When Stacy Green joined A+E Networks in 2013, her mission was twofold and clear: help people be happy and successful at work, while changing the perception of the HR function as a whole.
Green is the executive vice president of global human resources and facilities for A+E Networks, a global entertainment media company that reaches about 500 million people worldwide with six multiplatform brands, including History, Lifetime, LMN, FYI, and VICELAND. So what is her definition of HR’s role? Making sure the right people are in the right roles with the right inspiration.
“That’s how I usually start a discussion about my role because I think it simply captures what HR leaders are passionate about every day,” Green says.
Beginning her career as in-house tax counsel at Revlon allowed Green to build a foundation in HR specialty areas from a financial, legal, and policy perspective. After nearly a decade of supporting HR, she took the leap into leadership based on her conviction that the marriage of strategic business planning with the most inspired employees can have the greatest impact on a company’s success.
Having found her calling, Green took her next HR opportunity in a field she had loved all her life: media. During the next five years at NBCUniversal (NBCU), Green felt fortunate to have played roles in several different aspects of the business, including NBC News, ad sales, and as an integral member of the team dedicated to Comcast’s acquisition of NBCU from GE. In fact, she credits her wide range of roles for giving her deep knowledge of the media industry, a factor she believes is critical in leading a successful HR function.
“NBCU was a crash course in media and entertainment, as well as fantastic HR leadership,” Green says. “I am very grateful to the mentors I found at both Revlon and NBCU that helped me build a foundation of sound technical HR fundamentals, media business acumen, and strong leadership insights, and prepared me for my current role at A+E.”
When Green started with A+E, the HR function was quite passionate and capable, but highly traditional. She wanted to help push it out of its comfort zone, with a more strategic, employee-centric, and creative approach. “As a career-change person, I have a really optimistic and fundamental feeling about HR,” she says. “I know HR as a function has some baggage, but at the same time, I see that as the greatest opportunity to impact and surprise people and to help change how people feel about the function, the company, their career, and their future.”
It didn’t take long for Green to put her vision for what HR could be into play. Since she began in 2013, Green has established A+E’s benefits programs as an industry-leading competitive advantage, aligned compensation programs with business objectives, supported her leadership team in developing and communicating company values, attracted and retained some the industry’s most valuable talent, drove successful diversity and inclusion efforts, and developed policies and programs that reflect the highly creative culture of the company.
The Next 90 program is one of a few programs that Green has helped launch that exemplify all of this. Based on the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) method—which helps accelerate performance in many of the world’s most successful companies—Next 90 aims to improve A+E’s goal-setting and feedback paradigm. When Next 90 is fully implemented in late 2017, in place of performance ratings and forms, employees will be provided with detailed aspirational goals and regular feedback and communication.
“The Next 90 tease was fantastic because we were able to launch with [the idea that] there’s no more performance management, ratings, and forms,” she says. “There were cheers around the building. I’ve never gotten so many employee e-mails. We sent it out, and within twenty minutes, I had a full inbox of, ‘Thank you’; ‘This is the greatest thing ever’; and ‘I’m so happy going into the end of the year that I don’t have to do all of this stuff.’ All the energy has been an amazing way to enter into Next 90. Employees are highly engaged in what’s coming.”
Meanwhile, A+E launched the ME+ learning-and-development platform to provide learning opportunities for employees across all of the company’s values: “Think Next”; “Be You”; “Own It”; “Love What You Do”; and “Fight Like a Family, Win as a Team.”
ME+ offers education at three different levels: “Explore,” in which every employee at every level attends small, intense sessions that are offered about different day-to-day work topics; “Grow,” a more leadership-focused program geared toward mid-level managers that are starting their careers as leaders and mentors; and “Illuminate,” which is for A+E’s senior executive leadership and revolves around the industry offerings at universities and conferences.
Within this platform, Green and her team have also launched Love What You Do and Chat and Chew programs, where senior leaders in different parts of the organization talk about their day-to-day for employees who may not be familiar with their responsibilities.
“The sessions have been really successful and are consistently sold out,” Green explains. “Employees really respond to the opportunity to talk to leaders in a casual and conversational environment. Playing in the learning-and-development space is so fun now because there are so many different ways to approach it. Part of the wealth of this program is the focus on peer-to-peer education.”
Another program, Passion Groups, gives employees an outlet to participate in areas they are passionate about. Examples of these groups include an environment-focused green team that develops and launches employee programs, such as access to a communal farm share and a weekly farmer’s market; a music group that creates music events for employees in the common area; a work/life balance group to support employees balancing their career with their personal life; and a health group that oversees the company’s yoga and Soul Cycle sessions.
One of the most popular Passion Groups is Creators Within—a group that puts together content for A+E’s internal communications. Screens all over the A+E offices display in-house created content about employees, including fun facts about the management team, a “twinsies” segment that features pictures of employees who are dressed like one another, and an employee’s favorite commercial of the week. “The programs only move forward and are successful if they’re employee-driven,” she says.
For Green, the next major challenge is an ongoing one: staying on top of the rapid change and disruption in the media industry while continuing to thrive at the cutting edge of HR. She admits that there’s a lot of pressure on her team to know what’s coming next. However, it’s worth it if it opens up a seat at the proverbial executive table so that her department can be part of business discussions that relate to strategy and the future of the industry.
“The big challenge we’re facing is feeling that we are ahead of the game, thinking strategically, and remaining nimble, so we are prepared for the changes that are coming rather than just reacting to them,” Green explains. “It may be aspirational, but if the phone is ringing and our leaders are asking us to be part of a conversation because they think we have something to add about the way we look in the future, then we’re doing the right things. ”