Cerius Experts: Addressing Employee & Stakeholder Mindsets

Cerius executive experts weigh in on addressing the mindset of  our employees and other stakeholders. 


Kristen McAlister:  Thank you everyone for coming today and being part of our Cerius virtual meetup. This is kind of an ask the experts. I was in a meeting with several CEOs yesterday, and there’s a couple of topics that are very timely right now that I would love to get this panel of experts’ input on.

But before we get started, let’s go through and do some introductions. Seth, why don’t we start with you?

Seth Avergon: Seth Avergon, marketing and brand strategy. 

Kristen McAlister: Fantastic.  


Sheryl Moore: Sheryl Moore, HR leadership. 

Kristen McAlister: Thank you. 


Gus Ordonez: Gus Ordonez, consulting in the aerospace, industrial transportation, and railroad segments.

Kristen McAlister: Our operations and general manager expert at the group, Kevin? [00:53])

Kevin Ewaynk: Kevin Ewaynk, HR operations and a lot of accounting.

Kristen McAlister: I know certainly how we’ve known each other and your area of expertise as well, and you’ve done some amazing things for Cerius clients. 


Pete Todd: Hi, Good morning. I’m Pete Todd.  My background is sales, not only in North America, but on a global basis as well.

Kristen McAlister: Fantastic. 


Annie O’Grady: Good morning. I specialize in change management. I teach transformation and technology leadership. 

Kristen McAlister: Fantastic. Thank you everyone for joining us today. Let’s start with probably the hottest topic that was in a discussion with a number of CEOs yesterday, and I think it probably took up a couple hours of our time, and that is the current state and mindset of our employees, our customers, our leadership teams. We’ve been working on stabilizing our businesses the last couple of months, and I don’t know how much time we’ve taken to stabilize the mindset of our employees, our leadership, our customers.

I would love to get your thoughts on what CEOs can be doing over the next 30 to 60 days. To really help their stakeholders tap into what they’re thinking, how they’re doing, and help stabilize them for all the next steps that are coming.

 Sheryl, our HR expert, why don’t you kick it off?

Sheryl Moore:  I think as humans we generally can handle change. We don’t all do well with uncertainty, especially right now, given the enormous uncertainty that everybody is facing –  economically, personally, and professionally. It brings mental health concerns to al an all time high. Individuals are afraid for their safety and have concerns for their family, their loved ones. They’re figuring out how to talk to their kids about what’s going on right now. They are working from home remotely and even homeschooling, so there’s a lot of anxiety right now. And I think it would benefit us as leaders to ensure that we train our leadership staff on how to talk to employees. We want to demonstrate supportive listening. We want to communicate what’s going on and the steps that we have resources for. Also provide additional resources, like maybe an EAP program, where employees can feel comfortable talking to someone about some of their fears and anxieties. It’s really important. I recently did a survey with some of my staff and their concerns were that no one has reached out to them and asked them how they’re doing with everything that’s going on. And I think it’s important to keep a constant pulse on following up with your employees, your stakeholders, your vendors, your partners. It goes a long way to just ask somebody how they’re doing and identifying if it hits your employees, what steps you can take, as a leader, to help them – What resource can you provide?

Kristen McAlister: Thank you. 

Seth, I know you’ve been working quite a bit with companies.

Seth Avergon: Yes. Building upon what she was saying, I completely agree, and I was just thinking about one of the CEOs that I’ve been working with. He has a daily check in email that he’s sending out in the morning to all his people. And it’s done with a bit of humor and it’s also done with being a little bit open, and being vulnerable about what’s going on in his world without making it too down, but saying, “Hey, these are just some of the funny things going on in my neighborhood. These are the things that my family is concerned about.” He’s creating that environment where people can share a little bit because there’s a bit of a stigma, right? Where a lot of folks who are scared to come forward and say, “Hey, I’m frightened. I’m scared for my family. I’m scared of what’s going on.” So just starting to create an environment that we can share and we can talk about business., but then we can also talk about what’s going on with you. And the two are separate. It doesn’t affect how you view your job, but let’s just talk about, are you sleeping? Are you eating? Are you getting exercise? That little daily check-in list that our parents had with us, that can be shared between a boss and employee.

Kristen McAlister: Thank you.


Pete Todd: It’s really hard to add more to what has already been said. I really can appreciate both of those comments. I think the only thing I would add is that as leaders, I think it’s important to always have the team set their focus on goals. And it’s most likely that the goals have changed due to COVID. So I think, tagging along with what Seth is saying, that the communication to the team, your staff and the team, is really important around what the new goals are or what the most important goals are in life right now.

Kristen McAlister: Thank you.

Anything else to add? I know that those are some incredible comments and great reminders.

Anything else from anyone? 

Gus Ordonez: Kristen, I think as a leader you want to instill a culture of sensing and making sure that employees realize that you want to get close to them on a personal perspective. That’s where the EQ of leadership comes into play. Obviously mission first, but people always. And if they understand that they are important, it’s not only the goals of the company that are important, but it’s really the goals of the company are made by the employees, and I think that if they sense that, I think that will go a long way.

Kevin Ewaynk: I had a question for Sheryl. I noticed that you said that you had some recent surveys with your staff. Are you finding when you survey them that they’re ready to go back to work? Do you find a lot of fatigue or do you find employees feeling left out and isolated and alienated, out there off by themselves working? What are you finding when you talk to your employees?

Sheryl Moore: Wow. That’s a good question. It’s like a mixture. You have some that have never worked from home and they’re ready to get back to work. Working from home has not been a great thing for them because either they’re putting in too many hours or they’re not able to stay focused. Then I have a small percentage that are fearful of returning to the workforce. They’re trying to do the best they can and not come across as someone that is afraid, I guess. Then another portion of what I’m seeing is that some people want to monopolize on some of the resources that are available, but you they are fearful of stepping up and asking for help.

Kevin Ewaynk: So Annie, are you finding a lot of people having IT challenges and needing help or is everybody settled in by now and ready to move forward and do work?

Annie O’Grady: I think there’s a mix. For large project initiatives, the brakes have been put on hold, slowed down. But then there’s the business continuity side of IT that’s really, really important. So, in terms of people’s mental wellness and things, with respect to IT, I think the focus has been around really making sure the communications tools are in place and that people (staff) know how to use it. This could be the new normal, so just planning out in terms of the next 12 months –  are these temporary requirements and needs, or is it something that needs to get integrated into the business? 

Also, with respect to both customers and employees, it’s a question of the technology. Is it good enough in terms of the communications technology? Do we need to take it a step further from being internal systems to maybe tweaking them so that they can be customer shared, customer experience applications as well? For example, if you’re doing screen sharings with clients or a customer, what needs to change on the applications? So that’s slightly out of the mental wellness, but it’s the customer experience that might need to be tweaked.

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