Interview Conducted by Roberta Hess of Princeton Marketing
TRA’s Commitment to an Employee-Centric Culture
Chad Empey, Chief Financial Officer at The Retirement Advantage, Inc. (TRA) — who oversees the company’s Finance and Human Resources teams, as well as all aspects of the company’s financial strategy and operations — shares his insights on why TRA is a great place for people focused on career development.
With the new year, you’ve taken on a new role: Chief Financial Officer. Your responsibilities include Human Resources, which we’d like to focus on today. To get started, can you tell us why you joined TRA?
I joined TRA less than a year ago as Director of Finance and Accounting. At the time, I was ready for a new challenge. After working as an auditor and various finance functions at several companies, I was ready to take on the lead financial role at TRA.
Joining the retirement industry was also a plus. It’s always evolving, with new challenges and opportunities. And, with our employee-centric focus — especially the strong tradition of coaching and mentoring — I knew that TRA would be a great fit for me. I was also attracted to TRA’s emphasis on growth through acquisitions.
What are the three top reasons why people join and stay with the TRA team?
First reason is definitely our culture. We care about our employees. And we offer the training and development so they can make a career at TRA, not just have a job.
A second reason is having the opportunity to be part of a team that strives for continuous improvement. Great examples of this are through automation efforts like robotic process automation (RPAs) and the automation of our billing processes. It’s exciting to be part of a company that is willing to invest in its processes and not be content to always just stick with the status quo.
A big part of this employee focus on continuous improvement is our “Kaizen Committee,” whose work is based on the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. Everyone can participate — and anyone can offer suggestions on how we can work better, faster, and smarter, even if those ideas are outside their job description or department. It’s a way for everyone to feel they contribute to TRA’s success above and beyond their job responsibilities.
Finally, we give people the flexibility they need in choosing where they work: in an office, at home, or in a hybrid arrangement. A lot of other companies are offering this flexibility now, but at TRA we’ve always recognized that we’ve got to provide people with the work arrangements that work best for them.
With so many remote locations, how does TRA make sure everyone feels part of one company?
Communication is key and we concentrate on all aspects of communication in a variety of ways. First, we have all-employee messages through leadership webcasts, emails and our Intranet site. Our Leadership Team also has recurring virtual meetings with their team members — and we always strongly encourage using cameras to help make meetings more personable. There’s definitely a higher level of engagement for everyone when we’re seeing as well as hearing one another. And, of course, we have one-on-one meetings, as necessary.
One thing we try to instill across the organization is taking the time to interact on a personal level before we get “down to business” in virtual meetings. It does take more time and effort to ask, “Hey, how are things going?” but in the long run we all benefit from feeling more connected to one another.
Promoting from within seems to happen a lot at TRA — it happened to you, for example! Do people create their own career paths or does TRA help them to move ahead?
It’s a partnership between each person and TRA. As a company, TRA has a vested interest in each of employees developing their full potential. And our employees have to make a commitment to their professional growth, as well.
For example, I have conversations with people on my team so that I know what each person wants as the next step in their career. Everyone has different career objectives, and it’s my job to make sure that those who want to move up have an opportunity to do so. This may involve taking on a project for another team, which will likely mean taking on more. But doing so will help that person develop stronger relationships outside of their department, which in time may translate into promotion to a new position.
We’re all reading stories in the press about the “great resignation” that’s underway in America. Basically, I think that the rest of corporate America is coming to terms with what we’ve always known at TRA: People want to work where they’re valued, not just in terms of compensation, but also because their ideas and their contributions are considered important. In this way, a company builds a sustainable culture that will be the key to its long-term success. It’s what we’ve been committed to at TRA for some time and what we’ll stay committed to in the years ahead.