Secchia Breakfast Lecture panelists: Businesses that offer flexibility and connectivity among employees will thrive

Panelists at a Seidman College of Business event November 11 said, as pandemic restrictions continue to cause shifts at traditional workplaces, businesses and corporations that intentionally create a sense of belonging will thrive, as will their employees.

Leaders from three corporations spoke at the L. William Seidman Center during a Peter F. Secchia Breakfast Lecture, "The Future of Work." They were Jordan Aldrich, director of corporate human resources for Meijer; Ryan Anderson, vice president of global research and insights for Herman Miller; and Jennifer Tyler, director of integrated business planning for Dematic. The event was moderated by Benjamin Walsh, associate professor of management at GVSU.

four people seated on stage, man on left gestering with hands
From left are Ryan Anderson, Jennifer Tyler, Jordan Aldrich and Benjamin Walsh. Panelists at the Secchia Breakfast Lecture discussed the 'future of work.'
Image Credit: Valerie Hendrickson

Panelists discussed the balance of offering choices for working remotely yet ensuring employees feel connected to their teams and organizations. Anderson joked that trying to build connectivity within work teams while employees are not in person was like having a long-distance relationship. 

He also said the disruption of traditional work and any tension between employers and employees is amplified by today's polarizing political climate. "There's such a disconnect in our country today, a polarization," Anderson said. "Organizations that create a high degree of belonging among employees will foster better communities and will thrive."

Tyler began working for Dematic two months ago after working for Steelcase in a similar capacity. She said it's difficult beginning a new job when most work is completed remotely, adding the shift to flexible work conditions did not begin at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is a trajectory that didn't start with the pandemic. I have had global teams and you have to work remotely," Tyler said. "Those challenges for me, to try to bond with employees, build a sense of team and belonging, started before the pandemic. There is a need for human connection."

Diana Lawson stands behind a podium to speak to audience
Diana Lawson, dean of the Seidman College of Business
Valerie Hendrickson
woman at podium with flags behind her
Ashley Vanroekel, Seidman College of Business Alumni Board member, speaks at the event sponsored by the alumni board.
Valerie Hendrickson
man behind podium with American flag behind him
Benjamin Walsh, associate professor of management, serves as moderator.
Valerie Hendrickson

Aldrich said corporate office employees at Meijer remain mostly remote. Best practices they found helpful to connect, she said, include utilizing chat functions on Microsoft Teams or other programs, decreasing the number of daily video meetings and improving onboarding procedures for new employees.

"We are also creating more informal social connections as a team, not necessarily always meeting to talk about business. It's important to bring your unique self to work," Aldrich said.

The Secchia Lecture marked the first since its benefactor, Peter Secchia, died last year. 

Diana Lawson, dean of the Seidman College of Business, said the series was established by the Secchia family in 2006 to invite business leaders to discuss current topics with students, faculty and staff members and community members.

Lawson called the series unique. "It showcases the strength of our partnerships and works as an added advantage for our students to supplement what they are learning in the classroom," she said. "The Secchia family has provided ongoing support for us to continue this important series."