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The Future of Work

Season 4, Ep. 5

I won’t start by saying 2020 was a rough year. We know that already.

We know that 2020 brought many businesses to their knees, requiring profound pivots, workforce and workplace changes, policy changes, and how it significantly altered how humans work.


As an executive coach for mid-sized to large organizations, I was in the thick of these changes every day (and still am). It wasn’t uncommon to receive texts after hours and on weekends as my clients scrambled to find their footing in a brave, new, uncertain and constantly changing world.

Based on my work with over a dozen diverse organizations over the past year, below you’ll find my predictions for what I believe The Future Of Work will look like.


#1 The Human Experience (HX) Will Replace The Employee Experience (EX)

Net-Net: Seeing employees as humans and helping them grow in all areas of their lives

Focus on: Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial health

Infographic: Learning together and how it benefits our brains

It’s ok to be human at work now. We’ve seen the inside of one another’s homes, heard our colleagues’ children crying, dogs barking, and more. Thank goodness. Now we can connect to one another without the veneer of stilted professionalism.

Employee Experience (EX) was a 2-dimensional way of looking at humans. Now we care about the entire Human Experience (HX) and support our people to have more fulfilling lives, which of course helps them bring a more productive version of themselves to their work. Thanks to Gartner’s 2020 Reimagine HR Employee Survey, employers that support their peoples’ lives overall enjoy a 23% increase in the number of employees reporting better mental health, plus a 17% increase in the number of employees reporting better physical health. Additionally, employers benefit from a 21% increase in the number of high performers (compared to firms that don’t provide the same degree of support to their employees).


#2 Personal And Corporate Value Alignment Will Support More Purpose-Driven Work

Net-Net: Truly living corporate values, not just hanging them on the wall

Focus on: Being authentic, walking your walk, talking your talk

Infographic: Employee engagement has a recipe… follow it!

We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We all want to know we’re making a difference. We all want to work with (note I don’t say “for”) organizations whose values align with our own. According to some 2020 Gartner research, 74% of employees expect their organization to become more actively involved in current cultural debates of the day. How did you feel about some of the more public displays of CEO support of their values, such as certain social media companies unplugging accounts of hate groups and other malevolent social forces?

The more a CEO models the organization’s values, invests in addressing challenging or even uncomfortable social issues, the more engaged their employees are. The same Gartner survey found a leap in employee engagement—from 40% to 60%— when their organization acted on today’s key social issues. Wow. If you need some help setting/refreshing your values, here’s a kit to help you.


#3 Hybrid Work Will Be The Norm—So Build A Virtual Culture

Net-Net: Release control over the work environment

Focus on: Where your people feel most productive and connected to their team/the organization overall

Infographic: You need a GAME Plan to make this work

Hybrid workforces are already becoming common, with employees working in their home, a quiet coffee shop, or the office (or some variation). What I’m curious about is the varying interest in a hybrid that I’m seeing across my clients. Some employees are itching to get back to the physical office as much/as soon as possible. Others are ok coming in 1-3x per week, based on what’s needed. What do your employees want? Find out. Regardless, you’re going to need to have a GAME (Growth, Appreciation, Measurement, Engagement) plan to keep everyone “together” as a tribe. See the infographic above.

A recent Gartner survey found that 64% of managers believe that employees working in the office are higher performers than remote workers. And they said they’d be more likely to give in-office workers a higher raise than remote workers. This isn’t the experience of my clients, though, who have found that remote workers are often higher performers. Gartner’s data showed the same: for full-time workers from both 2019 (pre-pandemic) and 2020 (during the pandemic) remote workers are 5% more likely to be high performers than those who work from the office.

And be aware of gender disparity here too: many of my clients are finding that men are more interested in returning to the office versus women. If some managers believe the in-office employees are more productive, this could affect salary increases and promotions, which again could reinforce salary disparity between genders. No Bueno.


#4 Employee Monitoring Will Be Replaced By Performance Monitoring—And Trust 

Net-Net: If you don’t trust them, why do you employ them?

Focus on: Monitor performance and results, not hours clocked

Infographic: Motivation can be crushed by leadership—make sure you don’t mess this up!

Did you know that as a result of the pandemic, more than 1 in 4 companies installed technology to passively track and monitor their employees? Wow. Imagine the privacy issues that come from this, as well as the trust issues. Now imagine if this happened to you—would you feel like your employer was looking over your shoulder all day? Spying on you? It’s a sticky topic, and according to Gartner's research, less than 50% of employees trust their organization with their data. This is not surprising, since 44% didn’t receive any information regarding the data collected about them and how it would be used. Whoa. A little respect, please.

Expect to see a bevy of state and local regulations this year that will establish limits on what employers can track about their employees. If you choose to monitor your employees digitally, be sure to over-communicate and be super transparent about the details. Regardless, you’ll get the best results (and highest morale) by simply establishing clear KPIs, success metrics, goals, OKRs, whatever you prefer to call them, and monitor individual performance instead.


#5 Flexible Working Hours Will Become The Norm 

Net-Net: Ensure overlap that’s essential, let go of control for the rest

Focus on: Letting people bring their best self, according to their work rhythm


Infographic: the Feedback Frame will help you give effective feedback


Are you a morning person? Or an evening person? What would it be like to work at your peak time each day? How much more productive and fulfilled could you be?


My clients are becoming increasingly flexible re: when to let their employees work. Some are requiring availability (not continuous though) between 9-5 pm, meaning the employee can take gap time during this range as long as they check email at regular intervals and attend key meetings. Others are setting up split shifts (a mom for instance could work from 7-8 am, then once the kids are set, from 10 am-2 pm, and again a check-in on email/etc from 7-8 pm). Get creative with exploring what your people need and what serves the business. This will require us to become better at giving feedback and often doing it digitally. See the infographic above.


Gartner’s 2020 Reimagine HR Employee Survey revealed that organizations offering employees flexibility over when, where, and how much they work saw 55% of their workforce as high performers. Yet at an organization with a standard 40-hour workweek, only 36% of employees were considered high performers. Again, it’s time to measure results, as I mentioned in #4 above, versus time clocked.


#6 Freelance, Temporary Help Will Be Welcomed To Optimize Resource Allocation

Net-Net: Stay lean and get extra help as needed

Focus on: You’ll need better communication and more Standard Operating Procedures to ensure quality and consistency with temp help

Infographic: Be sure to include your temp help in your tribe

We all need more diverse capabilities and skills from our teams than ever before. And Gartner’s analysis shows that organizations are now listing about 33% more skills on job ads in 2020 than they did in 2017. Why? Because the world is moving faster, technology is moving faster, we have more diversity in the work we do, so we all have to level up to meet ever-changing needs.

Many of my clients are looking for temp help, using UpWork, Fiverr, and other sites to get the specific (often narrow) help them need at the moment. We’ll need great communication to make this work, to help onboard everyone faster, and ensure consistent quality work.


#7 Neurodiversity And Mental Health Support Will Be Destigmatized. 

Net-Net: We all have our struggles, so let’s support instead of judge

Key Focus: Create a Neurodiversity [link to neurodiversity blog] policy (if you don’t have one yet) and internal support groups

Infographic: Stress, change, isolation are devastating to us all… learn what these do to the brain so you can sidestep this risk


I was very happy to learn that even before the pandemic, Gartner's research showed that 45% of well-being budget increases were being allocated to mental and emotional well-being programs. And now in the midst of the pandemic (and let’s be realistic—for the ongoing future) we’ve seen mental and emotional well-being brought to the forefront for all organizations.


Per Gartner, by late March 2020, 68% of organizations had introduced at least one new wellness benefit to help their employees navigate the pandemic. And in 2021, we’ll see organizations join my clients in widely offering “mental health days”, support groups, compassion around ADHD, OCD, Bipolar, GAD employees. Just like some of us have a bad back and can’t sit long in a given position, these mental and emotional challenges will be viewed the same way—with acceptance and non-judgment.

We’ve still got a way to go to whatever the new normal is going to be. With the above tools you’ll be better positioned to capitalize on it, and with a happier, healthier, more productive workforce.

More Episodes

9/23/2021

The Surprising Link Between Customer Experience And Employee Engagement

Season 4, Ep. 11
How would your customers describe their experience with your firm?Please take a moment and rate the Customer Experience (CX) that you believe you deliver:Better than all companies in any industryThe best in our industryConsiderably above average in our industrySlightly above average in our industryAverage for our industrySlightly below average in our industryConsiderably below average in our industryNow, what CX would you like to deliver within 3 years?[Credit: Temkin Group Q1 2017 CX Management Survey]Data: Q1 2017 CX Management Survey of 180 organizations with $500 million or more in annual revenuesAccording toAimee Lucas, Customer Experience Transformist and VP atTemkin Group, 55% of all the companies surveyed want to be best in their industry or better than all companies in any industry when it comes to the level of CX they deliver they deliver within three years. That’s a big crowd wanting to get into a small, small slot.As Aimee and I caught up at the recentNorth American Employee Engagement Awardsit became crystal clear: it’s time to stress the connection between Employee Engagement (EE) and CX. Now.Customers today have a louder voice (think Yelp and other rating sites), have access to more information on you and your competitors, and as a result expect an increasingly awesome experience. And they should.Meanwhile your competitors are launching new products and services faster than ever before, and are consistently raising the bar on CX. And they should.So what’s an organization to do?Arm yourself with these 3 CX-Boosting Strategies!3 CX-Boosting Strategies1) Become A CX Leader—By Focusing First On EmployeesCX leaders (companies whose CX is significantly better than their competitors) have more engaged employees. Here’s whatTemkin Groupfound:[Credit: Temkin Group Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, 2017]Base:5,552 U.S. consumers employed in for-profit organizationsHow exactly does engagement work? What happens in the brain when we are engaged?Engagement comes from feeling good, from passion for the company, from meaningful work, from attaching part of one’s identity with their job. And this comes down to some neurotransmitters and a hormone. As leaders when we intentionally help the brains of our employees to generate dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin we create good feelings for the organization. Dopamine (anticipation of reward) and serotonin (feeling good, well-being) and oxytocin (bonding, feeling connected to others) can be created via a number of programs in yourCultural GAME Plan.So how do you become a CX leader and get engaged employees? This is where HR comes in…2) Get HR To Connect EE And CXHR owns the cultural programs, so it’s key that they are first looped into Employee Engagement (EE) so they can help support CX. First a strongmission, vision, valuessets the tone for your tribal purpose and code of conduct (oxytocin). Next,acknowledging employeesfor being models of your values creates social validation (dopamine and serotonin). There are many more ways that you can read about in my many blogs onemployee engagementand in #3 below.Next, when HR runs regularSBM Indexes, you can easily diagnose and cure and engagement dis-eases so you can continuously raise your engagement bar.It matters, it’s a reflection of them and what they believe in, who they are, how they show up in the world.According to Temkin Group’s research when HR is significantly involved in CX the organization is 50% more likely to be a CX leader. Wow.Is HR involved in CX at your organization?Credit: [Temkin Group 2016 HR Professionals Survey]Which brings us to the next item to check on our list, specifics for creating EE and CX.3) Clarify Exactly How/Where HR Can Support EE And CXHere are some ways that HR can forge the EE-CX link…Employeecommunications– rich in safety, belonging, mattering and boosting positive feelingsEmployee training & new hireonboarding– see my blog on how to ensure key emotional touchpoints in the onboarding processPerformance motivation– learn how to create intrinsic motivation in this blogAwards, celebrations, incentives– learn how to celebrate and incent in these blogsEmployee listening programs– learn how to be a better listener in this blogMiddle manager engagement efforts– learn how to engage leaders and the cost of low leader engagement in this blogRecruiting & hiring processes– learn the latest way to recruit with self-revealing questions hereAll of the above examples and blogs will help you keep the brains of your employees in theirSmart State, which will in turn help your customers spend more time there too! Smart State = Engaged, Aligned, Tribal, Together.
9/9/2021

Right Person, Wrong Role?

Season 4, Ep. 10
People get into the wrong roles for a number of reasons.Perhaps there was a reorganization and the company didn’t want to lose them, so they were reallocated without consultation or training. Maybe they were promoted beyond their capability without a training plan. Or maybe they were hired to do a project that’s now irrelevant and they’ve not been redeployed to produce meaningful results elsewhere. And then there’s our all-time favorite, the Untouchables.Do you have Untouchables? Also, known as Sacred Cows? These are people who were hired because they are related to (or friends with) the CEO or other powerful team members. Even though their performance is sub-par, they get promoted or allowed to stay on for emotional reasons.[Shutterstock]Case Study: Company XCompany X was a tech consulting firm with a $37 million in annual revenue and approximately 270 employees, about two-thirds of whom were consultants. They were tracking at $137,000 in revenue per employee… ouch! The company was run by a married couple, John and Sarah, who initially contacted us about perfecting their sales process. They felt that their salespeople could be performing much better. What we found was amuchbigger issue.Assess: What We FoundThe findings were grim: a fear-driven culture with 53% employee turnover each year. Company X did an exceptional job of technical training for new hires, only to see them leave for higher pay within a year.The two owners of the company had virtually oppositeMeta Programs, and this was causing chaos. Sarah (Active, Toward, Options, Difference) would proactively start an initiative, rally the troops to move toward the new goal, then jump to the next option/project. John (Reflective, Away, Procedures, Sameness) would want to analyze before launching the new initiative, so he would kill it or block it, minimize exposure, and set up a procedure to handle the proposal through testing, no matter how much or little, the cost associated risk. The resulting chaos was confusing to the team and sending them deep into Critter State.The glaring gap in the consultant’s training curriculum was in sales. Even though their role was heavily client-facing, the consultants weren’t trained in the basic selling skills and had no incentive to do anything but fix technical problems. They also had no interaction with the sales team — which was sequestered in a different area of the building. The consultants were the right people in the right role — but with no support to perform their best.Harry, the new sales manager, had been with the firm for three months. Shortly after hiring Harry, the company had reorganized to close a failing business unit. Sarah and John had moved their niece, Toni, the VP of the failed unit, into a new role as the VP of sales and marketing —wait a sec! What? Did we read that right? Yep, the niece was given one of the most important roles in the firm after killing an entire business unit. Sounds like a sacred cow to me.There were three problems with this scenario:Harry (who now was sales manager) had no sales expertise — his entire background was in Internet marketing)Toni was an experienced sales manager but wasn’t strategic and had no marketing expertiseThe two disliked each other — Toni was threatened by Harry and Harry thought Toni should have been fired for her lackluster leadership of the failed business unitTo make matters even more fun, Toni’s boyfriend, Taylor, had been hired as director of client care. He had solid experience, but a perpetual mocking smirk when interacting with anyone but Toni.Act: What They DidThe first thing we had John and Sarah do was to create a clear and compelling mission, vision, and value statements. This would help everyone know why they were coming to work, and where they were going together, and how they agreed to behave. They posted these statements in the lobby, and the managers worked with smaller teams until everyone was on board.Next, we establishedNeedle Moverstogether (first for the executive team and later for everyone) in line with the new mission, vision, and values, and radically increased accountability using weekly reporting and theAccountability Equation. We created a reporting process for the sales pipeline and marketing effectiveness metrics and set up an incentive plan for the consultants to source future sales.We also redefined the roles and responsibilities throughout sales and marketing to get the right people in the right roles. Some people were reallocated, and one or two were let go respectfully. Since the company had a history of high employee turnover it was key to minimizeCritter Statevia thoughtful communication.John, Sarah, Toni, and Harry worked on their on key challenges. Toni got the tools to turn her department around. Harry was moved out of sales management and into the right role — marketing —where he is brilliant and a perpetual learner. He still reports to Toni, who now manages the sales team directly. Harry’s initiatives have made Company X top of mind in their target market. Now that John and Sarah communicate more explicitly, they are no longer creating chaos, and Toni and Harry have developed a mutual respect for each other. Taylor had to be let go. He didn’t want to uphold the company values and had burned too many bridges to be salvageable.ROI: What They GotAbout six months into the change process, things got pretty scary. The consultants became resistant and didn’t want to work on internal projects for which they had no billable hours, and John and Sarah almost pulled the plug and reverted to chaos. Instead, they appliedenergy managementtools, worked through their own resistance, recommitted, and held their team accountable to the direction they had chosen together. The results were not all immediate — patterns occasionally resurfaced and to be readdressed — but overall the results have been phenomenal. They zoomed through the $50 million inflection point and are preparing for $100 million. Their employee retention is now normal for their industry, and employee surveys show that engagement and satisfaction continue to improve.
8/26/2021

Special Episode: Inside Leadership with Guest Cheryl Farr

Season 4, Ep. 9
Cheryl Farr, Founder & Chief Brand Officer of Signal.CSK, is our special guest for this insightful episode of the Crack the Behavior Code podcast where we discuss the importance of finding opportunity in times of crisis and much more.Who is Cheryl?Cheryl builds accessible, exciting, audience-engaging brands and brand-driven marketing programs that strengthen brand power and drive real marketplace results. She founded SIGNAL.csk in 2009 to help organizations of all kinds realize and exercise their true brand power. She empowers organizations that value fresh creative thinking, purpose, alignment, and the strategic pursuit of excellence to be strong stewards of their own brands — and their people to be passionate brand leaders and evangelists. Cheryl and her Denver-based team work side-by-side with their clients to expertly align visual and verbal identity, products and services, organizational decision making, and marketing initiatives to meet brand and business goals. Their proven True, Meaningful, DifferentTM and Brand SignalsTM methodologies build brand value by illuminating what their clients can uniquely own in the hearts and minds of their target audiences and reinforcing it across all touchpoints. Hundreds of successful client engagements include Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, where Cheryl helped positon the then-fledgling brand for expansive worldwide growth; Taylor Morrison, the nation’s largest regional homebuilder, for whom she developed its first award-winning active adult brand; and PetSmart, where she led the sensory branding work that innovated the total in-store experience.Find Out More About Her Work Here:LinkedIn: Cheryl Farr | LinkedInWebsite: Home - SIGNAL.csk (signalcsk.com)Facebook: SIGNAL.csk Brand PartnersTwitter: SIGNAL.csk (@SIGNALcsk)