Dr. Allessandria Polizzi
Experienced HR Executive | Provider of Resiliency, Emotional Agility, Psychological Health & Safety & ISO 45003 Solutions | Co-Founder of Kite HR | Host of the Be Verdant podcastFollow Follow
On today’s episode of SHRM Live, Allessandria Polizzi discusses her insight on the importance of valuing your employee’s emotional stability. She focuses on identifying points of stress and risk, and how she and Verdant Consulting can work to mitigate these issues to promote an emotionally safe and functional work environment. The use case of Verdant Consulting is to provide your workforce with resiliency training and psychological safety to eliminate burnout.
Highlights on the use case of Verdant Consulting:
As humans, we evolved to protect ourselves from getting eaten. That means we’re always on guard. That stress and negativity bias is what kept us alive, but it’s also making us sick. How we respond to the biology of this reaction can help us not have our stress take over. This in turn, helps us avoid some of the common causes and accelerants of burnout. We’ll be able to live happy healthy lives, but also perform better.
Another way that Verdant Consulting helps, which is pretty unique, is we really specialize on the HR team. We have a lot of offerings that are specifically about HR wellbeing within the HR function. We help them with things like the HR burnout, HR compassion fatigue, talks and handling, and we offer programs around that will help the HR team. If you don’t take care of the carers, how can they care for others?
Listening time: 15 minutes
Links and other goodies
Thanks for tuning in to this special SHRM episode of The Use Case Podcast. SHRM Talent converges top talent from across the HR and Recruiting space. Luckily, William Tincup is lifting up the curtain to blessed you with some insight from these industry titans.
Allessandria Polizzi has a deep understanding of human psychology. Her well educated background has given her the unique ability to identify work oriented stressors. Minimizing the stress response to every day work challenges is the most important step to maintaining a healthy and sustainable workforce. Check out Verdant Consulting to see if they can help with your burnout problem!
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Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast. Live from SHRM Talent, a show dedicated to the story that happens, or should happen, when practitioners purchase technology. We’re pulling back the curtain and asking the hard questions. It’s what we do. It’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup: (00:28)
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today, we have Al on from Verdant Consulting, and we’re learning about the use case, the business case for why prospects use Verdant Consulting. So Al, now you can actually pronunciate your whole name for us. Tell us a little bit about yourself or introduce yourself and Verdant Consulting.
Allessandria Polizzi: (00:51)
Thanks, William. So, my name is Dr. Allessandria Polizzi. Most people call me Al. And my background is, I spent 20 years in organizational development, talent management, talent development. The last five years focused on employee life cycle, and most recently was the head of HR for the fourth largest veterinary hospital company in the United States. And a little over a year ago, I realized that I had burnt out through all that work. Excuse me. And when I went to find a solution that would help me. I wasn’t satisfied with what I saw. So I like to say, I said, “Hold my beer. I’m going to go fix this real quick,” and that’s what Verdant Consulting is.
Allessandria Polizzi: (01:36)
So, we focus on providing science-based resiliency skills, emotional agility, and psychological safety training and auditing through the ISO 45003. We have about 30 affiliates who are certified to teach our program and methodology. We offered a blended solution that helps organizations beef up the skills of their leaders when it comes to managing their emotional responses to the stresses of our daily work life, and creating an organization that will help people thrive.
William Tincup: (02:13)
Good time to talk about resiliency and safety. Crazy.
Allessandria Polizzi: (02:17)
Exactly. Exactly. You’d think that we had a pandemic or something going on.
William Tincup: (02:22)
Something might have helped folks come to this conclusion. So, what was your PhD in?
Allessandria Polizzi: (02:29)
So, my PhD is actually in American literature.
William Tincup: (02:32)
Allessandria Polizzi: (02:33)
My dissertation was on cultural identity and work in early 20th century American literature.
William Tincup: (02:39)
Oh, my goodness.
Allessandria Polizzi: (02:40)
William Tincup: (02:40)
Allessandria Polizzi: (02:41)
Yeah, I use it all the time.
William Tincup: (02:42)
No, no. And you do, you do.
Allessandria Polizzi: (02:45)
And I do.
William Tincup: (02:45)
And you do.
Allessandria Polizzi: (02:46)
And I do. I mean, definitely I’ve been tapping into my inner academics, spending as much time as I have been reading the latest scientific research on resiliency and workplace stress. I spent the first three months of this endeavor, and part of my burnout recovery was doing something I love, which is researching. I know, I’m a nerd. But that helped me get really grounded in the science behind why we react to things we do, and the things I’ve seen for 20 years from a leadership development perspective. We tell leaders, but we don’t teach leaders how to manage and navigate through the challenges that they face and the stresses that are upon them.
William Tincup: (03:27)
With resiliency are folks… Sorry. The leadership question that you probably get asked, are you born with it?
Allessandria Polizzi: (03:35)
No. You develop it over time. So, resiliency is how you are able to bounce back from stresses.
William Tincup: (03:44)
Allessandria Polizzi: (03:45)
It isn’t the inoculation from experiencing stresses or emotions.
William Tincup: (03:50)
Allessandria Polizzi: (03:50)
And that’s why I focus on things like emotional agility, because it’s not about trying to quote-unquote “control your emotions” or not have them, it is about understanding that is natural. And then how do you, based on science and what’s been scientifically proven to make you more effective in the workplace, how do you respond in a way that works for you?
William Tincup: (04:13)
And your work in safety? Where’d you start researching that?
Allessandria Polizzi: (04:16)
I really became interested in this as I started to think about the ecosystem in which leaders, employees, humans exist in the workplace. We can’t have healthy, adjusted employees in a toxic workplace. And so, if we think about things like the great resignation where you’re 10 times more likely to lose employees if you have a toxic workplace, it really is the ying and yang of having a healthy organization.
Allessandria Polizzi: (04:45)
And so, what got me super interested in it from a scientific point of view was when ISO came out with ISO 45003 last summer, and that has the global guidelines for how you address those hazards and risks in your organizations from a very scientific right point of view. And that structure, I think, gives credence and guidelines for companies that are really transformational, and move us out of psychological safety being seen as Free Hug Fridays and more of a way of keeping people safe.
William Tincup: (05:20)
Which, Free Hug Fridays might cause other problems. Let’s just suggest that. So your work in stress, the work that you’ve either done in research or just in consulting with clients, how have they seen this over the last two years? How have they seen, both in themselves and in their employees?
Allessandria Polizzi: (05:40)
Yeah, I mean, it’s my opener is to ask people… Some people ask me actually, “What industry do you specialize in?” And my answer is, “Any organization that experiences stress,” and I usually get a chuckle with that, exactly, that would be pretty universal.
Allessandria Polizzi: (05:58)
And so, the fact of the matter is that as humans, we evolved to protect ourselves from getting eaten, and that it means we’re always on guard. We have negativity bias, and that stress and anxiety is what kept us alive, and it also is making us sick. And so, how we understand the biology of that and how to respond in ways that can help us not have a takeover of stress and avoid some of the common causes and accelerants of burnout, better we’ll be able to have happy healthy lives, but also perform better, have better ROI as a higher blah, blah, blah. All the things that you want when you have an employee.
William Tincup: (06:43)
Right. So, there were things that we’ve already strung the other in terms of resiliency, safety, stress, and burnout. With the pandemic, with the COVID. With the pandemic, it’s interesting because people probably, three years ago it had been taboo to talk about mental health. You and I talking about different things, aspects of mental health. It’s almost in every conversation I have with somebody now. We just openly talk about it. I got to a point yesterday, I just walked away. People are more in tune with them themselves, I think, which is fascinating on some levels. What do you see as it relates to mental health?
Allessandria Polizzi: (07:27)
So, it’s interesting. One; Canada, Australia implemented guidelines around psychological safety over a decade ago. And so, it wasn’t actually a result of the pandemic. This is something that science has been showing, that there’s a financial risk in having psychologically unsafe organizations. Be it physical harm to your employees, be it lower quality customer service, lower quality product, et cetera. So, the fact of the matter is now I think while some may feel comfortable discussing their mental health and mental health needs, there is definitely still a huge stigma, and quite frankly, a fear of our emotions, especially at the executive level.
Allessandria Polizzi: (08:16)
So ironically, I saw a study on mental health in the workplace that showed that the largest group with the highest propensity of mental health issues was the C-suite and the executive team. And Gallup showed last year that the only group to actually have an increase in burnout in 2021 were people managers. And so, while we have this really rampant issue, we want to pretend that we can turn all those things off, and what we do is we create shame and denial that’s honestly, those are the things that are broken. Not people having feelings.
William Tincup: (09:00)
So, this is going to be a loaded question. How much of that is just simple gender?
Allessandria Polizzi: (09:09)
Wow. That’s a great question.
William Tincup: (09:13)
Because I want to blame men.
Allessandria Polizzi: (09:15)
I hear that, and I want to support that. My women’s studies degree is super excited right now. But what I would say is it’s definitely cultural and I think we try to… It’s definitely hierarchical as well.
William Tincup: (09:25)
Allessandria Polizzi: (09:28)
It’s funny to me because I see so much right now on LinkedIn, in the news about being vulnerable, being empathetic. And this is what I see as well is we tell people, but we don’t teach people how.
William Tincup: (09:40)
Allessandria Polizzi: (09:40)
And that’s what I’m focused on is, “Okay, you can tell me all these things. I’m supposed to be all these things, but I don’t know how to do that. No one’s ever taught me how to do that. So, what are the skills I can build that have been scientifically proven to teach me how?” And so, that’s what we focus on.
William Tincup: (09:55)
I love that. I love that. You mentioned toxic culture earlier. When someone comes to you, when one of your clients comes to you and says, “We have a problem,” or you do an audit and you find out they have a problem; how do you tend to treat toxic culture?
Allessandria Polizzi: (10:12)
Well, so if you look at actually the guidelines around psychological safety, they have three components. One is, do we have structures that cause accelerants of dysfunction, such as lack of role clarity, lack of shared goals, excessive red tape? There are things that can… Structures have nothing to do with feelings, that can actually cause that toxicity to thrive. So, that’s one.
Allessandria Polizzi: (10:41)
Two, what’s happening in your environment that creates a hazard or a risk to your organization? Is it incredibly competitive? Do you have a very tight talent market, as an example? What are the outside environmental pieces? And then we also look at the behaviors of within the organization that are tolerated; expectations, how decisions are made, how resources are allocated. And so, you really want to look at the comprehensiveness of the organization to see where those hazards and risks may exist.
Allessandria Polizzi: (11:13)
If you think about creating psychological safety the same way you do physical safety. If I have people doing dangerous work, they’re up high, right? Cleaning windows. I can say, “Falling every once in a while is just par for the course,” or I can say, “Hey, what are the things I can put in place to give them a less of a risk to their safety?” And so, that’s how we think about it.
William Tincup: (11:36)
I love it. Last question is back to Verdant Consulting. How do you typically work with folks?
Allessandria Polizzi: (11:44)
Our main focus is on trying to address where their issues may be.
William Tincup: (11:49)
Allessandria Polizzi: (11:50)
If it’s, “Hey, we have a lot of innovation we’re trying to implement. We’re trying to pivot. We need to equip people to absorb change.” We can help. If it is, “Hey, we’ve had a lot of change or mergers, acquisitions coming together. We need to create more stability. We have people who are experiencing burnout. We’ve had high turnover. We want to extend beyond an EAP to help people build the skills that they need to be successful,” we help with that.
Allessandria Polizzi: (12:19)
And the another way that we help, which is pretty unique is we really specialize on the HR team. So, we have a lot of offerings that are specifically about HR wellbeing within the HR function. So, we help them with things like the HR burnout, HR compassion fatigue, talks and handling, and we offer programs around that will help the HR team. Because if you don’t take care of the carers, how can they care for others?
William Tincup: (12:44)
Well, disproportionately, those are the folks that stood up and really got into the mix with the pandemic.
Allessandria Polizzi: (12:50)
William Tincup: (12:51)
I read a study the other day and it was women in particular are the ones that actually stood up. This is actually, it was McKinsey and Lean In. It was a study that they put together. It was, in the first year of the pandemic, women are the ones that actually the ones that took over, and women are the ones that didn’t get any credit.
Allessandria Polizzi: (13:14)
That’s right. And they also left their jobs.
William Tincup: (13:17)
Well, half of the study I’m like, “Women, yeah. They stood up.”
Allessandria Polizzi: (13:20)
Got nothing in return.
William Tincup: (13:20)
They got nothing in return.
Allessandria Polizzi: (13:23)
Yeah. No, one of my podcast episodes is on, I jokingly say, “If I have to see one more article about how women got the short end of the stick, I’m going to punch something.”
William Tincup: (13:32)
It’d be the short end of… Al, thank you so much for coming on The Use Case Podcast.
Allessandria Polizzi: (13:38)
Oh, thanks for having me.
William Tincup: (13:39)
This has been wonderful. And thanks for everyone listening to The Use Case Podcast. Until next time.
Speaker 4: (13:45)
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.