💫 Employee Experience Spotlight: Jared Taylor
Vice President, Employee Experience at Edelman
In This Interview
🪄 How to create your own role within an organization
🎧 The importance of listening to employees before creating strategy
🗒️ The partnership of employee experience and internal communications
Jared is an entrepreneurial leader on a mission to make work better. He is an organizational psychologist, entrepreneur, and employee experience expert with experience in the entertainment, technology, and pharmaceutical industries.
Jared has been obsessed with the human side of business from a young age. After founding several nonprofits and businesses on the East Coast, he moved to Los Angeles where he was an internal entrepreneur at The Walt Disney Company for nearly a decade. His drive to improve the employee experience at Disney led him to become co-leader of the Disney Triathlon Team, the company's largest employee-run organization.
Following his Disney career, Jared moved to HP Inc., where he led employee experience for the company's Chief Transformation Officer. Jared is currently a member of the Employee Experience team at Edelman. He has a B.S. in Marketing Communications from Emerson College and an M.A. in Organizational Psychology from William James College.
What sparked your professional path into employee experience and culture?
I’ve always pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone. When I was in high school and college, I was a young entrepreneur. I started a small business and a few nonprofits which made me curious about how people experience companies from the inside and the outside. Along the way, I became fascinated with topics like leadership and human behavior through authors like Angela Duckworth, Seth Godin, Brené Brown and Adam Grant.
After I graduated from college and started working a full-time job, what jump-started my path to employee experience and culture was becoming disengaged at work. I landed a job in the scheduling department at Disney Channel - it was a wonderful place to begin my career - but after about 18 months, I learned the job inside and out and no longer felt challenged.
As I was searching for what to do next, a friend suggested I flip through Deloitte’s Human Capital Report — an extensive, annual report that examines the state of employee engagement worldwide. I realized that disengagement was a problem many employees were experiencing, and I saw myself reflected in the numbers. Learning that I was not alone drove me to want to improve engagement in the workplace not only for myself but for others.
How did you create your own role in the field?
First, I started a few side projects within my department, like launching pulse surveys and leading a culture committee. When I heard about a company-wide engagement project that our President and General Manager were incubating, I raised my hand to help. After several months of planning, the project kicked off and took on a life of its own. Because of the way we structured the project, for the first time, many employees felt like they were being heard by leadership. At an in-person session, someone stood up at the end to share that he had worked at the company for 15 years, and this was the first time someone had asked him for his opinion. I still get goosebumps thinking about that moment.
I knew we were on to something special and I didn’t want to lose the momentum we had built after the project ended. So I created a proposal for a full-time employee engagement role. I didn’t think they’d say yes, but after a few months of negotiation and job description revisions, they did. They took a risk giving me the job with such little experience, but I quickly proved myself and have worked my way up in this new industry ever since.
Since then, what is one project you are particularly proud to have accomplished over the years?
When I first started, we spent the first six months listening and learning through a culture survey, dozens of focus groups, and many one-on-one conversations. One theme that emerged was specific to leadership skills. Many managers felt that they didn't have the skills they needed to be strong leaders. We searched for an out-of-the-box solution and landed on a training called Search Inside Yourself — a 2-day emotional intelligence workshop that was incubated inside Google before going public.
My boss and I attended a public session and fell in love with the content. It’s a hands-on program that teaches participants how to develop emotional intelligence through tools like meditation, journaling and peer-to-peer conversations. We built the case to pilot it internally with our senior-level executives, won approval, and as they say, the rest is history.
Most participants are energized by the program because it connects them to themselves, each other, and the company. During my time at Disney, 60% of the organization went through the training and the program continues to grow since I left the company — over 600 have attended to date. The feedback has been strong with a 97% satisfaction rating — it’s hard to believe. It was rewarding to impact people’s lives in a way that’s beneficial both inside and outside the office. One former colleague told me how she taught her son some of the skills she learned in the course to help him with anxiety, which became even more helpful for him during the pandemic. I teared up when she told me that story.
This work is powerful because it can have a profound ripple effect into people’s lives in ways in which you never imagined.
What are the skills that are most important for someone to succeed in employee experience and culture?
First and foremost is curiosity. This skill has been instrumental in helping me get to where I am today. It’s as simple as asking thoughtful questions and really listening to people’s responses, probing and asking clarifying questions when necessary. Having a deep curiosity about people’s experiences at all levels within an organization has helped me immensely, too. You can only really understand an organization if you’re doing it in partnership with leadership, assistants, and everyone in between.
It’s also about influence. This is something they don’t teach you in grad school. Partnering and building relationships across the business is critical because at the end of the day, your work will not stick if people don’t believe in you or what you’re there to do. The best path to influence, in my experience, is to build a) trust through forming strong relationships and b) credibility by doing great work.
You also have to be comfortable navigating ambiguity. Culture is complex. People are complicated. In the beginning, I learned a lot about culture on my own via trial and error and through dozens of books. Later, I went to grad school for organizational psychology and learned some of the theories, models and tried-and-true processes behind the work. This foundational knowledge helps, but the work is still messy. Feeling comfortable with the discomfort inherent in this field is critical.
In your roles, how have you partnered with Internal Communications?
Over the years, I’ve run internal communications and also partnered closely with those teams to help reach employees.
Culture, internal communications, and engagement work need to be attached at the hip — many companies combine the two functions. Reaching employees can be challenging as most are dealing with information overload these days. When employee engagement partners with internal communications, they need to work together from the very beginning of a project — at the kick-off meeting, they should ask, “How we are going to bring this to life for employees?”
Communication also needs to go both ways. There should always be a process in place for employees to share their thoughts with leadership and provide feedback on programs or their experiences at the company. I’ve seen this done more regularly lately as a partnership between the two functions.
What type of work are you focused on now?
Right now, I’m focused on helping clients improve the employee experience as an advisor and consultant with my role at Edelman. Currently, I’m working with several global pharmaceutical companies, leading account teams and ensuring the work we deliver is high quality. In some cases, we’re an extension of a client’s culture or communications team. In other cases, we play the role of advisor. The work ranges from business transformation projects, to internal communications, to culture change.
Outside of work, I spend a lot of time connecting with like-minded people and engaging in conversations about culture, the future of work, and leadership (reach out if you want to connect!)
How do you continue learning about your field?
I read, listen to podcasts, and connect with people in my field. I recently joined a small, informal group of employee wellness experts from companies like Shell, Netflix, and Meta, where we talk about the challenges of our work and share best practices. I’m also on the board of the OD Network — Organizational Development Network in New York City. We offer learning and networking opportunities for professionals in the field.
On the media side, I’m a huge fan of Adam Grant’s books and Work Life podcast. Cal Newport’s work on productivity is fascinating - I highly recommend his books Deep Work and a World Without Email.
Shane Parris runs an incredible blog called Farnam Street which is all about decision making, learning, and knowledge. He’s also written a few books on mental models.
A few of my favorite podcasts that I listen to regularly include the TED Radio Hour, Freakonomics, Simon Sinek’s A Bit of Optimism and The Knowledge Project (Shane Parrish). Brenè Brown’s work is fantastic too. I love reading Make Work Better — Bruce Daisley’s newsletter that compiles articles on these topics and gives his own commentary on the field.
I recently picked up some of Ed Schein’s work - you might call him the godfather of organizational development. The Corporate Culture Survival Guide and Organizational Culture and Leadership are on my nightstand right now, as well as Daisy Auger-Domínguez’s Inclusion Revolution and Jacqueline Novogratz’s A Moral Revolution.
Thank you for reading. Comment below with what you learned or a question you might have from Jared’s story.
☎️ Every edition of The Switchboard is personally curated by me — Julia Levy. This post is based on a live interview conversation and edited for publication. Learn more about why I write.