For Such a Time
Tom has a heart for impoverished children and a strong belief in the transformative power of the church. As a consultant, he helped a variety of global parachurch organizations with organizational and team development, governance and executive coaching.
In 2005, he started doing consulting work for Compassion International, and in 2013, he joined Compassion full-time and serves as the Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources. He is responsible for the attraction, selection, development and well-being of Compassion's global staff in 26 countries.
Tom brought to Compassion more than two decades of senior leadership and operational experience. As a founding partner of Blockbuster Midwest and Boston Chicken, Inc., he was instrumental in launching the Blockbuster Video, Boston Market and Einstein Bagel franchises.
He has been married to his wife Susan for 22 years. He has two adult stepchildren and two granddaughters. He enjoys spending time with his family, golfing and sitting on the couch with his granddaughters watching the same series of animated movies over and over again.
In this interview Tom reflects on the “Generations” theme of this edition and more.
What drew you to Compassion International after a career in the business world, and what motivates you most in your work today?
I had the benefit of consulting with Compassion for quite some time before joining the team. As an “outsider” I was able to get a perspective of the organization that was a little different than had I just joined right away. With that as a backdrop the three biggest draws for me were the mission, the commitment to the “3 C’s”, and the people.
Over time it was obvious to me that the Lord had been preparing me for “such a time as this.”
The mission of “Releasing Children from Poverty in Jesus' Name” was so compelling that I couldn’t turn away from it. Over time it was obvious to me that the Lord had been preparing me for “such a time as this.” A true culmination of how Frederick Buechner describes vocation: “the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need.”
The 3C’s are Christ-centered, Church-based and Child-focused.
We have never wavered on our commitment to our Christian faith which impacts all aspects of our ministry.
Compassion partners with more than 8,000 local churches, called "Frontline Church Partners," in our 25 program countries. The commitment to partner with the local church is so strategic and focused on the right method of program delivery. The local church know their communities, their specific and unique needs and have the connection with the babies, children and youth they minister to that there is no way we could get close to fulfilling the calling without those partnerships. Plus, it’s the Bride of Christ at work and it’s a privilege to be a part of the global church community.
We focus on the holistic development of the babies, children and youth we ultimately serve. This involves their spiritual, physical, intellectual, economical and socio-emotional well-being. It’s ultimately the reason we exist as an organization.
Finally, the caliber of the people and their commitment to the cause was and is undeniable. We are so blessed to have such talented team members who are giving their lives to something that matters so much and that, in and of itself, was enough to fulfill their own calling.
The equipping and care for our team members is what motivates me the most. My career has always had an element of “people development” in it and ultimately we’re in the holistic growth business, whether it’s the churches and beneficiaries we serve or the team members we’re able to support. Nothing gives me greater joy than to see those team members thrive to see their calling become a reality.
How have you and your team led HR for Compassion during this season of remote work and COVID-19 challenges?
It has been and continues to be a very challenging season. We recognize that there is no playbook for what we are facing right now. We are all part of writing the playbook but God is the ultimate author.
As an HR team we are working hard at maintaining a sense of community during this time of separation. While some of our team is working remotely for the first time, we have a lot of practices in place from years of global connection so leveraging that experience has benefited us all quite a bit.
We are very blessed to have leadership within HR that made the decision a couple of years ago to build out a regional benefits team to support our field program operations in our 25 program countries. This has resulted in localized benefits support at a time when it is so needed. It focuses on the holistic care of our teams as we partner with both inside and outside professionals in a number of key areas relating to the spiritual, physical, emotional and financial well-being of all of our Compassion teammates.
Another area of focus has been the support of significant remote workforce. As I mentioned earlier the vast majority of our teams are working from home for the first time. Particularly in our field locations, the challenges are immense as it pertains to connectivity, work environment, family care and other unique situations. We are working hard to support them in addressing those challenges.
Our Talent Management team started a weekly training publication called “Better Together” which focuses on everything related to working remotely with a focus on holistic well-being. We are also conducting customized pulse surveys to get a sense of what issues our teams are facing and what we can do to support them.
We are also supporting the organization through redeployment efforts – matching up ministry needs with individuals who may have extra capacity during this time. Currently we have more than two dozen staff members who have been redeployed into other areas of the organization, lending their talents in this difficult time, while broadening their skill sets for the future. This provides a great opportunity for cross training, developing new skill sets and potentially expanding one’s own career path.
A silver lining in all of this may be discovering new ways of doing work. It should broaden our workforce into areas we thought we weren’t sure we could, or knew how to, partner with before the crisis hit. I believe this will be true across many industries and ministries alike.
The theme of this edition is “Generations,” can you share insights on recruiting, leading and equipping staff of differing generations well?
Every generation, at some point, will be at the frontline of leadership. It is our job as leaders to ensure that we have the right people, at the right time in these influential roles. This cannot just be done through recruitment opportunities, but also through strategic talent planning and intentional mentoring and coaching opportunities to develop leaders, and future-leaders, into those that we need in the future.
For HR to be strategic we must focus on developing an organizational culture of learning.
For HR to be strategic we must focus on developing an organizational culture of learning. A key part of doing this is to ensure we have the correct solutions at the right time. One thing we’ve learned about today’s emerging leaders is that many of them want to learn at their own pace, and for some, that pace is faster than we have traditionally been pushing development tools out to them. So we are shifting from a push to a pull model. Instead of pushing development tools to employees at a set schedule and pace, we want to have resources and experiences that employees can pull from to meet their own unique growth opportunities.
Various generations have different needs and by having options rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach to development allows diverse needs to be met. We need to help employees see development as a core part of their work, not an addition to their work, by leveraging stretch assignments, coaching, job shadowing and other similar opportunities.
Regardless of generation, all employees desire to be respected, listened to, and heard. As a leader, we need to be vulnerable, to press in and to show up ready to engage.
What encouragement would you have for other ministry leaders in that regard?
Similar to myself, challenge your thinking of what it means to be multi-generational. Sometimes those of us in more senior leadership roles forget that we can learn as much, if not more, from the younger generations as they can learn from us. Help them along in the journey but know we can be transformed as well. I know in my own mentoring relationships with younger staff and interns I find myself having to shift my thinking quite often. That is challenging yet very energizing.
Each generation has a desire to be part of something bigger than itself.
Recognize the unique gifting of each generation we’re privileged to serve with on an ongoing basis. Each generation has a desire to be part of something bigger than itself. This is particularly true with the emerging generations who value purpose as much as personal growth. A “work that matters” desire continues to grow and as leaders we need to recognize the valuable contribution this new generation brings not only from a work perspective but also a quality of life perspective. As I mentioned before, we have much to learn from these emerging leaders.
By having multi-generational staff members, we are better equipped to serve and minister to our multi-generational church partners and likewise, our multi-generational beneficiaries. Simply put, it is of the utmost strategic importance.
How do you hope Compassion’s staff team perceives and describes the organization’s culture?
For our beneficiaries in the field, we focus on supporting and developing them spiritually, physically, mentally, economically and socio-emotionally. My hope is that this focus would translate to our staff members as well – that we care about our employees holistically so they can truly thrive in their service to each other, our church partners, the beneficiaries and ultimately the Lord.
Additionally, we have five cultural behaviors: 1) We are here for a reason, the mission, 2) We are serious about personal growth – ours and others, 3) We are 100% for one another, 4) We are careful with our words, and 5) We invite others in. My prayer is that these behaviors would be so embedded and internalized in our culture that they would define us.
Finally, if we’re learning anything during this challenging time it’s the importance of agility and innovation. A culture must be rooted in its core foundations. In our case that is our mission, our core values, the three C’s and the five cultural behaviors. However, if we don’t have a culture that is agile and innovative, we may find ourselves in a position where we can’t meet the goal of holistically caring for the teammates we get to work with on a daily basis, the churches we partner with to minister to our beneficiaries, or those two million plus babies, children youth and their families we ultimately serve.
Tami, thank you for letting me share with you today. May God bless you and the work of Christian Leadership Alliance in such a strategic time as this.
Learn more at compassion.com.