HRTech Interview with Sandy Ball, Chief People Officer at Aspida

Explore strategies for cultivating a culture of continuous growth and development within Aspida's workforce, drawing on expertise in change management and leadership development.


Sandy, could you take us through your professional journey, highlighting key milestones and experiences that have shaped your approach to human resources and company culture?
My professional journey in HR began at GE and Genworth, where I dove headfirst into Learning and Development before transitioning into the HR Business Partner role. While development has always been a passion of mine, these early experiences taught me the importance of understanding the unique needs of each business and its employees, and crafting a comprehensive HR strategy to meet those needs.

Throughout my career, I’ve focused on creating tailored solutions that build on the foundational principles of employee development. This includes designing customized benefits packages, robust wellness programs, and initiatives that foster a strong, people-centric company culture. By seamlessly integrating HR into the decision-making processes, I’ve cultivated environments where employees can thrive both personally and professionally. This approach not only benefits individuals but also contributes to the success of the entire organization.

My aim is to demonstrate that HR isn’t a separate entity—it’s a vital part of the team that requires a seat at the table alongside all the other key players. When HR works hand in hand with leadership, it can drive the company forward and unlock its full potential.

As Chief People Officer at Aspida, you oversee a wide range of functions beyond traditional HR. How do you integrate areas like marketing, communications, and learning & development to foster a cohesive company culture?
At Aspida, marketing, communications, and learning and development are not just separate functions or boxes to tick – they are the beating heart of our culture. I could not imagine operating without these elements woven into the fabric of our company’s success.

At its core, effectively blending functional areas across any organization is about maintaining a consistent tone and brand experience, ensuring messaging alignment, and prioritizing the overall growth and well-being of our people. This approach enables us to create a strong, unified culture that permeates every aspect of our company.

Our marketing and communications play a crucial role in articulating and reinforcing our values, both internally and externally. They serve as the voice of our culture, ensuring that our brand message is consistently communicated to our employees and customers alike.

Simultaneously, learning and development is deeply ingrained in our culture. It’s about providing our team with the tools they need to thrive, both personally and professionally. By prioritizing continuous growth and skill-building, we foster an environment where our employees feel valued and empowered to reach their full potential.

The successful integration of marketing, communications, and learning and development is the driving force behind our cohesive, people-centric culture. By bringing these areas together, we create a culture that is not just a set of values on paper but a living, breathing part of everything we do.

In navigating the challenges of hiring, recruiting, and retaining employees in a post-Covid world, what strategies has Aspida found effective in attracting top talent and keeping employees engaged and motivated?
Early on, we recognized the importance of collaboration to fuel innovation, and for our business, in-person facetime was critical. But with that being said, so is a healthy work-life balance. Upon returning in person, we established a schedule of three in-office days and two work-from-home days per week. In addition, Aspida introduced Roam Days, allowing employees to travel and work from anywhere in the world, without using up PTO.

Attracting top talent is a big priority, and to do this, we wanted to distinguish ourselves as a growth-oriented organization free from bureaucracy, where individuals feel empowered to own and drive their work. We’ve created a unique brand identity that has served as a powerful magnet for prospective candidates, drawing interest through its dynamic and innovative approach.

We also recognize the significance of development, which is why we are intentional about our programs. We ensure our people leaders are accountable for engaging their teams in training opportunities and preparing emerging leaders for their next roles. I’m very excited about an exceptional 8-month program for high-potential early-career employees, currently being piloted by its first class. We even consider future employees when thinking about development, Aspida’s internship program offers hands-on experience, growth opportunities, and leadership exposure, Aspida attracts talent from local universities as well as across the country.

To maintain employee engagement and motivation, we’re focusing on connection, purpose, and growth, particularly given that 70% of our workforce is comprised of Millennials and Gen Z. From weekly free lunches to wellness programs and team-building events, we are fostering a vibrant and supportive workplace culture.

With your background in change management and leadership development, how do you approach cultivating a culture of continuous growth and development within Aspida’s workforce?
Our Learning and Development team has rolled out fantastic programs aimed at honing leadership skills and fostering personal growth, catering to employees at all stages of their careers. Why? Because we understand that leadership isn’t just about managing people; it’s about being a catalyst for positive change across the board.

We offer a diverse range of training programs for talent, from those designed for new recruits to those tailored for some of our more seasoned executives. Whether you’re just starting your career or an industry veteran, we’ve created a robust learning framework to keep our employees on a path of continuous growth and development.

From our early-career and new leader initiatives to our programs for established managers and executives, we’re all about equipping our team with the tools they need to excel. By embedding a culture of lifelong learning and development into everything we do, we’re empowering our workforce to unleash their full potential and drive meaningful change within our organization.

As someone with experience in executive coaching, what advice would you offer to leaders striving to create a positive and inclusive workplace culture, particularly within startup environments?
I would encourage leaders in startup environments to prioritize building a positive and equitable workplace culture. This starts with leading by example and demonstrating empathy, respect, and a genuine commitment to continuous learning and growth.

Fostering an environment where everyone feels empowered to share ideas, ask questions, and challenge the status quo is crucial. Establish programs and initiatives that promote equity, inclusion, and a spirit of fearless curiosity. Invest in your team’s professional development and personal growth. Create a culture of transparency and trust, so you can empower individuals to bring their unique perspectives and skills to the table, driving innovation, employee satisfaction, and long-term success.

Given your emphasis on building engaged workforces, what initiatives or programs has Aspida implemented to promote employee well-being and work-life balance, especially in light of remote or hybrid work arrangements?
We’ve implemented a range of programs aimed at promoting employee well-being and work-life balance, especially in the context of remote or hybrid work arrangements. One of our flagship initiatives is our comprehensive wellness program, which covers physical, mental, and financial health.

We’ve made significant investment in wellness to create an environment specifically designed for employee well-being, including providing a fully stocked gym and on-site yoga classes led by a certified trainer. Each quarter we host nutritionist programs to educate and support our employees in making healthy choices. Our Vitality Events are another highlight of our programs, offering employees opportunities to step away from their desks and get moving through games, food trucks, pickleball tournaments and other fun activities. Our goal is to foster a sense of camaraderie and give our team members a chance to recharge and connect outside of the traditional work setting.

In light of remote or hybrid work arrangements, we’ve also taken the time to adapt these initiatives to ensure that all employees can access the support and resources when and where they need. The Roam Days we’ve established also enable employees to work remotely from any location worldwide without consuming their PTO. Whether it’s providing virtual yoga classes or offering flexible scheduling options to accommodate personal commitments, we’re committed to supporting our employees in achieving a healthy work-life balance, no matter where they’re working from.

Sandy, could you share some examples of successful community outreach initiatives undertaken by Aspida and how they tie into the company’s broader mission and values?
Krestel Heights Elementary School, located right in our neighborhood, is one of our primary focuses right now. We’re dedicated to showing our care and support for the students and faculty in a variety of ways, such as contributing our time through volunteering, offering our services, and creating mentorship opportunities. Just recently, a team of Aspida employees spent their Saturday at the school, tidying up the grounds and beautifying the landscaping. By investing in the next generation, we’re not only giving back to our community but also nurturing future leaders who embody the values of compassion, resilience, and ambition that we hold dear.

Additionally, we’re regular participants in Habitat for Humanity projects throughout the year. Through these efforts, we roll up our sleeves and work alongside community members to build homes for those in need. It’s a tangible way for us to demonstrate our commitment to creating a better, more inclusive world for all.
Then there’s our annual Rise Against Hunger event—a significant initiative where we come together as a team to pack thousands of meals for those facing food insecurity. Last year alone, we packed around 13,000 meals—a testament to the impact we can make when we unite behind a common cause.

In addition to the group activities, we also offer two days of VTO, or Volunteer Time Off. These are paid days that allow employees to volunteer their time to a cause about which they are passionate. From local animal shelters to Meals on Wheels to donating time at their children’s schools, I’ve been thrilled with how well our team has adopted VTO days and put them to good use. Each of these initiatives reflects our company’s mission and values. Whether it’s supporting education, building homes, or fighting hunger, we’re all about using our resources and talents to help those in need. Because at the end of the day, making a positive impact in our community is what it’s all about.

With the increasing importance of social media in employer branding and talent acquisition, how does Aspida leverage platforms like LinkedIn and Glassdoor to showcase its unique culture and attract top talent?
Social media is actually one of the primary ways that we’re engaging with current and prospective employees. We use platforms like LinkedIn and Glassdoor to showcase how we stand out in such a competitive talent market. LinkedIn is our primary social media account. It is where we’ve observed the highest engagement and allows us to keep our content fresh and captivating, ultimately strengthening our employer brand.

On Glassdoor, a platform primarily driven by user feedback, we’ve adopted a proactive approach – providing comprehensive information about our company and encouraging employees to share honest, thoughtful reviews about their experiences at Aspida. As a result, we’ve garnered a higher rating than many other top-tier companies in our area, showcasing our commitment to transparency and employee satisfaction.

Our brand identity, characterized by our beloved mascot Speedy and our vibrant color scheme, sets us apart in the insurance and financial services industry. We leverage this unique identity as the driving force behind our social media presence, where we share our growth stories, highlight our innovative products with kid-friendly videos, engage in fun trends like the “of course” video, and demonstrate our dedication to community involvement through volunteerism. As a result, we’ve become a magnet for talent, with students eagerly lining up at job fairs to learn more about the company with the logo that breaks the mold. Through strategic use of social media, we continue to amplify our brand message, attract top talent, and solidify our position as an employer of choice in the market.

What role does storytelling play in communicating Aspida’s culture both internally to employees and externally to potential recruits and clients?
Storytelling is woven into the very fabric of who we are at Aspida. Our story is one of resilience, creativity, and drive, and it’s how we connect with our team internally and with potential recruits and clients externally. It’s the story of how we came together during a time of unprecedented challenge, when the whole world stood six feet apart, building an industry-leading brand with a rhinoceros at its helm. It’s about crafting a big-company benefits package within the intimacy of a small-company environment. Our mission—”We’re in the business of protecting dreams”—embodies our ethos, and we don’t just tell this story; we live and breathe it. Our partners and clients aren’t just recipients of our tale; they become part of it, sharing it with others. Belief in our own story has transformed them into our greatest advocates, spreading our message farther and faster than we ever could alone. So, when it comes to communicating Aspida’s culture, storytelling isn’t just a tool; it’s our superpower, uniting us internally, captivating potential recruits, and resonating with clients who become our champions. We also love telling our story through lively and engaging videos. They’re our go-to for sharing our culture, showing off our platforms, explaining job roles, and giving step-by-step tutorials. It’s how we share our journey and inspire others.

Finally, looking ahead, what are your thoughts on the future of HR and company culture in the ever-evolving landscape of work, and what advice would you give to organizations striving to build a thriving and resilient culture in the years to come?
The future of HR and company culture boils down to a few key things: intentionality, support from leadership, and genuine daily demonstration. Think of culture as the soul of your organization—it’s the feeling you get the moment you walk in. Looking ahead, organizations need to understand that culture isn’t a one-and-done deal. It requires continuous nurturing and attention.

With the talent market being so competitive today, culture is a make-or-break factor for folks considering where to work. They want to know they’re stepping into a place where they can grow, learn, and yes, even have a bit of fun. My advice to organizations striving to build a thriving and resilient culture is simple yet profound: stay connected to the pulse of your organization. Listen to feedback, empower your people to run with their ideas, and embrace the inevitable mistakes as opportunities for growth.

While emerging technologies like AI and machine learning are rapidly being integrated into the workplace, we have to remember that culture isn’t something AI can replicate; it’s rooted in human connection and the intangible and invaluable quality we call “moxie.” It is crucial that we keep our foot on the gas pedal when it comes to culture, because in a world where people have endless choices in where to work, why not choose to build something truly special?

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Sandy Ball Chief People Officer at Aspida

Sandy Ball brings 20+ years of experience to her role with Aspida. She previously worked at GE Capital and most recently Genworth Financial as the Vice President of Human Resources. Her background includes change management, executive coaching, leadership development and building engaged workforces. Sandy leads Aspida’s traditional HR functions; benefits, payroll, employee relations and recruiting. However, she also oversees our marketing, communications, social media, community outreach, and learning & development functions. Sandy’s vision over these broad areas has helped bring a wow factor to Aspida’s unique culture of creativity and fun! Sandy has a Bachelor of Science degree from Lynchburg College and a master’s in human resources development from George Washington University. She also holds the SPHR and SCP designations in Human Resources.