“Don’t be afraid to try new things”, Sandi Creyaufmiller and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Develop a routine that includes regular exercise. I walk my dog each morning at 5am. It gets me moving and more importantly, it sets my day up on a positive note. Plan a vacation or staycation with something that gets you outside. I live in paradise, and there are so many opportunities locally to just […]

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Develop a routine that includes regular exercise. I walk my dog each morning at 5am. It gets me moving and more importantly, it sets my day up on a positive note. Plan a vacation or staycation with something that gets you outside. I live in paradise, and there are so many opportunities locally to just take a walk in a nature preserve, visit local museums if they are open or just go for a bike ride somewhere.

As a part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Are Helping To Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandi Creyaufmiller.

Sandi Creyaufmiller has resided in Fort Pierce, FL for 9 years. She is the VP Human Resources Director for Marine Bank & Trust, a community bank headquartered in Vero Beach, FL. She has over 30 years of progressive human resources experience including 5 years of global human resources leadership. Much of her previous experience was with technology firms located in and around Research Triangle Park, NC.

Sandi has been responsible for evaluating, negotiating, and implementing new benefits on a global scale, working closely with local human resource specialist to ensure compliance with local governance.

In addition to benefits administration, she has worked extensively with employee relations and performance management. Working in a consultative manner with both managers and employees to create positive outcomes.

Another area of importance is measuring and improving employee engagement. Sandi has worked with Great Places to Work, Best Companies and Emmerich Group managing employee surveys and then working with the data to improve employee engagement.

Community is important to Sandi. In 2017 she joined St Lucie Learn to Read as a reading tutor for adults. She also serves on the board for Special Equestrians of the Treasure Coast. She has also recently been voted onto the Florida Bankers Health Consortium, Board of Directors.

Sandi lives with her husband and very spoiled dog in Fort Pierce.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Well like a lot of people in the HR community I didn’t necessarily plan to be in HR, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I was working as an administrator for technical staffing company and doing billing and bookkeeping for them. I regularly helped out with recruiting and just fell in love with Human Resources. I just never looked back from there.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I had the pleasure of working with a software company that brought the entire company together from around the world for 5 days of meetings regarding strategic direction, software innovation and roadmap and global departmental meetings. Of course, in today’s COVID world we would never do this in person, but in those 5 days together we accomplished so much. It taught me a great deal about how to build those lasting relationships that further your career. My connections with my former colleagues are from all over the world. It was an amazing experience.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Take your vacation! That does not mean working from a nicer location — it means disconnecting for a week. In our current state with the pandemic, people are not taking their vacation. We all need time to refresh, relax and rejuvenate. This pandemic experience has been especially stressful for human resources professionals.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

A fantastic workplace culture starts with trust: trust and empower your people to do the right things. Make sure you hire people that share the core values of your company. Make sure you celebrate real successes. If employees go above and beyond, the entire company needs to know about it, so that you get more of it. Leadership needs to emulate the behaviors they want to have within their organization.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Don’t be afraid to try new things.

After the bubble burst, there were limited jobs in my area of expertise, so I signed on as a salesperson for a broadband provider. I did ok (but have a tremendous amount of respect for skilled salespeople). The company was a bit late to the game and ending up folding and laid off all it’s workers the week before Christmas. It was a good lesson and I did learn some negotiating skills that I have carried into my role in Human Resources.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives you have taken to help improve or optimize your employee’s mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?

As an essential service, we in banking have strived to be open for our customers. As the pandemic hit our first concern was how are we going to keep our employees and customers safe while still providing them our superior level of customer service. We immediately launched email updates to our employees as new information came available. We followed up with all employee Zoom calls each week detailing what was happening in the communities we serve. As the information started becoming repetitive, we started adding guest speakers to our zoom calls. Some of these speakers included the Chief Administrator for Cleveland Clinic here in Vero Beach, giving us a view of the front lines in healthcare, the CEO of the local Mental Health Association that was working directly with healthcare workers to ensure their mental health and a local business owner that teaches breathing techniques for improved performance in athletes as well as for stress relief.

Our employees reacted so strongly to the last guest that we invited him to do classes for us via Zoom. This was a great boost for morale, as it was 30 minutes prior to our opening the branches and gave everyone that moment to stop and meditate.

Our breathing coach was going out of the country and would not be available for several weeks. Our employees let me know that we had another customer that runs a meditation studio. After contacting him he agreed to guest speak at our Zoom meeting and then take on classes once a week for a month. So now our plan is to continue switching facilitators each month to keep it fresh.

What you are doing is wonderful, but sadly it is not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

Ask your employees what they need. Most companies today have an EAP vendor, but do you know what services they offer to support mental health, do your employees really know? Probably not. Have your EAP vendor do a Zoom call with your employees regarding all their services not just mental health.

Remind your employees to take their vacation — even if it must be a staycation. They need a break.

Give your employees more empathy. Many are balancing kids, craziness in schools, their spouses’ job and possibly caring for their adult parents. That’s a lot to juggle, a little kindness can make the difference.

From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious and having other mental health issues ? Can you explain?

Be open to discussing it. So many people are afraid to talk about it. If someone opens up to you with an issue, this is a giant step, be ready to listen and help them determine what they need. Treat one another with kindness and empathy. Small gestures go a long way.

If it appears that it might be more serious issue (they are considering self-harm), urge them to get help and follow up to make sure they did get help. Even if it means sitting with them while they make a call to EAP or a mental health professional. Make the effort to show you care.

Habits can play a huge role in mental wellness. What are the best strategies you would suggest to develop good healthy habits for optimal mental wellness that can replace any poor habits?

Develop a routine that includes regular exercise. I walk my dog each morning at 5am. It gets me moving and more importantly, it sets my day up on a positive note. Plan a vacation or staycation with something that gets you outside. I live in paradise, and there are so many opportunities locally to just take a walk in a nature preserve, visit local museums if they are open or just go for a bike ride somewhere.

Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?

We all have those moments when we need to take a deep breath. I now have several techniques because of the classes we have offered to our team. I find that when I have a difficult decision to make, that I think more thoughtfully if I calm myself first with focus on breathing for 10 min.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Last year I read the 9 faces of HR, and it truly made me realize that my path wasn’t so unusual in HR and that I’m very well suited for my role. I like the partnering aspect of creating a win-win for both the company and the employees.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Wow, tough question. I’d like to see that other local HR professionals felt as supported by their peers as I do. I created a small network of HR pros in banking and we have a common slack channel that we bounce things off one another and just connect. Generally, there is no HR for HR if you know what I mean, so we need those relationships just to make sure we are on the right track. I was having a tough day and asked a HR friend to “talk me off the ledge” and she said, “No but I’ll move over and sit with you”. We both laughed and that was exactly what I needed.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online? I’m on LinkedIn

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thanks for the opportunity to meet and discuss this very important issue.

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