The PNC Approach to Creating a Culture of Well-Being: A #SHRM19 Interview with Liz Harrington


I’m quite excited that the official countdown to the 2019 SHRM Conference and Exposition (#SHRM19) is on. In a couple of weeks, many flights will head in one direction, and all the HR professionals will take over the city of Las Vegas! Before we do that, I will like to introduce you to one of the speakers at #SHRM19.

When I decided to write about a #SHRM19 speaker, I went through the list and made my selection by focusing entirely on the topics. In the process, I found this topic, The PNC Approach to Creating a Culture of Well-being. I selected this topic because I’m quite interested in the subject of Workplace Wellness. I think that it is a significant, but often overlooked part of an employee’s work life. Since we do know that employees spend a large portion of their days at work or doing something work-related, then I believe that workplace wellness is something that organizations need to take seriously. After all, you need employees that can perform their best at work!

The PNC Financial Services Group has made workplace wellness a priority, and it translates through how their employees work. If you have ever visited a PNC Bank and interacted with their employees, then you will also understand why this topic caught my attention.

So, I decided to reach out to Liz Harrington and ask to interview her for my blog post.

Let’s meet Liz Harrington:

Liz Harrington is the Vice President, Health and Wellness Benefits Manager for The PNC Financial Services Group, a diversified financial services firm with over 50,000 employees. She has been with the organization for eight years, and she currently manages the strategy and planning of their corporate-wide health and wellness programs. She also manages employee engagement in those programs.

She holds a B.S. in Psychology and Exercise Science from Elon University and an MS in Health Promotion Management with a concentration in Corporate Wellness from American University. She also holds a Work-Life Certified Professional certificate from World at Work. Outside of work, Liz serves as the President of the board of directors for Sojourner House, a non-profit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that provides residential addiction recovery for mothers.

Liz, tell me about your background and how you became an advocate for health and wellness.

My initial interest was inspired by my upbringing through the importance my mom placed on living a healthy lifestyle in our family. I studied Exercise Science and Psychology in college, and then went on to study Health Promotion Management during graduate school. Along the way, I gained an appreciation for the impact that health has on someone’s ability to enjoy life. I also learned about the investments many companies make to support the well-being of their employees. Those concepts, aligned with my interest in combining health behavior change with large-scale impactful programming, have led me to where I am today.

Based on your experience at PNC, why was it necessary to create a culture of well-being for your employees?

PNC has always fostered an environment that values the well-being of our employees, even before we had a formal wellness program. One of our core values, quality of life, is a demonstration of the importance of this topic. It is important for all companies to promote a culture that supports the well-being of its employees—I don’t know of any company that can be successful without the support of its people. Keeping your people healthy and fulfilled in their personal lives, in addition to their careers, is going to help them perform their best for you each day.

What would you say is the most important factor to consider when creating a culture of well-being?

Authenticity. People know when you are just talking about something versus when you truly believe in and support it. A successful culture of well-being has to align with your overall culture—so just because another company had a successful campaign or program does not mean you will. You cannot start from the outline on a piece of paper that looks good. You have to start with your current culture and identify opportunities from there.

PNC partnered with ComPsych, its employee assistance provider, to create an awareness of mental health. Why did PNC focus on mental health and what impact did that partnership have on your employees?

As a society, we spend so much time talking about exercise and nutrition. Don’t get me wrong, those are important. However, someone struggling with mental health is less likely to receive long-term success by focusing only on exercise and nutrition. As practitioners in this space, we need to understand that mental health is a significant driver of our physical health. At PNC, we felt it was critical to identify and promote the importance of mental health like we did with exercise, nutrition, and preventive screenings. Statistically speaking, we know that mental health impacts many in our workforce or their loved ones. Our goal is to make our employees know that they are not alone and that their company acknowledges and supports them. We know that we will be creating an inclusive workplace where employees can bring their whole selves to work each day and keep coming back!

The impact has been really positive so far. While our campaign was well received by employees and managers, we feel that we have more to do on this topic. We have had numerous employees reach out to thank our leadership and us for openly addressing this topic, or share how our approach has helped them speak more openly about mental health and its impact on their lives. We have had managers acknowledge that they feel more equipped to appropriately support employees and colleagues who may be struggling with their mental health in the workplace.

The theme for #SHRM19 is Creating Better Workplaces. What should HR professionals expect to learn during your session?

You will learn how to craft a holistic wellness program focused on all aspects that influence one’s well-being. You will also learn how connecting existing programs, like the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), can help you accomplish that. We will show you how we successfully partnered with our EAP through recent efforts to increase the conversation around mental health at PNC.

What do you hope to experience at #SHRM19?

With the incredible variety of speakers and topics, I hope to learn from those doing innovative, yet simple things. In addition to the content that may require more time and strategy, I always like taking away two to three simple and actionable items that I can implement quickly.

Liz Harrington will present The PNC Approach to Creating a Culture of Well-being on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition. Please join me in learning how to create a better workplace through a culture of well-being!



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