Cruising Through Our 2022 Year in Review

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Episode 28

“I don’t think experience is something that can be worked on. It’s a fluid living, breathing entity. And I like to ask a question, ‘What will bring more life to the employee experience?’”

Marija Zivanovic-Smith, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at NCR

2022 was a year of exploring new heights on Cruising Altitude. So we wanted to share some highlights with you. In this episode, we’re looking back on our conversations with leaders at companies like Sony, Lockheed Martin, Sam’s Club, and more. And celebrating what we’ve learned from them about supporting a world class employee experience.

”When you are implementing improvement in your employee experience, the process never ends. So employees keep on raising the bar, and you are always working to do better.  So you are doing something, you are doing better, but then you need to keep on doing better is something that never finishes.”

Quique Huerta, Global Employee Experience Officer at Liberty Mutual Insurance

Listen in to hear

  • Lessons and takeaways from top employee experience leaders in the world
  • Ideas to use in your own HR initiatives
  • Philosophies on creating a great employee experience

”When we operate in so many countries, there are multiple language barriers, which you need to go through. So how do you ensure that what you communicate lands appropriately so that everyone can act on the communication that is being said? One of the big challenges we have as an organization is thinking as one global organization. The headquarters is all about coming up with a framework on how you approach things in a way in which every country in which we operate can take the framework and apply the framework that suits the needs of the respective country’s operations.”

Bala Sathyanarayanan, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Greif, Incorporated

Episode Transcript

Narrator: 2022 was a year of exploring new heights on Cruising Altitude. So we wanted to share some highlights with you. Today, we’re looking back on our conversations with leaders at companies like Sony, Lockheed Martin, Sam’s Club, and more. And celebrating what we’ve learned from them about supporting a world class employee experience. On Cruising Altitude, we talk about employee experience lessons from leaders at companies with over 30k employees. A lot like reaching Cruising Altitude at 30k feet, things look a little different when you’re managing 30,000 people. On this podcast, we bring you insights from the leaders who inhabit that rarefied air. Today’s episode features highlights from episodes throughout 2022. But first, let’s take a quick break to hear a word from our sponsor. We spoke to Marija Zivanovic-Smith, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at NCR about how she thinks about the employee experience.

Marija Zivanovic-Smith: I don’t think experience is something that can be worked on. I think it’s a fluid living, breathing entity. And I like to ask a question from our core team in HR and marketing, ‘What will bring more life to the employee experience?’

Narrator: And Quique Huerta, Global Employee Experience Officer at Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Quique Huerta: When you are implementing improvement in your employee experience, the process never ends. So employees keep on raising the bar, and you are always working to do better.  So you are doing something, you are doing better, but then you need to keep on doing better is something that never finishes.

Narrator: We spoke about the challenges of operating globally. When your company has a footprint that spans the entire world, how do you tune in to the needs of each market? Here’s Marija Zivanovic-Smith again.

Marija Zivanovic-Smith: The beauty of our employee experience is in our global nature. We do operate in over a hundred countries. And so that global nature creates cultural richness, but at the same time, we’re constantly trying to figure out how to create a customized experience that is locally relevant. And, um, that might be different from someone in a smaller town, uh, in Asia versus someone who’s operating in one of our larger campuses. in Belgrade or in Atlanta. And so for instance, it’s a challenge. It is a real challenge because you have to think about how do you remain brand consistency and brand experience that is fair and, um, and engaging for all.

Narrator: Bala Sathyanarayanan, who is Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Greif, Incorporated gave us some tips for maintaining that brand consistency anywhere in the world. So you know your employees are all getting your brand experience.

Bala Sathyanarayanan: When we operate in so many countries, there are multiple language barriers, which you need to go through. So how do you ensure that what you communicate lands appropriately so that everyone can act on the communication that is being said? One of the big challenges we have as an organization is thinking as one global organization. The headquarters is all about coming up with a framework on how you approach things in a way in which every country in which we operate can take the framework and apply the framework that suits the needs of the respective country’s operations.

Narrator: And so did Paulo Pisano, Chief People Officer at Booking Holdings.

Paulo Pisano: By staying close to the realities and the dynamics of each of the markets we do business in, we ensure we are relevant. We are effective in engaging our people and ensuring that whatever we do or however we do our work, it’s going to be aligned with the general expectations people might have in a given market.

Narrator: Of course, operating globally means working with a diverse range of people. Alan Winters, Chief People Officer and Chief Diversity Officer at Teleperformance Group, says supporting diversity, equity and inclusion not only creates a richness in culture, but a creative, productive atmosphere. 

Alan Winters: If you have a vast, diverse workforce with different perspectives and mindsets, that allows all of those creative ideas to bubble up and for people to feel comfortable to say, ‘Hey, let’s do this, or this, or this.’ And that drives right down to, we firmly believe that if our people are satisfied and happy at work, they’ll provide good service to our clients and therefore our clients will be happy. And that is a direct reflection on the bottom line.

Narrator: That idea is echoed by Christopher Shryock, Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer at Sam’s Club.

Christopher Shryock: Having a diverse associate population that feels included, they collaborate more, they come up with better ideas, and they have more ownership, not only for their work, but for the outcomes of the company.

Narrator: But sometimes leading a diverse workforce means taking a back seat in discussions so that the best idea can bubble up. That’s something we heard from Alexander Senn, Head of People and Organization at Siemens Smart Infrastructure.

Alexander Senn: The best ideas out of a discussion of a diverse group, diverse team with different aspects. Yes, maybe difficult for me sometimes because it’s not always my idea. And to be really honest with you, I love when my idea is perceived as the best, and we were going that direction. I love that. Everyone loves that, but you need to learn as a leader. Um, it’s not always the best idea. Um, the best idea is always comes out of a team of a discussion, different aspects.

Narrator: Speaking of inclusivity and leadership, we spoke with some guests about what it takes to be a woman leader in employee experience. Here’s Theresa Alesso, President of Sony Electronics’ Imaging Products and Solutions Americas division.

Theresa Alesso: Anyone, man or woman, can accomplish anything. But there are certain hurdles, women in business have to plow through or jump over. And I love to be able to tell the story, inspire other women, that they need to speak up for themselves. You may never a hundred percent be qualified for any job, but you’ve got to believe in yourself and put your name out there. Otherwise you’ll watch everybody pass you by if you don’t take some risk.

Narrator: Marija Zivanovic-Smith also spoke about this.

Marija Zivanovic-Smith: We as females, especially in corporate, have really worked hard to be in the positions where we are. And because of that, I think we lose sight of the fact that we can’t take ourselves too seriously. We actually are allowed to have fun. Our employees also need to see us making these mistakes and even see us fail. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that because if they see how we lead through that, they will lead through their mistakes. And that’s where growth happens.

Narrator: We also talked specifically about how to be a leader in employee experience. Here’s Angie Grossman, Employee Experience Specialist at WarnerMedia.

Angie Grossman: As a leader within the company, we don’t know what’s going on with employees and their personal lives. We don’t know what’s happening. So I think it’s having that mindset of being open and having that human connection with your employees. A quote I live by is ‘Putting the human back in human resources,’ because we are all just people at the end of the day.

Narrator: Humble or servant leadership was a theme this year, too. Alexander Senn brought up how it’s important to allow employees to speak up and challenge the status quo.

Alexander Senn: To be challenged as a leader is not always easy. Because maybe you’re proud of something because you developed something with your team and it’s successful. And then you have someone joining the team from outside who is challenging your process. The natural reaction right away is to defend. And this is not good. First, you need to listen, to understand what is being challenged, the reason why, and really listen, listen, listen, listen, listen. And then step out of your role of being in charge of that process. We need to look at it as a consultant. Maybe she or he is right. And then try to be open for change. But then track, is it improving? Do we achieve better results? And I think this is the key.

Narrator: And John Jordan, Managing Director and Head of the Academy at Bank of America, says being a leader isn’t always about being liked. But it is about being respected.

John Jordan: You think about great leaders, great coaches, or great teachers. Sometimes they’re the ones who you really don’t like at all in the moment, but they’re the most honest with you. And so, as a leader, I’ve found it tremendously important to be very honest with people. And whether or not they like what I’m saying, I tell them the truth with dignity to make sure that they understand exactly what the expectation is, what it is that they’re missing, so that they can get better. And I think that if you take the approach where you’re going to treat people with dignity and you’re going to invest in them with truth, but also to push them to be better at what they are.

Narrator: Overall, Melissa Marshall, Vice President of People and Organization at Banfield Pet Hospital, says she keeps a clear view of her main goal. 

Melissa Marshall: At the end of the day, what we do is for our people. It’s not for the business. It’s to make a better world for our people.

Narrator: And Joe LaMarca, Vice President of Communications at Lockheed Martin, knows the kind of legacy he wants to leave through his work.

Joe LaMarca: When I hang up my spurs at some point, I think if I can look back and say, ‘I know that I had an impact on people and I helped them grow and develop and succeed in life,’ then to me, that’s the greatest experience I could ever have.

Narrator: Thank you for listening to Cruising Altitude. We appreciate all of our listeners, and look forward to bringing you more employee experience insights in 2023. Cruising Altitude is brought to you by Firstup, the company that is redefining the digital employee experience to put people first and lift companies up by connecting every worker, everywhere with the information that helps them do their best work. Firstup has helped over 40% of the Fortune 100 companies like Amazon, AB InBev, Ford and Pfizer stay agile and keep transforming. Learn more at firstup.io

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Cruising Altitude

Lessons from companies over 30,000 employees

In this podcast, we will talk to leaders who are designing the best digital employee experiences in the world – from the front lines to the back office. Life is different over 30,000. Welcome to Cruising Altitude.

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