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Breaking Down Google’s Devotion to Their Core Values & People

Sally Hornick Anderson | Workforce Diversity Director, Google

When Sally Hornick Anderson’s 13-year-old child came out to her as non-binary, wanting to use the pronouns “they” and “them,” they went to the right person.

Sally remembered the story, “The therapist that they were working with said ‘Hey, how did your parents respond?’ And they said, ‘Well, my mom works in diversity. So of course, she was OK with it.’”

Google’s Workforce Diversity Director, Sally believes it’s every HR professional’s duty to make employees feel accepted and comfortable in the workplace. And, it starts with listening.

On this episode of Human Resolve, host Mark Minner speaks with Sally about HR’s role in allyship, the power of uncomfortable conversations (especially around race) and why it’s crucial to check in on employees regularly, especially during a time when mental health issues are a growing problem in the U.S.

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Meet Sally Hornick Anderson

Sally Hornick Anderson is the Workforce Diversity Director at Google, leading a team of Diversity Business Partners and Diversity Program Managers. Prior to this role, she was the Director of the Americas Organizational Development Practice. Sally also was the Head of PeopleDev in the Global Business Organization, and worked with Sales teams as a HR Business Partner for 10 years at Google and DoubleClick.

Sally started her career in Human Resources at Hyatt Hotel’s Corporate Office. She graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a B.S. in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management. Sally is also a certified Hudson Institute Coach.

Sally holds the International Coaching Federation’s ACC certification, SHRM-SCP and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certifications. She is a member of the SHRM Board of Directors, and is a three term past President of Chicago SHRM. Crain’s recognized Sally as a 2020 Notable Leaders in HR. The Penn State Alumni Association recognized Sally as the 2005 Recent Alumnus of the Year, and as the 2016 Outstanding Alumni Council Member. The Illinois Diversity Council recognized Sally with the “Most Powerful & Influential Women Award” in April 2016. Sally has lived in the Chicago area for 20 years with her husband, their three active children and their rescue puppy Skylar.

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Show Notes

When Sally Hornick Anderson’s 13-year-old child came out to her as non-binary, wanting to use the pronouns “they” and “them,” they went to the right person.

Sally remembered the story, “The therapist that they were working with said ‘Hey, how did your parents respond?’ And they said, ‘Well, my mom works in diversity. So of course, she was OK with it.’”

Sally, Google’s Workforce Diversity Director, believes it’s every HR professional’s duty to make employees feel accepted and comfortable. And developing an open relationship with your team requires being genuine about your own experiences.

On this episode of Human Resolve, host Mark Minner speaks with Sally about the importance of HR professionals being allies, the power of uncomfortable conversations (especially around race) and why it’s crucial to check in on employees regularly, especially during a time when mental health issues are a growing problem in the U.S.

Sally also shares how her work at Google has been affected by recent racial inequity protests and the COVID-19 pandemic. Spoiler alert: it’s made work much more challenging but also that much more important.

“I always try to be very conscious and … check in, like ‘How are you?’” Sally says of her one-on-one meetings with employees. “I think sometimes when people ask that question, it can come across as inauthentic because it’s like ‘How are you?’ and they’re already thinking about the next topic — but just holding the space to say, ‘How are you?’ and ‘How can I support you?’”

Notable Quotes

Facing mental health issues head-on

“I don’t think we’re prepared. I don’t think there are enough professionals for what’s about to come. Nor do I think people are comfortable asking for help. There’s such a societal stigma around mental health in this society. So that’s one thing coming out of what I’m living through personally right now that I’d like to bust is: how do we remove that stigma so people can get the help and talk about it?”

Genuinely listening to employees

“I always try to be very conscious in one-on-ones or in group meetings, just checking in, like ‘How are you?’ and just really holding that space. … I think sometimes when people ask that question, it can come across as inauthentic because it’s like ‘How are you?’ and they’re already thinking about the next topic — but just holding the space to say, ‘How are you?’ and ‘How can I support you?’”

Employee appreciation of employers taking a stand

“I think it’s important to say something. I found where organizations really struggle is because they don’t say anything, or they’re afraid to say something or get it wrong. And I think there’s an element of like, I might not be getting this right, but we’re trying, we’re trying to do the right thing. And we’re trying to support our communities. And I do think employees really value having that humility, especially when leaders — they try, and they’re trying to get it right.”

Challenging your employees to identify their values

“I love using this exercise, actually, with any of my coaching clients. I ask them what their core values are, and I’m always surprised because I would say a majority of the time, they have no idea. And so it’s a great way where we’ve tried to distill what those are, because a lot of times, that’s what’s holding them back. My core values are around honesty and integrity, trust, fairness, service to others and family. … I started seeing that when I was feeling uncomfortable or very triggered, it’s because one of my core values was triggered.”

Encouraging whole-person health and well-being

“How do we … create that safety umbrella for everyone to check in and say sometimes it’s OK not to be OK. Or if you need to take a well-being day. I don’t think we’re all doing a great job with self-care, self-love — whatever you want to title it. And so that mindfulness is even more important. And that doesn’t mean just meditation. … It’s really thinking about the foundation. Are people getting enough sleep? Are they eating right? Are they really hydrating?”

Diversity data

“What data do you have available? Do you do self ID data? Do you understand your population? Do you understand trends when it comes to staffing or retention? So just taking a look at data, but also looking at your strategies … and enlist others, there’s a great opportunity to have listening sessions to listen to your affinity or employee resource groups and what they’re looking at. A lot of times, if you ask, you have team members that have some really great ideas about how you could increase representation at your organization.”

Having uncomfortable conversations

“I know my identity as a white cisgender heterosexual female. And so because I know who I am, I know how I present to others, I know how I identify, it helps me understand the importance of being curious about others’ gender or diversity identities and how they prefer to be acknowledged. … We are now in such a society where diversity equity and inclusion stories are on the news. So there’s always something to talk about, and actually sit in that discourse with each other, which can be really uncomfortable. But that’s how we actually help educate each other on these topics that are so critical today, especially around racial injustice.”

The power of flexibility in HR

“What I shared with this rising HR professional who’s still in college is that the world is going to look a lot different coming out of the multiple pandemics we’re living in right now. So not just COVID, but the racial injustice, socioeconomic, geopolitical, and I’ve added a fifth one, which is the mental health crisis. … What I shared with them is to take a grain of salt with all the advice that people are giving you and just know, it’s going to look different … Be willing to shift into things and try different opportunities that on paper, you might not be interested in, but really give you a full-rounded career in HR.”

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