Meet Tracy L. Ward, PartnerHero’s new Chief People Officer

PartnerHero’s motto is: “People. Without Borders. Without Limits.” We think the best way to live up to that ideal is to change business as usual from extractive to regenerative, by investing in people, everywhere, for extraordinary outcomes. To that end, we often say our responsibility to the people who make up PartnerHero is to “help everyone leave here a better version of themselves.” 

Tracy comes to PartnerHero at a critical time in our growth as a company. Over the past three years, we’ve grown our team by over 200%, and meeting our commitment to our people as we scale requires strong leadership and clear vision from the top to build the necessary support structures. 

Tracy brings to our executive leadership team a new perspective and years of experience in people operations and talent development. We’re excited by her passion and energy for meeting the challenges of scaling our global team and transforming the way business is done in our industry.

We sat down with Tracy to learn more about her background and how she ended up at PartnerHero.

Tracy, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I grew up in a small, rural town in North Carolina called Rich Square, with my parents and my sister. We were a small family that lived close to other family members. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents who were both entrepreneurs. They owned a convenience store, farms and land that they worked and also rented out land to other farmers and hunters. They had their own businesses for as long as I can remember, until they retired. I played sports in high school and college but basketball was my love. 

From my parents and grandparents, I learned how to care for people, a strong work ethic and how to be independent and take care of myself. I started working with my grandparents at a very young age. I always enjoyed having my own money and I saw how they took care of people in the community. People would buy things on credit and pay it back a week or two later then it would start all over again. My grandparents, and the care they provided for the community, really shaped who I am and influenced many of my decisions, including one to study in a field connected to helping others. 

After doing undergraduate studies at Winston Salem University and working for a while, I went on to get a masters in Rehabilitation Counseling from East Carolina University. My first job in college was at a group home as a residential counselor. When I graduated I had a job waiting for me in outpatient mental health where I worked with severe and aggressive boys and then went on to work at an inpatient psychiatric hospital where I did a number of things from counseling, case management, community education/marketing and eventually got promoted to establish and run inpatient and outpatient adult and geriatric behavioral health programs in community hospitals. 

After a few years working in behavioral health, I transitioned to corporate America where I’ve worked mostly in the BPO industry. I started in a call center in sales and then moved into HR where I held different roles from talent acquisition, leadership development and engagement, to the full spectrum of HR services. I like HR because I enjoy variety. I enjoy coaching others and building teams, which comes from my days as a point guard playing basketball. I like having a hand in developing others and seeing light bulbs go off when they realize they have the potential to do more. I love brainstorming, sharing ideas, and problem solving, and in HR, there are challenges that I get to help solve every day. 

Why are you excited to work at PartnerHero?

Most of all I’m excited because I can tell how the culture resonates throughout the company, even just from the interviews. Every person I spoke with, from my initial conversation with [COO] Heather Casey to every person in the interview process, was authentic and clearly put people at the center of their work. I believe that in any business if you take care of the people, they will take care of the products and services. 

I’ve worked in the BPO industry for many years and I see how PartnerHero is a BPO that doesn’t operate like one. I know how cutthroat the business can be and I’ve seen BPOs cut corners and not take care of their people.

To be able to come here and share my experience at a company that values relationships and culture the same way I do is something I’m looking forward to. 

What are some of the biggest opportunities you see for PartnerHero to improve the employee experience?

I won’t know until I’ve been at the company for a few months; I like to listen and learn before making any changes. That being said, I know there is an opportunity to standardize the way we do things globally and to make it clear to all associates that HR is there to serve them and ensure they are growing, learning, and happy at work. 

In the long run, I’m interested in building career paths for associates, outlined at all levels so it is transparent what their future opportunities look like. I want to make sure we have a pulse on associate satisfaction throughout the employee lifecycle, not just once or twice a year, and this can’t all be done through surveys. I want to build a culture where managers can truly lead by having regular dialogues with their reports so they know what associates’ true aspirations are and so we can help them achieve them. I’ve always had a side business as a financial coach and I want to bring financial wellness into the conversation of total wellness. 

One dream I’ve always had is to create a rewards program for front line staff with incredible, life-changing rewards, like paying for childcare, or paying six months of someone’s rent or even buying them a car. Part of the program would be listening closely to what associates need help with in life and then finding a way to make those things happen. 

Mental health has emerged as an area of focus for us moving forward. How do you define mental wellness and what is your philosophy on mental health in the workplace?

Mental health is always important but it's highlighted even more in the midst of the pandemic. We have to do more than just employee assistance programs. We need to provide resources for associates that they can tap into individually and invite their families. I’ve reviewed the 2022 benefits plans and I love that PartnerHero emphasized mental health as a key strategic initiative.. 

Mental health is extremely important and that shows up differently for different people. We have to respect what that means for each person.  Now more than ever, people are looking for flexibility in their work, whether that’s remote work, working from home or opportunities to use their paid time off so they can take care of not just their families but also themselves

We need to be open to addressing needs based on what people tell us is going on for them. This goes back to having managers really know their team, know their colleagues, be able to recognize behaviors enough to look someone in the face and say “hey, are you OK? Is something going on?” If it's something they as the manager can’t handle, knowing that PartnerHero has resources within People Experience to connect them to the right resources. 

What are some things you like to do outside of work?

One goal I have for 2022 is to marry my partner of eight years, LaToya. We were supposed to get married in 2020 and of course it was postponed. As of February, we are officially raising LaToya’s 13 year old nephew. LaToya’s mother, who was raising him, passed away from COVID in 2020. It’s been a tough few years on all of us and we’re excited to bring him into our lives. Family is really important to me, I’m close with my mom, my sister, my niece and her two-year-old son. LaToya and I love to travel, we love the Caribbean, the beach, great food and comedy. I love to laugh. To relax you’ll find me in a comfortable place reading a good book.