Change Agents: Reuters interviews Sharyn Jones, head of talent management at Mass Mutual

by birtanpublished on September 18, 2020

sharon if you had to describe the multi-generational workforce in one word what would it be and why power the more diversity you bring within an organization and that is age that is gender that is

Race and ethnicity you're going to have better outcomes more innovative outcomes more collaboration you're going to be a more agile organization and ultimately don't we all want that

I'm lauren young i am an editor at reuters where i oversee workplace coverage and i am leading an effort to talk about the multi-generational workforce i am gen x and i'm joined here today with

Sharon jones who is the head of talent management at massmutual and she is based in connecticut sharon thank you for joining us today sharon can you tell me a little bit

About mass mutual and the age diversity within the company how multi-generational are you sure thanks lauren uh we're so mass mutual as you mentioned is an insurance company we're based in the headquarters

In springfield massachusetts we have about 7 500 employees at the current moment and we are in age range people that are let's say early 20s to 70s in terms of our population so you

Could really understand that we do have multiple generations in our workforce um interacting every day and we have people that are days old so they've started with the company this week we have people that

Are decades with the company so it's not only that kind of different age groups within our population but different experiences as well in terms of of time and tenure within the organization

There's a new normal in the office which is you in your home office and me and my dining room um and so what challenges does that bring for the multi-generational workforce

Yeah it's interesting i mean the the question around challenges because i think we are about situations uh and those situations you know one of the things that mass mutual prides

Itself on is meeting people where they are so we don't have a one-size-fits-all mentality for anything that we do what we do is when we're thinking about how do we uh

Solve a challenge how do we think about multiple populations we're always thinking about how will that impact each of those different uh kind of millennial gen y gen x you know what does that look like

Baby boomers how do you address that and so one of the things that we do is when we're thinking about um challenges we solicit feedback from within the organization we make sure that we're talking with

Those different age groups and i think a great example of that is we have a reverse mentoring program in one of our business resource groups it's called uh the young professionals group

And uh they have a program called truth to power and it consists of let's call it a more seasoned uh leader within our organization paired with a small group of millennials and they

Get together and you would think okay what might they be talking about for sure technology uh you know that would be a common area to discuss but secondarily it's really to talk about uh what's

Going on in the business and based on what's going on the business soliciting feedback from our young professionals in the workforce and talking about what are the trends what do we need to

Think about with certain markets you know how does that play out and and how can that impact the way in which we do business and our exciting story is our ceo has been involved

We've been doing this since 2014 and he's been involved uh multiple cycles as a part of that kind of reverse mentoring and he'll always you know i talk with him fairly often and he'll say

You know i just learned so much about what's going on in the world and it's that reminder you know he has children and he can talk with them as well but to talk about with people that are talking about how it

Impacts our business you mentioned children and one of the hardest things in these times is people who are care giving people who are working from home with small children

People who are caring for um aging parents or a family member who has special needs what are you doing to support people can you talk a little bit about that challenge for the multi-generational

Workforce yeah that's a great question lauren i mean you can imagine with covet it's front and center for everybody now in a different way perhaps it was first of all we're an insurance company

Right so we think about our purpose which is you know to help people secure their futures and protect the ones that they love and we're really about a company that's

People helping people and so it's forefront you know if you're thinking about gosh i'm worried about getting my my kid to college i'm worried about what happens if i get sick or injured

And with covet we've just seen such an increased kind of discussion and then when we think about recently we've enhanced our benefits packages so we've said we need to make sure that we have benefits that work for all

And somebody can see themselves in all the type of benefits that we have so you have your parental benefits and we've enhanced what that looks like additional time off for parents and what that can look like

Gender affirmation really important when we think about uh diversity and inclusion within our organization we have leaves and we've enhanced the ways that we do our leave policy so that's caregivers whether

You're caring for children whether you're caring for a spouse or loved one whether you're caring for an elder uh we have bereavement leave we've been we've increased the time in which you

Can do bereavement leave and parental leave and the great thing that we do that i think is a a differentiator for us as we think about kind of this multi-generational workforce

Is we let the employees decide what loved one means we don't dictate that culture is really important to a company and how do you impart culture when we're all working remotely

How do you keep it alive and it's this thing that it's fair than all of us but it feels so weird when you're just sitting in your house yeah

It's also such an interesting question because we're watching it happen just like everybody else obviously as head of talent i sit in hr so you would think gosh hr is on the front end of that but we're living

It as well with everybody else and so what does that mean you know we have found ways because i think pre-covet we were already doing flexible work environment so we already knew what it meant to be

Remote involved people that were working remotely i think kovid moved everybody along the continuum at the same time quicker faster than maybe others were moving in terms of

Using technology but we're using teams we're using zoom we're using slack we call it a bit of this uh kind of informality but informally in a virtual way so in

The pre-kova days i could walk to our coffee shop or in-house coffee shop and meet somebody along the way have a chat you know we have this

Wonderful kind of open space where you can kind of collaborate network with colleagues we're still doing that today so we're setting up time and we're saying hey bring your coffee cups sit

Out on your deck you know let's you know after hours let's have a glass of wine we're doing happy hours we're doing um and those happy hours you know consist of games

Activities we're having meetings where we're saying hey the only rule for this meeting is no talk about work and what we're finding is that we're hearing and we're hearing this you know we had a virtual summer intern program

Where we brought in 70 young people from colleges kind of around the us and what we heard from them was gosh the way to see people interact informally to see this personal

Side of people you know you were talking about your dog earlier you know children walking by parents walking by having that informality let people let their guards down

So we've actually found what's called an increase you know we just did an employee survey and we heard from our employees 95 the highest score we've ever had in terms of pride about the organization

So they're saying it's working what we're doing virtually it's connecting you know walk walking talks who's doing that right they're getting they're putting their headsets on and

You're taking a walk and i'm taking a walk and you know we're having that normal one-on-one that we might have but we're just doing it in a different way because we know that we're getting sedentary

Right because we don't have some of that so we're finding ways uh within the organization just to make sure that we're collaborating we're connecting we're learning together it's another big

One because i think organizations in times of difficulty learning sometimes slips that's what the the data would tell you what we're finding is an actual increase because we've come up with a way

Internally to have um what's called a learning aggregator to tap into learning opportunities that we can do in the moment so systemic racism pathway we've driven that out within the

Organization and it has got tremendous usage within the organization covet pathways resources and support that people need so we're able to create those and turn those around so quickly so what we're hearing from our employees

Is yes we're working remotely but we're connecting almost more than we were in it before was happenstance now it's intentionality sharon power to you for joining us today i want to thank you

I'm lauren young and this is reuters

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