By R.V. Baugus
As priorities and norms in the workplace have shifted for the better in recent years, so too have the titles of those responsible for making organizations the best they can be for today’s employees. Gone (or should be gone) are heavy-handed “my way or the highway” attitudes. As our membership is aware, IAVM fully supports a diverse and inclusive workplace, one that fosters growth and the ability to thrive for individuals in an environment where they are welcomed and listened to.
Thomas Blasucci carries a very interesting title in his position with Dallas-based Meeting Professionals International (MPI). We will save that title a bit later into the Q&A we were fortunate to have with Thomas in advance of his Diversity & Inclusive Leadership Committee session at VenueConnect in Pittsburgh.
Share with our membership a bit about yourself, including where you were educated and what led you to your current position.
I grew up in Los Angeles, California, but I’ve called Fort Worth, Texas, my home for the past 14 years. My educational journey led me to The University of Texas at Arlington, where I earned a Master of Business Administration with a focus on Management and Human Resources. My passion for problem-solving drew me towards the HR field, as I discovered that the most intriguing challenges for me involved understanding and addressing people’s needs in the workplace. Whether it’s designing a comprehensive benefits and compensation plan or crafting a job description that aligns with an organization’s goals, strategic Human Resources has always captivated me.
Throughout my career, I have held a variety of HR roles in nonprofit organizations, leading efforts in Talent Acquisition, DEI, and Employee Relations. My initial stint at MPI spanned from 2014 to 2018. Afterward, I served as an HR Executive for another Dallas-based nonprofit. I am thrilled to have returned to MPI roughly eight months ago. My varied experiences have honed my skills as an HR leader, and I eagerly look forward to making a meaningful, lasting impact on both employees and organizations in our industry.
Director, People & Performance is a most interesting title and one I would guess is not all that old of a title. What does it mean and what are your major objectives in this role?
As the Director of People and Performance at MPI, I am a firm believer that our people are our most valuable asset. My title, while relatively new in the HR landscape, aptly reflects the essence of my role, which goes beyond traditional HR functions to focus on fostering a high-performance environment where our employees can thrive.
In this capacity, I lead the HR function for Meeting Professionals International, with the primary objective of developing and implementing human resources practices and policies that cultivate an employee-centric, high-performance culture. This culture emphasizes empowerment, quality, productivity, and standards, while also prioritizing goal attainment and the recruitment and continuous development of a superior workforce.
As an internal consultant to leaders and employees, I address employee relations issues that impact performance and business relationships. My goal is to provide guidance and support to ensure a harmonious work environment that aligns with the core values and mission established by the association’s leadership. Some of my major objectives in this role include developing and executing talent acquisition and retention strategies that attract, nurture, and retain top talent in the industry; designing and implementing performance management systems that help employees reach their full potential and drive organizational success; and fostering a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion to create an environment where every employee feels valued, respected, and supported. Ultimately, my role as the Director of People and Performance is to create a workplace where our employees can excel, and in turn, contribute to the overall success and growth of Meeting Professionals International.
People and performance are essentially not only keeping companies alive but helps them thrive. Do you find that some organizations still miss the boat on that very otherwise basic principle?
You raise an important point. Organizations that prioritize their people and performance not only survive but truly thrive in today’s competitive landscape. Higher employee engagement scores, better retention rates, and overall happier team members are hallmarks of companies that focus on people and performance. Unfortunately, some organizations still miss the boat, and this oversight has a direct impact on their bottom line.
On average, the cost of losing an employee in their first year is often estimated to be twice the employee’s annual salary. This includes costs of recruitment, onboarding, training, lost productivity, and any potential negative impact on employee morale. According to SHRM, the average cost of replacing an employee at any point in their tenure can range from 90% to 200% of their annual salary.
Organizations that invest in people and performance, by developing policies and procedures that foster an engaging workforce, can experience a direct correlation between their efforts and a decrease in costs related to turnover. By creating a supportive and growth-oriented environment, these organizations can maximize their employees’ potential, which ultimately leads to a more successful and sustainable business.
Talk some about what you will be sharing with our IAVM audience this summer in Pittsburgh?
Diversity, equity, and inclusivity are essential components of any modern workplace. Merely paying lip service to DEI work is not enough. Creating a diverse and inclusive environment requires genuine commitment and intentional effort, ensuring that everyone feels welcome, respected, and empowered. This involves implementing equitable hiring processes and fostering a culture that embraces diverse perspectives and continuous learning.
As an HR professional with a strong background in leading DEI work, I am a firm believer that organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusivity as core values and embed them throughout their operations enjoy increased employee engagement and a more satisfied workforce. By focusing on everything from hiring practices and employee development programs to organizational policies and company culture, organizations can demonstrate their authentic commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
I know you have visited some of our leaders on the Diversity & Inclusive Leadership Committee (of which I am a staff liaison). Talk some about diversity and inclusivity and its importance in today’s workplace.
I am really excited about attending VenueConnect this summer in Pittsburgh, as it presents a fantastic opportunity to share valuable insights and engage in meaningful conversations. My session will be centered on empowering employers to develop diverse candidate pipelines and establish equitable, inclusive hiring processes that foster a thriving workplace culture.
During the session, I will delve into two primary aspects that are critical for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in Talent Acquisition:
Ensuring an Equitable Interview and Selection Process: A robust hiring process is essential for creating a fair and unbiased environment for all candidates. In this segment, we will explore various strategies, such as standardizing the interview process, offering training to employees on conducting unbiased interviews, formulating a consistent set of competency-based interview questions, and implementing a structured scoring system to evaluate candidates objectively. Additionally, we will discuss the importance of assembling diverse interview panels and providing them with resources on DEI best practices to minimize the impact of unconscious biases during the decision-making process.
Building a Diverse Candidate Pool: Attracting a wide array of talent is crucial for fostering a dynamic and innovative work environment. In this part of the session, we will discuss best practices for crafting job advertisements that use inclusive language and prominently highlight the organization’s commitment to DEI. We will also explore various methods for expanding outreach, such as partnering with diverse professional organizations, educational institutions, and tapping into specialized job boards and social media platforms.
Through a combination of practical examples and group discussions, participants will leave the session equipped with the knowledge and tools to implement effective DEI strategies in their hiring processes.
I believe that any speaker likes to leave a “takeaway” for his or her audience to return home with and implement. What would be your takeaway you would like for our members to exercise upon returning to their venues?
As an HR speaker, my aim is to empower the audience by providing them with practical, actionable strategies that they can confidently implement in their organizations. Interviewing is a crucial skill that can be honed and perfected through practice and continuous learning. The key takeaway I would like for session participants to emphasize and apply upon returning to their organizations is the importance of proactively incorporating DEI principles throughout every stage of the hiring process. By doing so, they can create an inclusive and equitable work environment that values diversity and fosters a culture of belonging.