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• Jan 28, 2022

This interview by David Liu was originally published in Authority Magazine.

As a part of my series about the “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Young.

Jennifer Young is the Executive Vice President of Human Resources for TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank® and Head of Human Resources for TD Securities.

Jennifer’s background includes more than 40 years leading business and human resources. As Head of Human Resources for TD Bank, Jennifer is responsible for building organizational capability and driving the integrated talent strategy across the U.S. As Senior Vice President of Human Resources for TD Securities, Jennifer leads the human resources strategy that enables TD Securities to deliver against its business priorities, with teams in Toronto, New York, London, and Singapore.

Prior to joining TD Securities, Jennifer worked on the business side of TD’s Business Bank in Toronto, later serving as Head of Human Resources. Jennifer spent the first 15 years of her career as a commercial lender for TD’s Commercial Bank. Since then, she has led human resources for corporate, commercial, technology, and retail functions, as well as held roles within talent management, colleague experience, and served as an HR business partner.

Jennifer earned her Bachelor of Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

My story is unique, particularly during this time of The Great Resignation. I recently celebrated 40 years with TD. I began my career as a teller in high school and after university, I went on to work in the commercial bank where I served as a commercial lender for 15 years. Following that, I transitioned into Human Resources where I held roles within talent management, colleague experience, and served as an HR business partner. I went on to lead Human Resources for different functions including corporate, commercial, technology, and retail functions before taking on my current role as Head of Human Resources for TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank® and TD Securities.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

During my career, I made a transition to human resources after spending 15 years in a commercial bank. The story behind that taught me some important life lessons. While I was working in the commercial bank, I became a mother. I quickly realized I needed to recalibrate my priorities as a new mom of twins, and I made a career choice that best suited my family. I decided to return to the workforce part-time and took on a role in HR as a recruiter. I wanted to be able to make my family a priority and enjoy time with my daughters while still keeping a focus on my career. To this day, I am grateful for that opportunity because it instilled a spirit of pay-it-forward in me. It also taught me the importance of sharing my experience to show others that you can prioritize family and still have a successful career.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Be intentional about prioritizing your mental health and well-being. It’s been a challenging time for all of us because we’re tasked with being resilient while experiencing the effects of anxiety and stress. Take the first step by understanding your own health, so you can seek the support you need. Remember, no one is in this alone.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

The future of work is a hot topic right now but it’s important to keep in mind the basics when it comes to culture. People are looking for growth, respect, engaging relationships, learning, feedback coaching, etc. While the way we work will change in the future, an enhanced focus on social and emotional skills will be key to creating a supportive environment for employees.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

One of the quotes I love is, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” It’s important, in every aspect of your life, to show up and be as good, genuine, and positive-spirited as possible. Enjoy the present. Have a sense of humor and always bring the best energy to every experience.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?

Understand that the role of the People Manager is important — particularly during times of stress like the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone needs support including those who lead teams.

We’ve created several resources to support People Managers, including:

People Manager conversation guides and videos — these resources help people managers have conversations with colleagues about their mental health and create an environment that is safe and supportive.

We also have resources for all colleagues:

Destination Well-being — this is part of the TD Total Rewards benefits portal which provides resources designed to support physical, financial, emotional, and social well-being.

  • Well-being webinars — covering topics such as what to expect from a therapy session, how food choices are connected to mental health and how gratitude can affect well-being.
  • Mental Health Check-in tool- this tool helps colleagues check on how they are doing and explore information and resources to support their mental health — wherever they are on their well-being journey.
  • 21 day #MoveMore Challenge — this challenge was designed to help colleagues incorporate more movement into their day. It included a free exercise program, tips, and activities such as virtual yoga classes, strength training, stretching activities and more.

These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

It’s important to establish networks and create spaces for colleagues to have conversations about well-being.

At TD, we created a Well-being Ambassador Network, which has been an important part of communicating well-being programs to employees. This network of ambassadors is made up of colleagues across TD and provides the tools, resources, and education necessary to optimize colleagues’ mental, physical, social, and financial well-being. They are there to answer well-being questions, connect colleagues to resources and help them get involved in activities.

TD also has a thriving online community, designed specifically for colleagues and their well-being. There they can engage in conversation, find activities, TD benefits and programs information, webinars and more all to support them on their well-being journey.

From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious, or having other mental health issues? Can you explain?

Keep an open dialogue and lean in on conversations around well-being. Create spaces where people feel comfortable talking about well-being, not stigmatized. Our lives are so much better when we commit to our own well-being — whether that’s physical, mental/emotional, social, or financial — because it enables us to thrive at work and in our personal lives.

This might seem intuitive to you, but it will be helpful to spell it out. Can you help articulate a few ways how workplaces will benefit when they pay attention to an employee’s mental health?

We’re coming up on two heavy years which have changed the way we work.

Organizations will benefit by taking an approach that looks at how human experiences come into play including the supportive, the fun, and the unexpected.

Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?

I have been known to listen to 80s music on long walks with my dog. I also practice specific yoga poses before bed and I subscribe to the Calm app which helps me center, focus on breathing and calm my mind down.

I work in the communications industry, so I’m particularly interested in this question. As you know, there are a variety of communication tools such as video conferencing, phone, text, and push-to-talk. What changes or improvements would you suggest for these technologies to help foster better mental health?

It comes down to creating and maintaining connections and that looks different for everyone. Communication in every form has kept us connected as we’ve managed through limited in-person interactions. Personally, I’ve found video to be an effective tool to stay connected with my teams and loved ones because it’s provided an even greater personal connection than talking, texting etc.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Be who you are and be good to each other. Remember that we’re all human and we all have things we’re dealing with. That’s why it’s important to always deliver with compassion and kindness. Everybody has a story. Everybody has challenges they are dealing with whether it’s visible to us or not.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

You can follow me on LinkedIn HERE, where I share my insights on talent and retention, learning and development, and workforce trending topics such as return to office plans.

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