Susan S. Mahaffee: Transforming Workplaces Through a People-First Approach

Susan S. Mahaffee: Transforming Workplaces Through a People-First Approach

Over 20 years ago, an ordinary HR summer job ignited Susan S. Mahaffee's extraordinary passion for elevating people and transforming workplaces. What began as a college gig filing papers and answering calls ultimately sparked a career-long dedication to empowering employees and shaping company culture.  

Through perseverance and grit, Susan steadily rose through the HR ranks across public and private sectors, amassing diverse expertise that equipped her to drive change. Whether coaching executives at multinational corporations like Mars Incorporated or spearheading initiatives at family-owned businesses, Susan consistently enacted her people-first philosophy.  

Empowering Others Through Strategic HR Consulting  

Susan's journey in human resources started with humble beginnings; she learned the value of connecting with people, solving their problems, and supporting them. Throughout college, she continued to work full-time while studying, gaining valuable experience and certifications in HR.  

Over the years, Susan's career flourished, and she worked with various companies in different industries, from small family-owned businesses to large multinational corporations. Her expertise and dedication led her to become the Global Director of People and Organization for Mars Incorporated and hold key roles in other established organizations. Susan is also a sought-after speaker, addressing topics like the pandemic's impact on underrepresented groups. Her passion and expertise have been recognized, and she was named one of The Top 50 Women Leaders of Ohio in 2022.  

With an impressive educational background that includes an M.B.A. in Global Business and Organizational Leadership, a B.S. in Management with a concentration in Human Resources Management, and an A.S. in Advertising Communications from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, Susan is actively involved in various professional organizations. She participates in the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Executive Network and the Association of Women in Metal Industries (AWMI) Mid-Atlantic Chapter. Additionally, she serves as a Board Member of the Anne Arundel County Society for Human Resources Management (ASHRM) and takes an active role in her local chamber of commerce.   

In 2022, driven by her commitment to empowering others, Susan decided to embark on a new chapter. She launched her own business, People Rise LLC, to provide strategic HR consulting services. With her depth of experience, Susan helps small and medium-sized companies tackle their biggest people challenges.  

Guiding Workplaces to Rise  

People Rise LLC's mission is clear - to empower clients through practical tools, exercises, processes, and expert advice. The company believes in the power of transparency, integrity, and openness, ensuring that clients receive top-notch services that address their unique needs. "We stand for openness, transparency, and integrity," Susan explains. "We want to show that HR is more than just hiring and firing. It's a resource for good ideas to put people at the center."  

One of the driving forces behind the name "People Rise" lies in the poetry of the legendary Maya Angelou. Inspired by the famous words "Still I Rise," Susan embodies the spirit of resilience and perseverance. With this name, she aims to encourage clients to rise above challenges and embrace growth with unwavering determination.  

People Rise offers a diverse range of services, from 1:1 coaching for career development to providing HR concierge support for answering clients' pressing questions. As a fractional Chief People Officer, Susan can provide clients with the leadership they need to navigate challenges and optimize their HR function.  

With every interaction, Susan and her team at People Rise are driven by the belief that focusing on people is the key to business success. Their passion for promoting a people-centric approach and providing strategic HR consultancy has earned them a reputation as proven people advisors. By empowering clients to rise and achieve their fullest potential, Susan and her team continue to make a significant impact in HR, one transformational step at a time.  

With her depth of experience, Susan guides organizations on maximizing their most valuable resource - their people. "When you know better, you can do better," she says. Through People Rise, Susan empowers executives and employees alike to keep rising.  

Championing Workplace Well-being  

This people-first mindset also drives Susan's passion for championing workplace well-being.  Having faced her own challenges with balancing personal responsibilities and professional demands, she understands the toll it can take on individuals when mental health is overlooked. "I have been someone who struggled to be everything to everyone and do it well," she shares. "We all get to a place where sometimes we just can't do it all." Susan is an advocate for open discussions about mental health, aiming to break down the stigma and encourage more supportive environments. For her, mental health and well-being are not just buzzwords; they represent an essential aspect of employee care and business performance.  

Leading by example, Susan recognizes that as a leader, she has the power to influence her team positively. By showing vulnerability and being open about her own experiences, she creates a safe space for others to share their struggles and seek help when needed. She believes that leaders who prioritize mental health and well-being set a powerful example that fosters a culture of understanding, empathy, and support.  

From a business perspective, Susan highlights the tangible impact of employee mental health on productivity and overall performance. When employees are mentally well, they can unleash their creativity, think critically, and contribute their best efforts to the organization. On the other hand, neglecting mental health can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and a decline in overall employee engagement.  

To create a more supportive environment, Susan suggests that leaders should prioritize mental health initiatives and integrate them into the organization's culture. This may involve offering flexible work arrangements, considering the implementation of a four-day workweek, or providing resources for employees to seek professional help if needed. A people-centric approach means putting employees' well-being at the forefront and acknowledging that their health and happiness are fundamental to the company's success. As a leader and an advocate, Susan continues championing healthier, more empathetic workplaces where people can bring their best selves every day.  

Navigating the Future of Work  

With the future of work already here, Susan offers valuable advice for city leaders seeking to drive success in their organizations. First and foremost, Susan emphasizes the need for leaders to rethink the workforce and the workplace. The traditional notion of presence equating to promotion must evolve to embrace purpose-driven work. With the rise of remote work and hybrid models, leaders must identify when and where in-person collaboration adds maximum value. Brainstorming sessions and collaborative tasks are ideal for face-to-face interactions, while individual focus work can thrive in remote settings. By embracing this approach, leaders ensure that their teams work efficiently and that they can unleash their full potential.  

Moreover, Susan urges leaders to be exemplary role models. Recognizing the influence of their behavior, she advises leaders to be mindful of how they travel, how many hours they work, and their approach to taking time off. Leading by example, being transparent about taking vacations, and encouraging a healthy work-life balance will set a positive precedent for their teams to follow.   

Susan's consultancy, People Rise LLC, stands out as a leading light dedicated to empowering organizations and their people. With her steadfast focus on elevating both employees and company performance, Susan makes a meaningful difference for her clients. She provides strategic guidance to help businesses reach their full potential. Susan S. Mahaffee's passion for empowering people has transformed workplaces, advocating mental health, and inspiring leaders for success.  

The Editorial Team

The Editorial Team

Hi there, we're the editorial team at WomELLE. We offer resources for business and career success, promote early education and development, and create a supportive environment for women. Our magazine, "WomLEAD," is here to help you thrive both professionally and personally.

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