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For All Leadership at Nationwide

Speakers: Gale V. King, EVP and Chief Administration Officer, Nationwide

Gale V. King, EVP and Chief Administrative Officer of Nationwide shares her personal For All Leadership journey and the journey of Nationwide in becoming a Great Place to Work For All. Gale highlights the leadership challenges, accomplishments, and learnings that create an inclusive culture at Nationwide, a six-time 100 Best Companies to Work For® List winner. Creating an inclusive culture for all involves critical moments of truth that test every leader and every organization. Gale shares how she and the leadership team at Nationwide courageously make decisions that have turned their culture into a competitive advantage.

Show Transcript
Julian Lute:

Our next leader truly believes that organizations innovate and their success depends on their people. And in fact, she believes that the people are the only thing that can innovate and ensure success. As the CAO, the Chief Administrative Officer of Nationwide, which is over a $46 billion company, she clearly understands the power of business, believing in the customer and also responding to the economy. She's going to tell the Nationwide story, so I'll let her do that. But I do know that one thing that she believes is that creating an inclusive culture for all involves all of those critical personal moments of truth that test every single leader in every single organization. So please join me in a round of applause for Gale V. King, Chief Administrative Officer of Nationwide.

Gale King:

Good morning. All right, come on now. Good morning. All right. Good morning. One more time. All right, first of all, as he said, I'm Gale King from Nationwide Insurance and I am absolutely delighted and honored to be with you this morning to share with you Nationwide's story. And we have an absolutely incredible story to share and I hope that I will do justice to the story. But first things first, I want to extend congratulations to Michael Bush and the entire Great Place to Work team for their leadership in creating a platform that educates, encourages and celebrates organizations and individuals who understand the importance of leadership for all. So would you do me a favor? Let's give Michael and Great Place to Work one more round of applause.

Gale King:

I also want to congratulate and thank each of you for being ambassadors and catalysts for change in your organization. And I especially want to thank you for coming out this week in light of everything that we're reading about and hearing about. As Michael had shared, leadership for all is about belonging. It's about trust, authenticity and transparency. And when it's done well, we get some amazing results because after all, a feeling of trust and feeling that you can be your authentic self and that you are included speaks to the very human need we all have. A culture that embraces diversity is one that drives major results. So one of the things that I really want to share with you is my story. So my story began from my why, and I'm sorry the slides are sort of moving ahead of it. So let me come back again. Could you move that up just a moment for me please?

Gale King:

Thank you. So again, thank you. A culture journey takes willing partners. So one of the things that we've talked about is really about purpose. And my purpose began at birth from Jim Crow South segregation to education and C suite and personal experiences. And I understand what happens when leaders make the righ decisions and lean into their accountability to open doors for all and watch the human spirit achieve greatness. So what I'd like to do though is take you back. So I've been in the workplace some 35 years. I started in the mid 1980s and I joined a company, Nationwide that I absolutely loved because it was a company that cared about people. But when I joined the company, I felt the care, but I didn't see myself. And what I have been proud of about Nationwide is that it was willing to go on a journey to be a company that cared not only about people, but in which all of us could see ourselves.

Gale King:

And again, this slide really just speaks to what has happened in the workplace in the last few years. So as you can tell, minorities in 1980, 18% of the workforce, today 40%. Women, you look at how women in leadership, that number has increased. In the 1980s, it was less than 20%. It is now 40% in some organizations. We had one woman on the Supreme Court justice in 1980 and today we have three. And you met a fabulous woman CEO earlier today, but in the mid 1980s there were none, zero CEOs who were females on the Fortune 100 list, and today 7%. so again, progress continues, but we have more work to do. Again, you also see in the 1980s, you didn't have as many of the movements that influenced the work environment, movements such as MeToo, Time's Up and Equal Pay, all of them helping our organizations become better, but what I want to do is now talk to you about what I have learned over those 30 something years, what we've done at Nationwide and what I believe that I'm sure many of you are already doing, but what we can do more of if we lean into it, and so I want to go into what I know for sure.

Gale King:

I love that what I know for sure and the first thing I know for sure is that inclusion is at the heart of an extraordinary culture, that you cannot get anything done if people do not feel included. I know for sure that you must know your current state and your North Star in order to make any type of progress. Again, if you don't know where you're going, you'll go anywhere. I know that leadership matters. You've heard all of the speakers before us talk about how important leadership is, so we know that leadership matters. We also know that we are all catalysts. We talked about that ownership piece, that we must own the reality we wish to see and we must get engaged. Values alignment. You know, I shared with you that when I joined Nationwide that I joined it because of the culture and because our values were aligned.

Gale King:

I knew that it was a company that I would be able to make a difference and an impact on and I encourage people all the time when I mentor, either inside or outside of Nationwide is that if your values are not aligned, you can never affect change and you must run, not walk from that particular culture because you cannot compromise your values. It's not worth it. We know that change, change, change is everywhere. If you consider all of the things that's going on with technology, social movements, politics, politics, the shifting demographics and talent shortages. Intentionality, when I share Nationwide's journey, you will hear how intentional our CEO and our board was about making our company a company in which every associate felt that it was theirs, that we must inspect what we inspect. We must celebrate success. And again that if you get true inclusion, you will have innovation and you will have high performance because people will give you their best work.

Gale King:

So let's talk a little bit about Nationwide's journey. And as I said, our company has always been a company that cared. 10 years ago we had a new CEO, Steve Rasmussen, and one of the things he did, and if you go left to right, he wanted an assessment of the organization and you must always start with where are you today? So facts and data, really it's critical to your success. So we did an assessment of one, what did our company look like as it related to representation? How did our associates feel about our company? And then there was leadership and sponsorship. Our CEO and our board said, "This is an area that we want to improve in. This is an area that we want to continue to do the same things we've been doing." But again, you can't do anything unless you know exactly what it is you want to fix.

Gale King:

Prioritization and focus. So again, we always talk about inclusion is a journey, but a lot of times people get disappointed on the journey because they're trying to do everything. You cannot boil the ocean. You have to select and have prioritization and focus and so we prioritize what we would do year after year. There were two to three things that we were going to see major improvements. Learning is really critical and so we built a learning around it and then accountability and measurements. I'm going to do a deeper dive on that, but that's another lever that we pulled and then we celebrate it. We made heroes out of people who did the behaviors that we wanted to see in our organization. So again, that was the Nationwide journey. Those were the levers that we pulled in order to drive success in our company.

Gale King:

As I mentioned, as it related to accountability and measurement, I wanted to share with you some things that really helped us, and this is really about listening to the voice of your culture. What is it saying to you? So again, I gave you a list of things, leader employee relationships, which are so critical. You have to have systems in place to capture when there are issues, ethics complaints. You must have a formal way of hearing from your associates, employee engagement and representation. I mean we know that diversity is a fact. We're all diverse, but inclusion is a choice and we have to have people in our organization representing exit interviews, focus groups, all of these things.

Gale King:

But I want to talk about two that have been really critical for us. All of these things we did to help drive the culture, but one is associate exchanges, really about listening to the voice of your culture. You will recall that in 2016 shortly after the Orlando and Dallas shooting, there was a lot and some of the negativity around the 2016 presidential election because we had some employees who were voting one way and others another way and our associates said we would like to have a conversation.

Gale King:

They wanted to know what Nationwide was doing as it related to responding to the Orlando and the Dallas shootings. And they wanted to just talk. And so we created Catalyst for Change conversations in which our senior most leaders went out and held conversations with a cross section of associates so that they can talk about how they were feeling about what was going on in the organization. But what that did was it created additional trust. They were able to say, "This is how I felt.", and they weren't judged for how they felt. And we were able to talk about how we could be part of the solution together. So again, we use a lot of associate exchanges to deal with timely events that's occurring so that our associates can have their voice heard.

Gale King:

The other one is really around the power of focus groups. Nationwide is a financial services company and you would think a very sort of conservative company. But through focus groups, our associates said to us, "We want the environment to be a little bit more relaxed." They wanted jeans, and I can tell you there were people who didn't think jeans were a great idea, but our associates said, "This is what we want. We know how to dress for our day." Through those focus groups, we changed policies in order to respond to what they wanted. We have a moms associate resource group in which our moms said, "Hey, we need more of this, more time off to bond with our children." We had individuals who do volunteer and bring in foster parenting, and so we have adjusted all of our policies to be responsive to the voice of our culture, to what our associates are saying. So I don't know if you do not have any of these forms in place, I would really encourage you to, because again, your associates are always talking and the question is, are you listening? Can you hear what they have to say?

Gale King:

The next one is really around holding everyone accountable. We all get busy and it becomes easy for something to be a fad that you're not paying attention to. Our CEO and our board, very, very deliberate about what are the things that we can put in place to ensure that everyone understood what was expected of them. So leadership and associate expectations in their performance evaluation. So every associate and every leader at Nationwide has in their PE an objective around people, which includes diversity, which includes engagement. And also because it is a partnership, our associates also have a performance objective that focuses on how are they doing as it relates to the engagement. Communications, I mean everything we communicate in our organization, we communicate what we value. And when you begin to communicate what you value to your people, your people will hold you accountable to that because if you're not living into it, they will then say, "Your words are not congruent."

Gale King:

So again, all of our communications are aligned with what we value at our company. We have a very robust learning plan, performance and rewards. And we do a lot to celebrate because we understand the importance of rituals, we understand the importance of storytelling. So we make heroes out of people who model the behavior that we think is successful and good for our company.

Gale King:

The next slide is, I've talked to you a little bit about everything that Nationwide has done in order to drive to change our culture or to make our culture, improve upon our culture. But the real question is what do you get if you do those things? And what we believe and what I believe, and I believe most of you believe, is that organizations who invest in leadership for all, they achieve their goals. Organizations who invest in leadership for all, they have leaders and associates who can create and drive the next big idea and then most importantly, you have individuals in your organizations who are able to maximize and fulfill their dreams.

Gale King:

I know a culture that cared that provides leadership for all has allowed me to achieve my dream and I am forever appreciative of that. So some of Nationwide's outcomes, 10 years ago, nationwide was a Fortune 135 company. Today, we're a Fortune 72 company and we believe that is directly attributable to all of our associates working together and contributing to our organization. 10 years ago from an engagement perspective, when we did our first engagement results with Gallup as well as our results with Great Place to Work, our engagement was not high. Our associates said, "We love our culture but there's opportunity for you to improve it." And today, we've been on the Fortune 100 Great Places to Work list for the last six years and we've been on Gallup's for the last eight years and it's all because we asked the questions our associates told us and we did the work to understand what we needed to do to fix it because after all, it is their company.

Gale King:

An inclusive environment, we are extremely proud that we've been recognized for our diversity. As I told you, when I first joined the company, I didn't see myself. Today I do. Our representation at all levels is high and we are proud of that. Our board, both minorities and females is high as well. We have a strong brand in terms of people wanting to work at our company. Innovation is important. And then community is important because we are a company that cares. The community impact is really critical to us. So again, we believe that if you invest in leadership for all, you will get amazing outcomes and Nationwide has had some amazing outcomes.

Gale King:

The last thing that I want to do is I want to wrap it up with a call to action. I've shared what Nationwide did collectively, but everything started with an individual action. It started with a CEO who said, "Hey, let's do an analysis of where we are and what do we need to do in order to become better." It starts with all of us. And so the question that I ask myself and I ask others all the time is I want you to think back on who in your life has given you permission to dream. What did it look like and who are you giving permission to dream? So with each day and every day we get to leave a footprint. And so I believe that these are the things that we can do to drive it. So a few things is really as individuals in your organization to drive changes, to really be aware. It's back to getting the facts and getting the data so you can understand what it is that you want to see change. As individuals, we need to drive results. We need to deliver results. You cannot influence an organization if you do not have a brand that says that you deliver results.

Gale King:

I am really big on focus. I talked about prioritization early on. Oftentimes people try to do too many things and then you forget, then you don't do anything. So I think it's important to have focus. Empathy and compassion, I think all of us can show more empathy and compassion as we listen to people, to understand their stories, to seek and be a mentor. And I really encourage people to be mentors outside of your group and to support others, to get involved in the community and to really make a difference. And then the last thing is as you're making change and driving change, is that you must be courageous. And one of my favorite quotes by Rosa Parks is when she says that you must never be fearful about what you're doing when it's right. So if what you're doing is right, you should never be fearful.

Gale King:

So those are the actions that I think will help you drive a very strong culture. As I've said, Nationwide is so very, very proud of our culture. We're so very proud of all of our associates and the difference that we make for our members and each other and our community. I heard one of the guest speakers earlier talk about Maya Angelou's quote where she says, "People will never forget how you made them feel." And I know that for sure. And I bet you all know how it feels when you're excluded. And so the last thing I want to leave with you is the question that you should ask is who are you including? Because there's something wonderful that happens when we feel included. It gives us wings to soar. So again, I've tried to tell Nationwide's story, but I thought I would just conclude with a video from some of our associates sharing with you what it's like to be a Nationwide associate. Once again, thank you for coming out today. Thank you for all you do to create an environment of leadership for all. And let's hear from the Nationwide associates. Thank you.