An Employee Value Proposition is the set of benefits and rewards that a company offers to its employees in exchange for their skills, knowledge, and experience. It’s the total package of what an employee gets out of working for a particular company.
On this week’s episode, The Chemical Show welcomes Jaycie Bradshaw, Human Resources Director at Palmer Holland, Inc. Palmer Holland is an Employee-Owned organization in the Specialty Chemical Industry that focuses on driving strategic partnerships, business results, and empowering their employees to be successful.
Topics discussed this week:
- Influences that guide recruitment and onboarding of new employees in Palmer Holland
- The practices integrated into the HR processes during post-pandemic
- Creating a strong employee value proposition to attract new people to join the organization
- ESOP defined and explained
- Balancing growth from business and employee perspectives with an uncertain economic future
- Leveraging training and development to help people move beyond into more of a collaborative value-selling approach
- Recruiting millennials and Gen Zers
- The priority list of Jaycie and Palmer Holland
Join us as Jaycie talks about her background in human resources, which is a departure from the typical topics covered on the podcast. Victoria and Jaycie will also delve into current issues and provide valuable insights regarding people and employees.
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Creating a Robust Employee Value Proposition at Palmer Holland with Jaycie Bradshaw
Welcome back to The Chemical Show. This week, I am speaking with Jaycie Bradshaw, who is the Human Resources Director at Palmer Holland, Inc. Palmer Holland is an Employee-Owned organization in this Specialty Chemical industry. They focus on driving strategic partnerships, business results, and empowering their employees to be successful. Jaycie comes to us with a human resources background, which is a bit of a different switch from what we normally talk to people about. We’re gonna get some insights about people, employees, and all the things going on right now. Jaycie, welcome to The Chemical Show.
Thank you, Victoria. I’m happy to be here.
I’m glad to have you here. Tell us what is your origin story? What actually got you interested in HR, and what brought you to Palmer Holland?
I was leaving my undergrad at Ohio University, and interestingly enough, I had started in more of the Public Relations and Communications space. I quickly realized that I just have a passion for people, and I wasn’t going to be happy if I wasn’t involved in centering my career around helping other individuals grow. Human resource was a logical path forward for me, and I really found value in getting to know professionals, their careers, their career development aspirations, and the talent acquisition side of the business. I am really kind of launched into a background in firm and corporate talent acquisition and getting to know what people are looking for in their careers, who thought of just not being satisfied with anything they do.
So I kind of branched into more of a general HR and passion for supporting the workforce in some different ways. I have had some experience in training and development, and what goes into really developing your workforce, making them the best versions of themselves that they can be, and ultimately, settling on wanting to lead. As fate would have it, I found my way to Palmer Holland and realized that there was a whole other side to being in the Chemical Specialty chemical space and being a part of an ESOP. We’re an employee-owned organization. I’m so happy to say that I have started learning since day one of coming to Palmer Holland, and continue to learn as I support the business and our workforce in my role.
That’s awesome. Palmer Holland is a great company. You’ve landed well in the chemical industry.
We are very unique. We’re special. I’m sure you hear that from a lot of people. I’m absolutely biased, but our people are absolutely the best. As an organization, we are doing wonderful things, we’re growing, and we’re thriving. So I couldn’t be happier.
Employee Value Proposition: We've done a lot to invest in new technology, process improvements, and continuous improvement for our business. One of the things that we've noticed is just this evolutionary flow from what was a traditional work-life balance to more of a work-and-life blend.
So you joined Palmer Holland during the pandemic, which was a really popular time for people to change companies. We heard a lot about that. But I would imagine, it’s also a really difficult time, both to recruit people and to join new companies when workplace norms were so different. I think we’re probably still evolving. So they transition. We’re transitioning again. What was it like to make a significant change during that time?
It’s scary and exciting. Being in human resources and going through a pandemic is a different version of fun, even for all of us in human resources. I do think that it really put the human back to HR a bit and recognized that employees and businesses were going through challenging times. What we could do just to continue to navigate the changes in the market and make sure that employees felt supported as we did so. Actually, it was such a perfect time to make the jump because I think organizations, like Palmer Holland, were all kind of testing ourselves and saying that the way that we were doing business before might need to continue to evolve and grow. It really was just that push-off point that helped continue to propel us forward. I think since then, we’ve made a lot of big positive strides that have positioned us very well. We’ve been growing.
Let’s talk about that maybe a little bit. How have some of those learnings influenced you in terms of how you guide recruitment and onboarding of other employees or employees that you bring it to Palmer Holland?
I think that one of the key themes that we’ve learned and adapted as many organizations have is flexibility, and questioning the notion of how you did work previously has continued to adapt and evolve, and, continuing to lead the way in challenging ourselves to what used to be the way in which that we did work might need to change. I’m happy to say that I think that we’ve done a lot to invest in new technology, and, process improvements, and continuous improvement for our business. I think that one of the things that we’ve noticed is just this evolutionary flow from what was a traditional work-life balance to more of a work-and-life blend. With the pandemic, you have people that want it all. They want to work for a wonderful organization that cares about the same things they care about, and still not lose sight of why they come to work every day, and their personal goals and aspirations. I’m happy. I think we do a really great job of supporting that.Continue to lead the way in challenging ourselves. Click To Tweet
You’re remotely located. You’re in Nashville, and most of the companies are in Ohio, so obviously, making working remotely effective is one of the things. I think if we go back over the past couple of years, there was a lot of different flexibility. People were either fully remote or working from all kinds of places when their office was in Poughkeepsie, but they might be in Miami, or what have you. What do you actually see sticking around post-pandemic? It’s because I feel like we’ve gone back to this time when people go back to the office or try to normalize back to the old norms, which it’s hard to do once you’ve let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. What’s actually sticking around? What are the practices that we integrated that do you see really sticking around post-pandemic?
I think the good news is that we’ve proven ourselves. Palmer Holland and many organizations have proven to ourselves that our traditional view on what constitutes work location, and how we accomplish work can be tested to the limits, and are not unique to our circumstances. A lot of organizations have had to invest in technology and resources in order to keep that continuity of work, and I’m happy to say Palmer Holland is certainly an environment that’s done so. But what we also are noticing a pendulum shift on is the fact that it really boils down to collaboration, having that blend of remote-based work, and not also losing sight of the personal touch, which is so near and dear to our business.
I sense the hybrid model is here to stay. There is a lot of discussion over work schedules and work weeks and keeping up with the news. There seem to be different flavors, depending on when you read it, but what we’re finding is really about hiring great talent, continuing to invest in them, and creating an environment where collaboration can still happen, and in what capacity it needs to happen. Right now, we are in a hybrid work environment. It seems to be working really well for us. As you mentioned, I am remote, I do think we have some remote-based employees. There are certain roles where that still achieve the collaboration needed. But ultimately, it just settles back on how we are collaborating.
We’ve really highlighted this in the past three years. What’s interesting about the pandemic is that hybrid work, work from home, etc. I go back 15 to 20 years ago, earlier in my career when I was at Shell, we effectively had hybrid work. I was working globally. The majority of my team was outside of the US. You get used to working on the phone with them. We had teams, but we didn’t do video calls. Nobody wanted to turn on the video. Now, video has become a norm. Some days, I wish it wasn’t, but it becomes a norm. I think many companies have figured this out for a long time.
It’s just got a much bigger focus now. And at the end of the day, collaboration is key, as figuring out how to bring people together at the right moments to get the most out of them. Together is critical.
I think the chemical industry often has a challenge in bringing people in. It’s not glamorous. When you look at a company like Palmer Holland, people don’t understand distribution. It just makes it harder. It seems like it does make it harder. How do you create a robust employee value proposition that makes it attractive to bring people in?
One of the things that I really had surface-level knowledge of until I’ve more intimately supported and been a part of Palmer Holland is the fact that we are an ESOP and what it means to be employee-owned. Coming on board, I really had no idea about the jackpot that I had just hit. Not just the fact that ESOP is a wonderful opportunity to gain long-term wealth and invest in yourself and your future, but to be a part of an organization that’s as invested as you are to work alongside other employees that feel empowered and see the value that their work brings to the good of all. At Palmer Holland, we are all owners of the organization.
That isn’t just a lucrative benefit, but it’s in the way that we work and the way that we partner together, and the passion that we bring. I don’t want to say that we don’t have a challenging climate externally. But I think what resonates with that is people come to work every day and work more than they’re with the people that matter most. They want to feel that they’re a part of something that’s aligned with what they believe in, and they want to feel invested in and they’re growing. If you focus on that nugget, and say how can we position ourselves to really bring that to people and attract the talent that we need to keep growing forward that in return.
We’ve made really great strides with that. I would say, more positive side effects of that, we’ve had a great increase in financial literacy and some of our employee-based, and what it means to be employee-owned. It’s expanded our community outreach, and our willingness to give back. Ultimately, invest back into the business, so we can be a better partner to our principals and our customers. I can’t say enough about our journey to employee ownership. It’s been wonderful.
Employee Value Proposition: A lot of organizations have had to invest in technology and resources in order to keep that continuity of work, and Palmer Holland is certainly an environment that's done so. It really boils down to collaboration, having that blend of remote-based work, and not also losing sight of the personal touch, which is so near and dear to our business.
That’s cool. I’m going to ask you to just give me a little definition here because I think some people may not know about it. ESOP means Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Can you just explain a bit more about what that actually means? I think that’s new or unknown by a lot of people in terms of what that really means and how it works.
It’s a type of employee-owned organization, which in a nutshell, Palmer Holland is owned by a trust for the benefit of our employees. It really is a wonderful retirement and wealth-generating benefit. It’s a retirement benefit that employees get just by merely being an employee at Palmer Holland. One of the things that is very attractive about being an ESOP is similar to 401k, where you get to build long-term savings. They get to do so just by coming to work every day and doing their job.
So your shares grow the longer that you’re employed, or what have you.
Yes! It’s on the vesting schedule, and it’s very similar to 401k. It grows wealth while they’re employed. Certainly, it’s a lot more than just a benefit, though, because I think that it’s a way in which we commit to running our business, and invest back in our business. From an external standpoint, our partners would potentially listen to this and say what that means for us. It means that we are absolutely investing resources into our organization. We are investing in people that are excited to be here and are motivated to provide value to the business. Even today, we’re learning what it means to be an ESOP. It’s a very exciting thing to be a part of, and it brings us all together for sure.
That’s really cool. It’s definitely unique in the industry because there are not too many.
In the chemical space itself, you have a smaller-sized pool, but I believe there are around 6500 ESOPs that were active last year. So it’s definitely a wonderful, and unique benefit that we have.
Absolutely! When we look at where we are today, there’s a lot of economic uncertainty between inflation, rising interest rates, softening market demand, and maybe tightening market demand because that seems to ebb and flow, as we all know, There are layoffs in various industries. It seems like every day, especially in the tech industry, we’re hearing a lot. But we’re also seeing it in the chemical industry. Companies like Palmer Holland continue to hire and need the resources to support the business. How do you balance that? How do you balance growth from business and employee perspectives with an uncertain economic future? It’s certainly uncertain at the moment.
I think that there’s a balance there, and making sure that our eyes are set on the future and the goals and objectives for the long term for our business and for our partners. I think that you definitely want to continue to invest in the business and put us in a position where we can continue to grow and reach those goals, but not doing so without maybe taking a level of calculated risk. At the end of the day. I think that we look at this as a short-term economic situation that we certainly want to be cognizant of and plan through. But not to the detriment of where we want to keep going long-term.At Palmer Holland, we are all owners of the organization. Click To Tweet
Yes, there’s a balance there. As you said, it’s a calculated risk. You have to risk manage it, just like you would anything else.
With the introduction of Vincent S. Misiti, our new CEO into the business, one of the things that we definitely strengthen is some of our approaches to risk management. I think that there’s a lot that he brings from his experience in the chemical industry, where he has some best practices that he’s testing some of how we’ve done things traditionally, and seeing where it makes sense to continue in the way that we have historically been doing things and maybe some areas that we can continue to strengthen.
Definitely, in the short time that we’ve had him, we’ve seen such a positive impact of his leadership. I think that we’ve done a lot to invest in sustainability efforts and ways in which we can continue to work smarter, as a business for the future, which I think is important. Ultimately, we’re continuing to invest in our people, and ways to keep developing them. At the end of the day, they’re our greatest asset, and we want to make sure that they feel supported even through some of the more challenging economic times.
As we’ve moved past a lot of the supply constraints in the industry, how has your training and development evolved? I think the relationship between buyers and sellers between your partners, and your customers in Palmer Holland is evolving, obviously. How are you guys leveraging training and development to help sellers move beyond into more of a collaborative value-selling approach? What do you see with that?
I think that we do a wonderful job of always focusing on training and development. As soon as you stop focusing on that, people aren’t growing and learning. I think that’s the one thing that we’ve proven time and time again, which is there’s always room to keep investing in our people. We actually brought all of our leadership together at the turn of 2022, and we had a Leadership Summit, where our senior minds and leaders of the business got together and really brainstormed and said what are the key initiatives. Where within our training and development platform? Can we continue to invest? Just work cross-functionally to get more ideas. This isn’t an HR-only charge. I think that we really are focused on driving work to those that are closest and most knowledgeable about it. Who better to talk through some of the training and development than our functional leaders?
That has been really wonderful. We’ve invested in leadership training. We did some great work with intent-based leadership and really tried to empower our leaders to be even better versions of themselves. That has been wonderful. Building your succession pipeline, and ensuring that you continue to pave the way for future leaders is really important to the sustainability of the business. Then finally, we talked about attracting talent, how we harness the future talent that we are bringing into the business and get them excited about our ESOP and emerging in Palmer Holland culture, and what makes us so special. We’ve got a lot of good stuff brewing with development programs, and just different types of development initiatives that really continues to propel us forward since we had that leadership summit last year. It’s a good time. There’s a lot of work to do, though.
The work never stops, which I guess is a good thing and a bad thing. That’s been in the spotlight a lot for the industry, obviously, sustainability, since it’s a huge focus. Chemicals and chemical companies are not always well understood. Then certainly now in Ohio, which is where the biggest base of your operation is, the train derailment that happened in early February. It has increased a lot of the negative coverage. We’ve all heard and seen this negative coverage. Has it made it harder to recruit or retain people? How does that influence your people?
I couldn’t agree more. I think there are not always unforeseen events, such as unfortunate train accidents. It is obviously not something that we could have predicted and had to work around. But I think one of the things that we continue to do and push forward on is that our business is going to continue to act ethically, and aligned with our core values and our code of ethics. That is what makes Palmer Holland a wonderful place to work and partner to work with. If we continue to have strides in sustainability that are centered around who we want to be as a company and what we believe in, then, that we’ll continue to push forward through some of the other external forces at play.
I do think that we’ve invested a lot in sustainability. In recent years, we continued to strive to be an ISO-certified organization through our certification. We have a really core cross-functional team through compliance, our commercial team, and some of our marketing leadership. Obviously, HR has a portion in that and how we handle compliance with our workforce where we all have a part to play in sustainability. I think that we’ve made a lot of positive strides there. Even everything down to replacing our paper cups with ceramic mugs. I think there’s always an area where you can continue to look for ways to improve. We’ve been committed to doing that. So I feel great about our sustainability efforts.Hiring great talent, continuing to invest in them, and creating an environment where collaboration can still happen. Click To Tweet
That’s interesting. As you guys look to recruit younger employees, and recent college grads, maybe not directly from college, but certainly like in the first five to 10 years, millennials and Gen Z, what are they looking for? What are their priorities? I think this is sometimes a mystery. We all have an opinion on it. But what are they really looking for in companies that they’re going to?
I touched on that collaboration, and just the notion that what it mean to collaborate and be connected with each other. Continuing to expand the boundaries of what partnership means, both internally and externally, in every form, employees are looking for ways that they can connect and find camaraderie in each other, whether remote or in person. Employees are looking for ways in which they can feel and see the value that they’re bringing in and say that the work that they’re doing today matters. Focusing on how we can continue to provide engagement opportunities or ways in which they can feel invested in a part of Palmer Holland is definitely something that I think that they’re after, and not stopping there and saying they really love being a part of Homer Holland, and their needs are being met in that.
But what is Palmer Holland doing for others? How are they giving back? How are we being better strategic partners to some of our principals and our customers? What are the ways in which we are affecting our community positively? I think they’re after that. They want to see that and they want to see not just lip service, but they want to see an organization that’s doing it. That’s acting on that. Timings everything. But last week, we had a Palmer Holland day of service where our workforce, either in person or remote, was given opportunities to give back to the community. We had a food bank organization, and it really gave employees an opportunity to unplug maybe from the day-to-day responsibilities that they always do and say they’re going to just take a moment with their colleagues and give back while they’re doing it. I think that’s important. It’s all a blend, but people are really looking for an organization where they can have it all.
Yes, they are. I think we all are.
I know I am. Palmer Holland might not be perfect, but we’ve got some great people. I think we’re doing some really exciting things, and I just feel so blessed that I get to be part of it.
That’s awesome. So what’s next for you and Palmer Holland? When you look ahead at 2023, what’s on your priority list, and what should we be expecting?
I mentioned that Vince is our new leader onboard. I think that one of the things we’ve continued to do with his leadership is to continue to invest in our strategy forward, where we want to be in five years to ten years, long term, and what are our goals as a business and how can we lead in that direction. We’ve been really undergoing some exciting work there. I think that we’ve continued to invest in some new external partnerships. With everything in the economic uncertainty, I see our teams and the relationships they’re building on and the business they’re bringing in, and I’m just so excited to continue to get to grow our outreach in the specialty chemical space. We are still investing and we are still hiring. I know that you mentioned that. Obviously, we have an eye on the future and want to ensure profitable growth to continue to meet our goals. There’s a lot of exciting fun on the table for HR. We are still growing like crazy and looking for new employees. Certainly, that means investing in, and getting resources to make sure that we continue to get there.
That’s exciting. Jaycie, thank you so much for joining me today. I’ve enjoyed speaking with you and getting to know more about you and Palmer Holland and some of the great things that you guys are doing.
I appreciate the invite, Victoria. Certainly, it’s been a pleasure getting to talk with you. Your reputation precedes you. I know that you’ve partnered with others in the industry. It’s wonderful that you create this platform where others can share ideas and learn from each other. So it’s been a privilege to get to be a part of it.
Thank you. Thanks for joining me today and thanks to everyone for listening to The Chemical Show. Keep listening, keep liking, and keep sharing and following, and we will talk to you again next week.
About Jaycie Bradshaw:
Human Resources Leader at Palmer Holland, Inc, an Employee-Owned organization within the Specialty Chemical industry passionate about promoting strategic partnerships to drive business results and empowering employees to be successful and own their careers.
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