San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG) is a global leader in connecting people to wildlife and conservation. This Halogen customer is also incredibly successful at creating a culture where employees love their jobs and are inspired to high performance.
You might be wondering, “Well, how did SDZG do it?”
In short: by recognizing that people matter most. You see, leaders at SDZG knew that a focus on cultural transformation, alignment and engagement would help them to create lasting organizational resiliency.
That journey to organizational resiliency is chronicled in Roar: How to Build a Resilient Organization the World-Famous San Diego Zoo Way.
The book is authored by Sandy Asch (left) — an internationally recognized speaker and author — and by Tim Mulligan (right) — CHRO for SDZG. Featuring real-world stories, best practices, and strategies based on 100 years of exceptional leadership, ROAR chronicles how the San Diego Zoo created a resilient culture, and offers insight into how other organizations can also adopt these best practices.
SDZG is a longtime Halogen customer, and so we asked Tim a few questions about ROAR and how other organizations can adopt some of the best practices shared in the book.
Why did you decide to write a book about San Diego Zoo Global’s high-performance culture?
I’d wanted to write a book for a while now highlighting the many cool people practices and programs we have put in place here at San Diego Zoo Global, and show the world another side of our organization.
I think that when people hear "San Diego Zoo" they automatically think of our animals, plants and conservation work, but we have really made a name for ourselves in the past decade or so as a true employer of choice — and I wanted to share that journey.
Also, it made sense to write this book in conjunction with our Centennial Celebration Year in 2016 and chronicle how we have remained successful, relevant, and as the book title reflects, resilient. It all prompted a great partnership with my co-author Sandy Asch. Sandy’s been working on a resiliency concept and model. She has done much work with us at the Zoo. It all just clicked together perfectly.
What does it mean to build a “resilient organization?” Why is it important?
It’s about a better way to work and to lead. In the book, we introduce "The Resilience at Work" model, which combines tried and true concepts such as emotional intelligence, wellness, time management, strong communications, and mindfulness (a practice that helps one to maintain relaxed, focused attention).
These core concepts — when coupled with honest communication grounded in transparency and vulnerability — offer a roadmap to cultivate resilience in any organization, team or family unit of any size. The model is about developing in yourself and others a sense of purpose, belonging, and connection, as well as the courage and conviction necessary to make resilience a priority
The Resilience at Work model serves as a paradigm to reimagine the way we go about our jobs. It can help a team or organization meet its goals and objectives, and at the same time, safeguard your employees’ quality of life.
When each of these competencies is systematically integrated into the organization’s culture, they foster a toolset that allows employees to thrive, which can be very difficult in these disruptive times.
In the book you share how leaders at SDZG encourage employees to exhibit courage and be fearless. What do you mean by this?
One of the core resiliency components discussed in the book is "Rebalancing Commitments." It’s the ability to embrace change, take risks, inspire and support innovations. It requires the cultivation of leaders comfortable with adopting new practices, habits and rituals.
At SDZG, this practice manifests itself in many ways, and is most commonly reinforced through our ZMax Talent Management Tool (our branded Halogen TalentSpace™ solution). We don't just say we reward risk taking and innovation – it’s embedded within our core leadership competencies, our employee Code of Conduct (which we have deemed our "Rules of Engagement), and our SDZG Leadership Brand.
These competencies and core values are at the core of our talent strategies — from everything to how we set goals, create development opportunities and share feedback. We want these key cultural elements to remain top of mind for every leader and employee, and we use Halogen to support that accountability.
Further, all leaders in our organization have a goal that is tied to talent management — either to raise engagement and satisfaction scores, focus on training and employee development, or success planning/career management.
What is a great first step organizations can take to foster a culture of continuous development?
That's a great question. The truth is that for companies to be profitable and grow, they must continually create new value. One thing we did to put this concept and cultural tenet out there front and center was to create our "Rules of Engagement." These are seven basic rules we will all promise to live by; not just our leaders but all employees.
For example, Rule #4 is to "Mine the Gold", which centers on bringing out the best in ourselves and others.
Rule #5 is to “Strive for Balance”, which includes continuously "sharpening our saws." We want our organization to innovate and be the best, setting the trends not following them; creating world-class best practices, not chasing others' success.
These rules mean people development is a core priority for us and it’s resulted in numerous new programs for leadership development and people development. It includes creating continuing education programs, exploring all avenues of blended learning avenues, as well as succession planning at all levels.
The importance of individual action is a theme that carries throughout ROAR. How can leaders foster these kinds of behaviors in themselves and others?
In the book, another of the five core aspects of the Resilience at Work Model is to Renew Connections. It’s about ensuring there is a sense of purpose, connection, and coherence with personal and organizational values, feelings of belonging, and support from and for the community.
For us, it's the bond that attracts new talent and unites existing talent. At San Diego Zoo Global, we have worked hard to rally everyone (our employees, our members, the community) around our new bold vision of Ending Extinction, and making sure that every employee, from the CEO and down, knows the part they play in realizing this vision.
It's been extraordinary to see a vision so widely applauded, celebrated, and respected by all. It’s also led to very open and transparent dialogue with employees about what the mission means — at quarterly open forums, focus groups, departmental meetings, all employee meetings, you name it.
The book refers to this momentum as the "velcro to the why." It’s about culture congruence and clarity.
What’s one key reason people should read ROAR?
I feel strongly that the book helps leaders understand the importance of resiliency by intentionally architecting resilience in their organization. As leaders you care about the people who work for you. You care about their quality of life. You care that they feel proud and fulfilled. You care that their lives are working.
Because when your employees’ lives are working they are doing their best work.
When people are resilient, more focused, more patient, more attentive and less reactive it all translates to higher productivity and healthier employees. To stronger customer service, higher engagement levels, and more innovation…this in turn translates into better financials and brand equity.
Attending #SHRM16? Get your signed copy of ROAR
We’re excited to be hosting an exclusive book-signing during the SHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition with Tim Mulligan on Sunday, June 19 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Halogen Software booth #2325.
If you’re attending #SHRM16, we invite you to visit our booth, meet Tim and learn about organizational resilience and next-generation performance management strategies first-hand.
Visit the ROAR book website to learn more about the book, the authors and where to purchase it.
Our thanks to Tim for sharing some of the insights and best practices from ROAR with us today!