As the Chief Human Resources Officer at Verizon, Christy Pambianchi is responsible for 135,400 employees who need leadership during this challenging year — many of which are parents and provide a life for their families.
Pambianchi, 52, can relate. She and her partner Mike, are parents to Phineas, 21, Avery, 19, Sarah, 17, and Harry 14, so she understands the importance of family and the necessity of parental leave allotted to new moms and dads. Beyond those early months with a new child, and establishing a way for parents to remain ambitious and succeed in their jobs, her role as an Executive Vice President has transcended during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“During the early months of the pandemic, parents quickly muted themselves on calls or declined to go on video because they had their kids in the background,” said Pambianchi. “My response was to bring my full world to work. My four kids are in and out of the camera, my dog is barking in the background, and I even shared photos from our family vacation.”
One of Pambianchi’s goals is to reassure her colleagues there is room for their whole self at work. The signs of life around them—a baby crying, a dog barking, or an elderly parent asking a question—make them a stronger contributor and an even greater asset.
For her team’s work, they recently earned spots on the NAFE Top Companies for Executive Women, the Best Companies for Dads, Working Mother 100 Best Companies, Best Companies for Multicultural Women lists and the Diversity Best Practices Inclusion Index by Working Mother.
Despite Verizon’s HR accolades, the Brewster, NY, native isn’t letting up on her mission to make Verizon more inclusive for parents. Read on to learn how Pambianchi landed her role, and her criteria for hiring employees.
How did you become interested in HR in the first place?
I entered the industry 30 years ago, working for PepsiCo not long after receiving my degree from Cornell University. I became interested in HR because it blended what I loved most about business — the opportunity to transform the future of a company by investing in its people.
It takes more than the best products or services to make a company successful; you need the right talent to keep a business thriving. I have always measured my success in life by helping others, and HR offered a direct path to help people achieve their greatest professional ambitions.
HR is an optimization challenge. People spend the most time at work, and companies spend the most resources on attracting, retaining and compensating the right workers. It’s on us as HR professionals to connect companies looking for specific talent with people finding work they love.
What’s the biggest challenge for human resources staff during the Coronavirus pandemic?
This has been an unprecedented year for everyone, but especially for HR professionals. Overnight, we pivoted millions of employees to work remotely and became laser-focused on building policies that prioritize our people’s well-being amid a global health crisis. It’s the trademark of HR professionals to raise our hands and do everything in our power to help people persevere. This is not a trait we learn, but simply who we are.
Do you offer time off for those with a COVID-19 diagnosis?
Those diagnosed with COVID-19 are eligible for up to 26 weeks of paid leave. We also partnered with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to establish a team of nurses to help Verizon employees diagnosed with COVID-19 understand their condition, address questions, identify resources, and coordinate care with doctors.
How has COVID-19 shaped working arrangements?
As a result of the continued impact of COVID-19, millions of people worldwide had to adopt a new way of working. With many schools closed or hybrid for the foreseeable future, families are also juggling increased caregiver responsibilities on the home front. Overnight, the lines between work and home have merged to create a single lane representing our new normal. Although there are many challenges, this is an opportunity for companies to throw out the rule book and find new, creative ways to support their employees.
The pandemic has also served as a reminder that there are many dimensions when it comes to our employees, and we cannot expect people to turn their life on and off to serve our business needs. I have long said that you don’t leave your life at the door when you come to work. This means allowing for more flexibility in working arrangements for all employees, including working parents.
Has Verizon granted its employees help for child care during the pandemic?
Given the continued school and care facility closures, we revised our emergency backup care procedures to increase reimbursement rates and full-time care options through Bright Horizons or personal networks. We implemented a COVID-19 specific leave of absence policy offering 100% of pay for up to 8 weeks, and then 60% for 18 weeks for employees who cannot work because they are caring for loved ones or themselves.
Before COVID-19, why has supporting working parents been such a high priority for Verizon, and what is done to support them?
We support our working parents with generous parental leave and time to transition when they come back to work. Going beyond those early months, we are proud of our inclusive and supportive work environment, where empathy is baked into our culture. We know, especially now, that leaders must remain responsive to what’s going on in the world and bend as a company. That means flexible scheduling and offering generous backup care and even leave programs.
We also want working parents to advance and stay competitive in the industry. We offer a number of development opportunities and learning pathways to help them add valuable skills and even certifications at their convenience. We have extensive on-the-job training opportunities, tuition reimbursement programs, and career development support so that employees maximize their potential.
In terms of paid leave — what does that look like?
As a mother of four, I understand the work it takes to raise children, especially the precious weeks and months after they’re born. That’s why we offer a robust benefits package to help parents to focus on what’s important— caring for their little ones.
Verizon provides birthing mothers with 16 weeks of 100% paid time off between short-term disability and parental leave. Adoptive parents, spouses, and partners, also receive eight weeks of Verizon Parental Leave. Parental leave benefits begin day 1 of employment and apply to our full-time and part-time employees no matter their job function or role. In addition to paid time off for bonding, Verizon offers flexible schedules and partial return to work options for reintegrating mothers.
What do Verizon employees’ fertility benefits entail?
Starting next year, we’re increasing the lifetime maximum of our fertility services from $20,000 to $75,000, so that all families have the support they need during this process.
What does a typical day in your shoes look like (if there was one)?
There really isn’t a typical day, especially as we continue to navigate new developments and ever-changing information. My focus is leading HR, supporting Verizon in delivering on our purpose, and taking care of my family and myself.
[During Coronavirus] my mornings start earlier, and my evenings end later, but there is such a heightened sense of pride and camaraderie across Verizon. We are proud to run towards the crisis and not just COVID-19. Our teams are on the ground during hurricanes, floods and wildfires. We have been very vocal and quick to act in support of great social and racial justice. Through these waves of challenges, our employees remain steadfast in their dedication, and my HR colleagues have stepped up in such a huge way.
What do you look for in a candidate?
As businesses pivot and transition to their next normal, they are throwing out the rulebook, and the same should apply for anyone seeking a job or making a professional move. This is an opportunity to skill-up and rebrand based on what the world needs now and in the near future.
When I meet with candidates, I spend most of the conversation asking about their values and getting a feel for their work ethic. I want to see how they align with Verizon’s purpose and core beliefs. We have a constellation of job skilling resources, so I know we can help a prospective candidate train for their role. However, there is a high probability they will be successful if they demonstrate passion and synergy with purpose and values.
What are some new things you’re looking for in an employee during this new world of work?
My top recommendation to anyone seeking a job is to study what the company’s leadership has said about this new climate and any hints they have offered on their future workforce needs or potential investments. Have they acquired any new businesses? Are they focusing on a particular product or service? How has the pandemic changed its business model? I am much more interested in meeting with a candidate who has done their homework and pitch how they will be an asset during this adjusted state.
Take our Employee Value Proposition as a gauge. The first three tenets speak directly to the type of person we are hoping to attract. We want to engage employees from diverse backgrounds and experiences as that makes us stronger as a company. We want employees who are lifelong students and embrace a culture of learning. We want people who are eager to drive meaningful change. And our last tenant is our promise to foster a work environment where there is room to explore and grow. When I speak to candidates, I want to see how they cover these areas as a person and a professional.