Welcome to the Talent, Empowerment, Podcast, where we tell you the stories of great humans where you can lift your organizations and your teams and your community. I am your host, Tom Finn.
On the show today we have a Los Angeles native talking about all things HR and community health. She's a wonderful HR leader. Her name is Evelyn Abrego.
Evelyn, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Tom. Thank you so much for having me, I’m honored to be there.
Well, we are excited to have you on the show, and we typically share stories of exceptional leadership. But we also find that it's important to share the stories of the next generation of incredible HR leaders, and I want to introduce you all to Evelyn. She is an HR generalist at Saban Community Clinic, which oversees employee relations, benefits, and leave of absence in her organization. She's had 12 years of HR experience, and if you're not familiar with the clinic, they focus on whole-person care through five community locations in Los Angeles, providing all the services and resources people need to be healthy in one place.
Evelyn has a bachelor's in psychology from the Great California State University in Long Beach, LA, and has her professional certification in HR and strategic workforce planning. Born and raised in the City of Angels, I am a working mommy of three beautiful babies.
Before we get into all of that, what empowers you on a day-to-day basis, Ella?
Honestly… My kids. A huge motivator for me to get out of bed in the morning is seeing their faces. And coming home to them obviously, but aside from that, I enjoy my work at Saban Community Clinic, where I get to work with such wonderful people who are committed to providing quality healthcare to the vulnerable populations in Los Angeles are just icing on the cake for me.
As a father of three children, I appreciate that. I have kids similar to You're a very important part of my day as well, and I appreciate all of the work you do, balancing being a mom, being a leader in the community, and being in human resources. So, thank you for the great work that you do every day. So let's jump into this. Saban Community Clinic is a community clinic. The four locations in Los Angeles? What do you do there?
Five locations are perfect.
Five locations. We have four physical Saban Community Clinic offices located throughout Los Angeles, from West Hollywood to Koreatown, and we also have a small satellite clinic inside a homeless shelter. Where we provide care directly. to patients experiencing homelessness currently.
Living in the shelter location We do provide medical, dental, vision, behavioral, and health services for our patients experiencing homelessness. We also have one of our favorites... I wouldn't say "benefits." That's what the bond offers: we have a dedicated team of eligibility specialists, and they are there. The entire purpose of the organization is to connect all of our patients to healthcare, whether that's through Covered California, medical, or Medicare. Our staff is trained specifically to help all of our patients find coverage or set up some sort of arrangement, payment plan if you do not qualify for healthcare coverage elsewhere.
Yeah, that's fantastic, and we all know that healthcare is so important in the United States and that it can be pretty costly. And there are underserved communities all over the United States, quite frankly all over the world, for those of you listening in the 14 countries where we are currently empowering talent empowerment podcast
But locally here in Southern California, it's so important to do that work in the community, and Saban does that great work to support those below the poverty line, is what I'm hearing about poverty, and I want to make a significant contribution to the community.
So, as you think about the work you do in human resources, help us understand your purview and what you're doing, and work every day to help you achieve the goals you've set.
I take my role in human resources very seriously from the perspective of really empowering our employees. First of all making the right decisions necessitates having employees who share the organization's vision, mission, and values in terms of catering to these vulnerable populations.
It's not easy work. A lot of our patients have a multitude of experiences that we sometimes don't see at the surface level, right? People experiencing poverty; people experiencing substance abuse issues It takes a lot of work to come in every day and serve our patients.
And make things a little bit better for everybody out there, right? I mean, what you're doing in the clinic is taking in vulnerable folks, and really, you are providing them with the care they need to be the healthiest version of themselves that they can be, which is a real bonus for the community, given the support and love that you all are putting out there is terrific.
So, tell me a little bit regarding your specific job and empowering people, you're doing a couple of things within your role. Employee relations and benefits Is there something that jumps off the page to you that sticks out as a benefit that you offer? That makes you feel good when you're talking to those fellow employees.
That makes me feel really good. All of it.
From the perspective of the benefits, is it helping employees navigate healthcare coverage in the United States? I mean, you and I both know that there's a little bit of bureaucracy going on with our healthcare and just helping employees make informed decisions. How to select a primary care provider, for example, or if I've been assigned to this provider, I don't like them, how do I change? Something as simple as that? I'm finding that some employees just don't know how to navigate it, and I'm approaching simple conversations like that from a place of empathy, like, "Sure, let's help you out." I know exactly how to help you change your primary care provider or navigate a referral that some insurance companies may be kicking back and saying doesn't fit for whatever reason or is denied for whatever reason.
Well, it's helping them navigate those issues, and honestly, I talk a lot about our patients, but the reality is that our employees are also facing the same types of challenges that everyone else has been facing. Coming out of the pandemic, we've experienced loss. We've experienced a disconnect in family, just being apart for so many years? Reconnecting with your family. Addressing things as simple as… I've put off a healthcare procedure that I needed to do two years ago simply because I was too afraid to go into the hospital for surgery or something like that and be alone. Because the hospitals weren't allowing visitors, and things like I had a baby during the pandemic, so I'm afraid to go in there for surgery or something like that and be alone because the hospitals weren't allowing visitors, feeling alone in delivery room until my husband was able to be let in because he couldn't pass the COVID test or the COVID protocol.
So all of these issues, our patients are affected, of course, and our employees and I get joy from helping our employees, A) navigate those benefit issues and B) assist them in taking the time off needed to address those healthcare needs that they have put off themselves just because of everything going on in the world.
Yeah, it sounds like you love educating people on how to navigate the healthcare system, whether that's employees or patients. And what I love that you're saying is that you've got to take care of your people first so that they do a great job taking care of your customers.
And in this case, your customers are an important population in the local community to support. What difference does it make? I think what I'm hearing is: that starts with your people and focuses on them first, right? And then they'll do a great job for the business if they feel well taken care of.
100% and I feel very blessed to work for an organization that sees that in their patients and also embodies that for the employees as well.
Yeah, I think it's really important that we take a moment to take time as leaders in human resources or as business leaders in general and just make sure that we are focused on others. In today's world, we tend to become overly focused on ourselves; how important is it to focus solely on others? It makes all the difference to put others first. In culture and an organization, quite frankly, it makes you a little bit better if you're thinking about other people, right?
Yeah, there are many things to do in life, right? There are many jobs and things and careers, but I feel very blessed to be in this position to serve first so that our employees can serve our patients.
Yes, I completely agree. So, let me ask you: As an example, a Working mom with three children in the modern age, how do you balance all of those competing priorities and still feel like yourself?
I'm very blessed to have a very supportive spouse, I have to have one.
I couldn't be a working mom without my husband, so shout out to him. He is a stay-at-home dad. So, while I'm running around meeting the needs of the clinic, he is holding down the fort at home, which is a unique kind of family dynamic.
He's the dad at the park with the kids when they are on vacation, and he is preparing meals and things that. And unique also to our culture. I’m Latina, so it's not something that we don’t see commonly. He's a rock star; he's everything.
That's amazing, and you know what it reveals to us that we live in a modern world and can make it work; however, we want to make it work based on our family and shout out to the Abrego family for getting it done.
This is the way the world should be, no matter what our background is, where we're from, or what our gender is. What our ethnicity is and what color our skin is. Live the life that you want to live. Be inclusive of other people and make it work for you. That is exactly what happened to you. What are you all up to? I love it and support it as well.
So well done, so we've got a balance in the home. We have a fantastic job that you enjoy. Where do you see your career going? Where do you want to take this over the next five or ten years,
Honestly, I'm pretty content with the work that I'm doing at the clinic. The people that I work with—are my team, my immediate boss, and our CHRO. We have such a great team, as you know everyone is eager to pitch in and assist whenever you require it. if one person is struggling with all the hands-on deck. What do we need to do? What can I take off your plate? So that. You can get XYZ done.
And vice versa they do the same for me, so In the next 5 years, I hope to still be dedicating my time to the Saban Community Clinic. If I'm not at Saban, things change, of course, but at this moment in my career, I really can't see myself leaving the organization just because of how closely my values match those of this organization
Yeah, so there are a lot of leaders out there. Evelyn, right now, trying to figure out how to retain employees. People are moving companies. They're leaving. Leaders aren't sure why or what's happening, and here you are saying I've got a great internal leadership team. I've got a great boss; I've got a great culture. I’m not going anywhere. And are these the most important aspects of leadership? What is important to you about culture that makes you want to stay?
And I and my husband are experiencing the same issues as well. The turnover and everyone's needs are unique, right? For some people, it may be worth it to make the jump for an additional $2000 a year. That's OK, and I respect everyone's decision. They can choose where they want to dedicate their time, But I find that those areas are important to me, and the money, of course, is secondary I would say to myself in my career right now:
All right, well, you're going against the grain on this because most people, when polled, and I'm not sure whom the people polled are, people get surveyed somehow. And they're surveyed, and they say, "Yes, you know, money is critically important, and maybe the most important, but I think you're right."
If we think about it as a general human being, we all want to make a living so that we can support our families, right? That's the basic idea. But then after that, it comes down to: where do I fit? Whom do I work with? Do I enjoy the people that I'm working with? Do I enjoy the entirety of my life? I think sometimes people get impatient and want more and more and more, and then you get there. You may get to more and more and more before realizing, "Oh, that's not what I meant."
So Kudos to you for having a very balanced, thoughtful approach to your career.
Yeah, thank you, and I've worked for many organizations at this point in my career, including larger HR departments where things were very specialized. Everyone did something specific. But I enjoy the generalist capacity and having my hands on a little bit of everything. No day is the same. Every day is unique. And that makes it that much more fun for me.
Yeah, I imagine it does, and some of those fundamentals in the role of given how critical it is to keep the organization running, I guess I'm curious from your perspective: how do you feel? Your identity is tied up in your career. Do you believe that your career defines you?
I feel that my career has impacted the way I work and the way I live in positive ways. In my role, you know I've read contracts. I put together policies or draft policies for my leadership, so even for things like buying a house are things I'm able to decipher the information, read it, and ask questions.
In that way, yes. I've learned a lot from human resources, and I've been able to apply it to my regular life, but also in sort of negative ways, like when I know a lot of people that adore the show The Office. I can't watch it. I cannot take my HR hat off; I cringe at it. the things that are going on. So, in that way, I wish I could take mine. Hate on and just enjoy the show, but I've only heard good things. Nothing against the office; I just can't personally enjoy it in the same way that others can. It's a funny thing about me.
Yes, I mean, that's a fun fact. I feel like at cocktail parties, you need to be sharing what you know whenever you're out and about. I am not big on the office. There are a lot of fans of the office out there because it is so awkward and uncomfortable, but I could imagine sitting in an HR seat and watching the horrendous violations of human behavior within an office setting, this would be a little uncomfortable.
And don't get me wrong; we've used clips from the office to kind of illustrate some issues in training and things like that because we do like to make it fun and engaging for our employees. So, we've used a clip or two from the office to kind of drive home a point here and there.
Yeah, well, it's all meant for fun, and I think they are professionally paid actors and actresses trying to create some humor in the world. Which of these is A-Ok with me as well?
As you think about the holidays are that time of year. Are there some things that you're doing at the clinic that are different during the holiday times? Maybe for employees, or certainly for You know some of the patients as well.
Yes, yes, for patients, I know. We do have Holiday parties and gifts and other things that our teams put together for our patients, including our homeless patients. From an HR perspective, I'm on site today and I was delivering cookies to all of our staff with a little sticker saying thank you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We try to do these fun things, and it's interesting to see how employees receive it.
For example, receive it. Like I said today, I was passing out cookies to our staff and just hearing them say, "Oh, I remember these from last year." Oh, they were so good. I hoped we got the same ones. Simply ask employees, "Did you make these cookies? “I wish… I didn't have the time to bake 600 cookies” But it was fun. It's things like that. Fun things that we put together not just around Christmas time or the holidays but even throughout employee appreciation days and Valentine's Day, we love putting together these little just-in-time thank-you treats. Tell employees that we are thinking about them and that we appreciate them throughout the year. The holiday times
That is something I enjoy. Do you have a strategic calendar that you keep that kind of tells you, "Hey, we're doing these employee events at different parts of the year to make sure you're staying on track?"
Yes, we do.
Employee Appreciation Day, I believe it's around March off the top of my head, but we start planning that conversation in January. Like, what are we doing this year? Especially this year, because last year we gave away these cool sweaters with our logo and everything, and I'm like, "How are we going to top ourselves this year?" I don't know yet.
I don't think you're going to give that away on the podcast today!
No, no, no. I can't.
We're going to keep that one secret until the end of the first quarter, and I'm sure the employees will find it. We were the first to arrive. That's wonderful. The most important thing we can do as an organization is to support the employees and deliver for those employees, so they deliver for our customers, no matter who our customers are.
You were born and raised in the city of angels. For those who don’t know, that is the hip-hop term for Los Angeles, CA's, great area of Los Angeles, and so born and raised, why haven't you left?
I believe I am still connected to my parents via the umbilical cord.
I live 5 minutes away from them, and I don't know what I would do without them. Again, that community aspect, right? I've thought about it multiple times. My husband and I have even visited cities that we I think, OK, maybe this will be a good transition for us, and we always end up back here because, with three small kids, if you want to get away for a date night, for example, you need to have mom around to provide that support or things happen. My husband has to go to the doctor, or I've got an important thing to attend to, and we need a sitter, so I just adore my family. To be honest, I don't know what I'd do without them.
Yes, it is very nice.
We can tell that sense of community and family is priceless. A big deal for me.
Yeah, I believe we can tell you're. And your ability to stay connected to the community and your family is critical to your energy and how you come to work and show up every day, which permeates throughout the organization as well.
Well done Mom and Dad, who are extremely supportive of your decision to stay. I got a shout-out. To them as well, because the family structure is so important as we all go through various stages of our lives, right? And have that support from family members in the community.
As you consider your boss, is there anything they do that makes you feel like they're the right person to work with?
Our leader's level of respect for each member of our team makes it all worthwhile. I mean, there are challenges. Of course, people make mistakes. We run into roadblocks, or We find out too late that some mistake has happened, and now how do we fix it?
Again, the level of respect and emotional resiliency that she exhibits demonstrate fair treatment and overall effectiveness. And to be honest, she has years of experience to share, coach, she's been able to coach us on; it's just another reason I'm still at Saban is another aspect of why I'm still there.
Yeah, well, I imagine that that type of leadership style makes you feel pretty good.
Yeah, definitely. I admire people who can maintain their cool in the face of adversity. I mentioned it again: people, you know we make mistakes here and there, but just treating us fairly, acknowledging our contributions, and thanking us for a job well done, goes a long way and just demonstrates empathy towards the staff.
Do you believe you can lead the way? In the same vein, let’s fast forward. I'm going to promote you right now, so we're there. 10 years later, you're the CHRO, you're right there at Sabon, and now you're leading the A-Team. Do you consider your leadership style will be the same?
I hope so. I want to be just as steadfast as she is. Again, this is effective in the sense of having a clear vision and strategically focused objectives, a clear vision and strategically focused objectives, being able to provide focused coaching and real development opportunities. I hope that I get to be just like her
Well, I love the admiration for great leadership. It's so important, and it's a testament to the overall organizational culture. It truly is bringing in greatpeople.
And I tell her all the time. I mean, I thank her and tell her I'm not trying to kiss her.****, but I love to give credit when credit is due, and just because she's an awesome leader and I would love to be just like her.
Yeah, and you know what's so amusing about it? We can take the highlights, great people are doing great things, and we do incorporate them into our work lives today, and then as your career progresses and you get to the next promotion, the next move, what have you? They gradually become more natural over time.
So, things start to progress, and it becomes part of your personality. So, whenever I see or work with great leaders, I always say, Gosh, this will affect you. Maybe 10 years from now, you'll feel differently than you do today, and we can mimic those great behaviors in an organization as we learn.
Let's get to be a mom. So, we've got three kids. Te hardest part about working full time and being a mom.
I was really worried in the beginning. As I said, Dad is the stay-at-home dad, and I was really worried about me being the working parent and that I would lose that connection or I wouldn't be mom, and maybe he would take on that role.
But I'm pleasantly surprised that I'm still “mom” when I get home, because everyone needs to be on my lap, sitting next to me, or pulling on my shirt, and it can be exhausting when you've given all you've got mentally to get home, seeing those faces and see how excited they are to see me and how excited they are to tell me about their day, the best thing that happened to them, the worst thing that happened to them, or what their friend said on the playground.
You get this second air of energy when you get home and you see them, I’m so appreciative of my husband and again, our family dynamic, because without him, I don't know that I could do the work that I do in the same capacity.
I think I went off on a tangent because I love my kids.
It should be good news that you love and appreciate your children. You said it beautifully. It's great to come home and see their smiling faces and hear their voices. And hear about how their day was.
And that, even though you are a working mother, You're a mom first. And that title of "Mom" still reigns supreme when you come home, which is so important.
So now that we've gotten to know you a little bit, we've learned about your career and the culture of the organization where you're going, how you incorporate that with community and family, and the right type of empathy across. across your organization. Please help us understand. Is there a code that you live by? Is there something that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? Let's understand something a little under the surface that maybe we wouldn't know if we didn't ask.
I'm not sure what drives me?
Well, I mentioned My family and the work I do inspire me to get out of bed in the morning. But in terms of a code, I read a book called The Four Agreements a long time ago, but I can't remember who wrote it. I want to provide you with the author's name
We'll include it in the show. Notes: don't worry.
Yes, it had a significant impact on my life. It's something that I try to focus on in how I approach everything that I do, both professionally and personally.
Yeah, I love it. It's The Four Agreements, a Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. Don Miguel Ruiz is the author of A Book of Wisdom, which is available on Amazon. Not that I am promoting the book, but you can pick it up on Amazon just like everything else.
Yes, very impactful for me.
And I think that's important, right?
So, when we're reading, we're being thoughtful about the information that we're taking in. We're in the right culture and the right setting within your organization, which I think is just absolutely fantastic.
So, Evelyn, if people wanted to find you, they'd be interested in learning more about you. They want to follow you. They want to get to know you. How would they go about doing that?
I think the best way to find me is through LinkedIn. LinkedIn with Saban community clinic, linkedin.com/evelyn, Menjivar, and Minibar spelled MENJIV like Victor AR. That's my maiden name. That's how long I've been on LinkedIn.
Well, well done. And we'll put a link in the show notes, so don't worry if you're driving; we don't want you to try and write that down.
Evelyn, I can't thank you enough for being on the show, but I think more importantly than that, thank you for the work that you're doing day in and day out in our local communities to support those employees and members who come into your clinics to help make Los Angeles a better place. So, thank you for all that great work that you do.
Thank you for having me, of course, and giving me a little bit of a platform.
In a lot of ways, I feel like a normal person just doing human resources, but it's amazing to have people like you who are telling these stories and putting real people to work.
Yeah, real people. The Talent Empowerment podcast features true stories. You nailed it, and I thank you for joining the Town Empowerment podcast.
I hope this conversation with Evelyn has lifted you so that you can lift your teams and your organizations. Let's get back to people and culture together. We'll see you in the next episode. Thanks, everybody.