Developing an employee engagement committee: Meet Josey

From getting a promotion to organizing team-building events, Josey continues to grow her career at Covance and maintain connections with her team during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Josey started her career at Covance in Madison, Wisc., US, as a chemist in the bioanalytical (BioA) department. She was looking forward to her first BioA breakfast, an annual team event held every December, as an opportunity to get to know more of her coworkers in a casual setting. For fun, she rallied everyone to attend wearing ugly sweaters. The team enjoyed this extra touch, and Josey began thinking about other ways to create fun social events for the BioA team in Madison.

Shortly after, the BioA management team reached out to a few people, including Josey, to develop an employee engagement committee to boost camaraderie and morale amongst the team. Josey, who wanted to build on the department’s existing events, took the lead and started to define the committee’s next steps.

“I believed more employee events and engagement opportunities would reflect how appreciated our employees are. After an initial build period, we have been successful with putting on near-monthly events that incorporate some long-standing traditions, such as Brat Fest [bratwurst festival], along with new events like bingo and game week,” she said.

“We started as a small group and as we became really successful, more people wanted to join and become part of the team,” she added. “We have a pretty large committee now, and it’s very exciting.”

Recognizing exceptional people

Many of Josey’s coworkers were inspired to nominate her for a Covance employee engager award, which recognizes people who are from our global chemistry solutions and early development businesses and contribute to the company outside of their regular work responsibilities. Josey was ultimately selected to receive the annual award.  

“Josey has helped to bring a new sense of community to BioA,” wrote Katie, one of Josey’s co-workers.  

Josey explained that with approximately 150 people in various high-pressure roles, including chemists, study coordinators, project managers, lead scientists, sample information coordinators and supervisors, and working in different areas within the department, that opportunities to connect as a broader team can feel limited.

Her colleague James added, “Josey’s work within the committee has done wonders to bring our department together and interact with different groups that would not have otherwise. [She shows] the care and dedication she has to improve the lives, energize, and motivate all of her colleagues in Madison BioA.” 

Increasing team spirit with shared experiences

One of Josey’s favorite events to date was the BioA picnic where the group went offsite, grilled food and played lawn games.

“It was a blast, and I think everyone else really enjoyed it. Stepping outside of the office allowed for a more relaxed atmosphere,” she said.

The engagement team’s events are varied. One October event involved a taco bar that included spooky punch bubbling with dry ice and time to watch the movie Hocus Pocus. On another occasion, they held a game week with big ticket prizes like a kayak and gift baskets, while a different event combined Bingo with a chili cook-off where the winners took home a spice kit.

“Most of our ideas are met with open arms,” explained Josey. “And having committee members from different groups within the department, not just the chemist standpoint, helps us see if it’s something that people are going to be interested in.”   

Gaining leadership skills and growing professionally

Josey attributes her leadership interests to her sports experience in high school when she was nominated as a team captain for gymnastics, cross country and track. Her position at Covance represented her first experience with a global company, but being new to the workforce wasn’t a barrier to showing her value and making important contributions.

“Leadership is always something that I’ve enjoyed, and being in this committee has definitely helped me gain more experience in it,” she said. “I’ve stood up in front of the department at meetings, and that has helped me address my public speaking fear. I also enjoy learning about other people’s strengths, such as one committee member who is wonderful at graphic design and creates all of our promotional posters. It’s fun to see what other people are really good at and encourage them to take that on.”

Moving forward in light of the current COVID-19 situation, Josey’s leadership skills are being tested as the engagement team tries to find new ways to connect. While videoconferencing has become a new normal for remote workers, the makeup of BioA employees presents unique challenges to virtual group meetings. Some employees, like chemists, must work in the labs while practicing strict social distancing; these employees typically use tablets that do not leave the labs, and video is restricted in those areas.

“For people who do solitary work most of the day, the in-person events were incredibly important. And having 100 people on a video call doesn’t feel very personal. Many of us miss the opportunity to pop by each other’s desk with a question or grab a group of people and head to lunch, but we are using the tools we have and thinking about things like virtual team-building games.”

In fact, Josey is now working outside of the lab and continuing to use her personal experience to benefit the engagement committee. In March, she received a promotion to a study coordinator role, one that she said would give her a broader view of the drug development process as well as experience working and building relationships with clients. She is currently working from home to train for her new position.

“This is an important time to stay connected with others,” said Josey. “It feels great to know we’re helping to improve health and lives during the pandemic, but it’s a harder transition for some teams than others. I know our next onsite event will be very welcomed.”

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