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#024 – The Role of Data in Corporate Wellness Culture – Brian Kropp




Podcast Summary

On this show, we connect with Brian Kropp, the VP & Chief of HR Research at Gartner, who has some useful insight about the role that data plays in the transition to working from home, in employee wellness, and employee engagement. Data can give us great insight to what employees truly feel about company culture.


Bonus Resources

Get in touch with Tim –

Follow Brian on LinkedIn:

Follow Brian on Twitter: @briankropp


Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the Working Well Podcast. I’m Tim Borys CEO of FRESH! Wellness Group. This show explores the diverse aspects of workplace health and personal performance. On the Working Well Podcast we dive into the foundations of what makes wellness work in workplaces around the world. We connect with corporate leaders, executives, and industry experts who are helping make life more awesome at work and home. 

Join us to learn workplace wellness, best practices, personal performance tips, and access resources to jumpstart your personal and corporate programs.


Brian. Thank you so much for joining us on the working well podcast. I’m honored to have you here and we can’t start any interview without saying, what is the last 18 months been like for you? their unique situation  their unique situation.

Yeah so much. I’m sure it’s pretty similar to others with balancing kids at home.

You know, my wife and the office upstairs, me and the office downstairs and trying to like balance all that. But the they didn’t have to worry about a little bit though, is we’re one of those families that got not one but two COVID puppies. We had one dog before and we thought, you know, getting one COVID puppy was a good one.

And then my very persistent daughter who I love dearly for about seven or eight weeks straight every day. Can you just like, daddy, can we get a beagle puppy back? Can we get a beautiful puppy? Daddy can get a beagle puppy and eventually that happened. So, you know, having a lot of dog in the house is probably the best way I can describe the, the last 18 months.

So if you see anything walking around in the background, it is likely dog related or something. If the door opens up, you know, it’s a dog coming in, checking things out. 

Kids are very good at being persistent that way. And ours are still home. In Canada, we start our first day of school is tomorrow.

So it they’re still home. So if we see them running around in the background, that that’s what it is. And so in, in your line of work, From I’ve said to a few of the people were going through the biggest experiment that’s ever happened, and there’s so much data, so much research out there. What are some of the things jumping out most to you? Especially over the last few months with people getting back to work.

You know, so there’s, there’s a variety of things to kind of think about and look at it. If we go all the way back to where we were in, like February, March of last year one of the big things that we certainly saw during that entire time period and what we’re concerned about was with the movement to working from home, are our employees going to actually get work done or are they just going to sit around and kind of watch TV and eat pizza all day, take naps, or we’re actually going to get things done or not.

And one of the things that we’ve learned is that our employees can be incredibly productive and high-performing working from home versus coming to the office and all of the data and evidence suggests that that. It’s true that that performance has not suffered. Then the other thing that people really concerned about during this whole period was will our employees be resilient or not?

Will they be able to find a way to make it through or not? And when you think about all of those challenges and all the concerns that we had. About the mental health of our employees, about the capabilities of our employees to kind of make it through there’s huge amounts of concern around that. But one of the things that we’re really struck by is that even with all these concerns about our employees being resilient, they actually made it through in a lot of ways.

They in fact were incredibly resilient, but the question becomes at what cost and while they’re able to make it through, they were not down so many times they kept getting back up. What was the real true cost of that, which is something that, that we don’t often think about it. It’s interesting. Our very nature as human beings is to find a way through it, but it’s just how difficult it is.

So a lot of focus and attention on that. And then now there’s an enormous amount of attention that, that executives are really focusing on and thinking about it as workplaces kind of open up, then shut back down. Then kind of open back up again and shut back down again. And literally we were collecting data on this last week and what we found is 66% of companies have to leave their office reopenings because of the Delta variant.

And so where a lot of companies were planning on reopening their workplaces in the fall of schools up and back up. Now, most of them are saying we’ll see you in January. From that perspective, I’ve been a real shift out. So. You know, put all that together. I think my biggest takeaway from last 18 months is that what we know this month is different than what we knew last month, and it’s going to be different next month, what we know and what we’re doing, what we’re talking about. That’s, that’s probably the biggest takeaway from this whole experience. 

Yeah. And you know, that, that brings up a great point into the bigger picture perspective research and data is it’s always changing and you’re, you’re able to pull a new information as things shift. And in a world of misinformation where everyone with a Facebook or a TikTok account is an expert or influencer.

How do you get like valid, solid research and data to shine through? 

It’s incredibly tough. We’re a little bit lucky slash blessed slash hardworking kind of, depending upon, you know, the, where we are in any given day. But we surveyed about a million people here and we asked them on an ongoing basis, all sorts of questions about the performance, the relationship with a manager.

Overall feelings of health and wellness, kind of you name it, anything about work we’re collecting survey based data. We also run the exit surveys for about 300 companies who were on the new hire surveys for about 400 companies or so so we collect all of that data. We also download a copy of every job posting that’s put on the internet effectively, analyze that, to understand what it is that companies are working for looking for from a talent perspective.

We survey heads of HR every month, we usually surveyed about 300, 400 more. So to get a sense of what they’re thinking about. And then the other part of it, we have just within our HR practice in gardener, we have, I don’t know, upwards of 1500 to 2000 conversations in a month with those executives in a much more qualitative sense.

So we put all that together. We analyze all of that to try to figure out. What’s actually happening. And it used to be the case that I would figure out an answer to something. And then the answer would be good for a couple of years. And now we find that, that answer to something as good for a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months, if we’re lucky.

So just the cycles of everything has gotten so short that you have to be constantly on top of it in the other part of that is just to be willing to say, Hey, what I thought I knew last month might not be true anymore, and okay to admit that the world’s changed and your beliefs and advice might need to change along with that.

That’s okay. Yeah. And that because you’re typically dealing with C-level or at least VP executives, and you’re getting really good quality information. How, how are you seeing the communication throughout companies being able to share that information with employees? Because they’re not getting the employees that are not getting that information typically 

For the most part now, so here’s here’s something really interesting for you then this is work that we should been doing really recently about as we switched to a more remote slash hybrid world and the fear of employees in the office, and a lot of that informal communication starts to go away.

Do your employees actually have a good sense of what’s happening as a company and the vast majority of them see. That they’ve lost sight as to what’s going on. Not only in terms of what the company is doing, what the company’s trying to accomplish, which is very important because that lack of transparency that lack of understanding creates all sorts of perceptions of unfairness. It’s like, I don’t know what’s going on someone else’s better information than me. I feel like I might be treated poorly because of that. So there’s all sorts of questions there, but where it actually starts to play out where in addition, where, where it plays out, which is really, really scary is a lack of information that managers have about their employees.

So there’s kind of a communication question. About helping course to understand what’s going on. But the information gap actually will be the most problematic where it’s managers not understanding what their employees are actually doing. So, you know, I mentioned a little bit ago that all of the data that we’ve looked at, employees that are working remote or hybrid, their performance levels are give or take the same as employees who are coming to the office. You don’t see any consistent differences or any consistent changes or patterns in office versus remote from a performance perspective. But the majority of managers disagree with that fact. So about two thirds of managers, believe that employees that come into the office are higher performing employees who work from home a similar amount, say they’re more likely to promote someone who’s in the office than somebody works from home. Even if their work is the exact same. 

And they’re more likely to get bigger comp increases to people that come into the office than people work. So that is backed by itself, as it means bad performance management, bad decision-making bad reward strategies. But I’ll leave something else on top of that, which just makes it downright scary, wrong, which is men are more likely to want to work from the office and women are more likely to want to work from home.

So managers are biased against people. Work from home. Women are more likely to work from home. What’s the pandemic standard. The reason why the bias is that bad. And for me, You put that together and the gender wage gap that exists in a lot of places and we can debate how big or small it is. I’m having to find teachers on it, but it’s there and it’s real.

It’s going to get worse and the gender. Disparity in senior leadership positions, it’s going to get worse. And by the way, that same pattern plays out where people of color are also more likely to want to work from home and come into the office. And so that similar pattern has the potential play out there as well, but don’t do anything, but this lack of information and in a sense.

Not feeling informed and not being able to evaluate, acknowledge the contributions that people are making is one of the biggest risks that we’re facing as we move into a more remote hybrid sort of working environment. 

And what, I guess, what are the conversations that are happening at the executive level? What do we see as the fix to that or the solution?

Yeah. You know, that’s certainly one part of the solution. We’re just simply being aware of the problem. Right. And so if you realize that these sorts of things are occurring and problematic than what you are likely to find and what you are about to do is a lot of the tools that you’ve done and use before round adverse impacts for different things. You should have to start applying that in additional ways, in new ways, around how people are working in addition to some of their demographic characteristics that are there. 

But the second part of it is and what we’re starting to see, some companies do is rely on new types of technology to better understand which employees are making bigger contributions.

So one of the things that’s really fascinating to me is with the shift to remote and hybrid, so much of our interactions have moved from in-person to video. And that creates a problem in the sense that, well, I’m not sure what people are doing as a manager. Are they really working? Sorry. I, to see them at her desk, like, you know, like what’s going on there. However, that same technology has got the ability to give us new and better insights in terms of how people are performing. So when you give an example there’s new technologies out there that during a video call, can track everyone’s facial expressions take all of the conversation that occurs, turn it into text, and put analytics on it.

And then the combination of other sorts of things you can basically look at, who’s making the biggest contributions in those meetings. So if I speak and everyone else nods along and it’s like, ah, very smart, then I would get more performance points. To show that I was having a bigger contribution in contrast if I were to speak and everyone else sort of like turn away or shake their head or roll their eyes or do other stuff like that, then I would get negative performance parts. So it sounds kind of creepy and maybe it is in some ways, but the direction that we’re going in, the world that we’re heading into. There’s going to be more technology-based evaluation of the work that we’re doing to help us understand the contributions that any individuals in faculty. And what I just described, it’s not just to have a leading edge, it’s several steps in front of that.

And it was like at the very painful bleeding edge part of it. And so, you know, we’re not saying get rid of your managers and replace them with video recordings of everybody yet. But those sorts of technologies. And they’re going to start to find their way into how we’re understanding our employees and the contributions that are impressionable.

So it’s an awareness. It’s a technology question. It’s a communication question. It’s an ethics question. A lot of stuff goes into solving that and understanding that. 

Well, and that’s yeah, that’s interesting. I know it’s been heading that direction in a number of different ways and people leadership has always been seen as a soft skill.

So I think a lot of people are going to have a hard mindset shift around having AI and algorithms really determine some of what are the typically considered soft skills. Yeah. And, and what about like how, how does that happen with fit in with the people writing the algorithms, if there’s a bias written into the algorithms?

Yeah, no, it is one company we’re working with. I’ll tell a bit of a funny story. They as kind of summary question and But it’s, it’s not about specifically about the algorithms, what kind of better understanding how to work and communicate and can talk to them close to that. And it was that insurance company and they have a call center where a lot of our employees kind of manage calls and it’s really easy to measure their performance in terms of number of calls that they get through air rates, speed, that they do this sort of thing.

So like real simple, straightforward performance metrics. And. They started tracking their employees as they starting to working from home. And the concern was like, again, you know, are people actually gonna be productive or not? And what they found that was really interesting was employees who are working from home on average were justice productive, not more so than coming to the office.

So I think another data point was talking about, but one click further was what they realized is some employees were much more productive in the morning. Others were much more productive in the afternoon. Some were more productive if they work for an hour, took a break somewhere productive. If they work for two hours, took a break from all sorts of different patterns.

So I was talking to them and they’re like, we figured out this awesome thing. We can now tell our employees and give them suggestions about where, when to work. What are the times that are best for them? Like all that sort of stuff, better be more productive. They’re probably gonna be able to work less hours and still get as much done.

This is going to be great. And I have to talk more. I was like, well, did you tell them you were tracking all this information? Like, no. Why would we tell them we were doing that? And it’s like, well, I understand you were not telling them because you want to see what their performance look like and you like Hoffer and a fact, yeah, I get it. But now if you’re going to use that data to then make decisions from it. Don’t you think they are going to get upset? If you find out like all of a sudden you’ve been tracking them, am I turning on their camera on their laptop as they’ve been working on lots of stuff. And so they had to go back and do is tell him we’re going to start doing this, a cut at the same data again, based upon the same results.

And then we can tell them from as well it’s going up, but the bigger point here is. With this technological infusion in terms of how work gets done and how we’re measuring, understanding people. One of the things that’s really, really important to do is just to tell our employees what, in fact we’re doing to communicate to them about what our intent is, what we’re trying to accomplish, why we’re trying to accomplish it what the data looks like, how it’s helping you make decisions about how to manage the workforce and so on.

And then also helping them understand how. Impact that data one way or another, because if we don’t have that sort of ethical approach to the data we’re collecting from our employees, that the approach that we’re taking in terms of using AI to manage things and so on really bad things are going to happen, maybe not to us, but one of the other companies that we might work with and that’s going to have a spillover effect from it.

So one of the most important things that companies need to be doing now is having a. I didn’t call it whatever you want, but a chief data ethics on. They need to have their own version of the 10 commandments about your employee data, about what shall be used for and what it shall not be used for their own kind of conceptual bill of rights that are there, Magna Carta, whatever it is, whatever now G like but something that they clearly communicate to employees, here’s what it is.

Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s why we’re doing it. And here are the rights that you, as an employee have alleged, we’re not going to cross. That is going to be absolutely critical for companies to build and develop as we’re moving into a world that just has a lot more technology. That’s impacting our understanding of employees and sort of work that you’re doing.

That’s yeah. And with so much, so much data being collected, how it’s used, how it’s implemented. I love those points. One thing that we work with clients on quite often, it’s around health and wellbeing of the organization, as well as the individual employees. And when we talk about performance increases, one of the biggest benefits or boosts of important performance is helping people just live well and be well overall wellbeing.

 If someone’s fatigued and you know, they’re not sleeping well and not taking care of their body, they’re, they’re going to perform poorly to say the least. And I know with learning and development within companies, a lot of times it’s just focused on. Work skills or career industry-related skills, but we started to see more companies now looking towards teaching people, personal performance skills, every everything from planning and organization to things like you mentioned when, when they’re most productive, are they most productive in the morning? How to batch tasks effectively.

And companies are starting to look at setting up their workdays to allow. Employees to perform at their best instead of, Hey, we’ve got, you know, 24 straight meetings back to back on zoom and, you know, you might have three minutes to go use the washroom at some point, but that’s about it. And so what, what are you seeing in the data related to that? And like learning and development and restructuring the, I guess not just hybrid, but even in the office workdays.

There’s a lot going on around that. One of the most important things is working with employees to help them understand and what kind of, you can measure a TYT, which is Work. I do work. I do together work that I need to be with other people to do or work. I don’t need to be with other people to do.

Right. So there’s collaborative work. I could do asynchronously, which would be in one of those quadrants there’s work that I do by myself about other people, just another one, but there’s other work, which is, I can only do it when I’m physically with other people. And you have to think about kind of what that two by two looks like.

And one of the things that’s really important about being successful in a hybrid world is helping people understand what work to do. Because if that’s misaligned, then you’re going to have a disaster. So if employees think they can do this work from home, but their manager wants them to be in the office, then there’s going to be problems.

If the manager thinks they can do it from home, but the important thing, save that for me in the office, then it’s gonna be, why would I have to come in to do this? Like all sorts of questions. That’s like helping people to understand what tasks to be wearing with you is real important. 

But what are the other major shifts that we’re seeing that’s really, really interesting is that companies are realizing a full picture of wellness of their employees is not just about the employee. It’s about the employees, family, and the post. And one of the things that we’ve really seen and slurred and observed in time is that there’s lots that I can do for that person who works for me, there’s even more I can do for their family.

So I’m gonna give you a couple of examples. There’s a financial services company that we work with in the. And what they’ve actually done is they shifted to a virtual learning platform. But the schools where their corporate university was didn’t have enough space to have kids go to school and social distance.

And they had to, those kids had to have kind of two days in three days and helps us. So what the company did was actually opened up the corporate university to the schools in the community and said, just like. So the schools can then go in there and spread out and they were able to get kids in school in person in a safe way.

Right. So that’s a way that they really made it a good, positive impact. Another example, just again, from a learning and development perspective. There’s some companies that we’ve worked with and what they’ve actually done is they’ve opened up their L and D platform to not just their employees, but the spouses and loved ones of their employees.

So now you can go on that corporate platform. If you’re married to someone who happens to work there and then learn the latest programming skills or financial acting skills or whatever it might be. So they’re not just making that person, they’re not just up skilling, that person upskilling that person’s family.

And if you’ve ever been in a situation where your spouse is unemployed or underemployed, that creates a lot of stress for sure. And if you can help someone’s spouse find a job. You’re you’re creating an employee for a lifetime. Another example a lot of companies when they’re post travel, they have like a, a toll free number that you can call and get some emergency.

So what some companies that work with, they’re basically giving that number to their employees, children who are going to university. So if something happens to them, while they’re at university, they can call that number to help them out if they need it, then the reality is like hardly anybody called.

But if you’re an employee, knowing that there’s a lifeline in case of emergency, just takes away a lot of your mental stress from that perspective. So the bigger point here is not necessarily those specific examples that are interesting, but the bigger point is, as you’re thinking about creating a truly holistic wellness program. Yes, absolutely think about how you can help that employee in terms of support that you provide for them, skill building coaching mental health breaks, all those things matter enormously. But if you want to have an even bigger impact, ask yourself the question, how can you help that person’s family and community?

Because if you do that, then you can have an even bigger impact. In terms of helping your employees overall wellness from a very holistic perspective. 

Yeah, absolutely. And I can see that being even more beneficial to entry-level employees as well, who maybe, maybe don’t come with the pre-existing educational background.

They’re not as experienced in the industry that. They’re younger. And so how do you start that development at a young age and, and really foster it? Yeah, one other really interesting one. There’s a company that we work with a large employer in a small community. And one of the things that they realized early on on the pandemic was a lot of their employees who are married and have the same address, started to have different addresses at a greater rate than they did before the pandemic. So they’re married, couples were getting divorced at a higher rate. Once they were forced to be with each other all the time. And so one of the things that, because of that, that they started offering to anyone was marital couples counseling as part of their overall wellness program. Now, when you do these sorts of things, you have to be a little bit careful because you don’t want to be sending emails to your employees or. Hey, Tim. I notice you’ve been fighting with your partner lately. You up for some couples counseling. That might be a line that’s a little bit too too far to cross. But are there other things that you can recognize about what’s going on with your workforce that gives you a sense of, are there new types of support that you’re going to be providing to your employees to help them out?

Well, and that’s a huge part of benefits plans in general is just making people aware that certain services exist because so many services go unused or underutilized across companies. And they companies say, oh, we have this program, but maybe 2% of people use it. 

Well, this is actually a really important point because the way that we evaluate the ROI, a lot of, a lot of those programs is based upon usage.

And we say, well, not a lot of people use it. So therefore it’s not very valuable. Which at some level is true, but you have to take a step back and say where’s value actually generated in value is generated in from an employee perspective. When you look at engagement metrics, employee satisfaction metrics, I have learned that knowing that those programs are available if needed is what has the equal impact on employee engagement?

W w he could actually use in the programs. So what you want to be thinking about with these programs is evaluating the awareness that you’ve got of a portfolio of programs, not just the ROI based on usage of any specific program from that perspective, because the other benefit, if you really build this portfolio awareness of what’s going on, then what you also find is employees say, well, I know about this group of programs, and I know my company does a lot to help me.

I’ve got this unique problem. I bet they’ve got something like it, but if they don’t know, there’s a portfolio of programs available, you haven’t done that awareness building that portfolio. Then when their unique situation comes up, they’re going to say, well, my answer, my kind of like, they’re not even thinking about your company in terms of being able to help them up.

That’s why the real and most important message. When you think about impact on employee engagement is not usage of the programs, but it’s awareness of the programs and driving awareness of the programs is absolutely critical. And in most situations it’s terribly low in terms of employee awareness of those with.

Yeah. And th that was exactly the point I was trying to make, too. I think in a lot of the larger companies, there’s a team of people that are analyzing those stats and they have that information there and they can promote because they have the resources, whereas in the smaller to medium companies, they might offer those things.

And it’s part of the plan, but then they don’t have someone who’s responsible for driving that that awareness or the usage in the programs. 

Yeah. There’s solutions to that. You might not have the resources to drive awareness of each different program, but you can use your company values to drive awareness that you care about your employees.

So like if you’re the CEO, for example, in every town hall that you’ve got, if you’re just to spend two or three minutes saying like, Hey, we care about you as employees and you matter to us. And here’s an example of what. But just constantly repeat the message of, we care about you. Then, then go get them back their hand.

It’s like, oh, they do want to help. And then that might help kind of get them to come to water. If you will kind of get the horse to go to water or whatever that analogy is where they knew. Cause you care that there’s things that are available rather than having to know the specific thing. That’s there, but you should just let them know that you care, that they actually matter go beyond like our employees, our most important asset to actually doing something.

Well, and that has to be driven up by action and by examples and following up, I call it the integrity of following through with what you say. 

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. You know, it’s, it’s like, you really want to know what your values are when you’re tested. It’s really easy to say that stuff matters. But when you have to make real decisions about it, that’s when you know, stuff actually matters.

Yeah. And this last 18 months we’ve seen that in spades. Companies have been called to task and many of them have stepped up or very well. Then there are some that, some that haven’t and have maybe bungled it in certain ways. And let’s, let’s talk a little bit about that. You, you work a lot with the CHR role and supporting them in their leadership teams.

And earlier we chatted a bit about how. Not all companies have CHR overall in the organization. It’s typically a VP of HR, but how have, what have you seen in terms of how the conversation around employee performance and wellbeing changes when a company has that role, that C-level role? Yeah. You know, it I think it comes down to a couple of things.

I think it comes down to Are we doing a series of top management practices for our employees or are we changing the lives of our employees? There was this was back in August of last year. Give or take. And I remember there’s this guy knows a CFO. He’s curmudgeony and he’s pretty. To be honest and the whole thing, right?

He’s like, he’s like the type of guy that if you’re making a movie in Hollywood and the producer is like, find me a CFO. If I know the guy, like he’s mean and he’s like, he’s that guy he found a perfect job for himself, which is great. And I talked to him every once in a while and he called me up.

He goes, Hey, Brian. What’s up. Is that something you learned? And I thought, given his background, it’s gonna be like, oh, there’s a way to allocate the cost of capital or arbitrage between these interest rates and like financial wizardry of like billions of dollars, right? Like Scrooge McDuck, swimming in like gold bullion in his giant pile of money, like sort of thing.

And he’s like, What, and he goes I’ve learned that the people that work for me are human beings. And I was like, really? And he goes, yeah, they’ve got lives and families and kids, and those things are important to them. Yeah. And he goes, yes, I have the sporadical realization that they’re not just workers from regular people that come into my office and I talk to, and they just happen to be part of their lives working for me.

So the reason why I share that story is I think it kind of gets to the, sometimes the difference when companies have a head of HR versus when they don’t. They have this realization that there’s people that happen to be working for them that have lives and needs and wants and dreams and desires and hopes and all that sort of stuff.

And when they don’t, they have employees. So you want to be asking yourself a question, if I do you, do you have workers who are there from, you know, available nine to five to do work? Or do you have people that happened to work for you? And if you’ve got a head of HR or not, which of those two beliefs do you want to have?

If you have a head of HR, you’re more likely to have the one where you got people that happened to be working for you rather than just workers. But that I think is really the question. And one of the biggest takeaways for me from this last experience, these last 18 months or so, it’s just do you have workers or do you have people you have human beings that, that radical idea that.

There’s people that happen to be working for me. And they happened to be human beings with real lives real concerns, real issues real needs. And what type of company do you want to be? That, that, I think in so many ways, how you answer that question, define. So much of the decisions that you then make about the wellness investments.

You want to make the rewards decisions. You want to have the culture you want to create, why you should have an office building or not. What is the purpose of it? All? This was things, but that at its core, I think is the most fundamental question. And it seems like there’s an obvious answer, but when you step back and think about it, have you really been acting that way?

And kind of those, those come to, to truth moments are really important for companies to to work through right now in particular as we’ve gone through, I’ve gone through Delta V who knows what’s going to happen next, open up workplaces, who knows what’s gonna happen. Do you have workers or do you have people?

Yeah. Workers, human beings from being crystal clear on what your point of view is there well guide you more so than any other decision can possibly make 

For sure. And that transitions well into sort of what we’re seeing now with the reopening, do we send people back to the office? Are there mandates.

On, on how to, I guess, proceed. Now you had mentioned something in an article I read from, from you, it was talking about a K shaped recovery from COVID and that some people are thriving and others aren’t. Can you talk a bit more about that? 

Yeah. You know when you look at workforces as a whole there’s a lot of focus and attention around the challenges that people have. And they’re very real in terms of kind of feelings of isolation loneliness, mental health challenges, that very real there’s also other people that have absolutely thrived working in a remote environment. And we see companies making a variety of mistakes as they’re thinking about their office reopening strategy.

And the two most common ones are one. Well, once we get this COVID thing past us, we should go back to normal and we’ll be good to go. And that’s a little nonsensical when you think about it, because. And what other decision would you say? Well, we’ve had this fundamentally different experience for the last two years, so that we’re going to take zero prem and pretend it didn’t happen. Like employees don’t think that way they’ve got that, that has forever changed how we’re going to work. So we can’t go back to where we were before. The other mistake that companies have made or are making is to say, well, here’s what we love about being in person. Here’s what I love about remote. Let’s just put them together and that’s our hybrid strategy.

You know, the, the best analogy that I’ve got is I love tacos. I love spaghetti spaghetti tacos seems like a terrible idea. Right. And that’s the equivalent of 

That’s my favorite dinner!

Well, I destroyed it. So if you don’t like spaghetti tacos, do you like tacos? Spaghetti is maybe it works better that way.

I’m not sure. But what you got to do is. Think about what is the environment that you want to create? That helps people that work in very different ways, thrive. Because if you go back to where we were for the people that have really benefited and thrived in a more remote experience are going to suffer.

If we go to a fully remote environment, Then the people that have been struggling for the last 18 months are going to continue to struggle that doesn’t work either. So what we have to do is redesign our organizations and we design our work for a hybrid world rather than trying to adapt our in world work to a virtual world.

You have to design for hybrid, not adapt for hybrid and that’s important to manage this case shape experience. So that’s kind of one part. And then as we’re adapting to what hybrid, it looks like, you know, the, the, the question that emerges more often than not is well, can’t, we just get rid of a lot of our office space and yeah, we can get rid of something. But what we really need to be doing is giving their office space a new job, a new purpose, because while we’ve talked a lot about how performance isn’t any different, one of the things that is different in a remote in a hybrid world is turnover is higher. And people at work remote and hybrid and more likely to.

And that’s true for companies. It’s one, if you work remote, you’re no longer constrained by location to where you could work. So you should have more choices. They have more opportunity, which makes it more, makes it more like that. It’s a meal plan. But the other part of it is people that work remote or hybrid, having a weaker, social connections with their coworkers, they’re less likely to say, I’ve got a friend at work. This is highs, aren’t strong. And. It’s easy to quit your company. It’s easy. Quit your manager. It’s hard to quit your friends. So what you need to be thinking about to support all types of employees and make sure that there aren’t some that thrive in some that that struggle is how do we redesign our work and our workplaces to create those social connections and to build those emotional relationships amongst employees, not just the rational relationships that are associated with us doing that.

Yeah. As you’re thinking about that reopening strategy in that office and workplace redesign strategy, you’ve got, gotta be asking yourself, how are we going to exchange the experience or workplace to make it social and engaging? So people can build those relationships that are here because otherwise, if you don’t, your performance will be fine, but your retention will be bad. And that’s not a good outcome to be there, but you have to really design social interactions to build that retention. Do you have some examples of companies that you’ve seen or, you know, you’d have to use names, but that are doing that well. And that are, have designed that are in the process of designing processes.

Some that have, and companies are trying different things. To be honest, I don’t know what is the right answer there, but here there’s things that companies are doing to try to make it, make that happen. Salesforce, for example, they bought a ranch and they, their plan is to send once a quarter, everybody on that team to that ranch to spend a week per quarter there. Now there’s probably not a lot of companies that can go out and buy a ranch. I get that but the point being Caney Creek, at least dedicated time in a different location, that’s not where they do their work. And so kind of one of the big tenants. It needs to be in a different space. It can’t, you can’t meet your workspace, your social space.

Right. So that’s kind of one important component of it. But the, the question you should be asking yourself is how do we create a space where our employees would rather come to our space to do work and stay at home to new work when it matters? That’s an important step, an important question to be asking yourself still very early in terms of how companies are starting to think about that.

But what I feel pretty confident about is just changing your offices, staff, a bunch of TVs in them, or a lot of people can dial in via video is probably not going to work. To create the social and emotional connections that you need to create. Yeah, it’s fine for conducting meetings, but you’re not, you’re not going to bond over that zoom, happy hours have worked out so well. That’s what we’re about. That’s clearly what we want from that perspective. Awesome. Now with the you know, we have touched on it a little. But we don’t have to go too much detail a vaccine mandates with companies. We’re seeing lots of that. I know in Canada, Canadian government just said for all federal employees, they’re mandating vaccines now has been pushed back from the unions. And so what what types of, what data and research are you seeing out of that? Yeah, this is something that’s been changing really quickly. Back in January, only 2% of companies who are planning on mandating. In June it was about 89% last week it was up to 16%. So it’s certainly moving in one direction.

You can look at that and say, well it’s only 16%, but it’s more. Well, you could say, well, it’s gone from 2% to 16% and that’s pretty big. And that sort of changed from that perspective. You know, what’s interesting is when you take a step back and say like, why are people mandating vaccines now? And one of the biggest things that has shifted is that as companies tried to reopen their workplaces, one of the things that they found is that employee said, I might be vaccinated, but I don’t want to go back to a workplace unless I know everyone else has faxed. So one of the biggest shifts that’s there is companies try to reopen their workplaces and nobody came back. And so maybe in vaccines to prevent, say from that perspective, interestingly though a lot of companies are very hesitant to mandate vaccines for their frontline employees, their hourly employees, the person in the store and so on. And part of that is the war for talent right now for that segment is so intense.

They can’t afford it from a time perspective because. Yeah, it depends on what data you look at, where you happen to be located. You might have between 20 and 50% of that segment, not vaccinated. And are you going to if you’re trying to hire them, are you going to wait effectively six weeks before they can start working? And the answer is probably no in one of those cases. So there’s very few mandates around that segment workforce, but, but here’s the real question, right? Which. Are you actually going to fire someone if they don’t get vaccinated? I was talking with a friend of mine who’s financial planner many years ago. And I was like, yeah, I should buy an apartment and rent it out. Like, what do you think about that? And he’s like, you know, you can do that, but here’s the question you have to ask yourself. If there’s a single parent who’s lost their job and can’t make rent, are you going to kick them out? And I was like, no. I can’t do that. You should not be a member. And he was right. That’s the same thing with the vaccine mandate. If you’re not going to fire people, you don’t get it. You shouldn’t put a mandate it because if you have a minute, That you don’t enforce, then it’s just meaningless and worse. If your mandate says you’re not allowed to come into the workplace, if you’re not vaccinated, you get to continue to work from home. Then it’s like, well, I’m not vaccinating them. Cause they’re not going to work from home and you can’t force me. Right. So if you’re going to pursue a mandate, you also have to be willing to fire people, even if they’re your best friends. Even if you’re there, you’re your highest producing salesperson, your best general manager.

If you’re not willing to fire that person, if they’re not vaccinated, you should not put that in data. And there’s plenty of companies that have, that are willing to do that. But as you’re making that decision to put a mandate in or not, are you willing to fire your best sales performer? Are you willing to hire your best general manager if they’re not vaccinated? And for that reason alone? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s the question you really should. One of the questions you should be asking yourself about this. Well, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how this plays out over the coming few months is a it’s a, yeah, I think we’re going to have a whole ream of new company I guess, decisions to, to make. To look out for the future, UCLA. Yeah. And you know what we know this month all that I knew about what I know this month is that next month it’s probably going to be different. So based on all the, the stuff we’ve talked about and what you’ve seen happening for companies trying to really provide the best health and wellbeing for their employees. What’s what are the top one to two things that they can, they can do that doesn’t require massive infrastructure changes. How do they benefit the employee health and wellbeing the most? I think there’s two things to really be thinking about. This radical idea that your employees are actually human beings, keeping that in mind.

And then to the other questions really ask yourself, is, am I being fair to my employees? Because as we go into this next generation of work in cyber experience, there’s going to be all sorts of situations where things are inequitable, like who gets to work hybrid and who doesn’t because by the nature of some jobs you can, and. For the people who can’t work hybrid, what are you going to do? Is that just you pick a bad job or you do something else for them, but thinking about how you’re being fair and equitable to your employees, those two questions. What do you think second they’re human beings and how are we fair to our human beings or fellow human beings apply the first thought the second question. We’ll guide you to a good result in 90% of the decisions that can make. Yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much, Brian. You’ve been a wealth of knowledge and insight and I appreciate you joining on the show. Now where can people find. Yeah. So so Brian chief research at Gartner central practice find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, any of those sorts of places and more than willing to connect and have good conversation about some of these issues, because nobody knows the right answer right now, but we’re all learning together. And now more than ever the chance to learn from each other is one of the most important things that we can talk about. And you’re asking more questions and getting more information collated and re research with anyone else out there. So. All right. Awesome. And I’ll post your details on the, in the show notes and people can contact you through there.

Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.


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