Inspiring Business Women: Suzanne Weller

The Senior Director of Organizational Change Management shares her experience on diversity initiatives, the ‘secret sauce’ of culture, and the importance that change management plays in all of it.

​With 20 years of experience in the entertainment and digital industries, Suzanne Weller is regarded for her ability to build a high-performing culture. She's driven by her passion for people, communication and collaboration. In her free time, she loves music, cooking, travelling and spending time with her family.

Suzanne, tell us about your career progression into your current role.

I’ve been in the content licensing industry with a few companies for about 20 years. While it is a rarity in the marketplace today to have extended tenures with companies in the same industry, the constantly changing environment and focus on photography, larger digital ecosystems, and technology has provided a consistent opportunity for growth and development. I’ve had many roles – from paralegal to leading sales and business development teams to focusing on organisational change management – shaping a career path where I could consistently learn new things and see the business from different perspectives. Evolving into different roles gave me a larger, more holistic view, and in turn a much better grasp of how to sell our products. The core threads woven through all of my roles are connection, communication, driving value and revenue realisation.

I joined Getty Images in 2007. I’ve been here now for 11 years, working in four different roles. I transitioned into change management in the fall of 2016, a position originating from our company’s move to Salesforce (we did our rollout last summer). Getty Images’ leadership recognised it was going to be a massive (and disruptive) project, and realised how important change management was to its success.

Now I’m working on sales efficiencies, coaching/training, and customer success. I'm passionate about helping our sales teams tap into their strengths and realise their goals. I thrive on 'cross-pollenating' – talking to and partnering with different people throughout my organisation. Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I’m able to do my job well – knowing what others are doing in their day-to-day roles, understanding what it takes to create, distribute and showcase a product or service. Getty Images works with companies and brands across the globe to tell their stories – partnering with them to create visual narratives. I see Getty Images’ work everywhere: newspapers, advertising campaigns, social media, etc. And one of the great things about working here is I am a part of that.

These days, it’s typical for professionals to move around in their careers a lot. You’ve held multiple positions at Getty Images, so what's kept you at this company?

I’ve been fortunate to work with a truly exceptional team of people during the time that I’ve been at Getty Images. They literally make coming to work something I look forward to, consistently teach me new things, and are generous with their time, knowledge, and support.

I also love photography. Every day I’m surrounded by the most stunning imagery in the world. I look at photography each morning, spending time on our app or website, seeing what we shot over the last 24 hours and what new creative content is coming up. I love working for a company that captures what’s happening in the world (both beautiful and terrible) and shines a light on it. Getty Images moves the world with images. Our news, sport, and entertainment photographers are out there documenting it – working tirelessly, at times some of them are risking their lives to do their jobs. And there’s a whole cadre of people behind the scenes who are securing photographers in the right locations, working to ingest the content into our system, then getting it out into the market as quickly as possible.

And on the other side of the content spectrum is our creative (or 'lifestyle') photography team. We have a whole visual trends group looking at things like: what are common visual trends in the market, and among our top-selling images? What terms are people searching for on our website, and do we have enough material to meet those needs? They ensure we consistently have visually engaging content that represents the diversity of our world and embraces non-traditional gender roles (such as our Lean In collection, which Getty Images developed with LeanIn.Org, the women’s non-profit organisation in 2014). It’s an organisation that is a passionate advocate for the realistic representation of all through imagery and is proud to be leading the visual industry in the creation and promotion of powerful, relevant imagery which celebrates diversity and authenticity in every area of life.

Why is change management important?

A few months before I moved to New York City in the spring of 2001, I gave myself a New Year’s resolution: be flexible to change. I realised my personal and professional worlds were evolving, and there was no use in running away or fighting it.

Regardless of where you are in your career and what company you work for, change is inevitable. It can take on various forms and stem from a number of things (such as competition, technology developments, and changing demographics to staff or customer base, etc.). Change management guides how you prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organisational success and outcomes.

No organisation should assume that the way it’s used to doing things ensures it will flourish in the future. Building a culture that is flexible and effectively manages change is essential for companies to progress, innovate, and achieve its objectives.

Our Salesforce rollout at Getty Images is a good example. It’s a powerful tool, and we wanted to make sure our team members were using it effectively to elevate the way they do their job. We spent a lot of time putting together user demos (what we called 'engagement sessions') prior to launch so they would be prepared for what was coming. We enlisted a team of 'change champions' from our sales and services teams around the world – they were our boots on the ground who helped drive awareness and evangelise the benefits of the new platform. We also created a comprehensive (and fun!) training curriculum to introduce the tool and guide them on how to use it, and created an ongoing feedback loop so everyone has a voice in making it better – as a result, everyone is part of that longer lasting change.

In regard to large implementations (like your Salesforce implementation), how do you make sure that you’re getting a return on your investment?

Adoption is the primary way to measure ROI in Salesforce. When we talk about adoption, it’s not just about using the tool but using it effectively – giving sales and service people more time to interact with their clients. Also, making sure that you’re collecting data to sell more effectively to your customers, better assessing their product needs and predicting their buying behaviours. There’s lots of KPI’s, depending your success metrics. Ultimately most companies look at overall sales (is your revenue increasing? Are you realising opportunities that you didn’t have visibility into before?), but it’s also a matter of savings, efficiencies, having better client intelligence, and making sure that you’re driving customer success.

What are your thoughts on change management in relation to Diversity & Inclusion efforts?

When you look at any D&I initiative, there’re so many ways companies are going about it now. Ultimately all of it is about driving culture. Culture is that secret sauce! Culture is created and cultivated not just by leadership, but by every single person within the business.

Inclusion initiatives are about recruiting the right talent, taking care of your team, and most importantly providing an open exchange for people to share their ideas. It’s about keeping curiosity alive, making sure that people want to contribute. Change management in relation to diversity initiatives is about shifting culture and attitudes, and promoting fairness. Making sure that people are truly given the ability to invest and participate in where the company is going.

Bias training is a big part of this – we all have unconscious biases and it’s helpful for everyone on your team to participate in training to better understand it (which can be both humbling and invigorating). A lot of companies will announce, “Okay, we are going to focus on being more diverse”, but they aren’t training their employees on what that means or how to realistically achieve and successfully maintain it. I think coaching people on how to listen better can be valuable in creating an inclusive environment – not just sharing your own ideas, but actively listening to others’ ideas and allowing them to evolve your perspective.

High functioning teams have people of divergent backgrounds coming to the table with different ideas and making things happen. They also tend to make better decisions. It’s an organisation’s responsibility to make sure that your employees understand the value of that. We naturally gravitate towards people who are the same as us, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I can honestly say that some of the professional relationships I'm the most proud of are those where we didn’t always agree on things, but we did amazing work together. I’ve seen the biggest successes happen when you not only work hard, but go outside of your comfort zone. It’s important to create a culture where people are comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Tell us about the mentors/role models you have (or have had) in your career. What’s the value in having a mentor?

Throughout my career, I've gained a lot of value in having mentors, whether it’s been a formalised relationship or someone who has given me advice or constructive feedback. I’ve been lucky to have managers that saw potential in me and wanted to develop it, who listened to me and asked difficult questions. And sometimes the most constructive mentors are the ones that you don’t expect – they can be right under your nose, and you don’t realise how much you’re learning from them. I also think cross-mentoring is really important, where people not only get advice and teach each other, but gain different perspectives.

Early on in my career I had a manager who was such a great mentor because he was always asking me what I wanted to learn and consistently challenged me as my skillset developed. He provided me with coaching and guidance, but most importantly didn’t just give me the answers I was looking for – he led me to find them myself. He invested in me, and I have, in turn, done the same with team members I’ve managed and coached over the years. And when I say 'invested', that can mean a lot of things – such as being fully present in 1:1 meetings (not reading/answering emails or picking up the phone when it rings), actively listening and sharing two-way feedback. An additional bonus is that this also drives accountability – to ourselves and to each other.

I’ve also seen mentor relationships fail because there’s no realistic expectations of what it is. It doesn’t have to be a formalised relationship, but if it is, it’s good to set some ground rules to make sure that both parties have fair expectations of each other. Open coaching and open dialogue are crucial in all aspects of life.

When you’re a leader, it’s important to have mentors across and outside of your organisation – especially those who are working on the front lines and are tuned into what’s happening on the ground floor. This helps you know what people are saying throughout the company, and what you need to be paying attention to that’s not on your radar.

What can companies be doing to create a more inclusive environment for all employees?

A few recommendations:

  • Design and implement an inclusive recruiting process, while ensuring that onboarding and learning and development initiatives build inclusive behaviours.

  • Re-think your organisation’s current norms (whether it be meeting format, communication channels, office gatherings, etc.) and reflect on if they are relevant, align with your company’s values, and benefit all employees.

  • Educate employees on how they can actively participate in creating and maintaining a diverse team.

  • Regularly benchmark the success of your D&I efforts and hone the strategy/execution as needed.

How can leaders empower employees and get them on board with their D&I efforts?

Although cultivating an inclusive environment is the responsibility of everyone throughout an organisation, leaders do play a key role.

I would encourage all leaders to work to ensure their teams understand why an inclusive workplace matters, and consistently reinforce the message. Provide employees with the opportunity to come to the table and talk about what these efforts mean for them, and give them a voice by opening a dialogue around what they’d like to see. And it’s key to ensure everyone understands how inclusive workplaces create healthier corporate cultures and contribute to them better achieving their objectives.

Posted almost 6 years ago

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