NextUP… Shantel Risher
Former Client Relationship Manager at Integral
Shantel Risher, former client relationship manager at Integral, is a recent PRSA-NY 15 Under 35 award recipient. She discusses why downsizing the number of platforms a team uses to communicate increases productivity. Risher also shares the impact of Gen Z as they continue to enter the workforce.
LYNSEY: Hi, I’m Lynsey Stanicki and I’m the Digital Video Production & Marketing Content Producer at D S Simon Media.
ISIS: Hi, I’m Isis Simpson-Mersha, Conference Producer and Reporter at Ragan. And so, can you explain what employee activation is in your own words? I imagine this is from a conversation that you have prior, but yeah, if you could please.
SHANTEL: I feel like it’s the ability for employees to use tools and communications to operate as efficiently as they can in the workplace, right? It’s like those tools can be values, personal skills, and platforms. And that’s what we really strive to do for like at Integral, right? Like we want to improve the future of work. We want to improve the lives of employees, at companies, you know, who are struggling and seeking our help. And to me, communication has always been a vital thing that will lead to success for the company, but more so for an individual. So, an employee, right? Like in that workspace, figuring out how to navigate it.
LYNSEY: How would you communicate effectively with your teams? And do you have any examples to share?
SHANTEL: So, we have all had this struggle before wires get crossed, things get lost in translation. Because we often work in such an agile environment, I am the one who volunteers as tribute to say, let’s stop for a second. Like do not touch another key on a keyboard. We are not communicating well. We have to regroup. So, I am always the one to sort of bring that out in everyone so that I’m creating a space for them to say yes like I did not send that email or that slack message just got lost in translation. And I really meant to say this, from there we just improve how we work, right? Like, so let’s talk about ways of working. Let’s talk about what comms channels we often talk into, right? So, that we can avoid the ones that we’re not using because there are people on a team that have their own ways of how they communicate. Some of my team members want to call me on the phone, some want to Slack me, some want to communicate in platforms like Trello or Google Doc. And so, coming to a consensus of one platform, one tool is how I try to lead the charge forward with the rest of my team. And they’re grateful for it, right? Because it would be silly to constantly miscommunicate in a project like you can’t operate and function that way. So, it just recently had to do that with a larger team, but we banded together, and you know, we’re working better now, so that’s great.
ISIS: And you mentioned a couple of internships, one being the Wendy Williams Show, which I’m so jealous and I wanted to like be a guest on that show before it stopped and everything. So, I’m happy you got that experience, but coming from the experience, working as an intern and, you know, having an internship, can you describe your experience building Integral’s internship program?
SHANTEL: Those internships I experienced were amazing. They were the best opportunity of my life because of their flexibility, encouraging questions, and then also making sure that the intern is leaving with knowledge, leaving with a skill. So, not just I never had to get coffee, right? So, I knew that when I was building this internship program, I didn’t want the intern to feel like an intern. So, the first thing I did for that for this particular season, so the summer of 2022, I got on Slack to my whole team, and I said, we are calling Haley and Tatum so those are two interns, team members, they’re not interns. I never want to hear that word come out of the guy’s mouths because I personally feel like when they come on board, they’re working just as hard. They’re trying to prove themselves, they’re trying to navigate in an unfamiliar space. I will tell you right now, when my boss told me that I was going to run the internship program, I was terrified because we didn’t have a solid foundation for it and I’d never done it before. It was so new, but that’s the thing about startups, right, is that you can risk doing something new and leadership, they highly reflect that entrepreneurial spirit of just like, being a self-starter. Go for it. We’re here. If you fall down, we got you. The biggest uplift for me is people saying you are allowed to make mistakes. So, within starting off, I had to ask a couple of questions to my own self. I was like, what do I want this intern to get out of this experience, right? What do they leave with? How do I introduce them into a world of communications, especially what we do more so in internal comms? And then it’s like, you know, how can I be of service to them as much as they are in service to the company? So, it’s been running for two years now, and as a result, we have Haley and Tatum on board as full-time and part-time team members. And they loved the onboarding experience. They love the team. They love the ability to work, and ask questions, and try things. And that’s all I wanted was them to leave, saying this has been the best experience of my life.
LYNSEY: Wow, that is amazing. You are truly inspiring the next generation of communicators. I know I am one of them. And speaking of the next generation of communicators, can you describe the lessons that you learned from them during this experience?
SHANTEL: I admire Gen Z for being the generation of belonging. They are probably the most diverse generation by far, and I know that some researchers, you know, they have the claim that millennials are about the generation of me, but I think that it’s more about individualism. So, for Gen Z, I feel like they’re the advocates in tough spaces. They were born into a world of digital workspaces, and social media, and streaming. I’m not even sure Gen Z knows what a cable remote looks like because you probably never had to use it. And it’s so funny because our agency, we run an annual nationwide survey that’s our employee activation index, and we have insights and data that suggest that Gen Z, they become so much more motivated and confident when a workplace reflects their own values, right? And so, what are those values? Diversity, inclusion, transparency, right? They want to feel like they’re part of something bigger. And it’s reflective in how they go about consumerism, right? Like choosing certain brands that are you know, they have really great social policies right around environmentalism or activism. 86% of our Gen Z participants, they believe that digital transformation will help their company become more successful. So, they’re big allocators of digital innovation. They want to try new things. They want to be challenged. They want to see these new opportunities. And so, I feel like that generation coming into the workplace is going to bring such a big perspective on how to not only better run your company culture, but how you can improve in the digital space. So, shout out to Gen Z would be awesome. I’m a millennial myself, so I mean, I’m still pretty awesome.
ISIS: I was going to say, being a younger millennial where, you know, we’re cool too, but it is interesting to look at the different themes and, you know, across different generations and what’s important to them, what they won’t stand for, how times are changing.
ISIS: Yeah, so it’s really cool you get to have that sort of, you know, on hands analysis and input really too. Well, thank you so much. This has just been an insightful discussion.
SHANTEL: No, thank you guys for having me. You guys are so awesome. Can I just say? Like this is my first experience and it’s just great questions all around. So, thank you for really giving me the platform to talk to ya’ll.
ISIS: Our pleasure.