At Stratus, we pride ourselves on respecting the tremendous experience and expertise of our employees. As a global, multi-cultural organization, having a diverse employee base and inclusive workforce culture is essential to growing a healthy and robust business, not only for ourselves but for our partners and customers. While we navigate through unprecedented and challenging times, we took a moment to speak with the VP of Global Human Resources, Delfi Nieto, to discuss her 20-year relationship with Stratus, proudest moments, and the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- When you were young, did you imagine you’d work in HR?
For many years I dreamed of being a lawyer – mostly because I love a good debate and trying to negotiate things to resolution. However, I also knew that lawyers got paid well! I really thought this would be my path until I hit my early teen years.
- What led you to this career path? What was the “typical” path for a girl in your community and what were some of your influences as you began to think about a career?
Many girls in my community, myself included, grew up in single-parent homes. Most were led by moms who did not go to college, and though they worked full-time jobs, they could barely make ends meet. So things were tight for us financially, but there was a lot of love. My mom had a “job” to pay the bills, but she knew she was capable of doing more. She knew that having an education would provide her with more opportunities and thus made time to enroll in evening education courses, staying up late after putting us to bed to get her homework done. The many courses and hard work eventually paid off and she landed a position as a “Personnel Assistant” (that’s what HR used to be called). Over the years, she continued to go to school and work hard, which led to her becoming a Personnel Manager. When I was in Jr. High School, she would often take me to work with her on my days off from school or on weekends when she had to go into the office, and I had the opportunity to help her out with a few things. I loved it! I was also fortunate to work a few summers at her company handling the switchboard and doing HR assistant duties. So I am proud to say that my mom had a huge influence in shaping my career as she is the one that ignited my interest in the field of Human Resources.
- What do you do at Stratus and what do you love most about it? What makes Stratus different from the organizations you’ve work for in the past?
I am the Vice President of Global Human Resources at Stratus. My job is to ensure that we have the right talent strategies and programs in place to support the company’s business strategy. I love that my job is involved in the entire employment lifecycle and touches every aspect of the business; there is a genuine opportunity to help employees and the company be successful. Each day is different and unique, and I get the chance to partner on various global initiatives that directly influence our employees, workplace culture and overall business. At Stratus, people are the core of our business, our most important asset, and I’m fortunate to work with some of the most amazing people from all over the world.
What makes Stratus different from other places where I have worked is that they genuinely care about each and every employee, their wellbeing, and their family’s wellbeing. That’s not to say that the other places where I’ve worked did not care; they were great companies. However, Stratus is different – I felt it when I joined, and I feel and see it now. Stratus does its best to provide the type of environment and culture where people can perform at their best. We may not be perfect at all things all the time, but we do work hard to continuously improve. I find meaning and purpose in what I do at Stratus and don’t just view it as a “job.” That’s important to me and I’m proud that I can say that.
- What was your proudest moment at Stratus?
I can honestly say I’ve had many proud moments! But something that continually makes me proud is how the company is full of such generous employees. In addition to our paid volunteer program and partnership with organizations such as JumpStart and the United Way, each holiday season, Corporate headquarters partners with a local food bank to sponsor several families that may need help in providing toys and gifts for their children. We receive the age of children in the home and a list of what they wish for (whether be it a bike, clothes, specific toys, etc.) and that’s all it takes for our employees to step up. They ensure that everything on the list is covered – and then some! Each year we have truckloads of gifts and not just for the kids, but also for the entire family. I’m always proud to see that truck fill up!
- As we experience a collective conscious raising around diversity and inclusion, what is one thing you think can’t be highlighted enough in terms of diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
I would say that the focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace is not something that should slowly fade when it is no longer a top news story. D&I is a real business imperative. With a diverse and inclusive workforce, you get a collection of thoughts and experiences that can bring different & fresh perspectives to problem solving, idea generation and it fosters creativity and innovation.
Many people tend to use the words interchangeably, but having a diverse workforce is quite different from having an inclusive workforce. Diversity is about the makeup of your workforce, on a number of dimensions. Most think about age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, all those personal things we know. But there are also factors such as social status, education and marital status that make us different, as well as organizational dimensions like years of service, job classification and management status. It’s actually much broader than many may think. Inclusion, on the other hand, is about the “how.” How do we ensure all employees are included? What do we need to do to ensure all employees feel they belong here and are valued? How do we make sure we have a workplace culture where everyone is comfortable sharing their ideas, thoughts and opinions? It is essential to understand the difference so that you don’t end up in a situation where you may have a diverse workforce but do not include everyone fully. Having both greatly increases morale, engagement, and ultimately, enterprise value.
To learn more about Delfi, visit her LinkedIn page.