CTHRA Aspiring Leader Spotlight: CBS’ Michelle Martin

The Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association (CTHRA) has honored Michelle Martin, vp, employee engagement, CBS with the Aspiring Leader award for her dedication to addressing difficult workplace topics like mental health. Since 2007, CTHRA has acknowledged these individuals for going beyond their typical duties and thinking outside the box to shape their company culture and the field as a whole. Here’s a peek into how this HR superstar has transformed NBCU for the better.

Michelle Martin, VP, Employee Engagement, CBS

Known affectionately as the “Angel of HR,” CBS’ Michelle Martin is the perfect balance of a strong businesswoman and the employee advocate. Using her technical expertise in areas including managing complex benefit plans, Martin is able to bridge the gap between the company’s various business needs and those of the employee.

She takes a particular focus on areas that are underserved, specifically mental health and caregiving. Her award-winning education campaign “I’m Fine” had brochures mailed to 14,000 employee homes following the release of a series of webcasts on everything from substance abuse to suicide. Her legacy includes backing policy changes that allow employees the ability to use sick time to care for family members, and supporting the implementation of MSK Direct, a program to support eldercare and those fighting cancer. One of her most innovative ideas was “Health Fair in a Bag,” providing about 5,000 employees at smaller locations who don’t have access to an onsite health fair with information they’d receive at such an event.

Always looking for holes in the resources provided by her department, Martin remains driven to making CBS the best place to work for its employees. “Often I will run into someone at an event or in the elevator and they will ask if CBS has anything to help with a specific issue,” Martin said. “If I don’t have a good answer or way to help, I ask myself—why aren’t we helping with that? No is never my first answer.”

Q&A With Michelle Martin

What was the biggest challenge you faced in trying to shed a spotlight on mental health care at CBS? Do you have any advice for other HR professionals looking to address this issue?

Everyone at CBS has been very supportive of this important healthcare initiative. The real challenge is in finding the most impactful programs, the ones that really work, and everyone in the company is very committed to that. In many cities, most notably NYC, it is very difficult to find mental health providers that will accept insurance. We recently launched a pilot program where employees and dependents can text with a coach, and we also have been offering virtual visits for mental health.

My advice for HR professionals looking to address this issue would be to look for meaningful programs that are readily available.

In all of the healthcare initiatives you’ve begun or taken part in since joining CBS, what is the program you have been the most proud of and why?

If I can only name one, I would say it is our cancer screening programs. Screenings are very personal, and people tend to call me about their results and let me know the outcome. It is an incredible feeling to know we saved someone’s life through a screening. Years ago, we started doing onsite skin cancer screenings, and early on an employee who was diagnosed with Melanoma sent a thank you note saying they never would have gone for a screening if we didn’t offer it.

I keep an email from 2010 posted on my wall with the subject line “You Saved My Life.” The employee who sent this to me was diagnosed with stage one cancer at one of our screenings. We receive at least one of those emails a year.

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