Like many human resources professionals, Susan Rader Page is passionate about creating corporate cultures that drive business outcomes while creating positive workplaces in which employees and leaders can be authentic and successful.
“I truly believe that people, these days, shouldn’t have to bring a different self to work,” Page says of her work. “I love having honest conversations with people and teaching them how to communicate in a way that’s going to translate not only into what they do day in and day out here but how they’re a better mother, a better father, a better partner… It’s just, in general, being your best self.”
Creating an environment that allows employees to be themselves and use their talents to further the organization means encouraging teams to be open and vulnerable with one another, Page says.
When it comes to creating workplace change, Page said she focuses on starting the change process with a well-defined problem. Once the problem is well defined, it becomes easier to seek solutions.
Page was able to put her process to work recently. After 12 years of working for her current employer, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, she decided it was time to tackle inconsistencies in leadership and management. Specifically, work had never been done to create best practice guidelines for leadership and management, and the lack of a framework was causing challenges for employees.
“Year over year, we were seeing that people weren’t getting out of their leadership and out of their managers what they wanted. There was low engagement; people weren’t being coached and developed in the way they needed to be. She said. “I went to my boss, who was head of talent management, and I said, ‘Let’s brainstorm a solution that would be impactful and get executive support because we can’t keep spinning our wheels.’”
From there, Page and her predecessor, as the head of talent management, worked to define a concrete problem to present to the company’s CEO. They pulled together the data that illustrated the problems they were seeing. They crafted a business case for making transformational leadership a priority for the company.
“We went to the CEO and said we want to address this. We don’t know how yet, and we need your support” she said.
The approach worked, and Page and her team were given the authority to undertake the extensive project of defining what makes for good leadership and management, what traits of a good leader were crucial for Jazz, and what types of leadership habits didn’t work. They engaged employees at all levels and brought in an innovative vendor to help with the process.
Once Page and her team began the process, the enthusiasm spread.
“It started resonating with people because we had never defined that, and we had a lot of inconsistency with what good looked like,” Page said.
Through their work, Page and her team came up with six behaviors of effective leadership and management, and they set out to enable a blended learning approach to embed those characteristics into the workplace culture companywide. They’ve held live training for employees, created web-based “open mic” conversations that allow employees to discuss leadership and management case studies together, and they created an online portal that allows participants to share ideas, challenges, and successes with one another.
While Page is still compiling data on the impacts of her project, they’ve received positive feedback. Most importantly, the company has seen an improvement in the way that employees can lead projects throughout the company matrix by working successfully with teams from other departments located in different parts of the globe. This year, Page and her team were recognized with a Silver Brandon Hall award in the Best Learning Program Supporting a Change Transformation Strategy.
Page said that project had brought her the most pride of any of the work that she’s done in her career For her, it demonstrates the value of beginning with a carefully defined problem, continuing to ask the difficult questions and engaging people and encouraging managers and leaders to be their best self. The feedback from employees has shown the value human resources can provide within a company.
“To me, that was always the thing: What does HR really do, what does talent management really do. What’s in it for me as an employee?” Page said. “People come to us as strategic partners, which is when you know that you are driving value in the organization.”