"Why?" Sessions Designed to Show Us "How" - Penn-Mar

“Why?” Sessions Designed to Show Us “How”

Posted on June 26, 2023

By Gregory T. Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Human Services | Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Foundation
CEO Greg Miller's headshot

Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services

Last August we introduced a new initiative called “Belonging” to help us get an accurate picture of what is going on in our organization from the perspective of our team members.

Its focus is on how we can improve our workplace so that all leaders and managers are better connected to our team members.

My vision of its success is that when we talk about how outstanding Penn-Mar is as an organization, every one of our team members actually believes that is a reality for their work situation.

To that end, during our initial research and investigation phase, we created and distributed a questionnaire asking for their opinions and concerns related to the workplace. The 70 percent response rate confirmed that they were eager to be heard.

To manage the initiative, we brought in Dr. Martin N. Davidson, a Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, the Chief Diversity Officer at UVA, author of the book, “Leveraging Difference,” and a renowned expert on how to manage diversity to generate superior performance.

Those of you who have interacted with Martin know that he didn’t come into the project with any agenda other than to listen to team members. They felt that and it allowed them to be open and honest during the discussions.

Martin used the questionnaire responses to develop the agenda for a series of “Why?” meetings to get an understanding of the current operating environment, identify what was working well and what could be improved, and explore what caused the disconnection in the areas that needed improvement. A lot of valuable information was gleaned from these discussions.

To keep our team up-to-date on our progress thus far, we just released a video of Martin and I having an informal conversation about where we have been and where we are heading with the initiative. We intend to push out videos like this regularly to keep the communications flowing.

As I write this, we are entering the third, more practical, phase of the program where we will be using what we now know to determine what actionable steps can be taken moving forward to help improve the work experience for our team members.

We are now scheduling a follow-up session with some 45 people from our leadership ranks and from staff across the organization who participated in the “Why” sessions to review the research and data. It is not possible to include everyone in this meeting but the discussions will be providing the platform for how we “leverage differences.”

From there, we will create work groups and sub-groups to address issues brought to life during the “Why?” meetings. This will provide many different opportunities for team members wanting to participate. Their task may be as simple as looking at a particular issue or a set of circumstances and recommending ways to improve them.

I’m incredibly excited about the progress we have made so far with the “Belonging” initiative, especially now that we’ve reached the part where the rubber meets the road.

It’s one thing to launch a program to find out information; quite another to use that information to develop actionable steps to address important issues.

By doing so we will be able to shape our culture and deliver on our brand promise to team members: “Live Your Legacy.”

I hesitate to call the third phase we are entering the “final” phase, as our intention is to learn perpetually in order to create a culture where we are never 100 percent satisfied, but always looking for ways to improve.

Stay tuned…

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