How to Create a Connected Employee Experience for Your Remote Team

Employee experience suffers when people cannot connect to one another or the internal opportunities necessary to contribute, learn and grow.

40% of remote workers state that “loneliness” or “collaboration and communication” are their biggest work from home hurdles, according to Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work report. That means almost half of your employees are feeling isolated at work.

In this virtual event (originally aired live on 3/11/2021) Michelle Coussens outlines how people leaders can boost their employee experience and talent mobility while in the office or remote.  She then speaks with our own Scott Burns on how technology can help remote workers make meaningful connections and tap into the internal opportunities that lead to a more fulfilled employee experience.  


Please enjoy the full event recording, transcript, and presentation deck below. 

Presentation Slide Deck

Full Event Transcript

[Ty] Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's webinar. How to Create a Connected Employee Experience for Your Remote Team, presented by HR Morning with our partners at Structural. My name is Ty and I will be your moderator. Just a little housekeeping before we get started. If you have any questions during the presentation please type them into the chat box in the control panel. If they're regarding the subject being presented, I'll add them to the queue for questions at the end. Now I'd like to introduce your speaker, Michelle Coussens.

[Michelle] Well, thank you very much and welcome everybody. I know we've got a lot going on these days but hopefully you are taking time for this because you realize it's such an important topic. So let me guide you through what we're gonna be talking about today. I am going to share some slides with you. I want to, first of all, thank both HR Morning, our sponsor, and our partner Structural, for hosting today's event. And I will be sharing content-rich slides with you, so I encourage you to also download the slides. You'll see them in the handout section and you can download the PDF and also use that as a reference as you go forward. Or maybe even to share with your colleagues where you work. So I'm gonna go ahead and take my face off webcam here because we are gonna focus on the slides. I will be coming back to do a Q&A at the end with our partner at Structural, so more to follow on that. And so here's what we're gonna be covering today. We're gonna talk about different ways to actually embed employee opportunity in day to day work. It's ironic that many of us have been talking about breaking down silos now for many, many years, and yet they still exist. So that will provide some of that opportunity. And then how do we simultaneously increase productivity, because we all need to stay focused on that, while we're also energizing and bonding employees to each other. And then of course what are some options to actually create these connections? And that will segue also into our question and answer portion. I actually will be asking our partner at Structural, Scott Burns, some questions today that I think will benefit all of us. And then we will encourage you after today's session to stay in touch and to submit some questions as well. So I wanna first start off by thinking about all the things that are going on in the workplace. So not only do we have flatter organizations today with these very dynamic kinds of roles. We have a lot of technology and automation. We've got skills that continually have to be upgraded. People in a blended workforce where we have some folks that are in the traditional nine to five type of environment. But a lot of people who are sort of working odd hours especially these days. So the work expectations themselves are changing. We're seeing that obviously we have more generations in the workplace than ever before. The employers have more legal hoops that they have to jump through. And of course we have a lot of office politics. We not only have office politics but we have social and government politics as well. And so that means that all of these pressures coming together, especially when many people are still working from home and may continue to do that into the future, they're really feeling quite isolated. I'm sure you've seen a lot about that through the media as well. They also want to continue to grow and to link to other people. And what we're finding is yes, they're using tools like LinkedIn, but that's really, by design, better suited for those outside contacts. But if they don't have some way to do that internally they may even be using LinkedIn in that fashion. We have a lot of changes in our dress codes of course. I don't wanna even know what everybody's wearing today, right? And people are sort of in this all hands on deck atmosphere where you may have a job description but most of your day may be spent doing totally different things because we really all have had to pitch in during this pandemic. Technology is interesting because I think that it's not just tools to get our work done anymore, it's really part of our overall strategy, in many ways, for our businesses. And during this pandemic we're seeing that there's been a real proliferation of technology that you're gonna continue to see as we come out of this pandemic, that is not only gonna enhance our efficiency, but is going to provide ways to help us to collaborate much better. We are seeing some outsourcing of whole functions these days, either because it can be better done by someone else or because we don't have the bench strength to do things ourselves. That means that we also have a lot of contingent workers that we're interacting with. And of course there's the whole medical screening phenomenon that's going on, where either workplaces are deciding whether they're going to continue to screen for COVID or maybe what their role is in terms of vaccines. And overall, really what we're talking about here is a lot less face time, which means that we're not in, and by the way it's not FaceTime the app, but more that aspect of we used to connect more face to face in a given room. And so we need to find ways to kind of even boost how we actually connect with other people. This remote workplace didn't just start with the pandemic. In fact even back in 2017, we had almost nine million employees that were already working remotely. And of course the numbers are astronomical now. We're seeing this delineation between our professional life and our personal life start to diminish. And you probably spend your day kind of shifting gears back and forth. And so I've never been a fan of that phrase work-life balance, and I think today it is really more about work-life blend. And then also for some of the populations of your employees, you may see that the burden is even higher. So people who have kids, we were joking before we started today's session that there was a child in the background. This is really commonplace for a lot of people. Not only that they're there, but that they have to manage so many different things. And some of the employees may have already felt sort of left out in the workplace, and that can further exacerbate some of those perceptions as well. In terms of productivity, knowledge workers waste an equivalent of a whole day per week just playing internal detective, trying to figure out who the right person is to talk about something with. How to reach out to them. What their skills are. How they can get the resources that they need and so on. So this is actually something that can significantly affect an organization's productivity and results. And you can see there on the slide that I share some of the remote work challenges that are out there, and you can hone in on where it talks about collaboration and innovation. And boy, I'll tell you the organizations that are figuring out how to do this better, are not only gonna come out ahead immediately when the pandemic's over, but they are going to be ready to accelerate for the short-term as well. So I'm gonna talk about some different sections here. The first one's gonna focus on some ways to actually embed employee opportunity into the day to day work. So I'll look at the employee experience as well as how do we avoid burnout? How do we make sure that we understand what people are getting done and we can manage those expectations? How can we make sure that we're also being flexible in terms of some of these conditions that people are working under? And then also, how do we align some actual incentives that are meaningful to our workers, so that they are working on the things most productively. And that means that we're also giving good and timely feedback. Having a good employee experience is not just a nice thing to do, right? It actually is a very practical, smart thing for a business to do. By being more committed to the organization, they're gonna think more carefully about the decisions that they're making. They're obviously gonna derive more satisfaction. I'm sure you've seen studies that show that that can be linked to their productivity. You don't want people that are just gonna show up and clock punch and complete tasks. You want them to actually understand the context of what they're doing and to care about the quality of their work. That means that also, if you are helping them make connections, yes it's gonna help the work, but they're also gonna build bonds with those other people that they work with. So some of the questions that I suggest that you ask yourself, maybe you even survey your teams about this, is what support do they feel they're being given by you and others in the organization? What is their employee experience? Don't just go by your gut instinct. Survey them. Use some ways to find out how they actually feel. And then are you actually looking at employees throughout the cycle of employment with you? That's from when you're first courting them to a job offer, right. And bringing them in and onboarding them. And then throughout the time that they're at your company, all the different roles that they play. And then even into when they leave the company for whatever reason. So ultimately, how do you empower employees to actually make the connections that are really needed, not only for them, but for you as an organization. This is a graphic on the right-hand side that I created for my clients, that really accentuates the pieces that build together into forming a good employee experience. First, are we giving them the opportunity, the opportunity to succeed. So that they actually can do the work. That means that we're providing them the support. Support could be tools. It could be training. It could be resources of various kinds. Do they understand fully what is expected? Are we being clear in our performance expectations and even in our day to day communications? And then are they really engaged? And so a lot of the things we're gonna be talking about today will fuel that sense of engagement, not only with you as managers, but with each other as well. And so ultimately that builds towards that level of satisfaction. And if you've seen studies that say why do people leave jobs, many times it's not that they're leaving a company per se. They're leaving the experience in that company. They're leaving a sense of not feeling like they belong. When you read the bullets on the left-hand side there you can see, they care about whether they enjoy what they're doing, whether the work that they do really aligns with their own personal values. That they get some sense of fulfillment from it. And then what is really meaningful to people? Well here's what researchers have found. That they have autonomy, right? So in other words, decision-making over what they're doing in their activities. That they understand how much time they need to spend on things. And maybe they're not just doing one thing repetitively, but they have different tasks to do. That they're very committed, that they understand the mission and the vision of the organization. And that they really have an attachment to that, and really, in an idealistic sense, it's separate from the compensation. So studies have shown that yes, we care about compensation, but at a certain point that's really only going to bring people to the table. It's not necessarily going to keep them. Now I mentioned the aspect of not hitting a tipping point where we're burning people out. And so this is a reminder that stress in and of itself is not a bad thing. We use the word as if it's a negative, but actually there are two kinds of stress, eustress and distress. And the graphic there highlights the idea that we wanna think about building momentum within our workforce, but we don't necessarily wanna push people over the edge. Think of it as if you drive a car at 90 miles an hour continuously, well, the engine's gonna burn out. It's not gonna be able to sustain that, right. So similarly, we have to think about how fast and how hard we're pushing our own employees. Yes, we can sometimes push them a little bit extra due to a particular deadline, but we need to be very cognizant of how we're setting deadlines. Are we coming up with superficial deadlines that don't necessarily really matter for the business needs, and are we pushing people too hard. Now we're using up our reserves so we don't necessarily have them for when we do really need them. There are different ways to think about gauging productivity. You know, traditionally many of us were accustomed to the annual performance reviews. Lot of anxiety that people had built up about those. Very monumental. Meetings with a lot of documentation. There's been a lot of shift away from that. Not that it's not important to evaluate people, but that it's more frequent, more objective, as opposed to some of the subjective reviews that have been done in the past. So you've seen collection of data around actual results and progress. And also a lot more planning in terms of what we're looking for and communicating that to people. So our roles many times are to really provide that direction in a very clear way. I often remind managers when I'm training them on how to be a good supervisor, that if your employee isn't doing well, one of the first things you may wanna ask yourself is, is it the employee's fault or is it my fault as a manager? So we've gotta make sure that we are really providing them with clear direction. And then we have something to actually monitor against. And in a remote environment, in particular, it's not about how they're spending every little minute anymore. So it isn't that sort of time-clock punching mentality. It's more about what they're actually accomplishing. And so you see some questions there that I include, just as some teasers that you may wanna flag to think about how you're evaluating performance. And again, thinking about our own role as we work with our employees. That means that we've got to continue to look at those expectations and, where needed, we may need to adjust them, right? So that includes batching things maybe into shorter intervals. I'm seeing today that instead of having maybe just the long-term goals, we're having a lot more of these micro-goals, I call them. And that we also need to make sure that we're not piling on and piling on where a project is defined one way at the beginning, and then it continues to creep out farther and farther. Our role also, with our employees, is to help remove bottlenecks. I often think of managers as really being nurturers and protectors in many ways. Are we helping them in terms of getting them the resources that they need. That we are escalating issues when they need to be done. That we're also, though, empowering them to be able to connect with others. And so if we ourselves are not available, or maybe it's an extra step to have to go up to the boss every time they need something, are we providing the avenues for them to actually be able to reach out to others in the organization directly? And then of course, are we asking questions? I do think that that's something that many times, especially when we're under time crunches, we don't take the time to do. That we're not actually engaging with our teams and asking questions of them, to see if they need some things from us. So it's not micromanaging them, but rather asking questions about what can I do to better support you. Now obviously we wanna reinforce accountability and acknowledgement, and those two pieces, by the way, should go together, right? We should only hold people accountable for the things that they can actually control. And then we should acknowledge their performance and the three aspects of performance, as reminders. It's not just whether they meet deadlines, it's the quality of their work as well. And the quantity of what they're getting done. This means that we have to be flexible, particularly during the time of COVID, but in general as well. That means, again, it's less about what time of day people are working, and more about what results they're getting done. It's great, I think, to have a lot of flexibility. I find a lot of advantages to it. But don't assume that people just intrinsically know that they have that flexibility. Really provide the opportunity to them so that they know what those options are. You can actually do things on an individual level and still be fair. So again, allowing people to think about how they're customizing their schedules, as well as the different deliverables. Now empowerment, and I know that cut off a little bit, but we want to make sure that we're empowering our team members. That means we should care more about whether the work is done, based on the specifications that were provided, and less about how it was done. And enable them to be able to use their own creativity. Again, that's gonna feed their own satisfaction as well. And also I mentioned on there a little bit about benefits. This isn't an employee benefits session, but it is a reminder that we do need to consider what we're providing our employees to help them in terms of some of this accommodation that they're having to go through. So whether it's paternity leave or extend our family medical leave and those sorts of things. And then on the right-hand side, a reminder that we need to have some patience when we're dealing in this particular COVID environment, because people are a lot on this stop start, stop start throughout the day. So their attention spans are diluted. They're having to tune out things that are going on in their households. Many of them have had to adapt to a lot of new technology, and some people, they're better at it than others. I mean my husband would just, he would struggle if he had to do most of the things I'm doing every day. Other employees, they may embrace technology and love it. And then they expect all the other employees to love it just as much as they do. We see sometimes logistical issues and breakdowns because of some of the disconnection that we're having these days. And of course, we even have things like pets that are entering the fray. I'm sure you've seen plenty of funny clips on TV about that. In talking about how we motivate employees, I do recommend a book that I have read more than once, that I've recommended for many people, called "Drive" by Daniel Pink. He's got several books out that are good, but this particular book really highlights the distinction between three different levels of motivation. If you are operating in a spirit of motivation 1.0, people are just showing up. They're working because they have to. They have to feed their families, essentially. That's probably not where anybody really wants their employees to be, because obviously they're not gonna put the same time, energy, effort, that kind of thing, into their work. Motivation 2.0 is actually where the majority of companies rest. And that's where people working there are typically motivated by carrots and sticks. Either they're seeking out some sort of validation or reward of some kind and it could be monetary or otherwise, or they're looking to avoid punishment, which means they're afraid that if they don't do a good job, they're gonna get a poor performance review or they're gonna get some privileges taken away, that kind of thing. And so in that realm, people are focusing on okay, what is it that I can do? And companies that are motivating people that way are still kind of focused on their own financials, which is fine. But wouldn't it be better to move to motivation 3.0, where people are motivated from within, right. Their own values, their sense of worth, their sense of mattering. So they want to do the work because they see it as mattering to other people in the organization, as well as to the customers. And by the way, you don't have to be, like do good or not-for-profit necessarily. It could be any kind of for-profit business that can instill that sense of motivation in people as well. So profit obviously is still important, but it's a catalyst and not just the main objective. So you can see a diagram up there that I borrowed from a business book. I teach a lot of college courses. And it's a reminder of those connections that are there. And so if we don't have things connected between people understanding whether they can actually do what you're asking them to do, whether whatever the outcome, the reward to them is, is that something that they actually care about in the first place? So those are gonna feed their motivations. All right, so in this second section I'm gonna talk a little bit about how we can increase productivity, but at the same time we're also energizing and bonding employees, both to each other but also to the broader organization. So that means we gotta talk about values and culture, as well as very important concepts in today's environment, innovation, resilience, optimism. And then also how we diversify the work because we do need to meet deliverables but where do we find that tipping point where we can actually diversify work for people better? All right, so looking at how we operate our organizations, we can think of it as having our own company personalities, right? So just like individuals have personalities, companies have personalities as well. And the personality is really formed by the combination of norms, beliefs, values, and assumptions, and how much that is actually shared, in a common way, across the organization. This is valuable in many different ways. I look back at the organizations I worked for and each one had sort of a unique identity. Not necessarily one was good and one was bad, but they were very different. It could be in terms of how formal or informal they are. It could be whether or not they welcome a lot of dissent with different opinions. It could be whether people are on a first name basis with each other, or with the people above them. Do they refer to them by their titles and that kind of thing? So there's a lot of dynamics that come together, and this really molds and shapes how people approach each other, which is obviously an important part of the whole employee experience. How do we frame those values and that overall culture? First of all the mission, right? The mission is about what your organization does. And then the vision is about the impact that you want it to have. Where you're taking it into the future. And then of course the goals are around what you want to accomplish. And you can have long-term goals, you can have short-term goals. At an organizational level, you have to ask yourself do people who work there actually know what the mission vision and corporate values are, as well as those long-term goals? Do they understand how their work and their behavior ties back to them? So that's one of the key things that managers should really help illuminate for people. That also means that we need to empower employees to actually strengthen these communities of practice. So a big side benefit, not even side benefit, of connecting employees is that you get more consistency in terms of those values and how they're demonstrated in the workplace. And of course, another way that you can accentuate that is through something that we call artifacts. We're not talking about going on an archeological dig here. We're talking about the signs and symbols, the emblems that really accentuate those values. And of course if we're in a physical environment we can think about it in terms of things that are up on the walls and things that are very physical. But we can also think about it in the context of a virtual environment as well. When people log in what pops up on their screen? What are the backgrounds that you use in your corporate presentations and so on? And how are you accentuating those? In fact, many times I will even have people talk first to reiterate what those values are for the organization, before they start a new project meaning. And of course with this you're gonna have some conflict. Sometimes people are gonna disagree, and I thought I would just also remind people to dispel maybe another misperception out there. People think conflict is a bad word. It's not that conflict itself is bad. You do wanna have some conflict in your organization, but you want it to be constructive, not destructive. Constructive conflict is where people are challenging ideas. Destructive conflict is where they're attacking personalities, right? And so that means you're having opportunities where you're fostering healthy, respectful conversations. In fact a great book that I would recommend is "Dare to Lead" by Brene Brown. She's a well-known speaker, in fact you can find her talks on YouTube. I think she even had a special on Netflix for a while, it may still be out there. But she really talks about this issue of making sure that it's clear to people that having a good culture doesn't negate maybe having debates, right. Having tough conversations. Being frustrated is okay, but not rolling your eyes at people for instance while you're doing it, right. And then even humor. Humor can also feed into a lot of this culture as well. And think carefully about how you can invoke humor, of course in a respectful way. That also means that we're cultivating innovation. People used to think that innovation was sort of a nice to have icing on the cake type thing. It's actually instrumental today. We cannot rest on our laurels. We can't continue to just keep doing things the way that we've been doing them. We always have to think about how things can be done better and or faster. So that means that we've gotta really get information from the people that are on the front lines, so that we know how things are done in the first place, and what they think could be done differently. So we're engaging with them in a way that is maybe expanded or different from just the literal day to day work that they're doing. So we wanna foster a sense of curiosity. That can lead to creativity, which then leads to innovation. So curiosity means are we allowing people to ask questions? Not only are we allowing them, but are we encouraging them to ask questions, or are we defensive? That's a very individual behavior to be curious, and again, we can bring that out in people so they're not shut down. Creativity is also a very individual behavior. So the more that people are allowed to ask questions, the more they're going to bring forward their own individual ideas. And then collectively that can allow us to be much more innovative. There's many different ways that we can go about cultivating this. You know, you could have an idea incubator. A skunk works, idea boards. You could have people that are idea champions. You could ask people when we have our next meeting, Bob and Sue, I'd love to have you maybe spend the first 10 minutes of the meeting kind of leading a brainstorming session for us around how maybe we could do things differently. So really trying to bring people's ideas to the tables. And so you can see many different ways, lateral thinking, immersion, building bench strength. Maybe even having a tip or idea of the day. It's important to also remember that we do wanna make sure that we're also educating ourselves, not just for our own development, but so we're staying connected with people in our industries as well. And so information can be conveyed through webinars and other events that are held online today. So just because we can't get together with people, for instance, in our industry, physically, we can certainly do so online. There's a balancing act. We wanna make sure that we're getting as much productivity these days as we can, because of all the struggles and pressures on organizations. But at the same time, we also wanna make sure that people are finding a level of diversification in their work. Because if things are too repetitive then people mentally check out. They don't tend to care as much and they can also make a lot more mistakes. So dividing work into four segments, you know I often think about things that are due now, today. Things that are coming up over the next week. And things that are due a month out. I'm a big fan of kind of sketching that out on my own calendar, whether it's a physical calendar or an electronic one, but it allows me to not lose sight of the things that maybe no one's bugging me to get done, but are out on the horizon. If we just focus on getting through the day then we're not really looking at those broader ideas that could elevate our companies into the future. And so similarly, are we not only doing that for ourselves but are we fostering that in the people that work with us as well? Here are some questions that I share, and this is from "Find Your Courage, 12 Act for Becoming Fearless at Work and in Life", in thinking about better ways to decide whether we should take on something new, right. Is it aligned with the things most important to me? Will it take me closer towards, or further away from what I really value? Do I have the time and resources available? What impact will it have on my other commitments? And what will I not do if I'm doing this. These are questions you can actually use before you talk to your employees about new assignments. So that first of all you're anticipating how they might view that assignment, and in some ways maybe how you're selling the assignment to them, right. But also understanding what else they have on their plate. Because again, we can't just keep piling things on. In addition I share with you two researchers at University of California, Davis, discovered that creativity and efficiency can be enhanced over the course of a workday, when people actually alternate between the more mindful and less mindful activities. I like to use less mindful than mindless. Hopefully we're not doing anything completely mindlessly, but the idea there is that if we parse our days so that we're alternating between the really intensive things where we've gotta put a lot of brain power, versus the things that are a little bit more routine, that actually, much like physical exercise, gives us sort of a resting period. In fact, we may even want to allow our employees to actually take longer lunches during the middle of the day, to help recoup some of that. All right, so in section three I'm gonna talk about some ways that we can create and enhance this employee connection. So we not only want to have maybe good online meeting protocols, and things of that nature, but we also want to role model these behaviors because people don't just listen to what we ask them or tell them to do. They watch our own behaviors. We also wanna create digital spaces because we don't have those informal opportunities to kind of stop and chat in the workplace. And so what does that mean in terms of some of the digital tools that we can actually use to help people to communicate and collaborate better? Lastly, I'm gonna talk a little bit also about how people can cope because as you've probably been aware, either yourselves or through others in your workplace, sometimes people are struggling a little bit these days with coping with things. Vast majority of our meetings, if not all of them these days, are online, and look at that stat there on the top. 14% of remote workers have at least 10 meetings a week. That's a lot of meetings, right? By the way, that means the other 86% of them might have nine meetings a week. So it's not like they're sitting around with no meetings. Meetings, I know, get a lot of jokes made about them. You know you see the one I put up there in the corner of your slide. People often groan, I've gotta go to a meeting. Instead of getting work done I've gotta sit through a meeting. You know, I think that unfortunately sometimes people have meetings when the information could have been conveyed in different ways than a meeting. So that's part of the reason they get a bad reputation. The other reason is I think sometimes people don't stay on point, or they run over, or they allow the meetings to start late. And so people straggle in or they don't take it seriously. So there's a lot of reasons behind that. I tend to think that if meetings are done well, they should be precious time. They should be good time for people to have discussions, not just one-way communications. And so this is a way to actually keep people connected and visible and updated. Of course that means that we've gotta think about what those meeting logistics are as well, right. So we've gotta make sure that people know how they're gonna connect into that meeting, what the expectations are for their participation. So whether they're gonna be on audio or video. And not just the technology part of it but what is their role in that meeting as well? Keep in mind that sometimes if we default to having live meetings, we should ask ourselves does this need to be a live meeting, or is this something that I can prerecord? And that way the person can actually listen to it when it's convenient for them. That's something that I don't think people automatically think to do, but it can be a huge, respectful effort for other people, to be able to do that when it's convenient for them. So really think about whether you need to have the live meetings all of the times that you do. And we wanna make sure that people understand who they're gonna be meeting with. Sometimes they're meeting with people they work with very frequently, but many times they may have to meet with people that they've never met before. And if they haven't had the opportunity, of course, of being in the physical workplace, they wouldn't have even maybe seen that person. So how are you connecting people? How are you introducing them? How are you helping them to find the people they need to invite to their meetings in the first place? And of course, we'll talk more about that as we get into the Q&A with today's partner Structural. Calendar invitations. Obviously having those, but making sure it's clear in that invitation what the purpose of the meeting is, who else is going to be there. What we're planning to accomplish during the meeting. Whether people need to prepare anything in advance, do anything, bring anything and so on. And also the last thing I'll remind you on all of this, and I know I mentioned some standard different, or different types of meetings. You've got standard meetings, project-based brainstorming. And then of course maybe just the ad hoc type meetings. You probably have a lot of ad hoc meetings these days actually. But make sure that you are starting your meetings on time. If you're online, you also may allow some time at the beginning of the meeting for people to re-acclimate themselves. Just because you may have seen some of them or talked to some of them virtually over the past week, month, quarter, not everybody has. So you may wanna consider having an icebreaker, or some way for people to introduce themselves. By the way, don't blindside them with that. Let them know in advance that they're gonna be doing that. You may wanna have a parking lot so that if issues come up that are important but are not necessarily on that meeting's agenda, that people know you're gonna circle back to those. That their comments are valuable. And also one tip that someone recommended to me as well is schedule meetings in 25 minute or 55 increments instead of the standard 30 and 60 minutes. Think about it, it gives someone a few minutes to maybe go to the restroom or get a drink of water or just breathe, right, before their next meeting. Or maybe even mentally prepare for their next meeting. Digital spaces today are replacing those physical elements that we have in the workplace. And so we need to think about how we're fostering that kind of environment. More and more work is being done in teams, of course, and so that means that people have to be able to feel comfortable working together. And again, these team meetings or team discussions could occur pretty much any time of the day now, not just between the traditional nine to five. People are tending to shift gears so quickly, that in today's environment we're seeing that many times people are not able to focus as well as they used to. They're not necessarily able to have that strategic mindset and really apply critical thinking to what they're doing, because they're shifting, shifting and maybe it's even right now you may have a bunch of windows open on your computer, right? It's that kind of mentality. So the more that we can move, as managers, from a people management mindset to one of a people-enablement one, that is a real shift in what we're expecting from people, but also what we're empowering them to do. So providing them with the tools to actually allow them to do more things themselves. And so tools are not just in terms of finding information, but it's also the people that they need to connect with as well. We need to shift from the more routine task completion to automating a lot of the tasks that could be done by a computer or a system, so we can free up people to actually talk about the broader issues. We can scrape employee's email and their calendar, their movements, their interactions, there's a lot of ways to monitor productivity these days. But keep in mind that we also need to remember why are we monitoring? And is it just because we feel like we need to keep tabs on people, or is it really adding value? I mentioned on the right-hand side there many different ways that technology can actually transform our processes in our organizations. And obviously a lot of it is around efficiency and accuracy. But it can also help us in terms of interacting not only with our customers better, as well as maybe getting into new markets, but even with the others in our organization better as well. What are some of these tools? Well, first of all, if you haven't done it already, you should be making your company resources electronic, right? I mean, stacks of paper don't really cut it these days. So having all of your processes, your records and all those sorts of things, not only digitalized but accessible from any place. So that means you're storing them in the cloud. There's a lot of different collaboration tools that you can consider. A people directory itself, and not just a directory in the old sense where it had people's phone extensions and the floor they sat on and that kind of thing, but really what we're talking about is sort of an internal LinkedIn, right? A way to actually find out things about people. Not only their title but maybe things that they've worked on. People they're connected to. Skillsets that they have. That way we can quickly identify those people resources to get the work done in the best way. That means that we also have other tools at our disposal as well. So whether it's other ways of tracking productivity or managing workflow, project planning, you see a whole plethora of things listed there. In fact we're even seeing a lot more with artificial reality and virtual reality, where we are able to even simulate some of these interactions online that we used to do in person. So I have some tips for you there on the right for virtual teams. And I do a lot of team building with my clients and I remind them that before you get into the actual work, you have to make sure that you're establishing trust and rapport first. That means that people have to get to know each other, right. And that does sometimes take time. But if you don't make that time you're not gonna have that sense of bonding and commitment that is going to result in the best work. So those are some pointers and reminders on how to do that as well. So I told you that I would mention some things about how to cope these days, and you may find this useful, not only for your other employees, but for yourselves as well. Anxiety is pretty high these days. What is anxiety? Anxiety is feeling out of control. There's a lot of causes of it. Traditionally workplace anxiety was maybe around having too many close deadlines, too many projects, not understanding what you were supposed to do. Maybe feeling like you're not liked by your boss. A lot of different factors that can go in there. But of course, increasingly today on top of all of that is even the idea that we're balancing a lot of stuff in our personal lives, on top of it, right. You know, 83% of employees actually want their companies to do more to support their mental health, and even look towards technology to help do that as well. So keep in mind the technology, again, this is another reminder of the interpersonal aspect, that technology can actually fulfill. When people have a lot of anxiety, that means that they are less able to kind of handle their workload. That they have disturbed sleep. Maybe they have difficulty concentrating. They get angry more easily. Their work is not as consistent, essentially. So here are some ways to cope. On the left-hand side I talk about some of the individual ones, and you can see that there's a lot of things that we could be doing to kind of save ourselves essentially, right? Taking care of ourselves, which is exercise, diet, et cetera. We can use meditation and mindfulness as ways to kind of center ourselves. If that sounds a little bit too out there for you, there are apps actually that you can download on your phone that will allow you to do one to two minute meditations. I worked with an organization, Calm Classroom, that brought this into the schools, where children would use these meditations to basically switch gears between class activities, to kind of calm everybody down a little bit. And we can do that in the workplace as well. Obviously, giving ourselves sufficient rest periods. I have started to take, I know it may sound odd. I take two hour lunches many times, so that I can just go off and kinda go for a long walk, clear my head. While I'm walking I'm actually thinking of some ideas. I mentioned humor earlier. It could also be taking some classes. Maybe having some online meetups each week that are maybe not even focused on work, by the way, just social. And then that aspect of work-life boundaries. Are we actually encouraging our staff to be able to have some separation? Saying listen, power down. These are gonna be some no work hours, so that don't even think about logging on. We want you guys to be able to spend time with your families, with your own activities. That can be very liberating, and employees can really appreciate that. On the right-hand side, organizationally there are things we can do as well. We can strengthen our people networks. Again, this aspect of making it easier for people to connect with other people, not only to get the work done, but for that sense of bonding and support. Having office hour online forums where maybe you're available, so they know they're gonna be able to access you with any questions that they have. Having learning opportunities. Just because we've been in a pandemic doesn't mean that we could stop our professional development. So are you fostering that for the folks in your organizations? Having live feeds. So if there are some folks in the office, do you have some cameras up so that people actually maybe can click on something and they can see people coming in the building, or people in the hallways, or just a sense of some kind of connection? And then last but not least, EAP assistance, which is really important, right? So we cannot solve everybody's problems today, so having an employee assistance program where they can tap into professionals that can help them. All right, so in this next section I'm gonna actually go back on webcam here and I'm gonna ask Scott Burns to join me as well. So Scott, if you can come back on here, I'm going to do so as well. And hopefully, Scott, are you there?

[Scott] Yep, I'm here.

[Michelle] Okay, great. Oh yeah. Let me see, I'm gonna go ahead and make sure I can see your lovely face as well. So we're gonna talk in this section about some questions that I have, pertaining to your organization and just for everyone's reference, I'm gonna give Scott a little introduction here and allow him to share a little bit about what he does. So Scott is a co-founder and CEO of Structural. Structural allows organizations to connect their people to opportunity, and they use a dynamic and data-rich people directory. And Scott has, Scott, your background's so impressive. I mean you, prior to Structural, co-founded GovDelivery, which became the world's largest digital communications platform, and of course worked at McKinsey and graduated from Dartmouth. So a lot going on there, but Scott, why don't you share a little bit with us about how this works?

[Scott] Thanks. Yeah, I really appreciate the perspective that you've offered on this topic. And as a technologist, and a technology platform provider, I really sympathize with the work people have to do who are listening today. You know, there's so many different considerations as you're trying to think about some of the words and some of the themes that you just exposed. Creating flexibility, creating empowerment. Making sure people are motivated. Creating alignment. You talked about Daniel Pink's book. And I think a lot about autonomy, mastery and purpose is really good ways to motivate people. And technologies, they don't solve every last problem under the sun, but we think about two problems with work today that are solvable with technology. And one of those is that silos and distributed teams really affect people's ability to feel empowered in making the right connections at the right time. And that that, you actually cited this statistic, knowledge workers waste the equivalent of one day per week just playing internal detective. And then the second thing is opportunity is elusive. And people often look externally for opportunity when they could be looking internally. And being part of an organization that really embeds opportunity into work changes the entire environment to one that feels more hopeful, more forward-thinking. And it feels like the place I wanna be in my career. So the consequences of not addressing these things is lost productivity, missed opportunity, slower innovation, and often unwanted turnover. So that's kind of how we frame the work we do, and have been able to do with different kinds of clients. Go ahead, you can head to the next slide. And really my only other slide is just a little visual on how we think of this. So you can see a quote from one of the clients we've worked with from very early, over on the left, talking about the huge benefit to ingraining something in their business that allows people to find the right people at the right time and make talent more fluid. There's really a couple things that we've honed in on doing in our system. One is something I think any company can do, but it gets harder at scale, which is where we often come in. And that is just making sure you have a really great profile on every employee, that they can share and that others, and that they can share with others, and that allows others to find them. And just that makes an organization a lot easier to navigate, makes connections easier to be made. Now if you're ambitious, you might step that up to really including a lot of data. And that's something we've invested in in our technology is pulling in all the data on Alex, so her profile is extremely rich on projects and skills and other things, without her even touching it. And that makes her more, having more of a presence in the organization. The second thing is think about opportunity in your organization. And again, start without even thinking about the technology. Just think about does the average person in your organization feel like they have an opportunity to do something new today to advance themselves, to try something new? I'm not talking about a new job. I'm talking about 15 minute class or a contribution. Maybe they're gonna review your company on Glassdoor or do a sales referral or help recruit a new employee. Something simple they can do to learn, to connect, to grow. Maybe they're gonna participate in employee resource groups, something like that. Are those opportunities obvious to people or are they kind of hidden and hard to find? Because if they can't find them in your organization, they're gonna look elsewhere. And that's why I cited the stat on the previous slide. People are twice as likely to look externally for opportunity than internally. Make sure you're making the opportunity embedded in the work, and that you're thinking really in a creative way about what kinds of opportunities there are. In our platform, like if you imagine external LinkedIn, there's a profile and a search and a job board, trying to get people out of your company, our approach to creating that same connectivity internally is a profile, search, rich data and an opportunity board that maybe is more about what's available in the company than going external.

[Michelle] Yeah, well actually that was a perfect segue 'cause I had a question about that actually. Obviously I'm sure everybody logged in today uses LinkedIn a lot and some people are sort of retrofitting it, I call it, to the internal needs, but it's really designed as an external tool. So how do you see the distinct advantages to your system for internal employees?

[Scott] Well I think that when you think about LinkedIn is basically a resume to find your next job often. And it is an incredibly powerful tool. And we've all, if you're in an organization of more than 10 people, I can almost guarantee you've done a LinkedIn search on one of your colleagues before. 'Cause you do it before you're gonna go into a meeting, right. We all do it. And it's a big use of Structural, it's just looking up Michelle before I'm gonna meet with Michelle. Get to know her, see where we have contacts in common. Have we worked in different parts of the company? Did we go to a similar college? Do we like similar books? That kind of connection can really streamline and strengthen collaboration in an organization. The big distinction for us is focusing on the internal. And what that allows us to do is to tap the data that you already have in your organization to create a profile that's very rich and powerful and relevant to your company. Not just relevant for somebody's professional background as they might wanna leave your company.

[Michelle] Yeah. And I think the subtlety I was thinking about there too is, the things we might say about ourselves to people outside the company, might actually be a little different than what we wanna say to the people internally as well. So I think there's a factor there. Even before the pandemic and this shift to sort of more distributed teams, people were already sort of feeling isolated and siloed. I'm sure some of your customers have dealt with that issue. So what are some of the things they've done to kind of address this isolation during remote work?

[Scott] You know, it starts with just encouraging, really having a culture where people are encouraged to make connections throughout the organization. So, one of the old Gallup questions that indicates employee engagement is do you have a friend at work?

No, are you able to make connections? And I think organizations should culturally, before they even think about technology, really encourage people to form groups and networks inside the organization. Mentorship programs, good onboarding of course, encouraging people and not limiting them from making contact across the organization. So I'll share a couple of tricks. We've done companies that encourage people to set up coffee time. I know one company that gave people a free lunch a month if they invited somebody from another team out to lunch. And that's just an awesome, easy thing to do. And then we're all familiar with employee resource groups. Those can take a lot of different forms. It could be what you're interested in like a book club. What you're working on or learning, like a community of practice. Or maybe your personal or demographic background. There's groups for women in technology at company X. And all of those things strengthen the community. And then you ought to have technology in place that empowers people to make and strengthen those connections, and that's often where we come in.

[Michelle] Yeah, you know I'm thinking, and so in addition, how do we use this sort of to help people as they continue to grow their own professional development in terms of, I'm sure most people, they wanna be able to have other opportunities, right. Other job opportunities in that company, whether it's promotions or lateral. How does this tool help them in that regard as well?

[Scott] You know, one of the inspirations for my work on this is I led a company from zero to 250 people. And as we were, one of my very best employees was leaving. Or actually it was my send-off party after we sold the company. And she told me a story and she said, I'm glad you like peanut butter cups so much, because if you didn't I would have never been promoted. And I was like kind of taken aback. Okay. And it turns out that she, I would go into her office every afternoon, almost every afternoon, and pick up a peanut butter cup at four o'clock for my sugar fix, 'cause she had 'em on her desk. And one day I started talking to her about her career and a job that was opening up and how I thought she could position herself for it. And she got it and she became a manager. She's still a people leader today. Changed her life, changed her career. But serendipity is not a strategy for talent mobility. You have to allow people to strengthen their networks and to do it in ways that don't require them to play golf. Or as an old "Friends" episode had, Jennifer Aniston picking up smoking so she could meet her boss's boss on the smoke break. We rely too much on that, and it's the opposite of inclusion and a welcoming environment. Let's rely on empowering people to make the connections that they can make and really broadening their ability to do that. And it's really one of the best uses of technology. Instead of filling up your email box and keeping you busy with content, the approach we believe in is trying to allow people to make directed contacts when they need them, so that network grows and when the job or the project comes up, hopefully they get a chance to either find it or be asked to participate in it because people know about them.

[Michelle] Yeah. I remember that "Friends" episode and as much as also I love peanut butter cups, so feel free to send them, but here's the thing. I mean, you're right. Those are opportunities that people stumble across that aren't given to everyone and open to everyone. And so we've also got that equity issue that if it's just left to casual encounters that way. So I think those are both excellent points. What about small businesses? Maybe some of our folks that are working at relatively small businesses, how do you see this helping even in those environments?

[Scott] Yeah, I mean, I think that, if you're a company of under 50 people and you can probably learn a lot from the kind of approach we've taken, but you can probably get by without it. I'll be honest about that. As you start to get more ambitious in your growth and accelerating past 50, past 100 people, I think that's when you really need to add a technology component to allowing people to connect, so it's scalable and works that way. And it sort of builds a foundation that you can invest in and grow in the future. But I think small companies start from the beginning, investing more in connection and less in hierarchy. And I think that that makes a huge difference. Just connecting and empowering people versus over-focusing on titles and org charts. And then you'll find that you have cultivated many leaders in your organization. And as you do wanna grow, the next generation of leaders will be right there in front of you.

[Michelle] Yeah. Oh, I agree. And also I think sometimes the small business mentality stays, even as the company grows, and they don't think about the fact that they have to start doing things differently. So great points for the transition. All right, one last question.

[Scott] I'm gonna add one more thing there which is think of yourself as an HR professional, or human capital professional, where you can, as you grow, think of yourself as creating a platform for people to make the connections they need, versus helping make them, managing them from the top down. You just can't manage people from the top down that way anymore. You wanna empower them, whether it's technology platforms or cultural changes. The more your employees are doing for themselves, the more successful your organization will be.

[Michelle] Yeah, and also people don't wanna be managed in those traditional ways. All right I got one last question for you that I'm sure everybody else wants to know. And that is, what about the return on investment for the companies that use this kind of system? Talk a little bit about that.

[Scott] You know there's three main ways our companies, our clients measure it. And one is really about that platform. Are people able to find and make the connections they need fast when they're trying to close a deal, staff a project, solve a problem? And it's about productivity. Are you saving people time when they have that moment of need? And you know, you Michelle cited that statistic that we also use. People spend a day a week looking for help and information. The equivalent of a day a week, it's spread out over the week. Let's get your employees out of playing internal detective and empower them to make connections faster, and to be found so they can help others faster. So productivity's one. People who are connected turn over less and we've had several clients actually reduce turnover by as much as 50%, by connecting their team of people. And then if you're connecting faster when you need it, often it really helps in the sales process. You know if you're selling things in your company, getting the right people involved in sales pursuits at the right time can make all the difference. So those are just a few examples.

[Michelle] Yeah, those are great tangible examples actually. Well, so I wanna thank you very much for taking the time out with me today, and Ty, I'll turn it over to you to close out today's session. As we do, I'm sharing our contact info up on the slide there. Many times people will have questions afterwards. Please feel free to reach out to us. And thank you for being here. Ty.

[Ty] Thank you, Scott and Michelle. You both provided a lot of great information and guidance. Folks, in order to remain on schedule we'll respond to the questions that came into the chat box via email in a timely manner. Again, thanks Michelle and Scott. And on behalf of HR Morning, I'd also like to thank everyone for attending the webinar. This concludes our program.

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