How this CHRO onboarded through the pandemic

Blackbaud's Maggie Driscoll says the company's culture has helped all employees, including new ones like herself, to remain connected.
By: | September 23, 2020 • 6 min read

:In hindsight, Maggie Driscoll is grateful she spent her first three months as chief people officer of Blackbaud like she did. She strove to become engrained in the business, meet employees, build relationships. She deliberately saved emails and phone calls until the end of the day so she could spend the bulk of her time getting to know the employees and the organization, which provides cloud computing solutions for the “social good community”: nonprofits, healthcare institutions, schools and more.

“My focus during those first few months was deliberate and purposeful—to be present, value each person’s time and learn,” she says. And she’s glad she did because, overnight, everything changed.

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Driscoll joined the company in January and, just a few months later, was tasked with overseeing the vast people implications of the coronavirus pandemic, including the global shift to remote work. She brought with her nearly 30 years in HR leadership, including the last 15 as BNY Mellon, most recently as global head of HR for corporate functions and business partners.

Her career, she says, has shown her the value of investing in individual talent, which has become even more clear through the current crisis.

See more Insights from a CHRO HERE.

Maggie Driscoll

“My philosophy is each person brings a unique gift to our company, and it’s important to understand their journey and what keeps them motivated,” she says. Driscoll spoke with HRE about bringing that philosophy to life, as well as what keeps her motivated.

HRE: You began in your position at Blackbaud just before the pandemic started; how quickly did you have to shift priorities? 

Driscoll: In March, Blackbaud’s leadership team quickly shifted our global employee population to work from home. Our focus was (and continues to be) on doing what is right for the overall health and wellbeing of our employees and their families. We realized during this time that employee communication from our leaders was even more important than before. We began ongoing weekly communications from me—focused on the why, how and support we were offering while going virtual—and our CEO. It was important to the leadership team, especially early in the pandemic, to let our employees know we are here to help. The weekly global leadership team, led by our CEO, met every Monday, focused on our customers and our employees with open Q&A. It was all about keeping communication front and center for all.

We also implemented training focused on helping managers lead virtually. And, we made sure not to lose sight of our larger goals around creating a thriving culture that engages our employees, develops and supports great managers while providing all a sense of real belonging. We remained laser-focused on our customers during this time, too, and quickly innovated to come up with new ideas to help and support them during this time.

HRE: How did the transition to remote work go for the company?

Driscoll: Blackbaud was able to quickly pivot our global workforce to remote. Blackbaud’s infrastructure and technology enabled us to pivot immediately. We have a robust disaster-preparedness program already in place, which is designed for hurricanes and blizzards. This time, it was the 100-year pandemic.

Related: COVID-19 accelerates uptick in remote work, wellbeing

Driscoll: Our employees focused on supporting each other and our customers. Nothing was off-limits. Our employees innovated and came together in teams to offer the best to our customers. From my perspective, it was a visible way to see one of our values, “We Work As One,” come to life. We offered a voice and subject matter expertise to help our customers and one another keep moving forward while the world was pausing.

HRE: Many companies have simultaneously been having conversations about racial inequality. How does Blackbaud intend to use the current environment around racial injustice to advance your D&I efforts? 

Driscoll: The discussion of race and equality is front and center at Blackbaud. We are taking this time to learn, listen and make progress. I’m very excited that we have just hired our first Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Michael B. Moore, to help lead us on this journey. We are offering new trainings for all our employees, re-reviewing our policies to make sure our language and practices are inclusive as we develop a long-term, sustainable plan to further evolve our thriving culture at Blackbaud. As part of that process, we are creating platforms to encourage listening and expanding the support of our affinity groups.

We are committed to creating and fostering a culture where everyone can feel part of the whole and have the confidence to be themselves. We know that winning companies will fuel the development of diverse talent.

HRE: You’ve been in the HR field for several decades; how has the skill set that HR leaders need to have evolved during that time? 

Driscoll: One constant throughout my career is I’ve always focused on building relationships with an intense focus to learn and become better in the next moment. Each opportunity in my career has given me the chance and opportunity to understand the business (manufacturing, financial services, technology) and how its employees provide value to customers, internal customers and communities. My past experiences make me the person and leader I am today, from the highs and lows of the dotcom era to the tragic loss of an employee during Sept. 11 to working in financial services during the financial crisis. Each of these chapters in my career have made me who I am today, which I hope is recognized as a leader who cares, with empathy but who knows the business and will make the hard decisions. It’s a balance. And, I know the experience of guiding a company through this pandemic will stay with me and be another pivotal moment in my career.

HRE: Is there any type of HR mindset shift you’ve had to undergo as you transition from working for a financial firm to a software company? 

Driscoll: It’s about learning and leaning in to understand. Ironically, many financial services companies are technology companies, so there are definite similarities, such as the need to have an exceptional customer experience and offering services that are competitive across the globe. I try to keep it simple. I inherently believe we all want to do what is right, have best experiences professionally and personally. That’s industry-agnostic.

HRE: Outside of work, what are you passionate about? 

Driscoll: Up until now, I’ve been a big entertainer. I enjoy cooking, having friends and family over to stay connected, laugh and tell stories. Recently, those have been celebrated via technology. We had my brother’s birthday with all the family via Zoom.

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I also really enjoy estate sales; the history and the beauty of the pieces and bringing something old and making new. It’s a story book. I also love the art of the hunt. Of course, in-person estate sales have moved online for the time being. It’s not the same, but I still enjoy looking for the diamond in the rough. And, in our new socially distance world, I enjoy taking walks with my husband on the beach in the evening.  There’s something special about feeling the fresh air and looking for the special shell/stone to keep for my new collection of memories.

HRE: Do you have a personal mantra that keeps you motivated—either personally or professionally? 

Driscoll: No regrets. We all have the same 24 hours (sleep is a must). The remainder of the day is what I own. I appreciate no one can do everything, and it’s OK to ask for help; we all need it. We can always do better in the next moment, and I’m doing my best each day to go big with mitigated risk. In those same 24 hours, I make sure I check in on friends and family. I may not see them but a text or chat helps realize we are not alone.

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.