I’m a Chief People Officer of a Regional Distributor: Let’s Talk About The Human Element Of This Crisis

BY Syretta Williams
3/30/2020 - COVID-19

In an effort to continue to try and provide our members with resources that are easy to consume, and relevant to their own businesses, we are taking some information that has been developed and trying to “pare it down” as much as possible so you can easily find the identified portions that are most beneficial.

One resource that has been created in the wake of the COVID-19 virus is a video series developed by Dirk Beveridge from UnleashWD.  In this particular video, “I’m a Chief People Officer of a Regional Distributor: Let’s Talk About The Human Element Of This Crisis,” Dirk interviews Tracie Sponenber the Chief People Officer of the Granite Group, who talks about how important it is to put people first now more than ever.

We have taken some time to pull some of the highlights and identify some important items that were covered, and then time stamp the video for easy access to everything that was covered in the video.


During the video, Dirk interviews Tracie to get her thoughts around what she believes organizations can do to put their people and customers first during this time of crisis.

The video begins and ends with Tracie and Dirk talking through questions and the Granite Groups processes on how they are showing that their employees and customers are important to them.  In particular, Tracie notes now important it is to be flexible communicating and working with your employees to keep them calm so that they can do their jobs versus spending hours updating policies.

Tracie later goes onto share that as much as organizations want to be proactive during this time and what the Granite Group has done to be as prepared as possible, a lot of their actions have been reactive, especially in the wake of one of their own employees testing positive for COVID-19.

Please watch the video to gain some valuable insights and practical tactics to implement throughout a distribution organization as it relates to what Tracie calls, putting “people over policy.”

Video Timestamps:

Beginning – Introduction of Tracie Sponenberg

3:42 – Dirk asks Tracie to speak to preparing for the unthinkable and how their organization has to be reactive due to how quickly the situation is changing.

5:28 – Tracie advises how and why her CEO executes a daily email communication and frequent videos from the Virus Response Team’s email address that they formed so that employees know where a reassuring and steady voice of information is coming from. These communications go out to all 600 plus employees.

7:10 – Dirk asks Tracie to explain the operation charter that the Virus Response Team follows, what have they been communicating over the last few weeks and to share why they chose to respond to any incoming messages from their employees within fifteen minutes.

9:82 – Tracie shares which communication channels they have found effective including email, video, per to person cascading of information from levels of leadership as well as using posters, test messages and their organization’s intranet and ensuring their employee’s information (cell phone numbers and email addresses) are up to date on their communication lists.

12:37 – Next, Tracie strongly advises the importance of how HR departments need to truly “be the “people” people” more than ever.  While employee growth may have had to take a pause at this time in its traditional format, HR should be working to help employees stay calm and focused so that they can help customers.

16:07 – Dirk and Tracie discuss what protocol and tactics the Granite Group has had to implement due to one of their branch employees unfortunately being infected with COVID-19.  Tracie digs into what their communication has been like to employees, customers, media, social medial and how their preparations paid off to a degree but they still had to react to the situation.  She states that the Granite Group felt that it was important to be transparent about what was going on with their organization in line with HIPPA as trust and clear communications are apart of their organization’s values.

22:56 – Dirk questions Tracie on what kinds of employee concerns or questions are they getting to their Virus Response Team email box.  Tracie shares while there are lots of questions on pay and if they are open she says that many of their ideas they have implemented on barriers and distancing in their showrooms have come from their employees feedback and suggestions.  They are cataloging this information to continue to provide consistent and fair treatment to employees.

25:30 – Tracie shares her final thoughts on how important it is to put “people over policy,” particularly in this situation.  She stresses that being creative, fair, legal, consistent and ethical in the treatment of employees is much more important than hours spent drafting new policies which will lead to the organization have a better ability to serve its customers. She closes with reminding HR professionals to take care of themselves and the strength of their people will come through during this time.

About UnleasedWD's video series

At UnleashWD our purpose is to unleash the human spirit.  And during this unprecedented time we felt compelled to support the UnleashWD tribe and our association partners with the right mix of inspiration and timely, relevant information.  We reached out to our network of wickedly smart subject matter experts to provide the sessions below.  In the words of one attendee - “This was amazing.  You’ve changed our day tomorrow.  We’ll be on the attack!”

We are a design, innovation, and strategy firm who transforms legacy distributors into nimble and innovative market leaders.  What you are about to experience is designed to unleash your spirit so like the individual above decided, you too will be on the attack!

We are here to support you through these next few months and beyond.  If we can do anything for you please reach out directly to either of us.

Dirk Beveridge                      Bethany Hepler
Founder                                VP of Design
dirk@unleashwd.com           bethany@unleashwd.com