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In our Office Snacks series we interview members of our community to delve into their varied buffets of experience and come away with juicy insights and ideas.

Jessica Winder

Join us in our next installment below as Jessica Winder, SVP People at Refine Labs—shares her wisdom with us.

Hi Jessica, we’d love to get to know you better, where are you based?

I have to start with the fact that I’m a proud born and raised Texan but I currently live in Las Vegas. Never ever thought this would be a place I call home but it's growing on me, slowly but surely. 

How did you get to where you are today?

Hard work and perseverance, never taking no for an answer, and always being willing to learn. I actually just finished my Project Management certification last week. I am to always keep expanding my knowledge. 

office snacks jessica winder quote graphic

What’s been the most impactful lesson you’ve learned over your career so far?

Speak up! Even when your voice shakes, or you have to give an unpopular opinion, say it with your chest! Fear shouldn't stop you from showing your authentic self.

How does your typical day look, do you have a set routine you stick to?

No set routine, in general my day is normally a mixture of meetings and project focus time. I’m not a morning person so I normally wait until 2 pm to start working on an important project, which is also when most of the company is preparing to sign off since they are on the East Coast and I’m on the West Coast. 

How do you describe your job to others?

My job is to make sure the company culture is inclusive and welcoming to all team members, while also making sure policies and procedures are in place for employee health and safety. I consider People Operations to be the backbone of the organization.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Without a shadow of a doubt it’s my team and the strong relationships and trust I’ve built with my Senior People Business Partner and Talent Advisor. 

What’s your biggest challenge and how do you work to overcome it?

Getting around the perception of “HR” being there to only “hire and fire” and making sure the department is seen as a strategic value adds to the organization's long-term success. 

The way I’ve overcome this perception is through action and adding value to the leadership team. This was most recently showcased in the development of a new round of training for career progression for employees. We have also leaned into stay interviews and how we can form retention strategies for key employees. 

What do you think is the biggest misconception around HR?

Well I’m known for saying we should burn traditional HR to the ground because it’s outdated and focused on compliance and risk management instead of people.

Unfortunately, most employees don’t trust HR because of a lack of leadership and innovation within the profession. I dare to adopt a different way of thinking, to leave a safe, ego-focused viewpoint for an expansive, radical ecosystem of views and actions. Progressive HR (also known as People Operations) is the way forward!

The key differences between traditional and progressive HR:

  • Inclusivity is the top priority
  • Embrace technology and people analytics for effective storytelling
  • Creating policies that empower employees to do the best work of their lives.

What would you like to see companies do differently regarding their people?

Everything! The foundation has to be an employee engagement and psychological safety to speak up and be heard even if that means disagreement with leadership.

How can organizations create psychological safety?

Psychological safety refers to employees' sense of security and trust in their work environment. It's an important factor that can influence employee well-being and performance, as well as the overall culture of an organization.

Here are some ways that organizations can create psychological safety for their employees:

  1. Foster open communication: encourage employees to speak up and share their thoughts and ideas without fear of retribution. This can be achieved through regular check-ins, feedback sessions, and other opportunities for employees to voice their concerns.
  2. Support diversity and inclusion: create an inclusive culture where all employees feel valued and respected, regardless of their background or identity. This includes promoting diversity in hiring and leadership and addressing discrimination and bias.
  3. Offer resources for mental health: provide access to mental health support and resources, such as counseling services or employee assistance programs, to help employees cope with stress and other challenges.
  4. Encourage work-life balance: help employees find a balance between their work and personal lives by offering flexible work arrangements and promoting the importance of taking breaks and vacations.
  5. Establish clear guidelines and expectations: communicate expectations and guidelines for behavior and hold all employees accountable. This can help create a sense of fairness and predictability in the workplace.
  6. Encourage open feedback: create a culture where employees feel comfortable providing honest feedback, both positive and constructive, to their colleagues and leaders. This can help improve communication and build trust within the organization.

Which are your most-loved tools that help you with your job?

I’m a major advocate for Lattice, which we use for engagement, performance reviews, growth plans and one-one-one meetings with management. I highly recommend it! 

What’s been your most successful initiative to date and why?

Our employee resources groups (ERGs) have provided a sense of community and new found engagement for all team members. As of right now we have 4 ERGs specifically for Black, Women, Neurodivergent and Parenting employees. 

(Read up on employee resource groups and how to create one).

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Show up and show up! Don’t be shy. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge companies face in the current labor market?

There are several challenges that companies may face in the current labor market, including:

  1. Talent shortages: In a competitive job market, it can be challenging for companies to find and attract top talent. This may be particularly true for certain industries or roles with a high demand for skilled workers.
  2. Retaining top talent: Once a company has hired top talent, it can be challenging to keep them, especially if other companies offer similar or better opportunities.
  3. Managing diversity and inclusion: Companies increasingly recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, but achieving it can be challenging. This may involve addressing issues such as discrimination and bias, as well as creating a welcoming and inclusive culture for all employees.

Lastly, and most importantly, what’s your favorite office (home or otherwise) snack?

My go to snack is Red Bull and sour gummy worms—don’t judge me, lol

What’s your favorite office snack?

Work in People and Culture? Want to share your ideas?

Applications to be interviewed are open to anyone (yes anyone!) so don’t hesitate to fill in the form for an opportunity to share your knowledge and ideas.

By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.