USA Alumni Conference 2017: Session 2

Session 2 (Be Your Own Team Coach) began after a brief break. Samantha Couch was our speaker for the session and she holds the position of ‘Director of People and Culture’ at Big Ass Solutions here in Lexington. Immediately, I think that is was the job title that most generated interest amongst delegates. She began with explaining the value of millennials in the workforce. This is something that is really relevant as bridging the gap between millennials and employers was the title of our Irish conference. After much research, we concluded that employers didn’t understand millennials and that gap in expectations resulted elements of reduced productivity and some discontent.  Hearing some of Samantha’s theories coming from a HR position added some ideas for bridging the gap.

Having visited Big Ass Solution in the past week, I can vouch for Samantha’s claim of it being an employee driven company. From the moment, we entered the building to leaving last Monday, I was amazed by the simple but effective steps that are taken to ensure that employees. One such was the framed art work of employee’s children that embellish the walls in the lobby.


We saw some common threads between both Samantha and Susan when she reverted to the topic of passion. She explained how it’s the company’s philosophy to understand what makes the employees tick. By exploiting this and taking into the work place provides the opportunity to improve morale and consequentially productivity. She added that it is essential to allow staff to know the end goal and effectively define what “winning” is from the businesses perspective as well as making the path to it both enjoyable and challenging.

When opened to the floor delegate Kate Grimwade, following by the example set by Gerry Duffy, in joining Samantha. Kate was joined by Conor Foley when diving straight in with the most prominent issue in our industry, work hours. In an industry that is so labour intensive, she questioned keeping employees interested and engaged through the long hours and potentially mundane roles.  Samantha recounted her moto and that of the company of “if not for them, none of us”. Ensuring that employees feel valued and instrumental in the success of the organisation is of the upmost importance. Apart from the obvious extrinsic motivation of pay related bonuses, it is equally important to attain employee buy-in to the business.

Kate reverted to the issues that she has experienced in manging millennials and the opposing views and ideologies the either sides hold, to which Samantha encouraged her to work with the millennials rather than questioning and fighting it. While this poses a challenge for employers and managers, it certainly is worth placing trust in them.

Natalie Heitz addressed the issue of dealing with problems in millennials, something that can sometimes be ignored. Samantha explained how the traditional annual review is no longer suitable and managers need to go further by having more regular meetings, dealing with issues as they arise and preventing from them festering or escalating.

As the session came to an end I thought back on one point Samantha made, the lack of fear that millennials have. It’s something that managers need to get their head around. The session rapped up just before lunch, and I’m sure some of the issues raised were the topic of conversation.

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