It’s All About The People
Andrea Herron 00:02
Have you ever wondered how a company is able to offer unlimited time off or be a pet friendly office? Curious how HR leaders manage the well being of remote or essential workforces? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Hi, I’m Andrea Herron, head of people for WebMD health services. And I’d like to welcome you to the HR Scoop. On this podcast, I talk with other HR leaders to explore the world of unique employee benefits, and about the challenges of managing unique workforces. Because well being isn’t a one size fits all approach.
On this exciting episode of the HR scoop, I’m so pleased to be joined by Amy Steadman, the Chief People Officer at new front, she shares tips on how to create a more inclusive workplace, the cultural benefits of employee resource groups, and you will not want to miss her advice on how to lay the groundwork for larger corporate HR initiatives.
Amy Steadman 01:02
I love my job, because of what it allows me to do every day work with people create an environment where people can do their best work and feel excited about being a part of something that brings a lot of professionals together for a common purpose. I think that is just really what makes each day were worth arriving.
Andrea Herron 01:23
Oh, that’s great. And you know, culture is always one of those big words that’s hard to define. So when you can actually have a strong culture, that is a differentiator, that definitely means you’re doing something, right. And part of that, I believe, is your DNI groups and focus that you all have very intentionally taken. Um, so I’m curious, if you have, you know, for other HR leaders out there who might be interested in starting something or really committing to being more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, you know, do you have a little bit of information or backstory you could share about how those groups came to be? Or even what implementation looks like for those who may not really know what to do or how to go about it?
Amy Steadman 02:09
We created a really specific DNI Council, when we reached out to select people that were really engaged, committed, but also willing to roll up their sleeves and work on setting the foundation. We wanted it to be working Council, not a council that sort of talked about DNI and what’s wrong or not? Right, but who could help us create the path forward to move us to a new, a new place? So the council worked on things that I think a lot of people might think, oh, gosh, that just sounds so like, so much work, a charter, you know, a mission statement, establishing ground rules, like some really meaty, but foundational work. And, excuse me, we spent almost a year on just that.
Andrea Herron 03:03
So I love what you’re saying about finding people who want to get involved, because something I have noticed is that people are feeling somewhat disempowered or unsure about how to make a difference. And they want not control over the situation, but they want to feel like they can do something. And when there’s not an immediate thing they can do in their personal life or in their community. You know, sometimes that comes out in at work, sometimes it comes out at work in ways we like, sometimes it comes out at work in ways we do not like that we don’t like when people are trying to assert power and authority inappropriately just because they need to feel that. So by giving people a place to put it a container, a charter, something productive that they can work on. I think that is a really interesting perspective and approach and one that we may not just naturally think of, because it might be too big, or we don’t want to put that on people. But honestly, the world has been so upside down and uncertain that they like people do want to get involved. And if you don’t give them a place to do it, they’re gonna just find a way and it may not be the way you want. So maybe that’s an idea.
Amy Steadman 04:23
No, it’s a really good point. And I think that’s where all that ground work that we did with the charter and identifying very specific program areas. And, you know, writing it out in great detail and overviewing it and making sure that it was truly representative of how we felt and meant to continue was just so impactful. And it was the it became the gonna say model or template for what each of our ERG s our employee resource groups could use them as a launching pad to take those fundamentals. And then to your point productively and proactively and actively launch programs for the for employees to participate in for all of this to become really, really visible. So after that first year, and when we had our charter established and all that, we opened up with an example, our first ERG was our women’s erg. And we opened it up with a huge launch and lots of really specific tactics and programming and plans, so that everyone could look back and say, Okay, that’s what a successful ERG looks like. And it got so much momentum. And within months, we had a first gen ERG kicking off a remote worker ERG kicking off our black and add ERG kicking off, and many more in the queue. So now we have so many args and more in the queue. And they they are they have become, you know, the crux of not just our D and I efforts, but our culture.
Andrea Herron 06:14
Well, no, so that’s not forced, right. I mean, I think that’s something that’s really great about employee resource groups. One, I think your organization is proving you don’t have to be 1000s and 1000s of employees to have them think that’s a misconception that people think we’re not big enough. And that’s not true. But also you’re giving the power back to the people to decide how they want to spend their time what they want to focus on. You know, and I must admit, I have tried to start these a few times in my career, and it’s off to a great start a lot of engagement at first, and then it kind of peters out. So I’m wondering if you have any tips, ideas, or just what you’ve seen to keep that momentum going to keep people kind of energized in the employee resource group or not to let it just fall by the wayside as people get busy, or it’s, you know, really hectic season and the work and that keeps getting pushed and pushed on account, do you support keeping the momentum going?
Amy Steadman 07:11
Well, I you know, I want to, I want to attribute it all to the leaders of the ERGs. Because I, I truly believe they make the difference. Because that because it is homegrown, we’ve opened it up and said, Okay, if if you’re inspired, if you’re motivated, bring your ERG ideas will help support you will give you the tools, the you know, the background, whatever you need, we’ll help you build this, just giving that support has really made a difference to the leaders. And then because they’re coming in on their own there, they really aren’t inspired, and that bringing on all the other employees that the momentum takes off. The other thing that I think we’ve done that really helps keep people engaged is putting a spotlight on it. So at each of our town halls, for example, we have a moment or more depending on what kind of content or energy the ergs have have delivered, or have going on a spotlight on those ERGs. What are you doing what what has happened recently, sometimes it’s even just tell us about the history of voting in America for the black community. And so it’s an education presentation. And we actually share that at our all hands and every employee gets to get the benefit of learning from their ERG leaders and, and then that creates more allies who want to join the ERGs. And then they want to lead the program. And it just it just carries forward
Andrea Herron 08:45
kind of a self feeding cycle there. I do like the idea of making space in company meetings to showcase things. And I think that that idea, you can expand even beyond DRGs. But really adding the visibility. And again, that enthusiasm and that excitement that not only are we doing it, but we’re really proud of what we’re doing, and we want to share what we’re doing. And we want to keep it going. So I do. I do love that.
Amy Steadman 09:10
And we want everyone to chime in. And I will say one of the one another really inspiring outcome of the work that the ergs do at the town halls is the you know, the chat that you see in the in the Zoom meetings because of course this is all still virtual. But the chat that you see in the Zoom meetings, the comments that people make the enthusiasm that you know, how do I how do I join the group, it just it. It takes on a whole new life and it’s so energizing.
Andrea Herron 09:42
I do love the chat. Awesome. Well, you also mentioned earlier, kind of the role that the social unrest has played. And I’m wondering how that impacted your culture or if it was foundational or in any way Like added to or contributed to the culture or made you do things differently,
Amy Steadman 10:04
it really was the impetus for what became our standard opportunity for having the ergs speak to the entire company at our, at our town halls. And just shortly after the George Floyd incident, we asked many of our black colleagues to address the whole company, and help us understand and empathize and be better allies in the face of that, and it was perhaps one of our most moving and connecting town halls. And people still refer to it to this day, you know, that really brought us together as an organization in a way that we wouldn’t think an organization could couldn’t be. And we were prepared then as a, as an organization to respond to what next as, as that as the rest of the social unrest unfolded. And as people were feeling so angst and upset and uncertain about what that meant, we were, we were not reacting we were, we were acting, we were active, instead of trying to figure out what to do. And I think it felt to all our employees to know that, that they had that space, and they could bring their feelings. And we we were trying our best to understand as
Andrea Herron 11:41
a collective. Yeah, so the two things I’m taking away from that example, which is, you know, lovely. And I’m glad that it was such a good experience. You know, the two things I’m thinking about are just being genuine and authentic and able to learn. So keeping that open learner mindset across the company, is super helpful. And then also just the importance of ongoing communication and giving different people a voice in ways that we just really haven’t done in the past
Amy Steadman 12:13
and setting people up to be allies. What does that mean? And how can you? How can you be a proactive ally? How can you be a thoughtful ally. And that really became a goal for so many of our colleagues who maybe hadn’t hadn’t really even thought about that before. And then what became kind of most important to everyone is playing a role as an ally.
Andrea Herron 12:40
Yeah, and the other thing that’s bringing up for me is that for a lot of us, or people who haven’t really implemented something like this in their workforce, it can be very overwhelming and feel just so cumbersome, like I don’t even know where to start. It’s so big, therefore, analysis paralysis, I can’t start. But what I’m hearing you say is that it was a bite sized chunk at a time, which then laid the groundwork and was proactive for, you know, when other things came up, you were able to better integrate them and roll with it and add because you had some layer of foundation, even if it was the one opportunity at the townhall, that was taken to address it in a genuine way, open the door to have more probably micro and mini conversations along the way that you could kind of keep more of a balance versus trying to tackle diversity and inclusion in one meeting. Nobody can do that.
Amy Steadman 13:35
Nobody can do that size. Yeah, well, and we did, we did actually focus on members of the team with training and tools, we did have the opportunity to bring a group called awaken into our organization. And they had a four part series with our managers. And fortunately, and again, this is that, you know, this is one of those things like it was terrible timing, and then Great timing at the same time. But fortunately, we had conducted that training, you know, just prior to 2020. And so managers had been through coaching and training about exploring identities and thoughtful ally ship unconscious bias, and even D biasing feedback. So there, there was a fair amount of primer that we had given to our managers, and we had a good population of managers, then we were able to create our own unconscious bias training, you know, post, the, all of this so that we could really integrate it throughout the whole company. So training was a big training and mentoring, I should say, was a big opportunity as well. Yeah,
Andrea Herron 14:51
that’s great. And again, it’s little steps you took along the way that rolled together to make a bigger impact. So that’s good for all of us. to remember, and then, you know, also kind of related, unrelated, you know, you are part of a benefits brokerage. So one thing I am curious about related to the topic of, you know, diversity concerns is kind of that gap in what types of care what providers, you know, how people are feeling comfortable accessing services, or what they’re able to access that’s relevant for them can get really large, that gap can get big if you’re not paying attention. So, you know, do you have any perspective from the industry of how we should think about or make sure that those diverse needs are being considered when we’re looking at offering and designing and up leveling our benefits packages?
Amy Steadman 15:44
Yeah, I have, I’ve had the opportunity to see that from two sides, right. So I’m the I’m the CPO for our organization. And so as we are looking at things through our own DNI, Lens, we’re looking at our own company, it’s easy to, we know our demographics, we know what our people need, we survey them and ask them and so we can do a bespoke, we can just put spoke programming and benefits plans for our team. But as a broker, you know, what we what we want to help our clients do is take that same lens for each of their organizations, and then across the industry, really, I think, I think it really is about making DNI, the lens that you look through at every stage of the benefits program development. And to the extent that, as a broker, we’re able to do that for our clients. We’ve been really trying to do that. And sometimes it’s about just guiding the clients to go down their own DNI path, which often leads them to say, Okay, well, back to your to your original question. Okay, well, how do I do that? Right? How do I do that? So really, the benefits can be the impetus to look at DNI more broadly. But it is something that I think every employer needs to look at as a practical matter,
Andrea Herron 17:07
right. And just to that point, some have perhaps been doing it for a while, but for a lot of people, they haven’t necessarily taken that lens ever, or maybe this past year was the first time because now we’re factoring in what is Tella supportive, you know, what is remote supportive? What is mental health look like? What is different providers would have people want and need, I think it’s become more common to even ask those questions question, which is great. And I think that’s the right direction. And I’m really happy we’re moving that way. Instead of just what we had that last year, here was our rates. Here’s what we paid here was, you know, what we expected. And let’s just keep that the same. I really think it’s a was a renaissance that feels like wildly over the top. But I think maybe it’s just a new way to think about how we approach benefits out of necessity, but hopefully also with the lens of DNI because that’s so important.
Amy Steadman 18:04
Well, what it does is it opened up what, what are benefits, it is a huge, a huge list of opportunities and areas that a broker now, or you know, an employer and then a broker supporting an employer can factor into what it benefits programs entail. Childcare. Right childcare is now one of the main issues or areas that our clients are looking for guidance, you know, what can we offer our, our employees when it comes to child care, because that is something they need help and support with in order to be able to work to their highest and best value every day. They’ve got they’ve got this to factor in and that is now a part of the puzzle of an employee total rewards package. Not something I don’t know, I don’t know about you. But that’s not something that was top of mind four years ago, we were kind of on our own to figure that out. And now I think an employer needs to be really mindful about factoring that in you mentioned mental health. That was a huge one this year. I don’t this year and the year before, I don’t think that was something brokers thought about. And now we are really, I know, our account executives, our teams are really looking at what can we offer to our clients because that is part of the total package and it is as important if not more important than some of the other more traditional benefits.
Andrea Herron 19:39
Yeah, one size definitely does not fit does not fit all, not even remotely anymore. So I’m glad to see the industry moving that way. It’s another reason I thought it would be really great to have you on because you do have that dual perspective of I have to set it up for my own staff and also you know, am seeing what’s happening out in the market. So I don’t know if there were any other trends or things popping up that that you’re saying that might be interesting to share kind of out in the general benefits space.
Amy Steadman 20:09
Wellness is obviously a major driver and wellness now encapsulating so much more than fitness and nutrition, right? It’s such a bigger, a bigger arena. And it does, it does tend to become the umbrella for all the other benefits. Like if we are focusing on an employee’s wellness, all these other pieces fit into that puzzle, the the medical, the dental that, you know, that is a piece of the total picture. And so, you know, wellness and creative wellness, because it does mean different things to different people, you know, somebody’s financial acumen. And their ability to set themselves up financially also becomes part of that equation. It’s it’s just a much bigger picture than it used to be.
Andrea Herron 21:02
It’s almost as though we’re realizing that the humans that come to work are actual full human
Amy Steadman 21:08
humans. Yeah, thanks. So
Andrea Herron 21:13
I think that’s the right right way to move. So thank you for all of that great wisdom and perspective. Really appreciate it. And before we let you go, I always like to ask our guests to share something with us that people may not know about you, because you are human. After all, we just established this. So what’s something that people may not know about you?
Amy Steadman 21:37
Well, it’s something that people don’t know about me, I live with. I have a husband and two daughters. And they are all athletes. They are talented athletes, they have eye hand coordination. And I do not. And my only claim to keep up with them is being able to run long distances in a straight line. So I am a embarrassed member of an athletic family. How’s that?
Andrea Herron 22:11
There you go. I can maybe even relate to that. Awesome. Well, you know, somebody, somebody is going to be there to cheer everybody on. It’s a very important role.
Amy Steadman 22:23
That’s right. That’s right. That’s my role.
Andrea Herron 22:26
All right. Well, thank you again, so much for your time. It was great chatting with you today, and we’ll see everybody next time. Thanks. Thank you for listening to the HR scoop podcast. Please take a moment to rate and subscribe on Spotify, Apple, Google, or directly at WebMD health services.com/podcasts