In early October I had the great pleasure of spending time with Talent Rewire’s third cohort of Innovation Lab employers for our final in-person gathering. We spent a few rainy days in lovely NYC. It was a time for learning, reflection, and supporting each other. And it was wonderful! A few things struck me about this final gathering.
We are doing hard work, but we have so much fun doing it!
Our employer partners – including Best Buy, Carhartt, The Gap, Griffith Foods, Inditex, Kronos Foods, and Rhino Foods – are on their own Opportunity Employment journeys to support frontline employees in amazing ways. These employers have implemented practices that range from job training and work-based experiences to financial assistance programs and taking steps to better understand employee experience. All of these pursuits have jumpstarted meaningful practice change within the employers’ operations. This is not easy work. Our employers are analyzing data, engaging stakeholders, and challenging organizational mental models all when doing the same-old-thing is, frankly, so much easier.
Given the challenging nature of the work, our Innovation Lab (now called Rewire Labs!) gatherings are a place for our employer partners to not only focus on the work, but also to have fun and feel supported. We did improv exercises together, listened to our jointly created Spotify playlist for inspiration, and laughed together. One amazing sign of the success: people actually showed up to the after-hours happy hour!
Time to reflect is a luxury and yet very much needed
During the gathering we did two exercises that were especially impactful and served as a reminder on the power of taking time to reflect on goals, progress, and learnings as a team. One of these exercises was challenging the employers to come up with their Fast Company headline that encapsulated where they hoped to be on their opportunity employment journey in three years. This was both inspirational and helped anchor their current experience to future goals. The second exercise we had the employers complete was to create a journey map for their pilot program. They reflected as a team on what happened over the course of their pilot; answering questions like: what actions helped propel them forward? What held them back? This process illuminated different perspectives and provided a celebratory moment as the teams realized how much they had accomplished during the course of the Innovation Lab experience. In our day jobs, we rarely have a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned about a certain experience, yet doing so allows us to uncover a treasure of insights that can inform our next great moment.
History does in fact repeat itself
The night before our programming kicked off at Inditex’s U.S.- headquarters (a lovely spot!) several of us went to the Tenement Museum in the lower east side. If you haven’t been, you should definitely make the trip. The Museum guides are master storytellers, sharing details about the lives and experiences of the individuals who resided in the building in the late 19th and 20th centuries. It was impossible not to draw connections to the current policies, practices and barriers immigrants face in this country. The experience was a powerful reminder of the role employers play in providing meaningful employment opportunities that sustain families and create strong communities.
This community inspires the hell out of me
Part of Talent Rewire’s reason for being is a belief that employers who support their frontline workers need to tell other employers about their opportunity employment practices and the positive impact they have on both their workers and the business. This sharing can activate and encourage practice change across the private sector. As part of this final cohort gathering, we had each employer take the tools they learned from improv and share a 3-minute story to encourage HR executives to pursue opportunity employment. I admit that I was nervous for this portion of the programming; thinking we might be throwing them into the deep end too quickly, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! Each one of them absolutely amazed the group with their passion, their commitment, their unique opportunity employment story. Conference planners take note! We’ve got a powerful speaker bench.
So here’s my advice to you as you seek to make change at your company. Find the pockets of fun. Create space for reflection. Know your history. Find your community. If you’re looking for one, explore all of the ways you can engage with us, we’d be honored to have you!