Authenticity, role models and mentoring are important to help all employees rise through the ranks

The pandemic changed the workplace forever; but it did not change everything people need to be successful in the workplace. I now find myself even more passionate about more foundational things — employee development and education, an inclusive culture and representation in leadership.

While it’s always important to find ways to infuse the organization with new talent, most recently, I’ve focused on the intentionality it takes to develop existing employees. As leaders, we must be diligent in identifying competencies for success, talking about these areas with employees and providing them with avenues to upskill and gain experience.

Additionally, it’s essential to create a culture where employees feel safe and where they can belong. Aflac has always had an inclusive culture — it starts at the top and permeates throughout the organization. We do this by providing developmental tools and programming to help employees grow into their authentic selves personally and professionally.

For instance, our Diversity Councils create an array of employee events to help instill an inclusive, supportive and innovative work environment. They help improve productivity and morale, promote creativity and communication, and give employees opportunities to learn about and appreciate one another’s cultural differences. And these efforts worked: According to an internal survey, 91% of employees believe Aflac has created an environment where people with diverse backgrounds can succeed.

Employees also want to see themselves at every level of an organization. Whether it’s women in executive roles or colleagues with disabilities, they want to see that it’s possible for EVERYONE to have a great career.

As I came up through the ranks at Aflac from an intern to an officer, I was fortunate to see both men and women in leadership roles advance in their careers. This showed me that if you worked hard and made wise choices, success was possible. I’ll never forget how critical and positive it was to my own development.

I also had excellent role models at home — crucial to my personal success was witnessing my parents balance work and family. It can be hard but so rewarding when you’re able to achieve work-life balance. My hope is that employees find value in working at flexible times that enables them to complement their work environment to their working style.

In my experience, I’ve seen employees shine the most and bring their best selves to work when they feel invested in, can be their true selves and have mentors and positive role models throughout the organization. The best thing we can do as leaders is to prioritize these three pillars as a part of the employee experience.