While the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered business transformations across all sectors, one of those most immediately affected at the onset of the crisis was the healthcare sector. It’s a reality that Cardinal Health has seen firsthand: with offerings that include home care services, community health centers, medical and laboratory product manufacturing, pharmaceutical distribution, healthcare system and more, every aspect of its business – and the people behind it – was put to the test. test.
To address the challenges faced by its employees, Cardinal Health has looked deeply into its culture and worked hard to ensure that workers take care of their own health. Part of that journey, says Ola Snow, CHRO of the Ohio-based company that employs more than 44,000 people worldwide, is not just about providing an inclusive workplace, but one that fosters a true sense of belonging for all employees.
“We aim for every employee to be able to bring 100% of themselves to work every day,” says Snow. “We have a big mission in our organization – to improve people’s lives every day – so making sure everyone understands their role in achieving that mission is another part of the journey to belonging. It’s about consistently doing a lot of things the right way.
Snow recently spoke with HRE on what Cardinal Health has done the right way, and where the organization intends to continue to grow.
HRE: What have been some of the most innovative ways Cardinal Health has worked to meet the changing needs of employees during the pandemic?
Snow: As a healthcare company, a lot of our staff came to work every day during the pandemic, and then we had a portion that went home and did their work remotely or in a hybrid situation. And we still operate that way today. We first started [with a focus on] security. And our strategy from there really became listening to employees: what are the obstacles that prevent them from thriving in the workplace but also at home? This has led to several changes in our organization. We have become a more hybrid workplace, where flexibility is essential, and we have considered the needs of our business, our customers and our employees when designing this work environment.
At the start of the pandemic, we came up with something called the Midweek Moment. We knew our workforce members – both women and men – were juggling so many jobs at home and at work, so Wednesday afternoons became the time to take a break and use that time to what works best for our employees. This could mean taking a yoga class, tutoring your child, getting in touch with clients, but not meetings. And it continues today. We have also revamped caregiver and childcare options and are providing employees with significantly more support and significantly increased benefit levels.
What I’m most proud of is what we’ve done on mental health. We listened to our employees and knew the country and the world was experiencing a mental health crisis before the pandemic, but the stress of the pandemic added to that. We’ve added much stronger mental health resources, and we’re also talking about mental health in our organization every day. We already had a program in place that we leveraged more called Mind Matters, and we talk about mental health in the C-suite, on our podcast, with our ERGs. We want a culture where we can say, “It’s okay not to be okay.
HRE: How does the company deal with broader workforce trends like the “big quit”?
Snow: We know that people stay with our organization because of our culture and they join because of that culture. I spent quite a bit of time this year with our interns, and 80% of them said they were able to have a conversation about mental health with their managers within the first six weeks of their internship. It doesn’t come without training obviously, but it’s a great thing. We certainly have turnover in our organization, as every organization has, but we truly believe that a culture where everyone can belong and can perform at their best for an organization with a tremendous health care mission is a place tremendous. It’s about building a job brand to attract a great workforce.
HRE: You’ve been with Cardinal Health for over 20 years. How different is the company’s HR strategy today than when you joined, and what prompted the changes?
Snow: Twenty years ago, we focused primarily on US strategy, versus a global strategy today. We have also focused on recruiting and identifying high-potential talent. Today, our human resources strategy is more comprehensive; we think about attracting talent at the forefront, obviously, but in a broader way than just a small pool of high-potential talent. We also look at corporate culture, DE&I and everything else that comes together to help formulate business strategy and business success. It’s an exciting time when these two worlds of business and people come together.
HRE: One of your previous positions in the organization was at the head of DE&I. How did you work to bring that focus with you to your role as CHRO?
Snow: People tell you to surround yourself with great people, and it’s very true. We now have a Director of Diversity and a leadership team that truly believes DE&I is part of the business strategy, not just an HR strategy. Over the past few years, as I took office, we have created an essential framework for attracting, developing and retaining diverse talent in our organization. This has included strengthening our employee resource groups, partnering with the DEI Council alongside my team to think about strategy, attracting and retaining talent. We also set up a black and African American board that tells the truth to myself and our CEO. And we have a very comprehensive training strategy around DE&I, unconscious bias, and courageous conversations. It’s about listening, learning, and then taking action to get results. You need to look at the DE&I strategy alongside the trading strategy because the two are so dependent on each other.
HRE: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Snow: When I look back on a day when I left Cardinal Health, I hope I can be proud of what I did to truly define our culture, where employees can give their all at work. A few years ago, my team had to internally review our mission, our culture and our values. We went from 13 values to five. Doing this work has helped us as an organization understand why we all get up and do what we do every day and where we are going as an organization. Doing this cultural work and making DE&I part of the fabric of culture and business is one of the coolest things you can do as a CHRO.
HRE: If you hadn’t landed in HR, where do you think your career would have taken you?
Snow: My dream would have been to be an ESPN reporter; this sounds weird but i have this on tape somewhere so i’m sticking with it! I am passionate about sports, especially college and professional football. I would love to sit at a desk talking about sports or chasing a coach up and down. Or maybe run a Food Network show; I like cooking. I’m not sure I could have made a living in either, but everyone needs a dream!
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