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To Combat Climate Despair, We Must Cultivate Resilient Collective Action

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To Combat Climate Despair, We Must Cultivate Resilient Collective Action

This week’s article features Leah Lizarondo, CEO and co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, a social enterprise with a technology, logistics and civic engagement model that aims to fight hunger and promote sustainability by preventing perfectly good food from entering the waste stream and directly distributing to organizations that benefit those who are food insecure.  Her interview is a part of the International Leadership Association Series.  These interviews feature guests from the 2021 Annual Conference that was held in Geneva, Switzerland in October of 2021.  The article is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Reimagining Leadership to Solve Food Insecurity that aired on Tuesday, April 19th, 2022.

Amidst the continuous flood of alarming climate change news, we are increasingly seeing stories about phenomena like “climate depression” and “climate anxiety.” The scale of the problem can be paralyzing, especially for ordinary citizens without wealth or political might to muster against it. But collectively, those regular people have the potential to make a huge difference – how do we help them overcome the inertia of climate despair and contribute to big solutions? The answer is to place effective and rewarding tools in their hands.

Designing the Right Tool for the Problem

Our organization, 412 Food Rescue, and its national tech platform, Food Rescue Hero, bridge the last mile between businesses with good surplus food and the people who need that food the most. I was inspired to start this work when I learned an alarming statistic: in the U.S., up to 40% of the food we produce is wasted, while one in seven households are food-insecure.

Almost a third of this waste occurs at grocery stores, restaurants, and other consumer-facing businesses. Every year, this sector finds itself with 23 million tons of surplus food that it can’t sell. Most of it ends up in landfills, where it releases methane, a greenhouse gas more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

Much of the food that is discarded at the retail level is still good to eat, but only a small percentage is ever donated. Retail food donation presents a number of logistical challenges: pick-up locations are dispersed; amounts and types of food are variable and unpredictable; and most surplus food is fresh and perishable and therefore needs to be consumed quickly.

The traditional spoke-and-hub model of retail food donation, based on trucks making regular pick-ups and delivering to a central food bank, misses too much food. We need a more flexible model to reach all available surplus and bring it to the nonprofits, community access points and homes where it can do the most good.

When we were creating Food Rescue Hero, we recognized that there was already an existing model for transport from a broad array of pick-up locations to a broad array of drop-off locations: ridesharing and food delivery apps like Uber and DoorDash. While those platforms are based on the work of paid drivers, we made Food Rescue Hero for volunteers. We believed that most people were looking to technology not only for ways to earn money, smooth over inconveniences, and get instant gratification, but also for ways to do good.

Our Food Rescue Heroes have vindicated that belief abundantly. We have recruited the world’s largest network of on-demand volunteer drivers, 27,000+ strong and growing, and they deliver on 99% of all available rescues from our hundreds of donor businesses. They are not only reliable but also, often, prolific. Many have performed hundreds of rescues. One particular septuagenarian in Pittsburgh has completed over 1,500 rescues.

Thanks to all of the volunteers across the 15 cities with active Food Rescue Hero networks, we have reached over 80 million pounds of good food saved to feed people instead of landfills. That’s equivalent to almost 67 million meals, carried to their destinations in our volunteers’ cars or trucks, in their minivans next to children excited to help, on their bikes, or even on their shoulders as they make deliveries on foot. And all sorts of people have stepped up to do this work: artists, activists, teachers, musicians, small business owners, parents, teenagers, retirees, and many more.

What is it that keeps these volunteers so engaged?

Centering the Human in the Design

Research indicates that one of the main barriers to volunteering is that people feel they don’t have enough time, or that volunteer schedules are too inflexible. The same ridesharing-style model that resolves the logistical barriers of food donation can also resolve these personal barriers.

Like a driver for Uber, a user of the Food Rescue Hero app gets notifications on their phone when a nearby rescue is available. They can also go on the app and search for local rescues any time they want. In this way, the app regularly presents users with opportunities to engage, on their terms. Once they accept a rescue, the app guides them through the process of pick-up and drop-off, for an easy, seamless experience. Most rescues take under an hour, and users can pick one up whenever they have time. There is no obligation to commit to a regular rescue – though many end up doing so.

A problem like food waste can feel both daunting and distant. If you are not a grocery store employee tasked with dumping pounds and pounds of nutritious food into the dumpster every night because it will not be sold before its “best by” date, you may not be able to wrap your mind around the problem.

But if you show up to the grocery store and load boxes of that good food into your car instead, the problem becomes tangible. And if you then deliver that food to a community center or a public housing complex where people are excited to see you and find out what you’ve brought to help them through the week, you vividly experience just how much power that simple act has. A carload of food that could be rotting in a landfill is instead ensuring that a community will not go hungry.

Our app delivers donated food, but it also, crucially, delivers that pay-off to volunteers: the incomparable, indescribable feeling of fulfillment at your core after you know you have made a difference. It’s a million times better than seeing a “like” on your social media post. It’s life-changing. It keeps people coming back.

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

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

About the Author

Leah Lizarondo is the founder of Food Rescue Hero®, a technology, logistics and civic engagement model that fights food waste and hunger in 16 cities. Her work has been featured in NPR, Fast Company, and The Washington Post, among others. Leah is originally from the Philippines and currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Reimagining Leadership Together Globally

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Reimagining Leadership Together Globally

This week’s article, written by Maureen Metcalf, was originally published by the Forbes Coaches Council.  This article is a companion to the interview Cynthia Cherry, President and CEO and Mike Hardy, Board Chair of the International Leadership Association did with Maureen and is part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series.  This series features speakers from the Annual ILA Conference that occurred in October of 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.  The interview titled ILA – Being the Living Model for Reimagining Leadership Together on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast aired on Tuesday, April 12th, 2022.

As we continue to experience unprecedented change and anticipate the rate of change will continue to accelerate, I believe we as leaders, thought leaders and academics need to rethink what it means to be a highly effective leader and how to develop these leaders. I have been a Fellow with the International Leadership Association since 2019. As part of this Fellowship, I “work at the intersection of leadership research and practice” and “value rigor and relevance at the nexus of leadership theory and effective practices resulting in thoughtful action-based work.”

This year, I attended the 23rd Annual Global Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, focusing on Reimagining Leadership Together. Geneva is a worldwide center for diplomacy because of the number of international organizations, including the headquarters of many agencies of the United Nations, The Geneva Center for Security Policy and the Red Cross. Geneva hosts the highest number of international organizations in the world.

Geneva’s standing as a center for diplomacy and dialogue made it a productive location to host a conversation about reimagining leadership together. The conference was sponsored by The Geneva Center for Security Policy and Arizona State University. Both focused on developing leaders and leadership.

This year, I attended and participated in three presentations, one focusing on the future of work.

Several things stood out to me about the conference for leaders, coaches and scholars. First, the following speakers offered global insights that each of us can shift to ask how we reimagine our work as leaders across our sphere of influence.

1. One of my favorite conversations was with Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada. She talked about the responsibilities of leaders to act from the perspective of being a good ancestor. As a former head of state, she took a global view of trends she sees now and what she anticipates emerging during her life and beyond. She meets with the Council of Women World Leaders, giving her a unique perspective on the type of leadership required to navigate our global challenges, such as climate change and escalated tensions geopolitically. The question I took away from our conversation was: What do I need to do now to be considered a good ancestor to future generations? Will I contribute to solving or exacerbating the challenges we face?  (Here is the link to Kim’s interview: Reimagining Our Leadership to be a Good Ancestor.)

2. John, Lord Alderdice asked who we are loyal to when making decisions. This conversation struck me as crucial for leaders seeking a path forward that diverges from the past. We often make choices that pit our loyalty to those who went before us against our commitment to future generations. For example, if we stay true to our legacy views on diversity, we will perpetuate bias. On the other hand, if I stay true to my sincere commitment to treating everyone fairly, I need to look within myself and identify areas where I act with bias. Lord Alderdice talked specifically about populations that continue to advocate for positions that lock them in violent conflict — not resolved if they continue to fight for their history. These conflicts have waged for generations and won’t be easily solved by a short article, but we can each ask, “Where do my biases and loyalties reduce my ability to create the future I want to see?” (Here is the link to John’s interview: Finding Peace When in Conflict.)

3. Christopher Washington, Provost of Franklin University, facilitated a panel looking at the volume of change we will continue to see during our careers. His panel discussed the ethical questions about how we train our workforce and our leaders to ensure our communities and citizens have work that allows them to fulfill their purpose and support their families. How do universities, businesses, NGOs and government organizations come together to build bridges that enable people to navigate society-wide transitions? (Here is the link to Christopher’s interview: Post-Pandemic Approaches to Developing Future Fit Employees.)

4. Ambassador Thomas Greminger’s, Director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, talked about the importance of leaders expanding how they define and carry out their leadership roles. During an era where we see a shift toward fundamentalism and polarization across the globe, we need to build the capacity to handle the current global challenges head-on through dialogue and soft power. To navigate the volume of change, it is essential that leaders learn, unlearn and relearn to keep up with the changes in our world. What views are you letting go of as a leader? Do you have a process to examine your opinions regularly? (Here is the link to Thomas’s interview: Facing a Global Leadership Crisis–Insights from GCSP.)

Each of these speakers, in their way, highlighted the importance of reexamining how we lead and how we make sense of what we see, reflecting on what we are learning, and unlearning. Then, we need to use that process of sense-making, reflection, unlearning and updating our thinking to shape our actions as leaders.

These annual conferences leave me feeling inspired by the brilliant people worldwide leading the changes we see. But they also remind me of the magnitude of the gap we have to fill to create a truly peaceful and prosperous world for all. So, as a reader of this article, what action is uniquely yours to do to build the world you want future generations to inherit?

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

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


About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, the CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, is dedicated to elevating the quality of leaders globally.

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Change Management for Risk Professionals w/ Dr. James Leflar

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Change Management for Risk Professionals w/ Dr. James Leflar

Join me Dec 8/22 at 1pm EST!

Change Management can be a major factor in determining risk mitigation factors and projects & program management activities. I talk with Business Continuity, Change Management, and Risk Management expert, and “Change Management for Risk Professional” author, Dr. James Leflar.

In our talk we discuss:

1. Why Change Mgmt. should be important to Risk Professionals,

2. Defining a “change agent”,

3. The types of ‘change’ we should be aware of,

4. Change drivers,

5. Define Organization Resilience Management (ORM),

6. Personal change management, and why it’s important,

7. Change Management vs. Project Management,

8. Recommendations for dealing with change denial and resistance,

9. How risk can be a positive and negative, and

10. Communicating change.

James provides lots of insights on Change Management, and how if we don’t get it right, we run a great risk of having our projects / change initiatives failing…badly. Enjoy!

Book Cover.jpg

Overhauling the Traditional Work Model

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Overhauling the Traditional Work Model

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Model for Working 

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

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

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

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

Committed to Excellence

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

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

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

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

Finding the Right People  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 About the Author

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

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

Who is More Charismatic–Putin or Zelensky? Does It Matter?

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Who is More Charismatic–Putin or Zelensky? Does It Matter?

This week’s article, written by Maureen Metcalf, analyzes research data provided by John Antonakis, Professor of Organizational Behavior and editor-in-chief of The Leadership Quarterly.  This article is a companion to the interview John did with Maureen and is part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series.  This series features speakers from the Annual ILA Conference that occurred in October of 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.  The interview titled The Importance of Studying Leadership Scientifically on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast aired on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022.

Leadership researchers have debated the impact of charisma on leadership effectiveness. What leaders say and how they say it can have a strong motivational effect and help coordinate followers’ actions. It impacts their belief about what others will do, thereby helping align people when taking on a costly and challenging set of activities such as we see as we watch the Ukrainians defend their country. Leadership is the social glue that helps pull a group together and hold it together as people strain to accomplish a challenging goal. Leaders also serve as role models. They signal what actions are appropriate. Additionally, leaders’ symbolic actions can serve as rallying cries for others – direct followers and stakeholders.

To illustrate charisma using, we look at the Russian invasion of Ukraine and evaluate the impact the charisma of these world leaders is likely to have on the war.

Before analyzing Presidents Zelensky and Putin, we want to ground the conversation in some data,  according to a paper published in December 2021 in Management Science, “Just Words? Just Speeches?” On the Economic Value of Charismatic Leadership by John Antonakis, Giovanna d’Adda, Roberto A. Weber, Christian Zehnder, “In the field experiment, we find that workers who are given a charismatic speech increase their output by about 17% relative to workers who listen to a standard speech. This effect is statistically significant and comparable in size to the positive effect of high-powered financial incentives. We then investigate the effect of charisma in a series of laboratory experiments in which subjects are exposed to motivational speeches before playing a repeated public goods game. Our results reveal that a higher number of charismatic elements in the speech can increase public good contributions by up to 19%. However, we also find that the effectiveness of charisma varies and appears to depend on the social context in which the speech is delivered.”

With this research as the foundation for our blog, we explore Professor John Antonakis’ evaluation of Presidents Zelensky and Putin. John evaluated both leaders’ charism by considering the words they used in recent speeches and their behavior and visual images during the speeches. President Zelensky scored as a significantly more charismatic leader when looking at the language he selected.

To evaluate charisma in further detail, John looked at the nine charismatic leadership tactics he uses to compare the two leaders. The chart below reflects the collective difference between the two leaders.

In Antonakis’ analysis, Zelensky scored higher in these seven categories: While Putin scored higher in these two categories:
  1. Collective sentiment
  2. Contrast
  3. Confidence in goals
  4. Lists/repetitiveness
  5. Metaphor
  6. Moral conviction
  7. Rhetorical question
  1. Ambitious goal
  2. Stories

This analysis tells us that President Zelensky will have more success motivating his troops and gaining support from International Leaders than will President Putin. To add to the analysis, Zelensky is also better at engaging in symbolic acts that close the status gap between himself, his soldiers, and citizens. He dresses and acts like a regular soldier and eats with his troops. He isn’t using props and technology. We often see Putin distanced from his soldiers and people.

Zelensky is a better role model and a symbol of emulation – giving an edge to the Ukrainians when looking through the lens of leadership and charisma. Leadership works not only in motivating followers. It also helps motivate stakeholders to take action that will help bring a collective together, such as the European Union, to reach a collective goal of winning the war against Russia. Both of these leaders are role models that set the tone for others.

Because Zelensky is such a charismatic leader, his skills will help steel the hearts of the Ukrainians. They have a cause to fight for, their country and homes, and a collective identity to defend. While the Ukrainians have more to lose in this war, the leadership of President Zelensky provides additional motivation and collective identity, and President Putin provides the Russian troops and other countries he is trying to unite around his cause.

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

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


About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, the CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, is dedicated to elevating the quality of leaders globally.

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

Crisis Leadership and Crisis Management w/ Oliver Schmidt

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Crisis Leadership and Crisis Management w/ Oliver Schmidt

Join me Oct 20/22 at 1pm EST!

Due to the COVID10 global pandemic, Crisis Management and Crisis Leadership have have changed, but become more important than ever. I speak with recognized Crisis Leadership expert Oliver S. Schmidt, as we talk about:

1. Defining a crisis, and the difference to a disaster,

2. The 3 phases of Crisis Management,

3. Partnerships that help ‘Contain & Control’ a crisis,

4. Ongoing Lessons Learned and Evaluation,

5. How did COVID changed Crisis Mgmt. and Leadership,

6. The functional areas that need to work together during a crisis,

7. Performing Impact Assessments,

8. Employees and COVID Impacts,

9. The Key Message Triangle and Communications,

10. Decision-Making.

It’s clear that Oliver is very passionate about Crisis Leadership and Management, and it comes across during our discussion. Don’t miss his great insights.



An Inclusive Culture in the Workforce

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An Inclusive Culture in the Workforce

This week’s articles are provided by two authors who came together in Geneva, Switzerland during the International Leadership Association Conference to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion from different perspectives. 

The first article was published in the October 2021 edition of Manage HR, Diversity’s Age-Old Blind spot­ Unarmed in the True Battle for Talent, written by Paul Rupert and Nadia Younes.

The second article first published in the January 22 edition of Corporate Investments is called The Strategist Creating a culture of Inclusion – Being a Good Leader of People by Gamliel Yafai.

Their interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled  Workforce Demographics and an Inclusive Culture featuring Nadia Younes, Louise Carvalho, and Gamiel Yafai aired on Tuesday, March 15th, 2022.


Diversity’s Age-Old Blind spot Unarmed in the True Battle for Talent

By Paul Rupert, Founder & CEO, Rupert Organizational Design, and Nadia Younes, Board Member, Board of Advisors, The Rejuvi Venture, Inc.

Many organisations tout and publicize their diversity commitment to generational diversity. In most cases, this is code for a myopic focus on Millennials and Gen Z with little to no emphasis on the millions of workers 50 plus working alongside their younger colleagues and still ready to work, learn and grow in their professional lives.

The recent and ongoing pandemic has laid bare the plight of the aging workforce – and pointed out a unique set of problems and opportunities for those DE&I leaders who are far-sighted enough to acknowledge them and build the skills of a truly inclusive and intergenerational workforce.

The 20th century model of childhood/education/ work/ early retirement or death has been disrupted by the longevity of the 21st century. Even with modest fluctuations, today’s workers are outliving yesterday’s assumptions.  Even as more people need money for longer retirements, traditional pensions are inadequate and non-existent in the US and many parts of the world. Modest Social Security + random 401ks are no substitute. Where a variety of pension schemes do exist across Europe and in some other parts of the world, they are increasingly dependent on policies in urgent need of updating to meet the current life expectancy and labor market realities.

The antiquated ” human capital” framework – hire a 20-year­ old, use them for a thirty-year period and replace them – no longer works. In a time where companies are increasingly talking about their commitment to sustainability, ensuring all labor pools can be developed and maximized is the more sustainable approach. Traditional sources of essential labor, including large-scale immigration and replacement level childbirth, are falling short of historical norms across much of the world. This offers a tremendous opportunity to make aging workers less “disposable.” In fact, in the EU, the median age in the workforce is already nearly 45 and rising and across the pond in the US, the Department of Labor projects that 25percent of future new hires will be aging workers.

During the pandemic, a record level of aging workers was laid off. McKinsey estimates that 59 million jobs­ or 26 percent of total employment-are at risk of reductions in hours, pay, furloughs and permanent layoffs. Disproportionately impacted across the EU were both younger and older workers but younger workers are expected to re-enter the workforce quicker. Older workers are likely to face longer-term under or unemployment significantly impacting retirement savings, health and wellbeing. In the US alone, over a million people took “early retirement” – 90 percent of them involuntarily. Headlines scream of the “labor shortages” that threaten the recovery, but there is little effort to recognize, recruit, retrain and retain this pool of experienced and talented aging workers.

Just as millions of veterans of the recent work from home experience are reconsidering the conditions under which they choose to return to work, so it will take some rethinking and redesign to secure and make the best use of these skilled employees.

Now is the time for diversity and inclusion to reflect a commitment to the very diverse or different ways in which people can work and be most productive. Full time at home, home a few days and in the office a few, 4-day weeks, and phased and partial retirement should be on the table for a more personalized and optimal employee experience. As the old “buyer’s market” – with employers setting the terms — saying here’s the job, take it or leave it – ·yields more power to the sellers, the opportunity and necessity of driving changes in employer behaviour is business-critical.

Unfortunately, the diversity field’s forays into questions of an age in the workplace have largely been somewhat shallow dives into so-called intergenerational awareness and often faulty “traits” stereotyping. These are often found not to be entirely accurate within any of the three to four generations currently working together in the workplace. Although aging workers want many of the same things as their younger counterparts –to be appreciated, rewarded, have flexibility and some level of autonomy — they have been seen as the means to advancing younger workers through mentoring and sponsorships – not as a diverse group needing its own special attention or offering its own valuable contributions.

In the era of greater longevity, it is critical to abolish the outdated “sell-by date” of 50+ and in the time of extended work, to strengthen ongoing training and development for all workers –  both young and old. With many organizations investing in retraining and upskilling the talent, the over 50 are the least likely, according to the Centre for Ageing Better research, to receive any off-the­ job investment in their professional development. A truly diverse and disruption-ready workforce will include enhanced contributors from employees in their twenties into their sixties and seventies. They will work all sorts of schedules over their work-life, with reduced schedules for caregiving responsibilities or to pursue higher education and periods of full-time work with the option of reducing as part of a phasing to retirement. In the post-pandemic world, truly listening to the way people want to work matters especially if companies want their employees to stay engaged and continue to drive the business results they need for a full recovery and future growth. In this virtuous cycle, diversity drives greater flexibility and flexibility drives greater diversity.

Considering the recent re-examination of flexible work driven by the massive – and largely successful – work from home experiment, the time is ripe for finally tackling one of the most promising and under-utilized flexible arrangements: phased retirement. The old full-time-in-the-office model of employment may be losing its luster to the younger workforce, but it does not serve to attract and retain older workers who have been shown to trade valuable knowledge sharing and mentoring for the opportunity to work longer and ease into retirement.

Although there are limited examples of successful phased retirement programs and their many benefits, many myths exist about the challenges of designing and implementing such initiatives. As practitioners who have developed long­ lasting programs in this space, we are well aware that there are real and rare challenges that do not arise with flextime or work from home efforts. Like any worthwhile project, they benefit from the expertise and experience of others. Given the coming labour market scarcities and the need to maximize the talent of all age groups, the question is not whether to pursue phased retirement – but when. We think the far-sighted DE&! leader will seize this opportunity now.

“In the era of greater longevity, it is critical to abolish the outdated sell-by dateof SO+ and in the time of next ended work, to strengthen ongoing training and development for all workers – both young and old”


About the Authors

Nadia Younes has extensive cross-industry and geographical experience leading efforts in DEI. Employee Experience and Work-Life/Wellbeing in global multinational companies headquartered in Switzerland, the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. Global organizations where she has led these efforts include, Wells Fargo, Amgen, Novartis, Rio Tinto, International Monetary Fund and Zurich Insurance. She has also consulted with over 100 other multinational and non-profit organizations and helped introduce the next generation of measurement of gender equality that includes intersectionality with race and other dimensions of diversity.

Paul Rupert is the Founder and CEO of Rupert Organizational Design. His firm has pioneered flexible and mutually beneficial ways of working for over four decades. With more than 100 major clients we have created solutions ranging from superior employee attraction and engagement, key staff retention, knowledge transfer through phased retirements, flexible supports over the employee life cycle and inclusion strategies that move beyond bias awareness to building mutually respectful environments.

Here is Gamiel Yafai’s article, The Strategist Creating a culture of Inclusion – Being a good leader of people.

For decades, leaders have said that their people are their greatest asset, yet recent history shows us that we do not value these assets as much as we say or think we do! We only have to look at the inequalities that still exist in workplaces due to a person’s gender, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, caste or social mobility, to see that we not only still have a long way to go.

But that we are missing out on huge amounts of human potential and productivity due to the inequalities that still exist that stifle people’s diversity of creativity, thinking and innovation.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen so much enforced global change due to Brexit, Covid and the Black Lives Matter campaign: all of which will have long-lasting effects in the global workplace. Probably the most significant development in terms of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within my experience, is seeing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion move up the strategic agenda. I am having more conversations with senior leaders /CEOs and can feel a shift from explaining why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a global imperative for any business, to explaining how to ‘do’ it.

So, in other words, out of my 21 years in this business, I feel I as if I spent 19 of those years spending most of my time explaining to senior leaders why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is important.

This has changed in the last 2 years as I am now spending most of my time supporting clients with what they should be doing and how they should be doing it in terms of best practice. I often heard that their businesses are performing well and my response was is always: but how much better can you be when you tap into the potential that exists in each one of your people?

Even though there is now a greater understanding of the terms Diversity and Inclusion, it is less so when it comes to Equity. In fact, we welcome that there is a global shift in terminology from Diversity, Equality and Inclusion to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Equality means treating people the same or giving everyone the same level of support or opportunities; Equity means recognizing that each person has different circumstances and allocating the appropriate resources and opportunities needed to create an equal playing field. Equity is the more appropriate and ambitious goal.

Over the years I have watched with great interest and sometimes disbelief at how we as business leaders are oblivious to the needs of our people: whilst we consider our employees to be our biggest assets, yet we know very little about them.

Over the last 21 years we have conducted research for 36 national and international clients into the reality of working for their organisations from a minority perspective i.e., gender, disability, ethnicity and sexual orientation. A defining similarity of each client organisation is that despite multiple cultures existing within the workforce.

All these organisations have an explicit over-arching culture experienced by the homogenous group of senior management. Through the prism of this over-arching culture senior management see things very positively and is often shielded from the experience of those different to them. There is a hidden or shadow culture that exists which defines the way individuals in the minority experience the culture of the organisation, which disempowers them from bringing their best selves to work.

What do we mean by their best selves or authentic selves? It is the understanding that everyone should be able to be fully themselves at work. Furthermore, it is important that managers and senior management understand that it is not just those people who are in the minority who experience many unseen barriers to bringing their authentic/best selves to work.

We are all different. We come from different cultural backgrounds and have different faiths, traditions, and values. We have different life and work experiences, different levels of education, knowledge and skills that we have gathered throughout our lifetimes. Yet when we get into the workplace there is an expectation that we leave a great deal of that knowledge and experience at the door of our organisation.

We are expected to conform to a culture where career, progression and development are in the hands of a manager who may not have the knowledge, skills or experience to maximize your potential. We are either held back because of our diversity or because our way of thinking is different from that of our managers or leaders. We may have to mask who we really are in order to survive in the workplace.

We have seen evidence that employees are increasingly more aware and able to challenge, and this will grow. We have seen the rise of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Councils in schools, where children and young people discuss the lack of equality in the curriculum and what they can expect from their future employers.

We are also seeing signs of a revolution in employment where employees are challenging their employers: a global client recently received 200 letters from disgruntled female staff members for not addressing gender equality. Much research shows that people leave managers not organisations. In the following LinkedIn article https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ employees-don’t-leave-companies managers-Brigette-hyacinth/ Brigette Hyacinth quotes Gallup research that shows that “75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses and not the position itself”. Last year we conducted 55 interactive webinars for 30 different national and global organisations, speaking to around 3500 participants. One of the questions we asked was ‘how much of your authentic self are you able to bring to work’. In some cases less than 30% of participants felt that they were able to bring more than 70% of their authentic selves to the workplace. So, what does this mean for businesses? It means that your employees are unable to maximize their full potential and reach new levels of productivity and which impacts on profitability and brand identity. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are no longer just a good thing to do. The drive for organisations to be more diverse and inclusive is driven by the business, the moral and the social case.

The outcomes of being more diverse and inclusive include the following: healthy employee turnover; strong employer brand; high creativity and innovation; high adaptability/agility; high trust and morale; high engagement and positive employee wellbeing. There is another growing trend that says that businesses need to priorities the three Ps of PLANET, PEOPLE Then PROFIT.

Human assets are fundamental to our whole business. We need to have a systemic approach to creating a workplace that is conducive to the needs of every employee. I hear businesses talk about introducing Diversity initiatives such as training Programme, reverse mentoring or unconscious bias training with the hope of delivering major change through one or two interventions. However, these are just plasters that cover up some of the cracks. My advice is always not to focus on what others are doing but to find out where they are at on their own Diversity, Equity and Inclusion journey. Once you know where you are, you can start to create an action plan to move you from where you are to where you want to be on a good Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Maturity Matrix. The Global Centre for Inclusion which is a great place to start as they provide a FREE Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmark (GDEIB) Tool and a Maturity Matrix that can be accessed from the following website https:// centreforglobalinclusion.org/ which you can use locally, nationally or globally.

To extract maximum value for a company in terms of its employee value proposition, productivity and profitability you need excellent leaders who champion Equity, Diversity and inclusivity from the top. In the past leaders were expected to have all the answers but now we know that putting inclusion at the forefront allows leaders to gain the full benefit from the diversity of their workforce. Inclusive leaders focus on culture, relationships and decision making at each level of the organisation and counteract any negative effects of unconscious bias as much as possible, therefore increasing capability and capacity. Inclusive leadership is not so much a destination but rather a continuous journey that is demonstrated by behaviour.

We should encourage accountability and responsibility in all as we champion Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. It is not what we do for ourselves, but what we do for others that makes us a good leader of people.

About the Author

Gamiel Yafai based in England, more than an engaging, passionate, seasoned Diversity & Inclusion Strategist and CEO of Diversity Marketplace a Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultancy. He is the proud recipient of the Global Diversity Leadership Award presented by the Global HRD Congress 2017 and the author of ‘Demystifying Diversity’ and ‘Yemen Proud’. Gamiel works with some of the world’s largest employers to design and implement Diversity and Inclusion Culture Change strategies and action plans, to both, attract new talent from diverse backgrounds and to support existing talent reach their potential through focusing on positive action and Inclusivity.

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

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


Women are Problem Solvers! Investing in Them is the Key to Inclusive Growth.

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Women are Problem Solvers! Investing in Them is the Key to Inclusive Growth.

This week’s article is provided by Pauline Koelbl, AfriProspect GmbH’s Founder and CEO as well as ShEquity’s Founder and Managing Partner.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled ShEquity: A Refugee’s Path to Empowering Women & Their Businesses that aired on Tuesday, March 8th, 2022.


Closing the gender gap can add $12 trillion to global growth. In Africa, there is a $42 billion gender funding gap that could add roughly $316 billion to Africa’s combined GDP if bridged. But economics is only half the story.

Globally, women are not fully included in economic activities and female entrepreneurs continue to receive less funding than their male counterparts. COVID19 has exacerbated the existing inequity despite the fact that women have been at the frontlines of addressing different challenges linked to the pandemic.  According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth. Thus, closing the existing gender gap is not a charity but a smart thing to do!

Accessing funding is even harder for dark and brown-looking women. In Africa, there is a $42 billion gender funding gap that could add roughly $316 billion to Africa’s combined GDP if bridged.  This, despite the fact that Africa has the highest number of female entrepreneurs globally, and 40% of Small and Medium Businesses (SMEs) are led and owned by women. I established ShEquity to address the existing gender funding gap in Africa by providing smart investment to African female founders who are creating impactful, innovative and scalable solutions to many challenges faced by many Africans.

The challenges that African female founders face are widespread and in many ways endemic, but when we discover innovative solutions that many female entrepreneurs are creating, we unearth new ways of accelerating the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and catalyzing inclusive economic growth.

The most enduring hurdle for African female entrepreneurs is financing. The scale of the gender financing gap for Africa’s early-stage ventures is nothing short of breathtaking, as indicated by the World Bank’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab. It produces rigorous research on what works and what does not work for women’s economic empowerment, and its analysis shows that between 2013 and 2021, only three percent (3%) of start-up funding on the African continent went to all-female founding teams. This gap is not improving: the Big Deal Substack reports that only 0.95% of the funding raised by African startups in 2021 went to startups founded or led by a woman or female-only team, compared to 82% for male counterparts.

If we drill down, there are complex issues at play here, including the fact that there are very few African female Fund Managers and gender-lens Funds as well as the differences in how men and women think about their enterprise financing. Female founders are less likely to pitch for equity investments but are more likely to apply for bank loans. Often, they are also unable to access loans due to the existing collateral biases. This points to the reality that the world of Venture Capital (VC) and Private Equity (PE) is male-dominated and geared towards male entrepreneurs and self-confidence issues.

Being a female-led gender-lens investor, ShEquity brings diversity to the world of investors. Additionally, the matter of self-confidence is addressed head-on at ShEquity. We very pointedly offer more than just financing – we combine cash investment with technical support, and access to high-value networks. We are unapologetic in stepping up and giving the women we work with this kind of practical and operational support – because where inequity exists, action is needed.

But it is not only for the benefit of the woman entrepreneur. Since we launched in 2020, we have already built a strong pipeline of de-risked deals, which allows investors to have access to the fertile African startup market. Investors want to know that the start-ups they entrust their money with are gearing up for success, which is why at ShEquity, we created an accelerator called SHEBA (ShEquity Business Accelerator). SHEBA serves as a Technical Assistance (TA) facility, providing pre-investment support, including a 16-week acceleration program focusing on de-risking qualifying businesses as well as post-investment value addition focusing on the development of growth strategies, networking, and soft skills including leadership.  Our ecosystem strategy allows our investors to have a multifarious return: fiscal, social, and environmental.

The social impact also has multiplier effects, touching upon the lives of so many people in so many ways. When leveraged together, two of the SDGs – gender equality and climate action – can impact nearly all the other SDGs, such as eliminating hunger and ensuring health and well-being. Together, gender and climate alone can unlock opportunities across societal goals. I have seen first-hand how, by leveraging the talents, skills and innovation of female entrepreneurs, we can bring needed actions to global challenges such as climate change and SDG priorities like equitable access to healthcare and food security.

At ShEquity, our investees address a vast array of environmental, social and economic issues. Examples include Ecodudu, a circular economy company feeding the future with insect-based protein, and a bus ride-sharing platform called Shuttlers, which sets out to reduce car use and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Widenergy is dedicated to the last-mile distribution of clean, reliable, and affordable energy solutions. It sets out to realize a world where every African woman and girl has access to clean, affordable and sustainable energy for better life chances, health, education and household income.

This all amounts to the creation of a gender-lens investment model – a brand new ecosystem that provides much-needed support to early-stage female-led and owned businesses. Crucially, it is an approach that reassures potential investors that they are investing in de-risked, scalable and impactful companies. Such companies have the capacity to generate a triple-bottom-line return while addressing different challenges, creating decent jobs and contributing to meeting the SDGs. In the end, ShEquity’s ultimate goal is to be ‘Doing Well While Doing Good’ – and we are proud to bring so many investors with us on such a crucial journey.

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

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

About the Author

Pauline Koelbl is AfriProspect GmbH’s Founder and CEO as well as ShEquity’s Founder and Managing Partner, Pauline is a leading innovation expert in developing & emerging economies, impact investor and seasoned impact-driven team leader with over 20 years experience in international affairs and venture philanthropy.

AfriProspect focuses on connecting African innovators with global markets, and ShEquity provides smart investment to impactful and scalable African female-led and owned businesses. Pauline also has 10+ years’ experience catalyzing innovation and entrepreneurship across Africa and her passion lies in innovation, entrepreneurship, youth, and women’s economic empowerment.

A double Fulbright -Scholar and Fellow-, Pauline is currently serving on a variety of Boards of companies/organizations connected to business, entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa. Pauline holds an Executive Education in Innovation for Economic Development from Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government; a Master’s Degree (MA) in Poverty and Development, Institute of Development Studies (IDS) from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in International Studies (Honors) from the University of Arizona (UoA), USA.

You can reach Pauline at p.koelbl@shequity.com

The Future, Through the Lens of Entrepreneurs

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The Future, Through the Lens of Entrepreneurs

This week’s article is provided by Faris Alami, Founder and CEO of ISM.  It is a companion to the interview he and Dr. Christopher Washington did on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future.  Their interview titled Post-Pandemic Approaches to Developing Future Fit Employees, aired on Tuesday, March 1st, 2022.

For the past few years we have faced the challenges of COVID-19, from the initial shutdowns to the reopening, to the next shutdown and reopening — each part of the “new reality.”

Many have found it devastating. They grieve for the loss of nearly a million lives in the U.S. alone, as well the loss of businesses and communities According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “the pandemic resulted in the permanent closure of roughly 200,000 U.S. establishments above historical levels during the first year of the viral outbreak, according to a study released by economists at the Fed.” (Simon, 2021)

At the same time, the pandemic also provided opportunities for entrepreneurs to start or grow their businesses.

“The new numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday… found that a whopping 5.4 million new business applications were filed in 2021, surpassing the record set in 2020 of 4.4 million.”-Andrea Hsu, NPR.org

As with any other challenge, there will always be some who gain while others lose. As we continue to deal with the implications of COVID-19, there are opportunities to create new platforms and paths to explore to pursue the dream of starting a business.

The “New Reality” of the Corporate World

The reality of the pandemic has shifted the workforce in a variety of ways. The initial and most tangible shift is the transition and creation of remote jobs. According to the NCCI, only 6% of employed Americans worked from home before the pandemic. Initially, about 35% of the workforce worked remotely in the first four weeks of the pandemic. As of May 2021, about 24% of employed Americans still work remotely, with no plans to return to the office. 

Instead of being in person, working right there in the office, many people continue to work remotely — managing and tending to their business tasks, their personal lives, their kids, and sometimes their elders, all at once, and all in the same place.

The workforce has shifted. These times create new challenges, and also generate new problems to be solved — thus producing opportunities for innovative solutions to accommodate this new sect of employment.

Lifestyle and Purpose as a Priority

The second shift is in the mindset of workers and the realization of their top priorities truly are. The time with family and friends has allowed a reflection on the importance of finding purposeful work. They no longer look for a job just to have a job, they are looking for a job with a purpose — to have a better life, to have a better world, support the underserved, the underrepresented, go to the moon — whatever it is, their purpose is driving their job search.

After the pandemic shifted many Americans’ lifestyles, the flexibility and remote work made many not want to return to the office and maintain that level of flexibility they got to experience as a result of the pandemic.

They ask themselves: Will this job allow me to fulfill my purpose?

Purpose or Wage Ratio Increase?

Many aspects of business have been affected by the pandemic, including the cost and availability of labor. The entrepreneurial spirit of Americans was ignited during this period of reflection. With many Americans looking for purposeful work, they are also looking for purposeful pay.  According to the Pew Research center, “the wage ratio increased to 16% by the third quarter of 2020 and had ascended to 19% by the second quarter of 2021.” (Kochhar, Bennett 2021).

This created a new challenge for entrepreneurs — particularly small businesses or startups. Many don’t have the funds to create those jobs. Sometimes there is not enough revenue to justify the payment for that work.

This is why you see the shift today — some entrepreneurs are able to navigate this new reality by hiring and training new talent. They are facing the fact that they can no longer afford talented individuals with experience. Those folks, most of the time, have been able to launch their own businesses or find jobs that will pay them what they are worth.

The End of a 40 Hour Work Week?

That represents a new challenge for entrepreneurs accustomed to having people 40-50 hours a week. And there must be a mind shift, not just a physical shift. They need to find new ways to allocate and articulate their work in a 20- or 30-hour work schedule rather than a 40-hour schedule.

This may mean that looking for a team of people working part time as opposed to 1 full time employee may be the best way to find success. Some of the benefits of hiring a team are the opportunity for innovation with more minds collaborating, less opportunity for employees to feel overworked or burned out, increasing retention, and increased productivity within the time they do work instead of just fulfilling the 40 hours to ‘complete’ their schedule.

It took a few years for us to successfully shift from an in-person workplace to a virtual staff. It will probably take time to reverse that shift. We could be looking at 2023 or 2024 before whatever this “new normal” becomes apparent. Sometimes you are open, sometimes you are closed, sometimes someone’s not able to show up.

I encourage entrepreneurs who are starting or growing businesses — specifically small and medium businesses or startups —to rethink the way they view the workforce. It seems that we still can hire for attitude and train for skills!

Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is this really a full-time position, or can these tasks be completed on a part-time basis?
  2. Can this job be divided amongst a team instead of just an individual?

Why does your business exist? What purpose are you fulfilling for the community or for the customers you serve? The answer might help you attract the talent to want to work with you toward your purpose.

With this article, my goal is not to tell you what or what not to do, but only to inspire conversation for us to think about these ideas.

Keep thinking about the future of work through the lens of entrepreneurs, as they face new challenges every day.

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

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

About the Author

As Founder and CEO of ISM, Faris Alami works with international leaders and entrepreneurs on strategies and implementations, to create an empowering environment for startups and existing businesses to prosper and grow. In the course of his career, Faris has been a special advisor and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem expert with the World Bank, a Business Advisor with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, and a Mentor to MBA Students and Entrepreneurs globally.

Photo by Mikey Harris on Unsplash

Rebranding “Resignation” as “Reengagement”

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Rebranding “Resignation” as “Reengagement”

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Engagement

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

The Challenges

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

Renown for Their Commitment

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

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

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

Prop Up Employees

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

A Campaign of Kindness and Listening

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

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

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

 About the Author

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

Photo by Clayton Cardinalli on Unsplash

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