ARTICLE RECAP: Every Employee Matters
We were pleased to welcome two mentor/mentee pairs to share their firsthand experiences in cultivating safe relationships to encourage inclusion, connection, and diversity in the workplace.
Sometimes, employer support is about connecting on a personal level and finding a way for an employee to be seen, heard, and empowered so that they can flourish. Such was the case with Reina Purvis, executive director of the YMCA of Honolulu’s Nuuanu branch, and Ikaika Regidor, the senior programs director at the same YMCA branch.
“I think early on in our working relationship,” Regidor said, “[Reina] had a gentle guidance.” He explains that she would check in with him about things about his personal life, but always gave him the option to share as much or as little as he was comfortable with. “It came from this [place] of soft guidance and authenticity,” he recalls. “I didn’t ever feel like she was doing it as a checkbox [item] to get it out of the way and talk about other things.”
Purvis says that as a manager, meeting goals is an important priority, but she believes firmly that if supervisors don’t connect with the individuals on their teams, they are missing an opportunity to deepen the engagement not just between manager and staff, but also to the organization itself and the community in which it serves.
“[I] try to work with deeper relationship development types of activities,” she says, adding that asking simple questions like “How are you?” or “What’s going on?” creates the building blocks toward giving employees a space to share what’s happening in their world.
“And they don’t have to [share],” she says. “There’s not a detrimental impact if you choose to hold your counsel privately, but [we must] give folks a space to be seen, a space to be heard, [and] a space to be empowered. As we are able to do that, I believe that in my experience, folks are allowed to flourish, and that’s what we’re after as a team.”
Purvis adds that as every workplace is working its way through the pandemic and its effects on individuals and the community. Creating ways to empower our teams and ourselves will help everyone find a deeper understanding of one another. “It adds to that sense of belonging,” she says. “People feel seen; they feel heard; they feel like they belong — then they contribute at a deeper level because now [they’re] part of a family. [It’s more than] just a job.”
Our second mentor/mentee pair, John Komeiji, general council and vice president for Kamehameha Schools, and Francis Choe, manager of external affairs at Alexander & Baldwin, formerly the external affairs director at Hawaii Employers Council, spoke about their time together at Hawaiian Telcom. Choe says that Komeiji’s level of trust and support from day one helped him find a sense of belonging and connectedness, which eventually gave him the agency needed to create a young professionals’ employee resource group within the company.
This resource group allowed engaged individuals with a shared sense of purpose to come together to not only socialize, but to try and tackle some of the professional development issues that they were facing. “Trust and support is something that’s typically earned over time,” Choe says, “but from the get-go, I felt like [Komeiji] just gave the benefit of the doubt to the employees that he worked with. We had his trust and support up front, so the onus was on us to make sure that we never did anything that made him lose his support or trust in us. Also — communication is key.”
Komeiji says he believes that allowing employees to do things like create a group of empowered and purpose-driven individuals provides a platform to help come up with solutions to issues within their organization. “I really believe that employees — given the opportunity, given the authority, and giving them some accountability — will come up with the answers to your problems,” he says. “Our job as leaders is to encourage them, provide some guidance, [and] clear away some of the hurdles that they may face.”
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