Being an HR Unicorn with Christofer Peterson

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Christofer Peterson
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
About The Episode Transcript

Joining us on today's pod episode is the always lovely and brilliant HR unicorn, Christofer Peterson. Christofer lends us her invaluable insights as we dive into DEI in the creative industry.  Listen to how Christofer shifted gears from a native New Yorker to becoming an influential DEI advocate. We dig deeper into her experiences and reflections about the intersection of power, performance and positivity in DEI work.

We explore the importance of gender equity in HR practices and discuss tangible steps such as implementing pay equity reviews and prioritizing financial and career growth to level the playing field for women. We also discuss the challenges of working in a creative agency, the potential for burnout, and the generational differences that shape the industry. We look at how diversity impacts the industry and discuss the need to create a balance between professional and personal lives.

Note that Felicia and Rachel have a longer intro than normal, discussing the upside-down world of agreeing with people on the other side of the political spectrum, so fast forward 10:37 to get right to the interview if it moves you!

(0:00:07) - Intro: Exploring Political Polarization and Perspectives (0:08:26) - Discussing DEI in the Creative Industry (0:17:07) - Challenges of Power in DEI Work (0:21:34) - Exploring the Challenges of DEI Work (0:33:10) - Implementing HR Practices for Gender Equity (0:43:14) - Creative Agency Challenges and Solutions (0:50:49) - Balancing Work and Personal Life (1:03:52) - Staying Connected With Felicia's Impact

0:00:07 - Rachel Murray Hello and welcome to the She Geeks Out podcast, where we geek out about workplace inclusion and talk with brilliant humans doing great work, making the world a better and brighter place. I am one of your co-hosts, Rachel Murray.

0:00:21 - Felicia Jadczak And I'm the other co-host, Felicia Jadzak. Yeah, you are Get into it, Rachel.

0:00:28 - Rachel Murray We're very excited about our guests. So first we have some things we need to discuss.

0:00:32 - Felicia Jadczak I mean, listen, we always have things to discuss, but yeah, especially, it feels like very pertinent today, in today's world. But we were just chatting before we started recording about how we're basically living in the upside down world and that is a stranger things reference for anyone who's not familiar. But it really feels like we're off the rails.

0:00:51 - Rachel Murray Yeah, so the thing that makes me feel like we're in the upside down is that all of a sudden, I am like is Josh Hawley my hero in the Senate that wants to end?

0:01:02 - Felicia Jadczak unlimited. I'm experiencing an existential crisis right now.

0:01:08 - Rachel Murray And in case our lovely listeners are not aware of, what he has proposed is to end unlimited corporate donations to PACS, part of, like a critical piece of Citizens United that has been possibly the thing that's been destroying our democracy more rapidly than other things, perhaps. And Mitch McConnell is like no, no, no, don't do that. You're going to make the Republicans unhappy that want to give us the monies. And I'm like Josh Hawley, you were giving like a white power sign whenever, like two years ago, and now this, I'm so confused.

0:01:44 - Felicia Jadczak I mean, I feel your confusion. I just with Josh Hawley in particular. I could never not remember him running away, yes, six. So I have conflicted feelings as well because, as I was telling you so, I am deep on the TikToks. I do not create content, I only observe and lurk. But I was observing and lurking this morning and I watched a video about how Candace Owens and who was the other person, tucker Carlson to me are basically voices of reason in what is happening in Palestine and Gaza right now, basically being like genocide is actually bad, and I agree with them and I don't like that. I have to agree with them. And also Jordan Peterson's out here saying similar stuff. I'm like why am I agreeing with these terrible people? How has it come to this? Does that mean that I'm a terrible person? I don't think so.

0:02:38 - Rachel Murray No, I don't think that's the case.

It does, though, highlight the complexity of the world that we do live in, and how maybe people are on one side and I have one view.

I will say, yeah, it is really interesting when I have conversations with folks that are sort of, you know, on the other side of the political aisle from me. There's actually a lot that I end up agreeing with and they agree with me on, and it's really about the fact that we are just so polarized and we just, you know, we're kind of we just feed off of what other people are sort of telling us that we need to. It's very tribal that we sort of have this identity, and this is what it is, and so, therefore, we're going to always just like stick with our team, and that's why it's like cognitive dissonance, to be like, oh, maybe there's someone on the other side that has, like someone thought to us, and then then I want to get into it and like I want to understand why. And why is it? Why is there this divergence, seeming divergence, and more in alignment with the way we're thinking? I don't understand.

0:03:41 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, I don't know, because it's just like I feel strongly that, especially when it comes to politics, that like, if you believe certain things, that you're like a bad person, and I think that's why I'm really having like a whoo moment right now because, you know, like I think that people who still support Trump are like bad people.

0:04:07 - Rachel Murray So that's a really loaded statement, because we've actually had this conversation before, when we were in person, of this idea of like can you be like a bad person, or is it just sort of like circumstances and like hurt people, hurt people, and you know that that kind of thing versus like somehow inherently a bad person, versus being flawed and human.

0:04:28 - Felicia Jadczak I will say, because I remember that conversation clearly and I've actually thought a lot about our conversation when we talked about it, and for anyone who's like, what were they talking about? We're talking about the nature of like good and evil, essentially, and like can someone- as you do as you do over a glass of wine and lovely San Diego.

But you know, it was like basically trying to figure out or discussing our thoughts around like is someone, like can someone never come back from? Like the brink? Essentially, and I had said at the time that I do believe that there are, like truly evil people out there and I thought a lot about it because I, since we had that conversation, because I thought, like do I truly actually believe that or not? And I think I still do, but at the same time, I think the sort of disconnect for me internally is, I also believe that there are moments of like redemption and that you can have. You know, there's like a, especially when we talk about people, like there's an inherent humanity that unites us all.

So I actually feel like I'm holding multiple truths from my own belief system right now. I don't know where that leaves me, but to the point of the political spectrum, like I you know I understand that people who are Republicans, who support Trump, all that stuff, like I know that like I don't in most cases, don't believe they're like truly evil people, but I also don't think that they're like great people either. So I don't know.

0:05:56 - Rachel Murray Well, I will say I'm not going to put, I'm not going to cast aspersions on especially people who are not in positions of power, who are fighting for what they think is is their own safety and security. They may not have the level of awareness that we do. What I love, though, is then I think about. This is like do they ever have conversations about us? Oh, I would have thinking Well, and like analyzing, and like wondering, like, oh, maybe are they good people, like I don't know, they might, they're probably bad people. Like I think that they think the same, like I think that they think that that we're bad people.

0:06:42 - Felicia Jadczak I agree, but a thing is like and this is where I do think a lot about like I, and this relates to much of the work that we do.

0:06:51 - Rachel Murray Exactly.

0:06:52 - Felicia Jadczak Our lens and our mindset and what we believe in.

And you know and I was talking with Steve the other day, my husband, about how, especially on social media, there's like so much misinformation out there right now and I know that I get easily sucked into stuff where I'm like I have to pause and like take a critical lens to things before I just, you know, willy-nilly say this is happening or this thing is a thing that's, you know, active in the world, because there actively are campaigns of disinformation that are active and it's across the board.

You know, doesn't matter what your political beliefs are, but you know, I think that it's what I'm reminded of is gosh, I don't know when this was the case, but like do you remember the whole like pizza gate incident that happened? Oh, yeah, yeah, the narrative was that there are like child molesters and pedophiles in positions of power, and so if I were someone who like believed in the truth of that, then I absolutely would think that liberals or the left or whoever were evil people, because I'd be like, oh my god, they like want kids to get kidnapped and like raped out here. And the fact is that I feel very confident in saying that that was a conspiracy theory. But if I didn't believe that then I would absolutely be trashing people who are more like minded with me, because I'd be thinking they're terrible people. So I guess that's my long-winded answer of I agree with you that I think that there are people on the other side who think that we are the bad people.

0:08:26 - Rachel Murray Yeah, or even yeah, yeah, I think you know, and best intentioned to write, but misguided, I mean. There's, that's the thing, and I think you're right, Because the misinformation and the work that we do is 100% aligned, Like we talk about confirmation bias all the time is. You know, we have our own worldview, so we're going to gravitate toward what feels comfortable and what we agree with and what our you know circle shares with us and it validates us. And you know and I'm just, I think we both are all we want honestly is like peace, safety, freedom, love, like those are the things, and I genuinely just hope that that is something that we can all agree on.

But I don't know that we can, I may, as half of my people say, and on that note, well, it's a great lead in because I'll let you do the intro. But what I love about our guest is she is a self-professed New Yorker, which you know is definitely. I profess that of myself on occasion as well.

0:09:44 - Felicia Jadczak So when I'm not bragging about.

0:09:46 - Rachel Murray San Diego yeah. New York City will always be home, but yeah, so who are we?

0:09:51 - Felicia Jadczak talking with Hard, turn to the right and to the left.

Yeah, I think it's a fun episode. We had a great time chatting. We could have talked a lot longer, but we got to catch up with the incredibly brilliant Christofer Peterson, who is an HR unicorn for lack of a better way of putting it who wants to not be so dang special in the world. But we'll talk about that. We'll talk about that, as well as what it means to show up for people who have marginalized identities, especially as a leader and especially as somebody in HR, which you know is a function and a part of the organization. That's kind of like historically designed to support the company, not always the people. So we're going to get into it, so let's do it. Hope you enjoy listening to our conversation, yay.

0:10:43 - Rachel Murray Hello, hello, hello, Welcome Christofer.

0:10:47 - Christofer Peterson Hello, lovely to be here, lovely to see both of you. Lovely to see both of you.

0:10:51 - Rachel Murray You too, well. Well, we have some things to discuss, so I think we should just like get on into it. Flicia, do you want to ask the first question?

0:11:02 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, so we're just going to start off with our favorite question, which is what is your origin story? So like, let's just get into it. What's your career journey? Who are you? What are you up to? Tell us everything.

0:11:14 - Christofer Peterson Well, I set your expectations low. I think I feel like it's a pretty boring story, but then I also it's mine, so maybe maybe that's by default that I feel like it's boring. So my origin story slash career journey I am. I am one of those native New Yorkers who's been gone longer than she was there but still claims New York will never let go. So, native New Yorker by way of Chicago, based now here in Atlanta, and I eventually have to start calling this place home because I've been here for 20 some odd years.

I am a New York City kid, a poor brown kid in the Reagan era right, I grew up during the Reagan era and I think that that earns me some street cred, whether whether you know what that means or not. I would like to. I like to think that I started my career really really early, like 10 or 11. I mentioned I was a, you know, poor brown kid in the Reagan era. I started working early. I like money, I don't like to be told what I can do. So I started working when I was like 10 or 11, right A million different neighborhood jobs, but the theme for all of those jobs really was retail, customer service, that sort of thing. Not not shocking and surprising, but miraculously in college I turned that into the beginning of a career. So I spent quite a few years in the retail management space and I grew up in it. I really I think I grew up in it as I started to really grow up and realize that I had never seen a weekend, I had never seen a holiday. I was sick of putting lotion on people and dressing people and all of those things. I was open to the idea of switching careers and I landed myself by way of being a flight attendant, denna hair stylist yeah, I mean, it's, it's a lot, it's a lot, but by way of those careers, I landed myself in an official HR role and while I had never labeled myself or had never pictured myself carrying that honor or that label, once I sat down and reflected on what got me there and why I wanted to be there, it made total sense.

My entire young career I had focused on the people. Part of any business I've worked at. That was what interested me. That's what I cared about. Yes, I could set a visual in any store. I could keep the sales going. I could this, I could that. But finding people, developing people, exiting people when they needed to be, that was really what, what lit my fire. And 20 some odd years later, organizations are still stuck with me doing that. So it's. I told you it was a little bit boring colorful, but maybe boring. And this is where I am now yeah, still doing it and loving it.

0:13:57 - Rachel Murray Not boring at all. Appreciate that too. I grew up in Jersey City myself, so I claim New York and I wasn't even like officially there, but I was just over the river, so I claim it as my home as well, forever and ever. So I want to get into a little bit because you're you really focus your career on the sort of the creative space over, at least since as long as we've known you. So just wanted to hear a little bit about how do I shows up from your vision for it, particularly in that space, and how you work with leadership, especially since you are in leadership roles, how do you work with them to prioritize it?

0:14:35 - Christofer Peterson That's a hard one. It is a hard question, so buckle up. How it shows up? Well, I think quite visibly. It shows up as a conversation topic, a passion area, website fodder, podcast fodder, if you will, and while I don't want to paint a picture that it's the conversation around DEI is all performative, because it's not. I'm not saying that it is exclusively.

This is an industry that has built itself on making things look good, and so one of the heartbreaking moments in the DEI journey is realizing that there's a little too much seamless connection between the marketing industry's desire to make things look good and look right and sell ideas and an actual commitment to doing the stuff that you have to do to really stand behind a DEI commitment. So and that was I'm sleepy, that was a little negative. I didn't mean to paint such a broad, broad stroke. There are a lot of really smart people doing a lot of really good work in this space, people I aspire to achieve like one day. But I think we're all largely on this roller coaster. We have some great months, some terrible months.

Probably, if we look back on the last 10 years, there should be a collective acknowledgement that we just haven't done enough, we haven't made the hard decisions or the hard changes to actually yield whatever this DEI vision is that we all claim we have.

So if I were to think of my vision for the DEI industry and take this with a grain of salt, it would be for us to stop coming up with new flavors of the acronym, for us to have to, for us to stop talking about it when we have to, and for us to be in a place where it's not a program. Right, it's not a program, it's a part of the fabric of any organization, and I know we don't need to be talking anymore about the business case for DEI. But until folks who make money off of businesses can connect the dots between how they make their money and the importance of having a representative workforce, we're going to keep coming up with new flavors of acronyms and keep trying to do things that we hope will work, and I think we'll keep landing in the same place, where we all realize that hope is not a strategy. So that is wow. Did you come to talk to me today? Because I'm cheery and positive.

0:17:12 - Rachel Murray It's a heavy topic, right I?

mean it's not bunnies and rainbows, and you know when we're talking at a time that is particularly hard. I think you know Felicia's been doing so much work. I will have to say I've done some, but I think really Felicia's really been digging into what's been going on in the world recently and you know we've been talking a lot about. You know how we show up in the space and how we write about it and how we think about it and how we articulate it and what that means and how that may impact other folks across the board and it's like God, it's hard. You know, and it's just one issue we're not even talking about, like you know, the stuff that happens every day, that you know, that doesn't even get noticed by most people, and the power structures that are in place, how we knock them down so that we can all coexist in a way that feels fair.

0:18:09 - Christofer Peterson I think. Well, so you said the P word, and that P word is power, and I do not have huge wisdom to impart on this, but it's what rolls around in my head all the time, which is the notion of DEI is that we create consistent, systemic access to opportunity and resources for folks who've historically been denied that. But, no matter what, right now and for the past, forever's, the power structures are driven by not those folks, right, and so that there's an inherent disconnect between those two notions. Right, power, I think, could be the thing that props all of the DEI work up, but it is. It is, it is the thing that works most to our detriment.

And you know, I'm not going to get too too philosophical, I don't even think I'm smart enough for that, but I think we look around, we read the blog posts, we read the articles, we look at the TV shows, and it is hard to ignore that fact. Just, I think. Simply put, I don't I don't mean to paint the most grim picture, because that's ridiculous and it's not a grim picture, but I think that that will always be the thorn in the side of the DEI journey is wherever the power sits will dictate where that journey goes frankly yeah, that sucks, yeah, kind of Well and you know, I mean, I think it's like it's not about being overly negative or anything, it's just about talk about the realities of it and I feel like, you know, it's kind of I'm I'm definitely sensing a parallel, if you will, to HR work, because I feel like a lot of times HR.

0:19:50 - Felicia Jadczak I think I never formally worked in HR, so correct me if I am wrong here, but I feel like a lot of times HR it's like, oh, you know, I've worked with one's friend and like we're gonna do all these fun things and make everyone feel together and do all this great stuff. But on the flip side, hr also handles performance issues. You know case reports firing people.

So there's always a balance of it and I think that with DEI work, especially given that huge swell that we've seen over the last couple years 2020, after George Floyd's murder you know there's all this money and people in power paying attention to it and we wanted the feel good story. And now that it's what three, three and a half years later, we don't have like a feel good, funny and you know getting story to parade out there, and I think that's what we're starting to see to, especially around DEI related work is that people are, especially the folks in power, like, well, what's what's the point? I put all this money into it, I gave you my time. Where's my benefit?

0:20:50 - Rachel Murray and they don't see it, or they, you know we're not there yet, right, because it works right, because it's like wait, we spent three whole years and one and one 10% maybe not even of our budget on this work and we haven't seen everything fixed. And white supremacy soft, because, well, there's an all of it. So it's really interesting that time we talked about that as a team too is time is, you know, is a tool that is used In these spaces, that you know, and we all use it, but oh, sometimes it can be used very poorly.

0:21:30 - Christofer Peterson Well, I will, speaking of time, one of the things. I had an epiphany, or what Alcoholics like to call a moment of clarity. I I had this epiphany one day that DEI work or solving the DEI Problem, or solving white supremacy, solving, solving, solving any of those things. It's kind of like the the rule, the breakup rule with relationships, but plus some right, you know how they say it'll take you twice as long as you were in a relationship to get over that Relationship, to make it through the breakup Again, not to paint a grim picture but to steep us in like the hard reality of exactly what you just said. Oh, my god, it's been like over a thousand days.

Why don't we have, you know, at least 13% black representation in CEO spots or leader? You know what? Why don't the numbers in these structures look like the numbers of our population in the US specifically? And so, not to make light of it. But there's, I was very proud when I had that Epiphany because it made total sense. It gave me something to ground my hope in and my optimism and my realism in Just recognizing that. Now I say that, but then I say, going back to our power Conversation, if the folks in power want to do DEI. They can, they actually can, and I think it's not easy for them either. Right, I don't want to mistake this notion that if they have power, then all of a sudden they can do this stuff easily. But yeah, time is a Be word beast.

0:23:10 - Felicia Jadczak Beast is what I was gonna say. Other other be words to yeah.

0:23:17 - Rachel Murray Yeah, yeah, I have a follow-up. Question was gonna come later. I'm gonna let flesh go because I feel like I could just talk and I'm like I'm here for this tangent, but you know.

0:23:26 - Felicia Jadczak I Will say to your point, Christofer, I don't know if I ever you've seen the new I hope it's near the the new to me Netflix show Follow the house of usher. Oh yes, oh yeah.

0:23:38 - Christofer Peterson I'm hanging up knowing, go watch it. I.

0:23:43 - Felicia Jadczak Well, and we'll talk about that too, but I'm side note, so it is very campy but Little mini series about you know sort of Stuff related to Edgar Allen Poe writings and whatnot. So anyway, in the point of it, and why I'm bringing it up, is because they're it centers on a family that is like a pharmaceutical family and they have more money than God. They're billed bajillionaires and their issues. But at one point I'm not gonna say exactly, I'm gonna paraphrase but. But they basically say the guy like has a family. He's like I can literally do whatever I want to do and I can like get whatever I need and like what is it that you want? I'll give you literally anything you want, I can make it happen because he has so much money.

And so, to your point, around the people in power Like it's a yes, and which we love saying in our work, it's a yes and yeah because it's like yes. I think part of like what we struggle with a lot too is like we live in a capitalist society right now. So we're sort of constrained because if we were to take like a justice lens to the DEI work that we do, we'd have to totally dismantle our company and we're not in a position where we're gonna do that right now, because of all the constraints that we have, and People who truly have the power, like the bajillionaires, the whoever you want to name in this world, like they could Literally make things change and they choose not to.

And so I think there's you know, there's a to your point as well, around like the breakup rule, like I was just reading the other day Someone wrote somewhere where it was like oh, you know, anytime you find something that's like weird or you're like what the F for these people thinking, or like why is this the way it is? The answer is usually white supremacy, and like racism and all the isms. Because like that's literally baked in. So it's like it, but took us, you know, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years to get to the point where we got redlining and we've got you know Systemic inequities and all the stuff. Like it's gonna take us hundreds and hundreds of years to undo it, unless we have an external force, like someone with all the money in the world who can accelerate that process. So it's a to me. I feel like it's a both and kind of situation.

0:25:43 - Christofer Peterson Yeah, I agree, 100% agree.

0:25:46 - Rachel Murray Okay, go yes.

0:25:48 - Felicia Jadczak No, I just like, but I'm not here to like yell off my pulpit. I want to hear from you, so I'm gonna pause my own little All Proposizing or whatever I want to hear more from from you, Christofer, is could you show a bit more around, like any CPO or DEI initiatives that you've got to be particularly successful in your career, like what was it? Has you measure on it? Had you execute? Because I let's bring in like the success parts back to the conversation when Joy let's bring a little joy.

0:26:21 - Christofer Peterson So the first part, the first thing that I want to talk about, is actually, I thought of it when, when you were Talking earlier, felicia, and when, when you start to marry the or start start to say the HR acronym and the DEI acronym in the same sentence or in the same conversation. There's a lot there. And Listen, I'll be completely vulnerable and honest and self-reflective. I'm in the HR career, I, you know, that is my profession, that's my trade, that's my science, that's my art. I love the work. I have never felt brave enough or Strong enough or smart enough to carry a DEI title in of itself, like a, like a dedicated DEI title, and I mean that it seems terrifying to me and at the same time, I allow myself that mini Complacency Because I believe in running an HR organization, building an HR system of people, in culture Ecosystem that thrives because of DEI. So I believe in and I'll say this, and, for anyone who disagrees, I also agree with you for disagreeing, but for anyone who disagrees, that's okay. But I do believe that the models with the most promise are the integrated HR and DEI models, because the DEI work is immersed in every one of the people's systems, practices, policies, programs and leadership agenda topics. Right Now.

I say that With a touch of self-centeredness and arrogance. I believe I am good at Integrating those two. Not the best, oh hell, no, not the best. But I also know that what good is having a brown-skinned head of HR if she's not thinking about those things, because I can personally relate. So the benefit of me being a people person, a leader in the people's space, is that I've got baggage, and that baggage, god willing, helps me to see the many dimensions of the employee experience, whether it's tied to your underrepresented Identity or what the business needs to achieve. But I marry those two. It's exhausting, my head hurts, I'm sleepy at the end of every day, but I live in a world where those two theme songs are constantly playing in parallel. So everything that I talk about today is going to be pro HR, dei immersed.

That said, I have 100 scene where people screw that up I really, really have and where the human resources function, for whatever reason, is compromised by its attachment to Whatever that organization's leadership agenda is. In other words, where HR is the establishment Right and not ready to buck the system. And you got to be ready to buck the system if you want to do DEI at work. So I needed to pull that soapbox out because I needed everybody listening to know that I am biased. I am biased but I am practical.

So, with that said, I'm going to give a few examples of things that I am not only proud of Because I think they were good for the people they served, but because they're so simple, and that's what I think sometimes can get lost in translation. When you're trying to do this work, it feels like such a huge and ominous problem that sometimes we come up with huge and ominous ideas or what we think are solutions, whereas some simple stuff could work. So I think of a few things coming up with a few targeted and pretty straightforward mechanisms to create or reinforce equitable access across an organization, and it's steeped in just a really plain look at who your organization is, what your organization is made up of in terms of identities and what each of those identities needs in order to thrive. So a bit of stakeholder analysis, if you will. You look at an organization, all of the different groups, and then you do a stakeholder analysis on the labels or the identity. So if we have parents, if we have elder caregivers, if we have black people, black women, black non-binary folks, whatever it is. You look at them and you think about what you ask them. You don't come up with it, but you ask them, you find out what it is they need, what it is they want and what it is they feel like they're not getting. So that happens easy peasy, right, just a day's work. So you do that and then and I have done that and I landed in a place over the past probably five to six years of my career where I've rolled out a few of those mechanisms and they work. I think they work and I'm gonna say I think, because it takes time.

But, for example, we work in an industry that is majority in terms of numbers, majority female identifying. That's a great thing, and for another day we'll talk about how. How the hell are we 70% women but only X% women leader? That's another power saving. We'll talk about that later. But in this type of workforce and this with the demographics that we have, we also have a major equity problem. We know that women are more commonly inclined to go on parent leave, to step into caregiver roles at home. I'm not saying it's the unilateral truth, but it's what happens. Well, we also know that that bites them in the ass behind Excuse me, excuse me when they are in the workforce and balancing that, those multiple identities.

So a couple of things that I rolled out. One some targeted transition planning and support for parents returning from leave. Typically it has historically been for women returning from maternity leave, but that's a circumstance of the organization I was serving at the time. But we partnered up with an organization that literally does that. They start talking with our pregnant mothers, or expecting mothers rather, during their pregnancy, prompting them, priming them with the questions they need to be asking their employer Even though I am the employer, they have this third party partner that helps them with that and weaves together how they balance asking those questions at work with what they want for their delivery or their birth experience when their child comes into their life, and then helping them plan for the return, essentially propping them up to ask for hard things or do the hard thing of asking for what they need, but also just giving them a buddy that isn't the HR lady or their boss or their team or their client or what have you. So it's a small thing but I believe emotionally and then also just tactically, it changes the game for folks returning from parent leave and specifically maternity leave.

That's one thing. The other thing also pertains to women, and again, I'm in this industry, so that's where a lot of this has come from. But I think we I can't quote the study, but I know we've seen all the studies that say that women in the workforce have a higher inclination towards, or higher proclivity towards, loyalty. They stay at companies longer and in roles longer. Well, we also know that that can bite them in the ass a little bit because they don't always enjoy the same opportunities financial and career growth that they will when folks are hired from the outside for their same roles. So I created a few different practices for that and they work. One is easier in a small organization where I've worked recently.

But semi-annual pay equity reviews. Every time we make massive batch pay changes, like during a merit and promotion cycle, we do an equity review with adjustments. A part of the budget for merit is carved out for the assumption that someone is not being paid equitably, and it's not like self-fulfilling prophecy, it's like, hey, what gets managed gets measured, what gets measured gets done. So a piece of that money is always reserved for equity adjustments to make sure that we have that. And then the other piece that I am two more pieces that I'm really proud of is.

One is on the promotion front. When a person gets promoted into a role, regardless of how ginormous that increase would be, they at a minimum get the increase that would bring them into range for the next level role. So it's a matter of resetting or re-leveling the playing field. If we can't, as an organization, ensure that we're going to do everything equitably all the time, we at least have these reset moments where if a woman is in a role and she gets promoted to the next level, I don't care if it's a 50% increase, she's getting it so that she can compete with anyone we would hire from the outside for that role. So I love that. And then the last piece which I've seen be successful is financial and career growth. Promotions and raises are parent leave agnostic. So if you went out for three months on parent leave and you come back and you get ready to have your annual review and let's say you would have been up for a promotion, and a manager says these very ugly words to me oh, if only she had just three more months, she'd be great at this new role, we'd promote her. I guess she'll have to wait until next year. My answer is hell, no, you promote her now. I guess you'll be spending the next three months making sure she grows into that role. That's what's just going to happen.

And I say all of this, I got really excited. That's why you guys invited me here. I know these things. I wouldn't be surprised if you tell me, Christofer, nothing you've shared is exciting, is base, it is outstanding, is innovative, is groundbreaking. I totally get it, but that's why I think it works, and that's to me. Those examples are overly simplified proof points for why you integrate the HR practices and the DEI practices, and I'm not going to say that somebody else couldn't have come up with that. Somebody who looks different, has lived differently than me. But you better believe I'm a brown person, a woman person, a person who has come back from delivering humans from her body, and so I had a perspective on those topics. It made sense to me when employees came to me and said I feel like I'm not getting the same opportunities, so those things, so should we're both like?

0:36:39 - Rachel Murray I want to say things.

0:36:40 - Felicia Jadczak So much to say. I'll just say really quickly to your point about maybe it's basic or not, but I think it's important because to some people listening to this or not even listening to this or what you just said, or watching, is that's mind blowing right, Because there's such a spectrum and variety of where people are and there are absolutely companies out there who the things you just said they'd be like oh my god, never thought about that before. And yes, I think that's all great and there's more to do. But also, everyone's starting from some point, but even those points are gross for somebody else. So I just want to name that.

0:37:27 - Rachel Murray And add to that because I of course not surprised. I was completely in agreement with what Fletcher. I was about to say, the same thing. So, yes, and it's also important to note, per our previous bit of conversation, that this is why the work takes so long, because you just named four things and there are 400 other things that can be done and people are just like well, we did a training on unconscious bias. Why isn't everything mixed? I don't understand. And it's like because you haven't implemented the processes, you haven't changed anything, you haven't done the actual work beyond the training.

And then so to your point and both of you. It is not basic. It is so important to emphasize it.

0:38:08 - Christofer Peterson Yeah, and it's you know. I thought of another one Because now I'm in self-pattern.

0:38:12 - Felicia Jadczak Self-pattern. What here is.

0:38:14 - Christofer Peterson I thought of another example, and the reason I thought of it is, as you were both talking, I'm reminded of the fact of you remember that meme or that saying that was very popular in 2020, but said something about. It's like what was it? Rights or equity or an inclusion? Just because somebody else got some right? It's not Pi. And I love that Because in a lot of ways, I agree with it, but at the same time, I'm the biggest detractor Because I'm like no hell, yeah, it is Pi. Somebody needs to get less in order for others to get more. Flat, plain and simple period, point blank. But what it made me think about is this notion that and this is where it feels dicey in my role and in the HR space, there are moments where I have to take things away from a group that maybe has historically been entitled whether they ask to be or not, has been entitled to things, in order for me to give it to a group that has not had those same benefits. And one such example is and a lot of companies have these new hire buddy programs Well, I've had one.

I had one recently at my past company great program, pretty straightforward, nothing rocket science in the program, but I implemented this practice behind the scenes and I go back and forth on whether or not I should have promoted it more broadly, but I didn't figure out how to do it fully in the right way. But essentially, when a new hire comes into our organization, into that organization, if they represent an underrepresented identity woman, person of color, black, latino, you name it when I pair them up with a buddy, they get paired with a senior leader instantly. So what was? What happens is that we only got so many senior leaders to go around and I can't lay them all with a million mentees. But the reality is what I'm doing is I'm creating, I'm forcing, lovingly forcing sponsorship and champion relationships where they may not have been the default setting for.

So an early career black man which is like that where is that an industry? In our industry? We need more. But an early career black man entering the our agency environment may get paired with the chief strategy officer and what that does is that accelerates exponentially his access to sponsorship information the things that we know are the currency in a workplace and can help somebody grow. And, like I said earlier, I've struggled that I've gone back and forth on how much I promote that that happens. I've been really fortunate to work for an organization in the past where, sharing that with the leadership team to get it, they're down for it. Yes, please sign me up, but I haven't been brave enough always to parade around the fact that that is happening because I'm not ready to answer the pie question. But you know, I haven't been ready to answer it.

0:41:21 - Rachel Murray yet I will say it because I love the pie analogy also and for me, I actually think the way I think about it is like it's, you will make more pie. It's not that, please right. Like. That's what I think is like. When you are giving pie or pieces of pie out to other folks who haven't had access to that pie before, you may temporarily be like maybe giving less pie to one group, but ultimately you are actually creating more pie. That's the business case, right, you were creating all the pie, so, yes, you can create more and everyone then can get more pie. So that's that's my.

0:42:00 - Christofer Peterson I'm starved not only for pie but for the rest of the person, and that's why I've talked out of both sides of my mouth, you know, about that analogy, because I think I think it's a really smart way to think.

0:42:12 - Rachel Murray I think I'm going to make t-shirts. Hashtag make more pie. Yeah, uh-oh. What's happening? Watch out for our tea public store Watch out.

0:42:25 - Felicia Jadczak I was. I'm just laughing because, Rachel, I love you, for this has a history of just buying up the domain rights for things that we have ideas and then five no for any listeners. I every year I'll get like yearly and email being like or slack message being like hey, do you still want this like insert wild?

0:42:46 - Christofer Peterson Make more piecom literally.

0:42:50 - Rachel Murray It's waiting till.

0:42:51 - Felicia Jadczak I get the slack message next year being like should we keep make more pie?

0:42:56 - Rachel Murray I'm here for it. I am like I'm so seen. It's a sickness. I'm laughing so hard I'm crying. Okay, thank you for that. Okay, back to the questions and related related related. So, all of this work. So I'm thinking about, like the creative space. A lot of industries are like this, but I think in the creative agency space in particular, going back to this time concept is y'all work wild hours, like really hard, the deadlines are tough, your clients are super demanding. I've seen all the shows. I've actually just started to watch ugly Betty, by the way, which is okay, I don't know what took me so long.

But but yeah, so I think in your role, I think I'm curious to know how, if that's ever been an issue, because I would imagine there's a lot of burnout from there and probably a lot of attrition. So was that something that you tackled?

0:43:59 - Christofer Peterson I think it's something that you tackled.

You can't say it in the past tense, right, I think it's something I tackle present tense or try to right, and even the word tackle it makes it sound like I'm in control, like I'm strong enough to do it. I don't know about that. I think it's something that is a focus area, it's a core focus area, but it comes from a broken set of systems. So I have cautious optimism that, frankly, the generations coming into the workforce are going to turn that on its head. I joke when I say this, but I'm Gen X man. I'm going to work until I die. I don't say that because I'm proud of it. I don't say that because it's the right thing to do, but I 100% grew up my story and then what was commonplace and what it took to grow in a career from my generation is just working and working, and working, and working and working. I need more balance in my life. I know all of that. But miraculously, someone married me. We had children together. The children think I'm a decent parent, so I'm enabling these bad behaviors, as it were. But listen, they don't have the hashtag agency life for no reason. It's a real challenge and, frankly, it's the anti-diversity.

This industry in of itself, the demands on people's time and what it takes to achieve the outcomes is literally the anti-diversity. Because, when I think about it, our industry has the ability to deter caregivers, maybe, older professionals, young professionals, artists, people who need to hold more than one job. All of those people would be deterred from working in our industry just by nature of the fact that it does take a lot and you put in a lot of hours to do good things here. I don't think that gets fixed until the actual business model changes, and that's where I feel. That's where I'm so cautious with my optimism, because a lot of and this is not uncommon for services firms, but I've worked for other services organizations and it's a bit different.

In the agency and client relationship world the revenue is always driven, or is typically driven, by heads on the org chart. So until we get out of a game where we are horse trading humanity for dollars that's a lofty goal I don't see us being able to bring down that potential burnout rate, because the reality is there is a threshold and a dynamic tension between how many people an organization can afford to have and how many people it actually takes to get the job done, multiplied by how many people the client's actually paying us to hire. So it's a rough one. I am 100% not equipped to solve it on my own. I think there needs to be a bit of a wholesale shift in how the work gets done. But I'll say this again this stems back to there is so much in the agency industry that is legacy good and a lot of bad.

And you heard me start to answer your question by saying look, I'm Gen X. I work too damn much. It's just how I'm built. Well, people my age are in charge of stuff, right, and so if we didn't learn how to immerse ourselves in a balanced life between work and home, how the hell are we going to leave companies that do that and teach the next generation to do it? So I think we can.

I think we can, but I think there's some reprogramming that's going to need to happen across the board. And what I will say is that, in my role, thank goodness for my role, because my principles and my values for what everyone else deserves is what guides me. So I am that person who and look, I grew in my career while growing my family, so I've always had to use time as a commodity, and I've always had to teach my teams and the people with whom I have the pleasure of working that, if you see an email from me time stamped at 10pm, chances are I had to break three times to nurse a toddler or pick a kid up from swim at three o'clock and then I finally got home, fed those jokers, sat down and could catch up on the work that I had the flexibility to defer until later in the evening.

So while I say that that's all well and good and I think people believe me in earnest, it's also incumbent upon me to behave a certain way. So if I am sending emails at 10pm, I'm scheduling them. People aren't getting them until the next morning, right? Yes, or I even have. I have my email signature after hours says do not? I have zero expectation of you responding to this, like I literally left to go to a Halloween kids party at 1122 because that's when the school scheduled it, right? And I'm just getting to this. Please don't. If you're reading this, I'm mad at you, right? I've actually added that to my email signature before. So I know I went loop-de-loop and probably didn't answer the question entirely, but it is a real problem. It's going to take a whole lot of me's and them's and us's to reframe the model I think to solve for the problem.

0:49:43 - Rachel Murray Yeah, I mean I say sorry, go ahead, felicia, please. I was going to say I think you did answer the question. I actually think you answered it. Even the beginning, even because I've everything said was like I think, spot on, also a Gen Xer. So I totally feel you.

0:49:57 - Felicia Jadczak Yes.

0:50:00 - Rachel Murray We don't rule anything really, but we like to think that we do. We literally have a variable to label ourselves Literally.

It's where we really are. It's going right from baby boomers to the millennial folks, and I'm fine with it. Look, I'm fine with it. But I wanted to just highlight something that you said, which I think we're going to get to later because it's, but I've been like holding back. I just wanted to emphasize that you mentioned, like future generations, yeah, and I think that that is that is very key to, I think, solving this issue and also just highlighting the fact that it is really interesting that this is also an industry that is so influential to how everyone shows up.

0:50:43 - Christofer Peterson Period.

0:50:45 - Rachel Murray Right. So it's really it's fascinating. So that's all I just wanted to add to that.

0:50:49 - Christofer Peterson No, I couldn't agree with you more. I have thought about that right when I'm daydreaming, watching TV. Whatever I imagine, like what if? What if the marketing and media industry decided to push pop propaganda around balanced lifestyles or equity, inclusion, diversity Like what if we? What if that became our agenda, where the industry that could actually make it happen, because humans watch TV, humans absorb all of the media that's out there and we believe what we see. So, yes, this is me calling for programming and mass propaganda. I mean, I imagine myself saying those words, but I did.

0:51:30 - Rachel Murray We're getting it anyway, so we may as well For good. Exactly, exactly.

0:51:36 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah.

0:51:38 - Rachel Murray Going on the t-shirt Get in the domain name.

0:51:43 - Felicia Jadczak I feel like maybe this is a bit of a loaded follow up question. What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into this?

0:51:55 - Christofer Peterson wild mess of an industry. No, I mean, listen, I think I'm only the same advice I'd give to anyone going into any industry. I think right, and that is Be hungry, sure, be humble, be smart and I stole that from a Lensione book, it's not mine, but be all of those things and maybe it's the same advice that I've given myself time and time again. Find somebody who does the thing that you want to do really, really good and attach yourselves to them and learn what you can from them. Puppet, don't invent Like, emulate them. Find someone and that's a little bit easier said than done. I mean, over the course of my career I've had a few of those people, those Lighthouse team members or colleagues that have really helped steer and guide me and keep me on the right path. But I do think that if every person who entered the industry world, the agency world or any industry for that matter, instead of looking for someone who could help them get ahead, they looked for someone who they wanted to be like when they grew up, that could be a game changer.

I think it is about and listen, those two things may be the same. If a person entering the industry says one day, I want to be the CEO of an ad agency, then chances are they're going to try to hitch their wagon to that CEO or somebody who's close to them. But I would make sure that it's a more balanced admiration. Are they living the life? When you look at that person, are they not only the top dog, but are they living a life that you want to live? I'm going to go ahead and venture to say that most CEOs cannot afford to live the life that they might want to live and I'm talking to two of them right now, entrepreneurs at that.

So I'm going to go out on a limb and say you don't always get to enjoy balance in your professional life because you're building something and it's purpose driven, so jokes on you.

0:54:00 - Felicia Jadczak What are you even talking about?

0:54:04 - Rachel Murray This is literally the highlight of our weeks are these wonderful interviews that we get to do with folks. And I'll tell you, we just do it because we love it. This is the bit of joy.

0:54:14 - Christofer Peterson Yes, that's the bit of joy, so I think I would give that advice. Of course, I think I hope it goes without saying but get really good at what you do Like, get hella good. I think that gone are the days although there are still some remnants of it, but gone are the days, from my perspective where brilliant jerks get to just live amongst us regular, awesome people. I think you need to be a brilliant, good person now in the workplace and, frankly, for any of the misgivings that I have wielded in my career, I have been good at my job and, at the end of the day, that is what I sought to build my reputation on my brand, being really good at and not the best, but really good and also being hella honest, right Saying the things that maybe others wouldn't say and, frankly, they shouldn't. I've been told that too, but at some point I decided what I wanted my brand to be and I just stuck to that and it helped keep me focused. It also helped me identify those people that I wanted to emulate, the lives that I wanted to live, and one of those people was a boss that I had a few companies ago and I remember he retired. He was like a 35 year HR leader at a big, ginormous company energy company and he retired and he came back to work to lead to partially lead HR at our company post retirement. There's me who's saying dude, you can afford to retire, go eat cookies.

But what I started to notice about him is he and his wife every morning got up and took a walk, walked the dogs, then did some gardening and then he walked to the office we were in the. Our headquarters was in Spokane, washington. He walked to the office and, yeah, he got there at 830 or nine, like at a really respectable time. It wasn't like noon. But every day he came in and he started meetings, talking about his walk and what the flowers he saw and the pets he met. And it tears me up a little bit to think about how you have that kind of balance and just how contagious it can be. But like literally every day, we started asking about his walk to start meetings because we cared and we were living vicariously through him with these lovely walks. And he was such is such a clear example of someone who had the career I wanted and the life I think I want. So I became obsessed with him in a healthy way, completely healthy completely, I have no doubt.

0:56:53 - Rachel Murray I have no doubt, so I'm cognizant of time, so I want to honor. We've got a few more questions to ask. You mentioned earlier that early in your career you had a quote severe case of high aptitude, low motivation syndrome. So could you share more about this and how you got past it?

0:57:15 - Christofer Peterson Oh yes.

0:57:18 - Rachel Murray Or you can pass, or you can pass.

0:57:21 - Christofer Peterson No, no, no, no. I've got a high aptitude but low motivation for answering this question Right? No, listen, I've always been I think I would self diagnosed. I've always been a person with selective performance syndrome. Luckily, I'm highly driven, highly motivated to do good work. But I know, in school, for example, I was getting I was the kid that got straight A's in FM studies and FM literature in the topics that mattered to me. That resonated with me. But the only thing I liked about the chem lab was the teacher right, because it was funny. I'm in more cool shoes.

So I've faced this a few times in my personal and professional life, this notion that I can do the job and I can do it hella well, but it doesn't make my heart beat. I think what's worked for me is I've told somebody and I've been really, really fortunate Right. I have had some extraordinary managers, managers and department leads who gave me the space to be this full Christofer, which is a lot. But also I earned the right to be able to have those honest conversations with them and say, hey, you know, like I'm not feeling this, like I'm not feeling it at all, I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it excellently. But what if we found someone else to do it? Or what if we could add something to my plate that lit my fire? And I've had the opportunity to do that a few times in my career. So I think I don't know that I'll ever overcome it. And gosh anybody who out there who might hire me in the future.

Pretend you're not hearing this because I'm great, but I think we all. I mean we call it burnout, we call it disengagement, we can call it any number of things right, I am a high performing professional who doesn't like to do employment verifications, right, and who doesn't want to do that Fair, fair. But I think it's also because I've identified or I've spent some time reflecting on when it happens. It helps me, right? So, one, if I'm doing work that I feel like is not making someone's life broad picture better at work, I'm bored by it.

If I'm doing something that I feel like a bot could do, I may be bored with it or I may have low motivation to do it. If it is, frankly, not the hard thing that I could be doing, I can sometimes have low motivation Because in my career, the things that I've done that have been the hard things have had the biggest impact for someone else. It's not about me, it's for someone else. I've just won along the way by growing right. So I think I just kind of aggressively go find those antidotes when I need to. But having somebody to talk to that you can actually trust and say this is happening and who will partner with you to find, to put you somewhere where you can get over, that is pretty awesome.

1:00:30 - Rachel Murray A little bit it's pretty reasonable yeah.

1:00:34 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, all right, we could keep talking all day long, but we do have time constraints that we have to deal with. So I'm going to just skip ahead to our last question, which is, all this being said, looking ahead, what is like the big vision for you? What's the next step for Christofer?

1:00:55 - Christofer Peterson I want to change the face of the HR acronym Not just the face, but just what it means to people. Throughout my career, I have fielded many a verbal and nonverbal reaction to the notion of HR. People have experience with HR that is not like what I believe it should be. I would like to become basic as hell in this space, and what I mean by that is the biggest compliments I've ever gotten in my career have been I've never experienced an HR person like you. You're the first HR person to dot, dot, dot something good.

I want to do my part to make it so that this space that I'm in this field, this profession, is teeming with those kinds of experiences, with employees who experience HR like that. Yeah, of course, I want to keep being the boss of things and growing things and changing it from a place of authority and decision making power, and I want to be able to pay for my kids to go to college and all that jazz. But yeah, I want to become generic in this industry and in this space, because so many people do it like I do, that I'm not special or different or unique, that I don't get to use the HR unicorn moniker anymore, because, frankly, I'm not a unicorn anymore. Check back with me in a few years. But that's the goal. It's an exhausting goal, but I think if I'm going to run this rat race, it better be for a reason besides my shoe collection, and I think that's my reason.

1:02:36 - Rachel Murray Love that so much and that's a perfect place to end. I know we have like 4,000 other questions that we can ask you, but want to just see where can people find you? Is there anything that you want to plug or share or any sort of nugget you want to leave us with?

1:02:57 - Christofer Peterson No nuggets, no nuggets. Please find me. I'm around on LinkedIn. Yes, I told you I'm Gen X. I hang out on LinkedIn and Facebook, but I'm on LinkedIn. I love getting to know other folks and, in case you didn't notice, I am the queen of unsolicited advice and storytelling. So if anyone out there needs a friend in HR, needs someone to talk to about something that they're experiencing or figuring out in the work world, I'm your guy. My chances are and, like I said, I'm in between gigs right now, so I've got some time on my hands and I would just love to spread some of the HR goodness however I can and to whomever.

1:03:37 - Rachel Murray I can Love it. Thank you so much, Christofer, yeah.

1:03:40 - Felicia Jadczak Thank you, thanks for having me.

1:03:47 - Rachel Murray I love saying that. Thank you For those of you who are listening. Felicia just raised the roof, which you can see on our YouTubes if you want to see it. We hope you enjoyed listening to this interview as much as we enjoyed the conversation.

1:04:06 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, thanks so much for listening. Please don't forget to rate, share and subscribe. It makes a huge difference in the range of our podcast and, by extension, the work that we're doing. Also, visit us on YouTube if you want to check us out in person, so to speak, and see what we wore while we were talking to you or anything else that you might want to check out. We're also on Instagram, linkedin, and just check out our website if you want to stay up to date on all things SGO. Thanks everybody. Bye.

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