Many companies have now made diversity a priority in their organization but have they dedicated enough time and energy to inclusion? On our 55th episode of the Talent Experience Podcast, we are joined by guest Megan Hansen and host Susan Lowe to learn how to implement and remove barriers around DE&I. Megan is the Chief People and Culture Officer at Smartsheet and is passion about truly including those who come from non-traditional backgrounds. Tune in for an enlightening conversation on how our organizations can become places of growth!
Connect with Megan through her LinkedIn, and for more insightful conversations visit www.talentexperiencepodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the Talent Experience Podcast!
Susan Lowe 00:24
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Talent Experience Podcast. I'm your host, Susan Lowe. And our guest today is Megan Hansen. As the Chief People and Culture Officer at Smartsheet, Megan is responsible for attracting retaining and developing world class talent. She assumed her current role after serving as the Vice President of People at Smartsheet, where she led the integration and execution of the talent acquisition, talent management, people partnerships, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and so much more. Megan, a very big welcome. So wonderful to have you join us. And thanks for being here today.
Megan Hansen 00:59
Thank you, Susan. And that intro just reminded me I really need to update my bio that is really boring. So that's a takeaway note for me.
Susan Lowe 01:09
If you're anything like me, you probably hate writing those things.
Megan Hansen 01:13
You know, yeah, I think it's always so hard to kind of talk about the balance of what you've accomplished and what you're passionate about. And, you know, there's, it's like, there's the elevator pitch and the aeroplane pitch, I kind of joke sometimes, like, you know, an international flight to boot, right? Like, how long do I have, and then I can fill in that space. But I'm excited to be here today and get a chance to connect with you, obviously, talking about something that's near and dear to my heart and topics I'm really passionate about. So where do you want to go when you talk about?
Susan Lowe 01:45
Well, maybe our first question will help you think about what to include in your updated pitch. We would love to know and our listeners would love to know, how did you first get into kind of a people centric role. What brought you to realize you wanted to be a Chief People Officer?
Megan Hansen 02:04
Yeah, great question. Um, you know, I don't think I actually knew exactly what I was getting into in the early days. When I was at university, I was pre-med, and I was very sure I was going to be a physician and follow in my father's footsteps and I was double majoring in psychology and biology. My mother's a therapist, and my dad is a physician, and I've always just been drawn towards helping professions. I realized towards the end of my program, that it wasn't actually what I wanted to do. And so I spent some time soul searching, and kind of realized that what I was really drawn to was systems, and the human body as a system was the thing that I had always resonated with the most in my pre-med studies. And so then I started to explore what was kind of an emerging field at the time around organizational systems ended up getting an opportunity to work in human resources. My first job was as a recruiting coordinator, and, eventually went and got my master's in organizational development and have really kind of honed in on how I can help organizations. Looking at them in a very similar way to you know, kind of a, a complex system like a human body, and a part of it is around, you know, okay, well what do you want that body to do? And then how do you hone in on the skills and capabilities that you need in order to achieve whatever those goals are. And so, surprisingly, I would say a lot of my early education around, you know, the human body and kind of thinking about a physician, plays into the work that I do today, although I never in a million years, would have made that connection on the early end.
Susan Lowe 04:08
Yeah, and I and I love that. That connection and that analogy, and I think, you know, when you look at your career and the things that you've really invested, I think says a lot about that passion and that connection that you can see. So, let's talk about one of those passions, that certainly I've inferred from looking at the work that you've done, and that is diversity, equity and inclusion. I think you know, it be fair to say it's such an important topic in today's world of work. How do you focus on getting the entire company you know, from individuals right the way through to the leadership and the board onboard with DE&I initiatives.
Megan Hansen 05:01
Yeah. I mean, it's a conversation we've been having for a long time. And I know it looks different in different parts of the world. I think one of the most important things is to ensure that you're tying your DE&I work into your company strategy, and that it's not an add on. In particular, in this current, you know, environment, I think we're reminded that things that feel peripheral start to be questioned. And so it's really important that D E and I does not sit in that space of being something that feels like it could be cut at the first you know, need, but is truly core to who you want to be. And again, I would kind of maybe parlay back to the analogy we're talking about earlier, it's like, what do you want this system, this organizational system to be able to achieve? And then what are the different mechanisms that you are using? Like, what are you putting into it? How are you working it? What are you getting out of it, like, all of that ties together to achieving that strategy, and I think, you know, ensuring that the organizational system is diverse, and that the people who are there feel like they can show up and be their best selves. When you feel included, the I, you know, it's one of the one of the analogies talks about, like, diversity is being invited to the dance and inclusion is like wanting to be on the floor, right? Like, you don't want someone to just be invited, but then feel like, they should sit in the corner. Like I want them on the floor, like, show me your moves. So you know, we want to ensure that we're creating a space where everyone feels like they can dance freely, and then you truly get that diversity. And then and, you know, the, the quality pieces is clearly you know, central to keeping people in your organization as well, because they want to know that they're, you know, having those same opportunities and their voices being heard and all of that. So, again, I think it's, it has to be core to the strategy of the company. We also are on our second year of tying some of our DE&I goals, you know, into what we hold our leaders accountable for, and so making sure that it is very clearly kind of connected into, you know, potentially reward levers or things like that, that, that also bring some accountability into the equation is, is really important. And again, I think ensuring that you're also being mindful of the fact that it's, you know, the way we think about it really is, is a three part deal. They're not synonyms, they are different things, and you need to focus on all of them. You can't just be, you know, hiring folks from diverse backgrounds, but then not thinking about how they're, you know, being included in your organization. So you have to kind of think about all the pieces. Did that answer your question?
Susan Lowe 08:04
Yeah, no? Oh, awesome to hear those examples. I completely agree. I think weaving it, it has to be integrated, it has to be kind of part of the DNA of the organization. Have you gotten kind of any tips for, you know, for people that maybe are sitting back going, that's where I want to get, I want to get to that place where, you know, people are showing me their moves on the dance floor? Have you got any tips for those people that are sitting there going? How do I how do I get that? How do I achieve that?
Megan Hansen 08:38
Um, yeah, I mean, a couple of things come to mind. One, I would say, you know, take a moment to step back and do an assessment of your organization and try and find where your barriers are. Like, what are the things that are getting in your way, and there are organizations that can come in and help you do that, if it's helpful to have a fresh set of eyes or, you know, if you know, you have a leadership team who would respect a outside voice maybe a little differently, there's some really good, you know, there's the there's a disability index, there's an equality index, there's, you know, there's a lot of different tools that can help build that out. But I think that's a good way to kind of know what are you, what are you up against? I think being mindful around non-traditional backgrounds is something I have always been really passionate about. You know, a lot of organizations just do what they've always done before or, you know, think about what their neighbors are doing. But some of the job requirements that folks put on job descriptions, rule out huge populations of people unnecessarily. And so I think there's some times just some of those simple motions, like look at the thing that you're doing regularly. And are you? Are you? Are you ruling people out unnecessarily? And is there a way to remove some of those barriers. And then also, I think there's always opportunities to be thinking about pathways and partnerships. We don't have to do it on our own and that's a lesson I think I learned later in my career then I wish I would have. There are so many great organizations like in the US, we refer to CEOs, a lot community based organizations that are coming alongside all sorts of different groups and populations. And in the employment space, they're often just looking for employers to partner with them. And they're putting a lot of work into helping people be employment ready. You know, finding those partnerships, thinking about some of those organizations, and reaping the benefit of the amazing work that they're doing can really skyrocket the pace with which you can just do something different. And to that, I would probably end with a great article I read once upon a time, I don't have at my fingertips, but the gist of it is that speed is the kryptonite to diversity. And so I think just slow down, slow yourself down, slow your leaders down, like give yourself the space to make mindful choices, versus just doing what you've always done before, which is always the fastest way, you will never do something different if you're working under a time crunch. So like be really thoughtful of the impact that speed has and think about ways that you can try and add in space to try new and different and that's really, I think one of the most important things you can do to move your move your DE&I needles.
Susan Lowe 12:02
I think that's great advice. Because I think also that space allows you the time to do it really authentically, which I think is also really important. Because if it's not authentic, then it doesn't become you know, an integral part of your culture.
Megan Hansen 12:18
Yes, yes, totally. And I would add, it also keeps you from doing something in what could be, you know, even if it's not intended to be what could be a really performative way. Like, I'm just doing the thing to check the box, but it's not actually meaning anything, it's not actually, you know, connected to who we are. Totally agree.
Susan Lowe 12:38
Yeah, and I think a great talent tip there in terms of, you know, partnering with other organizations, when it comes to kind of bringing that diverse talent into your organization. Have you got any other kind of talent initiatives? Or, you know, things that have helped you with key priorities in the talent space, when it comes to DE&I?
Megan Hansen 13:01
I mean, I think, you know, we're also doing a lot of work on the development space, being really mindful of how we progress the talent we have. So again, I think, you know, if you, if you start to think about some of those more non-traditional backgrounds, it's a lot easier to do some of that in more entry level roles, where you can then give people some of the on the job training to build the skills and capabilities that you need, for, you know, perhaps more advanced careers. But, that means you're also then developing people into those more advanced careers. So you have to do both, and I think it's really important, when you again, from that assessment call out earlier, you know, one of the things that we do is, you know, look at our diversity also by leader level, kind of in the organization. And if you see a place where there's a breakdown, kind of understanding, hey, we've got talent here, but they're not making it here? Like, why? And what can we do to help develop people into that, make sure people are ready for it. I am also known as a talent exporter, I have been known to stand on stage and say hire my people, like, I want to be able to, I want to be able to create more, don't hire my people right now, PS. But when I worked at mod, we did a lot of we did a lot of work, where we brought in folks who were formerly incarcerated and had, you know, nobody, a lot of people didn't want to be the first one to employ someone because they weren't sure how, you know, if they were really employment ready and so we put a lot of work into hiring those folks. And then we, you know, invested in helping them get GEDS or you know, various different degrees, building out resumes, but we knew that that it was a restaurant space, and it was not, you know, not always a career for people. So, so I was like, hey, you know, if you hire more people into their next, that's a win for them and it opens up a spot for me to bring somebody else kind of into that mix. So I think you know, knowing what role you play as an employer doing your best, like we all, we all have an opportunity to raise up the, you know, collective gifts that our employees have. And, and there is, you know, some shared responsibility, I think in that and in developing talent for those next levels. I hate it when I hear that there's no available talents, well then shame on us, shame on all of us, shame on you, shame on me, like, what are we doing to actually create the talent so that there's more women CEOs, and there are more women on boards, and there are more people of color in pretty much every leadership level, like, let's all be in it together and help each other and help kind of create more opportunities by looking at it, you know, broader than just our, our own kind of, you know, nuclear organizations. So, probably a little provocative and not what you normally hear, but I do think that, you know, we, we try it, we want our people to stay because it's a place that they can continue to grow. And if we get to a place where they're next opportunities outside of our walls, I want to celebrate that they're ready for that, and, you know, congratulate whomever gets to help them in their that next step of their journey.
Susan Lowe 16:21
Totally agree, a huge believer in that myself. You mentioned don't hire people now P.S. I think we're all in the same boat on that one and looking to hang on to the talent that we do have. So do you have any retention strategies that you think all organizations should be implementing?
Megan Hansen 16:45
Um, yeah, good question. I mean, again, I think, I think, coming alongside your folks being as transparent as you can be and honest and partnering with them in their journeys. You know, I just did a new employee orientation session today, and I do I talk to people about the entire employee journey, acknowledging that we want to be a part of it with them, we don't want to just be a job, we don't want to be just a quick stop, we want to be a place they can grow. But I think it's important to make sure that we're just being honest and real. I think it's important that we focus on flexibility, recognizing, you know, in particular, every new generation, you know, has a different expectation around that than I think the ones before we as a human, you know, group are all kind of starting to demand some different things. So as organizations, I think, being really mindful of where you can focus on policies that introduce flexibility in a way that makes sense for your organization. You know, being willing to listen is really important, we do a lot of surveys and just opportunities to have our employees voices be heard, I find that even if people don't, even if you land on something that's different from what somebody would hope, if they've had an opportunity to be heard. And they know that that can make a huge difference. And that's, that's a big one, I think is, you know, people, people want to ensure that their voice matters. So creating opportunities for that. I mean, we could probably go on and on forever. But those are, those are some of the key ones that I can think of.
Susan Lowe 18:32
And some great suggestions there. The power of listening should, you know, should resonate with everyone. And we could probably, to your point, keep going. Not just on that topic, but so many others. But before we wrap up, there's one last question that we pose to all of our guests here on the Talent Experience Podcast. And that is what do you love most about your work? And what do you wish you'd have known when you started?
Megan Hansen 19:02
That's a really great question. I mean, both of those are really great questions. I think what I love most is knowing that my work really matters. And it's not always fun and easy. You know, some of it can be quite challenging in particular last few years has been you know, a lot in the in the HR space and the people and culture space. But I know the work that I do matters and so it does help me to stay really intentional and focused in what I'm doing. And what I wish I knew when I was starting out, I don't know maybe that same thing, right work that it matters. I'm like envisioning myself talking to an earlier me. I think perhaps it is that sense of you don't have to do it alone, like we were just talking about earlier. Unfortunately, I think often in particular, you know, in the people space, because there's always I mean, during the vast majority of my working career there's been this like war on talent, and then it feels like we're fighting with each other. And I don't want to be fighting with each other, right? I want to be I want to be creating such an amazing talent pool holistically, that we all have what we want, I want to be working from a place that isn't of abundance versus a place of scarcity. And, and I do think the more we work together, and the more we think about ways that we can be in partnership, leveraging expertise, and also just working towards, you know, societal wins, you know, the more the work is meaningful and the more grounding it is in those moments when it can be quite challenging.
Susan Lowe 20:46
I love that. I love that. I think the more we can come together as a community to support each other, from a people and culture perspective makes it not such a lonely place. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you Megan, you've been an amazing guest. Thank you for being part of the Talent Experience community. We've appreciated you taking time out of what is no doubt a very busy schedule to sit down and chat with us today.
Megan Hansen 21:12
Awesome. Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure participating Susan.
Susan Lowe 21:17
Thank you. And for the Talent Experience Podcast. I've been Susan Lowe, and thanks for listening.