Today is a particularly special day at Vert – it’s HR Appreciation Day! We’d like to take a moment to shine a light on our Head of People, Debbie Aiken. Behind the scenes of all of the strategic campaigns that our Vertbags support, Debbie works to help support the people who power the creativity here at Vert.
Before Debbie, Vert’s HR needs were covered by the Executive Leadership Team and Culture Club, one of Vert’s committees. It was largely a group effort between many Vertbags on how to better support the people that work here. But as Vert grew in size, it was evident that there needed to be someone who could dedicate their time to the Vertbags’ needs on a full-time scale — enter Debbie.
How Vert met Debbie
In August 2021, Vert welcomed Debbie as our very first Head of People. Although she has only been a Vertbag for a short time, Vert has known Debbie for much longer than that. Debbie first met Vert through our work with Oglethorpe University; a long-term client. There, she worked most recently as the Director of Admission Communication and helped manage Oglethorpe‘s digital marketing campaigns. From there, Debbie worked closely with Vert’s Media team and Interactive team to create digital marketing ads to attract students to Oglethorpe, and to make sure that Oglethorpe’s website looked top-notch.
At Oglethorpe, Debbie also served in numerous committees and volunteer roles. Through these roles, she discovered that she enjoyed her experience with assisting in HR-related activities, mostly centered around employee engagement. “During my time at Oglethorpe, I found that adult learning was a strong interest of mine, and I wanted to focus my career on learning and leadership in the workplace ” says Debbie. She then found a master’s program at UGA that focused on adult learning, leadership, and organization development, and started the program in 2019. After finishing her degree at UGA, she reached out to Vert to see if her Vert contacts knew of any relevant job opportunities among their clients, and it just so happened that her skills, experience, and interests aligned perfectly with Vert’s needs. Soon after, Vert officially hired her as the inaugural Head of People.
Changing the way Vert hires & onboards new Vertbags
One of the first things that Debbie noticed when joining the role at Vert was that the state of HR was in a great position, thanks to Kelsey Agnew, who had taken the lead with people operations previously. However, Vert had rapidly grown in the last three years, and it was evident that Vert needed someone in a formal HR role that could dedicate their full time to HR and the people operations needs that grew with it. “By having someone completely dedicated to these initiatives, we’ve been able to fast-track a ton of systems and processes to make Vert a more inclusive, equitable, and enjoyable place to work.” Says Kelsey.
One of the biggest changes that Debbie has made since she first joined Vert has been the onboarding process. “In the beginning, I spent a lot of time making adjustments to the onboarding process to continue the work already being done to improve how Vert hires future Vertbags,” says Debbie. Vert had a standard hiring process and a structured interview process in beta mode, and Debbie was able to formalize, organize and standardize those processes across all teams to reduce bias and maintain a fair recruitment and hiring process. Thanks to Debbie, our hiring processes are more streamlined than ever before.
Bringing culture and support to a hybrid-work world
Debbie also leads Vert’s Culture Club, a committee which has focus areas in morale & engagement, retention & recognition, continuing education, philanthropy, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. The most recent effort led by Culture Club were virtual coffee chats, where Vertbags share a casual chat about shared interests, like favorite music albums, best local eateries, and vacation spots. Coffee chats are aimed at helping Vertbags connect about non work-related activities and provide some social time from the comfort of our homes. Debbie has also helped revive birthday celebrations and continue some of Vert’s favorite holiday celebrations – like Vertoween and Vertsgiving.
Debbie has also helped set up many of our service projects, led roundtable discussions about DEI topics in the workplace, and has also led work breaks such as springtime walks in the nearby Zonolite Park. And to help further support Vertbags, every six months, she leads a one-on-one session with each Vertbag to check in and make sure that she can listen and provide support to each and every Vertbag.
Looking at the future of HR at Vert
But this isn’t the end to the positive changes that Debbie plans to bring to Vert. “I see that there is so much potential for growth at Vert,” says Debbie. In the future, she plans to use her background in education and work closely with local colleges to help establish relationships to help promote diverse candidates for Vert. And as Vert continues to grow, she hopes to also expand the HR team. Debbie, we’re grateful for everything you do here at Vert, and we can’t wait to see how you continue to make Vert the best place to work!