Debbie Dizon Lauber Has Gone from Patient to Point Person

Debbie Dizon Lauber describes her journey from being a surgical patient to being Intuitive’s go-to person for both employment law and employee relations

I, myself, am actually a beneficiary of the Intuitive technology. I went through a health issue a few years ago and consulted with four different surgeons. The surgeon I chose was performing my surgery with the da Vinci Surgical System.

It is a phenomenal technology that has really changed the landscape of surgery by offering a minimally invasive surgery option to many patients with technological benefits such as three-dimensional visualization, improved dexterity and range of motion, and greater precision and flexibility for improved surgeon ergonomics. In my own experience, my da Vinci surgery allowed me to recover and return to my normal life.

debbie dizon lauber
Debbie Dizon Lauber, Intuitive Photos by Howard Wong

That’s a critical reason why I, and so many other Intuitive employees, believe in our products and are incredibly passionate about our mission. The opportunity to be part of a company that strives to make surgery more effective, less invasive, and easier on all involved is one that really resonates with our employees. In the world of ever-changing tech and the latest and greatest app or gadget, there is great meaning in doing work whose focus is on enabling physicians to improve human health. I’m just so proud to be part of a company that has the potential of benefiting patients and their loved ones so much.

But there’s another thing that brought me to Intuitive—the unique, hybrid role I enjoy as head of both global employment law and employee relations. Those two areas are typically distinct and have different strategic objectives—one is obviously legal, and the other has a broader focus on the day-to-day employee relationships with the company and resolution strategies over workplace issues. This role is actually the perfect marriage of my traditional employment law background and HR experience.

I’ve been practicing law for twenty years, specializing in employment law, labor, and corporate compliance—my first internship was with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a few years following Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s nomination hearings, which centered on claims of sexual harassment. The ’90s were also a time where there was an explosion of employment law legislation. I’m really fortunate that in my first in-house counsel position with 24 Hour Fitness, during a leadership transition, I had an opportunity to hold a dual role as head of employment law and compliance and chief HR officer. That was pivotal for me and enlarged my perspective on the work I do.

My work at Intuitive is not focused solely on minimizing legal exposure. At Intuitive, I have an opportunity to affect how an employee views their role, their level of engagement with the company overall, and to help foster a high-performance culture.

“I wasn’t going to be fixing systemic problems and trying to change a flawed culture but joining a mission-driven company with core values deeply ingrained in its DNA and a strong ethical infrastructure already in place.”

Traditionally, HR has focused on the generic employee life cycle—recruitment, onboarding, development, retention, and exit from the company. But a more meaningful, modern concept that has an employee relations focus is the idea of “moments that matter,” where you look at people holistically and focus on the individualized employee experience, recognizing that personal and professional lives intersect and affect the other. “Moments that matter” might include an employee’s first day of work, when an employee has a baby, undergoes their first performance review, or learns they are suffering from a health issue.

A person isn’t their title. People are individuals and not just workers. Everyone has a tremendous amount going on in his or her personal life, and the “moments that matter” are when and how your employer and your manager show up for you. That is what will define your employee experience.

In my role at Intuitive, I help ensure not only that we are complying with our legal obligations, but also that we enact policies that enhance the employee experience. For example, if an employee needs time off to care for a sick family member, we need to consider not only our legal obligations to grant leave, but also the types of policies we can reasonably offer to support our employees and promote work/life balance without unduly sacrificing either our business needs or our employees’ personal lives. That’s what I love about employee relations—it’s about enabling employee engagement, rehabilitating trust, and supporting business productivity, which ultimately contributes to innovation and positively impacts the bottom line.

When I interviewed with Intuitive, one of the things that drew me was the sense that the company was already doing the right thing and was beyond reproach in terms of its ethical obligations. I wasn’t going to be fixing systemic problems and trying to change a flawed culture but joining a mission-driven company with core values deeply ingrained in its DNA and a strong, ethical infrastructure already in place.

And now we’re using that base to expand. In the last year, we had significant growth in our employee population, and we anticipate that trend will continue. And as the company is focusing more on global expansion, my role as head of employment law and employee relations expands as well.

That growth is due to the increasing need and demand for our products not just in the United States but in Asia, Europe, and South America. We’re broadening our scope and, in addition to robotic-assisted surgery, we are also developing technologies like Ion, our endoluminal system that helps enable lung biopsy—really pushing the scope and addressing the wide diversity of healthcare needs. We are the pioneer in our industry and have only recently seen other competitors join the game. But by focusing on preserving and protecting our unique culture and continuing to live and operate with our core values as our guideposts, we’ll be able to stay competitive.


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