Improving EX through trust, communications, and a human-centered approach

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In our most recent cohesion podcast, we share the inspiring career journey of Barbara Massa, Executive VP of Chief of Business Operations for Mandiant. With over 20 years of experience, she has played a significant role in taking a company public, and successfully executing several acquisitions—and she had great insight to share!

Barbara is currently in a semi-retired role and is a valuable board member and advisor to other companies, including Simpplr. Her expertise and insight into the industry are well known, and she has been a critical contributor to the success of many organizations.

In this podcast recap, we discuss how Barbara defines successful leadership and how that looks, as well as her passion for internal comms and her role as a board member.

Lessons that create outstanding leadership

After sustaining a hip injury that ended her soccer career hopes and dashed her future goals, Barbara Massa had to reevaluate her path. She graduated early and initially embarked on a technology career, working in various roles where she developed a broad set of skills.

As Silicon Valley began to boom with the emergence of companies such as IBM, Apple, and Fairchild, Barbara discovered her passion for the recruitment and talent industry. She found satisfaction in facilitating successful matches between talented individuals and companies, and this experience marked the beginning of her journey into the people management profession.

Driven by her innate curiosity and thirst for knowledge, Barbara has sought numerous leadership opportunities throughout her career, gaining valuable experience and insights into what it takes to be an exceptional leader.

A nervous female office worker with her legs on her desk and her laptop in her lap having a hard day. 

She has also learned from failure, discovering that even in the face of disappointment, it is vital to be a good teammate and cheerleader for others. And she seeks out individuals, partners, and team members who demonstrate grit and determination in the face of adversity.

Barbara recognizes that everyone experiences failure on their path to success. However, how individuals handle these challenges, adapt to them, and overcome them demonstrates their character and value as a teammate and leaders.

Building a reservoir of trust

In recent years, the business landscape has undergone significant change. Leaders need to be adaptable and continuously learn.

With the challenges posed by the pandemic, social unrest, budget cuts, and layoffs, it has become increasingly difficult to lead effectively and ensure that the needs of employees are met. In this environment, leaders must navigate these turbulent times with resilience and empathy, demonstrating their commitment to their teams while also keeping a close eye on the overall direction of the business.

Ultimately, the ability to adapt and respond to changing circumstances sets exceptional leaders apart from the rest. So how does leadership do this?

Leaders need to view situations humanely, recognizing that their employees are individuals going through their own unique experiences. Transparency and effective communication are key during these times, as it’s essential that employees feel informed and valued.

Barbara believes in providing employees with as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions and to ensure they aren’t feeling left in the dark. Failure to communicate can lead to confusion and anxiety amongst employees, potentially leading to internal crises. But by being transparent and honest, leaders can build trust in the workplace with their employees, foster a sense of community, and successfully guide their organization through difficult times.

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By building what Barbara calls a “reservoir of trust” through authentic communication and active listening, leaders can create a sense of unity and a shared purpose within the organization. This helps to ensure that everyone is on board and committed to the decisions, even if they are difficult or unpopular.

Incorporating transparency and humanness into strategies

Barabara spoke of the openness that needs to happen in companies and that in getting in front of your employees and having one-on-one communications helps. Having weekly CEO updates creates an environment of accessibility and support, which is crucial to employees impacted by turbulent events such as COVID. This support is equally crucial during restructurings and layoffs.

Exiting employees deserve transparency too, and should understand the reason behind their departure. Leadership must communicate and explain why the departure is necessary, whether due to market conditions, a business pivot, or other factors.

For Barbara, a humane approach involves supporting employees with empathy, respect, and dignity. It’s possible to help people exit the organization without making them feel like they’ve failed or lost. With the right approach and support, they can leave with their dignity intact.

And for the remaining employees, it’s essential to offer them support and resources. Leaders must acknowledge the layoffs’ impact on the remaining employees’ morale and productivity and work to address their concerns and needs.

Overall, Barbara leans on a Maya Angelo quote for guidance and uses it as her touchstone, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” By ensuring employees feel valued and heard, leaders can help create a sense of security and stability, even in the face of complex and unpredictable circumstances. And by approaching these challenges with a focus on empathy and dignity rather than just on the bottom line, leaders can help to create a cohesive culture that is resilient and an employee experience that is fulfilling and rewarding for everyone involved.

Internal comm’s role in employee experience

Barbara is passionate about internal communication’s role in shaping the employee experience and building trust between leadership and employees. She believes setting the right intentions and focusing on people are the main ingredients for a successful employee experience. It all starts with valuing employees as individuals with unique experiences and perspectives and creating an environment where they feel heard, valued, and respected.

A strong partnership between internal comms and leadership also allows for a more human-centered approach to crisis management. This partnership helps to ensure that messages are delivered in a way that aligns with the company’s values and goals while also addressing the concerns and needs of employees.

Multi-ethnic business people discussing at desk in office

The importance of having skilled communication professionals, whether a single person or a team of 15, to handle internal communications is non-negotiable.

These experts are essential in crafting appropriate messages for the situation, whether sharing good news or addressing complex topics. They play a critical role in building employee trust by ensuring the right messages are communicated correctly.

Connecting with the Simpplr vision

Barbara views employee experience as not just a series of transactions but a holistic human experience that touches every aspect of an organization.

By valuing and investing in the employee experience, companies can create a culture that attracts and retains top talent, fosters innovation and creativity, and ultimately drives business success. And for Barbara, Simpplr’s focus on the human experience in the employee experience journey was a critical factor in her decision to join the company.

“It’s a big differentiator. It really is. You want to work in an organization where you trust the person to your right, you trust the person to your left, and you have confidence in leadership. I think Simpplr has got something really special. And it is because it lives up to the employee experience it wishes to create in the world by way of the product and capabilities that it offers.”

As a board member, Barbara’s role is multifaceted. She advises Simpplr on employee experience and the human experience. Beyond that, her expertise can be focused on different aspects of the business each day, such as financial targets, process adherence, reviewing KPIs and OKRs, and more. She fell in love with the Simpplr team, the vision, and the company’s mission and felt she could add value—and she has, and continues to!

Barbara invites people to connect with her on her LinkedIn page, and you can listen to the entire talk here and soak up additional insights on employee experience. And be sure you subscribe to podcast updates so you don’t miss any future episodes with internal communications, HR, and IT leaders!


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