How to Foster Belonging in a Hybrid Workplace

with Alice Fournier, CIO of ISS Americas

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Alice Fournier

Episode 32

“Great leadership in a hybrid world means having the understanding of, ‘When do I need to bring my team together?’ No technology will replace the human one-on-one experience.”

Alice Fournier is CIO of ISS Americas, a workplace experience and facility management company that improves business performance and enjoyment. In her role as CIO, Alice drives technology-led transformation. She’s an experienced leader, and she’s dedicated to empowering her teams to grow and thrive. And on this episode, Alice is sharing how to foster belonging, equity, and opportunity in the workplace.

”In a company where you can be you, you can be yourself, you can feel that you belong… I mean, these things are profoundly important in the employee experience. We’ve all had times in our careers where we didn’t feel that way, and that really impacts the way we perform, the way we engage with each other and the way we serve customers. And so that place of belonging is an important component for us.”

Listen in to hear

  • Tips to aligning digital tools with the in-person experience
  • How to ensure a positive in-office experience
  • Ideas about improving cybersecurity at a hybrid company

”What does that look like in an office? To be able to engage, to have the real experience, to be with people and get to know them on a human level. We need that. We absolutely need that. There’s just nothing like it.”


Alice Fournier

Alice Fournier

CIO | ISS Americas

Alice Fournier is CIO of ISS Americas. She is an experienced technology leader with a strategic approach to leveraging technology for growth. She has a multidisciplinary background at the intersection of IT, marketing, sales and digital, and brings to this role 20 years of experience driving transformation in organizations through technology, products, and services. Before joining ISS, she held senior leadership roles at WD-40 and Kantar, a leading analytics and market research firm, as well as with BIC and creative agencies.

Episode Transcript

Narrator: In today’s hybrid work environment, it takes extra effort to help employees feel like they belong. The choice between at-home convenience and in-office interaction can be overwhelming. Today, we’re talking with Alice Fournier, CIO of ISS Americas, about making your workspace–no matter where it is–comfortable and valuable.

Alice Fournier: As we think about great leadership too, great leadership in a hybrid world has those elements of understanding, when do I need to nudge my team? When do I need them here and there’s tools that help you, right? So a couple of software have tools that help understand, how people are connected or not. But there’s also human component. I think as a leader, you need to be really attuned to when people hit that point where you need to get them together. And that’s, part of, I think of solid, hybrid leadership. 

Narrator: Alice Fournier is the CIO of ISS Americas. ISS is a workplace experience and facility management company that improves business performance and enjoyment. 

In her role as CIO, Alice drives technology-led transformation. She’s an experienced leader, and she’s dedicated to empowering her teams to grow and thrive. Today, she’ll share how to foster belonging, equity, and opportunity in the workplace. 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 an interview with Alice Fournier. But first, let’s hear a word from our sponsor.

Alice Fournier: I am the regional CIO, which means that I have responsibilities for all of our IT infrastructure, and that’s as much our security and operations, everything in the backend of the business as well as what we’re referring to as our retail business. All of our, uh, point of sale technology, which enables our food services. and so I do that for, uh, North and South America.

Narrator: Let’s zoom out and take a look at how Alice views the role of the CIO and business partnership in The Flight Plan.

Alice Fournier: I think the role of the CIO has evolved tremendously. And when we think about what happened with the pandemic and the acceleration in digital transformation, everybody working from home, um, the CIO now becomes both a strategic business partner to the functions, right? When you think about HR, um, legal, um, you know, all of the functions that need to support business operations, we are strategic partners because all of these functions also had to transform digitally. So if you think about the role of hr, you know, even pre pandemic, um, and certainly go back 10 years ago, the needs were very different. Now, the systems that power up a strong HR function, are massive and, uh, drive a lot of data are connected into ERP systems. so I have to really act as a solid business partners to keep these functions. Not just going, but to keep the functions. Best in class and really knowledgeable about what’s out there in the market that can support their needs. And so that’s one aspect of the business partnership. The other aspect of the business partnership becomes technology as a lever for growth. so most businesses right now have technology, not just as a component of the infrastructure, but technology as a way to drive business growth, as a way to engage with customers differently, to engage with consumers differently. And so that also is part of the CIO role. And so the two components become really, really strategic, uh, with different partners in the business, but of course with the entire, the entire corporation, really. 

Narrator: So, what does Alice’s company do? ISS Americas is all about facilities management.

Alice Fournier: It’s a really workplace experience organization, and so, we help companies now, across all kinds of segment. You name it, aviation, hospital, manufacturing, corporations, you know, office buildings. We help all of these customers manage their facilities. So what that, to put it in simple terms, um, looking at supporting technical services, cleaning services. Food services, and then all of the pieces that keep buildings, strong, productive and that create great workplace experiences. so we have 360,000 employees worldwide. We’re a great big Danish organization. But around amongst the 360,000, there is, uh, a tremendous amount of different personas. Um, so I would say if there’s one thread that’s the ISS thread in terms of who are employees, everyone is very, very service-minded, service-oriented, and we really believe that it’s by connecting people and places that we can make the world better. And that’s the thread no matter where you are in the business. Now, in terms of different personas, we have a lot of employees on the front lines, so people who are providing cleaning services. We have chefs, so we’re very lucky. We eat very, very well. And so that’s a big plus. We have wonderful employees who are, you know, technical people. running, supporting, again, manufacturing. And of course we have our corporate functions because to help support and enable and empower the frontline employees, you also need all the traditional corporate functions. And so the personas are a variety, but again, what ties us together is truly. Service mindset, this customer focus that you find at every level of the organization. So it’s quite a business to work with. It’s an incredible variety of people. Uh, and of course that’s the case globally. 

Narrator: ISS has a huge employee base. It takes intention to connect with and take care of so many employees.

Alice Fournier: It is challenging, uh, to be able to reach each one of these 360,000 people to reach them in meaningful ways, in important ways, in ways where they feel validated, they feel that they understand where the organization is headed, how we’re moving in that direction. So it absolutely is a challenge to communicate. Uh, it requires really purposeful and very, um, intentful, planned ways of communication. I’m not sure if that’s a word in English, um, but you have to have solid intent and great communication plans, uh, to reach across all these different personas. Who again, Are not all on site with us, but are dispersed amongst a variety of clients. Uh, one of the ways that we are doing that is actually by deploying an employee experience apps or our own build where we are using that communication vehicle to really, be able to reach employees who are even on the front lines. so it’s our own. Developed an app, through which we can talk to employees, give them, you know, highlights, updates, share news, but also enable them to get access to their benefits and all the things that they need as employees. So we’re developing digital tools to do that. but even with solid digital tools, when you’re looking at 360,000 employees, and again, a series of personas on client sites, Always, a challenge. And it’s a challenge though that we address head on.

Narrator: It’s important to feel like you belong to your company. In addition to careful mentorship, Alice says that user-friendly digital tools can help people feel comfortable.

Alice Fournier: My own belonging, that’s such an important component and it’s, it’s what we believe in as a company. To be a company where you can be you, you can be yourself, you can feel that you belong. I mean, these things are profoundly important I think in the employee experience. We’ve all been in times in our careers where we don’t feel that way, and that really impacts the way we perform, the way we engage with each other and the way we serve customers. And so that Place of belonging is an important component for us. So again, digital tools, right? Always should be aligned to what you wanna create as a in-person experience, because that’s really the role of the digital is to also create the same approach, the same belonging, but on our phones largely. and I would say for me, a, a solid digital. Experience that’s app driven as a starting point, right? it starts on mobile, it starts on phones, and it has to be very, very simple. So we have employees who have different levels of literacy, and certainly of different levels of computer literacy. different languages. And so the key to, I believe, engaging meaningfully is to do so in a way that’s simple, in a way that’s very, very user friendly, where you can find quickly what you’re looking for, where you don’t have to scroll through too far, right? We know all the things we love on digital, and certainly a way that also, um, is inclusive. we have employees with different disabilities ensuring that our tools, can be used by everyone no matter, your disability, your challenges, and that’s also important how we think about technology and digital tools.

Narrator: A good employee experience can create a good customer experience. But employees aren’t our customers’ only touch points. Customers also use digital tools to answer questions and complete transactions. Let’s get into how ISS serves up a First Class experience. ISS starts with a simple, personalized digital experience. 

Alice Fournier:  The great big digital disruptors have driven a lot of that mobile experience. And that’s, one way that I always think about what is a great experience. So as a starting point, it’s simple. and the complexity has to reside in the backend, right? The complexity is for the engineers and it’s for the software developers to really work through. But what, we see, what we use, what we scroll through, has got to be simple. again, to me it’s simple. It’s mobile first, it’s inclusive. it must be, and certainly that it’s data driven and. the outcome of what you receive should be based on the data that you’ve driven from the app, the data that you’ve put into the app. And so that’s, you know, for me, an important component here where, again, we don’t necessarily see that on the front end. So when you look at the app, you may not see that, but it’s gotta be able to replay, to personalize some of the data, some of the outputs based on, what it knows about you. And that, too is part of a great experience. 

Narrator: Then ISS leverages data to make better recommendations to customers.

Alice Fournier: Looking for adoption rates, that’s a, a pretty simple but pretty critical metric. So number of people who use the information, how do they use it, where do they click? And I think certainly, um,  one of the areas that I’m always very, very interested in, and that’s not only on apps, but it’s certainly across all kinds of digital media is, you know, where, how often, how much do you leverage the tools? And so it’s really the simplicity that gives you the best information oftentimes. and so that’s the metric that we want to look at.

Narrator: Alice has a background in digital marketing, where personalization is core to the web experience. That informs how she thinks about data.

Alice Fournier: So in the current industry that I’m in, this is really at the beginning, but of course there are areas where we are, uh, starting to leverage that data more actively. So when you think about our food services, um, so do people, what do they eat? What do they love? What do they think about the food we serve? And so simple metrics, simple ways to understand feedback. Um, but that’s certainly an area where we’re starting to engage with the data quite significantly to make better choices for our customers. Similarly on the cleaning side, are the services. Answering your need. Do they meet your needs? Are they, and so again, very, very simple, customer feedback data, but that’s the kind of information that gives us the ability to improve our services. One of the areas that’s actually very, very interesting right now, and that, I would say across every client, every customer we’re having questions, it’s about leveraging data to understand room optimization. right? So now everyone is returning to the office. Not everyone, but lots of clients are, or lots of businesses really are saying, okay, you know, we had full-time in the office, then we had the pandemic. Everyone has created these lovely home offices. They’re now looking to come back. to physical offices or not, or we’re mandating. So every organization is trying to think about this differently, but one of the core question and becomes how are rooms used on the day-to-day? How many people are they booking them and not coming? Are they booking them and coming? again, how many people are in a physical room? How many people in the building? How often, you know, are Mondays and Fridays truly days with fewer people? And then what do you do about it? And So looking at the kind of data that’s really rising in importance and in strategic importance for our clients, I would argue this is probably the most critical one, is, building usage, room usage. and then to be able to then make some big decisions based on that.

Narrator: An empowered team creates an empowered customer experience. Alice explains how strong employee engagement can lead to better customer engagement. 

Alice Fournier: So internally with our team, um, we have a, um, central repository where we get to communicate, where we share information. and so we are quite engaged and we have our own internal app, as I mentioned earlier, which is how we engage with more and more of our people across the globe. And so for our teams, uh, we leverage digital activation to communicate primarily, uh, but also to make it as easy as possible to have access to all the systems and all the information that you need, in one centralized place as much as possible. Uh, but these things are always works in progress and, um, we’re not perfect. We have our ways to go. That’s an area that we’re actively working on is making it consistently or continuously easier to give. Central areas where employees can come in and have access to everything that they need. So I would say for digital activation internally, that’s how we think about it. 

Narrator: Today, it’s more common to work comfortably from your couch than from a cubicle in the office. Even in a hybrid work environment, the workplace can be unappealing. Alice says it’s important to make the in-office experience a great one.

Alice Fournier: Now, when we think about engaging with our clients, one of the areas that we’re focused on is that workplace experience. So as we think about, ‘What do I do with this great real estate?’ How do I create a great experience and how do I create a great experience in a hybrid? Because I might have employees who come to the office two days a week, three days a week. there’s a lot of talk about earning the commute. How do we, um, as I assess, help our clients and help our customers earn the commute, if you would, and, and ensure that employees come and when they do come to the office, it is a great experience. So we have our, our own tools that we’re developing, uh, that help employees book rooms, you know, look who’s, who is there? Uh, that’s always a great question, you know, for a very, very large organization, if I’m going to come into the office who’s around? who’s my group that I can, that I can see, that I don’t see every day? And so these kinds of tools are really, really important in creating a great workplace experience in ensuring that employees come on site, they collaborate. So not just come to the office to to sit in a cubicle and take zoom calls, but rather come to the office. and engage with my peers, engage with the people I’ve missed, you know, have these great moment of creativity around the water cooler. but if I don’t know who’s in the office, I can’t do that. Um, and of course then there’s digital activation, to order food. You know, this is a critical area with, of course, with the pandemic. And even a little bit prior to that, the way we would order food had already changed. Now, post pandemic, we have expectations. As far as how quickly, you know, can I order ahead, can I not? and so we’re working with customers to really reestablish some of these systems to, uh, meet the needs of their employees. And again, with the, really critical, important, vision to create that employee experience that gets people back in the office. because there’s just nothing like the in person. You know, we can do a lot of work, we can be productive from our home offices, but that moment in person in an office, there’s just nothing like it. And technology should be the tool that helps create that. 

Narrator: We’re used to using technology to connect during remote work. But how do you know when it’s time to get together in person? And when you do, how do you make that time valuable? Alice has a theory.

Alice Fournier: That’s the big question of frankly, the next 10 years, is what does that look like in an office? to be able to engage, to have real experience, to be with people and get to know them on a human level. We need that. We absolutely need that, and this comes from a tech person who’s been doing this for a long time, but you know, no technology will ever compensate or be the same thing as this one-on-one human. There’s just nothing like it. And that’s also part of the employee experience, right? How do we, as organizations, understand for now. you know, thinking from an ISS standpoint, we have a lot of employees who are in offices cause we’re. creating workplace experience. So a lot of our employees are, but we also have a lot of employees who aren’t, who work partly from home. and that’s always a big question. How do we know when, when that moment has come that, you know, I see it with my team where, oh, sometimes I think, okay, we’re ready to be together in person. Maybe a lot of, you know, difficult projects, difficult situations, or just you can sense it. As we think about great leadership too, great leadership in a hybrid world has. those elements of understanding when do I need to nudge my team? When do I need them here and There’s tools that help you, right? So a couple of software have tools that help understand how people are connected or not. but there’s also a human component. I think as a leader, you need to be really attuned to when people hit that point where you need to get them together and that’s, part of, I think of solid, hybrid leadership. 

Narrator: Alice’s team also works to make virtual interactions feel more valuable. 

Alice Fournier: It’s easy on technology to drift. keep your camera off and, you know, answer an email and side. Simple things right? But these things are critical. So one of the rules on my teams is that cameras have to be on. when I’m talking to you, you know, we can see each other and we’re all dispersed across the US, but one of my expectation is cameras on and, and we talk to each other, and sometimes it’s simple things, right? Taking a few minutes before or after the meeting to have that chat, that coffee that, um, you just, can’t have when you’re on, on these tools. and I would say the, Other element to that is once we are in person, how do we really manage this time that we have together? What do we do to leverage human interactions, to create spontaneity, to drive creativity, to feel connected? Because I think it’s not only, what you do when you are sitting in your home office and trying to connect with people and to stay engaged, it’s almost as importantly, the way as a leader, you manage that moment. and again, the workplace itself, right? Where are we going to meet? What kind of setting? What will drive a real connection, and real interaction? And I do think that the, again, that the physical workplace supported by good digital tools helps to create that. and it’s critical. It’s critical to people’s wellbeing and by extension, the company’s performance. 

Narrator: Now let’s shift to another important tool in Alice’s world: cybersecurity. In addition to making sure employees belong, they have to be safe at work. That’s where security training comes in. 

Alice Fournier: So we have, um, a very, very strong cybersecurity practice. We have that practice because we did have, um, an event a couple years ago. So our organization is well protected. I am thankful for that team every minute of every day. Um, when you think about the, the services that we provide, you know, although we are building some very solid in-house software capabilities, development capabilities, we’re, we’re a people business. So you might not think of us, you know, as critical cybersecurity partner. but it is important, and I would say one of the most critical things, certainly that how we vet the suppliers we work with is their cybersecurity, approach. not only the way they protect themselves from a systems and platforms perspective, but again, it comes back to people. because there’s more and more of social engineering that goes on when it comes to cybersecurity. the most vulnerable area of your organization are your people. And when you have 360,000 people, you have to be really, really, again, purposeful in the amount of training that you offer. So we’re, you know, we keep our training up to date. we run different campaigns and we have, again, a very, very solid cybersecurity team. but in the end, the biggest vulnerability, is people, people who click on links who get socially engineered through their online profiles. Um, so really helping people understand that in the end, they are our front lines, they are our eyes and ears, our most important. Protector of the organization. That’s part of the role as well beyond the actual tools that we use to keep the company secure. I’m very, very grateful that we are actively engaged with a strong cybersecurity practice.

Narrator: Alice has built a good team atmosphere and a strong cybersecurity practice. As a leader, she has to make sure that everything keeps going smoothly. She says the key to leading a well-oiled company is listening. 

Alice Fournier: From my standpoint, it’s always about understanding what people need most. It’s a lot of listening. To put it very simply, right? Where you know, where is it clunky? Where do the systems not talk to each other? it’s more about understanding where are people, um, not, where do they not feel that the experience is delivering? you know, what’s frustrating? where do they not get the data they need? so we have people on the front lines who need data to make good decisions. They need to make quick decisions based on information that they need at the tip of their fingers. Um, there are times we deliver on that. There are times we don’t. So for me, a lot of my role is to listen. Um, and I love, I absolutely love to go onsite with our operators and listen to them and really understand what is it that’s missing? What is it that just makes them frustrated? And how do I as a leader, set the way forward to, to improve these things to them? none of this is magic, right? They’re big systems. Just like any organization, you have a lot of tech Debt. Um, so lots of systems that need to be connected, a lot of data that needs to flow through. but once you do it right, then you deliver on the promise that digital can deliver on. but I would say getting ahead is really about listening. Listening to our front liners, listening to our customers, and listening to the market. you know, my background is, probably half marketing and, half technology and my marketing, background and, you know, I would say my default, is to always listen. Listen to the customer, look out for the trends. You know, what’s ahead that I can bring into the organization, that will create. Uh, better experience for people. What kind of, of innovation makes sense because not all innovation. you know, there’s a lot of bells and whistles out there. you know, jazzy things that may not give meaningful. innovation. And so for me, listening also means that I’m looking out, into what’s out there in the market that will make a meaningful impact. So, getting ahead is really just about listening, understanding, and looking out for ahead in the world.

Narrator: Alice also listens to her employees’ interests. She says it’s important to promote education, new ideas, and learning opportunities. 

Alice Fournier: You know, when you think about our employee value proposition, right? It’s a place to be you. It’s a place to be yourself and it’s about, for us, delivering opportunities to very diverse groups of people. It’s always very, very important, and especially in the IT world. Learning at speed is critical, right? When I think about hiring and bringing new team members on, the things that I’m most looking for are, um, the ability to learn, right? The understanding that what you’re doing now in two years will probably look quite different, and in 10 years you look back and you won’t believe, you know, how different it was 10 years ago. The pace of change in technology is fantastic. so what I love most is to look at how we can provide opportunities within the organizations to people who may not. Have them outside of the organization. I’ll tell you one. but it’s in the works. Um, there’s a young woman. Who actually works, in one of our client, customer facilities. and she is a host, so she provides guidance when you arrive in the building. Uh, wonderful. she reached out through our HR group, saying that she was really interested in, technology, and wanting to learn more, and particularly in cyber. and, Thankfully the lady, who, talked with her, knew me, uh, and brought her up to my attention and said, Hey, you know, I, I have this young. person who’s really interested in it, but There’s, um, fewer women in it. and so it’s a little bit harder to have role models and she brought her up to me and connected us, and I’ve been, you know, following her, um, in her learning of technology and really, Ability or her desire to learn more in this space. And for me, when I see people who want to learn, who might not have had access to, an education, or a typical education that would lead to, some computer science work or to an it. Space, but who are interested, who want to learn. It just makes me so excited. And so, um, so she’s in touch with our, you know, group in, in, uh, Copenhagen and in Warsaw. And, and so the fact that, uh, we can help her continue her learning journey, we can support her in that and, hopefully one day she can join the team as she, you know, continues her learning. I just absolutely love um, to help promote these kinds of opportunities for people who might not have them outside of the organization, and that’s the benefit of having. All these personas that we talked about at the beginning. Uh, we also have just exceptional program, women in culinary. so helping women be successful in the culinary world. That’s just a fantastic program. And when you look at the group of folks, um, who again, might not have these opportunities outside of the business, I mean, to me. It drives my day. It’s part of the purpose why we joined the organization and, having this wide range of people. It’s just an exceptional way to provide opportunities. And I’m, I’m. Always very, very inspired when we see that. Uh, we have, um, internal aware award awards. It’s a difficult word, but awards, um, celebration of people who do great things. And, you know, the kind of service-oriented mindset that we see across the business, uh, is just incredibly inspiring. and in times that were not easy. Lots of challenges and yet people continue to celebrate each other and provide opportunities. 

Narrator: Celebrating opportunities and success is important. But how do we work through challenging times together? Alice has some advice on leading through difficult circumstances.

Alice Fournier: So leading through change is what I’ve done. For the bulk of my career, digital transformation has always been about driving change. Now of course, COVID is next level challenge, but other big events have happened, um, as well, of course, we had to lead through. But I think as a starting point, any change, and especially when you’re looking at something massive or big emotional moment, Devastating moments. The first and most important thing in my view, and it sounds simple, but boy it isn’t, is just about communicating, right? People need to know that leaders are there, that leaders are really actively engaged in understanding how do we go forward. in my previous role, you know, we had a group that would get together weekly. During Covid to, talk with each other, to understand how are people doing? is there anyone that we need to be aware of who needs a special support? Uh, what’s our next step? So, From my standpoint, it’s communication. It’s also humanity. And Covid taught us, right? We are all humans with our own challenges, with our own families, and dogs and, you know, that we’re helping. I mean, families can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. And so I think the humanity that we learned from each other. Within covid is critical to recognizing that we are in these great big corporations because we value their purpose. We wanna help, um, support what they stand for. We want anarchists to create these great workplace experiences, but we’re all humans with, with holistic personas and challenges. so what I think is important, right? Is. That humanity that we learned during covid, how do we keep it, how do we bring that to the office, the full person? and that’s not simple because it’s easy to default back to our, you know, other mode. Um, but, but I think that’s really, really important is to understand how. How do we keep this humanity? and I think the last piece I would say as it relates to leading through change, is again, taking time to listen. , right? Change is difficult, uh, drastic change when there’s a lot of emotions such as covid, increasingly difficult. And so it’s communicating, but it’s really a two-way communication where, I can profoundly listen to what people need, to be well, to perform, to be successful in different environments. And that’s the kinds of skills that, I bring to change as well. Uh, new systems require a lot of listening.

Narrator: Serving employees comes back to serve the company in a cycle. But sometimes things can still get a little bumpy. Alice shares some wisdom she’s gained from when things get rough, in Turbulence.

Alice Fournier: Probably what is the most challenging employee experience is when you encounter systemic, lack of equity. and to me that’s, probably, one of the areas that really pulls at my heart’s strings. Um, you know, systems can go wrong. Um, there’s no question about that, but even the best systems in the world, If they are sitting on foundations where there is systemic inequity, where people don’t feel valued, where the dignity in humans, is not respected. I think that, you know, and we can talk about bad systems experience, but I think fundamentally these things have to be true. For anything else to work on top. So from my standpoint, a challenging employee experience is when you encounter Uh, lack of equity. I would argue that’s probably where it’s the most difficult, um, and where people again, don’t feel valued and worthy for what they’re contributing to the organization. so that for me is a, people experience is probably the most challenging. Now if we talk about a digital employee experience, what makes that difficult is often when there’s lack of connectivity, right? So when, when systems don’t talk to each other, when the data doesn’t represent what you need it to represent when people struggle, uh, with driving insights and actions from the data. So these are more on the system side. I think this creates a difficult or challenging employee experience, um, when things, again, for, you know, a very simple term, but when things feel clunky, um, that’s challenging from a digital employee experience. But, but again, I think fundamentally, um, equity, fairness. authenticity and leadership. These things have to be true, and these are the things that are foundational to a good employee experience.

Narrator: When facing a hurdle as big as system inequities, Alice says she starts with hiring. Then she commits to her values. 

Alice Fournier: It starts with, you know, looking at, uh, skills and, competencies, uh, across a varied number of backgrounds. I think it’s about honoring neurodiversity again, another. Big topic for me. Um, I was in education for many years and I’ve seen, you know, different learners. Uh, some are introverts, some are extroverts. How do you recognize and honor all of all of the different learners and actually, again, creating a place to become what you want to become. And the ultimate right, is to create a purpose that everyone can really, uh, look towards and all of these things. So, so for me, interestingly, actually, it’s one of the reasons why I joined ISS, because that was front and center. Uh, there are very clear commitments on gender balance, um, even sustainability because that plays, right? It’s not, it’s people’s equity, but it’s also how do you contribute to the planet, you know, how do you contribute to sustainability meaningfully? To me, areas that really drew me to this role and two ISS as an organization were around these big commitments. So I think as leaders, we have, as a starting point, a choice to make. And, and if you look at, at millennials and centennials, you know, they’re making choices based on their values. So as a leader, I wanna contribute to an organization where my values align. And to me, that’s where it begins, right? It’s honoring who you are and who you want to be as a leader. And it’s making choices that are aligned. Now, I’ve worked for a lot of companies that were aligned to my purpose, but when this opportunity came, I thought, wow, these are you know, big commitments on gender balance, on sustainability, and all of these things are part of how you can make a contribution and there’s a lot of people working really, really hard to create that global community of belonging and all of these things, for me, were ways that that contributed to how I wanna be a leader. Who supports, you know, working towards a more equitable world. it truly was, and, and, you know, I know we got into this conversation on a different tension, but it was part of how I made the choices. So I think it’s, it’s part of it, right? As a leader, it’s choosing where you want to go to make an impact, and finding organizations that will be aligned from a values and purpose perspective. and then, you know, joining a new one, you end up joining. People are very like-minded. You know, that’s where you can feel that you make an impact.

NARRATOR: Leaders aren’t just bosses. They’re teachers and coaches. They can make an impact by working with their peoples’ strengths, and increasing visibility for all team members. 

Alice Fournier: I had a, a prior boss who always said, we are here as leaders to help people get an A and not to grade their paper. And I absolutely love that. And I think that’s the mindset that you must put yourself in order to provide opportunities. And so for, for diverse groups of people and, you know, different learners, introvert, extroverts, look at diversity again, the, the broad scope of diversity So from my standpoint, if I put myself in the mindset of I’m going to help you get an A, my role then, as a leader becomes to clarify what does an A look like? That’s for me to do as a leader. So this is what an A look like. And now based on your strength, based on how I am meeting you as a person, I can help you get that A. It’s not for me. I’m not going to grade your paper and say, you did poorly or you did well. I’m going to be much like a coach, look at your strength and work with your strength to really help develop you to that. A and so for me, that is the mindset that I like to think about and I would say as a leader, then it becomes on us. To leverage different tools. And so if we go back to digital and to technology and to workplaces, when I’m in a meeting with different people, they might need different ways of engaging, right? Some of us are very verbal and we like to, you know, raise our physical hand or raise a virtual hand. but different people. Like to do that differently, you know? And so for me as a leader, how do I get to engage people in a way that gets visibility across all of my team members? It may be that in some cases I need to call somebody out on the chat because I know that they’re not really going to want to, you know, interject in a meeting. And, it may be that for some people, you know, I’ll throw a gif out there. so different ways of engaging with different people I think is a way that you begin to provide growth opportunities because these growth opportunities now don’t have to be linear. Uh, right. I have a, very, very non-linear background as I think many people in tech do. Um, the benefit of a non-linear background is that it expands your view, it expands your understanding, uh, of business challenges, of new technologies. And so, I think putting yourself in that mindset enables you to work with people’s strength, um, and to really focus on that, to understand what kind of growth opportunities that may be non-linear, but yet very, very interesting. That’s primarily how I think we can do that. Again, thinking about the workplace itself, even the physical workplace has to be thought out to create these experiences as well, that enable different people to contribute differently because it’s only if we as leaders set the right, Experience that we’re going to get to know our people well and, in a more holistic way, and then be able to provide growth based on their individual strengths.

Narrator: We’re reaching the end of our time with Alice. What’s her best piece of advice for tech leaders?

Alice Fournier: Best advice, right? Technology changes. It changes quickly if you are a leader in technology and as ISS we are going to become the tech leader in our industry. And to do that, you must really understand the pace of change. Uh, be really, really discerning around what’s meaningful change, what’s meaningful innovation, and what isn’t. I think these are important characteristics of a solid tech leader. So it’s understanding innovation that’s meaningful to your industry. So I would say that’s an important component. The other portion is to be aware of your impact. As leaders, right, we sometimes forget our impact, but when we walk in the room, whether it’s the virtual room or a physical room, we create the workplace experience as leaders. And so the energy that I bring in the room is the energy that others will receive. And as leaders, especially for people who begin their leadership journey, we forget that. We forget the impact that we bring to the room. Again, virtual or physical. but I would say from a leadership perspective, that’s probably the area that. that I would give as far as advice because we’re quick to forget that. and it’s a really important piece to be aware of your impact, be aware of your word, your energy, and the way you engage with others will really have an impact on their day and their ability to feel validated. and so ensuring that we stay cognizant of that as leaders is, is critical to a successful employee experience.

Narrator: Leaders have an important role in making a team not only successful, but cared for. When companies listen to employees, foster growth at all levels, and pay attention to equity, their workforce becomes that much stronger. Thank you for listening to this episode of Cruising Altitude. This episode 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

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Cruising Altitude

Lessons from companies over 30,000 employees

Conversations with 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.

Hosted by Firstup Founder and CEO, Nicole Alvino.

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