Organizations will continue to focus on improving inclusion practices as it pertains to wellness.
The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.
As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Gianna Driver, CHRO at Exabeam.
Gianna Driver is Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at Exabeam. As CHRO, Driver manages the strategy and processes related to building, investing in, and retaining top talent at Exabeam, enabling employees to do their best work. She is responsible for architecting the company’s talent strategy, driving corporate culture and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, and leading the global human resources function.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.
I grew up with a mother who worked hard during the day as a janitor at our local hospital, and at night, she was the manager of the women’s shelter where we lived. Consequently, my perspective about work has gone through an evolution as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger, I didn’t see a lot of people who derived true enrichment from their work. It wasn’t until I had my own social enterprise that my perception of work really started to change. We worked with women artisans in developing countries, and it was in this process that I started to realize and understand, ‘Wow, work can be something that enables joy and fulfillment!”
Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?
Wellness is changing, right? So, organizations need to evolve their definition of wellness to keep pace with employee needs, business requirements, and market trends. We have all seen firsthand how remote and hybrid work has enabled employees to spend time with families and achieve more goals. But during the pandemic, a lot of employees at different companies ended up burning out, because they couldn’t turn work off.
So, at Exabeam, we’re mindful that wellness is about considering the whole human and caring for their needs. And while those specific needs will change over time, we know they involve professional, psychological, and physical wellness, as well as financial, mental, emotional, spiritual, and community wellness.
Exabeam views its programs in that light. How are we promoting wellness and growth for individuals and our communities? We benchmark pay to offer competitive salaries, offer mental health benefits, unlimited time paid off, and Thank You Days. We also have tools to see the utilization of our benefits, which helps shape what benefits we offer and how we promote them. For example, if our employees aren’t maximizing their use of retirement planning and benefits, we might offer financial literacy courses.
We live in diverse communities, so I’m very proud of our employee resource groups (ERGs), which help foster belonging by enabling employees to connect and spend time with people who share their interests and backgrounds.
Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?
There are multiple hard and soft ways to quantify the impact of wellness. In terms of metrics, you can look at engagement surveys, pulse surveys, and workforce metrics. Are employees happy, are they staying, do they want to build thriving careers at Exabeam? Obviously, if our attrition numbers started significantly increasing, we’d dig into our metrics to understand why.
In terms of soft metrics, you can look at what employees say via anonymous surveys or online on Glassdoor, social media, and in focus groups and other sessions. Are they happy at work? Do they feel cared for and respected? Are their needs being considered in the programs we provide?
A happy worker is a productive worker. You can get short-term gains by pushing employees to over-deliver, but this is not sustainable and leads to multiple negative impacts, like burnout, unhappiness, a diminished brand in the marketplace, and attrition.
We use a blend of both hard and soft metrics to evaluate the impact of a well workforce. In this competitive marketplace, wellness is becoming more important. So, if Exabeam can communicate that well, and live our values, we can attract and retain great talent and accomplish our mission.
Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?
I agree with the WHO’s assessments overall but also don’t think it is as clear-cut as they put it. It shouldn’t be a binary “yes” or “no.” If organizations can’t invest a dollar, as per the WHO statistics, company leaders should be asking if they can do a lesser amount. Whether that’s 50 cents, 75 cents, or even 10 cents.
What I would say to organizations who absolutely refuse to do anything related to wellness investments is: You’re going to end up paying for wellness in some way or another — whether you want to admit it or not. If you’re not taking care of the well-being of your employees, they are going to be less productive than they’d be otherwise, leave, have higher rates of absenteeism, “quiet quit,” etc.
It’s important to remember that progress is not linear; it’s a journey. These journeys take time. Investments take time. Not every wellness initiative costs a lot of money, or any money for that matter. Remember you can take small steps that make a big difference.
Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?
Prior to the pandemic, there was a lot of emphasis on in-office perks and benefits. Whether it was pet grooming at certain tech companies, or car washes while you work, or any number of out-there perks. We are starting to see more focus and emphasis on perks that answer the question, “What are you doing to care for me as an employee and nurture my financial, spiritual, and mental well-being?”
The Gen Zers, members of the youngest generation entering the workforce, are forcing organizations to carefully look at holistic benefits offerings. It’s not just pay that matters; it’s the entire gamut of wellness offerings this generation is demanding. If companies don’t have these benefits, Gen Zers often don’t even engage. We see this at Exabeam with our talent team and recruiters who are on the front lines of attracting people to the organization. Candidates these days are asking questions about benefits before they move further in the interview process.
I think there’s also something to be said about going back to the feedback loop and constant open communication with employees, as different companies have different demographics and psychographics within their workforce. It’s critical that leaders and companies are communicating and listening to employees. As an example, if you have a workforce of folks who are relatively recent college grads, student loan repayment programs might be really important to that workforce.
In other organizations with large groups of employees starting families, parental leave benefits might be something that group values. No matter the composition of the workforce, leaders should ask their employees what they value since this can change from company to company.
We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on-demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.
In the realm of mental wellness, we know that our employees at Exabeam work really hard to make our company successful, and so we want to say “Thank you” to them! We’ve implemented multiple Thank You Days that are company-wide days off each year, and this has been very, very positively received. We started this initiative because normal vacation or PTO practices might leave the individual who’s on PTO in a relaxed mood, but when they return to work and notice their inbox is a mess, the relaxation from their time off erodes quickly! What we’ve found is that when everybody in the company takes the same day off, everyone can recharge and all come back with less intimidating inboxes!
In the spirit of social and emotional wellness, earlier this year we launched a number of ERGs for both in-office and remote employees. Historically, we had one ERG called ExaGals; we currently have six: Somos, which is for our Latinx population, Waves, our Pan-Asian ERG, Pride, for the LGBTQIA+ community, a veterans ERG, and BAE, for our Black community.
ERGs are part education in mission, as well as part culture building. These groups do a lot to create a sense of community and belonging at Exabeam, especially for individuals who identify as part of those groups, and/or folks who are allies to the people in those groups.
In fact, in the next several weeks, we’ve got multiple initiatives that are coming up across different ERGs. These groups have really done a lot for enabling employees to feel closer to one another and to know that Exabeam cares about making sure they know they belong.
When we initially started investing in and making time for these different initiatives, whether those were Thank You Days, the ERG initiatives, or ExaCares (our community involvement day), there were concerns that these projects would take time, energy, or focus away from business operations. As time has gone on, we’ve realized that no, we’re not taking away slices of the “productivity pie.” We’re growing the pie! People are more productive after volunteer events and in the weeks before and after a Thank You Day!
Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?
A happy and diverse workforce is a more productive workforce! Organizations that take a multi-faceted approach to wellness and foster a strong sense of belonging have employees who are more engaged, stay longer, and are more productive.
In the cybersecurity industry specifically, we want people who are innovative and think differently. All these initiatives go a long way toward fostering an environment where that’s possible.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
We have a learning division that we started earlier this year, and it’s a part of the overall People and Culture team. That department works with leaders across the organization, and creates content to support leaders and help them become better. We believe better leaders create happier employees.
Recently, we launched a high-potential program called “GROW,” and we’re receiving lots of positive feedback. There’s also an individual development plan (IDP) initiative that we’re implementing. Both programs provide space for employees to discuss career goals, as well as personal goals.
Our Exabeam University initiative started earlier this year and is an enablement function geared at helping people across the org understand our product, why it’s great, and how we’re different. We’re excited as we look across the company at all of these initiatives that help foster a work well, nurturing culture.
Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team, or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?
To clarify, an organization doesn’t have to be “sick” or “unhealthy” to get well. There are always opportunities to get even better at wellness!
At Exabeam, we do company-wide surveys to gauge individual feedback and also make sure initiatives are tailored to specific teams. For example, after our New-Scale SIEM launch in October that our marketing and product teams worked so hard on, we gave them some extra time off around Thanksgiving to recharge and come back ready to rock and roll!
What are your “Top 3 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
- An increase in AI and machine learning technologies to measure workplace wellness. There are tools in the HR analytics space that allow organizations to look at and measure employee sentiment via anonymized data pulled from emails, instant messages, etc. Through these tools, organizations can get an idea of how people are feeling. Are they burnt out? Are they overwhelmed? Are they bored? It allows insight into overall themes and how individuals are responding to certain policies or initiatives and is all anonymous.
- Organizations will continue to focus on improving inclusion practices as it pertains to wellness. In other words, organizations will be offering benefits that cater to a whole gamut of diverse needs and desires. For example, let’s look at fertility benefits. You have the healthcare side of things, but also the counseling and emotional support needed as individuals look to build their families. The same goes for those who are transitioning genders. There’s a whole body of wellness offerings that I think organizations are becoming a lot more knowledgeable about and starting to implement for their folks. I think it’s wonderful!
- The culture of leading with fear is dead. The current headlines are filled with stories of company leaders who are not valuing wellness. Employees are being mandated to come back into the office, neglect their personal responsibilities, and even work late into the night. It’s going to be interesting to track and watch those organizations in 2023, because my hypothesis is that top talent will voluntarily tap out. The best-in-class employees are not going to stick around and thrive or even work in those types of environments. They’re going to look for organizations that care for their employees, and who value workplace wellness in the mental, physical, spiritual, belonging, and emotional sense. Even during times of increased layoffs and an economic slowdown, top talent will always have options.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
I love that we’re able to have this conversation. Five years ago, this conversation isn’t one that would have been had at all — and if it was, it wouldn’t necessarily be prioritized by leaders and organizations. It’s huge progress that we live in an era where leaders care deeply about workplace wellness. There’s a lot of science and data that points to why this matters, and I’m very excited about the times we’re in currently.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
Gianna Driver, CHRO at Exabeam, and her daughter, Abigail, doing volunteer work during a Thank You Day in Manila, Philippines.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.