Aimee O'Leary
Written by
Aimee O'Leary

This interview is a part of the Inspire: Cities series – meet the Chief Inspiration Officers. Inspire: Cities is the local arm of the global movement from Inspiring Workplaces. Our mission is to change the world, with you, through the world of work. One workplace, city and community at a time. View the full list of Cities here.


What does an Inspiring Workplace mean to you?

An Inspiring Workplace is one where the company AND its employees succeed – a partnership. When a company helps its employees further develop their skills and networks and employees focus on helping their company achieve its goals, everyone wins.

Do you have a personal purpose? A why? Something that drives you daily?

My mission is to help a company AND its employees succeed by creating a more meaningful, productive, and engaging workplace experience.

What do you think is the top priority when it comes to people at work this year and why?

Onboarding. Companies must re-onboard ALL of their employees to make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of expectations and protocols.

The past 12 months has seen an acceleration of positive change, mostly due to it being enforced upon employers. Change like trust, empowering choice, flexibility, investment in wellbeing and the reduction in the stigma around mental health. Our question is, how many employers stick to this path and how many revert to type?

Employees have higher expectations of their employers because of the pandemic.  They will be the ones to hold their employers to those higher expectations. Employers will need to be vigilant and work with employees to create the workplaces that meet or exceed employee needs.

A follow up to the last question. How do they stay the course should they wish to?

This relates to what I think is the top priority for companies as people return to the workplace: Onboarding. Companies will have a limited window to work with employees to define the future workplace experience. Everyone will be returning to a different workplace than the one they left because of the pandemic. Setting expectations and working with employees to address their needs will result in more engaged employees, increased retention, and quicker progress toward company goals.

You’re a founding Chief Inspiration Officer for Inspire: Cities. What are you most looking forward to learning/ sharing with your local community?

I’m looking forward to learning from the community, challenging my assumptions, developing connections with other members, and helping to elevate the focus on employee experience and employee engagement.

Tell us something about your city or the people that make it. Something the rest of us won’t know.

While NYC is known as the “concrete jungle,” we have beautiful parks, tree-lined streets, and planters full of seasonal flowers.

Do you think in-person events will be valued more than ever before after the past 12-18 months?

Yes. I think people will welcome the opportunity to meet others in-person to combat the loneliness and isolation of the virtual world.

How do you think attendees will react to The Inspire Ring and our unique event format?

I think there are 3 things that will attract people: equality, camaraderie, and storytelling.

Equality: Everyone can be seen – a CEO could be seated next to a new graduate.

Camaraderie: There will be a commonality in why people attend.

Storytelling: As one of the oldest forms of communication, the use of storytelling will keep people engaged and help them better recall the information in the stories.

What are three areas of focus for organizations looking to improve the people experience?

Managers: Hiring and promoting people who have the qualities of good managers.

Communication: Storytelling

Automation: Removing the monotonous work so people can focus on the unique gifts they bring to the company

What do you think is the most important quality in a leader?

Empathy. In order to help your people succeed, you have to understand where they are and what’s important to them. You must build trusted relationships.

What’s your go to productivity trick?

I block the first couple of hours each day so that I can start the day working on my priorities instead of everyone else’s.

Who was the last person to inspire you at work and why?

Jessalin Lam. While we’ve known each other for a few years, we began working together in 2021 when she became the President-Elect for the Association for Talent Development New York City Chapter.

She’s a woman of ideas and action. When she sees an issue, she finds ways to call attention to it/address it. It’s her passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) that has helped me and the rest of the Board become better advocates. And it’s not about her. It’s about helping everyone better understand the part they can play in making the workplace and the world a better place.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

The best advice I’ve received was from my paternal grandfather – advice that he and my grandmother took to heart. “Mind the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” By focusing on the present moment and what is needed, you’ll reach your bigger goals.

Name one song that fires you up, when you need to get motivated and fast

I don’t have a favorite song. I do have a favorite type of music: EDM (Electronic Dance Music).  Whether House, Techno, Trance, Chill, or any of the other formats, the beat keeps me moving.

Best place, (other than your own city) that you have ever visited?

I am a huge Disney fan. While I have had the opportunity to travel the world, my favorite place to visit is Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Each trip offers the opportunity to meet and interact with people from all over the world.

Not only is it fun to visit its four theme parks, it is also educational. I always learn something each time I visit.

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