Humanity and Innovation: Fostering a Purpose-Driven Work Culture

BY Katie Chambers | May 22, 2024

John Deere has been in business for close to 200 years, with a reliance on four core values: quality, integrity, innovation, and commitment. But just this year it added a fifth value: humanity.

“When you think about who we are as an organization, and how it’s articulated, it means that we will treat our people and our planet with dignity and respect. And that means that we create environments that are inclusive. They’re diverse in that we have practices that are internally sustainable, as well as externally sustainable,” said Crystal T. Jones, head of talent acquisition, Americas at John Deere. With centuries of success behind it, the organization was still ready and willing to update its mission and practices to stay aligned with evolving cultural values.

In an era of rapid change, purpose-driven environments are increasingly more important. How can leaders navigate cultural shifts within their organizations that prioritize meaningful work, and foster employee satisfaction and belonging, loyalty, and overall well-being? Jones and other industry experts answered these questions and more at From Day One’s Chicago conference.

Building a Purpose-Driven Work Environment

“It’s no secret that companies with a purpose driven work environment are by many measures more successful,” said moderator Kim Quillen, business editor at The Chicago Tribune. But it can be daunting to try to predict what employees want. “The big thing with purpose is to continue to talk about it,” said Trevor Bogan, regional director, Americas at Top Employers Institute. “Don’t be afraid. It can evolve and it can shift.” Bogan says that his company tracks this through employee surveys.

Mikki Sud, EVP, global head of total rewards at JLL says her organization links its activities back to its purpose of “creating healthy, inspiring, innovative spaces for people and our planet” both internally and externally. “With 40% of our carbon emissions coming from the built environment, we have a critical role in helping create a sustainable world,” she said.

“But also, we connect our employees to those goals through robust training efforts, like net zero carbon training, as well as AI and automation. And last year, we saw a 20% reduction in our carbon emissions through these efforts,” Sud said. 

Leaders as Purpose Ambassadors

Organizational purpose must be driven by leaders who can be encouraged through training and incentives. Tracking of purpose-driven behavior is also embedded in JLL’s talent review and performance management process, says Sud. “Our hope is that as leaders fully start to embody [our values], that eventually it will start to disseminate across the organization, and then the sense of belonging to the enterprise will be enhanced as a result,” she said.

Gus Viano, VP of global diversity, equity & inclusion at Brink’s, notes that while leaders may attend trainings and have good intentions, sometimes their actual actions still don’t embody the organization’s stated values.

The panelists spoke to the topic "Cultural Transformation and Meaningful Work: Nurturing a Purpose-Driven Workplace" at From Day One's Chicago conference

“Employees feel engaged when they hear our leaders talk about DEI, but then when they see that behavior not represented in their actions, then they have serious doubts,” Viano said. So, inclusion training may require some difficult, frank conversations. For larger corporations with a global reach, Viano says, it’s also important to be mindful of different cultural norms and expectations surrounding DEI. You may have to adjust training language and areas of focus based on those local sensitivities and needs. 

Bringing Your Whole Self to Work

“People don’t leave their diversity in the trunk of their car when they come to work. They bring the whole self to work, invited or not invited,” Viano said. Employers need to be ready to engage with employees from many walks of life and communicate purpose to them in a way that keeps everyone excited.

Different generations are looking for different types of meaning in their work, Bogan says, and Gen Z especially wants to see their identities reflected in the leadership team. “When organizations have a diverse workforce, when they have women leaders, when they have people of color, when they have people from different countries and different perspectives, the profitability goes up, the well-being goes up, [and] the purpose and feeling of belonging goes up,” Bogan said.“It’s no longer about what’s written on your website. Candidates want to see and feel what you say.”

Jones also emphasized the importance of ensuring employees can see and understand the impact of their work on the wider community, to help drive that sense of purpose and meaning home.

Encouraging employees to come to the office, helps drive engagement and a sense of belonging, Sud says. “A recent Bloomberg study showed that those in the office actually spent 25% more time on career development,” she said. “It's a sense of belonging, and the fun that comes from being in the office, the personal interactions, the sharing of stories of your families or your hobbies. You can’t really have that watercooler talk in a virtual setting.” That said, Sud believes it’s also important to recognize that employees need quiet time for work too. “We are really being deliberate about creating the ‘me’ spaces as well as the ‘we’ spaces,” she said.

Rewarding and Measuring Success

Employees should be rewarded for driving purpose and be recognized in a way that is most meaningful to them. “Our rewards are linked to business purpose and performance, connecting individual team and organizational performance. So when we deliver the best solutions for our clients, JLL does well and our people do too,” said Sud. Compensation should not be the only driver. “It’s the culture, it’s the purpose, it’s the leadership aspiration,” Sud says, that brings employees satisfaction.

Just trying out new strategies from time to time is not enough, Bogan says. “You need to get involved with data and analytics to see and measure what you do really well and what challenges you have. That’s really impactful, because the numbers don’t lie,” he said. Having the hard data will help leaders justify the need for new programs and tactics, though the data should be shared by all. “If we silo, then we’re not getting better. We’re not learning about how we work, hearing different ideas and different perspectives,” Bogan said.

Purpose-driven analytics should be not just quantitative but also qualitative, Jones says. “We’re interested in not just what you do, but how you do it,” she said. Through engagement surveys, Jones says, John Deere saw the need to add humanity to its core values. “Just make sure you’re not just asking the questions,” she said, “but that you’re ready to deal with the responses that you get back.”

Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.


Establishing a Well-Being Culture That Actually Works

Wellness has always existed as part of employee health concerns, but the pandemic hyper-focused our attention on the importance of well-being and the needs of workers. Yet, in an era of hybrid work, tighter profit margins, and AI, the range of well-being needs are challenging to meet. Companies are having to learn to do more with less but not lose sight of their employees well-being.“Two things have to be true for a benefit to be used. Number one, the benefit itself has to be designed in a revenue model perspective, meaning the cost has to be incentivized for your employees to use them as much as they possibly can. If the company has a business model where they make more money when less people use it, it will not get used. The second thing I'll say is that we have to focus on the science of behavior change," said Elena Gambon, chief strategy and growth officer at First Stop Health.A panel of business leaders came together to discuss the ins and outs of well-being, and how to create a culture of wellness at From Day One’s Dallas conference. The discussion was moderated by Will Maddox, senior writer for D CEO magazine and editor of D CEO Healthcare.“We’ve given so much permission to say I'm overwhelmed or I’m worried about my well-being or my workload, yet, have we equipped the people that have to handle that?” said Dennie Laney, VP of HR at Associa.Gambon says that at First Stop Health, they use behavioral scientist B.J. Fogg's model for human behavior: B=MAP (Behavior ‘B’ happens when Motivation ‘M’, Ability ‘A’, and a Prompt ‘P’ come together at the same moment).The first thing people need, Gambon says, is motivation. “The pain or the pleasure to act has to be high enough for someone to actually make a change. Second is the ability needs to be there. And for us, that means the service needs to cost $0. For the patient, the time that it takes to get to talk to one of our doctors needs to be minutes. Not hours. Not days. The third prong of that stool is promoting. If you’re not constantly reminding people that you exist in creative ways that resonate with them, no one will remember that it’s there.”Greg Miller, SVP, talent management and human resources, at AccentCare says this idea of prompting and promoting is a good one, but when push comes to shove, wellness gets sacrificed. "I think one real challenge for us and others is how do you really tie wellness and flexibility to tangible business results in ways in which we can talk about them as retention drivers, as attraction drivers."Hope Gladney, global lead of client relationships at AceUp, says you have to meet the individual where they are. “A lot of these programs really need to be done within the flow of work. So I think we really need to understand what it is that each individual needs, and try to tailor benefits that are actually going to meet them in the area where they're going to achieve the most benefit for them personally.”But, Gladney points out, the benefit has to also relate to the overall success of the organization.Covid was especially hard on the healthcare industry because they were the frontline, and there was a lot of panic and silent hardships in the beginning. “A lot of people left the industry because of that,” Miller said. “What we’ve tried to do within healthcare is to create the space to say I'm not okay, I’m scared and I need some help. We’ve tried to better leverage the resources we already had in place like employee assistance programs.”Healthcare is hard and there are still more questions than answers when it comes to supporting a 24/7 industry and social need, says Miller. The 24/7 reality of healthcare doesn't just apply to paid professionals, though. Being a caregiver is something that extends to unpaid work, the family, and your extended support network.Gambon says there’s a full spectrum of caregiving that’s invisibly happening behind the scenes with every healthcare worker.The executive panelists discussed the topic "Establishing a Well-Being Culture That Actually Works" in conversation mdoerated by Will Maddox of D CEO Magazine“All of this unpaid labor that predominantly female identifying individuals [do], not always in the home, whether it's to care for a neighbor or a family member or an aging parent or their own kiddos, who are well or special needs – there's just a full spectrum of caregiving that is happening invisibly behind the scenes. With almost every single employee. How do you make sure that anything you provide to your employees across the board is not only equitable, but available to all members of the family? However the employee defines family?” Gambon said.Understanding your work culture means also understanding your workers and who they are. Meaning there is no one size fits all approach to well-being. Gladney says you have to have self-awareness and understand your own triggers and biases. “When you take an inclusive approach to it, it’s first recognizing that everyone’s well-being journey is uniquely theirs.”Michelle Howard, the diversity and inclusion director at Vizient, says it’s about knowing what kind of organization you have. “People like to say, 'Oh, we have a culture of blank.' But you accidentally created a culture of blank. So understanding truly what your culture is. And then determining, is that what you want? And if it's not, it takes time to move that.”“Often when we think about creating inclusive benefits, we give people what we think is inclusive, and we don't ask them what they want or need. As hard as it is to invest the time and the money to listen and gather data, it is the most important step in creating something of value. I like to say that diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, the ‘D’ is both for diversity as well as data. Because it is a science, and a proven science. The more you focus on the individual, the better off they will be,” said Gambon.“Everybody knows the golden rule, right? Treat others how you want to be treated? It is the platinum rule. And you have to tap in to understand what that is," Howard said.Matthew Koehler is a freelance journalist and licensed real estate agent based in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in Greater Greater Washington, The Washington Post, The Southwester, and Walking Cinema, among others.

Matthew Koehler | June 11, 2024

Total Well-Being: Optimizing Benefits for a Diverse Workforce

AT&T has consistently championed employee wellness, driven by a team dedicated to the four pillars of well-being: mental, social, physical, and financial. So, when they introduced an on-site doctor for their workforce, it was no surprise given their forward-thinking approach.In a fireside chat, Stacey Marx, AT&T’s senior vice president of total rewards & HR technology, discussed the impact of Covid on corporate well-being and how the company continues to stay ahead in supporting their employees.“That really put a bright light on wellness,” she said at From Day One’s Dallas conference, in conversation with Lauren Crawford, reporter for CBS News Texas.Helping Employees Prioritize Mental HealthThe first step in improving mental health is destigmatizing it, says Marx. “It’s a simple start,” she said. “Talk about it, make it normal, whether that be everyday talk, in big town halls, or employee gatherings.”Once employees realize it’s OK to discuss their mental health, they feel comfortable sharing if they are feeling down, Marx says. She recommends offering online platforms and tools so team members can quickly find help, including virtual appointments with mental health providers.In addition to having an on-site doctor, employees appreciate virtual appointments because they only take up a bit of their time, says Marx. They also give team members in rural areas or other locations without easy access to in-person mental health treatment a way to get the care they need.AT&T also recognizes the importance of social health by giving each employee one day off per year to volunteer. “We encourage them to volunteer with their teams,” Marx said. “Everybody feels great. It’s fun. And we don’t have to take vacation or do it after work.”Caregiver Leave and Family PlanningCaregiver leave and family planning are two popular offerings for AT&T employees. “It is so important to take care of yourself and your family so that you can bring your best self to work,” she said.Stacey Marx of AT&T, left, spoke with Lauren Crawford of CBS News Texas at From Day One's event in DallasTheir leave policy especially critical for those in the sandwich generation, who have children still living at home and aging parents. AT&T employees can take up to three weeks of caregiver leave. Marx says the team members love it because they don’t have to use their vacation time if a loved one is sick or needs surgery. “Vacation time is a sacred time for you to rest and relax and recover,” she said.The company also partners with Maven, which helps young families from fertility education through each trimester of pregnancy and beyond. “Even after you return to work, it helps you have support,” Marx said.Determining the Benefits Your Employees NeedWith so many different benefits available, how can companies choose the ones that are best for them?“We found two cornerstones that you should think about when you’re thinking about well-being,” Marx said. “The first one is putting that employee first and really soliciting feedback, but it’s not just getting the feedback. It’s actually listening to the feedback.”The second step is gathering data. She said that data can come from employee surveys, which she calls the "first line of defense," and focus groups, where companies ask employees who use a particular benefit what they value about it.During annual enrollment, AT&T has robust Q&A sessions “where we get the HR team in the field with the employees to really get that feedback,” Marx said.Communicating With EmployeesIt can take a while for company leaders to feel comfortable talking to employees about benefits, says Marx. It’s best to educate them so they can answer questions from their team. When talking to their teams about benefits, leaders should use “simple, non-HR speak, so people can really find what they’re looking for,” Marx said.One of the best things AT&T has done is giving employees their own personal health care concierge, says Marx. There’s a phone number on the back of their insurance cards that they can call if they are in a challenging situation. “Maybe you got a scary diagnosis and you want to talk to somebody about what is the right next step,” she said. “This team will help you. That’s a real live example of how we put the employee in the center of all our wellness benefits and really design around them.”Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | June 07, 2024

Making Professional Development a Personalized Experience

Today’s workforce craves an added value experience and personal recognition, especially in the culture of hybrid and remote work. But how can businesses tailor development when everyone is so busy and in many cases spread all over?As Bravely founder and CEO, Sarah Sheehan has learned over her career, each person is motivated by something different, and that plays a big role into how to approach professional development.“We all struggle with different challenges as individuals, like what we’re bringing from our personal lives, and how that impacts how we show up at work.”Sheehan was one of four panelists at From Day One’s Dallas conference. Paul O’Donnell, former business editor of the Dallas Morning News, moderated.Development is like training a muscle that employees can use the rest of their career, Sheehan says. As a coaching company, Bravely works with employees at Zillow, Pinterest, Autodesk, and many more, of different sizes and industries.“The results have been incredible,” she said. “95% of people say that they have had a mindset shift and feel more positive about their organization in their role, which to me is the mic-drop worthy stat.”However, most of the tools out there lack a holistic approach. For example, within many manager training sessions, a whopping 70% of information is lost in 24 hours and 90% is gone within a week—unless it’s reinforced with post application tools, says Sheehan. “Coaching is the perfect post application tool,” she said. Leveraging Technology and Good ManagersPanelist Mark Benton is VP of HR corporate functions at McKesson, a medical equipment and supply company of over 50,000 employees, 500 of which are on his HR team, says the biggest challenge they’re facing is building digital literacy as a tool.“Our goal by the end of the year is to get everybody 30% more proficient in being digital in the way that they work,” he said. In essence, he’s hoping to encourage employees to use digital tools like AI and ChatGPT to augment 30% of their work day. McKesson has personalized this experience by creating its own internal version of ChatGPT.As employees use these tools more regularly to automate what can be automated, they are developing best practices for using the digital tools, which is a skill most employees will need to have.Another area of focus for Benton and anyone in HR is managers—specifically hiring the right people for the job and making sure expectations are clear. “Any of us here are in the lifelong pursuit of making sure that manager quality is good,” he said.Paul O'Donnell of Dallas Morning News moderated the panel of industry leaders While companies should always provide personalized development for its managers, not everyone is adept at being a good manager. “Sometimes there’s just nothing we can do to save them from themselves. We can have all the great training programs, we can put all the right leadership models, we can have good performance management, and then they just don’t do it,” Benton said.HR should do its part to be stewards of the culture, he added, offering a good example of how managers should be managing.Encouraging Constructive FeedbackIn global companies like JPMorgan Chase, panelist Amit Sharma, executive director of talent and career development experience, says that there is a lot of data available from employees. The question is, how can companies potentially leverage data for employees’ development?Further, considering the diversity across the organization and the many markets and cultures of operation, how do we ensure consistency in our offerings and also meet different needs, where they exist?“I think an area across the industry that we can focus more on is constructive feedback,” Sharma said. “Peer to peer constructive feedback overall I think is an area where we can do a lot more. We’re good at giving accolades. But how good are we really at giving feedback that’s constructive?”For example, says Sharma, with all the company calls, do we seek feedback from others on the call? Ask them if we came across clearly and consistently? What could we have done differently?Another area Sharma feels is important to help personalize employee development is networking. Reaching out to colleagues and peers who could guide them and be a one-on-one resource for learning and growth. Sharma once had a coach who advised him to make a list of several important people within the company to talk to regularly, plus several people outside of the company to talk to regularly. This helps to open doors and build relationships.Self-Paced LearningPanelist Jennifer Chopelas, head of HR at Merlin Entertainments, spoke about the company’s new program Ticket to Lead aimed at helping leaders build skills.“Especially after Covid as we rebuilt our teams, what really became apparent was that we had several young managers who were trying their best but didn’t have the skillset yet,” she said.Ticket to Lead is a six-week long global cohort with self-paced learning. People are busy, but they want professional development. Self-paced learning has been a good way to bridge the gap.After running the pilot program, they saw 91% engagement and there was a 21% increase in their confidence. “They also stated that 84% of them felt like their growth had been accelerated as a leader, because we really were investing in them.”This kind of skill-building is crucial, Chopelas says, as they rely on managers to drive performance. And it’s those same managers who can help employees receive a personalized development experience. But managers must see that in company leadership.“Our leaders need to be the ones standing up and showing all of those new skills that are required in this new workplace,” she said. “If you cannot build a connection and trust with your team, you cannot give them feedback or coach them. And that has to be the mentality. And it has to come from the top, they have to be demonstrating those qualities.”Ultimately, they must be vulnerable, transparent, and build trust, so managers and employees will follow suit.Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | June 06, 2024