ALI Star of the Month: June 2020 — Jennie Bledsoe
We are proud to announce the June 2020 ALI Star of the Month: Jennie Bledsoe, Director Internal/HR Communications at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Jennie Bledsoe is the Director of Internal and HR Communications at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and has been a speaker for ALI Conferences for a few years now. She has volunteered her time and expertise to help improve the careers of her fellow communicators and HR professionals across the country.
Most recently, Jennie has lead sessions on her experiences improving communications and breaking down HR silos at the Employee Experience & Communications: Digital Engagement Strategies virtual conference and 2019’s 6th Annual Strategic Internal Communications—East conference in Boston.
Without Further Ado, June 2020 ALI Star Of The Month, Jennie Bledsoe:
What makes you passionate about your work/organization/team/all of the above?
The mission of St. Jude speaks beyond my heart and straight to my soul. When I walk on our campus, I feel that I am part of something that is larger than myself.
I have extended family members and friends whose children are part of the St. Jude family, so I think of them every day. I’m honored to play my role in finding cures and saving children. It’s a special place.
I am also blessed to work closely with some of the most amazing people. It’s rare to say you genuinely like your colleagues, but from day one, I can honestly say that the day I interviewed, I knew I’d found my work family.
And, to save the best for last, I have the most incredible group that I’m blessed to lead. They are talented, smart, creative communicators and they blow me away every day.
What is your organization doing differently during this time to improve the employee experience?
My team works directly with employee experience and we have not slowed down! Our biggest contribution was the launch of a social network.
A pandemic launch was a first for me, but wow, was it the right time. With almost 75% of our employees on the site, the conversations are varied, fascinating, and funny. We’ve been able to continue our work by connecting employees virtually around shared interests on the site. We also found creative ways to keep on-campus traditions alive in virtual formats. We held our first-ever virtual Judestock, an employee recognition event that on-campus typically consists of a great local band, games from our Living Well team, and food trucks for employees to buy lunch all in our central outdoor space. We created a group and “group event” in Yammer where we streamed a local band performance, kicked off by a welcome from our CEO. We posted coloring pages for children and tweens and prompted participants through questions throughout the event. Our employees showed up and had a great time. Employees who weren’t able to attend were able to watch it later and still join in the conversation, so days later, people are still posting in the group and sharing information.
We have another virtual event—a leadership speaker for June and employees are already starting to request more information.
Our medical content team has also led the way with fantastic online resources for employees as well as creating puzzles of iconic St. Jude photos that employees could purchase. They also created “We are St. Jude” yard signs that employees could reserve for free to put in their yards at home. We love the photos employees are sharing of their signs on Yammer. Sometimes it’s just their sign, sometimes kiddos or pets will jump in the photo and many times, it’s an image of a sign in their neighborhood that they spotted during a walk. Employees find each other as neighbors, and the reactions are priceless.
Our leadership team has always done an outstanding job talking with employees—they have even upped their game, hosting frequent town halls, and even our CEO answers five popular questions on video weekly. So far he’s demonstrated proper mask use, handwashing techniques, and even talked someone into letting him film their nasal swab test!
What’s something positive you have seen or done recently that has made you happy?
I live in a building surrounded by all kinds of neighbors. Most are professionals who are like me and running in/out all day long. We occasionally get to say hello or wave, but we’ve taken the work from home opportunity to really say hi and support each other. Sometimes a surprise dinner on my doorstep turns my whole day around. We swap snacks, share grocery deliveries and my favorite conversations are with my 4-year-old neighbor who loves Frozen, the color pink, and “cookies with chocolate inside.” I love it when she pops out of her door and says hello—it’s never boring. Occasionally her 1-year-old sister will toddle out with her and try to join in the conversation. We don’t quite understand her yet, but the enthusiasm is on point.
What book is on your nightstand/coffee table right now?
Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett, Ph.D. It’s a fascinating way to expand your emotional vocabulary. Our leadership development team put the book out to our directors’ group on Yammer as a book club idea. So, we read a few chapters and once a week we hop on a WebEx and talk about what we’ve learned. The book club has leaders from all areas of campus—some of us are at home and others on campus—so it’s fun to see faces that aren’t the usual video conference ones! It’s a special time for all of us.
What is your favorite podcast (unrelated to HR Communications)?
I am a sporadic podcast listener—either binging 10 at once or only listening to one. But that “one” is always Revisionist History by Malcom Gladwell. I really appreciate his approach to storytelling and find an ah-ha in every episode.
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