Kailey, Dairyland’s Organizational Development Liaison, reflects on how the company’s investment in people enables her to uniquely Live Engaged.

When Dairyland re-articulated its values a few years ago, one that remained prominent was an ongoing commitment to invest in people. This certainly applies to our customers and suppliers, but also at home among our own team and in the communities we are connected to.  To “invest in the person” might feel like something that runs contrary to efficiency or even fiscal sense at times. In fact, there is a strong trend throughout the U.S. indicating that while we know investment and development of people are important, most companies don’t take the time or dedicate the money to do so.

I have seen Dairyland demonstrate the opposite of this time and time again. Beyond the generous benefits they provide for employees, I remember being struck during my onboarding by even the smallest ways Dairyland chooses to invest in me and my coworkers. One example is a monthly wellness stipend that we can use to purchase healthy food, obtain a gym membership, or direct toward other supplies that enable a healthy lifestyle. It is so simple, but it communicates care for me as a whole person, extending even outside of the office environment. Pair this with opportunities like generous health benefits, paid volunteering, and dedicated personal development time among other things, and you have a consistent picture of investment (nope, they didn’t pay me to say that).

All of this leads me to a way I feel grateful to get to Live Engaged in this season. I am currently enrolled in a master’s degree program in Strategic Leadership that is made possible through Dairyland’s tuition reimbursement program. As I pursue courses in leadership formation, business, communication, and leading in times of crisis, I see myself growing in ways I never anticipated. The program is filled with opportunities to reach new levels of self-awareness, address blind spots, leverage strengths, consider different viewpoints, and develop skills that benefit both me and – hopefully – the people around me.

I was raised with the belief that what I have, gain, or obtain are gifts I get to steward and share with others. When I think about the investment that I am making in myself – as well as the investment that Dairyland, my professors, and fellow students are making in me – I feel even more compelled to make it worthwhile. I continue to study and devote myself toward that end, so that my learning might not just benefit me, but others I engage with throughout the years ahead. The fun comes as I see the ways that I am being formed (albeit slowly sometimes) and find opportunities to connect what I learn to my daily work at Dairyland.  It has been a humbling, beautiful journey to date, one that I am immensely grateful for.

Because of my role as Organizational Development Liaison, and simply because I work in an office environment, application opportunities arise on a regular basis. Internally, we are placing more effort on leadership development, beginning with self-awareness and self-mastery. My own focus in these areas, which is always ongoing, helps me foster conversations and reflections with our team as we grow personally and professionally toward our goals. Beyond theory, data, and recommended practices, my classes help frame what I focus on, emphasize, and communicate with the team. They open my mind to new possibilities and help equip me to foster an environment at Dairyland that readies us for the journey toward our vision of making a safer world.

My most recent course focused on diversity and inclusion in organizational spaces. As you might guess, it could not have been more timely as our nation aches and grapples with issues of race, justice, and equity. I often find that learning reveals just how much more I have yet to learn, whether intellectually or practically; this course was no exception. It challenged me to consider the systems and environment that must be in place to support diversity and allow diverse groups to flourish, whether their differences relate to race, ethnicity, gender, political leaning, religion, viewpoint, physical ability, or cultural background. It invited me to craft a new vision of relationship, communication, leadership, and organizational functioning. Mellody Hobson (2014) extols her listeners to “become comfortable with the uncomfortable” (TED) realities regarding race, injustice, inequality, and violence – something I am actively trying to do even and especially as I integrate my learning. This, for me, is a way the dots become connected – a way I can start to more deeply Live Engaged in my community, learning, relationships, and work. This whole journey more often brings me to humility, recognizing how little I truly know, how much I have yet to learn, and that deeply hospitable relationships matter in each arena of life.