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Desperate times call for empathetic measures

Nov 23, 2021 | Jenny Price


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In the wake of the pandemic, RBC Wealth Management names first-of-its-kind head of Culture and Field Experience to keep employees at the center.

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Shareen Luze, Head of Culture and Field Experience - RBC Wealth Management–U.S.

Since the start of the pandemic, the complex and competing roles and identities employees fill at home and at work have come to the forefront like never before. An exhausting juggling act for some, this confluence of events has been a tipping point for others, prompting workers to leave their jobs in startling numbers and become part of what has been dubbed “the Great Resignation.” 

Many have cited a lack of corporate support, flexibility and understanding as their reasons for leaving. But at RBC Wealth Management-U.S., these new demands and stressors have given rise to the creation of a new executive role focused on workplace well-being, diversity and inclusion, and employee health. 

“Never in the history of corporate America have the well-being of employees and creating a positive workplace culture been as integral to business strategy,” says Shareen Luze, who this fall became head of Culture and Field Experience at the firm. “While RBC Wealth Management has always operated with these values in mind, "I am excited to take that commitment to an entirely new level and ensure they are knitted into the fabric of everything we do.” 

A 15-year veteran of RBC Wealth Management, Luze will report directly to CEO Michael Armstrong and sit on the firm’s 10-member executive committee, where she will serve as a champion for employees at the highest level. She will also oversee the firm’s Corporate Citizenship group and implement a new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy that is designed to bring greater sustainability, continuity and impact to the firm’s DEI work with employees, clients, community and the financial services industry.

“Our people-centric culture has long been one of our firm’s key differentiators, which is why this new role is a natural next step for us,” says CEO Michael Armstrong. “As head of Culture and Field Experience, Shareen will help ensure that our employees, as well as our culture of respect and collaboration, are at the core of our strategy and guide each decision we make.”

The announcement is a welcome sign for employees who are critically examining company policies in the wake of the challenges of the pandemic, says Lauren Pasquarella Daley, PhD, senior director of Women and the Future of Work at Catalyst, a global nonprofit that helps companies build workplaces that work for women.

“We really see empathy as a key leadership skill, now and into the future,” she says. “Of course, the pandemic has just accelerated all of these trends. So it’s very exciting for us to see such a great organization as RBC Wealth Management creating a role that reports directly to the CEO and addresses all of these topics.”

The pandemic has accelerated a paradigm shift in many workplaces, and organizations that are forward-thinking will create people-focused positions like this, Daley says. “People have been able to bring their whole selves to work,” she says. “I don’t think there’s really any going back at this point.”

At RBC Wealth Management, giving people permission to be their true selves at work was a focus even before the pandemic began. 

We all have personal issues come up in life, and if a company is supportive during those times, that's how we build not just loyalty but trust and community.

Shareen Luze, Head of Culture and Field Experience - RBC Wealth Management–U.S.

“We’ve had a group of female executives, including Shareen, who have long led from the heart,” says Armstrong. “They’ve talked about their daily juggles as working moms, the pressures they feel to be perfect and the challenges that they face as sisters, spouses, daughters. Whether they know it or not, they’ve organically created a culture of authenticity at our firm that I’m not sure exists to this degree anyplace else.” 

The firm’s efforts matter not just to current employees, but to prospective employees, at a time when a growing number of professionals are seeking career opportunities with organizations that have policies and practices that line up with their personal and professional priorities, including meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and offering flexible and remote work, says Daley.

“In my analysis of the future of work, a lot of the areas that this new role will be addressing are ones that we’ve highlighted as trends and areas of opportunity for building inclusion moving into the future,” Daley says. 

That includes the emphasis on wellness, a focus that is critical after an 18-month period of rapid change and disruption, she says. Wellness—mental health in particular—is a personal passion of Luze, who has spoken publicly about her battle with anxiety. “I’ve been trying to be authentic and show how incredibly flawed and messy we all are,” says Luze. “We all have personal issues come up in life, and if a company is supportive during those times, that’s how we build not just loyalty but trust and community.”

As the former head of Human Resources, Luze led the firm’s efforts to support employees during the pandemic as they struggled to balance roles as care-givers and professionals. She was the driving force behind several initiatives to make sure people had the resources they needed to deal with personal issues and maintain their mental health, including funds to cover the cost of emergency child care and expanded benefits to cover virtual medical care.

Luze has championed DEI initiatives at RBC Wealth Management by supporting the development of Real Chats—listening forums created by the firm’s head of D&I, Wanda Brackins, which focused on issues important to employees of color—and the Lead Like an Ally workshop series, which helps employees learn how to speak up for inclusion. Luze says diversity and inclusion success in the long term will be defined by not only RBC Wealth Management’s retention numbers but by how much its workforce looks like the rest of the world. 

“It sounds pie in the sky, but I want our advisor population to be at least 50 percent women and far more ethnically and racially diverse than it is now.”

The fall 2021 edition of RBC's Prosper US magazine is now out! This is the fourth issue of the magazine, which showcases different aspects of our unique culture at RBC Wealth Management-U.S. and features several #WomentofRBC sharing personal stories about their lives at work and at home. >Read the latest issue

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