It’s a well-documented fact that people don’t like change. In fact, some research suggests that resistance to change is more common than acceptance of it. In her eighteen-year HR career, Elizabeth McClure has seen plenty of changes in benefits amid new leadership and changing policies, and part of her job is making sure that employees understand those changes.
“One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that communication is key so people can get the full picture and understanding of something new that’s coming,” she says. “Some people still might not like certain outcomes, but it definitely still helps for them to have that background and lets them know that we’re there to equip them with the most information and resources as we can.”
As the associate director of total rewards at Corium, a commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company, McClure has taken a communication-forward approach to the initiatives she leads for the company’s wellness and benefits function. Last year, she was in charge of implementing a new program that dove into different pillars of wellness each quarter. In addition to developing the name, focus of intent, and benefits initiatives for the program, she focused her energy on educating employees about available benefits.
“The first part of that initiative was really just trying to set the framework for employees to understand what’s out there and along the way; we introduced things like a Lifestyle Spending Account, a meditation subscription app for all employees, and enhancements to our time-off policy,” she says. “A lot of people don’t realize what their resources are and what’s available to them.”
That’s not just McClure’s opinion, but a documented fact: in 2019 the Forbes Human Resources Council reported that only half of employees understand their benefits. With this in mind, she has implemented new programming and initiatives by maintaining an open-door policy with employees, always making herself available to support them and answer their questions.
McClure’s work is informed by her training in psychology and business—interests that ultimately drew her to HR. After graduating from the University of Delaware with a degree in both those areas, her first job was providing therapeutic support for children with special needs. While she found that role fulfilling, she realized that HR was where she wanted to make an impact.
In her first few years in the field, McClure provided HR generalist support at a civil engineering firm, and later at a position focused on benefits at a business intelligence applications company. It wasn’t until her position in benefits at athenahealth in 2011 that she realized the healthcare industry aligned perfectly with her passion and interests, where she worked her way up from an associate to senior manager of benefits, ultimately leading the team. After working there for nearly a decade, she stepped into her current role at Corium.
“After seeing the greater good that comes from this industry, I have no desire to leave it at this point,” she says.
Over the years, however, she’s gained a wealth of experience from working at companies that were constantly changing and evolving. She’s helped to bring companies public and private while helping to organize mass hires, layoffs, and several mergers and acquisitions. Through her exposure to these matters, she was often put in situations where it was sink or swim—challenges that molded her into the adaptable leader she is today.
“I always chose to swim,” she says. “It’s one of those things I’ve experienced at smaller start-up companies, where they don’t necessarily care if you have experience or background in X, Y, or Z. They just want you to do it and figure it out. So that’s kind of the mindset I’ve kept with me in my career in terms of not being afraid or intimidated by new things.”
Another part of McClure’s work at Corium involves telling employees about initiatives that are still in development. “I found that it helps to get messaging out in stages,” she says. “At one point in one of my companies, I always felt like, ‘Let’s not communicate everything until we know all the details.’”
She’s learned, however, that it’s OK to say that you don’t have all the information yet. “Just having that line of communication where you say ‘Here’s what we know so far, here’s where we’re at’ is so helpful in having those touchpoints with people. It makes them know that you’re human too, that you don’t have all the answers, and that you’re working with the company to get to that point.”
At Corium, she’s an empathetic leader who likes to lead by example. Understanding the strengths and interests of those she works with, in addition to how they best receive feedback, is key.
“Being able to connect on a personal level is so important,” she says. “Having open and honest conversations helps set the tone for a positive and respectful work relationship.”