Month: November 2018

2 Formulas For Employee Engagement Success with Eric Rowlee


Josh Drean: Welcome back listener to Forging Employee Experience. I’m Josh Drean joined here with my co-host Alexander Noren.

Alexander Noren: Hey everybody! How’s it going?

Josh Drean: We are so excited of our guest today. I’m just percutaling with excitement right now.

Alexander Noren: That’s true, he’s percolating.

Josh Drean: If you see our studio right now, there’s a lot of percolation going on over here but we have with us in the studio Eric Rowlee, how are you Eric?

Eric Rowlee: I’m doing well guys, how are you?

Josh Drean: We’re great. Thank you so much for spending some time jumping on the horn with us and talking a little about your expertise. Before we jump to far on this, let me just tell you a little about Eric Rowlee. Eric is the Director of Change, Training and Communication at Walmart. LEt’s all just keep in mind that Walmart employees are over 2.1 million people world wide. That’s about 1.4 million in the United States alone. You got your work cut out for you Eric.

Eric Rowlee: Yeah, things are big here. It’s just good.

Josh Drean: Eric holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brigham Young University, a masters degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology in the University of Nebraska. He has an MBA in Brigham Young University. He has a big beautiful family, we’re talking 7 kids living in Arkansas. He’s got a farm, crops that he is growing.

Alexander Noren: He’s got it all. Holy smokes.

Eric Rowlee: Who doesn’t need 10 years of student loans, right? Why not get a handful of degrees. Life is fun, good times.

Josh Drean: I’ve spent some time with your family and we look up to you guys as the example family. My wife all the time says, “I wish I could be like the Rowlee’s.”

Eric Rowlee: Just let us know if you are coming by so we can make sure to clean up first.

Josh Drean: Well, go ahead and fill in some of that introduce there. Is there anything that I left out that you want our listeners to know about.

Eric Rowlee: No, no. I think that’s great. I mean, that’s me in a nutshell. That’s a good job.

Josh Drean: Great, great. You’ve been in Walmart for several years now, right?

Eric Rowlee: Yeah, lets see. January makes 8 years and I was in Intel 10 years before this.

Josh Drean: Ummm, Intel. I believe a lot of organizational work as well, correct?

Eric Rowlee: Yeah, very similar work. All of my time in Walmart and Intel has been around organizational effectiveness. So think about organizational effectiveness broadly it includes how do we design an organization, the structure, the boxes and lines in your org chart but also ways of working in processes and do you bring technology into that. How do you make decisions and what are your people practices like whats the blueprint of your organization. Of course, you need to do things differently tomorrow than you do today, you really can’t put those blue print into practice unless your willing to do change. So part of my career has been heavy and change management. Where I spend a lot of my time right now. This concept of associate engagement or employee engagement. Workplace engagement is critical, you can design the perfect blueprint I’m not sure if there is one if there were one, you can design the perfect blueprint and folks are engaged and if they’re just not there it’s not going to work. My career has been this weaving together of org design, change management, high performing teams, and engagement stuff. Pretty cool actually.

Josh Drean: We are so excited to get into that especially Walmart being an enormous company. We want to hear how that change goes down but before we go far into all of the logistics of that. The show, we originally called it Forging Employee Engagement since we moved it to Employee Experience but the word Employee engagement is tossed around and defined in all different ways and so we just want an opinion from the expert. How would you define employee engagement?

Eric Rowlee: Thats a good point. We were chatting before like one of the best things that can happen to a workplace term is it becomes a buzz word but its all kind of bad, everyone gets to make their own definitions. For our conversation, let’s see if we agree on this definition of Engagement. Engagement is what you see when people are fully involved in the work that their doing. Their enthusiastic about its that feeling of investment. I can’t put a single word on Engagement other  then engagement but if you were to take the lid of it and look inside its this feeling of being involved, invested and enthusiasm. To start to hear people say things like, “I want to do this or we’re going to make this successful or I love want I’m doing.” That’s engagement, it inspires people, drives commitment, you might use the word passion. That’s engagement on my head.

Josh Drean: It sounds like a by product of so many things. What I’m getting from you when you say what you see is more of like the result of your efforts.

Eric Rowlee: No, that’s right. It’s kind of like, what is happiness? what is love? Engagement itself is a mental state but it manifests itself in certain ways that actually matter to companies very much. A number of years ago, there’s a research done in Galop Organization was big into research the US Government was involved number of organizations. They found that depending on how you measure it, engagement actually cost the US economy anywhere in between 250-350 billion dollars annually. I know 250-350 billion is a big range or large margin of error but either way those are big numbers. Let say 300 billion, 300 billion that’s a lot of money in my house, right? For companies who are just trying to peak out 1% more productivity like most companies, like systems trying to put a dollar sign of what you lose because of disengaged employees. I mean that’s material, that hit your balance sheet. Research went further, companies highly engaged with employees outperform their peers. Employees outperform their peers like 20% if they’re highly engaged and they’ve got lower turnover. They’re almost, almost 90% less likely to leave. And there’s this whole body research about the cost of turnover, the actual cost, the hidden cost. Turnovers are expensive. If your 90% less likely to leave because you’re engaged, man if you worked for me, I’m going to trying your engagement. Things like operating margins down up like 3-4% thats alot, 2% rise in net profits. So when you start to put actual dollars and present its points around what is engagement for me is like its not just warm and fuzzy. We might think, “Well, I’m here for business”. People just have a job and they come to there job, I don’t need the warm and fuzzy all over. No, no, no. This is your profit here. You’re trying to be a successful company whether your in it for the money or whether your a non-profit organization or even a church like whatever your out to do, you’ll be more successful because your folks are engaged.

Alexander Noren: It couldn’t be more true and I feel like this idea of engagement has been around long enough now were the data has kind of shifted through the market and I don’t this idea of engagement is right. Like you mentioned before, it’s a buzz word now. People know about it, people understand that it’s out there and yet for me it’s almost paradoxical. I feel like I have these people, these organizations – these smart people, their intelligent humans that are leading these organizations that are still struggling with engagement. That says to me that engagement while in this couple of minutes here, we had a really good definition to it. There’s gotta be something about that tricks people up, prevents people from really getting it right. So what goes to this idea of engagement? How do we make it happen?

Eric Rowlee: Thats a good question. Let me get a little mathematically with you here. I’m just going to give you an ample.

Alexander Noren: All right. Let’s do it.

Eric Rowlee: I’m going to give you a couple of formulas. The first one is a formula about performance and you’ll see engagement is part of that. We’ll unpack engagement and you’ll see in the second formula. What goes into engagement? Think of it this way, if I’m responsible for a team whether its for a profit context or non-profit, whatever. Performance matters, we come together as a team to do something, think of the formula this way, performance equals ability times engagement times environment. Again, ability, engagement, environment. So think about ability is do we have the skills we need. in fact, lets simply it on the individual level. There’s a guy on my team, he’s got a job to do and he comes to the table with his individual skills, the training that I’m going to provide, he has a certain capacity for the work, he got experience, a certain level of maturity. So he comes to work in the morning with a level of ability. That’s you first variable. Second variable would be the engagement we’ll dove into further but just for a minute engagement and does he feel that sense of commitment, does he have high jobs satisfaction, does he want to be here, does he like the work, does he feel this willingness to sacrifice and go above and beyond, that’s variable number 2. Number 3 is environment like so when he gets to work, does he have the right tools and resources, systems to do his job, do he have enough time to do this job, do I support him as his boss, does he have a team around him that either facilitates or gets in the way of that, is the workplace dirty, dangerous and noisy, or is it facilitative for work and concentration? So again, performance equals ability times engagement time environment. Now, it’s times not plus so if any of those is zero it blows up the others like you know, a loss. High ability

Alexander Noren: Remember that from Algebra, Josh. The zero thing.

Josh Drean: Yeah, right.

Eric Rowlee: I only know that because I got high schoolers with Algebra right now, it reminded me of that. Thats last night at the table.

Alexander Noren: I have thought of Algebra in a decade.

Eric Rowlee: I promise we won’t get any harder than that with the Math rite.

Alexander Noren: We need a tutor here. Sorry, go ahead, Eric.

Eric Rowlee: I’ll go slow so imagine, imagine you got just the right person you hired and their fantastic and they have all the skills, training and maturity and professional poise that you want and the environment is awesome. All the right tools and resources, theres a team there. Clear vision and mission, its great but their not engaged for whatever reason. High ability times high environment times zero engagement is going to equal zero. And if its low engagement, it’s going to equals to something low. Again, its performance to be composed of these 3 things. Anyone of them being low will sink your ship. Ability we get because I’m going to hire carefully and I can train and I can give experience. Environment that’s easy too, I can make sure you have great tools, laptop, access to all the systems we’re good at that. the middle piece, engagement is usually the lowest number that tanks ultimately performance. Got it?

Josh Drean: Yeah, it feels like this engagement piece is the reason why companies I feel high turnover is because they haven’t quite yet figure out the engagement piece because like you said sometimes we view it as fluffy or the Hr Director does not have the resources that he/she needs to be able to implement the initiatives that will drive through change. What practical advice could you give us to start down this journey of increasing our engagement?

Eric Rowlee:  Good question. Here’s the second formula. First formula, performance equals ability times engagement times environment. Let’s take the lid of engagement and look inside, what goes into that middle box. Formula number 2 is this, how engaged am I equals, now this is every individual in my head. How engage am I equals my belief in my ability, can I even do this multiplied by my trust in the outcome, if I do it will I hit the objective, will I get the reward and multiply by a third thing which is value, how much do I want for the object or reward. So again, my ability, sorry, my belief in my ability times my trust in the outcome times how much do I want that outcome. Again, if anyone of those is low or zero, your sunk. So how engaged am I? A. my belief in my ability, of course I can do this, I’ve done it from my 3 previous jobs. I’m great at it, I’ve been well trained, I’ve been to conferences, I’ve great mentors, I can totally do this. B. Trust in the outcome, I can execute this. I’ll hit the objective, I’ll hit them on time and on budget, we will definitely land the plane. it’s going to be great. C. How much do I value the objective? I don’t know, I mean, it’s not much. Maybe that objective seems irrelevant to me or I don’t see how it fits on the big picture at all. Say I’m going for promotion, my belief in my job, yeah of course, I can do my job. Im totally able and I totally value, I completely completely value that promotion but do I trust about the outcome that middle space there? Like I don’t trust that, if I do my job super well the promotions never coming. Seen guys around me doing super well and they don’t get promoted either so again how engaged am I ? Mu beliefs in my ability time my trust in the outcome time how much I want the outcome and if anyone of those is low, your engagements going to be low. I just said a minute ago, it affects you performance.

Alexander Noren: And it sounds like those 3 elements, when we talk about ability and environment in the previous formula and both of those seem the be pretty in control of the company like you mentioned but it also seemed like this 3 additional, your perceived ability. It’s something that the company can help you  see that there’s value in it. That there’s going to the outcomes that you desire would say the company has a major impact on these 3 elements.

Eric Rowlee: Absolutely.Just take the first one, beliefs in my ability so if I hire somebody and then I find out that the job they are in, maybe it was not what they thought it would be or they don’t feel qualified or whatever and I’m worried about their belief in their ability. I can do things like provide a crystal clear picture of success looks like. I can, you know, success metrics, you can have a clear road map, dashboard. Whatever that person needs, I can paint the picture of success. I can give them the right training whether its in-house, I can send them away or give them a mentor whose good at this, I can demonstrate that I can be there and move barriers like yeah, they’re going to trip up because there’s a learning curve but I’m not going to kick them out when they trip, I want to be there to help and dust themselves off and learn from that experience and go. So by doing things like that, I can boost their beliefs in their ability. Trust in the outcome, sorry if I cut you off.

Josh Drean: I think that’s perfect. I just really want to get into trusting the outcome part as far as like the company is concerned because if your employees can’t trust that it’s going to work out in their favors, work out favorborably then it negates the their formula.

Alexander Noren: This has be to were managers has to be on point. I think it’s pretty easy to check the box and say yes. We able this person, their belief in their self and abilities is good but they don’t really feel safe. You talked about making these mistakes which is part of growth, right? These making mistakes and hopefully you fall forward right whenever you fall that very much part of the environment that in general by your direct supervisor.

Eric Rowlee:  Yeah, absolutely. When it comes to beliefs to my ability, just call it dumb luck. Cards are stack besides the manager because most people believe their able.   You do have some people who struggle with confidence but in terms of job context, most of the time, if you pulled a thousand people within the organization. 950 of them are going to say, “No, I’m good of what I do.” right?

Alexander Noren: Yup, yup.

Eric Rowlee: Or maybe some disconnect they say, “I’m good with my career but what I’ve been asked to do, I don’t know how to do that.” You put me in the wrong job. imagine something like that happening. Now trust in the outcome, say somebody wants to be promoted and im their manager, I can say, “Hey look if you can do these things, demonstrate these type of behaviours, and take on these type of projects just like Bob, and Sally and Sue over here over the last year they were all promoted and they started where you started or if its a larger project and look everytime we;ve done a project like this, we reduced cost by 5%. This shouldn’t be any different. So whatever the outcome is, you can call out similar projects similar efforts have been successful. And then values are very individual thing, the value I placed on that outcome is going to be an individual thing. Maybe I dnt get to jazzed up about saving the company 2% or I will get jazzed saving the company 2%, everyone is different. As the boss, as the manager, Im going to look for connections between what my team members value and what the objective is. I maybe in a big project here at the company that im currently with. My team and I were working on something that’s going to make life’s better for all of our employees. Well, I can show them what better looks like because they are counting on us. I can raise that value component as well.

Josh Drean: Let’s unpack that value component a little bit because a lot of times I think that gets lost in definition has well because a lot of companies will say, “Oh we just need a cost and that will fix everything” You studied in depth motivation theory and it’s a very complicated thing but if anyone understands it well it’s you. In the context of employee engagement and this formulas, how do we define that value or how do we cover that value for our employees?

Eric Rowlee: Well, that’s a great question and your right. There kind of ace up your sleeve, I didn’t call out on the formula. there’s a wild card bonus if you want. Its you wild draw forth card, the coveted card. So go back to the formula, how engaged am I equals my belief in my ability times the outcome of my efforts times how I value that outcome. But there’s this other thing on the side that’s not bounded by the laws of physics in terms of those 3 components it stands independent and its we all call intrinsic motivation. Those first 3 things I talked about are very extrinsic, we’re talking about things like training, promotion, saving the company money, objectives, there’s no sin there. It’s fine to be motivated extrinsically, we call that coming to work everyday. But intrinsic motivation is important too and its stands independent that it has nothing to do with the outcome or the 2% or whatever. its how much do I love this? How much do I get jazzed up by the work? If I work in a non-profit, do I really feel like its my call to help these people. if in work in a company, do I really feel like I’m part of something big, we’re kind of putting a dent in the world. We’re changing things here. Intrinsically, independ of anything else. Does my heart pump a little faster like lets get started? Managers benefit from this because even if im struggling to see the connection between my efforts and my outcome like 2% or whatever, but I love what I do. Maybe I’m a corporate trainer. Man, I just love training people and I love training them and see the light come on, see their eyes light up and the stuff that I’m training the on, Im neutral. But I love training well I’m going to be a pretty good trainer, right? So think about it in terms of this bigger buckets, extrinsic motivation the first 3 we talked about and then intrinsic is additive. Even if something is missing in extrinsic buckets and it turns out to be low or zero, intrinsic motivation can save the day. That’s very individual.

Alexander Noren: How do we harness that intrinsic motivation?

Josh Drean: Its very individualistic, everyone’s different and every single individual and every intrinsic motivator,it can get overwhelming.

Alexander Noren: Absolutely.

Eric Rowlee: Absolutely. Absolutely. A few things you can do, one is upfront in the selection process people carry their intrinsic motivation to the interview, right? To the selection process, if I know what the work looks like, if I know your upfront in training people 4 days a week or your going to be training around the world or your going to be looking for very small errors in accounting to keep us from court or whatever for various things. I can be bringing that to the interview and I can be producing and testing for where is your interest, what make you tick as a person. O can ask questions like in your spare time like a weekend to kill, what do you do or what do you do in the evening or what makes you tick? And then I can lay that template as the role say, “Well, you got great skills and I want you on the team but for a different role, this role is not going to jazz you up.”

Josh Drean: That value is not a perfect match.

Eric Rowlee: No its not. That probably not a scientific interview question although I know there’s some research about that and there’s evidence to say, “Look giving someone a real estate job preview and having an honest discussion about on how it stands up their interests and motives that does lean toward helping them to be successful once their in role. Real estate preview that includes the elements of the role, against your intrinsic motivation, yeah, there’s science there. I would add once I have people on my team and Im aligning team members to assignments and dividing up the work I can also get an understanding if im their boss it would be better to know what their intrinsic motivators are. you know some people really value my time out of work please don’t cut into my evening. Some people love to travel, some people love challenge, some people love this one part of the business because they just relate to it, I don’t know but I need to find out what motivates my folks. So when I’m assigning them different jobs when them came across my inbox I can get some kind of alignment between assignments and interests.

Alexander Noren: that sounds a lot of work.

Eric Rowlee: It is. It is.

Alexander Noren: That’s important to highlight because all to often people are looking into this space and they listen to people that know about it and their queued in the magic bullet. Even here, you are right with your formulas it’s almost sounds too good to be true, “Oh, this is it. We just apply this formulas and were set. “Yeah, but to do right managers need to realize that part of being a manager is not only the administrative function of getting task completed but also the people skills and better understanding who you are incharge of. There’s no shortcut to that, no shortcut to getting to know people, it just takes time and lot of times people are unwilling perhaps they don’t see the benefit or they were never really good at it whatever the case may be, I think it’s important to highlight that. Hey, we are trying to understanding what intrinsic motivation of employees that inherently will require effort and time on behalf of the managers.

Eric Rowlee: Yeah, your exactly right. I mean, there’s no kind of sounding like high on the sky or ivory tower or whatever. Probably there’s a podcast on a different day but what your touching on is the difference between managing and leading, right?

Alexander Noren: Your absolutely right. Your absolutely right.

Eric Rowlee: I can bring people in fill the seat then the work and pay them at the end of the week all day long. If I hire farely well.

Alexander Noren: Your hire for skill for the very least.

Eric Rowlee: Hire for skill, keep their job. People are generally good folks and they want to do a good job things are generally going to be okay. But I want to be in those companies that outperform their peers that have lower turnover, that have larger increase as an operating margin and net profits, if I want to be in those companies, I can’t just manage I have to lead and leading involves understanding how people think and what they feel and how they tick. Letting that guide my decisions about work assignments and its all of that. I can get away without the extra effort and just manage or I can lead those who do there are benefits.

Josh Drean: Its so important to know that we’re not just trying to manage individuals. I know that Dan Pink says, “Managers are a tool that we invented to help get work done, get results as well..”

Alexander Noren: Tasked accomplished, right?

Josh Drean: Boxes checked and I just loved we’re talking about right now is moving beyond just being a manager or moving beyond hiring something, somebody its got to start with the on boarding process. Someone would just look at their resume, find out what makes them tick, make sure they are the right fit because in doing so your more likely going to retain them longer.

Alexander Noren: Its interesting too with technology increasing that way that it is. I’ve been reading a lot more, seeing a lot more articles being published about how some organizations are afraid. Employees are afraid being replaced by machine learning. its AI component, its interesting that you have an organization that is strictly focused on box checking making sure task are accomplished. Well, then those employee should be a little concerned that computers are going to take their jobs because a computer can check boxes very well but if you have an organization that focused on the stuff and the people and understanding what makes them move and helping them create an environment that allows them to succeed then all of the sudden it’s now, “Wait, I’m not worried about a machine taking away routine tasks because I will embrace it employee knowing that just open opportunities from you to grow and value elsewhere.

Eric Rowlee: That’s exactly right. If you want large scale value from all of these you have to pay attention to both extrinsic motivation because rewards matter, outcomes matter, training matters, all of that. you have to figure out the intrinsic part and embrace the intrinsic part. Managers will have a difficult time, it might be impossible to direct affect somebody’s intrinsic motivation, they just have it. What motivates them, right? Best they can do is to learn what people are passionate about and then align their job, their assignment to those areas of passion at least some of the time. Now look, it’s just not realistic all love every single minute of our job that’s not realistic but it is realistic to think the people that are on my team, I can do the best I can to align them to some of the times. Overall, they do have that intrinsic motivation checked then the extrinsic motivation, I can check that otherwise and the benefit is in two spaces a lot of research are behind this not the least of which corporate, CLC I know your familiar with that, right? it’s the CLC research shows that when you get those two things right extrinsic and intrinsic motivation intent to stay really really goes up so retention are they here? And discretionary effort so performance. Discretionary effort in my head is there’s a minimal amount of effort I have to do everyday. to keep my job. Some jobs take a lot of effort but I know what the cutoff is. I don’t have to do one unit more of effort and I’ll keep my job forever but discretionary effort would be above that line, I’m going to keep giving. I’m going to stay late, I’m going to innovate and collaborate, I’m going to step in with on of my colleagues who is struggling, I’m going to share, all of these things that give the companies the edge. So intent to stay is retention but discretionary effort touches on performance so are they here and are they hooked? When you figure out extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, yeah, now you got it.

Alexander Noren: Right.

Josh Drean: That’s really amazing. So many good gems coming out of this, I think that corporations and listeners are learning that there’s a formula that they can apply its not just some fluffy..

Alexander Noren: Make everyone happy..

Eric Rowlee: Make everyone happy, trying to figure out like it does really give you the edge where it does affect the bottomline. Talk to us a little about, what does it look like in practice? You’re not just an expert going around speaking on the subject. You actually in the trenches at Walmart for trying to implement change training, communication and for 2 million people. Just a little look inside of what that is.

Alexander Noren: Hopefully some hope for those listeners that are trying to change smaller organization.

Eric Rowlee: Your spot on and I’ll just go back to the motivation formula we can call it. The second formula which was how engaged am i, my beliefs in my ability times my trust in the outcome will come times the value of that outcome. when I approach it call me an Internal Consultant and I’m going to go and work with a group of leaders and they describe what they are struggling with and they say look , “Eric, we’ve got really smart people like our problem is not talent but still for some reason, it just seem this are twice hard as ought to be or we missed lines that we should or we’re always over budget I don’t know where that’s coming from.” I go to this motivation formula, I probably go a step earlier in our conversation and go to the performance formula and I’d look at ability and as there telling me they have the right people, I would test that. Do you really have the right people with the right ability? and I’d go to environment, do you have the right systems, resources, time and what not? Let me just unpack that a little bit, the environment its just about systems and resources and time. I found that there’s this whole other realm of potential improvement and its kind of the engagement space that is really demotivating and its around this body of work performing teams. There are some teams that perform and there teams that are able to highly perform. its a low percentage of total team, right? But it feels like do I get connected to the big picture? Do I see how our work matters? Do we raise and resolve conflict quickly around here or do we suppress it until like a pressure cooker it blows. Do we have healthy decision making methods and protocols or is it kind of willy nilly or do we just do nothing until everyone gets a warm and fuzzy hugs, right? Is our decision making productive or broken. Lots of things like that can go into a high performing team and most teams they haven’t crack the code on it. it almost always takes somebody outside from the team to come in and diagnose what your missing and what cylinders you firing on, right? So this ability times engagement times environment, there’s a lot in the environment that isnt I haven’t had a fast enough laptop and access to all the systems. It’s the team around me, are we functional or dysfunctional? And again, ability, engagement, environment, I may be super high on ability skill and frankly very engaged and if my team is broken that’s a whole issue and it will tank my ability and my engagement.

Josh Drean: Right. And at Walmart, your dealing with so many different factors. Holy cow, you’ve got people in the trenches, in the stores doing the work and then you have people in corporate that your dealing with. A whole slew of individuals in between. Their different teams, a lot of different roles and alot of different environment and so how do you manage training and communicating across all of those?

Eric Rowlee: I think we are very similar to a lot of big companies, right? There’s always a corporate office, there’s always either a retail outlet or factory outlets or distribution centers. I mean, we’re certainly not uniques our numbers are going to be different but the way we operate I would guess if I’m honest these things plays out in most companies in a very consistent way. It’s your question about, how to I see it playout? I think it has a lot to do with helping people see the value of their work and helping them see what they do makes a difference. Big companies look at us or anybody, it’s easy to get lost, its easy to say, “We have a enterprise strategy and we have a slogan or whatever you use” but I’m over here with some team under another division and I don’t know how I connected that. I say the slogan before I joined and it was super motivating it kind of gave me chills so I got a job at the company and now I’m here at bookkeeping and I dnt know how that this applies to this slogan over here that made me feel so motivated before. So helping people see that you really are tied to this vision that what you do really does impact customers and your customers maybe online, your customers maybe within law firms or people youre support for non-profit. But me and my role in my desk on a Tuesday, how is it easy for me to see line of sight between me  and the reason the company exists or me, we’re going to do better than this year or me, getting ahead of our competition, overcome a big obstacle or whatever and leaders help people see the connection between me and my desk at a Tuesday and this bigger picture a founder had a vision of and customers are counting on and that’s not unique to my company thats across the board. One of the biggest thing that leaders can do is that, helping them see their connection. Another thing is and this sounds tactical and less romantic but just making sure how to do my job and there’s a lot in there. Did I get the proper training to do my job? Do I know how you measure success because if im ambiguous in terms what success looks like that is demotivating as well. so if you don’t want to put a damper on my engagement, make sure I know what you expect, make sure its realistic, make sure its goal oriented, make sure I know how you are measuring me and then make sure that I see the connecting between that and the outcome. maybe I’m going to a promotion. Okay, so what do you expect before you promote somebody? its have the conversation and be as concrete as possible and then help me believe that when I do those things we agree that i’ve done them I will be promoted or I will get the raise or I will get the cool opportunity the international assigned or whatever it is. Managers can do that just help me understand what success looks like and how can I be successful.

Josh Drean: Yeah, it’s kind of like establishing an expectation or I feel like companies back in the Franklin Covey days the 80s and the 90s, it was like we need to set forth our standards, our ideals and our values. So they would write up some company theme or the values they should rally behind and it was very motivating at first and then all of the sudden it just came something that is posted up on the wall or I have to go through the organization  and ask the employees what the company stands for and actually tell you. I sounds like we want to get it clear on those and actually implement it into everything that you do.

Alexander Noren: And own it, right? The people seems top down ownership, everybody every level has to be on board or it just becomes a slogan on a wall I guess.

Eric Rowlee: Imagine what happens if they are. Imagine what happens if X numbers of employees in your company medium or small when they all feel empowered and excited about it. I’ll tell you a story, true story, personal story. Years ago, we took our daughters that were very young to Disneyland. And day 3 of Disneyland, you can imagine, I’m dragging, pushing strollers and carrying them in the backpack like we’re tired, right? My oldest daughter says, “Okay dad, one more ride” and i’m thinking, “I’m going to amortize this, I’m getting more out of my money, Yeah. Okay, one more ride.” and the park is closing so she wanted to go on this ride that’s why at the back of the pack one of the back corners. So we get there get on the ride, we were probably the last people to get  on it and we come off the ride and it’s dark like the parade of people left the park and I find my wife and my other two daughters now asleep on the bench waiting for us. True story, they are sitting and they have this bright and shiny Mickey Mouse stickers on their jackets and I said, “Where did you get those?” and part of me got thinking, those might be $20 a piece its Disneyland but I was surely interested because the shop are closed. She didn’t buy them. I said, “where did you get those honey?” Cool thing, she said, “The girls are kind of cranky and an older gentleman came by and he was sweeping, he was cleaning up the mess from the day and he saw us here and he saw me kind of wrestling with the girls.” and he said, “Oh hey I have something for you girls okay?” and he gave them each a sticker. Then she said, “Wow, that’s amazing. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid and I got to thank you for sweeping because I’ve been always impressed how many people come through and I get here in the morning and it’s like opening day. Its spotless. Here’s what he said, “Well, Walt wanted people to come in and have a special experience. That’s what I want too. Have a good night.” Now come on, like this guy, he’s passed retirement age, doesn’t need to be there, never met Walt Disney, he’s sweeping the ground in a dark distant corner of the park when he didn’t expect anybody to be around. He is doing his job in a way directly connected in the vision of the founder. Holy cow, I’m thinking most companies have a founder with a vision and I know mine does. If can somehow tap into that vision and get my folks, get my team to connect with that, wow. Wow, here’s the thing about tapping that vision is it ties into intrinsic engagement because one of the law of engagement is this write this down, extrinsic engagement used when you checked that box, you give the promotion, give the raise, give the juicy assignment that has a shelf life that is less than when you satisfy intrinsic engagement. Think of the last time you were gunning for a promotion and you got the promotion and you pay went up to 10% like you were jazzed for awhile and then it was a job again but think about the last time doing the thing that you loved or somehow connected with the bigger picture, yeah, it still work but I mean, I get it is clicking for me. The shelf life on that is longer so companies continues to play on extrinsic engagement that find they have to get going back to the well and back to the well. It’s kind of selling your inventory to meet your goals there’s so much inventory to sell off, right?

Alexander Noren: Right.

Eric Rowlee: But companies that can tap into intrinsic engagement either by connecting you to the vision or putting people on a role that gives them the chance to do what they love. Those companies have the secret sauce and it last.

Alexander Noren: This industry and the employee experience and the evolution of employee engagement 2.0 or how you ever want to call it, I think is emerging and so I think there’s a lot of people out there that are sitting here thinking, this is awesome. This is fantastic. In your role specifically, what advice can you give on how organization can go from being a company that either doesn’t really do anything with  engagement or heavily focus on extrinsic, external forces, the outward focusing in on helping people feel motivated and engaged to really tapping into that intrinsic motivation. How does that change happen in an organization as a whole?

Eric Rowlee: Good question again. I would say back to your earlier comment about “Man it sounds a lot of work.” Keeping in mind that companies needs to keeping what they do to stay in business. The doors needs to stay open to stay on since no one has time for this that they even don’t know what to do at time, “Man, we’re totally free on Thursday. What can we do? I know let’s get engaged. That’s not going to happen. So start small and I don’t care if your a manager of a team of five or an executive with a division of give thousand or whatever. Just start small and on the same breathe revamp your process just to include intrinsic motivation and re-assign all your workers to the things that they love and go do a bunch of trainings and build their confidence just too much. Don’t do that. Every company is different, every company is in a different place at the start of the journey and they may have different gaps or opportunity so figure what are your gaps or opportunities are and just do a couple things but do them in a way that sticks like it can’t be the flavor of the month because not really thinking about engagement and then thinking about engagement is behavior change, here’s the change manager coming out in May. The human behavior change is tough like changing the way you think and mental habits is the hardest of all. On the enterprise level, changing the way we thinking about engagement that’s a heavy lift. If you think about, your going to lift something that is heavy, do you want 10 linear foot of it or just 1 linear foot of it. Just start with 1 linear foot of engagement and don’t let something that’s 10 feet wide because you can get off the ground. Start small, pick a couple things, and do them long enough to change the culture.

Alexander Noren: And you alluded to this in your response but just to highlight it, I think to a lot of people say to themselves, “Well, there’s nothing I can do if executives that are bought in to be particular folks in HR, this idea connects with them really well but sometimes I feel kind of handcuffed maybe because they don’t quite the executive buy off. These changes, can people start making substances of changes on their own without having perhaps executive buy offs. Not doing anything against the company by any means. Does the executives need to be converted to this cause of engagement experience all this sort of stuff before individual, team leaders, managers, departments?

Eric Rowlee: No, not at all. In fact, it will go faster since I say faster, it works faster ground up if it was the grass roots because me as a manager of my little team, I have quite of an influence of what happens there. I influence the assignments, I influence rewards, I influence conflict and removing barriers, I can definitely make it my mission to improve my team’s performance by focusing on the engagement bucket. Now, it can’t be all fun like we’re not going to throw the work out and have happy hour everyday because that’s not realistic, right? But I can do something that I’m not doing today and see if it works and see something else. Very rarely do you need the CEO’s approval to take your team to lunch or have a Christmas party or holiday party or whatever you do. You can start small absolutely.

Alexander Noren: Fantastic. That is absolutely incredible.

Josh Drean: Well Eric, we had just a fantastic time chatting and unpacking this wonderful stuff and I think the big takeaway for me is the secret sauce could be many different things but its not a mystery there are ingredients that go through it, there’s a formula if you will and thank you so much for sharing your formula for success in Employee Experience space how we can make the workplace better and happier place to be. Before we close, is there any last minute advice that you want to share with any of our listeners.

Eric Rowlee: No, I think you hit in the head there. It can be overwhelming if you try to swallow it whole just look at the component parts and pick up and work on that one and you can do an experiment see if it works. It doesn’t need to be overwhelming and I think you’ll see results of it.

Josh Drean: Awesome. Well, listeners we’ve been joined here Eric Rowlee. Thank you so much for your insight, we look forward to our next chat.

Alexander Noren: Take care everyone.

Eric Rowlee: Thanks guys.

7 Cultural Pillars of Employee Engagement with Eric Chester

Engaging employees is synonymous with retaining employees, and engaging employees is on the forefront of moving companies forward.   In our most recent podcast with Eric Chester, we talked about how to both manage and retain employees.  Eric is the author of On Fire at Work: Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out, his best-selling book that talks about getting employees to “work harder, perform better, and stay longer.”  Eric has delivered more than 2,000 keynotes to great companies all over the world, including Harley Davidson, McDonald’s, Sprint, Great Clips, Wells Fargo, and Subway. He has spoken on three different continents and is a 2004 inductee into the National Speakers Association’s acclaimed CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame.

The concept of employee retention has largely evolved over time.  Decades ago, employers, or even employees, didn’t have a thought about engagement or about being “happy” at work. The relationship between employers and employees was a transactional relationship where you just do your job and get paid. We have now come to realize that money isn’t the only motivating factor in why an employee chooses to stay. Employees are now focusing more on the experience. In order to keep employees engaged, companies should reach out to their employees. By doing so, they learn the employees’ points of view and are able to create a better workplace.

Eric spoke about his experiences as a high school teacher and youth speaker. These taught him about talking to individuals in the trenches. By conversing with these individuals and learning what their thoughts are, he was able to inspire them. Over time, he became interested in generational studies and wrote the book Employing Generation Why?.  The book was a huge success, and he companies started asking for his help on managing employee engagement. When he works with companies, he follows the same strategies of talking to employees in the trenches.  He would take excerpts and present these to the management.  The management will then learn what they can do to improve the workplace.  Eric emphasized that with most of these organizations there are really no employee retention strategy.  From his On Fire at Work book, he explained that there are seven cultural pillars that employees evaluate their jobs. Money is only one of them and is far from the only assurance of keeping an employee in a company.  He further added that retention is a by-product of hiring the right people and treating them the way they want to be treated. Employee engagement problems are solved when companies put an effort into making a better workplace.

Companies only get out what they put into their workforce. Listen to the full podcast to learn more on how talking to employees and knowing their points of view makes a better workplace.  Reach out and initiate change in your workplace.

We would like to thank Eric for his time and enthusiasm. We encourage everyone to get a copy of his book On Fire at Work: Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out and to check out his website at


Josh Drean: Hello listeners and welcome back to Forging Employee Experience. I’m Josh Drean and joined here with Alexander Noren.

Alexander Noren: Hey everybody! Thanks for coming out.

Josh Drean: And I’m so so very excited for our guest today because he’s one of my good friends, he’s a leading expert in this field. We are talking about Eric Chester, how are you Eric?

Eric Chester: I’m dynamite if I were any better, I’d be twins.

Alexander Noren: And we’d have you both of you on the show by the way.

Josh Drean: Let me just brag about you a little bit to our listeners. Eric Chester, he is really the go to expert on finding, engaging and keeping great employees. He is the best selling author of On Fire at Work : Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning them Out. Such a great title of a book by the way. That is exactly what we are trying to do with some of our employees to help them feel more engaged experience at work. He has delivered keynotes more than 2000 times in great companies all over the world. He has spoken for Harley Davidson, McDonald’s, Sprint, Great Clips, Wells Fargo, and Subway. Let me also mention that he has spoken in 3 different continents and is the 2004 Inductee into the National Speakers Associations acclaimed hall of fame which I know from experience is very hard to do not that I actually made it there but as one thinking about it. It’s quite the achievement so we are so grateful for having you on the show. Is there anything else that our listeners need to know more about?

Eric Chester: I tell you after an introduction like that, I cannot wait for you to hear what I got to say.

Alexander Noren: We’re all ears.

Eric Chester: I can’t wait, I can’t wait.

Josh Drean: Tell us a little about the way you do around Employee Engagement. You are the expert and so how do you go into these companies and what do you say?

Eric Chester: You know Josh, I’m a former high school business teacher and a football coach. The teaching part back in the day was called occasionally credentialed. My students in my class have jobs. They learn about business while their in class and then they had jobs in retailing, restaurants, hospitality, grocery stores and convenience stores et cetera. I was responsible for these students to get a grade so I had to stay in touch with their employer and manager to find out if they are getting a variety of experience et cetera et cetera. Well as the parents checking in because you know, the parents are concerned with the kids getting good education around school as much some other students because again they are working part time so it was a school to work transition. Another one from that, being a speaker for youths. So I spend about 10 years standing in gymnasiums talking to high school kids, trying to prepare them for the next step. What is this school thing mean and how do you get from here to there when you don’t know there is? This career is pretty hard to figure out. I did 1500 highschool presentations every state in the US and all the provinces in Canada just around up working with youth and then somewhere along the way, I realize I’m preparing the youth for the future but everybody keeps talking about Generation X. People are struggling and I started getting interested in Generalizational Studies about the same time getting calls from companies and organizations and said, “Hey, we are having trouble. We just don’t understand it this new Gen Xers or Generation X.” I started writing my own book and the book was called Employing Generation Why spelled W-H-Y, as in “Why do I have to work in nights and weekends”, “why do I have to wear that stupid looking uniform”, and “Hey man, I’ve worked here for 3 days so why can’t I have your job.” The book took off and I wind up getting contacted by so many different companies and organizations that were originally struggling with recruiting, training, managing, motivating what now is referred to as Millennials. I call them Generation Why that went 8-9 years and then when I started working with this companines I got more and more knowledgeable in terms of the tactics and strategies that seem to work to engaging in the workplace. To make them want to come to work, to want them show up early and pull their pants up, give the kind of respect they should to their employer blah blah blah. Now, it’s just been a process aggregating great ideas that I get from working with these companies and organizations and figuring out what is and what’s not working in terms of how do you find and keep great people, how do you develop and that’s how this work of mine is all about. I only speak to audiences, compromise of people that calls by. So if you are struggling with employees and BAM, I’m the guy who comes in and helps you try to figure them out. Not just young people, we now are dealing with young people, retirees who didn’t have enough stage and now there are multiple genders that are identifying them now and we’ve got different ethnicities and all of these hogg pogg that doesn’t come in to the workforce the way they did back in the day and the day, many employers remember themselves coming in from the workforce anyway that’s a long winded question to answer you ask me. How did you winded up in Employee Engagement? That’s it.

Josh Drean: That’s so organic. I love how you did it because you started finding the problem and asking the WHY questions and then finding the solutions and let me just tell my listeners, my favorite technique you used and I think this is so genius, keep in mind listeners, Eric Chester has been speaking with all of the managers of Subway and all of their top executives staff. He’ll get up there and he will go, beforehand, interview some of their employees in the trenches. He just asking them, “Do like your job? How do you feel about work?” and then he shows those videoclips to the executive staff in his keynotes and be like, “Do you know what your employees are saying about working for subway?” I think its just being awesome and natural feel to it because sometimes I think they forget what it’s like to be that person making the sandwich. What is the results or what is the end goal there?

Eric Chester: Maybe it comes out of insecurity, Josh. When I started, it was enough to say, “Look I’ve been in the trenches for 10 years with highschool and some college but mostly highschool students so I know what they think. Let me tell you how they think. When you get older, right? I started in 2000-2001 when Millenials is a word nobody knew that was. I was kind of the seminal guy their talking about of this emerging generation. It was enough back then to say here’s who they are and here’s what makes them different but then people wanted more and more actionable ideas, right? So many people jumped into the play and started adding their phrase, “look at millenials and here’s what make them different all four generations in the workplace. I think what is common type presentation. I wanted to take mine in a different direction to become more actionable. In that process I grew older believe or not I’m 20 years older than I was back in 1989. It somehow worked that way. So I went from being this guy that had my ear to the ground and then the trenches with young people to well went to study and still tries to stay in contact with them. It’s kind of, look I can stand up here and tell your from an academic standpoint what millenials think. I’m not a guy that regurgitate a bunch of statistics to come down from ridiculous questionnaires and all these forms and studies I just pull the whole thing. I’m the trenches guy, I go up and I talk to  people and ask them questions. It became really important to my audiences rather than hearing me just saying, “Here’s what they think” why don’t I let them tell the audience what they think. So I went in, started interviewing people and interviewing them on iphone having them asked series of questions and finding some provocative answers. Usually what it is, you think this, well let’s see. BAM! Then someone comes on and you’re like WOW I didn’t think about that. I don’t think they felt that way, so that what helps. That what helps the presentation so different, and nobody else does it.

Alexander Noren: It sounds that this type of style, you get at least unique responses. Is that fair to say?

Eric Chester: Alexander, phenomenally unique responses. You don’t know, there was a show way you guys were not stillborn, back on this thing we called Television Network Television. There was a show, Link Letter. It was this guy, he went out and talked to kids. Little kids sitting on a stool and his whole program was called “Kids say the darndest thing” It was so cute. With just a talking head, interviewing kids, sitting on a stool and they’d asked him about various things. Everybody liked that and everybody at that time was wow, how neat, how cute and they make you laugh. Remember the AT&T commercial that was above 8 years ago, I think that guy in Saturday Night Live now Durk whatever his last name is. He did this commercials were he’d go in and sit on these small table and guys would start talking about and maybe ask him questions same things like Kids say the darndest things. That kind of deal, you don’t know what is done scripted, what people is going to say. When I go in to talk to young people teenagers, hey look I don’t work for this company, I’ve nothing to do with this company and I usually get an introduction through management and comes to a corporate office. Look I’m just here trying to help managers to deal with you better, right? Because I’m working with a burger chain. I’m just trying to help managers who all run stores like this and understand what their employees want. I’d like to ask you a few questions, you don’t have to answer. I’ll excerpt those things, try to keep them in short little burst and final find bites. Nothing you’re going to say is going to get you promoted and nothing you say here gets you fired. Its just between you and me and if you don’t want to answer questions, no one’s going to know. I’m not going to say , “Hey, this is Bobby Smith and I’m here in Little Arkansa and he lives in Elm Street” it’s not like that. They might know your name is Bobby and your 17 that’s it.

Alexander Noren: What are the some more compelling responses you’ve seen? Some of the responses that made you stop and thinking, “Wow, that’s profound, a nugget or an experience that this employee had having that all managers could really understand.

Eric Chester: Well Alexander, it’d be almost like asking if you’re Canadian, yeah. There are so many jokes that I don’t even remember any. Let me give you examples of my favorite clip. One time this one chain was having difficulty hanging on a management. Found out managers were leaving because they were tired of the schedules were being run, they’re like “Gosh, darn” We were covering. Because these young people they don’t come in on time, they leave, they don’t call in, you know whatever. We’re always covering for them, it’s driving us crazy. They were losing managers because managers were sick and tired of dealing scheduling issues. So I went in and ask this really attractive, bright, young gal. She’s probably 17 and, “Hey, tell me about the attendance policy here.” And she went on this thing like, “you know, today I was late, well kind of late. When your late, they kind of give you a frowny face sometimes. I mean, you know, it would depend who is working and depends if you have a good excuse, it’s okay.” This video clip is so iconic because you watch it and you turn around and go, this young, lively, energetic face has no idea of the attendance policy is. And they you asked the audience, if I the people who worked for you, what’s your attendance policy? Are they going to tell you? Do they know what to do? Half the time, we think they should but they don’t, right? So we blame them because they’re not showing up on time and always late. Let’s unpack that a little bit, what is you attendance policy? Because everybody know what exactly what to do and more importantly because I wrote this book, Employing Generation Why, do they know why it’s important not to be 5 minutes late even if its 5 minutes, Hey guess what they’re history. Teachers let them escape for coming in 5 minutes late everyday. What’s the big deal as long as they bring them a doughnut every Friday they’re fine with it. They don’t realise they show up 5 minutes late that means their co-worker, Jorgie, stayed to cover that shift. Now Jorgie, missed his bus so he’s not going to get home till 20 minutes from now and because he doesn’t get home for 20 minutes. He’s not going to be able to take his young son, Alexander, to the soccer tryouts. You know what, Alexander’s not going to make the soccer team this year. You know why? Because Jorgie wasn’t home. You know why? Because Jorgie needed you to be there. Because you weren’t there, it’s only 5 minutes to you, but you see how your actions affect other people? Now all of the sudden, “Oh my god.” They don’t get it. Because being on time is not enough. There’s no rationale behind that command because when there’s not a compelling reason, they don’t get it. To them, all of these is “Do as I say and not as I did it.” that doesn’t work.

Josh Drean: That’s right. Thats a practical approach to this idea of employee engagement. it seems that the reason in showing these clips and reason that we’re really getting in the trenches of what the experiences for these employees is because we want to help their managers create a culture and create policies that are fair. To help them work harder, perform better and stay longer in their job.

Eric Chester: That’s it, Josh. You just took the like right out of my website. Its working harder, performing better, and staying longer those 3 things that is actually copyrighted but anyway, that’s it. That’s what we’re doing.

Alexander Noren: You heard it first, we invented it.

Eric Chester: And that’s the goal, a goal that everybody wants. We not just talking frontline teenagers here, right? What people need to understand is if you’re not dealing with millennials or your not dealing with a change of frontline workforce then this could possibly work to executives. I worked at the organization two weeks ago in Denver and the organization, what were they meet. That’s not their headquarters, they have 12 offices around the world. They’re a global economic consultancy, the only people they hire are PhDs. You have got to have a PhD to get hired. So you’re 32-33 years of age by the time you begun to immense academic training, some of the finest institutions of the world; Standords, Harvard’s, MITs, Yales, Columbia, whatever. So they hire these economic PhD to do consulting and often times they brought in to testify in a legal battle. This intellectual property between Google and Samsung who gets brought in who has economic impact. Well, you can imagine the professional testimony it’s going to cost a fortune and that’s what these people do. They testify, they look at the economic impact et cetera. I had a meeting, a phone meeting with 12th Senior Partner Board Member who all run these offices across the country. I asked him what are you challenges, tell me what kind of issues you’re dealing when it comes to the PhDs you are hiring then and now. I wish I could have recorded the call because if I were done I would have played everyone of those comments and just eliminated the name of the organization and titled position, you would thought I was talking to managers in Burger King. It’s the same thing, these guys come in in day one, you put them to work on a Monday and they want Thursday afternoon off and then they don’t like the office you put them in, they are unprofessional when it comes to work. Right of the bat, you asked them to do something and said, “Hey, that’s really not my job, I’m more qualified than that.” All the issues that you hear about and when you start thinking about the team labor force, it has nothing to do with age. It has to do with the way people now enter the workforce, their thoughts, their beliefs, their attitude, the way they were raised. We’re talking about people who’ve seen their parents outsourced, right sized, down sized by the companies that sacrificed their careers to build. We got a free agent workforce that’s the mentality out there. Nobody’s going to join that company, “You know what, I put on my 40 years and I’ll retire with a gold watch and a pension and it’s all going to be okay.” Nobody thinks that anymore. You have a lot of the managers and when have you do them exactly how they were raised by their parents play that game. When I graduated from high school, it granted that I’m old, closed to being dead. When I graduated from high school, a guy in front of me and the guy at the back of me, we’re all friends. Went out alphabetically so Jim Chaplin was in front of me, Marty comes behind me right before we get our diplomas on our graduation day, Caplin goes around me and say, “What are you doing next year?” Marty goes, “ I got a job at the Post Office.” “How about you Cap?” “So I think my mom’s going to get me on the airline” They used the word “Get me on” which means what? Get on a conveyor belt. I’m going to jumped on this conveyor belt and I’m going to get hired and this airline with take care of me. This postal service, this will last, right? It’s just going to be that way, I’ll get on and pretty soon I’ll get a decent route and I’ll be able to drive my truck and have holidays off, have a nice pension and retire, get married, have a couple of kids that’s the way people used to think. You and I know people don’t think like that anymore. You guys, like you said, that’s not the way you thinking but that’s what your parents though. I can promise you that’s what your parents thought.

Josh Drean: They weren’t thinking about, it was like a contractual obligation when you got a job, you did a certain job and just how it was. There was no thought about employee engagement or happiness, its not asking who are you feeling at work? Its get the job done and I think we’ve evolved in the world today. Now its important because there are a lot more opportunities to these younger generation and it’s not about money so much as it is about the experience itself. What have you run into as you’re working with these corporations as far as to the workforce on who to get this done into please stay?

Eric Chester: Everyone says we have a retention problem, what’s a retention strategy? There’s no such thing because when it boils down to retention, “Oh no Josh is turning in his notes, what are we going to do?” there’s only one thing that they’re going to do. what’s that? Think about it, what are they going to do? All of a sudden they found out that your going to turning in your notes. If they want to keep you, what are they going to do at that point?

Alexander Noren: More money.

Josh Drean: They might say, yeah. More money.

Eric Chester: That’s it. Here’s the deal, it’s about the money thing then you’re missing the boat. The book you reference that i wrote on Firework, talks about 7 Cultural Pillars that everybody evaluates their jobs, their position when they go to work. Compensation is very much on that and some people that’s the only thing. Look my kids got to eat, I got to be able to fix my car. Okay, great! Compensation is important, and to some people it is the most important but not for everybody. You can’t tell millenials that it’s not important. Are you kidding me? We are a brand with 80 – 90 million people and say it’s important to them or not. Them, them who? Some say it’s the most important, some say I don’t care. I dont give a flying fuffluff, if I lived under a bridge if I can be just a DJ at night, they don’t care. Everybody’s different, everybody is individualized. Compensation is important, how important? I don’t know. But there are 6 other factors that go into making what this job really is.  So when I say retention, there’s no retention strategy. Retention is a by product if you hire the right people and you treat them the way they want to be treated. Not the way you want to try them, not the way you want to be treated, they way they want to be treated. If you hire the right people. Treat them the way you want to be treated. Retention goes away. You don’t have to worry about it. People aren’t going to live when they go, “Man, I really like it. I wake up in the morning and I love it when I pinch myself, I cant believe im doing this.”  Somebody’s going to come by, “Hey I can pay you more money to do this” Guess what, forget you. I’m living the dream. I could make a few suckles from you. This job right here, I love my boss, my co-workers. we have a great time, we have a fantasy football league, we go out and have beers on Friday afternoon. I really feel like im doing important work here. We are doing so much for our customers, we are putting back into the community makes me feel good everytime we crank out a widget by the way, i love the way this happens and that happens and if i need some advice, I got somebody there to help me and when I fall out of line someone’s giving me some structures and show me how to grow. They know somebody, I’m going to do this thing and they’re kind of teaching your along they way or at least give me some skills. There’s not way I’m leaving. i love it.

Alexander Noren: How does a company get there? I would think most of the organizations out there are not there yet. They are not considering this 7 pillars that you mentioned or anything really in regards to the underlying causes of these “Retention Problems” or engagement issues, right? How do they transition it? It seems like an almost impossible feat that completely shifts how an organization thinks about and how it treats its employees?

Eric Chester: Well, I’m going to tell you the answer here. The problems is this is going to be the last podcast that your listeners are going to listen to if they want to know. We just going to get the answer and then you guys will have to change the topic.

Josh Drean: The secrets have been revealed.

Eric Chester: We are going to nail it right here.

Alexander Noren: Let’s do it.

Eric Chester: Here’s the deal, so how does the company get there? They never stop trying. they look at those 7 Cultural Pillars and they go, “What are we going to do today to improve across these 7 pillars? How can we be better today than we were yesterday? If you ask yourself that everyday pick out one of them, let’s say atmosphere. We’re doing everything we can to make sure this is the kind of atmosphere people want to be. People want to feel safe while there here, are we providing the tools that they need, what is the temperature in here? Is it too hot too cold? The chairs that they are sitting, are they comfortable enough for them? “Hey Halloween is coming up, will there be a pumpkin on their desk when they come in or manufacturing. We are doing something for their kids, let them off a little early. What are we doing to create a better atmosphere? That’s one pillar. What are we doing for alignment in other words to be a value based company that they feel really good about working here. What are we doing for our community, for other people? What are doing besides just trying to make money? What are we doing to be the kind of place that the people that work here say, “It makes me feel good.” I know I’m solving some problems and we are going more than just helping the CEO by buying nicer car. What are we doing? Everyday across the board. People say, “Oh, that’s exhausting. I don’t want to do that.” Fine, dont do that. Deal with what you got. Deal with the workforce you got because employees right now have choices. I mean, we’re not the only workforce right now, fully deployed. At least a 3%-4% of employment, face it, everybody that you want to hire in your organization, they already have a job. You don’t want to hire somebody sitting in a couch, searching Craigslist for whatever job they can find and play in fourth item in between that’s not what you’re looking for. That’s why you guys have time for a podcast.

Alexander Noren: It’s so true.

Eric Chester: Anyway, the reality is everybody or anyone you want working for you has already have a job. So here’s the thing, what are you doing to be the kind of place that they would leave their job and say, “I’d rather work there.” You want customers to do that, right? You know that whatever your product or service you are invovle right now, whatever company or organization I don’t care if you flip burger or sells pizza or global economic consultancy, you know, your customers, clients, patients, whatever you call them have choices, right? They have choices they can go somewhere else. You know what your thinking today? How do I get more customers? How do I get more people on the door? How are we going to make more money? Let me tell you something, you solve your employee engagement when you put in as much effort into, how am I going to make this a better place to work. Let look at these 7 pillars, what can we do to make this a better workplace?

Alexander Noren: We need to have a quick pause and let everybody sink that in. Can you say that one more time so we can embrace that.

Eric Chester: If you put as much energy and focus into the question, how do I make this a better place to work? As you do in, how do I make more money? How do I increase my margin? How do I decrease my cost? All those questions you asked everyday that you basically a customer focused like do our customers like it? Any restaurant in the world when your done they’re like, “Hey, there’s a survey in the back, we want to know what you really think. Will you tell us and we will give you a free sode next time when you come in. Everybody wants to know what the customers think. When you go to a hospital, we want to find out what’s your experience is like, we are so focused on, that’s great. Are you putting the same amount of focused on? Are my people really enjoying it? What can we do? Not just an annual performance review and just say at the end, “Hey, do you like working here?” No, we’re not putting much into it. Its the old Yogo Wupin Philosophy, Yogo Wupin. Y-O-G-O, I can’t remember what stands for those letters. You only get out what you put in. That’s it.

Alexander Noren: Sounds simple enough.

Eric Chester: You only get out what you put in. That’s it. So if you are not putting a whole lot in your workforce, if your not putting a lot in your culture and you know what nobody wants to hear this, everybody’s listening to this podcast and you know what you want guys, they want that silver bullet. Just give me the three things I can do so I can all of the sudden engage my employees and guest what I don’t have to listen to a podcast and I’m done.

Alexander Noren: There’s 7 of them in a book. It’s already been written.

Eric Chester: Its still not a silver bullet. Josh, you’ve done amount of parent programs so have I. Where you go out, speak to schools and next thing you know, you wind up talking to parents. Typically, parents that come they don’t want to brag either kids are amazing or their kids don’t even talk to them. It’s too late but once the vast amount in the middle. Like the 80% vast, they don’t come. And those are the ones are probably struggling the most. What I say to the parents, as long as you’re asking these questions Im not going to give you a bunch To do or not. I got kids that are climbing the walls. Trust me, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even know the questions are. But Im telling you everyday, I ask myself what can I do to be a better dad? What can I do to be a better dad? And I just don’t ask that rhetorically, I mean, what do I need to do across each and every child. What are they dealing with? What do they need from me? What do they want from me? What can I do? Asking the question, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, good! I got this. Nope, kids are great, everything’s good. You know what, your kids probably out selling crack. Sorry. You got to have your hand in the wheel you should be continuously asking yourself. You either hungry or constantly improving or your not and if you say, “Hey, we work on Employee Engagement, we did a survey. I think it was a year or year and a half ago were we ask our employees for a few things and you know what we started playing some cool music in the factory with bright lights. We told them that we’re gonna give you casual Fridays were you can wear your sneakers, guess what we got that handled. No, you don’t. How Jerry Maguire put it, “It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege.” it’s hard to engage employees, its hard. Its even harder to get on fire at workforce. But I’ll tell you this, go into an Apple store in the mall that is closest to you the outlying store. Go to an Apple Store, you want to see employees with fire on work that love their product, that love their company, that are incredibly loyal to both, and love on their customers. What’s the difference here? I’ll tell you, it’s the way they treat their people. And they focus on making their place better to work every single day. By the way, they just became America’s First Trillion Dollar company. So guess what, if focus is treating your people well and really engaging them. You’re gonna have on fire workforce, you’re going to get better every single day and if you stop and said, “You know, we deal with that once a year. We have a little retreat and I pitched it to HR, Hey what are you guys need from us.” Your missing it man. Your missing it. People has choices.

Josh Drean: Reminder, cracking a wip on what companies have to do and we’re so grateful to have you on the show. We just want to wrap this up here by saying if you were to be sitting one on one with the CEO of the company who wants to do better but doesn’t know where to get started what would you say to them?

Eric Chester: Time to talk to your people, time to get out from behind your office, walk around and find what your people think. You ask me how I find out, I go around and talk to people just happen to do it with my iPhone but you know, talk is the first thing Find out don’t do a survey monthly. Go around talk to some folks. Find out what they really think and convenience people like, “You know what, I don’t really like our uniforms” Don’t just go out and pick another uniform get your people and say “What do you think? What should we do here? What don’t you like about them? If you ASK you GET. People will tell you, right? They will. They’ll tell you. So the first thing, get out behind the desk, go talk to your people, find out what your holes are. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broke. You can’t fix it. So I have a survey, that goes along with those 7 things it’s called there’s a survey in there. You can use for your employee. 35 questions that they can take on their smartphones or whatever. It’s my way of 5 questions each 7 areas all mixed up and the survey responses come to us. We put it together and then we send you a report. This is how your people feel. Because sometimes it depends, if you are a leader and go “How do you like your job?” Your going to hear a lot of “I love it, I wouldn’t change a thing because they are afraid” Maybe your not getting the answer. There’s a difference what people will say and what they are really feeling inside. They got to feel they can be trusted to tell you, “Hey this place really sucks. I hate this. This policy took away our company vehicle two years ago and I’m still pissed about it.” You dont know because how do you know? How do you know how they feel? Everyone seems they are okay , “Yeah that’s fine. Its okay. That person, they quit. They quit they just didn’t tell you. We can them road warrior, R-O-A-D, Retired On Active Duty. They’re gone. You lost them. Their mind and body checked out. Their looking for bigger, better, faster deal. They are already out the door. You don’t know, you got to look down the road. You got to know your people are happy, delirious happy and the only way to do that is to continue to keep that dialogue open. I have an assessment if you don’t have your own assessment, try mine. Again, or will lead you there.

Josh Drean: And you can find all those descriptions below, we have links in the descriptions so feel free to check that out. Eric, thank you so much for joining us in our show. It’s been absolutely fantastic learning from you and we just appreciate it and we’ll catch you next time.

Eric Chester: Hey guys, thanks alot for having me and all the best. I know you guys have been solving problems in this really delicate area and I know you guys have what it takes, you have the passion and drive. I’m glad to be part of it.

Alexander Noren: Thanks so much we appreciate it.

Eric Chester: Alright. Talk to you later.

Unlocking Self-Determination Theory with Dr. Scott Rigby

As it turns out, employees are humans. Like all humans, they have needs, and these needs need to be fulfilled.  In our most recent podcast with Dr. Scott Rigby we talk about the fulfillment needs of employees and how they become assets to the company.  Dr. Scott Rigby is a behavioral scientist, author, entrepreneur, and founder of Motivation Works – a company that applies behavioral science to organizations.  He is a leading authority on predictive measurements on motivation and engagement as well as interventions to improve organizational culture. and He has been featured on ABC News, BBC, National Public Radio, National Geographic, and Scientific American.

Companies today tend to interpret happiness among their employees in the workplace as fulfillment.  Organizations believe that by adding certain perks and by keeping the employees “happy,” they can get more out of their employees.  Unfortunately, happiness and fulfillment aren’t the same.  For the employees to be engaged, the company has to make sure they fulfill the employees’ needs. The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) specifically addresses how to fulfill those needs.

Dr. Rigby explained that employers should focus on employees’ fundamental needs as human beings before trying to fill their needs as workers.  To this end, he, along with the creators of the SDT, founded Motivation Works. This platform utilizes SDT so that companies can measure the fulfillment of different basic needs of employees.  According to the SDT, employees have three basic needs for fulfillment: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.  Autonomy pertains to giving the employees a meaningful choice over how they are completing their tasks.  Competence is the desire to be successful by performing things with efficiency and achieving growth in their skillset.  Relatedness is a sense of belonging in the workplace where there’s mutual respect and support for each other.  Satisfying these components always leads to increased employee engagement.  Dr. Rigby emphasizes that measuring employee engagement isn’t that hard.  It can be done as simply as by asking employees if they agree with the statement “I love my job.” Employees who love their job are almost always fulfilled and engaged. The real trick is making sure changes are made based off those measurements to help increase fulfillment and thus engagement.

Every employee, every manager, every leader, needs to understand the employees’ experiences and points of view.  Listen to the full podcast to see how fulfilling the different needs of employees engages employees in the workplace. Motivate your reports. Motivate your managers. Be an agent of change.

We would like to thank Dr. Rigby for his time and expertise. We encourage everyone to visit to learn more about the platform.  You can follow Dr. Rigby on twitter at @csrigby.

Building Employee Experience Beyond Work with Trystin Bailey

Trystin is the Director of Employee Experience at Huge INC and shared some amazing insights with us on how to build an employee experience that will make your employees feel like you care about them.

Included in this episode are themes around Employee empowerment, building a level of community and collaboration that strengthens every other business aspect, and taking risks in the corporate arena to be authentic and real. He makes the point that you are nothing without a cohesive team and encourages all managers to focus on the whole of a person and not just the work they produce.

We hope you enjoy this episode of Forging Employee Experience.


Josh Drean: Welcome again everybody to another episode of Forging Employee Experience. My name is Josh Drean joined here with my co-host Alexander Noren.

Alexander Noren: Big welcome everybody. Thank you so much for being here with us today.

Josh Drean: We have Trystin Bailey on the show. How are you?

Trystin Bailey: Hey, I’m doing great. Tired but ready to play.

Josh Drean: There you go.

Alexander Noren: Good. If you’re not to tired, you’re not living life right. I think, you know, you’re going to be a little tired at least.

Trystin Bailey: At least a little bit tired, preferably exhausted.

Josh Drean: Tell us a little bit of who you are. Know that there are a lot to impact here not just Employee Engagement and Experience but tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do.

Trystin Bailey: In the Employee Engagement, I’ve been working at Huge for the past six and a half years and just doing my best to evolve with the organization and the industry in general. Outside of that, I’m just one of those run in the mill theater dorks. I do plays, I’ve written some books and play life’s creative game.

Alexander Noren: That’s awesome. I can barely get by being myself. I don’t know how you pretend to be other people in disguise. That’s an incredible talent to have.

Trystin Bailey: It’s easy, it’s just a good escape. Like a cocoon or nutshell.

Josh Drean: Like part of escapism.

Trystin Bailey: Yeah, just like escapism.

Josh Drean: Well, it’s interesting because I think your role as the Employee Experience Manager you deal a lot with the people side of things in the business. I think that is one of the reasons at the conference is to learn a little bit more about how to be a better manager yourself. So tell us a little bit about what your role and tell us why you like it.

Trystin Bailey: Sure. I often joke but it’s not a joke it’s serious. I tell people, “What do you do” and I say I’m like Kool-Aid Jar. Basically, what I love to do is be in this really cool and unique position to look at employees as people and get paid to do that. There’s data, numbers and all that stuff that comes along with Employee Engagement but it’s my job to see people, meet people, see them as their holistic self and not just people producing something for requirements so on and so forth and making sure that they feel like they belong here. Make sure that they feel like they– not only a place where they can play and have fun but a place where they can easily make a difference and make this culture work best for them.

Alexander Noren: Are you guys hiring? Sounds like a fun thing to do. Holy smokes. When Josh told me he was bringing you on the show one of the things that really caught my attention was you title actually. It’s not Employee Engagement, it’s Employee Experience. To me that signifies to the future where this space is going, I feel like we’ve been doing engagement for a long time and it hasn’t really worked. Now we are moving to this idea of experience. How is that true in your role? Do you see that as a big difference between this idea of engagement as an idea of experience at your organization?

Trystin Bailey: I think the lense of experience is important. It’s one of those psychological things, right? Like it’s a simple psychological thing, you use the work like engagement and immediately you’re thinking research, data and numbers which again is foundational and a great way to measure success. But at the end of the day, this is an experience. I’m kind of annoyed by the idea of work, life, balance. As if work isn’t apart of life, as if like one thing happens in this area that it’s great or sucks it doesn’t make that other area a little bit worse or better.

Alexander Noren: Right.

Trystin Bailey: I think that employee experience does a really great job kind of nailing that idea. Sure, someone’s coming to work to do something verify specific for the business but they are bringing every Netflix show they binged, every breakup they have been apart of, everywhere they have lived before, what they ate in the morning, like in with them. That is a part of the human experience.

Alexander Noren: You can’t parse them out.

Trystin Bailey: Exactly. Employee Experience at Huge, I try my best that we are approaching the holistic human. We’ve got other people here. Learning developments and other initiatives that are sort of Employee Experienced adjacent. They handle the heavy lifting around on growing the skills. Where as Employee Experience is kind of here for the rest of it. You know, really making sure that people around here feel like they belong here. Every single part of them has a place here.

Josh Drean: One thing that really attracts us about Huge is that I feel you are on like the cutting edge of this. You’re not just experienced design company, you’re not just doing digital marketing. By the way, you doing amazing work there. It’s like you recognize that its not just about work, life, balance but work, life, integration that we can have fun at work or we can realize that engagement is more that just metrics, its about creating that experience so that people want to stay there, they want to work there. Let’s be honest, you been at the company for over six years and that is great tenures especially today’s world where retention is struggling.

Alexander Noren: That’s a nice word, struggle.

Josh Drean: They stay for two years and they move on. Obviously, Huge is doing something right in order for you to stay on for six years and I’m assuming that there are other tenured people there as well. Tell us a little bit of some your efforts to make sure as to retain your top talents.

Trystin Bailey: Sure. To start broad, I start being a Liaison between the employees and the culture really making them feel like they are shaping it and have ownership. I and Huge in general have put a lot of stress on the idea of employee empowerment. Someone coming in here, making a decision, having a meet, having a desire and us doing the best we can within the confines of business to facilitate that. It manifests itself in many ways I’d say one of the lighter fun but hard hitting ways is an initiative we have here called Cube Social. This has been going on since I started and what Cube Social is that people here have interests more broad than the work we do. Every year they can apply for social groups and that’s anything from Dungeons and Dragons, there’s people who like dogs, who brew a beer. Basically, we create this mini communities around those interests. We give them a budget and allow them to create and evolve those groups throughout the year as they see fit.

Josh Drean: Wow.

Alexander Noren: That is brilliant.

Trystin Bailey: Their bringing there passions. Bringing and finding people that share on this passions. You’re not just entering a culture, you are crafting it.

Josh Drean: That is amazing. All of a sudden it’s not just, “Oh, I’ve got to put my interest and my passions on hold while I go do this job, hanging on everybody.” But you’re like truly work, life, integration where they get to bring their passion to work and even though it might not be in line with what they’re doing as part of their job, you are still facilitating their ability to work on that and be passionate about it.

Trystin Bailey: Right. Totally. Another thing we do, its called Off Topic. Since its the age of social media just being able to share, talk and engaged people with your voice, your thoughts and ideas. We have what is effectively a built Show and Tell. People can sign up, everyone gets in a room and anyone gets two to five minutes to just share something that they’re passionate about. 100% of the time, people will come up to them afterwards and say, “Hey, let’s talk about this” like “Hey, someone actually gave a talk last year they were Birder.” They love bird watching that was their thing. What that turned into completely off the Huge books. I was actually a part of this, we went to a prospect park in Brooklyn. We met 6:30 in the morning one Saturday and he showed us this park through his bird watcher’s eyes. We spent 3 hours in the park with binoculars going for it.

Alexander Noren: No way. That’s awesome.

Trystin Bailey: People come here doing this like bird watching or Dungeons and Dragons and at face value this is a thing that they’re doing that has nothing to do with the business

Alexander Noren: Right.

Trystin Bailey: But dig a little bit deeper and what your building is a level of community and collaboration that does nothing if not strengthens every single other business related that we do here. That includes forging these relationships with people that outside of project work you would have never the opportunity to meet, to know, to be friend.

Josh Drean: How big is that? When you really look at it, one thing that is a basic need for all employee is this concept of relatedness.

Alexander Noren: Right. 100%.

Josh Drean: You need to connect with your co-workers, you need to understand where they are coming from and as we create those ties then we can grow closer together and now when there’s conflict you build up those assets so its not just, “Okay, I’m going to withdraw from this emotional bank account by yelling at you telling to get your work done. Oh, we built up this relationship so now I can ask you for something and you understand.

Alexander Noren: Trystin, do you feel like one of the elements to being successful is– it seems that Huge does a really good job trying to build a positive relationship with their employees that goes beyond a “We hired you to do something” which I think is very pervasive in the market at it stands right now most people hate. We are you, you do something but it seems like over at Huge’s they have this idea that we are in a relationship, would you think that is fair to say?

Trystin Bailey: Yeah, a 100%. Collaboration is a part of our DNA and I know those words get thrown around and loses its meaning but we are nothing without cohesive teamwork down to our core. That sort of interplay of challenging each other to do better, to be at our best. Like you said, the more ways we connect outside of that specific work ecosystem the stronger that gets.

Alexander Noren: Yeah, absolutely. There has been a lot of research around specifically have this idea of connectedness. If an employee that would be considered as a best friend at work they are far more likely to stay from those who don’t feel connected to that sense of community. That’s terrific. A business related question for you, do you think that you see perhaps outside the strict HR space here. A big problem a lot of organization have is silos between departments and between teams. Sounds like this is probably not a problem Huge has to deal with.

Trystin Bailey: Yeah. I mean, we are in a project based client world.

Alexander Noren: Right.

Trystin Bailey: It manifests itself in that way a little bit more. I could confidently say that does not much of an issue at Huge as it is or other places. We got the things I’ve mentioned and many more.

Alexander Noren: Right.

Trystin Bailey: Opportunities to be together.

Alexander Noren: I’ll bring that up just because I know — when we talk about what I call the Non-adopters to the organizations that haven’t quite come on board with this idea of really embracing the employee experience.

Trystin Bailey: Right.

Alexander Noren: What’s in it for them. What would you say if you were talking to somebody that hasn’t adopted this concept of hey the employee experience matters. How would you convert that skeptic to the employee experience cause?

Trystin Bailey: Sure. I would say, “First and foremost, you’re gonna get better work.” I would say that there is– when you get a new project or your focused solely on that project, you gonna put a lot of time, effort and money into building this team. You’re going to focus on the tactical numbers on the playbook but without that human side, without the opportunity to connect ahead of time, without creating a culture in which who you are outside of that work is important. You’re coming in as a person who does work not a worker who just happens to be a person, your going to feel that from the start.

Josh Drean: Can we tweet that?

Alexander Noren: That was pretty profound. That was pretty profound. Holy smokes.

Josh Drean: See what a lack of sleep will do for you.

Trystin Bailey: Yeah, right.

Alexander Noren: The philosopher over there.

Trystin Bailey: My dream state here has all the hits. I’m never sleeping again.

Josh Drean: You’re absolutely right. That sometimes we lose the vision of that fact that these are human beings. Yeah, they’re working to get results and get the job done but we can’t miss the facts that if we help them be better people and help them feel more fulfilled at work then the natural cause of that is going to be better work.

Trystin Bailey: Yeah, totally.

Alexander Noren: That’s fantastic. Lot of great stuff going on here, we’re wrapping up here. One other question for you as a take away, if you were able to sit down with just a regular employee somewhere else, what would you tell them that they could do today to start building on their own that Employee Experience culture, that culture were people are united together since its a community. How could one person start to make a difference in their own?

Trystin Bailey: Just one person — random person?

Alexander Noren: A regular guy in the organization, what could they do?

Trystin Bailey: I would honestly say to that one person to start a group like any group. It doesn’t matter, you know, in addition to our social groups we also have affinity groups, volunteer groups. I would say it’s as simple as getting on a slack or something like that just sharing your passion. I think that there’s nothing more attractive to just people creating connections, sharing your passion, putting yourself out there. I would say take a risk in a corporate setting to be authentic. Just share a part of yourself that exists outside of this work world, this environment because that will 100% if not bring someone to you that feels the same way, give someone else the confidence to put a little bit more of their self out there and do the same. That’s how real relationships are built.

Josh Drean: That’s amazing and we definitely think that the work you do and the work that Huge’s just doing to the world is absolutely essential. its cutting edge, we put out there with the [inaudible] and the Googles of the world who are not just creating the place for people to work but your creating an experience that they can enjoy and feel fulfilled.

Alexander Noren: We really appreciate feeling your passion, we’ve got a chance to chat here. You know, like you said it’s so wonderful connecting with people that are just as passionate about this idea. Work can be an awesome place to be, it can be this place of fulfillment. It can be this place of progress, growth and meaningful connections but I loved that advise, “Hey, you know, if you want that to be where  you are then a change we can make is sharing our passion and pushing that to the world and that’s wonderful. Is there anything else you want to add to our listeners out there? Any plugins, anything that you’d like to say to those who are interested in this Employee Engagement, Employee Experience space? It’s getting a little dangerous here, I’m giving an open floor.

Trystin Bailey: Bad idea, bad idea.

Alexander Noren: Careful.

Trystin Bailey: Personally, it’s important to me is for people especially for people who are in the Employee Engagement experience whatever, the internal space, I mentioned this a little bit before, doing those surveys, getting data, getting those numbers is great for measuring where you were and where you’ll be but anyone who is in the people focused area, there’s nothing better you can do than just leave your desk, run around like a maniac and get to know as many people as you can.

Alexander Noren: That’s the cool HR, right? That’s the cool HR doing it.

Trystin Bailey: Everybody should be doing that, I feel like if you are doing it right  you should never be surprised by a single survey result, I think that’s the measure.

Alexander Noren: I love that. That’s fantastic. We’ll everybody, we’re going to wrap it up there today. Trystin just a huge thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us today and I got a lot from it Josh. What did you get?

Josh Drean: I’ve taken notes here,I just sent out 3 to 4 tweets today on the great content that you gave us.

Alexander Noren: Trystin Philosophy, holy smokes. Seriously, thank you so much for spending some time with us today.

Trystin Bailey: Thank you, this has been amazing.

Making Employee Engagement Personal with Mary Miller

An engaged workforce keeps the company moving forward, and keeping employees engaged in their job is a challenge companies have faced for decades. Our most recent podcast with Mary Miller, CEO of Jancoa Janitorial Services, discussed the concept of the issue of focusing on happiness that leads to success and how this has cascaded in her flourishing company.  Mary is also the author of the best-selling book Changing Direction, which talks mainly about optimism and how this has helped her in life and some of the employee engagement strategies she has implemented at Jancoa.

Golden handcuffs are the trend of today. Organizations keep employees from looking for employment elsewhere through predominately compensation-based approaches. This retention approach, however, does not equate to an engaged workforce, and when employees are disinterested, it affects their performance and the company overall as a result.

Mary talked about the culture of caring. When the company cares for its employees and their families the focus shifts from tasks to results. When the company provides their employees with the tools to be successful, including helping them connect to programs and agencies to make their future better even if that means that the employee may go down a different road in the future – employees thrive. Companies want to retain team members who want to be there.  When employees are engaged in their work and are able to become efficient workers, the customers are happy. Engaged employees that care about their work, take care of the customers.  The end result is a win-win-win situation for all parties – company, employees, and customers.   However, applying this to other companies would be a challenge as it would have to start from the top – the CEO or the Board – and that this is not something that you just “plug and play.”

Take care of your employees, and the employees will take care of your customers. This is true employee engagement. Listen to the full podcast to see how companies can benefit from nurturing their employees holistically. By developing this culture of caring in the workplace, we bring the “humanity” to the work place. Employees will be aware that they are contributing to a mission and that they are not just another person doing a certain job. These will all boil down to the company’s success. Be an agent of change in your team.

We would like to thank Mary for her time and enthusiasm. We encourage everyone to get a copy of her book Changing Direction and to check out their company’s website at  You can also follow her on Twitter at @mary_dreams.

Unlocking High Performance with Jason Lauritsen

Jason is a global speaker author and employee engagement expert. He helps companies adapt workplace culture and Performance Management strategies. A former corporate human resource executive himself, Jason has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits.

In this episode we digest what employee engagement means and the term “Discretionary Effort.” We delve into practical ways that companies can increase retention and employee happiness.

Enjoy this in depth conversation with Jason Lauritsen.

Jason’s new book, Unlocking High Performance


Josh: Ladies and gentlemen, this is Forging Employee Engagement. I am Josh Drean joined with Alexander Noren my co-host host.

Alexander: Welcome welcome

Josh: And we have a wonderful guest today. This is Jason Lauritsen. Jason is a global speaker author and employee engagement expert. He helps companies adapt workplace culture and Performance Management strategies. A former corporate human resource executive himself, Jason has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits. Jason, how are you today?

Jason: I am outstanding thanks for having me. I love these conversations.

Josh: We love them as well. And we’re so grateful that you’re joining us. I just have one question for you. We are trying to get a good understanding on what is employee engagement?

Jason: That is that is an awesome and important question – great place to start. For me the way I define engagement, or at least currently where I’m at in my thinking, is that engagement is the degree to which an employee is both willing and able to perform to their potential. And so that to me is the is the bottom line and I think where so many definitions of Engagement go off course is that they’re not connected back to Performance. And so. So that’s where I am. That’s what I think it is and that’s how I think that’s how I advise people to think about it.

Alexander: That’s incredible. And one of the things to me that stands out in that definition is this idea of performing to their potential. Why is that so important to the definition?

Jason: Well, I think I think, I’ve found a comical that we’ve gotten so enamored with this idea of Discretionary Effort right? When you talk to people about engagement, my bet is that when you’ve done these other podcast that even people that have much bigger brains than me when you ask them to, you know, nail it down the definition that it comes back to this idea of discretionary effort. And for a long time, I’ve felt like “what the hell is discretionary effort?” and why would I care about I mean discretionary effort. It doesn’t make any sense to me. That sounds like something that was created to sell executives on spending money on tools and consulting as opposed to some sort of real thing. And so, in my mind, that’s not, you know, I don’t want to create a workplace where it’s a transactional thing. Where it’s a contract-based relationship, where I’m saying, “Well, you know, I’m going to pay you for x amount of effort, but then I’m going to try to do things to coerce you into giving more than that that’s discretionary that I’m not going to pay you for or compensate you for” and I that feels very weird to me. I think that’s part of what’s been wrong. And so, in my mind it’s about, I want to create a place, if we’re going to create a work experience or a workplace, It should be a place where I can come and be my best. And I would want to feel good about all of that. Feel good about my contributions; feel good about how I’m rewarded for that contribution that it sort of makes me feel whole and excited about work. As opposed to it being this sort of game of who can get the most or con the most out of the other party in a transactional kind of game-based setup. And so, that’s why I think it’s important. I think it should be about helping people be the best.

Alexander: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And what’s interesting about that concept of almost like a bartering system right in the workplace, right. Is that’s where we’ve been for so long, right? I mean you turn the clock back a couple of decades and it was very much a situation where, you show up the work you get paid to do your job. If you do your job. We will grace you with continued employment, you know. Employers held the stick there, you know. And as we’ve as we’ve kind of come up into this this new age, I think, where technology and the market and just the evolution of the workplace is such that, you know, people can move around a lot. We can shift. We can try to find different and better places to work. If we stick with this ideology of “hey, yeah, I’m going to I’m going to we’re going to swap here. I give you money you do something else,” and then, like you said, even if we try to mask it with that flavor of “oh and I’m also going to try to sweeten the deal with things that don’t cost me very much but will hopefully get more value out of you as the employee” that’s the same logic and that’s not going to fix the problem. And so, I love this idea that you’ve brought today this idea of helping people be their best, you know, people enjoy excelling. Would you agree? I think that’s what people want to do.

Jason: I think in what you said, there’s a couple of big Ideas that that are central to what I talk about when I’m talking about this issue of engagement experience. I write a lot about it in the book. The transactional nature of work that you talked about actually goes back to the beginning of work. From the you know, the dawn of the industrial era when we created sort of the seeds for modern management were sown. This was sort of as where we were sorting out how to make work something that was tolerable, safe and healthy for people at least at some level. It was the rise of unions and the birth of the labor contract that sort of gave birth to how we organize work and then everything else kind of got built around that and this idea of work as a contract came into our thinking and came into our model.  It has perpetuated for a century. We still today see that all the time and that’s really what you’re talking about, and was what I was hinting at is that that’s how most organizations are still treating it. I’m going to offer you a paycheck and in exchange here’s this job description with a list of things I’m going to hold you accountable to. Then I have all these other processes designed around enforcing compliance with that contract to make damn sure that we as the employer or getting our money’s worth out of this. And then we have this other program called engagement where I’m also going to try to trick you into giving me more than what I’m paying for in the contract model. It’s just a weird thing. And the problem is all of the employee engagement data that we have from the last 20 years points at the fact that employees don’t experience work as a contract. They experience work more like a relationship. They want to be valued feel valued and trusted and cared for and appreciated. And you know, it’s love – that’s what it is. We want to feel loved and cared for. And that’s what compels us to do more and be more, and that’s a very different thing than a contract. And so I think that’s the point in time where we’re at. I think that when we talk about being a human network or the human workplaces, I think that’s really what we’re talking about. It is that we’ve recognized that this is more about a relationship with the organization. Yet our organizations are still trying to treat work like a contract and there’s a real tension in there that we’re trying to resolve. I think that’s the work in the point where at in the evolution

Josh: Jason, I think you just outlined the problem so perfectly. And it’s really interesting when we talk about all of this data, and all of the numbers that are going into it and especially since engagement numbers are still abysmally low and to draw it back to a relationship and to love – that sounds fluffy.

Jason: Yep

Josh: But it is so absolutely necessary because if I’m an employee and I’m going to be spending a majority of my life at a desk with this company, it better be a place where I get along with it individuals; I feel like I’m treated fairly; and that I’m rewarded properly.

Jason: There’s no question about it. And you know it’s funny this business. I think it can be made to connect back. I mean if we’re measuring the right things through our survey and we were designing our surveys the right way and actioning the data in the right way, you can take the Fluffy and connect it back to the performance and the hard numbers that everybody wants to see. But I also think, you know at the end of our Lives when we look back at the stuff that we wish we had done more of the things that really mattered. It’s all fluffy and hard to measure.

Alexander: No one wants to look back on their life and say hey I accomplished a huge checklist of things.

Jason: Yeah and I discretionary efforted my ass off. You know, it’s not like you shouldn’t measure it. I think you have to be clear about what actually matters. And we’ve been going at it backwards, right? Whereas if we started on with an understanding that is a relationship. And so we need to be designing the work experience to feel like a healthy relationship and designing with a different set of design principles or design guidelines in mind as we create work experience. Then we can measure whether we’re actually accomplishing those things in a way that helps us also quantify whether that’s contributing to performance and outcomes that we care about. So, I think I think we’ve been coming at it the other direction and that’s where we’ve gotten off track.

Josh: You’re absolutely right. And so maybe on that vein, tell us a little bit about where companies go wrong with their employee meet Employee Engagement strategies, and maybe what is some practical advice that our listeners can walk away with.

Jason: That’s a great question. Well, I think. Where companies go wrong with Employee Engagement strategies as they fail to recognize that Employee Engagement itself is a measurement. If I said, you know, we have a profit strategy. You know, like you have a what strategy? it’s like well profit.  Well profit isn’t a strategy. Profit is a measurement of how you’re executing on, you know, your sales and marketing strategies, revenue generation strategies to accomplish those things. Then you also have you know, operational strategies and then sort of the gap between that is the profit that you’re making. That’s a measurements. Like you’re too far Downstream when you’re thinking about a strategy for profit. You need to move way back upstream. And so I the advice that I would offer is that, you know engagement is a measurement. It’s an outcome. What drives engagement is the experience that we create or that employees have every single day. So, it’s getting to really, you know, I think it’s thinking about what kind of experience are we trying to create. What kind of experience do we need to create in order to, you know, create not only the, you know, the employee experience, but to fuel the customer experience that we are trying to manifest in our organization, to live up to our values to do business in the right kind. What do we need to do to make sure that employees are having that experience every day. That might be in the conversations that they are having with their managers; the interaction the tools that they have available to them; the way that work feels to them; the way that their workplace feels to them – all of those things create. Each of these moments of truth every day either reinforce what you’re trying to create or not. And so I think if we from a strategy perspective started thinking about how do we design and create the kind of experience that will fuel what we’re trying to accomplish then then? You’d use engagement essentially to measure whether you’re being successful at that. That’s what engagement is. It’s a measurement of how well are we creating the expectation that we intended to create towards creating the outcomes that we need to create to be successful as an organization. So, it’s get upstream.

Alexander: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, you mentioned this idea of an experience. And you know, the idea of a company culture comes to mind. This kind of buzzword that I personally am not a huge fan of. it’s almost too popular these days and almost in my opinion means nothing because people always, you know, try to talk around this culture aspect. I don’t know, how would you relate the two is this your word for company culture, this idea of an experience or are there some key distinctions or is it the next level of the company culture as an experience. How would we tie these terms together?

Jason: You know company culture is another of those terms that that is representative of a major problem that we have when it comes to creating the workplace or the work environment. It is that we use words without defining them assuming everybody talks about it the same way. So I don’t think culture is necessarily a bad word, if you define it the right way. But I do think the point is a good one that I think culture probably needs to be defined more clearly in the context of employee experience; those two things are very similar. I tend not to talk a lot about culture. In my work, the language that I use tends to be focused in the realm of employee experience and performance motivation and how that impacts than the employees degree of Engagement and how willing and able they are to meet their performance potential. I think culture generally speaking, if I were to use it, would probably be used to describe intentions related to the experience that we create, on a day-to-day basis for employees.

Alexander: I couldn’t agree more and that’s and that’s my issue with the idea of culture. That’s where people stop when organizations try to tackle this cultural problem. Whenever I hear improving culture, I think of an organization bringing in a ping-pong table and throwing up some snacks and letting people wear jeans. Then they say, “Oh my gosh, look at our great culture.” And it’s like well, you did some stuff and it’s certainly not bad stuff.

It’s good stuff. But what have you done to, in your words, enhance the employee experience. I think that as a whole organizations try to pat themselves on the back saying “look how good we’ve done” but in reality, they haven’t really done enough to see any change.

Jason: Well, and I think that’s where we are when you aren’t focused on performance. When they talk to people and will talk about focusing on performance and outcomes and it feels cold and removed from the things like culture and experience. I don’t think that is at all the case because performance is the reason any organization exists. If you don’t have a performance imperative, you don’t need an organization, right. We exist to create value for someone else. Whether you’re a non-profit, you exist to create value for the communities you serve, or if you’re a business you exist to create some kind of value through product or service for people who will pay you for that. If you don’t have a performance imperative, you don’t need an organization. So you have to be connected to that. So I can create great experiences that people will enjoy but that experience has to move me towards a willingness and ability to perform in a way that contributes to meeting that performance imperative. A lot of times people just aren’t clear on the intention and that connectivity between why are we putting in the ping pong table? Because in some cases putting in that ping pong table might be exactly the right thing to do. In other cases, it’s not, because you don’t understand what your employees need and what you’re trying to accomplish and the experience you’re trying to manifest for people. I think a lot of times it boils down to just not doing the hard work of getting clear about your intentions and understanding how you create performance in your organization. And what because when you do a lot of this becomes more simple.

Josh: That’s right. And I think the Simplicity of tracking performance is let’s create a list of to do’s and have our employees check them off as they go along and that system is so antiquated. There are so many employees who just do the bare minimum or they find ways to get around the to-dos or they don’t feel valued. It’s really interesting to me that your book coming out. It’s called unlocking high performance. That is not about checking boxes. It’s about something deeper than that. Talk to us a little bit about that.

Jason: Well, that’s I think that’s the conversation we’re having today is really about how do we create a work experience in our organization. How do we sustainably create an experience for employees that invites them to give their best, to be their best, and to be their best in the way that the organization needs them to be to work towards that performance imperative, whatever that is for our organization. And so, the way that I approach this, and the reason I wrote the book and we positioned it the way we did, right now is that I do think we all agree that traditional Performance Management, the way it’s been with the way we’ve been doing it like you just described, is very broken. It doesn’t accomplish really any of the goals it was designed to accomplish. And so, we needed something different, and I think in that opportunity and that void, as we are trying to sort out what to do next, there’s this opportunity to build a system. And in the book, I call it a performance management system, which is truly a series of processes that’s about creating an employee experience that supports employees in living up to their or being able to perform at their own potential.

So it falls into it’s things like. Well, I break it into three buckets its processes related to expectations processes room, which I call planning processes related to motivation, which I motivation and some other things which I call cultivation and then processes connected to accountability and accountability in the punitive sense of accountability and that we are mutually committed to achieving the same things.

And so when you build all of those processes together, though, Same process as show up in any sort of healthy relationship. So bringing it back to the relationship construct when we have a healthy relationship that all shows up and when we assume the best of the other person then and I assume, you know, this connects back to a comment that that Alexander you made earlier which was.

When we assume people want to perform at their best, I’ve never met someone who doesn’t want to be successful when given the opportunity and the support to do so, it’s amazing how things change and what’s required to make that happen changes because you just need to get out of their way and make sure they understand where they’re going and what needs to be accomplished and that they have your support to do so, you know, it seems like a daunting task right for an organization to who you know, medium-sized Enterprise has a few hundred individuals.

Or Aid each of them being unique people, right? How do we how do organizations gather the information necessary to craft and promote a experience that will enable employees unique employees unique people to excel in their own in their own way. Wow, I don’t know that I can I can answer that in a quick way to death because that question that that’s the question I try to answer with like 80,000 words in my books.

What I what I would say is I’ll give you two quick things that I think are really important one is. That this is about first getting really clear. I you know, I’m going to hit this again, but it’s getting first clear about your intentions and it’s engaging. Jing with employees in the conversation about what kind of experience that is needed in order to facilitate this I think sometimes we Overlook the fact that the employees I mean there they want to participate they want to have a good experience so you can engage them in a conversation on an ongoing basis.

It’s kind of like you do in any other relationship like. But first maybe it’s not going to be perfect. But as long as we’re in a conversation and we’re both making adjustments and we’re calibrating it continues to get better over time. And so I think you have but you have to start with your intentions.

What kind of. What kind of experience are we intending to create and then making sure everybody knows that so that they can provide feedback when it either is or isn’t happening. So if I’m not if if you’re telling me you want me to have a really energizing experience of work every day and I’m walking out feeling drained and not getting any energy from work.

Then I need to let somebody know that we need to have a conversation about how to fix that. So without the intentions that that’s problematic. I think the other is. Being in that constant conversation in feedback, right and just being open and listening and being in the in the process with all employees and that requires that you have to be teaching your supervisors and managers how to have conversations on an ongoing basis is probably one of the most important things that you can do.

That seems it seems like it’s a little tough ride for organizations that if you tell me was it the chicken in the egg scenario, right? If you haven’t if you have issues with this sort of stuff you probably less inclined to start opening up communication, but you have to open up communication order to fix it and.

Yeah, that’s that is no small feat. I think for organizations that have done things a certain way for a period of time and to come in and say all right guys, let’s change some things maybe change every everything. Yeah. It’s not for the faint of heart. I mean that I think that’s why more organizations aren’t doing it is because it requires leaders that have some courage that are willing to be vulnerable and say, hey we know we’re not getting this right right now and we want to get it better and then I’m willing to lean into that and we’re willing.

Admit when we screw it up and and so that’s it. You know that has to start at the top and that’s why a lot of organizations pay lip service to engagement and they like doing a survey because it makes them, you know, it’s like owning a gym membership but not using it all that much. It makes you feel like you’re investing in your health, but you’re not actually getting healthier and there’s a lot of that going on.

So I think until you’re willing to do the work. But if you are you can do some exceptional things and I talked to some companies in the research for my book that blew my mind in terms of how they’re doing it and they’ve got it’s just it’s remarkable. It’s possible. You just have to have some courage and be willing to do some things differently.

Could you would it be fair to say that the the task of creating that experience of getting all of this done is impossible if if the executives the the top of the company really don’t care or aren’t as invested or like you said just paying lip service. Is that a fair statement to say that it is impossible to be successful at this on a company-wide level if the top management aren’t fully on board.

I don’t think it’s impossible at A Team level. I mean you can create as in you know, I kept that very much in mind as I was writing the book and as I talk to people, you know when I’m speaking or when I’m writing is that organizationally, can you transform an organization without leadership being bought in?

No. No, I mean if you’re if you’re a CEO, if you’re really passionate about this and your CEO doesn’t care about engagement and only just pretends to care because it seems like something he or she should do. Then you need to find someplace else to do this work because you’re not going to move the needle until they change.

And so and that’s a hard project. But what I would say is as a manager. Or a leader of an organization. You can’t fix some things about your organization, but you have tremendous power to create a different kind of experience within your organization. And that’s what you should be focused on like create the very best organ experience for the people that you can impact.

Because you can have a huge maybe not perfect, but you can make it a whole lot better than it is for for other people. And so that’s where I think you can really have an impact. If you’re stuck in an organization that may be at an executive executive level doesn’t get it yet. Yeah, that’s amazing Jason.

And as we wrap things up here, I just guess would ask you for some advice that you would have for these managers or these HR directors who are very much interested in making their environments a better place to work but are afraid of the task. What are some basic or start a things that you could share with them to get started?

Let’s say start with I think don’t be afraid go talk to people and ask them do a lot more do a lot more asking do a lot more listening and fix the things you can because it’s amazing how a small thing can go an awful long ways when you show up if you’re you know, a leader and you go out and sit down with your people and say hey, I really want to make this the best possible work experience everyday for you.

I want the team. I wanted to be fun to work here. Like what can we do? What’s not working and listen and same thing with HR go out and talk to people ask him what things and sometimes there’s going to be things you can’t fix right if they say well we need to be paid more. It’s like I can’t that’s something that I can only impact so much but then they’ll say maybe little things that might have to do with the way their work is.

The way the work their work is organized or maybe they’re scheduling and you have some impact over their schedule. I’ve had people that said they’re night owls and they you know, they’re up until 1:00 2:00 o’clock in the morning. They just don’t function early in the morning. So I’m like well, can you get here by 10?

I mean I don’t care when you know, if you need to come into the other work until seven. Whatever works for you. I don’t care just as long as you’re getting the work done that that one at that was a he small thing on my end. I didn’t really care. Made a huge difference for them, right? So it’s the little things like that that I think go listen and then fix the things you can because when they start believing that you care and that you will take action when you can that can change everything such a powerful message and thank you very much Jason for joining us today.

What is the best way to find you? I’m a website’s the easiest place to find it. That’s kind of where all my stuff is. My books called unlocking high-performance. If you Google that you should be able to find that or if you visit Amazon shouldn’t be too hard to find I try to be easy to find the my business listeners.

We’ve been here with Jason Lauritsen. Thank you so much for your time.

Hey, thanks for having me.