Part two with Serah Morrissey, SPHR
Serah Morrissey gave us so much insight during our interview with her, that we had to publish another article to capture it all. In this segment, we explore Morrissey’s background and how she came to embrace a human resources style that some call “renegade”. Effective in nature, and always centered around the individual, Morrissey’s approach simplifies corporate oversight. It also invites employees at all experience levels to dive into their company culture, feeling valued in a way that increases their performance and value to the company.
How did a Minnesota born vocal performance major end up cracking the HR code for so many?
Almost right away, Morrissey turned from her vocal performance scholarship to pursue a degree in psychology at the University of Minnesota. Her Intro to Psychology class sucked her in, and Morrissey says she uses her degree every day.
Morrissey worked the first two years out of school in the guidance office of a high school helping students discover their strengths and passions. She loved helping young people solve problems and feel good about themselves. But, she aspired to apply her skills in the business world. Morrissey left education and took an hourly HR coordinator position in a hotel she had never heard of at the time. She stayed there for 10 years working her way into several management roles. A mentor at the hotel coined her style “renegade HR”.
Morrissey says, “It’s because I didn’t break rules but I questioned them. If they’re not serving a purpose, I get rid of them. Because having rules just to have rules is just wasteful and noisy.”
Morrissey cares so deeply about the people that she’s with every day. She says,” I literally love them. That’s not normal HR. There’s a notion that HR needs to be black and white and by the book when in truth humans are the least black and white. Sometimes rules need to be bent because these are people with families, and needs and situations outside of work.”
One of the areas where this type of approach could impact the bottom line is in people who are just coming into the organization because it just matters so much more when they start out. It’s often noticed that as people ascend the ladder at work, one of the unspoken benefits is being able to breathe a bit more because managers give them more freedom and tend to treat them more like human beings. But someone who’s just starting out, with a lower amount of education or experience, doesn’t usually get that type of treatment. Consequently, that entry-level employee becomes much more susceptible to being disengaged and becoming a higher cost employee because they are so disengaged.
Morrissey believes that’s why it’s critical to show employees on all levels that they’re valued, and that what they do matters. She looks for ways to facilitate employee growth almost immediately after coming on board, giving new hires the momentum they need to move forward.
Morrissey says, “Unemployment is at a record low, so if someone comes into your organization and they don’t feel valued like they fit in, or that they’re worth something, they will leave. The first few days are critical. Show them what your differentiator is. Why would they want to work with you when they can go to another organization that offers jobs too. People want to be at a place where they are appreciated. It can’t just be a job.”
According to Morrissey, it can also come down to employee selection. The hospitality industry includes a large number of immigrants and refugees that power the entire industry. She says, “While we’re more than happy to train skills and show people how to do things, we look for people that have a desire to serve other people. We do our best to hire those kinds of people because the rest is trainable.”
Morrissey affirms that understanding communication styles is a big part of bringing success to your training and development initiatives. She says, “It’s not up to our employees to make us feel comfortable. It’s up to leadership to meet our employees where they’re at and make them feel comfortable.”
Morrissey holds an Everything DiSC certification and uses the Everything DiSC model to teach employees self-awareness and how to adapt their communication styles as well as how to interpret the communication styles of others. She says, “The Everything DiSC tools and the people reading exercise we use in our training help employees on all levels learn how to tell if people are comfortable or not.”
Morrissey shares with her staff her “adjusts the dial” example. She speaks with lots of energy which can sometimes be interpreted as “too much” to people that have softer communication styles. So, when Morrissey meets new people, she warns them that she’s a high energy communicator and tells them, she’s going to adjust her dial, to help others understand her.
Simply making a statement of this nature lets others know they’re safe to be themselves. Not only can they more clearly interpret what’s being said, but they’re more likely to reciprocate with authentic feedback and engagement. Educating employees on communication can potentially raise the value of virtually every workplace conversation that takes place.
Morrissey says, “DiSC has given us a common unbiased language to use. We start thinking for example, “I know you’re an S and I’m a iD, so I’m going to take this approach in communicating, and I will give you a few days to think about it and processes information before I come back and talk it over with you.” You learn to meet each other in the middle when you have a common language.”
“It’s not up to our employees to make us feel comfortable. It’s up to leadership to meet our employees where they’re at and make them feel comfortable.”
Morrissey’s tips on how to approach bringing in training and development if it doesn’t have the immediate blessing of leadership:
“Leaders want to see the ROI. Be ready to talk about what the return will be, even if it’s somewhat theoretical. There are other ways to go about assessing ROI like engagement. Show them how you’re going to take measurements.
Morrissey’s secret weapon? She shows her DiSC report to leadership so they can read her assessment results for themselves. She then asks, “Does this summary page describe me?” It’s always a yes. Then Morrissey poses the question, “What if all of us could have this for ourselves and for each other? What do you think that could do for our team?”
Morrissey encourages people, “If you have the opportunity to have one of those experiences, take it back to your team and show them. Miscommunication costs a lot of money and time, so why not tie an ROI measurement to your work in clearer communication. That’s a lot of proof right there.”
Boiled down, rich and effective communication fuels company ROI directly by minimizing costly mistakes and by empowering each team member to deliver the highest level of performance he or she can offer. And, a nice byproduct…is freedom to breathe.