Workplace MVP: Robyn Smith, Jackson Healthcare
Robyn Smith, Executive Vice President of Human Resources for Jackson Healthcare, was the Workplace MVP on this episode. Robyn detailed the challenges Jackson Healthcare has faced throughout the pandemic and those that are ongoing, and the steps her company took to support the mental and physical well-being of its associates. She and host Jamie Gassmann discussed the creative solutions Jackson Healthcare has implemented, including virtual events, in-person events when they returned to the office, support for the challenges associates may be facing, the need for empathy, and much more.
The Jackson Healthcare companies provide healthcare systems, hospitals, and medical facilities of all sizes with the skilled and specialized labor and technologies they need to deliver high-quality patient care and achieve the best possible outcomes — while connecting healthcare professionals to the temporary engagements, contract assignments, and permanent placement employment opportunities they desire.
Headquartered in metro Atlanta, they’re powered by more than 1,700 associates and over 15,000 clinician providers covering all 50 U.S. states.
Their mission is to improve the delivery of patient care and the lives of everyone we touch. This includes the patients, clinicians, and healthcare executives they work with through their companies every day, as well as their communities, the nonprofit organizations they support and each associate who is part of their family.
Robyn Smith, Executive Vice-President of Human Resources, Jackson Healthcare
As executive vice president of human resources, Robyn Smith brings more than 25 years of experience to her role leading Jackson Healthcare’s corporate HR team. In her position, she sets strategy for talent acquisition, benefits, training and development, career pathing, succession planning, compensation, reward programs, and workplace policies. Since joining the organization, she has been a driving force in expanding its extensive associate professional and well-being offerings. During her tenure, Jackson Healthcare became Great Place to Work certified, has appeared in consecutive years on Fortune’s Best Workplaces in Healthcare and debuted as a Best Workplace for Women and Best Workplace for Millennials.
In 2020, Robyn received the “Great Place to Work For All Leadership Award” – and on the speaker circuit, she addresses wellness and culture topics at various events each year. She serves on the board of Connections Homes, is active in Peer 150’s Human Resources Group and Atlanta CHRO leadership, and volunteers with Open Hand Atlanta and Junior Achievement.
Robyn joined Jackson Healthcare following a successful HR career in the enterprise software space and in national healthcare and staffing firms. She is a graduate of Kennesaw State University and serves on the board of Coles Business School.
About Workplace MVP
Every day, around the world, organizations of all sizes face disruptive events and situations. Within those workplaces are everyday heroes in human resources, risk management, security, business continuity, and the C-suite. They don’t call themselves heroes though. On the contrary, they simply show up every day, laboring for the well-being of employees in their care, readying the workplace for and planning responses to disruption. This show, Workplace MVP, confers on these heroes the designation they deserve, Workplace MVP (Most Valuable Professionals), and gives them the forum to tell their story. As you hear their experiences, you will learn first-hand, real-life approaches to readying the workplace, responses to crisis situations, and overcoming challenges of disruption. Visit our show archive here.
Workplace MVP Host Jamie Gassmann
In addition to serving as the host to the Workplace MVP podcast, Jamie Gassmann is the Director of Marketing at R3 Continuum (R3c). Collectively, she has more than fourteen years of marketing experience. Across her tenure, she has experience working in and with various industries including banking, real estate, retail, crisis management, insurance, business continuity, and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications with special interest in Advertising and Public Relations and a Master of Business Administration from Paseka School of Business, Minnesota State University.
R3 Continuum is a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. R3c helps ensure the psychological and physical safety of organizations and their people in today’s ever-changing and often unpredictable world. Through their continuum of tailored solutions, including evaluations, crisis response, executive optimization, protective services, and more, they help organizations maintain and cultivate a workplace of wellbeing so that their people can thrive. Learn more about R3c at www.r3c.com.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting from the Business RadioX Studios, it’s time for Workplace MVP. Workplace MVP is brought to you by R3 Continuum, a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. Now, here’s your host, Jamie Gassmann.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:23] Hi, everyone. Your host, Jamie Gassmann, here and welcome to this episode of Workplace MVP. Since early 2020 and now into 2022, the workforce and work environments continue to experience shifts and changes. And that shifting and changing, for some, continues at a rapid or frequent pace. And some industries, such as healthcare, are experiencing shortages of staff and a limited candidate pool. While other industries are experiencing a delayed great resignation or, as some have called it, a reshuffle.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:56] Disruption has become a constant in our workplaces, resulting in leaders having to take a closer look at the support and resources they’re making available to employees. The workforce is not the same as it was pre-pandemic. Their view on work-life balance has shifted. Their expectations of their employer have grown. And what they need for support from their work life is different than what they would have needed pre-pandemic.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:22] How can employers keep up with the changes and move to a work environment employees can thrive in? How can they be creative to ensure the resources and tools they are making available to employees feels a value and appreciated?
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:34] Well, joining us today to share the out-of-the-box resources and tools her workplace has put into place for their workforce is Workplace MVP and Executive Vice-President of Human Resources at Jackson Healthcare, Robyn Smith. Welcome to the show, Robyn.
Robyn Smith: [00:01:50] Great. Thank you. It’s so wonderful to be with you today, Jamie. Thanks for having me.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:55] Yeah. We absolutely appreciate you being on. And I just want to start out by having you kind of walk us through your career journey, share with us how you got into H.R. and kind of that journey you’ve taken to becoming the Executive Vice-President of Human Resources at Jackson Healthcare.
Robyn Smith: [00:02:11] Sure. So, when I graduated from college, I always knew that I wanted to be in human resources. My mother was in human resources, and I loved people, so I thought that would be a great career for me. So, I started out my career in the staffing industry, and then I moved from there into the medical field and worked for a large physician group here in Atlanta doing a lot of merger and acquisition work. And then, I moved to an international publicly traded software company, and I had a large international team and we were in 17 different countries, so that was a wonderful experience.
Robyn Smith: [00:02:56] Then, the opportunity at Jackson Healthcare came up and I just thought, what a great match for me having the staffing industry experience, having the medical industry experience, and then having software and high tech experience. So, to me, it was the perfect marriage.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:03:15] Yeah, it sounds like it. And so, talk to me a little bit about what Jackson Healthcare does. What does it provide your clients with?
Robyn Smith: [00:03:22] Jackson Healthcare is a family of highly specialized healthcare, staffing search and technology companies. The mission is to improve the delivery of patient care and the lives of everyone we touch. Our companies provide hospitals and healthcare systems with the labor and technologies they need to deliver high quality patient care and achieve the best possible outcomes, while also connecting healthcare professionals to employment opportunities that they desire. Each year, we help thousands and thousands of healthcare facilities serve more than ten million patients across all 50 states.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:04:04] Wonderful. And so, looking at kind of the conversation you and I had before, your organization, you’ve seen a lot of growth over the last few years, even before COVID. And I think you’ve even had some even more growth since COVID. So, can you talk a little bit about what that growth has looked like and the impact that’s had in your role at Jackson Health?
Robyn Smith: [00:04:27] Sure. You know, being in the healthcare industry, the needs have been more and more, especially over the last two years specifically. And our business continues to grow. And I’ve been blessed to work for an organization that continues to grow. Since I’ve been here, Jackson has tripled in size. And so, what it means for our people, it’s just wonderful to see them grow and learn new things and new skills and prosper and share that. And we’re continuing to grow because healthcare is not going away. And if anything we’ve learned in the last couple of years, is, it’s at the forefront of everything.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:05:13] Yeah. And, you know, when I start these conversations with a new guest, I’m always looking at areas that really inspire passion and get you excited about the work that you do in kind of driving these conversations. And when we were talking in our pre-show call, you talked about being really proud of the work that your team has done. And there’s a lot of great work that you shared, and we’re going to be touching a lot on it as we kind of move through the show. But tell me a little bit about the work that you’re most proud of with your team. Let’s talk a little bit about that.
Robyn Smith: [00:05:50] Sure. I am unbelievably proud of our people, and our clinicians, and our physicians that we put to work each and every day. A lot of our associates and clinicians worked around the clock. And our people worked to deploy physicians and nurses to the frontline. They were actually saving lives. These were unprecedented times. And they continue to go above and beyond to help the physicians and the clinicians get to where they needed to be to help their coworkers. Everyone leaned into the process and they worked quickly to pivot from what maybe their normal day to day job was.
Robyn Smith: [00:06:34] We found new ways to meet ongoing needs and growing needs. A few examples of this is that we had receptionists, and because the business closed for a couple of months, we cross trained them to credential clinicians and put more and more clinicians out to work on the frontlines. And other associates took on multi-specialties in the healthcare arena so that they could ramp up quickly and get more clinicians to work to care for more patients.
Robyn Smith: [00:07:09] And then, our frontline workers, they were just amazing. They worked shift after shift, overtime, just helping when the pandemic hit its peak. Not complaining. They are our unsung heroes and we owe so much to them.
Robyn Smith: [00:07:31] Our mission is to improve patient care and the lives of everyone we touch. We met our mission on patient care and pivoting to saving patient’s lives each and every day. And during COVID, we really saw the impact of all this great work that was going on.
Robyn Smith: [00:07:49] Some of the things we did, we were first to set up an emergency department outside of a hospital in the epicenter in Georgia, which the outbreak was in Albany. We set up the World Congress Center for Overflow from hospitals for more patients. We set up drive-thru vaccine centers. All of these things have never been done, so we are learning and deploying and executing at real time each and everyday.
Robyn Smith: [00:08:20] The word proud does not do it justice for all of our people and everything that they have done. Their unyielding dedication and commitment to taking care of patients and saving lives has been unprecedented.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:08:35] Wow. That’s just really impressive. And the innovation, and the project management, and the kind of forward thinking and the immediate thinking that you had to do during that time to pull that off is is absolutely impressive. I can see where it’d be something you’d be proud to say you were a part of and able to support. That’s incredible.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:08:58] And so, looking at it and in addition to that, I mean, all the great work that your employees were doing as an organization, you were all so heroic in being able to put some amazing benefits in place to support your employees so that you could keep them helping with that by giving them aid for the school.
Robyn Smith: [00:09:22] I think you said that you brought in some tutors for the children for the schoolwork. And then, you had daycares that were shut down. Can you talk through the educational and childcare resources that you did put in place for your employees, that support that you gave them to kind of lift that strain off of them as they were navigating that so that they could stay focused on supporting patients.
Robyn Smith: [00:09:51] Sure. Sure. You know, when the pandemic first started, things were changing daily, sometimes hourly. And we realized very quickly that we really needed to lean in and help our associates and their families.
Robyn Smith: [00:10:07] So, what we did is we added part-time and drop in hours at our onsite childcare center. We had some extra space available, so that’s where we set up little pods so they could bring in tutors to help. There was a cluster of three or four or six students that they could learn, of course, social distancing. But the cubes were set up enough that they could do that, that they could help each other.
Robyn Smith: [00:10:39] We deployed teachers into associates’ home from our childcare center, which had never been done in the history of that company. So, we really worked hard to get that done because we needed to continue to deploy clinicians and physicians to the frontline. Our people still needed to work but their kids needed to be taken care of. We reserved spots at distant learning centers for older students so that they could continue to learn and be in a safe environment.
Robyn Smith: [00:11:10] We did Zoom calls to engage children who were home. There were stories that came out of this. We did story time. We did arts and crafts. We did kids yoga at a specific time every week so the parents could learn to depend on that time that their children would be occupied. So, if they had an important call to be scheduled or something along those lines, that would take care of it for them. We waived tuition and offered reimbursement for added virtual school costs.
Robyn Smith: [00:11:47] You know, nobody could have anticipated any of this. So, our workforce is 70 percent female, so we have a lot of families. And so, it was really important to us to pivot and come up with creative, out-of-the-box ways to think about things and think about it differently.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:06] Wow. I know when we talked and I’ve shared this with you, you know, I have school-aged children and I was that working mom juggling. And, of course, my spouse was home as well. But juggling that schoolwork, and learned very quickly that was not my calling to be a teacher. I do have a whole new level of appreciation for that job.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:31] But just the thought of having that lift, it brought back memories to me of navigating that. And then, I teared up just thinking of how wonderful that had to have been for the employees to be able to have that lift off their shoulders and they could just focus on their work. So, kudos to you. I think that’s absolutely impressive and amazing.
Robyn Smith: [00:12:53] Thank you.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:54] So, additionally, in your tenure at Jackson Healthcare, you had a clinic put onsite. So, I know you talked a little bit about the clinical resources that you’ve had onsite, but you put a clinic onsite, how did that help with supporting your employees during the highest point of COVID outbreak? And even now, what are you experiencing by having that clinic put onsite? How does that come to fruition of this support system that you probably maybe didn’t think of when you initially had the idea of putting that onsite?
Robyn Smith: [00:13:24] That’s absolutely correct. We put the clinic in a few years ago, and the onsite clinic, it provides both primary and preventive care to our associates and their families. So, as we pivoted into COVID and not knowing what we were dealing with everyday and, not only finding it difficult to get into the hospitals, but some doctor’s offices even closed.
Robyn Smith: [00:13:52] And so, we made a conscious decision early on that we wanted a safe place for our associates and their families to come that was non-COVID, if you will, so they could continue to get their prescriptions filled for their maintenance meds. If they had something other than COVID, they could come and they could be treated. And they were familiar with the staff. And so, even when the office closed for just a couple of months, the utilization on the clinic stayed up around 85 percent, which is just unheard of. And so, those clinicians came in everyday to serve our population.
Robyn Smith: [00:14:37] We also offered 24/7 telemedicine services. The clinic had to pivot to some telemedicine services, and they would do COVID diagnosis over telemedicine so that they could keep seeing the other patients in the actual clinic itself. And this allowed the associates and their families to connect with the physicians from home. And so, I think it really propelled the telemedicine journey forward.
Robyn Smith: [00:15:13] We were very purposeful not to provide COVID testing in the clinic. I bet I got that question everyday, why don’t we have COVID testing. And once again, it was because we wanted a safe place for our associates and their families to get continuous, ongoing care during the time when options were very, very limited.
Robyn Smith: [00:15:35] And then, when the vaccine came out, we started offering the Moderna vaccine to associates and their families, as well as the boosters. So, that was the only thing that we pivoted on with COVID is to help them, because in the early days, it was hard to get the vaccine. So, we were constantly looking at different things that we could do to provide more services to our associates and their families.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:16:03] And has putting that in place and kind of keeping it as a clinic that people can go to that’s non-COVID, has that helped to keep your utilization of it up at this point now too? I mean, did it create kind of knowledge of it?
Robyn Smith: [00:16:22] Yes. Yeah. So, it stays around 80 to 85 percent. It’s probably one of the number one benefits that we have here on campus, because there’s just such value. And we have a partnership with a local pharmacy, so if the physician or the clinician write a prescription, they can get a same day delivery of their prescription. So, it’s not like they have to leave work and go out and pick it up because that takes a lot of time to do that. And sometimes if they’re really busy, they’ll deliver twice a day so that they’re getting the medications that they need.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:17:06] Wow. So, there’s been other creative and out-of-the-box measures that you’ve put in place to show support for your people. So, can we talk about some of those approaches? I know some of them was like therapy dogs, counselors onsite, a COVID response team. You also were prepping your managers. Can you dive into a little bit of some of these other out-of-the-box measures that you’ve done?
Robyn Smith: [00:17:30] Sure. Sure. So, we also have an onsite fitness center, so we reopened that as soon as we possibly could with limited availability and COVID-19 protocols put in place to provide the associates with the opportunity to safely exercise. Because if you think about it, everything was shut down. And so, part of our philosophy is mind, body, and spirit, and working out is part of that as well.
Robyn Smith: [00:17:59] We added some emotional wellbeing webinars, and we broke it up. We did one for the associates to talk about what issues they may be addressing. We had our onsite counselors actually do this via Teams call and answer any questions that they might have. And then, we also had a session for the managers. Because these were unprecedented times, how do you manage through all of this? How do you support your associates? And so, the counselors really speaking towards that and helping them.
Robyn Smith: [00:18:40] And we also did recorded webinars with local and national experts on topics ranging from stress management and emotional wellbeing tied to nutrition and physical health. And how parents can help their children receive better emotional support and health during this pandemic.
Robyn Smith: [00:19:02] So, there were multiple layers in there, and we just kept our pulse on it through spot surveys and kind of seeing how people were actually doing to see if we needed to add more sessions or we needed to pivot to a new topic.
Robyn Smith: [00:19:20] The executive team, we met every morning to talk about, “Okay. What’s going on today? What do we need to address today?” We also reimagined our Jackson Healthcare University, which included traditional professional development, leadership training, networking, and cultural awareness, sensitivity curriculum to better serve our associates during the pandemic. So, we moved everything to virtual and on demand. And we saw participation rate increase of up to 16 percent compared to other years. So, they were hungry for the knowledge and so we just needed to pivot and get it to them in a means that they could digest it.
Robyn Smith: [00:20:06] We also recognized the need to help our associates stay emotionally connected during the physical separation. We — our traditions. We launched virtual events and activities. We had a virtual Halloween costume contest, and we judged it, and gave away awards that we later sent to people’s homes online. We had virtual holiday decor. We did Zoom pictures with Santa, that was very creative. So, we were constantly looking at what was in our normal DNA and how could we adapt it to our associates.
Robyn Smith: [00:20:54] Also, our associates worked diligently from the onset of the pandemic to help ensure that our healthcare professionals were mobilized nationwide to provide critical lifesaving care for patients suffering from COVID-19. We looked at ways to say thank you and show appreciation for one another. And in recognition of the work our associates were doing to fight against the pandemic, we mailed a COVID-19 response team item to them. They can have a hat or a t-shirt or some type of memorabilia. And it was neat because on a lot of the Zoom or the Teams calls, they would be wearing their memorabilia very proudly that they were part of that COVID response team.
Robyn Smith: [00:21:43] We held town hall meetings with one of our physicians, the medical director from our onsite clinic. And he answered a lot of the science behind COVID because things were changing rapidly, you know, when we were thinking about coming back. Why do we have to wear masks? What’s the purpose of a mask? Why do we have to quarantine? And then, when the vaccine came out, well, what’s the best vaccine? Why do we need the vaccine? Which is constantly ongoing, whatever the flavor of the week might have been. So, we were just trying to educate and adjust for their needs and to help get the latest and greatest out to them. And our medical director was on the frontline. He was also practicing. So, he was giving real life examples of what was going on.
Robyn Smith: [00:22:44] We also decided to set up a privacy officer to report exposures or cases. And we hired a registered nurse to do this because we wanted to take it out of the hands of H.R. or managers because we’re not medical professionals. We actually wanted the nurse making those decisions. So, by August of 2021, we had over 6,000 COVID questions or inquiries that had been answered by the nurse, and she was amazing from that.
Robyn Smith: [00:23:21] Some of the other things, we talked about the Halloween costume contest, we also had an online pumpkin carving contest. So, we just tried to think about things that we could do differently. And this year, we added onsite pet therapy. So, they bring in the dogs and that’s to support the mental and wellbeing of our associates.
Robyn Smith: [00:23:47] Our company also signed the Global Mental Health Pledge through the Society for Human Resource Managers and Thrive Global, reaffirming our long standing commitment to mental health and wellbeing of our associates. And that’s really taken off.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:24:03] Wow. That’s a big list. You’ve done a lot. That’s impressive. In looking at them, you mentioned spot surveys to kind of get a gauge of employees response to that and really identify if there’s other areas that you might need to be looking into. So, how have your employees responded to that support and the continued support? You know, what are you seeing amongst your employees?
Robyn Smith: [00:24:30] Yeah. So, I’d say from my observation, for the most part, it’s been welcomed and positive. You know, when we first started to come back on campus, there were still some fear factor around that. Because, listen, some people had some extenuating medical conditions, and for those that were still unsettled, we made accommodations. There was an accommodation form they had to fill out for the nurse. And if the nurse needed to ask more medical questions, which was totally confidential, we did not have any of that information. Then, the nurse could make a proper call on what they needed.
Robyn Smith: [00:25:09] But we really tried to meet people where they were and what they were experiencing. Because then, all of a sudden, you might have had other family members living with you, other people other than your children that you were having to take care of. So, we were constantly adapting.
Robyn Smith: [00:25:28] But once we got started coming back on campus, we heard more positive feedback because they just missed each other. They missed that connectivity, that human interaction. And our campus was built around collision points just to have an impromptu conversation or an impromptu meeting. And so, a lot of that started to come back after that.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:25:59] Wow. I know. I’m in the office today and I generally am working from home still myself, but being able to be around people, it does make a difference. You know, we had lunch together. It was fantastic. I haven’t done that for a while. So, you really see things that you appreciated about that in office setting when you’ve been out of it for a while.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:26:19] So, we’re going to take a break here and hear from our sponsor. So, Workplace MVP is sponsored by R3 Continuum. R3 Continuum is a leading expert in providing behavioral health support to people and organizations facing disruption and critical incidents. Through our evidence-based interventions, specialized evaluations, and tailored behavioral health programs, R3C promotes individual and collective psychological safety and thriving. To learn more about how R3 Continuum can help your workplace make tomorrow better than today by helping your people thrive, visit www.r3c.com today.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:26:59] So, I know in talking with you in our pre-show call, you talked about a mix of employees, some working from home and some who have come back into the office. And this has kind of just shifted and changed kind of throughout the pandemic. What does your current office mix look like now?
Robyn Smith: [00:27:16] Well, it’s still a mix. So, we empower the presidents to make the decision for each one of their companies. And it’s a mix, and I would say most people are in the office Monday through Thursday. And we see a lot of uptick probably Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But I think in this day and age, it’s always going to be a hybrid model from this point forward.
Robyn Smith: [00:27:50] But, you know, back to those collision centers, they rely upon each other to get their jobs done. And when you’re credentialing a physician or a provider to go to work, there’s multiple steps, and you’ve got to find housing, and you’ve got to get their credentials done. And so, it takes a team to get that done. And so, they are really enjoying being connecting, but then they still have some times that they can work from home as well.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:28:22] So, what’s interesting about the hybrid model that we’re seeing today or the remote work versus people in the office, if you think back to before COVID, so many workplaces were strictly in the office. There was no remote work. There were no hybrid. But then, you had some where it was like, “Okay. These people can work from home because they live in a different state” or “You’ve been here a while, we’ll let you work Fridays.” You know, the reality is similar to a lot of things, I think that this was already probably something that was coming our direction and that COVID just expedited the implementation of it, really.
Robyn Smith: [00:29:00] Yes.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:29:00] I’d be interested in your thoughts on that, because we’ve already kind of had some of that happening before and this just, like, basically, you didn’t have a choice but to get comfortable with it, really.
Robyn Smith: [00:29:13] Yeah. And I think you’re right, I think it accelerated everything. But, you know, we got really good at it because we had to in a short period of time. And so, we’ve continued to refine it and perfect it, if you will. And I think you’ve got to meet your people where they’re at and you’ve got to listen to them as well. It’s important.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:29:39] Yeah. I mean, I think that the generation of workers now across the mix, if you look at people in work settings, in a lot of cases, they’re not even going to apply for a job unless they’ve got that flexibility because they know they can go somewhere else to get it. So, it’s definitely become a different work environment.
Robyn Smith: [00:29:58] Yes. I think you’re right on that. And, also, what we’re seeing is that you either have some people, to your point, that want 100 percent remote. But then, there’s a lot of people on the flip side of that that want that connectivity and need that human interaction. And that’s a real thing.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:30:17] Absolutely. And so, kind of this leads into my next question. You know, you made a comment in our call earlier, and I loved the comment, because you mentioned that we need to think out-of-the-box that this new workforce is not the workforce of pre-COVID. So, we had to look at it, kind of think out-of-the-box of how we approach that. So, can you share your thoughts and perspectives around that?
Robyn Smith: [00:30:55] Yeah. I think it’s a new day. What worked three years ago or two years ago is not working now. And to get people to return to the office and make it an enjoyable and easy experience for them, we started a Better Together Campus Connection event. And when we first came back, we did a family reunion. And we set up tables and it was all outside. And we had food and a band just to start to reconnect. We had a photo booth that they could use the different things and take pictures with people that they hadn’t been together with in a long time.
Robyn Smith: [00:31:49] We’ve done other events where we’ve brought food trucks onsite. We have a not-for-profit partnership fair that we did. We did it outside in the atrium so they could just go from place to place and ask about the nonprofits and see if they wanted to partake and volunteer there. We have done a celebration for a great place to work. We brought back Family Fun Day, which was like a carnival onsite and everybody could bring their families. We’ve done things for Earth Day and Farmer’s Market.
Robyn Smith: [00:32:31] We’re having ongoing focus groups. We listen to our associates, what they want, what’s changing, what needs to make their transition easy. And that’s one of the reasons we started with the therapy dogs, too. We just started that this past May, and now it’s a permanent fixture once a month. Everybody loves when the therapy dogs are coming.
Robyn Smith: [00:32:58] I think I talked a little bit earlier about we do pulse surveys just to see what’s going on. We do skip level meetings to see how people are feeling. We also recently launched a new initiative to help associates that are facing unexpected financial hardships. It’s called the LoveLifts Associate Relief Fund, and associates can contribute to that fund to help their fellow associates in their time of need.
Robyn Smith: [00:33:30] Unfortunately, we had an associate that passed away very unexpectedly, and they’re using that fund to help pay for some of the funeral expenses because they didn’t anticipate that. And a lot of that was feedback from our associates and what they wanted to do and what they needed.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:33:49] Wow. Like a work family and taking care of each other and really reconnecting with each other. That’s like if you go to your first family get together. You know, I can just visualize it. I bet that’s a lot of fun.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:34:05] Listening to all the different things that you’ve put into motion, a lot of your out-of-the-box thinking, for organizations, for leaders that might be listening to this who don’t have an exponential amount of resources or the finances that are available to put some of those ideas into motion, what would you say they could do at an absolute minimum, you know, that is maybe a lower cost or lower resource intensive that would be your recommendation for where they can even start to do some of that out-of-the-box ideas?
Robyn Smith: [00:34:39] There’s a few things that don’t cost any money. Listen to your people and follow through. If there’s an ask, follow through with the ask. Be authentic on your core values of your organization, that’s the lens that you view everything through. Lead with empathy. I mean, you just don’t know what that person is going through personally. You’re only seeing parts of it.
Robyn Smith: [00:35:12] Some of, maybe, the tactical things that you can do, flex the work hours or the work day. Write handwritten notes of affirmation or thanks. Giving them opportunities to connect to something bigger, like volunteer work. Give them some time off to serve at a charity of their choice. So, there’s quite a few things that you can do if you don’t have money in the budget. And lead with kindness also.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:35:44] Yeah. Kindness and empathy. I just saw a post on LinkedIn, somebody had the picture of an iceberg of leading with empathy and the importance of that. And it shows the top of the iceberg is what you can see. But what’s down below is all the things you don’t know that your employee might be going through. And just being really aware that there might be a lot of things they’re not willing to share with you.
Robyn Smith: [00:36:08] Absolutely.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:36:09] So, you’re hitting spot on with a lot of what I’ve seen other leaders really kind of honing in on, especially recently. I mean, a lot of people are still navigating interesting challenges that are kind of lingering as we continue to move into this. You know, we’re halfway through 2022, but just some things that still continue to peak for people.
Robyn Smith: [00:36:32] And then, looking at your opinion, what is the impact if you have a organizational leadership team that isn’t focusing on their work environment or monitoring that emotional state of their teams, what is the impact that they’re likely to face in today’s current kind of work environment?
Robyn Smith: [00:36:53] Yeah. Listen, the pandemic changed everything for employers and employees. And monitoring your people’s mental wellbeing is mission critical more now than ever. They’re dealing with so much more and we need to give them ongoing tools in their toolbox to be able to maneuver work, life, everything that is going on. And as the workforce is shrinking overall, we need to continue to monitor the wellbeing of employees. I think that’s going to set you apart and be a differentiator and that’s what people are looking for. I think it’s a huge miss and they’ll go seek employment elsewhere if you’re not looking out for their mental being.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:37:44] Yeah. And they’re not even holding back anymore with that. You have people just resigning without anything in place so that they can make that move. And then, along with that, you kind of touched a little bit on it, you know, the benefits to a workplace of being conscious and intentional about caring for their employees. You mentioned that you become like an employer of choice, and it really is a differentiator for you. What are some of the other benefits? I know that you’ve probably experienced from all the great work that your team has done.
Robyn Smith: [00:38:16] Yeah. So, when you focus on it, everyone reaps the rewards of those actions and those behaviors. It’s the right thing to do. A little caring goes a long, long way. And it does help you become and stay at a great place to work, which is advantageous for your associates and your customers. So, the whole ecosystem benefits from all of that, you know, from all the caring that you do.
Robyn Smith: [00:38:47] And I’ve seen it throughout the years. I’ve been in H.R. for quite a few years, and the people who have always benefited most, and even more so after the pandemic, is those that lead with the empathy and the kindness and the caring. I think that is spot on what we all need to be continuing to do ongoing.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:39:11] Yeah, absolutely. And so, if a leader is listening in, you know, looking at this constant continued disruption and challenges that workplaces are facing, what piece of advice would you give them about this new workforce that they need to be aware of or intentional in supporting?
Robyn Smith: [00:39:31] I would say, be intentional about how you lead. Servant leadership is what people are seeking. Be open to listening and really hearing what your people are saying. Look for the verbal and the nonverbal and what they mean. And lead with empathy. Your people are the most important part of your organization. Ensuring they know that you care about them and you care about them as a leader, you cannot go wrong with it.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:40:10] Yeah. Great words of advice. This has been such a great conversation, Robyn. If our listeners wanted to get a hold of you or get more information about some of the great kind of ideas and resources you’ve put in place for your team, how can they go about doing that?
Robyn Smith: [00:40:28] Thanks, Jamie. It’s been my pleasure. They can reach out to me on my email, it’s email@example.com.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:40:38] Yes. Awesome. Well, again, thank you so much for being on our show and letting us celebrate that great work that you and your team have done through the pandemic and even into today. There’s just some great ideas and wonderful out-of-the-box thinking that I know I appreciated listening and learning from. But I’m sure your employees very much appreciated that level of support that you give and continue to give. So, thank you for being a part of our show and being a guest.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:41:05] And we also wanted to thank our show sponsor, R3 Continuum, for supporting the Workplace MVP podcast. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in. If you’ve not already done so, make sure to subscribe so you get our most recent episodes and other resources. You can also follow our show on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter at Workplace MVP. And if you are a workplace MVP or you know someone who is, we want to hear from you, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you all for joining us and have a great rest of your day.