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Dec 26, 2023
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Culture Shock (Replay)

Culture Shock (Replay)
In this replay of a captivating podcast episode, Jeff sits down with Jim Harter, Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Wellbeing at the Gallup Corporation. They explore the enduring impact of the pandemic on work culture and customer relationships, drawing insights from Jim's book, "Culture Shock." Together, they tackle the challenges organizations are facing post-pandemic, from strained customer relationships to declining employee engagement, offering solutions for a better world of work. Jeff and Jim discuss common challenges organizations are facing, including deteriorating customer relationships and declining employee engagement. Jim reveals the key habits of great managers and the five innate traits that predict managerial success. They dive into the importance of focusing on employee strengths rather than weaknesses, and how to build a diverse, strengths-based culture.


Intro: Duration: (04:16)

Opening music jingle & sound effects

Jeff Hunt:

Hello, Human Capital listeners, this is Jeff. As you think about the upcoming year, I would like to challenge you not to think so much about resolutions but more about the ways you will evolve your own leadership strategies to engage employees more at work. In light of this, while I'm taking a break, I pulled out one of my favorite episodes from earlier this year to replay where I had the pleasure of interviewing a brilliant Gallup researcher who shares some very pragmatic ways that you can do this.

In this replay episode, my guest, Jim Harder, talks about what the science says around improving workplace culture, including trust building, flexible work environments, and what the secret sauce is related to upskilling managers. Jim and I talk about Theory X and Theory Y, which, of course, is not some sci-fi saga, but really is a game changer in the understanding of how motivation shapes our organizational landscapes.

Spoiler alert, intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation wins out every time. We also talk about quiet quitting, which ultimately is a cry for effective leadership. Let's face it, engaged employees aren't just born. But they're inspired, cultivated, and celebrated. So as you gear up for a year of triumphs, I hope you ponder how these strategies can be your secret weapon in the war for talent.

As you think about this next year, think about success not as a goal, but as a mindset instead. Let's dive into this replay and set the stage for a year of workplace victories. Hope you enjoy.

Jeff Hunt:

Hello, this is Jeff Hunt and welcome to the Human Capital Podcast. You know, when the pandemic began over three years ago, there was an awakening that shocked the world. It caused the biggest disruption most of us have seen in a lifetime about how and where people live and work. What is certain, as we fully emerge from the pandemic is that nothing will return to the way it was before.

The way organizations seem to be adapting to this permanent. Let's just call it a culture shock, determines whether they will thrive or even survive in the long run. The immediate danger is that most employees now operate more like independent contractors or gig workers instead of employees who are loyal and committed to your organization.

One of the critical issues companies are facing as a direct result of the pandemic is declining customer relationships. A critical question is how can you maintain your customer's commitment when you're struggling to create a culture of dedicated employees who build and strengthen relationships with those very customers?

My guest today co-authored a fantastic book. I just finished reading on this topic, and the book is titled Culture Shock. Jim Harder is not only a bestselling author, but he's also chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing at the Gallup Corporation, a workplace consulting and global research firm with over 2000 employees.

In his book, Jim offers a solution that outlines a better world of work and life, one with far higher productivity, greater customer retention, and better employee wellbeing. Hey, Jim, it's great to have you on the show.

Jim Harter:

Thanks for having me, Jeff. Great to be with you today.

Jeff Hunt:

I have to say, your book is really fantastic.

It is pragmatic, it's research-based. You know, when I finished reading it, I felt like I can immediately apply these tips to my organization. So thank you for taking the time to write this book.

Jim Harter:

Well, thank you. That's, uh, the best compliment us, uh, researchers can get is that somebody's taking our work and doing something, uh, meaningful with it.

Topic 1. Who or what has inspired you most in your career? (04:17)

Jeff Hunt:

So appreciate that. Jim, start us out with a thumbnail of your career journey so we can get to know you a little bit.

Jim Harter:

Thanks, Jeff. Yeah, it really actually goes back to my undergraduate work. I guess you take it back a little further than that. I had some good feedback when I was even in high school that I had some ability with, uh, math and in writing.

I got some really good feedback from a, a writing instructor that I had that you know, you don't, you don't really become aware of those things until someone tells you. You just kind of assume everybody does it that way. And kind of went on through my bachelor's. Degree and got an internship. I was in the business college at the University of Nebraska and got an internship at, in the company was called Selection Research Incorporated, which later purchased the Gallup organization and we kind of merged our forces together.

We were doing deep at selection research, some deep analytics on inside of organizations on the talents that it. That it takes to, to build successful teams and organizations and also the right kinds of environments. And of course, Gallup is well known for all the polling expertise. And so that gave us a really nice ability to both look deep inside of organizations at what's going on and then put it on our, uh, global polls and understand what the populist thinks about those topics.

But I had some really good mentors along the way. I probably can't list all of them, but one real important one was Don Clifton. Uh, he was a mentor of mine for 17 years. And he's the the founder of of Clifton Strings, a tool that a lot of organizations are used now. It's been used by over 30 million people now across the world.

And we can talk about that and get into that. But he was a really important mentor to be and taught me a lot of things, including a lot of research, but also how to take findings and make them useful to people. And then I had some others, uh, Frank Schmidt. Taught me meta-analysis and we've been able to partner in a lot of studies over the years, but taught me how to combine a lot of studies into some pretty big impactful ones that organizations are able to apply.

And I've had a lot of other mentors along the way too, but those are some of the really important ones. It really changed how I think about my work and my life and how I do research today.

Jeff Hunt:

I'm so glad you brought up the topic of mentors because. Of the impact they can have in somebody's life.

Just think of these two people, Don and Frank, and they literally changed the trajectory of your life in, in your career, right?

Jim Harter:

Without question. Without question, because I, I didn't really know what I was capable of. I knew, I knew a few things I was good at, but I didn't really even know this, this field existed.

But they changed how I think about research and also how I think about how that applies to life. And then you know, Frank, through meta-analysis really taught me a different way of thinking about data and analytics and how to find kind of the truth in data and analytics and also to isolate, where the data might be lying to you.

And you have to kind of figure that out.

Topic 2. The customer service crisis (07:06)

Jeff Hunt:

Now in the book, you really talk, and I mentioned this in the intro, you talk a lot about how the pandemic paused a customer service crisis, which I think most of us can feel when we're out there. Purchasing products or dealing with companies, connect the dots for us on how an employee crisis actually became a customer service crisis.

Jim Harter:

Well, the, uh, the change in work. And so there, there are a lot of advantages to, uh, our change in work suddenly for remote ready employees anyway, where people suddenly went from a trend toward remote work. A very slight trend. It was probably sped up by 20 years with the pandemic, and suddenly everything changed.

We call it the great shift, you know, people, massive amount of people were sitting at home trying to figure out how to work, but there was some learning that occurred there. Two, we, we learned how to work independently. We learned, uh, how much technology has, uh, helped us. For me it was, it was very, um, Kind of in sync actually, because our, my, my team and I were already well connected.

People varied though a lot on, on what that experience was. But, but what happened also during the pandemic was it increased that the chance that people would become more separated. And that kind of happened with employees and employers, and we se saw that in our data. So employee engagement had been arising for about a decade.

It peaked up when the pandemic hit. There's kind of a rally effect and then it slowly, Particularly in the second half of 2021, it started to decline and we've seen, uh, declines that have dropped down to about seven years prior. And a lot of that is reflected in what I'd call a separation between employee and employer, where people have felt less connected to their employer, almost like gig workers, you know, where I'm doing my work independently.

And they started to think a lot more about what's good for me. And it's taken really strong managers since then to help individuals take a step back and, and ask the question, what's good for you and what's good for your team? What's good for your organization? But unfortunately, the status quo has been.

People feeling less connected to their organization. That's related then to people feeling like they feel less responsible for the quality of service that, that their clients receive. And that then has bleeded over into what clients actually experience. And, and the Michigan data has shown in the National Customer Satisfaction Index, a steady decline in how satisfied customers are with the service they receive.

So that's kind of how it's worked out, unfortunately, but we can fix it. And we know that there's some answers to how we can fix that. And some of what we learned before the pandemic and some of what we learned during the pandemic in terms of how different organizations and teams have been able to thrive even during tough times.

Topic 3. The correlation between managers and engagement (09:50)

Jeff Hunt:

Now, you mentioned that managers, there's sort of a direct correlation in managers and engagement. Say a little bit about that. How much do they actually account for the variance in team engagement?

Jim Harter:

Managers explain about 70% of the variance in team engagement, and that has to do with, uh, some of their natural innate abilities.

What they bring with them from a nat a natural talent perspective. Some of them are just better at it than others, but also how they're upskilled to become better coaches. As all this as all, all these changes have happened to organizations and also how engaged they are and how they treat their team that they work with.

You know, when if managers aren't engaged, it's very unlikely that their team is going to be engaged in their work. And so a lot of it has to do with that kind of cascade from senior management through the ranks of managers and, and how connected they feel. Do they, do they feel like they're on a silo? In a silo with their team, or do they feel like their team is a part of something bigger and they can clearly see where the organization's headed and where they're a part of it.

And that's also been at risk, unfortunately, is that the communication between leaders, while it was really sharp, right when the pandemic hit it's deteriorated considerably, and people are, are much less likely to feel that the organization cares about their overall wellbeing than we saw during the first part of the pandemic.

Jeff Hunt:

I just wanna pause on something that you just said, Jim. I'm gonna repeat it cuz this is just an incredible number. You said, correct me if I'm wrong, 70% of the variants associated with engagement for teams. Is associated with the manager and the manager's behavior and actions. Is that correct?

Jim Harter:

That's correct, yeah.

And a lot of it has to do with, and we've, we started learning this, uh, years ago when we looked at organizations for the first time and and looked across manager led teams and saw this massive variance in, in how teams were managed within the same organization. Some with great brands, you know, that you'd expect would've this overarching culture.

And while they. Probably intended to have an overarching culture. There's a lot of variance in how that was deployed across manager led teams. And so you get this massive variation that is actually an opportunity for organizations to improve because that's where change occurs. It's at the manager level and if you channel anything you wanna get done through your managers and, and you do it the right way, you're likely to see that that kind of bell shaped curve of manager team engagement A shift significantly, and that truly changes organizations when you see that shift.

Jeff Hunt:

The other thing I'm reflecting on is that you could be sitting in the C-suite with having measured your engagement levels and discovering that they're relatively low in your organization and you could be trying to create new business strategies and communication strategies and training and development.

But unless it's actually including educating the manager and creating some new methods for them to interact and engage with their teams and employees, you're not gonna move the needle that much.

Jim Harter:

Right. That's very true, Jeff. You've gotta, you gotta channel cultural change through your managers and that might seem like a difficult task, but actually there are scalable solutions that can get organizations on the right path, uh, to having managers who are upskilled to be more like coaches and to have the right kind of conversations with people.

And I should add, That it's never been more important than it is right now. The role of managers inside of organizations has never been more difficult in my career than I, than I see it right now. We saw a manager during the pandemic and, uh, extending beyond the peaks of the pandemic. We saw we saw manager burnout on the rise.

Even today. Uh, manager engagement has, is only a little bit. Higher than employee engagement and manager stress is a little bit higher than than employee. Stress managers have a lot of things coming at them. They already did before the pandemic hit, and now they've got. Especially in hybrid environments, they've got a lot to manage.

And while a hybrid work situation is ideal for autonomy, the kinda the combination between in-person time and in time independently where you can do some independent work. It's a great combination hybrid work, but it's also a challenge if you don't have great managers and it creates a high higher risk if you don't have great managers because you've got some unpredictability that they've gotta, they've gotta figure out for your organization.

Topic 4. Behaviors that promote engagement (14:18)

Jeff Hunt:

Well, I'm sure if you're a manager listening to this podcast, you're probably feeling a lot of what Jim has described, this additional pressure. And there's, uh, it's a never-ending situation where we're given more and more to do, but we're also placing a greater importance on how we're engaging with our teams and our people in terms of being productive.

When you look about managers that are doing this really well, that are engaging high levels of engagement with their teams, what sort of behaviors do you see? You know, are there any important habits that great managers have that do wellness area?

Jim Harter:

Yeah, and you could think about how this blend into how performance management ought to be done.

Too often managers have, and this relates to the stress aspect of it, is they've got multiple initiatives coming at them. They may have. An employee engagement survey in one category. They may have performance management in another category. They may have a wellness program that they're responsible for directing employees to in another category.

They may have learning and development that happens in another one, but, and they're not generally fit together, but they can be. And probably the most important habit for a manager is to continually get better at having at least one meaningful conversation every week with each employee. And we had a chance to kind of break down what goes into what we call a meaningful conversation.

We ask employees about their last manager conversation and what happened during that kind of feedback meeting that they had. And there are some commonalities in people who had extremely meaningful feedback sessions with their managers versus those that had either below-average or even very unmeaningful conversations.

And the first thing that came to the top of the list was recognition. And only about one in 10 people tell us that they, they, uh, this is a study we worked on with WorkHuman. We found that one in 10 people say that their manager has actually asked them how they like to be recognized. That's low-hanging fruit.

Absolutely. You've gotta know that to give them the right kind of recognition, but also you have to know what they're doing. You have to be aware of what they're doing and, and be in touch with them. And when you're at a distance that's more vulnerable unless you're very intentional about it.

Another thing that, uh, managers did in, in these sessions was they talked about collaboration. With the team. When we ask people how they decide where they're gonna work, only 13% of people said they decided with their team. So there's kind of this thing where either leaders are saying, get your butts in the office, or there's no, don't put too bluntly, but get, get in the office or do what?

Do what's best for you. Now, those are two extremes, but the best. The best solution is somewhere, uh, it's more nuanced. It's where leaders do set some standards about, you know, we, we wanna build a culture. Here's the days when we really wanna build some onsite culture. But it's it's you and your team that really need to decide when you're together because, uh, that coordination is really important.

So the team collaboration piece was something that these managers made as a priority. They also prioritize goals and priorities. Of course, of course, you know, uh, discussing those regularly. The work that someone's doing and how that relates to the customer and how that relates to the ultimate outcomes that they're trying to achieve.

And many times, priorities need to be adjusted continuously. They leveraged the strengths of the people they're working with. So they knew their strengths, they knew their, their innate tendencies, and they're able to help them, um, navigate, you know, what they're doing through their strengths as opposed to trying to make them be someone who they're not.

And so that was a central part of it as well. So there, there were some key commonalities in what leads to a meaningful, uh, conversation.

Jeff Hunt:

Really, none of those things that you just described are complicated. You know, they're relatively simple. They might be difficult to implement because we actually have to be very proactive with the way we implement those things but they're not that complicated, right?

Jim Harter:

That's right Jeff. And the other kind of nuance in all this, maybe it's not a nuance, maybe it's just a, a reality is that if you have a weekly conversation, it doesn't have to be that long, we found 15 to 30 minutes. You can, you can get a meaningful conversation done in 15 to 30 minutes.

That doesn't mean that sometimes it needs to go longer than us. Sometimes it does. But we found that if you don't have it regularly, it's gotta be longer to catch up. Because you're not building on a previous recent conversation with somebody, and if you're building on top of a recent conversation, it can go pretty quickly and still be meaningful.

So, the amount of time is a, is a factor also. And I think that's why, uh, maybe some managers might think doing it every week is, is quite a chore. Well, if you have, if you're managing too many people, that could be one thing. But but if you if you keep it on a regular cadence, And you have the right kind of conversations and focus it on the right things like I listed earlier.

It can happen pretty quickly.

Jeff Hunt:

The other thing I wanna highlight on what you just said a minute ago, Jim, is about this whole concept of collaboration, which seems like very low hanging fruit If we involve the teams in the decisions and there's gonna be greater buy-in, right?

Jim Harter:

That's absolutely right.

People close to the action know their work. They know how their work relates to the customer. We need to involve them. One of the items we've asked for decades is we asked employees whether their opinions seem to count at work. And that's a real critical one to really understanding not only making the individual feel like they have some autonomy, which is important, but also the reality is you get closer to the customer, you get closer to the action because they know what the work is.

I think we have to be really honest with ourselves and say people learn some things about their work in themselves during this pandemic. Uh, many people learn that there's work they can do independently. That's why they're pushing back on the commute now because they realize they're, in many cases, they're wasting some time.

But on the other side, in person time matters too. And that team collaboration piece and what happens in person, even though, uh, many times it, it's random. That random stuff matters a lot too. I was in a meeting the other day. It was like, Less than five minutes where we solved a problem that we might not have even scheduled a, a discussion around for months.

We had three people in the office that, that were able to solve it and we did it quickly. That's the kind of thing that happens in person. That just doesn't happen otherwise, because someone's gotta take the initiative to set the meeting and then that the conversation isn't quite the same. It can still be pretty good on Zoom.

Don't get me wrong. We zoom and teams and, and all the different. Methods of video helped a ton. And I, the first thing I said when the pandemic hit was, thank God for technology because it made our made work pretty seamless. It did for sure.

Topic 5. The hybrid environment and its success (20:45)

Jeff Hunt:

Now you've determined that the hybrid work environment is ideal if you can do it now, it's not.

Obviously there's differences between companies and employees and teams and whether or not they can do that. Some people have to be together a hundred percent of the time and others have the flexibility of. Not being together, or they're not even able to be together if they're in different geographies.

But talk a little bit more about the hybrid work environment and why that is really the most successful method, if you can pull it off.

Jim Harter:

Well, for people with at least some level of collaboration in their work, we found engagement peaks at about two to three days in person time per week. And some work we did prior to the pandemic, we did an end up study of social time and we found that all different forms of social time matter in terms of people's moods in-person time, not surprisingly matters the most because there's a lot of cues that happen in personally.

In-person. That just doesn't happen. You can't really pick up on video necessarily. It's part of our physiology and part of how our brains are built. But what we found is that in, well in person time mattered the most. It wasn't the total amount of time that mattered as, as much as the fact that it happens.

And so, when people schedule themselves to be in person two to three days a week, the things. That happen are, are what kind of feel natural to us in terms of our interactions and uh, we can get, um, like I talked about earlier, we can have those spontaneous meetings that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

We can have a little bit more innovation. There's some, a little bit more trust that's built. Just consider one thing, new people coming into an organization, many of us who have been tenured for a long time, and I've been in my organization for almost four decades already had relationships built.

It was, like I said earlier, it was pretty seamless, but. Not so seamless for a new employee. A younger employee. And that's where we're starting to see more separation, uh, between employee, employer is among the younger workers and I, when I say younger, under the age of 35 or newer employees in organizations who traditionally have had a lot more f uh, developmental focus and anymore they're not seeing it quite at the same level that they saw in the past.

And a lot of development happens in person also. So part of the responsibility of. Being in person. I think when you can for jobs, in locations where you can be in person, is a responsibility not just for those younger workers, but also the people that are there are, are coming in to mentor them and, and have an influence on them through the culture that's built.

So, I think people have need to think about it, from a broader perspective than just what feels right to me as an individual. And I, I think at the same time, acknowledging that there's a lot of learning that has occurred on the amount of work we can get done independently as well.

Jeff Hunt:

And so really what you're suggesting is when we are in person, we have a high degree of intentionality with how we spend that time.

And if there are newer members on the team, We have to have an even greater level of intentionality to invest in the relationships with those people. Make sure they feel seen and heard and connected with the team and the organization. Is that correct?

Jim Harter:

Absolutely. As you said it really well, Jeff, you, you've gotta be intentional not only about when and which days in communicating when you're going to be together.

So that when people show up, they're not the only one there. That, which is kind of depressing, but also, yeah, intentional about the meetings that you set, uh, the time that you spend with people and making sure that people aren't just stuck in offices all day. That you spend that time collaborating and, uh, at least part of those days, having, maybe you're going to lunch together, maybe you're, you, you spend your in-person meetings there together.

We had some. A bunch of interns over the summer and I thought it was important to be really intentional about spending time with them in person, even though you, it might have felt I was in the middle of writing a book. It might have felt like the best thing for me would be just to stay home and, and crank away at the book, right?

But you gotta make that a priority as well. And it was worth it. I mean, we ended up bringing on almost all those interns, that came in during the summer. Some really talented young people that, um, otherwise. If our team hadn't prioritized that otherwise, maybe they wouldn't have made that decision.

Jeff Hunt:

I really appreciate you highlighting, the importance of intentionality, a friend of mine is a senior executive at a very large bank. They implemented a policy where employees needed to return to the office, and I think in the beginning it was three days a week, and then they moved it to five days a week.

With no intentionality. So what happened is people went into the office and they were completely disengaged and my friend told me that this was, they were actually less engaged than they were when they were meeting on Zoom and having virtual meetings. So I appreciate your highlighting that level of intentionality that's required to make that work successfully.

Jim Harter:

We're seeing that in the data as well. People who tell us that they're onsite every day of the week, um, have the lowest levels of engagement. So there is something with the hybrid mix, but again, I don't wanna make it sound like it's some fairytale thing. It's a lot of work to get it right.

There's a lot of coordination that you need and I think in some cases organizations have ignored the coordination part of it and just either. Mandated or said to figure it out for yourself. And we trust you. Which, you know, that's great to give people that level of trust, but I think people need some leadership too, to know here's how we ought to go about doing this so that we get it right for everybody else.

Topic 6. Focus on strengths rather than weaknesses (26:13)

Jeff Hunt:

Now, Jim, one of the things that you learned in your research was that employees who are working, and you mentioned this a few minutes ago, employees that are working more in their areas of strength are also more engaged and that the manager should focus. On these strengths rather than weaknesses. And so I'd like you to just comment because I run a performance management SaaS company. Why do traditional performance review processes typically focus on weaknesses. What can we do about that?

Jim Harter:

Well, I think it's kind of in our human nature to, you know, to fix things. We wanna fix things. And it kind of comes outta the industrial revolution where a lot of early management was about, fixing people, so to speak.

People came out of that. Not really feeling like they're developed all that much. And so we, we kind of transferred over our, in industrial or engineering mindset into people management. And we had all these forms for people to, for managers to fill out on people. They'd meet with them once a year to review their performance and it didn't work.

I mean, I haven't seen any organization that said that that worked, but. If there's an alternative that does work and that's equipping managers with the right skills and resources to be more like coaches and to, to blend performance management into employee engagement, to blend all that together and to do it through a strengths lens.

And that doesn't mean that you ignore people's weaknesses. It doesn't mean you don't have tough conversations with people at times, but it means you lead with who they are. From an innate perspective, what their natural tendencies are, and honoring that first instead of expecting everybody to be the same person and it's easy for our minds to say, well, we can apply a formula to everybody and it will suddenly work.

Well, the only formula that you can apply to people that works is one that individualizes and takes into account each person's situation. And that might seem like a monumental task. It really isn't. If we flow it through what we talked about earlier, managers and equiped managers who are the in, really in the only position to get to know each person's situation and to, to manage them effectively when they're, they might be now more separated from them than ever before.

And strengths, I would say in a nutshell, shortens the distance between people. Um, it creates a language where I can get to know you much more quickly and you can get to know me much more quickly as your manager. I can be more transparent about who I am in a way that you may have never heard from me before.

Even though we may have known each other for five to 10 years, I can say, here's something I learned about myself. And, and you could sit there and say, well, that's why you're that way. You know, that's, that's why you have these tendencies. And it starts to make sense. I was talking with a technical manager today who has a, a team of technologists who he said the same thing.

He said people get a language now around instead of creating a. Dissension, because someone, one is a certain way, they get to know why they are that way and, and how that actually compliments what they're trying to get done. And so it's a different way to look at people and it's one that has been used by, uh, by over 30 million people across the world.

And so it's, uh, we've got a lot of research now, accumulation of research that show shows that it's a very effective method and it leads to lower. Lower turnover rates higher engagement accelerates the rate of engagement growth. And if it's done, if it's done it improves performance and and improves individual's opportunity to, I impact the customer and it can also improve individual's own wellbeing.

Jeff Hunt:

Well, and it sounds like what you're saying is going back to this performance management thing, that performance management evolved. It's really continuous performance management where we are doing more near-term goal-setting. We're doing more near-term continuous feedback. It is all focused around the employee's strengths.

So first of all, we have to identify and understand what those strengths are, and then we have to be able to promote the employees in ways that they're developing further, developing those strengths, which is ultimately gonna lead to higher levels of engagement. And the employee delivering greater value to the organization, correct?

Jim Harter:

That's right. And you said it well, that it is kind of a, it's, it's evolved into a more of a continuous process where the manager's responsible for being in touch with people what their priorities are. We know that organizations are changing very quickly now, and so those shifting demands mean shifting priorities.

And you can't. Wait six months or a year to figure that out, you know, it's too late. And the best way to do that and to build trust and get people to have a high level of ownership for their work is to do it through their strengths.

Jeff Hunt:

And I think there's a connection to something else.

You mentioned in your book, which is theory acts in theory, can you talk just briefly about how what those are so people have an understanding of those and how they're connected to this conversation?

Jim Harter:

Yeah. Well, many decades ago, Douglas McGregor proposed two theories that kind of put a fork in the road from a, a management theory perspective.

He proposed that there's a Theory X, which had been more of the traditional approach that people, the theory is that people are motivated more by rewards and punishments, more extrinsic kinds of rewards that the average person needs that to be productive. They need either rewards or punishments and the theory why that people are self-motivated and inspired.

They can be inspired. There's more intrinsic motivation. They can get involved in their work and feel really motivated by it. And I think managers and organizations need to figure out, you know, where they're at on that continuum. The research shows that both methods can be effective, but they get different kinds of results.

Theory, theory X is gonna get more of a, more of get, you're, you're gonna get the result the more narrow result that you're looking for, but not the broadened result, which most work asks for. Now, they ask employees to. Think more broadly about how their work applies to a lot of different situations and not just follow very specific tasks, right?

Yes. And our engagement research would show that when employees do feel inspired, when they feel some intrinsic motivation, they just they just do better work. And we could say, well, there's a group of people who are knowledge workers and others who aren't. That's really not true anymore.

People in almost any job, even if it's even in a production job, are required to do some. Knowledge work because there's a lot that goes into e-production jobs now where technology's involved now. And there, there are a lot of discretionary decisions that employees are expected to make.

That's why this whole thing about quiet quitting now it's like which kind of became a buzz recently. It's not really a new concept, it's just a new term. And people can't really quietly quit and be engaged because Most organizations have values. They don't just have job descriptions, they've got values.

And in almost every job in the world, people are expected to use some discretionary effort and So if organizations aren't embracing at least some part of theory, why then I think they're really missing out and they're putting themselves at high risk. Unfortunately, a lot of 'em aren't acting like they are because only one in five people say that can strongly agree that their opinion, their opinions count at work.

So, there's a lot of room to grow its opportunity particularly now.

Jeff Hunt:

Absolutely. And it seems like quiet, quitting is the ultimate manifestation of disengagement and burnout, right?

Jim Harter:

It is. And you could say, who do you point the finger at? Some people are, wanna point it at younger workers' attitudes toward work.

I don't, I don't do, I, I point more toward how we equip managers effectively and ultimately, People come to work wanting to make a difference. That's right. And if we give them the opportunity and we give them an inspirational job and we give them rewards for that work that they do.

They're much more likely to be engaged. And we've seen organizations move from, you know, we've got a global average now of about one in five people are, are engaged in the top organizations we study. And our metrics are really high bar, um, or are 70% plus. So it's, it's very doable. It's not like, uh, a pipe dream that, that you can move a, a, an organizational culture and you can engage young workers, older workers, the whole gamut if you put the right systems in place.

Jeff Hunt:

So, just to wrap us up before we move into the lightning round questions, it sounds like what you're saying is that highly engaged workforce companies do a few things differently. They build trust in leadership. They essentially embrace flexible work environments, empowering teams, managers, employees, to make a lot of those decisions.

They, you didn't talk too much about this, but they take employee wellbeing very seriously. Getting to know people personally. In addition to professionally, they leverage creative and different communication channels and are transparent with how things are going. And then lastly, you also mentioned in the book that they really invest in upskilling their managers so that they actually know how to improve engagement with their teams.

Jim Harter:

Did I miss anything on that? That's a really good comprehensive list. Jeff, it starts at the top though really. And leaders need to, uh, help their workforce understand the why behind, uh, their strategy and if engagement's part of their strategy. If wellbeing is part of their strategy. If remote work is part of their strategy, people need clearer.

Answers to why and how it fits in to that strategy and how it relates to their ultimate outcomes. And so they need leaders to help them see that path and to see how that path relates to the customer, which then relates to how the organization is successful, which helps everybody in the organization have better lives.

Topic 7. Lighting round questions (35:47)

Jeff Hunt:

Jimmy, you ready for the lightning round? Sure. Let's do it. My first question is, what are you most grateful

Jim Harter:

I'm very fortunate to work in an organization that, uh, you know, we've had flex time since the 19, since 1969 actually. So it's not, this isn't new to us, but I, I feel grateful to work in an organization that actually we practice what we preach in terms of our findings and we apply them and we're always kind of experimenting on ourselves.

But I'm also grateful to have family that, that supports the hours I put in.

Jeff Hunt:

Looking back on your career, what's the most difficult leadership lesson you've learned?

Jim Harter:

It kind of comes back to, I guess I learned this fairly early on, but the individual nature of motivation, you can say it, but until you actually try to practice it, you've gotta be intentional about learning, listening, and learning from each person's perspective to get to know where they're coming from.

And it takes some time and effort and people don't naturally sit back and listen first and that goes. When you're dealing with clients to, when you're dealing with associates all the way through, if your starting point is listening, uh, to what's going on with them, that's I learned that early, but you always have to continually remind yourself to do it.

Jeff Hunt:

Listening is really the number one leadership skill, isn't it?

Jim Harter:

I think it is. I think it is.

Jeff Hunt:

Who's one person you would interview if you could living or not?

Jim Harter:

Probably Abraham Maslow. Mm. He was a pioneer from a strengths perspective and He's known for his, you know, he is, he's known for the hierarchy of needs, but I think we sell him very short if that's where we leave his contribution.

He had a lot of insights into how work improves people's lives. Maybe even argued maybe more than a therapist, that work can provide a vital function in people improving communities. And he thought big picture about work.

Jeff Hunt:

Do you have a top book recommendation for our listeners?

Jim Harter:

This one's already been purchased by a lot of people.

I just read it on Sunday cause I hadn't read it yet. And I think it's, it, it's good. It aligns really well with what we have learned about how people change their wellbeing. And it's called Atomic Habits. Everybody's heard of it now, but if you haven't read it, I, it's a quick read. I read it in like three hours and it aligns really well with, uh, different things that I've learned throughout.

I really try to dig into, you know, what, what causes changed and I think the alignment of habits. With goals, uh, in the short-term and long-term self. So you gotta have habits that fulfill your short-term self and also align with your long-term self. That's one of the things we learned in our wellbeing work, uh, a while back.

But he put it to Mr. Clear, put it to some specificity in his book. I thought he did a really good job.

Jeff Hunt:

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Jim Harter:

To listen and to simplify. I guess those two things combined to simplify. Meaning I'm in a job where you do a lot of complex science work and if you don't bring it to a level that you can apply it, then it doesn't matter.

And I've always tried to keep that front and center is that you've gotta do the complex work, but you've gotta make it simple and applicable.

Jeff Hunt:

So Jim, we've talked about a lot today. If you had to synthesize what the greatest takeaway is for our listeners, what would you say that is?

Jim Harter:

I would probably put it into two thing, two, you know, two things that compliment one another.

One is, um, leaders need to, for lack of a better term, kind of audit their culture in a sense that they need to first decide what they want their culture to be, what they aspire their culture to be, and identify that and communicate how it fits into their strategy. That's one And two you're not gonna get any of that done unless you upskill managers.

And never been more important than now to upscale managers to have the right kind of ongoing conversations with people so they have comfortable, natural, uh, regular, weekly. The simplest takeaway would be one weekly, uh, meaningful conversation with each employee, and I kind of went through what some of those criteria are for that, but that'd be the, the biggest takeaway would be make sure you're doing that at all levels of the organization.

Jeff Hunt:

So your book comes out May 30th. And it's available on all platforms. Listeners, I'm gonna put it on my books list, on our podcast website, so if you're wondering, you can go find it there. But it's called Culture Shock, and I hope you all have an opportunity to pick it up and read it because it's transformational.

Jim, thank you so much for coming on the show today and bringing all this wisdom to our listeners.

Jim Harter:

Thanks for having me, Jeff. Great to be with you.

Outro (40:39)

Closing music jingle/sound effects

Jeff Hunt:

Thanks for listening to Human Capital, if you like this show please tell your friends and also take the time to go rate and review us. Human Capital is a production of GoalSpan, your integrated source for performance management. Now go out and be the inspiration to other humans, and thank you for being human kind.

Human Capital — Culture Shock (Replay)
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