Jessica Trichilo is Melissa and Doug's Director of employee engagement and community communication. She has been working at the organization for 11 years. During the initial five years, she worked in the talent acquisition capacity, and in the following years, she took on more responsibilities, eventually earning the role she is in today.

In an exclusive interview with Manage HR Magazine, Trichilo shares her valuable insights on the trends, pain points, and principles to follow for enhancing the employee experience. She also talks about how the concept of diversity, equity, and inclusion can improve the employee experience in an organization. 

Could you tell us about your background and position in this organization? What exactly do you oversee in your current role as the Director? 

I have been working in Melissa and Doug for about 11 years now. As the Director of employee engagement and community communication, my job role essentially consists of all things that touch our employees or associates, as we like to refer them. I overlook new employee onboarding, including setup, learning, training, and ensuring a tight-knit recruiting process. Some of my daily tasks include establishing learning opportunities for newcomers in their first months, checking in with them regularly to gather feedback regarding their experiences, and regularly attempting to improve that experience. I oversee the termination processes in the organization and create an environment with multiple feedback channels to learn from our incoming and outgoing associates on the aspects we can improve. The company also makes charitable donations to support the organizations we believe in and align with our mission and organization. 

What, according to you, are some of the challenges or pain points that you see happening? 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, our organization primarily consisted of an in-person workforce, and the disruptions forced us to work and attract talent differently. During the period when we were all working remotely, the organization was rapidly growing and transforming. While technology has allowed us to collaborate using cloud-based tools, I onboarded over a third of our workforce remotely, and we made it work. Unfortunately, there is no replacement for face-to-face human interaction. Today, technology is bridging the worlds between in-person and remote to create a hybrid working environment, which we have employed, and so have many other organizations. It has come to a point where organizations are forced to be flexible and meet the employees' needs to attract the best talent. Most organic collaborations and relationships are built through physical presence. Working in person fosters human connections, sharing culture, and ushers new hires to understand, embrace and experience our culture.

What would you like to say about the diversity and inclusion aspects?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion must be at the forefront of every HR leader's mind. There are different arms to diversity, equity, and inclusion, from the talent perspective, ensuring the right tools and processes are in place to attract diverse talent. As you move to engagement, it is about fostering the organic sense of belonging and inclusivity, where associates can join and feel like they can be their true authentic selves, enabling them to put their best foot forward from a professional standpoint. At Melissa and Doug, we launched six affinity groups last year. So there is a sense of sub-communities within our larger community, where those who share a common bond can come together and help drive change and create an environment of collaborative learning within the organization. I want to mention that diversity, equity, and inclusion encompass many different dimensions. It is not just the visible diversity, but the diversity of mind, approach, working and leadership styles, and beliefs. It goes beyond what someone might view as DEI off the cuff. And it is imperative to meet where an employee is at within these dimensions of diversity and allow a rich culture to embrace everyone. 

When you are a leader in employee engagement and communication, you have to have an affinity for people. It is an essential quality if you are trying to engage the organisation”

How have intranet initiatives and other programs helped in employee engagement? Could you throw light on how it changed or improved things for the organization? 

The goal of the intranet is to gain transparency and ease of two-way information exchange. Currently, we have a cloud-based network at Melissa & Doug. So we have utilized this technology that we have right now through Google for collaboration and ease of information sharing. We are on the brink of implementing intranet infrastructure in the firm. It is a one-stop shop for associates to access up-to-the-minute business information. It allows the collaboration of different channels, such as email or social media, in a centralized platform. With the intranet, whenever an employee wants information on company events, departmental mental information updates, associate resources on wellness, benefits, or other HR tools, it offers easy and user-friendly access, enhancing their experience and productivity. 

What work culture do you foster amongst your team or the organization? And what are your leadership principles?

At Melissa and Doug, we have pillars, principles, or values communicated to every associate through emails, posters on the office walls, and in our handbooks. We are a toy company that is purpose-driven, growing, and want to succeed. We try to instill and support cross-functional collaboration through our culture and hire people who align with our mission. Our employees come to work daily, learn, discover, and grow to be their most authentic selves. Bridging the gap between our mission and employees' personal growth is a paramount focus for every individual on my team and me. 

As a leader, I approach every interaction like a transparent individual and put myself in the shoes of the individual I am onboarding, communicating with, or organizing an event. This helps me understand the diverse individuals within our organization. When you are a leader in employee engagement and communication, you must have an affinity for people. It is an essential quality if you are trying to engage with every employee in the organization.