episode 198 – transcript

Doug Houser: From Rea & Associates studios, this is unsuitable, a management and financial services podcast for entrepreneurs, tenured business leaders, and others who are ready to look beyond the suit and tie culture for meaningful, measurable results. I’m Doug Houser.

The topic of employee experience continues to get a lot of traction. America’s all time low unemployment rate means there are fewer people available to fill open positions, so companies have to get more creative when it comes to competing for top talent.

Additionally, younger generations of workers are looking for more than just a standard eight hour workday plus benefits. They want opportunities to volunteer, increased professional development, more paid time off and maybe even a free lunch or two. On today’s show, Nick Glimsdahl, director of content center solutions with VDS, a client engagement and experience company, will talk about the changing expectations of your workforce. He will explain what other companies have done to deliver a better all around employee experience, and explain how these strategies can help you make better hires and improve employee retention in your business. Welcome, Nick.

Nick Glimsdahl: Thank you, sir.

Doug: Glad to have you here. So talk to me about employee experience. That just seems overly broad. Break that down for me. What that mean in your mind?

Nick: Yeah. So I think employee experience can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. And I think you said it’s kind of the pie in the sky. At the highest level, it’s how your employees, or even your potential employees, interact with you on a consistent basis. And it could be process, it could be the way you go to market. And what’s your mission? What does your culture look like? It’s a lot of things, and it’s from recruiting all the way down to your last day at that organization.

Doug: Okay. So it’s engagement at every level, in other words.

Nick: Yeah.

Doug: And how do we think about that? I mean, how do we define it? I’m dating myself a little bit here, but when I started, hell, you just showed up, and you did what you were told and you kept your mouth shut. Well, that obviously doesn’t work, right? Nobody … If I did that to a new hire today, they’d be gone before the end of the day. Right?

Nick: Well, most of them, yeah. I think that you kind of need to go above and beyond and add value. And I think what you said at the very beginning was, was very timely. I think people don’t just want to work for an organization to get a paycheck. And they don’t necessarily want a free slushies at lunchtime, but they … You need to figure out what’s best for them, and what suits them, as who you are as an organization. And then own that, who you are. It could be free lunches. It could be, I want to have free beer. It could be I want a foosball table in the corner.

Doug: Sure.

Nick: But people expect something else, more of a purpose, a more of a why of what they’re doing to earn that paycheck.

Doug: Okay. And if I’m management or leadership in an organization, that sounds hard for me to figure out. Maybe I’m a little older, or whatever. I’ve been at it for 20, 30 years. Hell, I don’t know. How do I figure that stuff out? Do I just go ask? Or what’s the best way to really determine that?

Nick: Yeah. Just to take a quick step back, I think as a married guy, the old analogy is, if “Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Right? So I think that’s the same thing with your employees. If your employees are not happy in the organization, your customers are going to feel that. And it’s a lot of things come down. I think the first thing that starts is the culture. So who are you guys as an organization? What’s your mission? What’s your purpose? What’s your values?

Nick: So for you guys here, you know Jennifer at the front counter. Right? She’s the director of first impressions. She knows what her mission is. She knows what her why is, and why she works, and her goal for the organization. So they have marching orders of where they need to go and what her why is. So you guys also have from just stepping into your organization, you have The Rea Way. Right?

Doug: Right.

Nick: There’s a bunch of things that you guys have throughout that process, but at the very end of it was, “enjoy the journey.” There was a bunch of stuff at the end of it from the beginning. But if you don’t … So I like to say, “Have fun serving others.” Right?

Doug: There you go.

Nick: And I think if you don’t do that, then you better find another gig. But for you guys, it’s important to have that. And I think Jennifer is a good example of: What does that mean? The second thing I think is: What are you putting in front of your employees to help them succeed? And it could be technology, so we’ll start there. It’s: Do they have the right technology? Or is it the legacy stuff that they had 20 years ago?

Nick: I always like to say, think of 20 years ago, when you were rocking the boombox and you’re heading down the street with it on your shoulder, listening to some sweet music. And you wanted to take a picture of a cat, so you put your boombox down, and you put up your nice, sweet camera, and you roll it over a couple of times and take the picture.

Doug: I’m not a cat guy. I prefer dogs. But hey, that’s me.

Nick: You take a picture of a cat. It didn’t mean you had to print it. But I think it’s when you think of all of these different things, and you wanted to record something ,or someone that calls you, whatever that looks like, you now have all of those in your smartphone. So the way the that technology changes over the last 20 years has been dramatic. So what have you done to improve that process? Because I think some of the things that you think of when it comes to employee morale, you were talking about the skill shortage. Right? So what do you need to do on the employee morale to make them as efficient as possible to do their job? If you don’t provide them the ability to do their job, they’re going to get frustrated.

Nick: If they get frustrated, they’re not going to stay very long. So there’s different things that you can do. And I said, even the third thing probably is just creating a better workspace.

Doug: Sure.

Nick: Right? So is it creating a ping pong table in the corner, or free lunch on Fridays? Is it have the ability to collaborate in an open environment? Sometimes open environments are good. Sometimes they’re not so good because it could be noisy, depending on the organization.

Doug: You bring up a great point because I’ve started to read more about these open environments that were just very, very prevalent, continue to be so, I guess to some degree. In fact, I know of an institution here in central Ohio that did away with all their cubicles and offices. And now it’s just this big, open floor with a few tables and maybe a few side huddle rooms.

And some of the stuff I’ve started to read lately is that, actually, this has made the work environment worse. They said, “Oh, we’re going to increase collaboration,” and all that. So what are your thoughts on that?

Nick: Yeah. I would say it depends on your organization. It depends on the individual person. For me, I love just listening to music, but I’m not productive when I listen to music. And so if I’m sitting at a coffee shop, I’m potentially productive. There’s now websites or apps, where you can download and listen to listen to coffee sounds, so it sounds like you’re in a coffee shop. But I guess that could be effective. But for somebody that doesn’t work well in an open space, and people chatting back and forth, or let’s say that you’re … That’s almost like putting everybody in a customer service cubicle section, where they’re all hearing 100 different conversations.

Nick: That’s not fun for some people. Some people, that’s going to stress them out. And so I would say that that’s probably, it’s nice to talk about. It’s a sweet checklist because you’re saying, “Hey, look what I did.” But sometimes it’s kind of a … It affects the person, and negatively, than it does positively.

Doug: And that’s a great message. It’s sort of, be sensitive to everybody’s diverse way of working or thinking. Everybody’s a little bit different, and what makes them perform at their best.

Nick: That’s right.

Doug: So using that shotgun approach and saying, “Oh, this is the way we do it for everybody,” doesn’t always fly.

Nick: Yeah. Just listen to your employees. I think that’s half the battle too. I’ve heard of companies say, “Hey, what should … ” Put out a survey to their customers, and said, “What should we start doing?” Or to their employees, sorry. What should we start doing? What should we stop doing? What should we keep doing? And so they learned a bunch of information that they would’ve never known if they didn’t ask those three questions. They ask them now twice a year because they think it’s important to understand not just what you think your employees want, or what you think your customers want, and throw that shotgun approach out.

Nick: But it’s, let’s listen to what they actually have to say. Let’s potentially do a … There’s certain journey maps that you can do with customers. But it’s also: What’s the journey of your employee? Right?

Doug: Interesting.

Nick: What does that look like from onboarding your employee, all the way through, hey, I’m been here for 35 years, and I’m now going to retire? People always do exit interviews. But where are the interviews in the middle?

Doug: Great point. Great point. So do you find the best way to engage and get that information, is it a truly a survey? Or is it more one-on-one? Or is it anonymous? Or do the people want to attach their name to that stuff? I mean, what are your thoughts there?

Nick: I’ve heard some horror stories when it comes to anonymous surveys.

Doug: Oh really? Tell me a little more.

Nick: People will say that they’re anonymous, but then their direct boss will receive that survey.

Doug: No kidding.

Nick: Yeah. And so if they know what their writing style is, or they know how that person interacts, then they’re like, “Oh, well that’s interesting. Thanks for that information.”.

Doug: I know that was Susie.

Nick: So they will not be … They’re not honest with their organization.

Doug: Wow.

Nick: I know of an insurance company here in town, that they were trying to create an initiative. And they say, “Hey. What we’re going to do is, anybody that is willing to come speak in front of this group of people, we want to hear from you.” And they’re like, “Okay, sounds good.” Well, we want to hear from you on what you want to talk about. Excuse me. But the number one fear in the world is public speaking. So there’s kind of a oxymoron. Right? We want to hear what you’re saying. But somebody would rather have a spider sitting on their lap than sitting up in the public speaking.

So trying to find ways to figure out what’s best for that employee. And it could be anonymous, it could be one-on-one. It’s not just a one size fits all. You kind of have to not just be who you are, and own your organization, kind of like the Rea way, but also talk on the individual level. What should we do different? How can we improve? And how do we go about that? And then from there, there needs to be action items. It’s not just … C suite, a lot of times talk a good game about employee experience and about customer experience.

Doug: And all the buzz words. Right? But then no follow through.

Nick: So they hear from a partner, or peer, whoever it is. But then what are they measured on? What’s their definition of success? And then what are the metrics from the top down? Because if they’re not going to get measured on it, and it’s just a … It’s kind of like when LeBron puts his baby powder in his hands, and he rubs them together. And he throws it up in the air. My analogy is when they talk about the good game, and can talk about customer experience and employee experience, and then they let the pixie dust and fairytales fall to the ground, and they walk away.

Doug: Got you.

Nick: But if you actually truly believe that customer or employee experience equals customer experience, then you do something about it.

Doug: So what are some of the ways that you, say, go in and help a company sort of achieve this? Because I think of our firm, and while we’re fairly progressive, and we like to do these things, sometimes you need help sort of getting things started. How do we engage in the right ways? Is that sort of where you can come into the process?

Nick: Yeah. It depends on the organization. I mean, I’m happy to grab a coffee or a drink with about anybody. But I think when it comes to the three steps, and I kind of already touched on it a little bit. But what’s your culture? What’s your Rea way? Who are you as an organization? And don’t try to be like Rea & Associates. Be who you are. Everybody tries to be like Amazon when it comes to customer experience. Don’t be Amazon. Be your version of Amazon.

And don’t look at your next competitor and say, “Hey, they’re doing this, so we should do this.” Listen to what your customer, what your employees are saying. Looking at who you are as an organization and what you what you want to be as a culture, and then from there, make those action item steps. And then have that from the top down, be voiced and then be measured from the top down. There’s a book called Traction that kind of says, “Are you on the right bus, in the right seat?” And if not, then what are you measured on? What’s your 90 day rocks?

Nick: I think every organization should be measured on your 10 year year, big, hairy, audacious goal, your three year, 90 day rocks. But every one of those need to be measured with your employee experience and your customer experience.

Doug: Do you still encounter a lot of, say, lack of transparency within companies, where you know it stops at that C suite level, and there’s a real line in terms of what’s shared information wise, that kind of thing? Or is that going away somewhat?

Nick: I would say it’s still not going away. It’s not necessarily not transparent, but they’re still talking the good game, but they’re not measured on it. So if at the end of the day, and my annual review comes around, and I’m a C suite, or if I am a director of operations, or I’m in the customer service, or I’m in marketing, and I’m not measuring on employee experience, then that’s not my initiative. My initiative is the next 15 things that I measured on. And so I think that’s-

Doug: That’s a good point.

Nick: That’s kind of frustrating, and most organizations need to start leaning into the benefits and why it’s important. But then what’s the benefits of it? What’s the return? So if people started seeing what that return is, people will get a lot more excited about what’s next.

Doug: Right. You mentioned sort of the concept of lean in. That’s right from Sheryl Sandberg, kind of espoused that a couple of years ago. And that gets to the next point is: Where do you draw the line between the professional and the personal? Do you get folks so overly engaged that they feel like they can’t shut off or draw that line between their professional experience and their personal experience? I mean, is that something that you see much of? Today, we’re all so connected, and email and smartphones. I mean, is that an issue? Is it an issue for people that they feel like they can’t disconnect? Otherwise, there’s going to be that lack of commitment to the organization.

Nick: Depending on the leadership and what their expectations of that employee. So I think that if you set clear expectations, there should be … One of the perks could be a flexible environment. It could be, I want to wear jeans on Friday, or I want a work from home environment, where I can work from home 50% of the time. Or is it, I’m going to be very rigid, and this is the way that we go about business? And you need to do this. You need to clock in at 8:00, and you leave at 5:30, or whatever that timeframe is.

It depends on the culture of the organization, but I’ve seen that you think of … I’m trying to think. There’s Chase, JP Morgan, and Cardinal Health, within a week of each other decided to do open kind of dress, relaxed dress. And that happened in the last three months.

Doug: Dress for your day kind of thing, which is what we do.

Nick: It’s still professional. But it’s also, here’s some freedom. And here’s a willingness for us to budge a little bit to improve your way of life. All right. So I don’t think it’s … I think the technology in general, and the way that internet and smart phones and how we’re all interconnected, can be a blessing, but it can be a curse.

Doug: Sure. Absolutely.

Nick: Depends on how much pressure you put on yourself as an individual, but then also how much pressure your organization puts on you. Right. There is people that probably work seven days a week. I’m not one of them, but I’m still passionate about my organization.

Doug: Right. What about social media? Now here, we’re doing a podcast, obviously. And social media is very prevalent. Is that, in your mind, a good way to engage with employees? Or is that more, you think that’s a better tool left to engage externally with customers and that type of thing?

Nick: Yeah. I would say that there’s other better ways to collaborate with your employees. It could be a Skype, it could be Slack, it could be Microsoft teams, whatever it is. And then you can attach documents and integrate with Google Docs, or whatever that looks like. But somebody who is in customer service, I think it’s more focused on the actual customer, and on how customers interact with you on the channel of their choice.

So it could be phone, text, email, social, et cetera. Right now it’s WhatsApp. It’s other things. And then that’s meeting the customer where they’re at on their channel, and then being able to push that all onto a single source of truth, which is the technology aspect again. But I would say that all technology or ways to communicate with your employees should be internal focused. So I focus with my, or I communicate with my team all the time. We have Skype. And so I can send group messages. I can send Outlook. I can send meeting invites. I can do all sorts of stuff, send attachments. But it’s nothing to do with what external facing.

Doug: Sure. Now when you go to that external step, so you talk about your customer service people, or in our world, any of those we’re client facing very often. So how do you coach those folks in terms of connecting with the client? I’ve heard a lot about emotional intelligence. The more I read about that, it’s very intriguing. I mean, are there things that you do differently in terms of that connection, and trying to get people to establish that?

Nick: Yeah. Again, as somebody who is an extrovert, I can talk to anybody. And I think it’s important to have an eye connection. It’s important to have empathy. It’s important to … I think Franklin Covey is the one who said, “You need to acknowledge. You need to understand, and then you get a result.” If you’re at a networking event, and you hand somebody a business card, but you’re looking over them and through them, and saying, “All right, sweet. Good talking to you. What do you do again?” As looking around you, it’s-

Doug: Looking for the other more important person. Right?

Nick: Right. So you need to be present, regardless of who you are as an individual. But then also, internal, or introvert, or extrovert, you need to understand what your strengths are, and then use those. And it could be throwing out bad jokes, or it could be … But it’s meeting them, and being who you are. It’s the same as an organization. You need to own you.

Doug: So take your personal style, your personality, and kind of mold the things you need to communicate within that.

Nick: Yep. I think if you own you, and you show people who you are, instead of trying to be fake and trying to push somebody who you’re not, people see that. And so if I try to be somebody I’m not, they’re going to be like, “Oh, that’s interesting. That was an okay conversation.” And I try to have fun and enjoy the conversation. I hope that the next person enjoys it as much as I do, because I have fun.

Doug: And I guess it’s the same thing with the organization at the end of the day. You have to, as you stated at the beginning, kind of own who you are as an organization.

Nick: That’s right.

Doug: And then make sure that culture gets filtered out to everybody.

Nick: Yeah. And I think that goes back to the recruiting process too. Who do we want to hire? Who are we as an organization? And then who do we want to hire? And then from that person, if they’re an external facing or internal facing, that’s important. There’s all sorts of behavioral tests that you can take and say, “I know Frank or Susie is an ideal person for this position, and she’s been here for 20 years. I want somebody similar to that, so that when she retires in five years, now we can kind of mold that next person.”. So people take behavioral tests, and then in that interview process, people take that same test.

Doug: That’s great. Yeah.

Nick: It’s interesting because you have to kind of mold that next generation or that next person that you’re going to hire.

Doug: Sure. Absolutely. Well, Nick, thank you very much. That’s fantastic insight. Really, really appreciate it, and a great learning experience for me personally as well today.

Nick: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Doug: Absolutely. If you want to learn more about employee experience and its impact on your business, or to hear previous episodes of unsuitable, visit our podcast page at www.reacpa.com/podcast. Thanks for listening to this week’s show. You can subscribe to unsuitable on iTunes or wherever you like to get your podcasts, including YouTube. And while you’re there, please leave us a review. You can also write to us at rea.news@reacpa.com. I’m Doug Houser. Join us next week for another unsuitable interview from an industry professional.

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