Leading with compassion is one thing (and a good thing at that). But what if whole departments ran on a standard of sensitivity to and emotional concern for the people in their care, be they customers or employees? Before leaving The Granite Group to start her own consultancy, Tracie Sponenberg held the title of Chief People Officer. She’s credited for shifting the company’s human resources perspective towards compassion over compliance. Jason invited Tracie to discuss the impetus for this mindset change, strategies for CEOs interested in making similar upgrades to their company’s HR culture, and what she’s doing now to support the meaningful evolution of workforce administration.
“Compliance was the main thing [for] HR. We were in it for the business; we were there to help the business succeed [and] it doesn’t matter what happens to the people. That’s really how I was trained,” explains Tracie. “I’ve completely turned around on that. We’re a hundred percent for the people.” At a time when talent acquisition is more competitive than ever, Tracie’s POV mirrors the leverage employees now enjoy and how valuable their contentment is to a company’s bottom line.
Today’s employees demand more from their HR departments. If your HR team still holds a reductive, impersonal legacy of regarding staff as collateral rather than collaborators, you’ll struggle to attract younger Millennials and GenZ into the fold. Tracie addressed the issue head-on at Granite Group. “We wanted everyone to have an incredible, individual people experience. They were part of that journey.” she explains.“We listened and learned from them far more than they did from us.”
Tracie is rightly proud of the changes she initiated at The Granite Group. Since leaving the company in early 2024, she’s set up shop as a keynote speaker and freelance Fractional Chief People Officer (a long-term, part-time role). She’s also maintained her association involvement with organizations like Women In Industry, a division of the American Supply Association. Tracy urges CEOs to invest in robust diversity efforts. “I don’t just mean in what people look like. Your company’s gonna be more successful,” she says, with a workforce that reflects a variety of experiences. “There’s tons of data on that. It benefits everybody.”
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
“If it’s not for our people, we don’t have a company. So, why aren’t we treating them as well or better than we’re treating our customers?
“I learned to lead by compliance, and I’ve now really switched to leading with compassion.”
“You want somebody to leave your company [ ] in as positive a way as possible, and you wanna treat them as well as you did treat them on the way in.”
“People are actually generally more likely to tell a stranger their experience than they are to tell their company.”
“We need male allies, absolutely, to support women in industry for any opportunities. We need men’s support.”
“As companies, we have to take a hard look in the mirror and go, ‘Okay, if we want more women to work here, what does it look like from the outside?’”
“I wanna [ ] get CEOs to view HR as the incredible, capable force that they are within companies. And I want to get HR teams to really view themselves the same way.”
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