Enhancing and Reinforcing Culture — Going the Extra Mile
Written by Megan Woodruff
EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer
AAA Club Alliance
The global pandemic presents special challenges for all organizations, and each one approaches the impact in a unique way. At AAA Club Alliance (ACA), the leadership in human resources point to their success in leveraging the diversity of the enterprise and encouraging the workforce to make a difference using their individual strengths.
Christin Joyner is executive vice president and chief human resources officer for AAA Club Alliance, the third largest AAA club in North America, which represents over six million members in 13 states and Washington, DC.
For over 100 years, it has provided offerings including membership, car repair, travel, insurance and financial services. AAA Club Alliance belongs to the national AAA federation with over 60 million members in the United States and Canada whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.
While her organization practices daily agility, Joyner said it’s been inspiring to see the response and resilience of ACA associates.
“We had a wonderful example where a group of our car care associates decided to offer assistance to a customer who was afraid to enter a store. While they repaired her car, another group of associates went to a nearby grocery store and completed her shopping for her. We have had other associates provide personal protective equipment and resources to hospital workers and still others work to secure hotel discounts for first responders,” Joyner said.
That spirit in our associates is core to who we are at ACA, and it is a key factor in what has sustained us in this unique period.
In a brief interview, Joyner shared how ACA is approaching the pandemic while also enhancing and reinforcing company culture.
Walk me through how AAA has addressed the pandemic.
We have had weekly executive leadership communications to all associates focusing on various aspects of our business, how we are adapting, asking for their input and sharing business results and plans. We also held a virtual CEO forum to discuss the business—our best attended town hall format. We received over 300 questions from our associates during the forum, reflecting tremendous engagement and connectivity around our business and our plans.
We also have a dedicated coronavirus task force representing all lines of business, from retail to travel to car care, roadside assistance and insurance, to ensure we are hearing from all parts of the organization and addressing needs and opportunities as they arise. This team provided valuable insight, feedback and planning for our pivot to work remotely, as well as our plan for returning to our workplaces.
The team developed a very robust Return to Our Workplaces plan for both our administration buildings, as well as our contact centers and 129 retail stores. Our plan was based on a set of guiding principles with the safety and well-being of our associates being paramount. We put protocols into place regarding face coverings, hand washing and cleaning of facilities, traffic flow in buildings for ourselves and our members to maintain social distance, and a phased timeline taking into account state-by-state readiness.
We began our retail openings in mid-May, and we continue to assess our return in harder hit areas where states have not progressed their opening plans or are pulling back. We continue to be vigilant in keeping abreast of the continually changing landscape.
I'm so proud of the work our entire team has done and the thoughtful, sensitive and collaborative way we’ve addressed this crisis.
How are you maintaining and growing company culture in the middle of a global pandemic?
We have been very focused on reinforcing our company culture, which is centered around our service to our members. Our associates have done a fabulous job of maintaining essential services like roadside assistance and car care, and we have also spent time proactively reaching out to members just to say thank you and ask if there are ways in which we can help.
In addition, we have strived to maintain connectivity with our teams. We’ve used our communication vehicles to enable our associates to share their remote work environments as well as some fun pictures of their ‘critter coworkers.’ As we highlighted our travel business in one leadership message, we also provided ways for our associates to do some vacation dreaming.
In-person events have also transitioned to virtual. Our annual Applauding Associates’ Achievements Day, or AAA Day, is a time when we pause collectively on a single day to say “thank you” to our associates. We normally do this in person across our territory in every location.
This year we transitioned to virtual celebrations and posted video messages of gratitude and appreciation from our leadership team. Each manager held a virtual celebration, and each leadership team member personally reached out with phone calls across the organization. We also took time during the day to highlight our Going the Extra Mile (GEM) annual award recipients. The luncheon we would normally have held in May for these GEM winners had to be canceled; however, we still made it a special day by recognizing them in virtual team celebrations and highlighting them on our intranet site.
We also plan to hold our annual Day of Citizenship event in a virtual manner. Given that food insecurity has risen during the pandemic, we have decided to focus on this cause. We want our associates to remain safe and still be able to contribute and participate. Therefore, we just launched a challenge to walk one million steps for 100,000 meals.
Our associates can walk, run, swim or jog during a one week period, track that via our internal wellness site and when we hit one million miles, ACA will donate to Feeding America to provide 100,000 meals in the communities in which we do business. This allows our associates to remain safe and healthy and also give back to our local neighborhoods.
These are just a few examples of the ways we are leveraging the creativity of our teams to continue to reinforce our culture.
What has this experience taught you?
During our response to the COVID-19 crisis, we have sought broad input and perspective to build the best possible solutions and plans in an ever-changing environment. Our coronavirus task force team is comprised of people from every part of the business, from different functions, with varying experiences and approaches. The breadth of that team has enabled us to develop thoughtful, comprehensive plans and solutions to continue to support our diverse membership.
This experience has also reinforced the importance of agility.
We have had to adjust, react and pivot repeatedly through this crisis, and having associates who can be flexible and adapt to change is critical in times like these.
Through this crisis we have learned new ways to swiftly and thoughtfully adjust our operating models, assess our work practices and find additional opportunities to delight our members. Some of these ideas were already on the horizon and COVID-19 accelerated our path, and others we discovered in our response to the crisis. We'll continue to leverage what we’ve learned as we move forward and assess ways to provide more value to our members.
It’s been fantastic to see the dedication of our associates to keep moving forward, do great work and approach every day trying to do the right thing to make a difference for our members.
Special thanks to Christin Joyner and AAA Club Alliance.
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