Meet Sandra Garcia
Global Compensation CoE (Center of Expertise) Lead for Global Strategic Initiatives - Global Recognition and Global Service Awards Programs, General Motors
Sandra Garcia resides in Rosario, Argentina and has worked for General Motors (GM) for close to 21 years. Sandra knew early on in her career that she wanted to work for a global company that would allow her to collaborate with people from different countries and cultures. She wanted the opportunity to expand her skillset and be challenged on a daily basis. With a bachelor’s degree in Labor Relations and two professional certifications from WorldatWork (Global Remuneration Professional (GRP) and Certified Compensation Professional (CCP)) and her wide-ranging experience within GM, she is fully equipped to help lead GM’s global recognition and service awards programs.
As GM’s Global Compensation Lead for Global Strategic Initiatives, Sandra is highly regarded as a thought leader in global recognition and global service awards programs and responsible for leading the subject from beginning to end. Her role in GM’s global recognition program, which launched in August 2017, included conducting research and development, leading the bidding process and vendor strategy, designing the new program and gaining leadership buy-in/approval. Also, as a member of the recognition implementation team, she develops strategies and guidelines, training and communication content and participates in key decisions regarding global deployment.
Let’s take a moment to recognize Sandra
We want to take a moment to recognize Sandra for her accomplishments in employee engagement. Below, she answers a series of questions, providing advice for fellow HR professionals and sharing her personal story.
1. What interested you in a career in HR?
Early in my career at GM, I started working in Global Purchasing, which enabled me to develop strong negotiation, analytical and planning skills and build relationships with various stakeholders globally. As time passed, I realized I wanted to leverage my negotiation skills and bachelor’s degree in Labor Relations towards building collaborative relationships with the local Union within a challenging union environment in Argentina. I spent some time in Labor Relations, until I applied for a local Compensation and HR Planning position at GM which offered me more analytical and planning experience. I fell in love with working on compensation topics and that’s when I knew I wanted to become a specialized expert in this particular field. I ended up joining the Global Compensation CoE team at GM. I started as a Consultant, and over time, I developed deeper technical knowledge and expertise in different related areas. Just a couple of years ago, I was given the responsibility to lead the implementation of a new global recognition program. This stretch assignment allowed me to use all the skills acquired throughout my career at GM to set up the program for success. The new recognition program has helped GM not only strengthen its culture of recognition, but support its culture change.
2. What is your biggest focus or goal when it comes to the employee experience?
Based on research, we know that focusing on the employee experience can give companies a competitive advantage. We also know that meaningful work and a sense of achievement are key factors that drive a positive employee experience. When it comes to recognition, our focus is to build a positive employee experience. Through our recognition platform, employees are able to connect the work they do every day with company values and gain a deeper understanding of how their work contributes to the company; this gives employees a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Social recognition, in particular, helps nurture a positive work environment of mutually supportive relationships, which offers employees a sense of belonging.
All of this contributes towards creating a more positive employee experience that increases employee performance, engagement and retention.
3. What is your biggest culture challenge and how do you overcome it?
Overall, my biggest culture challenge is finding new ways to innovate and having an open mind to change - to see things not as they are, but as they could be. Innovation is clearly led from the top, and I have been lucky throughout my career at GM to have supportive leaders that provide me opportunities and push me outside of my comfort zone. This has allowed me to develop and propose solutions, strategies and initiatives to address important issues related to our employees and/or competitive practices. To overcome my culture challenge to innovate or champion change (and the initial fear of potential failure one might feel), I go through extensive external and internal research to understand issues; this includes gathering data, facts, trends, etc. This process allows me to thoroughly digest every idea before selecting which one is the best to pursue or recommend. When I have research in my back pocket, I feel more confident to endorse an idea, believe in it and give it a try. Also, I have made it a habit to always reflect on the lessons learned - what went well and what did not – to better equip me for future decisions.
4. What is key to boosting employee engagement across your organization?
One of the key factors for boosting employee engagement across GM involves our culture strategy. Our refreshed purpose, vision, values and behaviors introduced at the end of last year set the stage for common enterprise definitions. Having a common language globally for talent, feedback, recognition, development, learning and culture makes it easier for our employees to understand how their work is directly tied to the company purpose. Also, our leadership team plays a key role in GM’s employee engagement efforts and drives the direction of our culture. They focus on how to improve employee performance and drive a shared sense of accountability. Other key drivers that increase employee engagement across GM include career opportunities and frequent recognition. Our employees have endless opportunities to grow within the company both professionally and personally. They also have recognition embedded into their day to day, which gives them a sense of progress and achievement. When an employee’s work is publicly recognized by leaders and colleagues, it motivates him/her to grow, contribute and engage in the workplace.
5. What is your favorite employee recognition moment at GM?
I have many memorable recognition moments at GM. One of my favorite moments was the day we launched our new global recognition program, powered by Achievers. On launch day, our project team received a public recognition from our Vice President of Global Human Resources and it ended up being the first recognition sent across the platform. This moment gave me a real sense of achievement and purpose, and I felt all my hard work paid off.
6. Where do you see the future of employee engagement heading?
We know that the future of employee engagement is heading more towards frequent pulsing and the ability to act on feedback more rapidly; technology is key for this. As leaders play a critical role in employee engagement, we will continue to see a strong focus on providing leadership with quick, actionable tools to build and sustain engaged teams. There will also be an emphasis on providing employees the right resources to be more accountable of their own engagement levels.
7. What would be your top three pieces of advice for an HR professional who is looking to implement an employee engagement strategy at their organization?
#1: Conduct extensive research and advanced planning
Like any project, designing and executing a successful program happens well before vendor selection, so it is key to do extensive research and advanced planning. Gather as much information internally to understand your company’s current state. For example, look into how employees and leaders perceive recognition, what options are out there, and what is working and what isn’t working. Look outside your company and research externally to better understand the recognition industry, trends and best practices. This will help you create a compelling business case first, and later, design the program, strategy and objectives for leadership buy-in. Also, gather as much information as possible during the bidding process to get a strong grasp of project deliverables and the deployment process before selecting a vendor.
#2: Create a compelling business case
Use all the extensive research you’ve done to identify alignments between your company’s business goals and HR strategy. For example, ask yourself, “Are you leveraging recognition to be a top driver of employee engagement or as a catalyst for alignment? Or perhaps as a driver to accelerate cultural change?” Be prepared to use different targeted key messages and tailor data or evidence for the different buy-in audiences and stakeholders (i.e. a technology platform can help track budget and monitor spend for Finance, while a recognition platform can serve as a top driver of employee engagement for HR).
#3: Get executive sponsorship from key players and involve stakeholders early in the process
Make it a priority to get buy-in from key stakeholders or audiences. Determine which stakeholders are the right ones to involve early in the project to better set up the program for success. By identifying who to get sponsorship from and which stakeholders are vital, you are building a stronger case and structure for your future recognition program. An employee engagement and recognition program is dependent on the right team and advocates driving it.
What’s next for Sandra? She is currently integrating hourly employees globally and other programs into GM’s recognition platform to further improve the employee experience and engagement. She continues to partner with key stakeholders to drive a culture of recognition and remains focused on sustaining and improving employee recognition across GM.
About GM’s recognition program
GM’s employee recognition program, powered by Achievers, caters to 68,000 employees across 26 countries. Since launch, the program has set the record for most activations in the first day of program launch in Achievers history. GM has seen huge success, including 96% activation, 63% monthly active users and 67.9% recognition coverage. To learn more about the award-winning platform that powers GM’s recognition program, sign up for a demo of Achievers today.
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