Rebel Podcast: Life and Work on Your Terms

Empowering Employees Through Empathy with Danielle Troxel

February 28, 2024 Kyle Roed, The HR Guy Season 4 Episode 195
Rebel Podcast: Life and Work on Your Terms
Empowering Employees Through Empathy with Danielle Troxel
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Step into the crucial world of HR as we sit down with Danielle Troxel, the managing director of Kind Souls Foundation. We promise, by the end of this episode, you'll gain new insights into the human element that is often overlooked in the corporate world - offering support to employees dealing with health-related crises. Danielle takes us through the transformative work Kind Souls Foundation is doing; lending emotional support and resource connections to employees displaced from work due to health events. This is not just a conversation about HR; it's a deep dive into empathy, understanding and the art of empowerment in the midst of unexpected realities. 

On a similar note, we tackle the elephant in the room - mental health in the workplace. We share our thoughts on the challenges HR professionals often face in addressing mental health issues and introduce Kind Souls, a resource that is changing the game. We underline the important role HR can play in breaking the stigma around mental health and how resources like Kind Souls can help. This episode is a call-to-action for all HR professionals to acknowledge mental health, to facilitate somatic awareness and to prioritize employee well-being. So, tune in and let's break the stigma together! Let this episode be the catalyst for creating a compassionate and understanding workplace.

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Speaker 2:

This is the Rebel HR podcast, the podcast about all things innovation in the people's space. I'm Kyle Rode. Let's start the show. Welcome back, Rebel HR community, Really excited for the conversation. Today we are going to be talking about an organization that is changing the way that we think about helping our employees. With us today we have Danielle Troxel. She is the managing director at Kind Souls Foundation. Danielle, welcome to the podcast.

Speaker 1:

Thank you, thanks for having me.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely Well, extremely excited for the discussion today. We have had a discussion prior to this in preparation. I'm just really excited to talk about the work that you and your organization are doing at Kind Souls Foundation. Can you just tell us, to start, a little bit about Kind Souls Foundation?

Speaker 1:

I'd be happy to Thank you. Kind Souls Foundation is a warm line for employees and their family members. We provide emotional support and resource connection to individuals that are displaced from work for a healthcare event so that could be a work injury, a physical injury, medical diagnosis or leave of absence and we help the employee or their immediate family member or caretaker.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, I think, for the HR professionals listening to this, I think they'll relate to this comment. The fact of the matter is that there are so many things that we do in the course of our job that are extremely emotional and challenging and tough for the individuals that we are trying to support. Almost none of those are as challenging as some sort of an issue that's keeping them out of the workplace, whether that's a personal leave of absence for a multitude of reasons, maybe it's a work-related injury. What I think is so interesting about this organization is that the intention here is to supplement the work that we're trying to do and human resources to help our employees. So I'm curious, danielle, what motivated this organization to come into existence?

Speaker 1:

Well, just a little bit back to what you were saying. The human element, right. We know that that's missing in our current claims and care delivery systems, where the individual who's been displaced from work is feeling lost or discouraged to overcome new realities like mental health challenges or feelings of devaluation after being displaced from work. I mean, how many times has someone said, oh, who are you? And you say, oh, I work for this company and I do this. It's a part of our ingrained identity. And when that's suddenly removed from our world, how are we left to navigate that? And then, on the HR side of it, how are we able to support those individuals at such a high capacity of employees out of work for that reason? So where Kind Souls was started was to combat that shortfall.

Speaker 1:

Our founder, teresa, and her good business partner, jen, started their business together, and Jen was battling breast cancer at the time, and so Teresa saw firsthand these shortcomings where Jen struggled to find resources for help filling out the disability paperwork or finding laundry services and her caretaker, who was her mother at the time, was really left feeling alone without anyone to talk to or vent to. And so Teresa and Jen talked about. They knew that their business was going to be successful and they were saying to each other, how are we going to give back? And they searched and did not find anything like Kind Souls. So they decided that they were going to start something. Now, sadly, after Jen passed, everyone would say to Teresa she was such a kind soul and so Teresa was moved to start Kind Souls Foundation and help families throughout the nation.

Speaker 2:

I just want to reflect on that, Like what an incredibly powerful story, right, and I think I think you know. First of all, thank you for sharing that, and I think that what's part of what's so powerful there is the fact that these types of situations are going to happen to all of us at some point. Right, we're going to face some sort of struggle or crisis in our lives. It might not always take us out of the workplace, but we're always going to have something like that happen and we need support to get through that. And a lot of times, as an employer, we have a responsibility to help support our employees who are going through these types of things.

Speaker 2:

One of the words that you used I resonated with me or maybe stand up and listen, and that was the word you know. Alone, and I think one of the challenges that we run into is, a lot of times the employees that were intended to support are alone, or they feel alone, or they feel like they are given like here's this massive piece of paperwork. Good luck filling it out. We don't really understand it either, but you need to fill this out and get it back by the least, and it's just like-.

Speaker 1:

And your livelihood depends on it.

Speaker 2:

By the way, oh yeah, oh, by the way if you don't do this, we're not going to give you any money, right?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and a lot of times that's the level of care right. And so you know, what I think is really powerful about KynSoul's foundation is it's an intent. The intent is to reduce that loneliness right, to give people a resource that they can turn to so that it's not just a stack of paperwork, a couple phone numbers and a salute. Best of luck to you. So for those of us that are kind of understanding this problem and potentially see this problem within their organizations or within their structures or systems within their companies, how should we be thinking about how to support an employee who is going through one of these challenging life situations? How should we shift our thinking to help them out more effectively?

Speaker 1:

I think one word comes to mind and that's empowerment. Kynsoul's, our mission, is to provide thorough emotional support to those navigating these unexpected realities. And there's two aspects to what we do the emotional support and then the resource connection. So in that emotional support, there are 30-minute conversations with a KynSoul volunteer where we're providing a positive approach towards either recovery and return to work or adjustment to a new reality. And the resource connection aspect is where we're taking some of that stress and load off of the employee.

Speaker 1:

You can only imagine you're out of work for an injury that's causing you to feel depressed and anxious and then you've got to go out and you know your pay is reduced. You're looking for additional resources for things like food and rent. Where do you find the capacity to take on that load? So at KynSouls we're here to support. Oftentimes we connect our callers with other resources that are other nonprofits within their area. So we've been able to connect people with things like in-person support for grief and loss, food box services, financial aid for groceries and rent and shelter coordination services. So when we get back to that word empowerment, we are not providing advice, we're not providing mental health treatment. It's a warm conversation with another person on the other end of the line who's either been through that situation or they understand it well enough to allow you to feel heard.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. I think what's so powerful here is this is basic support, but it's support that doesn't really exist unless somebody has a really strong support network prior to something like this. But the reality is many individuals do not, or they don't know how to ask for it, or they don't have a comfort in asking for it. A lot of times there's a stigma associated with individuals that get injured or go on leave of absence for a multitude of reasons, especially something like mental health. There are these kind of these societal stigmas that exist, where what I think is really impressive about kind souls is it's a safe way to do this and still get that level of support in a way that's very different than you would from the employer or, in a lot of cases, the insurance company if there's some sort of insurance company associated with it.

Speaker 2:

So how does the kind souls foundation, how do you integrate with an employer or potentially an insurance provider, as it relates to the support of these individuals?

Speaker 1:

So, through the employer, we partner with our HR team to raise awareness of our services. Kind Souls Foundation is completely free and anyone in the nation can just visit our website and book a session, so there's no required cost to partner or support our foundation to either the employer or the employee or their family member. Who's calling?

Speaker 2:

I just want to highlight that again. So for everybody who's like wait what?

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Like, yeah, we're not selling something, so this is a nonprofit right? This is an organization who is here to help individuals and that ultimately furthers their mission. So you know, there is an opportunity for everybody that's listening to this, that's thinking well, this might be something that could help my employees. Open up your podcast player and click on the link and you can see exactly what we're talking about.

Speaker 1:

We're taking calls today, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So and I think you know that's something that's part of the reason why I wanted to have you on the podcast this is a different model, right? You know, a lot of times there are organizations that provide some level of service. There's always some sort of a price tag attached to it, right? The intention here is to fulfill the mission of the nonprofit, and so can you maybe. Maybe we can take a little bit of a step back and talk to us about the types of organizations that you're partnering with and how this organization has evolved over the last few years.

Speaker 1:

So, like I mentioned, we partner with HR teams through employers like Price, chopper, market 32 Stores your employer, as you know, is our newest employer sponsor. Thank you for that. And then we also so our founder and I come from workers compensation. That's our industry right. And so we partner with industry leaders like Amitros and Gainlice, who are using our, who are adding our information to their resources website to connect with either adjusters, who can refer employees to our services, or the employees directly. We also partner with national organizations like Willig, the workers injury law group. They are an applicant attorney association that helps raise awareness of kind souls because the, as you can imagine, the applicant attorneys have directly to those in need. So we do it all. We're raising through our cocktails and connections events. We had a 5k, I'm speaking on podcasts. I'm just trying to reach those in need because one of the greatest barriers to getting help is not knowing what's out there. So we want to raise awareness to everyone we can.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely so what motivated you to get involved with this organization? I know you came from workers compensation. How did you find yourself as managing director of kind souls?

Speaker 1:

I found kind souls through my hope to kind of branch out of work comp and get more into where my passion is, which is psychology. I'm currently getting my master's in psychology at Sac State, sacramento State University, and I was ready to take that, that leaf. I was at the same employer for 13 and a half years and I was so grateful to be able to get all of the experience that I did from that organization. But I also wanted to follow my hopes, follow my dreams and where my passion really lied. So I found kind souls foundation and started volunteering for them over the summer and I was just so moved by the mission and Teresa story and all of the potential to help so many people that I asked if I could join as an employee and I was hired as their managing director and the first full time staff on board.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. Congratulations for that, by the way.

Speaker 1:

Thank you. Yeah, I don't know if you've heard me say this before, but I say it all the time. I call it my manifested dream job because I remember calling my best friend when I was deciding to go back to school for psychology and I said I don't know what I'm going to do in work club. I have all this career experience, but I really want to help people with their mental health journeys. She's like just go for it. So I did and I feel so lucky to have this job. That's a perfect intersection of both of those things.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely Hats off to you for finding something you're passionate about and going for it and manifesting that, thank you.

Speaker 2:

Again, I can't say enough about your focus and the organization, so I'm curious to maybe shift the discussion a little bit and talk a little bit about the work. I think many of us in human resources are working with individuals who are facing some challenges being away from the workplace for whatever reason or not always equipped to do that, or sometimes it's uncomfortable to dig into that, or sometimes employees are uncomfortable really being completely open with us. So I'm curious that, as you think about the individuals you interact with and the support that you give to folks, what's one of the common things that people come to you for and what do you consider to be the root cause that you consistently see with folks that are referred to kind souls?

Speaker 1:

I think you touched on it earlier in that one word, stigma there's hesitation from the employees end to really express what they're going through.

Speaker 1:

Almost all of the calls that I've taken have said in some other way or another that they're just trying to put on a brave face for their family. They don't want to admit to either themselves or others that they need help because they're the red winners or they're the caretakers and they'd feel lost out of their normal situation of being able to provide for their families. And that breeds hesitation because they don't want to either be prevented from returning to work or complicate their workers' comp claim or whatever it may be. So Kynsles offers that positive encouragement and really outlet and validation where it's okay to not be okay and I know that that's kind of a cliche. That might be a cliche phrase, but I really believe in it and I think that it's okay to not be okay because there's other people out there who've either been not okay and they've gotten through it on the other end and can help you see that light at the end of the tunnel or just listen to you and validate what you're experiencing in the moment.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. I think this is a really powerful topic to talk about, and the reality is, a lot of us revolve a lot of our identity around work, and so when we get to a point where we can't work for whatever reason, it brings into question how worthy am I? Right, like, what is my identity if I'm not working? For individuals who are putting on a brave face for their family, like getting injured at work or being on a leave of absence, it doesn't just happen to an individual. It happens to an individual and there and those that rely on them as well, right, so it's not just about the isolated incident, and so often we forget about that and we just again it's the here's the paperwork.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Good luck, fill it out by this day or it's unapproved right and we spend so much time worried about did we follow the compliance requirements to the letter of the law versus did we go check in with this individual and make sure that they're actually doing okay?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, or? And how many times have you been in that situation where you feel like you could, you wanna offer that employee more. You just your hands are tied. You don't have either the time or the legal ability to sit down and listen to them, right?

Speaker 1:

I know I've been in that situation in work comp where I have an injured worker on the other end of the line and they're crying and upset and confused, but I can't tell them any more information than I'm allowed to or I have to. I only have 10 minutes for the specific call, and so the opportunity for clients to also step in, because we are completely removed from the situation. We're not providing any advice, as I mentioned, certainly never any claims advice. We'll never ask about who their insurance adjuster or their claim number information is. They can actually call us anonymously too, by the way, so all of our calls are completely confidential but the opportunity for the HR professional to say I wish I could have done more for that individual. At least I connected them with kind souls and I know that they're gonna be taken care of on that aspect.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. And that's where I think there's such a kind of a painful, kind of a painful gut check that happens for a lot of human resources professionals, which is this like it's this balance between humanity and compliance, right. It's like like how much can I actually say? Like your heart might just be completely aching for this individual, but there's only so much that you can do from a compliance and structure and communication standpoint. But there's still a gap in what the person the injured employee or the person on leave what they're feeling and what they're going through and they need additional support that you can't provide them. And that's really where I think this is a really important thing for us to be thinking about in human resources, because it's part of being human right. Like this, like it's literally in our job title, like human resources, right. Like it's not compliance resources. It's not like mitigate risk resources. Like it's human resources help your people, but to the extent where you don't have the ability to do that, this is a resource, right. That's the point here.

Speaker 1:

Exactly.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so for an individual who is maybe considering this for their organization maybe they're sitting here thinking about I know I am like I'm thinking about three or four people throughout the course of my career where I wish I would have been able to give them some additional help and just didn't really have the capability to do so what advice would you give them when they're in those situations, on how to appropriately refer them to kind souls and do this in a way that really helps facilitate that safety, security and comfort for this individual to contact you and your team?

Speaker 1:

I think it could be as simple as one sentence validating their experience. It sounds like you're going through a lot right now. Do you want to speak with someone about that? We partner with Kind Souls Foundation. They're completely confidential and I can set up a call with them for you or I can refer you to their website. I'm also available to do that initial outreach, so if the employee is either hesitant or they don't have access to the internet, the HR professional can connect me with their information with the employee's approval, and I'll reach out to them and tell them more about what we do and see if they're willing to set up willing and interested to set up a session.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, and I think it's. You know, there's a huge opportunity here and I am just from the context of a you know, an HR professional. Like we say we want to help our people. We say we want to be human, we want to have a great employee experience. These are all goals. There's a goals of every single person in human resources.

Speaker 2:

Nobody's going to be like I'm here to make an awful employee experience, I'm not here to support people. Nobody's going to say those things. But the reality is we've got a lot of systems and structures that prevent us from helping in the way that we truly want to help. So if we can appropriately do a warm handoff to an employee that is really struggling and get them access to a resource that will help them work through some of these challenges that can be really really embarrassing, gut wrenching. There's stigma, it's highly vulnerable, they can be highly lonely, and that referral and that helps them effectively manage the situation, get back to work, be a contributing member of the workplace and society and their family and every goal that they have.

Speaker 2:

I guarantee you that that's going to help foster loyalty retention. We use the word quote family. This is actually what that means. It's like being a resource connecting individuals to resources that can help them and truly helping them through their problems, as opposed to doing what many of us either do or are forced to do, or do because they don't have the capability, which is like well, we don't know here. Call your insurance company.

Speaker 1:

Here's a piece of it. It's an act of compassion. We all want to be more compassionate people, but we get down to that. What is the actionable thing that we can do and I think that that's what I love so much about working for Kinesouls Foundation is there's these buzzwords compassion and claims and more human empathy but here's an opportunity for you to express and actively participate in that movement.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely so. We will have the information for Kinesouls in the show Now. It's really excited to hear the audience respond to this. As Daniel already mentioned, my organization is utilizing this organization to help us with some of our employee needs and strongly encourage anybody to check it out. With that being said, we're going to shift gears into the Rebel HR Flash Round. Are you ready? I'm ready, let's do it All. Right, here we go. Question number one where does HR need to rebel?

Speaker 1:

I think I just touched on it a little. Let's rebel and be more active and smash the stigma around mental health and support our employees in that way.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. I think this is one of those topics that it always exists. We were having mental health issues in the workplace and have been having them for decades and decades and decades. It's now actually becoming a little bit of a conversation, which I think is actually positive, but there's still very much a stigma there, right? And if anybody can help alleviate that within their organization, it's human resources. I mean, that's really part of our role as far as I'm considered. So I couldn't agree more. Question number two who should we be listening to?

Speaker 1:

We should be listening to ourselves. So you, as the HR professional, listen to yourself, listening to your gut. If someone is in need of a little bit more, then refer them out and you know, if you're interested in volunteering for Kynesles, if you're so moved by what we're doing you're like I want to do more than just refer, like get involved, contact me please.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. You know it's really fascinating. You mentioned that like listening to your gut. We just had a conversation about kind of somatic awareness. I've had a lot of dialogue lately around, you know, listening to the kind of listening to the signs, and I can guarantee you that there's a lot of these situations where you know there's something more you could do to be helpful, but maybe you just don't have time or maybe don't have the subject matter expertise or for whatever reason, you're just unable to help, support somebody. You know, listen to that instinct, don't shy away from that and ultimately that's, you know you could be helping in a way you don't even realize by doing that.

Speaker 2:

So alright. Final question how can our listeners reach out and connect with you?

Speaker 1:

They can visit our website. That's wwwKyneslesFoundationorg. They can follow us on our LinkedIn page, kynesles Foundation, or they can email me. My email address is daytrocksellatkyneslesfoundationorg.

Speaker 2:

As I mentioned, we will have all of that information in the show notes, so feel free to check it out. Danielle, just really appreciate the work that you're doing out there and the awareness that you're driving in this big issue in the workplace, and I can't wait to continue to support Kynesles Foundation as you continue to grow and make an impact.

Speaker 1:

Thank you, thank you so much Thank you Alright.

Speaker 2:

That does it for the Rebel HR podcast. Big thank you to our guests. Follow us on Facebook at Rebel HR podcast, twitter at RebelHRGuy, or see our website at rebelahumanresourcescom. The views and opinions expressed by Rebel HR podcast are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any of the organizations that we represent. No animals were harmed during the filming of this podcast.

Speaker 1:

Baby.

Supporting Employees Through Challenging Life Situations
Supporting Employees' Mental Health
Rebel HR