The Day the Chicago YWCA Blew-Up HR

When you’re a 140 year-old social services institution that wants to be more like a startup, what do you do? If you’re the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago, you start with your own people first.

“If we’re going to empower millions of women,” Dorri McWhorter, the Y’s CEO told her DisruptHR Chicao audience, “We need to have a strategy that really reflects who we are and do things from the inside out.”

What McWhorter did was to launch “Possibility Partners, unleashing purpose and potential.” She hired an HR leader and changed the title to Chief Possibility Officer.

To the jaded ear, that may all sound like just another approach for yet another engagement program. But it wasn’t and it isn’t. McWhorter set about making changes; changing nearly everything about how people are managed, evaluated, and tasked.

“I know the value of people,” she said. “I’m an accountant. And as an accountant, I know that human capital is our most important asset, even though we don’t put it on the balance sheet.”

“We got rid of everything. We blew up the entire HR function and every single process. It had to be reimagined,” she said.

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Employees were empowered; titles were changed, at the employee’s own suggestion. The policy handbook was overhauled. Annual performance evaluations were abandoned in favor of weekly conversations. And, some employees were fired, which McWhorter delicately describes as “coaching people out of the organization.”

The organization is now more firmly in the 21st century, with the focus on the people the Y serves and staff coming up with creative ways to improve services and programs. Spend 5 minutes listening to this dynamic speaker describe how this all happened.

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