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Yorlene Goff Gets UNCAGED with Bant Breen

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How do you support a people-first culture and drive various initiatives that support the mission of a multi-skilled workforce?

MediaCom’s Yorlene Goff, Executive Director, People speaks with Bant Breen during The UNCAGED Show discussing the company’s ‘People First’ culture and the various initiatives that support the mission of nurturing a growth-focused and agile workforce.

Bant: What are you working on at MediaCom?

Yorlene: The evolution right now is a constant change. I think we're in an exciting period of our industry right now at MediaCom. For example, we are all coming out of this global experience of COVID where the exciting thing about it is that we've all been forced to rethink how we go about doing work, where we do work, how do we really attract, retain, and engage talent across the globe. I say globe because we must think of ourselves as a global organization, irrespective of where in the globe we sit.

Part of that has been, how do we really, first of all, retain the right people, how do we engage them into the right roles, the right place, doing the right things, how do we drive the engagement while working from this out of the box. We're in our industry known for a lot of the dynamic of what of work evolves into an office space, where now we have evolved into, "okay, we could work from anywhere." It doesn't necessarily mean that you must be in an office space, right? What we do in those spaces, how we do it is exciting.

From a MediaCom perspective, it's about really ensuring that our people are in the right space of mind from a well-being standpoint, again, coming out of this global experiment. We work on things such as our focus, people-first, how we deliver, how do we deliver that, and that is giving people space to do so. The flexibility of being able to work from anywhere in the globe has allowed us to do so and we have seen where people have really delivered, really over 100% effectiveness, and have shown that we have tripled our work capabilities in doing so.

Bant: I think that one of the interesting things is -- I love that. I love the people-first idea, and I think one of the interesting things is that when you empower people with that level of flexibility, you find that the benefits are so multiple that it's almost crazy that companies have not allowed it up to now. It is changing the game and I'm imagining in your role, you have lots and lots of things going on. We have a huge talent battle right now with this whole idea of the great resignation and how you keep people enthused, excited, and certainly all of the challenges on the diversity, equity, and inclusion front. I'd love to hear more about what is your company doing in the DEI space?

Yorlene: This piece, I think is the biggest one. I think it's just not only the ability to work from anywhere, but it's ensuring that people have the mental space to do so. We've instituted initiatives such as the Mental Health Ally program which allows us to speak about mental health very openly, making sure folks have the well-balanced ability to do so, creating environments to speak about it, making ourselves and resources available to ensure that our folks have mental space, but also the flexibility to be able to I would say own how they deliver work.

Partnering with the client as well to allow runway whereby one of the greatest challenges about this global experiment about now working from a confined area is that you're on 24/7, or there's this expectation that you have to be on 24/7 in the midst of having to still deal with your personal things. We're not necessarily getting up and leaving an office. We're in our homes working. How do you create a balance of that? We've instituted things like meaningful Mondays, where we don't have meetings that start until well after 12 PM. Mindful Fridays, where you don't have any meetings actually scheduled, but you're actually having an opportunity to catch up on emails, perhaps organize yourself to future-proof what your week looks like in the coming week. Those little things that I think add flexibility have given us the opportunity to really speak in terms of delivering that people-first concept.

Bant: Some of the areas that you're working on clearly are providing the team's space, the individual's opportunities to create their own best working situation. Put that type of discussion that you're working on into the broader context of what we're seeing right now in the industry. We're seeing this, as we said, as talent war, we're seeing all of these big topics. What are your thoughts on that stuff, and how are you guys playing in that role?

Yorlene: We are trying to, from our perspective, be leaders versus followers in the industry. This great experiment is that the fact that we're all facing the exact challenge. Yes, it's a great resignation. That is because people, teams that we're looking to hire, are dictating how they want to work, where they want to work, how they want to be compensated for that. It's allowed us to - from a compensation standpoint, pay for the value that's being driven, but also have more flexibility.

One of the things that we have done is not enforcing a return to the office perspective but allowing that flexibility to be able to still have a combination and allow individuals to do what's important to them.

Bant: We've seen in your industry the advertising services, marketing media services space, we've seen agency groups actually take very different positions on this. It's actually a really interesting one. Some are actually demanding that all of their teams go right back to the office. There you have it; we'll see how it all plays out.

Yorlene: That's a shift. Some are trying to go back to what we were pre-COVID, and we know that change has happened. We talk about, for example, digital-first, well, digital is already here. We're already here at an injunction point where we need to change our approach to how we engage talent and what the market is demanding is flexibility.

How do you create an ecosystem that people have control over versus it being at the behest of our organizations? I think that's where the opportunity lies. One of the things I'm looking to do from a MediaCom perspective is how do we not only speak equity but deliver equity? That is making sure, for example, that everybody in respective of gender, race, or class has the ability to see themselves represented at every level of the organization from a higher perspective.

Part of doing that is making sure now that we are also representative of the community that we do business in, that we are also servicing. We're looking for example, at all of the cities that we hire in or parts of the globe and making sure that our workforce- what does census data show in terms of representation and making sure that our workforce is representative of what is reflective in that community. Those are the major initiatives that we're looking to drive in 2022 for example.

Bant: That's great. That's such a critical effort, and certainly, I think that we know that the broader industry probably has had challenges in that area and certainly, there's room for improvement and growth. MediaCom, I would say, has always been a little bit ahead of a lot of the players, so it's no surprise. Let's shift gears a little bit and talk more deeply on the pandemic. It's been such a challenging moment for so many people, and yet at the same time, I've seen it offer tremendous opportunities for this birth of rethinking on different topics. I'd just be curious to hear your thoughts on how the last 18 months have gone. How has the pandemic affected you?

Yorlene: Thank you for asking that question. I find myself asking that question a lot in conversations. One of, I think, the constant that I've seen from leading with people-first, is leading with empathy. We're definitely in a very aggressive period of the business where things are moving very fast. We're operating very fast and how we're structured has to evolve to support how quickly the business is evolving. How do we as an organization make sure that we are having the right people in the right places and how do we do that? How do we engage them? What are the things that we're making available for this talented group to ensure that they're able to deliver their very best in the midst of the fray of how quickly things are evolving? I think as we look at that, it's a great opportunity to really rethink our approach.

Bant: I think you're absolutely right. Operating with empathy at the center of it sounds like a very, very progressive and correct move for where we are. I think that really pushes me to the thoughts that you might have on how things are going to be evolving over this next year. I was reading an article in The Economist over the weekend that was telling me that they're betting that everything's going to be back in cranking in the back half of 2022 as if all had never happened. Just being curious what your thoughts are.

Yorlene: How we think about it is that is evolving. We can't go back to the norm. There is no such thing as evolving back to normality. I think we're going to continue to see this great evolution of talent, and it's not a one-for-one. It's that we need to evolve the diversity of talent. When I think about that, it's not solely about race and gender, but I'm talking about discipline, skillset, transferable skills. Our competitors are no longer like a one-to-one.

I can't look at my competitor from an agency perspective. I have to look at, what is going to be the right skillsets that we need to be innovative, that's going to be drivers so that we truly have the best-in-class service that we're delivering from a company standpoint? From a people standpoint, I want to be part of an organization that's going to put me first, where I could deliver purposeful work and deliver my best self. What is the environment that dictates that? It's no longer me physically having to come to an office. It's the ability to deliver my great work from anywhere but also having an ecosystem that embraces flexibility.

Bant: I love it. I want to work at MediaCom. Yorlene, thank you so much for telling us all about what you're working on at MediaCom right now.

Watch the full interview below.

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