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Hi everyone! I'm Jeff Hunt your host of Human Capital and of course, my day job is CEO of GoalSpan. I love the opportunity on each show to explore the deeply human aspect of work. Today we're going to talk about employee experience and wellbeing. In March of 2022, CNBC published an article showing that the great resignation is continuing with 44% of workers in the US looking for a new job.
Let's just pause there for a second, because that number is staggering. It equates to roughly 69 million people being job seekers. Why are so many people wanting a change? The reality is that this is being fueled by employees, looking for companies that better support employee experience and wellbeing.
When organizations, don't support employees in these key areas, they want to leave plain and simple. It's easy for leaders to ignore experience and well-being when times are good and turnover is low, but when people have quit and turnover is high, it causes all kinds of problems with the remaining employees, including burnout, anxiety, mistakes, and low morale, and on and on.
Today my guest and I are going to dive deep into this important topic. Jeanne Meister is the founder and managing partner at The Future Workplace Academy. She is also an executive vice president at Executive Networks and is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and Forbes. Jean is the best-selling author of three books.
The Future Workplace Experience, Corporate Universities, and the 2020 Workplace. Welcome, Jeanne!
Thank you for having me, Jeff, it's a pleasure.
It's an honor to welcome you to the show today. And I know that you're passionate about this topic, so I think we're going to have a great conversation.
I’m really looking forward to it.
Topic 1. Who or what inspired you in your career? (02:00)
I'd like to start with you giving our listeners a thumbnail of your career journey and Jean, can you also share with us who inspired you most along the way?
Ah, okay. My career journey is eclectic. I think that's the best way to phrase it. I've had both a corporate career and entrepreneurial career, and now I'm part of a company, having just sold Future Workplace to executive networks.
So, Jeff, as you said, I'm the author of three books. I wrote the first book on corporate universities, started a company, then sold that, and quickly joined Accenture, working on outsourcing Corporate University. So in my company, I focused on launching corporate universities and on Accenture.
I focused on outsourcing corporate universities. And then with a co-author, I wrote the 2020 workplace, which has been the book that's really been an international bestseller, translated into several languages. We were really first in looking at the generational differences and coined the five generations at work and then started future workplace.
And I was fortunate enough to sell that in the fourth quarter of 2021 to executive networks, the leading HR peer network company for the global 1000. So that takes you currently to today. What inspired me is really my mom, she was a nurse in the emergency room at Yale-New Haven hospital and a really, really hard worker, but really put family first and really understood how important it was to have work-life integration.
In spite of the fact of working the 11 - 7 shift in O R. So I feel very fortunate to have had her as a wonderful role model.
Wow. It sounds like she was an incredibly hard worker, but somebody who you could really look up to.
Topic 2. What does well-being in the workplace look like? How is workplace wellbeing right now in the US? (04:26)
Jean let's jump into the topic and I want to start just by asking you. What does the current research say about workplace wellbeing?
Well, I'm so glad we starting here because I have really current information. We are doing monthly surveys on the topic of employee experience and wellbeing, and these are being sponsored by Paychex we're really out there in the marketplace with 600 workers.
So, one of the big surprises has been that now workplace well-being is no longer just a perk. It's something that's expected and demanded of workers. In fact, we found that six out of 10 workers in North America, are now evaluating the quality of an employer's well-being benefits as one of the newest criteria in either staying with their current employer or switching jobs.
So, this has direct implication as a way to stem what you said, Jeff was the amazing numbers that we're all looking at for the great resignation.
Take a minute Jean, just to define well-being because some people define it differently and I want to make sure we're speaking a common language.
Absolutely. I've written a couple of articles in Forbes on wellbeing, and I define it in a really holistic way.
It has five components, financial well-being, really feeling secure about your overall financial wellness, your financial literacy, and of course compensation and retirement benefits, emotional wellbeing, which is really access to an EAP plan, access to mental health benefits, mental health apps, and importantly, a manager who cares right?
And leads with empathy. Physical well-being actually, this was really going back to probably 15 years now with Fitbit, but really employers focusing on physical wellness. And now I think physical wellbeing also implies workplace safety, right? The whole focus is on working in a safe and sanitized workplace.
Social wellbeing really speaks to company culture and work-life balance. And sort of remember that question we all were faced with. Do you have a best friend at work? And so that becomes even more complicated. In light of the fact that so many of us are working either hybrid or remote. So how do you keep up those personal relationships with your team?
And finally, and I think very important is career wellbeing, access to training and development, and access to internal talent mobility. We've seen an explosion of companies that are adopting and branding internal mobility platforms, not to mention a tuition reimbursement and company funding, not just Institute funding courses through higher education, but also through MOOCs and our own Future Workplace Academy.
You're describing such a holistic approach to supporting the employees. And that feels so dramatically different from 20, 10, even 5 years ago. Wouldn't you say?
Absolutely I think the pandemic, as we've said, has become a great accelerator for future work trends. And I think it really starts with wellbeing.
I mean, we were really thinking of this even five years ago, Jeff as a perk, you know, standing desks as we were talking about, right? And nap rooms and access to Fitbit. And it's so much more now, and it really looks at the whole person. And I think one of the other innovations is that. Companies are starting to realize that employees live in a family unit that also impacts their overall well-being.
So what we're seeing is companies expanding the individual well-being benefits to the family unit as a whole.
That makes perfect sense and it also easily makes the correlation to people, having a desire to leave and, or seek out organizations that are really delivering the goods in this area because they want to be cared for much more, as a person than just a producer.
Yeah, and they want to know that companies are creating a culture of care. I think overall that their leader, their manager, and their team leader, lead with empathy and does create a culture of care. So, what we're seeing is companies, during the pandemic.
When working parents had to also manage to homeschool, we saw Hewlett Packard taking a lead here and forming a network of substitute teachers so that they could assist their employees on how to manage to homeschool because you know, your job was tough enough switching from in-person to your home office and now to have that other added responsibility.
And we're also seeing companies take leads in and showing and making available all sorts of opportunities for community involvement. So that, again, it's this focus on the whole being that, we have our workforce, which produces for us, but they do other things as well. Right there at soccer games, they're volunteering with their churches or synagogues and how can we embrace the whole person and get them involved and help them to be more involved in their local communities.
And by the way, if we do that really well, they become excellent brand ambassadors for our companies, don’t they?
Absolutely. And sharing, that's why we're seeing the net promoter scores being especially important inside companies. That started with products and services from a marketing angle.
And now HR has adopted it to understand how can we help our employees be better sources of referral for new workers?
Topic 3. How to get started on wellbeing? Different generations, different kinds of well-being (11:44)
Exactly. Yeah. My company GoalSpan actually just implemented an employee net promoter template within our survey module. So I think more and more organizations are really paying attention to that data because of the impact, the strategic impact it can have in so many ways.
Yeah. So I'm curious Jean about the listener who may be at a company that has a less evolved strategy in the area of wellbeing. What would you say the recommendation is to get started? What are some of the strategies that they can implement? To ensure that they are living out the value of employee wellbeing.
Well, I think they should start by embarking on doing deep listening and surveying of their workforce, and segmenting their surveys, which are now pulse surveys. On a monthly or quarterly basis by generation, by whether someone is a working parent and has children at home. And by geography, if they're working in the United States or globally, what we have found is there are differences in what workers want in terms of wellbeing.
And so on the area of, of differences by generation, we've found that GenX. Often called the sandwich generation, right? That they're dealing with both children still at home and juggling aging parents. They're their biggest issue is financial well-being, not surprisingly. They have a lot on their plate and they're very keen to understand their employers' sweet of financial well-being benefits.
Including not only compensation and retirement, but access to financial education, and financial wellness, right? In terms of millennials and the younger generation, they're most interested in what their employer doing for mental wellbeing, they're feeling very isolated.
Just think of back when you were 25 or 28. You wanted to be where the action was. And don't want to really work from home every day. So, the younger generations are anxious to take advantage of mentoring and coaching. You know how to grow their careers and they see the best way to do that is by having more in-person experiences in the workplace.
So I think that group is really that's our future workforce, right? The younger workers and they're the most vulnerable. And I would say gen Z is the segment that is really looking around for new opportunities, you know, not as loyal as the other generations and feeling the most isolated, if they're still primarily working out of the home office.
Are you suggesting that organizations should adjust their strategies based on these generational aspects? So in other words, should, should I cut do mass customization, if you will, should I customize my approach to wellbeing based on these factors you described?
Well, I do think, yes, I do think wellbeing is not one size fits all.
And we do know that five, six years ago, a lot of major employers were coming out with student loan repayment programs. Clearly directed to millennials who are joining the workforce at that time with large debts. And this was an acquisition and retention play for a lot of employers.
Fidelity and PWC are two of the biggest and early adopters of this. But I think once an employer really makes a commitment to really focusing on the whole person, then the next step is, what does this whole person really want from wellbeing benefits? And how does that segment by generation and by lifestyle status?
Are they single? Are they working parents? I think what we're also starting to see is working parents are exiting the workforce and looking at how to better integrate work with the rest of their lives, right? So that's why embarking on this deep listening with your employees to understand what they want and how that differs by generation is going to shape your wellbeing strategy.
And I think it's especially important. As we said at the top of this podcast with the great resignation and we've seen 62% are looking at the quality of wellbeing, benefits as criteria, and whether to stay or whether to jump and look for a new job.
Topic 4. Wellbeing after the pandemic (17:18)
Yes, we all need to be paying attention to that, so what would you say? You mentioned the pandemic and its impact.
But how do you see the approach to employee wellbeing changing as we are now emerging from the pandemic?
I think it will no longer be voluntary or a perk. And I think it will be communicated as one of the pillars of an employer's value proposition. Employers will look at this as this is a way to stem the great resignation.
I think some other research points we're seeing is that when you research people that have switched jobs, workers are now starting to say that they would take a pay cut if their new employer offered them a better work-life balance, and that pay cut averages out to be about 10% now definitely the pendulum has swung with the great resignation and talent is having a major say in not only where they work, but how they want to work.
I think that communicating this as part of the employer value proposition and understanding its importance across the segment of workers is important. The other piece of research we just launched in March was called the new hybrid workplace and there we looked at it.
We took a microscope, if you will, on individuals that work hybrid. And those are maybe two, or three days out of the office, but then they go into the office the other couple of days. And what we've seen there is that group is sort of very uncertain on how to be successful working as a hybrid worker and their biggest fear is.
Career advancement while they love the flexibility and the choice of working in a hybrid work model, their fear is career advancement. In fact, 32% of these workers say they prefer a hybrid work environment, but 43% view in-person working as the best for their individual career advancement. So that's something.
Every employer has to get their hands around it. So going back to the listening tool and the listening surveys, I would segment the workforce by how they work. Are they primarily in the office? Are they hybrid? Are they remote? And what are they looking for so that they can have an optimal employee experience with your organization?
Topic 5. Employee Experience & Wellbeing (20:29)
Speaking of employee experience. Let's talk more specifically about that because there's this intertwining between well-being and experience, and this is another area where people might define it slightly differently from each other, but what's your definition of employee experience?
Yeah, so mine is the sum total of all the experiences an employee has with their employer over the duration of that relationship from onboarding.
Through working with the employer all the way through exiting the employer, right? It's the whole journey of working with your employer and in the future workplace book, I had a really interesting one-liner, which goes something around the last best experience any of us have, including you and I has anywhere becomes the minimum expectations for all the experiences we want.
Especially in the workplace. So if you just reflect on that and we do all sorts of exercises on. Think of the last best experience you've had. And when people reflect on that, of course, they think of those seamless experiences they have with Netflix.
That sort of knows exactly what you want to watch next. And it's personalized, but then they also think about the experiences that they've had that have surprised them, where an organization has gone above and beyond in satisfying their expectations and exceeding their expectations.
So, I think the bar on experiences has really been raised through just how we live our lives online now. And we now live in the experience economy where every experience we have becomes what we're looking for in our next experience.
That's such a great reference because basically what you're saying is that an employee's best experience becomes the standard for everything else.
This ultimately makes the organization better because they are needing to focus on every aspect of how they are interacting with the employee. And this could be in the area of technology. It could be in the area of communication and strategy. It could be how they're communicating purpose and a well-defined vision, inclusion.
Wouldn't you say, all of these things sort of fall into that bucket?
Absolutely. And I think it's a good thing for everyone that's working. And it's a really good thing for organizations because it's forcing them to understand what their workers want. And really they're putting a consumer mindset lens on the organization.
How do we meet and exceed the expectations for any type of experience our workers want with us. And what do we know? What's pretty evident right now is that if a worker isn't getting that type of experience that they want and need, they're just going to leave.
Yes, exactly. And it reminds me too of the feedback that is required to understand your level of employee experience, how are you doing as an organization, and what you mentioned earlier about soliciting that feedback, but then also the importance of acting on it because organizations that survey and they don't do anything with the data end up with potentially a worse problem than they would have had otherwise right?
Absolutely. Be aware of what you ask for because you will be held accountable.
Topic 6. HR Technology reshaping the future of work (25:57)
Right. It's like the manager going to his or her team and saying, I really want you to give me feedback. And then his/her entire team says, you really need to work on your presentation skills and then he, or she doesn't do anything about that.
It ends up being a de-motivator to provide additional feedback. Well, as you look beyond. 2022. In what ways do you see HR tech reshaping business?
I saw that question and I think it's a really fascinating one. We did another survey sponsored by GP strategies, which really looked at how tech was shaping the learning experience.
What I think is huge, has been the use of virtual reality. Virtual reality started out in organizations focused on safety. And you know, the big oil companies were using it was being used in manufacturing settings, but, the big wave now has really been on soft skills training.
And I wrote an interesting article for Harvard Business on how companies are using VR to develop soft skills training. So, you know, skills which are called power skills, skills in handling difficult conversations. D E I empathy, even, practicing giving presentations, right?
So there's a whole range of soft skills where you can grow your suite of these skills using virtual reality. So, I think that we're going to see a lot more of that and when we asked our series of questions in this recent survey that came out in the fourth quarter of last year, we found that two-thirds of very senior learning leaders either we're piloting it, or we're looking to pilot VR for, for all types of soft skills training.
So I think we're going to see more of that. And I think we're going to see more of that because companies are not so dependent on a headset now you can deliver this with an avatar over a computer.
Yeah. It's remarkable. And it seems to be creating an entirely new sector tech sector. That will deliver this transformational learning in an efficient and very tailored way.
So, I think it's a very exciting space that we're moving into. I also would let all of our listeners know we actually did an episode last summer in July of 2021 with Myra LalDin who's the CEO of a VR company by the name of Vector and their concept is unconscious bias training in the workplace.
So, they are putting you into these circumstances where somebody is giving you offensive behavior and training you to understand what it would feel like as that person. So, I think the direction is limitless, where we go and where we're going to take all of the virtual reality technology, isn’t it?
It really is and the example I used in the Harvard B-School article was with HR block, the new crop of customer service representatives that are hired around tax time. They're sort of thrown into having a lot of let's call them intense conversations with their customers. And they started using VR training and they ended up preferring that.
To even in-person training because they could just, what you said, practice, stop it, practice and be right in the situation with, do role-playing with a customer.
Topic 7. Lighting round questions (28:58)
Jean let's shift into some lightning-round questions. I'd love to just ask you some questions and you share your top-of-mind answers. And the first one is what are you most grateful for?
I'm most grateful for my family. I always start with my family. I've been married for a long time. And that gives me, just it centers me and really reinforces the importance of work-life integration. So, I am very thankful for my husband and daughters.
What is the most difficult leadership lesson you've learned over your career?
How to have difficult conversations, how to start them, and often you don't start them early enough. So how do be accountable 2for starting difficult conversations and carrying through and doing it with empathy? I think what the pandemic has taught us is we've had sort of a look into all of the lives.
The living rooms and the dining rooms of all the people that we've worked with over the years. And I think we've understood. We have a better understanding of what they have to deal with outside of work.
Who is one person you would interview if you could living or not?
Malcolm Gladwell. I have read nearly all his books and he just moved close to my weekend house in the Berkshares.
So, I'm targeting Mike Malcolm Gladwell.
You might need to walk down the street and knock on the door.
Do you have a top book recommendation?
Ah, that's good. I am reading Think Like a Monk at the moment and I am really enjoying it. That's my top pick for right now.
I just ordered Frank Bruni's memoir, which I avidly read his op-ed columns in the New York Times. So that's sort of what I have in front of me at the moment.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
The importance of communication skills in any relationship.
Starting with family relationships, your parent relationships, and your work relationships. I think you can't communicate enough. I think we all have to work on that and that's my best piece of advice.
And what's the most important takeaway to leave with our listeners from our talk today?
Well, one of the areas we didn't talk about that I think is coming and it's going to be really very important is how does career management change post the pandemic? And I think that so many companies have preferred to buy versus build, right? As we've seen with so much job switching and individuals if they do work remotely or hybrid is really concerned about their own career advancement.
So, I think that team managers and leaders have to really begin to focus in a very open way and answer, what does the successful career growth look like in the next 12 months or 18 months? And how do you do this successfully? If you're not in a brick-and-mortar building. And I think that career management, I believe we're going to be hearing a lot more about how to do that successfully as an employee and how leaders can help their team members shape and grow their careers.
It sounds like that kind of rounds out the entire employee experience category. Doesn't it?
It totally does. Yes.
Well, Jean, thank you so much for coming on the show and bringing your wisdom to the Human Capital Podcast.
Thank you so much for having me, Jeff, and I look forward to continuing to partner with you in 2022.
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