preparation for its inception. “It was a very proud moment for all of us,” she said. “But I realized I wanted more people to understand the importance of women's health, and I wanted more examples of women leaders out there reaching for their dreams.”As a woman of color raising capital in tech and medicine, Sarna is candid about her experience of navigating structural biases and her struggle with self-doubt in her book.“I wanted to be honest about the challenges, what it was like to fundraise as a woman, and then to be pregnant, and then have a one-year-old at home at the time of the exit,” she said. Sarna says the unconscious bias and sexism she experienced in raising capital fortified her and fueled her courage to speak up for other women. “Before, I might not have felt comfortable to call it out,” she said. “And now if I’m in a roomful of men, and they're talking over another woman, I just say, ‘Sorry, Bob, I think Sally was speaking.’”Currently, as a partner with Y Combinator, where she invests in early-stage companies or startups, Sarna says changing corporate values are at the forefront of their work. “Leaders of companies are revisiting their values and having open discussions about them,” Sarna remarked. “All of us know that culture happens one way or another, by accident or by design.”Sarna says that, in times of turbulence, employees return to cultural values, which are a company's glue. “Values are the light at the end of the tunnel,” she explained. “ They keep you going and remind everybody why they are there in the first place, why the companies work matters, and why they matter.”Rosalie Chan of Insider interviewed Surbhi Sarna during the From Day One session (photo by David Coe for From Day One)As someone who built her ladder to her success, Sarna says that having strong values to return to while raising money for capital was necessary. “I can't tell you how many times I talked about this in the book,” she said.In light of news about Theranos risking patients’ health by misrepresenting the accuracy of blood analysis technology and defrauding investors, Chan asked Sarna how she assesses due diligence as a partner. “What I’ve come to realize after working with the hundreds of founders is that the vast majority just aren't like that,” Sarna said. “Most of us have gotten into health care because we hope to make a difference to patients.”Sarna does intrinsic motivation sessions with her founders at Y Combinator. The sessions are based on the neuroscience of our spontaneous tendency to be curious, seek out challenges, and gain knowledge without rewards. These gifts will keep you going in the face of obstacles and doubt.“When everything is falling apart, your data doesn't come out the way you want, or your current investors aren't willing to write you another check,” she said. “What keeps you going? What is that intrinsic motivation?”Sarna says the latest session with her team was very emotional because many members were personally impacted by issues related to health care in one way or another. “They fundamentally want to create positive change in the ecosystem,” she said. “So, I'm not blind to what has gone on around us; I remain very optimistic about the mentality of most founders, especially in the health care and life sciences space.” Chan asked Sarna, a founder in biotech without a medical background, how she assembled the right team. Although Sarna graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied molecular and cellular biology and bioengineering, she does not have a medical degree. Sarna says she started with her previous boss, Paul Graham. The initial meeting was uncomfortable, but Sarna suggested he consult with her and try it out. After a couple of months, the partnership was sealed and the company was off to a good start. “I think you need to remember that the reputation you build is so important, especially right now, on top of all these layoffs,” Sarna said. With a strong partnership and an established team, Sarna and her colleagues were methodical about their cultural values. For example, employees needed to enjoy working, not just show up for a paycheck, and to have a good sense of humor. “We wanted people who would take the work seriously; don’t take yourself as seriously,” Sarna said.From that point, Sarna says the team had a good understanding of their cultural values, technical skills, and the operational skill sets the work required.“The combination was just magical for us,” she said. “We had an extremely high retention rate after that, because when it fits, it fits.”There were mistakes along the way, Sarna admits. “I once hired someone who kept calling the word vagina a ‘hoo-ha,’” she said. “They were the Head of Clinical, and needless to say, that hire did not work out.”Still, Sarna says that these experiences helped everyone stay clear on their commitment to their values. “It cemented our values even more,” she said. “And whenever we tried to move outside our values, it didn't quite work for us.”Chan asked Sarna how Y Combinator supports startups in developing healthy cultures. “Being a founder is an incredibly hard job; a lot rests on your shoulders,” Sarna said. “But one of the advantages is that you can be deliberate about the culture from day one, and it can be an extension of yourself.”Sarna says that corporate values and culture are concepts you feel and live naturally, but that they need to be talked about and revised, so the company walks its talk. “If you have a cultural value of integrity, or you are holding yourself to high standards when it comes to handling data, it extends into how you make choices,” she said. Ending with the trending topic of layoffs in the tech industry, Chan asked Sarna how she thought this would impact the startup ecosystem. “It takes one door closing before you can even notice another one's open,” Sarna said. “And I think that a lot of the engineering talent that has been let go in the valley is thinking, ‘Maybe now it's time to pursue that dream I had of starting another company or bringing this innovation to life.’”Y Combinator sees over 17,000 applications twice a year. “Right now is a great time to do a startup, because it takes seven to 10 years to build a good, solid company,” Sarna said. “Even though I can't crystal ball what the economic climate will be then, it may be better than now.”Krista Sherer is a strategic communications consultant with a background in journalism and corporate communications. She resides in Sebastopol, Calif. 

Krista Sherer | May 05, 2023