Narrator: Sometimes, the best way to provide an amazing employee experience is simply to ask employees for their input. What do they need to do their job well? What would make their job easier? Asking for that feedback should be built into employee engagement. That’s what we’re talking about today with Jami Schultz, senior director of employee relations and development at Canon USA.
Jami Schultz: One of our strongest assets in our culture is the people. So many people at Canon, if you ask them what’s one of the things they love most about their job, it’s the people. It’s the relationships that we have with our colleagues, with our management team. And that’s definitely what I have found too. It is just such collaborative, collegial environment.
Narrator: Canon is a leading provider of consumer, B2B, and industrial digital imaging solutions. Jami has worked with Canon for over 12 years. In her role as senior director of employee relations and development, she solves people problems every day. Today, she’ll share what tools, ideas, and programs set her up for success.
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 Jami Schultz. But first, let’s hear a word from our sponsor.
Jami Schultz: I am a lawyer by trade. I’m one of those kinds of rare breeds I guess, that knew I wanted to be a lawyer since the eighth grade, and never wavered, uh, from that. for undergrad, I was at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations. so employment law, labor relations was always in my background, even going back to college. so then early on in law school, I figured out that I wanted to focus on the area of employment law. I liked the idea of law relating to everyday people issues that everyone deals with at work, as opposed to, perhaps the more mundane transactional law. That’s what drew me to employment law as a field. so after graduating law school, I practiced employment law, um, in a law. For about four years, then I went . In-house, to do employment law at a financial services company. that was in, uh, around 2008, 2009. I had just had my second child. I was living on Long Island, commuting to the city, and needed a change. I very much wanted to give up the city commute. so that’s how I found the job at Cannon, doing employment law. So it was my dream job. I was gonna be happy. Spend the rest of my career doing employment law at Cannon. but then, um, after being at Cannon for about two years, the new, senior VP of HR for Cannon. Tapped me on the shoulder and said, Hey, you know, I need someone to run employee relations in hr. and would you consider doing that and making that kind of change? and my dad is an HR guy, and had worked in HR for his entire career and. We used to go back and forth about who knew more about the law, me or him, and it was always pretty darn close. so I realized that making the move into hr, wouldn’t involve kind of giving up my entire legal background and my legal knowledge. You know, I still use that knowledge almost every day. And so I decided it was just a really good career opportunity and I, I took it. and I’ve never looked back. I absolutely love what I do. I love being in hr, and just getting to interact with all of our employees. I truly love what I do and, and couldn’t imagine a different career place at this point.
Narrator: Jami’s truly passionate about what she does. So let’s see how she puts her HR expertise to work in The Flight Plan.
Jami Schultz: it, It comes out in, you know, kind of the everyday issues that come to my desk, whether it’s, let’s say a manager that has an employee with perhaps some kind of medical situation. and the employee is saying that they need some kind of reasonable accommodation, and the manager is asking for HR advice. What do I do with this employee who has this medical condition? How do I handle it? What are my responsibilities? That’s all based on knowledge of the law and what our legal obligations are first and foremost. And then of course, within our culture and policies and practices, that all comes into play too. But a lot of how HR has to respond to various issues that come. From managers or from employees themselves, A lot of it is rooted in what the laws are regarding the employee employer relationship.
Narrator: If you’re in HR, you have to problem-solve. You have to find answers to employee questions. Jami relies on her teams to make sure employees are well taken care of.
Jami Schultz: I am responsible for a couple of different teams. First I have responsibility for our, learning and development team. so they provide all of the, uh, employee training, to our employees from everything to, uh, legally required compliance training to just. Professional development training, in a variety of different areas. I also have responsibility for our talent management team, which works on building career paths for employees, succession planning. and that’s the team, that is responsible for running our employee engagement surveys. which I can. About a bit more down the road. and then I’m responsible also for the employee relations team. and employee relations is really the employee’s first go-to person for any issues, questions relating to their employment experience, whether it’s about their career, their performance, if they’re having issues with their manager or a coworker, that all comes to their HR business partner first. And so that is my team. So we’re sort of the face of the company for all of the employees, for all types of issues, and that’s nation.
Narrator: If Jami’s team is the face of the company, the employees are the body. And maintaining a relationship between the two can go a long way.
Jami Schultz: This may sound cliche, but I think for Canon we actually live and breathe it. one of our strongest, assets in our culture is the people. so many people at Canon, if you ask them what’s one of the things they love most about their job, it’s the people. It’s the relationships that we have with our colleagues, with our management team. and that’s definitely what I have found too. It is just such. Collaborative, collegial environment. And again, I’ve been blessed with a number of different opportunities along the way to grow my career, and feel like I’m doing some good for our employees and enhancing their experience. so that’s definitely, what has kept me there, as long as I’ve been. I’ve always said, if you are gonna spend so much of your day to day in a job, you better like the people that you’re spending all that time with. So,and I think, our company and industry I think is unique because obviously a large portion of our industry is, you know, known as a more mature industry. Obviously, the. Printers and, you know, multifunction devices in, you know, an office setting, is definitely more mature. So much of work is moving towards a more digital environment. but we are so diverse, um, in our offerings. So it’s not just those office products. We also have all of our consumer imaging products. Like all of our cameras and our home printers. And obviously, you know, the home printing network, exploded during the pandemic. so that was very, uh, important for us. we’re also very innovative, so we’re able to. Keep coming up with new products and new ideas to respond to the changing market. so for example, one of our newest products is, uh, a device that would actually help to facilitate work situations where perhaps you have. Some members of the team in person, but also some members that are participating in a meeting virtually. you know, our Amlo s technology, is a technology that helps to bridge the gap between a meeting where perhaps some participants are in person and some are virtual. So it, it’s a very dynamic company. And again, a lot of innovation that keeps us going as the markets that we’ve traditionally been focused on, as those markets change, we adapt.
Narrator: HR innovation has been crucial lately. Before the pandemic, Canon employees were in the office full time. When that changed, Canon had to adapt to a new reality to make the office work for everyone.
Jami Schultz: One of the biggest changes for our company and our culture, in the post pandemic world is that, pre pandemic, we were exclusively, five days a week, in the office full time. We honestly had very little flexibility in terms of ability to work from home. It just, it was not part of our corporate culture at all. Obviously the pandemic turned that completely on its head. and now we’ve really settled into what we call a hybrid work style for the majority of our employees where we are all in the office together. Two days a week on the same two days, and then we’re able to work remotely three days a week. So I love to say I think it’s the perfect balance in terms of time together in the office to be collaborative, to have that. Experience of connecting with each other, but also having the flexibility to work from home. But at the same time, it can be a little more challenging to onboard new team members, for example, when you’re not in the office five days a week. I think we’ve done a good job of really Utilizing teams, Microsoft Teams is the functionality that we use for our remote, meetings and interactions. And I think we’ve really pushed and gotten all of our divisions to really find fun ways to still make meaningful connections. but that’s definitely been a, a challenge is, you know, making sure that newer employees still feel that deep connection to their teams, and the work that they’re doing, even though we’re not in the office together exclusively full-time like we used to.
Narrator: Before creating a good customer experience, a company has to create a good employee experience. Jami says it’s easier to do that when you know exactly what your employees want and need. Let’s get into how Canon serves up a First Class experience for its employees.
Jami Schultz: One thing that has been very important to us for a couple of years and, and became even more so coming out of the pandemic, was doing our employee engagement surveys. and that’s something that we started doing A couple of years before the pandemic, I think maybe around 2016 might have been the first time we did an engagement survey. and that’s really important because that gives us direct feedback from the employee population as to things that they think are working, things that, you know, may not be working as well. it’s listening to that feedback and actually making meaningful changes as a result of that feedback. and our most recent engagement survey, we did just, last summer, um, in 2022. We had not done one. The last one before that was in 2019, pre pandemic. This latest survey in 2022 really was gonna be a test of our post pandemic work experience. And I’m happy to say we saw tremendous improvement on every single metric that we ask about from 2019 relative to 2022. So that really spoke volumes for how our employees were responding to a lot of the, you know, changes that we had to make, you know, Post pandemic practices that have stayed and now become a new permanent part of our culture post pandemic. so I think again, just receiving and responding to that feedback from employees, from the employee engagement survey definitely helps us to continue to not just attract new talent, but retain the talent that we have. We broke it out into three separate categories, um, that focused on the individual experience, the experience with managers and the experience with their executives. And so some of the questions on the individual experience were things like, I enjoy, you know, working with my colleagues and then it’s rated on a scale of, you know, strongly agree to strongly disagree. On the manager index questions like, I get timely and responsive feedback from my manager. Rate it from strongly agree down to strongly disagree. and then on the executive index, we would ask questions like, I feel like I have a good sense as to what the executive strategy is. Strongly agree down to whether you strongly disagree. So I think breaking it up that way, again, it gave us a good sense as to see how employees feel about their individual experience, how they relate to their individual managers and how they feel about the executives.
Narrator: Jami says that these surveys have provided great insight for what Canon’s employees want. How have these surveys impacted the company?
Jami Schultz: On previous surveys, that was always something that kind of came out, is that people would have liked to have a little bit of flexibility in their work style and, and we just didn’t have any. And we announced it as sort of a, this is not an interim step where we foresee going back to. A five day in person at any time soon. This is sort of our new normal, this hybrid environment. And so I think if you talk to a lot of people that had been at Cannon for many, many years and you said to them back in, you know, in 2019, if we had told you that you would be working two days in the office and three days at home, wouldn’t you have believed us? And most people would’ve said no way. So it was a huge culture shift for us. And hugely, hugely positive. And again, because I think it has a good balance of giving people. Flexibility to work from home, but not giving up a core part of our corporate culture, which is that collaborative environment and collaborative experience. We didn’t wanna lose that either. And I think honestly, it’s hard to have that level of collaboration if we were exclusively . Remote. so again, I think the hybrid is just kind of in that sweet spot of the best of both world.
Narrator: Canon’s experience was so positive that Jami recommends everyone uses an engagement survey. After all, you won’t know until you try!
Jami Schultz: I think a definite best practice is doing something like an engagement survey if, if your company doesn’t do that, I think it’s really important because it tells the employee population we care. About what you think and what matters to you, where we think we could improve. But then just as important as doing a survey and soliciting the feedback is showing employees how we respond. To that feedback, and that was something that we talked about at an executive level, for a long time in the early, you know, in the early stages of our engagement surveys, that, the worst thing I think a company could do is to roll out something like an engagement survey and then have nothing to show for it in the end. I, I may be breaking away from the best practices for a minute, but just sticking with, with that as a best practice, I think, one of the early things that we did, in a, in direct response to our engagement survey results, um, was really beef up our training programs. So we heard in some of our early survey iterations that employees felt like they wanted. More training and more help building out career paths and career opportunities. So we creative a program, uh, that we call the Canon Leadership Institute for Managers. And so it takes new managers and puts them through a program with a series of different training courses over the course of several months, um, is the whole Leadership Institute program. and just a variety of different courses on how to be a leader and how to be a manager. inside out coaching, is one of the courses as an example, you know, to teach a new manager how to give good feedback, to an employee. we also created a similar, training course like that for individual contributors. so people who are not necessarily gonna be on the management track, but wanna grow their career as individual contributors. That’s actually, uh, an even newer program that we rolled out, around last year. Training programs, um, was a definite response that we were able to tie back directly to engagement survey.
Narrator: So far, Canon’s engagement survey has brought about flexible in-person time, training programs, and career opportunities. Anything else?
Jami Schultz: Another best practice, I think is finding ways to always celebrate your employees, their accomplishments. and so this is something that we had always done. Before the pandemic, we would do things like, we have quarterly service breakfasts, that recognize employees every quarter celebrating milestone anniversaries, five years, 10 years, 15 years, uh, and so on. And that was always something very special that employees would look forward to is celebrating their service anniversary at a, a breakfast. when we transitioned to. All being fully remote during at least the thick of the pandemic. We turned our service celebrations and made them all fully virtual. And so it, it just required us to be a little creative in how to still make a meaningful, special ceremony. But we were able to do that with having some of our executives. Speak at, at these virtual celebrations. and they became so special, that now some of our regional offices are continuing to hold virtual service celebrations, because it allows them to include a lot more employees, employees who are more, perhaps because they work in sales, so they don’t come into an office on a regular basis. We’ve been able to use the digital environment or the virtual environment and still find ways to continue to celebrate our employees, which again, I think is a, a really, really important thing. I’ll even share a, another story, that touches on that about how something so small can have such a big impact, in the thick of the pandemic, our. Our CEO really wanted to find a way to thank our employees, for all of their hard work during the thick of the pandemic, and frankly, to not just thank our employees but their families as well. because when we were working exclusively from home for so long, obviously that can put a strain on. Families as well. So the company sent cookies. Tate’s Cookies, um, which is a, a local, uh, long Island company. and we sent Tate’s cookies to all of our employees at their homes as sort of a holiday. Thank you. And I cannot tell you the incredible response that we got to cookies. But it was just that kind, unexpected. Small yet really thoughtful gesture. And it just meant so much for, for a long time after we kept saying like, can you believe it was just cookies? But it meant so much, to so many of our employees. So yes, those little gestures can really go such a long way.
Narrator: Celebrating employees is at the heart of what Jami does. She says a little recognition always goes a long way.
Jami Schultz: Another theme that we heard, um, in earlier iterations of the survey too, was that employees were also looking for more forms of recognition. so again, previously a lot of our. Signature recognition programs focused on things like celebrating milestone anniversaries. We had an annual program that we call our Spirit Award where we recognize certain employees at the end of every year for going above and beyond outside their normal role. But we didn’t have any kind of more daily on the spot recognition program. And that was definitely a theme that we heard from our employees. Fast forward to today, actually a program that we launched, last year. Um, and we now have, an employee recognition program that we call our Spotlight program. over time we expanded it where it’s now, uh, a live program for all of Canon U s A, and employee. Can managers can recognize employees, not just within their own division, but even cross divisionally as well. and I think sometimes it’s those cross-divisional recognitions, that mean so much because it’s, it’s wonderful to know that your manager or someone in your management chain is recognizing your work, but to hear that someone else in a completely different division, that you maybe worked on a project with, that someone in a different division is recognizing your contribution and thanking you for that work, is very, very meaningful. So I think that was a big strategy for us, was finding a way to give employees that type of on the spot recognition program that they were, that they were looking.
Narrator: Jami looks for ways to make a hybrid work environment not only friendly, but efficient.
Jami Schultz: I think one thing, that we’ve come to see and, and you know, we would advise for other managers and I’ll, I’ll just use our own HR department. for example, we have weekly or biweekly, HR leadership meetings. And they were always in person, obviously when we were in person all the time. But we came to realize now that we are hybrid, that it was actually more efficient for all of us to have that weekly full staff meeting. On a virtual day, because what we found is on our in-office days, that’s usually when all of a sudden you have so many people wanting to stop by, Hey, can I see you today? Can I pop in today? Because we’re all in the office. So when you’re loaded up with, you know, stacked pre-scheduled meetings on an in-office day, that can be challenging to then. All of the pop-ins that are so natural to happen. so I would encourage a lot of our, our departments and, and managers that, you know, weekly standing meetings like that, that, that maybe don’t have to be in person. Perhaps that can be more efficient. To do virtually, cuz again, you wanna free up as much time as you can. I think for the in-office days for more of that, you know, off the cuff, unexpected, unplanned, collaboration. So I think that’s been one approach, at least within hr that has definitely been helpful.
Narrator: Now that we work in a virtual world, it can be easy to fall back on impersonal workflows. Jami works to change that at Canon.
Jami Schultz: It’s important to keep reminding people that during our in-office days, make sure you’re meeting in person rather than just resorting to calling someone on teams again. Because I think, you know, we can all fall into that trap a little bit where even if I’m in the office Now I’m so used to using teams, you know, for, for meetings or, or phone calls and, oh, I’ll just call this person on teams. And so I think it’s important to keep encouraging people to, hey, have an in-person meeting on our in-office days. And every time we do have in-person meetings, even still, the reaction is also. Often, oh, it’s so nice to have an in-person meeting again. It’s so good to see you face-to-face live, not just behind the screen. So remembering to strike that balance of the face-to-face meetings along with the teams meetings as well.
Narrator:Jami prefers face-to-face interactions. But when things are virtual, what tools does Canon use?
Jami Schultz: I think it’s largely teams, in terms of how we communicate with each other. we can also set up, um, Through teams, if you have like a project group for example, you can set up a special like teams channel, where you can do file shares as well. So I think the file share component of teams, um, and I think there may be some other softwares, um, that I don’t personally use as much, but definitely other file share programs that are out there that exist are important too. cuz I think when you are hybrid, where sometimes you’re in the office and sometimes you’re at home it’s important to always have constant access to files. So I think the digital file share capabilities becomes important too, so that you always have access to critical documents regardless of whether it happens to be an in-office day or a home day.
Narrator: Let’s circle back to employee recognition. How does Canon make space for employees to focus on celebration and reflection?
Jami Schultz: One of our, our service breakfasts, which I mentioned before, is something we do quarterly. So, for a number of years, one of the highlights of the service breakfast is that we will pick a particular employee at, at somewhat of a high level, not necessarily our VP level, but someone who has, is celebrating whether 25 years or 30 years a, a significant milestone anniversary. And we will ask them to be sort of our keynote speaker for the breakfast and we will have that person reflect on their career, how they got to where they are, and share, you know, messages and perspectives with everyone in the audience, but particularly focusing on everybody there who’s celebrating perhaps the five year and the 10 year. You know, show what longevity can do. And frankly, getting back to one of the points we talked about before about why people stay as long as they do, um, And so, recently at one of our breakfasts, it was a 30 year employee that we had. And when we had asked this person to be our speaker, she was a little hesitant at first because she wasn’t used topublic speaking, was a little unsure about doing it. And when, you know, we explained the purpose that, you know, it’s to really give you an opportunity to first of all reflect on your career and share, you know, lessons learned, share perspective other employees. And so she agreed to do it and after giving her little presentation, I remember she came up to me afterwards and said how meaningful it was even just for her personally to have that opportunity to be forced to reflect on where you started a and and she said, you know, when I look back on where I started as a relatively low level employee and now to look that, you know, I made it all the way to, senior director over the course of my career, it was like, wow, I can’t believe I accomplished all of that. Just knowing that we helped to give an employee that kind of meaningful reflection, meant a lot. Without having a reason to, we probably don’t ever think about or have a reason to just reflect on our own journey. But it can be very, very meaningful and then impactful for other employees to hear, because then they could look at themselves and say, Hey, you know, I have the same, potential to reach a level like that and stay with this company for that. Too. If if this employee can do it, I can do it as well. And I could tell you for sure, I never would’ve thought I would be working in HR when I walked in the door 12 years ago. So, and, and frankly, I think that’s something else that is really special and unique about Canon and, and a lot of people have a story kind of similar to mine because that’s something Canon will do if they, if, if our executives see potential in you and see that you are a strong individual and a hard worker. We will identify other opportunities for you that you may not have thought about for yourself. I’m not the only one with a story like that where you come to Cannon doing one job and then your career gets taken in a completely different direction at Cannon, but it’s always in a way that just provides you with additional growth opportunities and career development opportu. So again, I think that’s another one of our strengths is sometimes we identify the opportunities for our employees.
Narrator: Jami is a mindful employee experience leader. So when things don’t go as smoothly as she would hope, she takes lessons from the experience. To become an even stronger leader. Let’s get into some of the wisdom she’s gained from when things get rough, in Turbulence.
Jami Schultz: I always say, I think the thing I love best about what I do is that I’m out in front, dealing with the employees on a day-to-day basis, working to improve their experience, get out in front of any issues, try to avoid issues here and there, and again, really just enhance the experience.Sometimes some of the issues we have to deal with is an employee who is having issues relating to their manager or, you know, doing the work the way the manager wants it to be done. And so a lot of times we will help almost serve like mediator function. We will help the employee and the manager find a better way to communicate, make sure that the manager is properly communicating the expectations to the employee, making sure the employee fully understands the expectations. so definitely, helping to work through any potential conflicts or issues, is a big part of the job in hr. And I think when it comes to the emotional side, I always think it’s important to always recognize, that there’s two sides. You know, if there’s a conflict, whether it’s between an employee and a coworker, or an employee and a manager, both individuals have their perceptions of how things are, and so I always like to make sure that we’re recognizing both perceptions never saying, this one is right or this one is wrong. Because, you know, again, it’s, it, it, it’s what you perceive, and what you perceive is your reality. so again, finding ways to find common ground, get beyond the emotion, can be important.
Narrator: HR can be the mediator between employee and manager. But it’s not only up to HR to be a great communicator. Jami describes how Canon leadership strives for open communication.
Jami Schultz: It started with our c e o, and right at the time of the pandemic, we had gone through a CEO transition. Um, it was, plan before the pandemic. It was completely unexpected that literally at the beginning of the pandemic, our new c e o would be taking over. it all started with his leadership. And again, in the early days of the pandemic, it was very, very important to our c e O to be as communicative with the employee population as we possibly could. And we tried to stay with that mindset of communicating and being open with our employees throughout the pandemic in the years that followed and that became important for things like reopening the office, making sure that we communicated well in advance to our employees of when we were planning to reopen the office and bring employees back, that was very important to show that, hey, we recognize that you may have childcare situations to work through. Making sure that we gave our employees the time that they needed, whether it was to mentally prepare to come back to the office. I think the way we communicated, provided information in advance, giving time to prepare. and also frankly, going into detail about the steps that we were taking. Again, in the early days of bringing people back to the office, the steps we were taking to keep people as safe as possible, whether that was, you know, having hand sanitizer stations, you know, throughout, the building. Offering masks to employees, you know, if they needed one. You know, little things like that. I think were really important to just show employees that, we cared and were doing everything possible to balance both the health and safety of our employees and the health and safety of our business as well.
Narrator: In the case of COVID-19, communication was the most important bridge between leadership and employees.
Jami Schultz: I think definitely communication, and the, the need to react swiftly in the, in the beginning.for example in the beginning, because, you know, work from home was not part of our culture. One of the first things we faced was we had a lot of employees that did not have laptops. And, obviously in the beginning of the pandemic, working from home was the only way the work was gonna get done. Because we weren’t permitted to come into the office. So we had to find a way to pretty quickly get laptops to all of our employees so that they could work remotely. so that was kind of a big challenge early on. but we were able to do it and, you know, we were able to keep the business running. Pretty seamlessly. So yeah, the, the big lessons learned for the future are, are definitely communicating, giving as much advanced notice of important things as possible, and just being able to react and respond quickly to changing outside circumstances.
Narrator: Jami also thinks it’s important to communicate boundaries to employees. One of her most important boundaries is work-life balance.
Jami Schultz: I think it’s important to always keep a balance and I think that’s an important point. Especially on those work from home days. So at least like for me, it can become very easy to lose sight of, you know, where work starts and ends when you’re just working from home. So I always make sure to still take my lunchtime, especially on my work from home days, and whether that’s to get outside, take my dog for a walk or maybe run some errands, but just to make sure that I still have that separation from work time and home time, especially on those work from home days, that becomes really, really important. I always say never underestimate the importance of a walk around the block on our in-person days that I used to give that advice to employees. You know, if they were ever going through, you know, a challenging situation. I would say, you know, when you feel the need go outside and just take a walk around the building. We have beautiful walking trails on our property. so never lose sight of how important just a few minutes of fresh air, can be in the middle of the day to to help recharge.
Narrator: Once you’ve taken that time for yourself to recharge, you’ll be a better communicator. You’ll also be a better listener. And to Jami, that’s the most important part of any relationship.
Jami Schultz: Always listen. listening is so, so, so important. I, if you really listen, first of all, it just, it lets the person that is coming to you with an issue feel like they’re being heard. And that’s often what an employee needs, you know, just as much as anything is just to be heard. So listen, and I always like to say take a step back before necessarily giving an answer on how to address something. So I like to listen, take it in, and then say, let me get back to you. And have that time to kind of process, to also make sure I’m not making a snap decision or snap judgment. So listen and take time to think. would probably be my two biggest pieces of advice. It is a perfect response to a manager to say, let me think about it. Let me get right back to you. That is a perfect, perfect, appropriate response. And sometime it’s the best response cuz again, it gives us time to think, discuss, and again, make sure we’re coming up with the right response to whatever the situation is.
Narrator: HR leaders play an important role in making sure employees have a chance to voice their own needs and opinions. When a company listens to its employees and recognizes their hard work, everyone wins.
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