NSLS Chief People Officer Asia Wellington spoke with Bill Banham at HRchat about openness and authenticity in the workplace. Wellington supports talent through her focus on empathy, trust, and diversity as essential elements of a successful organization.
She brings to her talent development initiatives a passion for supporting others and a background in social work. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work before her first career, and subsequently earned a master’s in human resource development.
In her chat with Banham, Wellington describes herself as “born to be working with people”; in her work at NSLS, she values the fact that “every day, I can impact somebody and help them be successful.”
Wellington’s discussion with Banham was part of a series of interviews for The HR Gazette, an organization that provides a forum for fresh perspectives on Human Resources, including opinion, analysis, and news. They explore HR technology, leadership, talent management, and more.
Authenticity in the Workplace
In this episode, Banham and Wellington focused on the question of authenticity in the workplace and what that actually looks like in practice. Wellington defines authenticity as the ability for someone to bring their true personality to work.
Beyond that, she explains that true authenticity in the workplace exists when employees’ characters are understood and accepted.
Authenticity can often be difficult to pin down in terms of tangible actions, but Wellington breaks it down into actionable items. Broadly speaking, encouraging authenticity starts at the top, meaning employers need to lead by example.
Speaking from experience, Wellington describes choosing “to show up as my true self every day, and I think that sets an example. It creates an environment of safety and allows people to see that I’m a human, too.”
One of the primary rules Wellington sets is “no false bravado.” In successful and authentic workplaces, leaders allow their employees to see that they can make mistakes, apologize, and take suggestions for areas that need improvement.
Wellington explains that for employees to feel safe in releasing a mask of false bravado, leaders at the executive level need to be a “sponsor” and model.
The Benefits of Authenticity in the Workplace
The question for many employers is, “How is that going to set up a company for success in the longer term?”
According to Wellington, improving overall well-being will lead to higher productivity and less turnover, which allows workplaces to recruit and retain diverse talent.
She explains, “Workplaces that value and encourage authenticity are able to improve “overall engagement, efficiency, and output.”
For employers interested in nurturing authenticity in the workplace but are unsure how to achieve it, Wellington suggests providing structures that create “a language and a forum for a way that authenticity can show up.”
Some ways to accomplish this are employee resource groups, prioritizing challenges at the senior leadership level, or open invitations to celebrate unique differences.
Leaders can include everyone in the learning process. Tools such as personality or leadership assessments can demonstrate what knowledge and background employees can provide, and how they can strengthen the organization.
Finally, Wellington emphasizes the importance of instilling confidence to help both individuals and organizations.
She suggests supporting employees in determining how they can be successful as well as helping them move past the feelings of imposter syndrome.
If leaders can help people “challenge their fears around imposter syndrome, then we’ll have a better outcome for the business.”
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