Many millennials entering the workforce are burdened with student loan debt. And according to some articles, the average student in the class of 2016 has $37,172 in debt. In the fight for talent, employers are getting as creative as they can to attract and retain talent to grow their businesses and some are turning to student loan repayment programs as a new, unique benefit to employees.
In this episode, Paige Tamlyn and Brandon Laws discuss student loan repayment programs, why it would or would not make sense for your organization, and how to implement such a program.
Brandon Laws: Hey, welcome back for another episode. I’ve got Paige Tamlyn here with me.
Paige Tamlyn: I’m back.
Brandon Laws: Yeah, you’re back. We’re going to do like a weekly thing at some point.
Paige Tamlyn: We should. Everyone is going to be so tired of me.
Brandon Laws: No, they’re tired of me already I think. They hear my voice every week so it’s nice to have another familiar voice, I’m sure. And you’re always bringing the good stuff on the podcast. So I appreciate having you back. What are we talking about today?
Paige Tamlyn: Student loans.
Brandon Laws: Student loans, OK. So let’s pull the thread on that. So there – like a lot of companies are using student loan repayment as a unique benefit.
Paige Tamlyn: Yeah.
Brandon Laws: So we want to pull the thread on that. But let’s first back up all the way. Student loan debt is a humongous issue in the United States.
Paige Tamlyn: It’s a huge problem. So many students don’t know when they sign up for student loans what that actually means.
Brandon Laws: Yeah.
Paige Tamlyn: I saw this video on BuzzFeed. A woman stated, “I was 18 when I signed up for a student loan. I didn’t know anything about it.” She said, “I’m barely making just like the minimum interest payment.” So a lot of students can’t even get to the actual balance of their student loans because they are just paying off the massive amounts of interest.
Brandon Laws: There are so many issues with student loans right now. For one, I think people should have education around what it means to take out a loan. I remember back in 2004, I’m dating myself here, but 2004-2005 when a lot of my friends were taking out loans and they were blowing their loans on like gambling or alcohol and things like that.
Paige Tamlyn: Yeah.
Brandon Laws: So they don’t really understand like …
Paige Tamlyn: Or just even to live.
Brandon Laws: Yeah.
Paige Tamlyn: Like paying – part of like their college but then also just living because they live out of state or they live somewhere else.
Brandon Laws: Yeah. And I’m putting some broad strokes there and I’m sure everybody would treat it that way.
Paige Tamlyn: Well, there are a lot of people that do that.
Brandon Laws: [Laughter] I paid – I think you have a similar story. I paid cash for school on my own. I worked – I would go home on the weekends and work. So I was lucky enough to get out of school without debt. But I know a lot of people that have huge balances.
Paige Tamlyn: That and the thing – the sad part about that is, is like we’re the minority of people that graduated without student loan debt. Most people graduate with student loan debt of a certain sum of money. I was lucky as well to not have any student loan debt. My parents said, “You stay in state. You stay local. You live at home. We’ll pay for your school.” So I graduated from Portland State. They paid for my school. I had no student loan debt. And I worked and paid all my own expenses and living expenses because I lived at home and worked. But very, very few of my friends have no student loan debt.
Brandon Laws: Yeah. Well, especially like I think for people who want to go to a higher end school like a private school, Ivy League School …
Paige Tamlyn: Oh, can you imagine how much student loan debt you would have if you graduate from Harvard?
Brandon Laws: Yeah. Unless your parents are super wealthy or you had some sort of endowment.
Paige Tamlyn: Which this podcast isn’t for you then so go ahead and turn it off.
Brandon Laws: It’s not for you probably. But like I don’t know how parents would even save for that or how a student would even do that.
Paige Tamlyn: I have no idea.
Brandon Laws: So, it’s a big issue. I think what it means is that OK, for one right now, $1.52 trillion in student loan debt.
Paige Tamlyn: Trillion.
Brandon Laws: Trillion. That’s a T. Total borrowers with student loan debt, 44.2 million people. That’s sick.
Paige Tamlyn: That is sickening.
Brandon Laws: And that averages out and just an average, $37,000 in student loan debt per person but as you know like some people would have on the lower end of that but some people are probably in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Paige Tamlyn: Well, I imagine the people that go back right after they graduate with their undergrad and go back for a master’s, they have twice that amount of debt.
Brandon Laws: Exactly, yeah.
Paige Tamlyn: If not more.
Brandon Laws: I was talking to someone in my extended family and their son is going back for a second master’s degree. I’m like, “I don’t even know like how you would even consider paying for a second degree.”
Paige Tamlyn: What do you need that for?
Brandon Laws: I have no idea.
Paige Tamlyn: I’m sorry like that seems crazy to me. That’s a whole another podcast of why people need unnecessary degrees but that’s a lot of debt.
Brandon Laws: That’s crazy. I mean I don’t want to knock it because I love education and development but…
Paige Tamlyn: Yeah. But be smart about it.
Brandon Laws: …for me, I am financially so frugal in my life.
Paige Tamlyn: Yeah.
Brandon Laws: But OK, so what does this all mean? Because I boil it down to when you’re – as an employer, you’re trying to attract millennials that are coming right out of school. They have all this debt that they now have to live with. And I think for one, it means likely they are delaying home purchases.
Paige Tamlyn: Yes.
Brandon Laws: Or they just now have a fraction of their paycheck …
Paige Tamlyn: Income. Yup.
Brandon Laws: …their income having to go to something that they probably wish they didn’t have.
Paige Tamlyn: Right. Well, and think about it this way. Most even entry level jobs, you need an undergrad degree for.
Brandon Laws: Yeah.
Paige Tamlyn: So they have to graduate.
Brandon Laws: Yeah.
Paige Tamlyn: So you don’t really have much of a choice with that unless you’re going to a vocational school or some other form of education like that. But – so you have really not a lot of choice if you want to get a certain level of position when you graduate. And then you have all of this debt. So – and millennials are not good – we’re not good at saving money. I’m going to say that because I am a millennial.
Brandon Laws: You’re over-generalizing. Come on.
Paige Tamlyn: I’m overgeneralizing. But I would say most, myself included. I’m not great at saving money. I spend it all – I like my vacations and that’s what’s important to me. But I also bought a home so that also was important to me. But most of my friends are like, “Yeah, I pay off my student loans,” and like that seems like enough. And I ask them, I’ll say, “Well, what about like 401k? Do you have an IRA? What’s your plan for that?”
Brandon Laws: I think I was talking to you about all that.
Paige Tamlyn: And it’s just silence. And I’m like, “What are you doing?” I understand that we’re in our mid to late 20s but people need to think about their retirement sooner than you actually think you do. And so the fact that employers are getting really crafty with how they are setting up their benefits plans and offering things to people. It’s smart. It’s really smart.
Brandon Laws: Yeah. I mean this is a big issue just because I think it puts pressure on employers because if people are living with this amount of debt, they are going to naturally ask for more money to live, right? They got to pay for rent. They want to buy a home. They want to start a family. I got to pay off my student loans. And that requires a higher wage.
Paige Tamlyn: And then the employers are saying, “Well, OK, I’m going to bump up your base range to be competitive but I’m also paying X amount for your health insurance, because health insurance costs are going up. But I’m contributing this amount to your 401k.” And that’s where it’s missing the mark is that they don’t understand that might not hit home with them right now because they need that to pay off their student loan debt.
So there is this company – I shared this article on LinkedIn with my group and we’re talking about this employer that said, “If you are contributing at least a certain amount to your student loan debt,” and they actually allow it to be done internally through payroll deductions, which is very unusual. So if you do it internally through payroll deductions at least 2%, they will match 5% into your 401k on your behalf.
Brandon Laws: Fascinating.
Paige Tamlyn: So then they’re not having to make a choice.
Brandon Laws: Best of both worlds, yeah.
Paige Tamlyn: Yeah.
Brandon Laws: That’s what I would worry about is the trade-off effect.
Paige Tamlyn: Yeah.
Brandon Laws: You’re going to miss out on compounding interest if you don’t start contributing into your retirement plan right away.
Paige Tamlyn: Or your employer match, so if you’re an employer match and let’s say you contribute 5% but somebody is only doing 2%, that’s money you’re leaving on the table. So if you can meet them halfway and say, “OK, why don’t you put 2% towards your student loans, you put 2% towards your 401k and we’ll match the other 3%.” There are lots of easier ways that employers can do it instead of just saying, “We’ll pay all of your 401k match.”
Brandon Laws: Yeah.
Paige Tamlyn: You could kind of like ease into this a bit.
Brandon Laws: I think what’s really fascinating about this – because this benefit is really popping up a lot. I’m hearing the LinkedIn article you shared plus I’m just sort of seeing it in the headlines – because millennials are typically still in their parents’ health insurance, I think this offers a pretty unique benefit that employers can offer because if they’re not – if those millennials are young enough to where they are still in their parents’ health insurance, they are not on the group health plan. They don’t have to offer …
Paige Tamlyn: Yes, they are not costing you the money.
Brandon Laws: Not costing any money.
Paige Tamlyn: That’s like 500, 600, 700 bucks depending on what plan you have.
Brandon Laws: It’s huge. It’s way more than what I’ve seen in some of these articles about possibly contributing to the student loan repayment and maybe a couple of hundred bucks a month.
Paige Tamlyn: Well, exactly. And that – yeah, that frees them up and then think about if you’re not having to shift their base wage because you’re not contributing to their take-home pay. You’re just not taking away from it because they are not having to disburse it to the student loan payments and every other bill that they’ve got, all their Netflix and Hulu and all that stuff they have to have.
Brandon Laws: Got to have those, of course.
Paige Tamlyn: You know what? Essentials. Essentials.
Brandon Laws: Well, we need to escape life once in a while.
Paige Tamlyn: It’s true.
Brandon Laws: Just zone out.
Paige Tamlyn: Yeah.
Brandon Laws: Yeah. A couple of things I wanted to mention is when I said this just as externally, I always want to make sure I cite my resources. So there is a Forbes article that had all of the data on student loan debt. So I’ll put a link up to that in the show notes.
And then there’s another couple of things I want to talk about. There’s a CNBC article about how hundreds of companies in the United States are really starting to do this, student loan repayment as a benefit. And they had a couple quotes from actual people who were in this program with one of the companies and they said, “It’s as meaningful to recent graduates as 401k’s.” And I believe that.
Paige Tamlyn: Like let that set for a second.
Brandon Laws: Let that sit.
Paige Tamlyn: Let that – I’m just going to pause. That’s incredible.
Brandon Laws: Yeah.
Paige Tamlyn: That’s how much it means to people who have student loans. And I say millennials in a broad sense, there are people that are outside of the millennial group who go back to school. So think about those people too who are paying off their own kid’s student loans. So there is…
Brandon Laws: Absolutely.
Paige Tamlyn: It’s a wide span of people this could affect.
Brandon Laws: I know like when people have large amounts of debt, they get paralyzed by making decisions in their life. So this is one of those things if you just have a little bit of help or feel like you’re getting rid of it.
Paige Tamlyn: Just chip away at it.
Brandon Laws: Chip away, yeah.
Paige Tamlyn: What’s that – I can’t remember who it was that has the snowball effect for paying off debt.
Brandon Laws: Dave Ramsey.
Paige Tamlyn: Yeah. So I mean like that’s sort of what you’re doing as an employer – you’re helping them become more financially stable.
Brandon Laws: Here’s an excerpt from that article I mentioned. So it says, “For example, if someone has a student loan balance of $26,500 on a 10-year repayment term with a 4% interest rate, a $100 per month contribution from his or her employer would free them from their debt three years earlier.
Paige Tamlyn: Three years.
Brandon Laws: That’s a hundred bucks, a hundred bucks a month.
Paige Tamlyn: A hundred bucks. And most employers probably do more than a hundred bucks.
Brandon Laws: Oh yeah. Yeah. So it seems like a really unique benefit that could work.
Paige Tamlyn: This could affect you in so many other ways. I mean think about – so if they are then freed up to be able to purchase a home, be closer to your office, or there is just – there are so many other things. They could buy a car and not have to take public transport.
Brandon Laws: Yeah.
Paige Tamlyn: There are just lots of other things that people can do with freed up income.
Brandon Laws: Yeah. You mentioned earlier about like OK, if we – if employers are offering just a higher wage, what’s the likelihood that a person who has a student loan balance would actually contribute more to paying down that balance?
Paige Tamlyn: Very small.
Brandon Laws: Yeah. I think that’s why a benefit like this is unique because we naturally think like, “Oh well, everybody is smart enough to do that. They would get – they would earn more money and income and they would use that cash to pay down their balance.” But that’s just not the reality.
Paige Tamlyn: No. It’s just like what we say with the 401k. If you don’t have a formal 401k set up, people are not likely going to go ahead and just set one up on their own unless their parents instill in them that kind of financial foundation for a goal.
Brandon Laws: That’s why like – think of auto enrollments are really starting to pop up a lot more just automatically.
Paige Tamlyn: Well, think about OregonSaves. That’s a huge plan because there are lots of people who don’t think about that. So if you’re an employer who wants to be competitive in your benefits but also wants people to be financially savvy, set them up for success and have them keep going and maybe it’s you say, we’ll pay 2% of your student loan for that month that you also have to pay 2%. Have it be a match. Like have him buy into it with you.
Brandon Laws: So how do you think an employer could get into the really HR piece of this? How do you think an employer can set this up? Like what in your mind..
When hiring a new employee, it’s important to hire someone who fits both the open role and your company culture. How someone behaves, interacts with their colleagues, and accomplishes their work is just as important as the daily tasks they complete. In some organizations, that how is even more important than the tasks themselves, as a person’s communication and work styles, along with the values they bring to their work, can radically alter a work environment.
As with determining future job performance, figuring out how someone might fit in with your culture relies entirely on behavioral interviewing. The questions you ask make all the difference! Where job fit questions are designed to determine whether the candidate’s knowledge, skills, and experience meet the requirements you’ve set for the position, culture fit questions hone in on behaviors that indicate whether a candidate’s values align with your organization’s values and mission statement.
While you could simply ask candidates what their values are, behavioral questions instead ask them to show you those values. It’s the old adage “actions speak louder than words”; it’s much more useful for you to hear candidates explain how they live out those values. That will speak to how they actually work, not just how they think they work.
Your goal with culture fit questions is to get your candidates talking honestly, so questions should be open-ended. Here are some examples of useful culture- and values-based interview questions.
If your company values diversity and inclusion, behavioral questions may include:
What experiences have you had working with people with backgrounds different from your own?
Describe a time when you included someone on your team or on a project because you felt they would bring a different perspective to it.
If your company values feedback and continual employee improvement, you may ask:
Tell me about a time when constructive feedback was difficult for you to receive. How did you overcome this? How did you use this feedback to improve your work?
Of course, to be useful to you, you’ll need to tailor your culture questions to whatever is important to your organization. To draft a set of culture questions, start by reviewing your core values, then define specific behaviors associated with those values.
Make sure to use the same set of questions with each candidate you interview so you can accurately compare them. And always ensure all employees participating in the interview process are trained in legal and appropriate interviewing.
Watch Episode 10 of Transform Your Workplace
How to Evaluate for Culture Fit in an Interview | Transform Your Workplace - YouTube
Patty McCord, the author of Powerful, a bestselling book released in 2018, shared 8 lessons on how to run a company that people enjoy working for in a recent TED video. It’s a perfect recap of a lot of the ideas from McCord’s book. Check it out below.
Recap of the 8 Lessons from Patty McCord:
Your employees are adults
The job of management isn’t to control people, it’s to build great teams
People want to do work that means something. After they do it, they should be free to move on
Everyone in your company should understand the business
Everyone in your company should be able to handle the truth
Your company needs to live out its values
All start-up ideas are stupid
Every company needs to be excited for change
If you haven’t read or heard of Powerful, it’s an incredible read with a lot of great ideas for small and large companies about building a great workplace culture. The entire Xenium book group read it in Spring 2018 for one of our choices. Following the book club discussion, Tyler Meuwissen and I discussed it during a podcast episode. Listen here.
There is a modest coating of snow this morning with snow showers forecasted again later in the week. This has many of us at Xenium reminiscing about the infamous Snowmageddon that shut down the entire Portland-metro in December 2008.
When it snows in the Portland area, the snow usually turns to ice, and that ice creates complete chaos on the highways. One evening, during this massive (for us) storm in 2008, it took me over five hours to drive home from the office. Then, after little sleep, I awoke the next morning to do it all over again.
Whenever it snows around here, newscasters usually tell us, “Stay home. Don’t you dare go out on the roads!” Because it snows infrequently in Portland, we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with winter storms. We don’t have enough snow plows or de-icer to keep roads clear and safe. So the city all but shuts down, even after a light dusting. Stores and schools close. Mail goes undelivered.
But I’m in payroll. People, entire organizations, rely on me to get paid. That’s a pretty significant responsibility, one that can’t be put off because of nasty weather. So the weatherman doesn’t call the shots in payroll: our deadlines do.
In December 2008, the snow and ice made the roads so bad that Xenium paid for the entire payroll team to stay at a hotel near the office. This was the only way we could process payroll for our clients as planned. Even before the snow hit, we were already planning on working late to meet holiday deadlines and process end-of-year bonuses, but then driving conditions worsened. Staying at a nearby hotel made the most sense for our safety and for better time management. Of course, we all wanted to be home with our families, but that stormy night turned into a special bonding experience for our payroll team. None of us will forget it. And, most importantly, we processed payrolls in time.
But even after all that, one major issue still remained: local mail carriers couldn’t drive in the ice and snow. So what about the companies without direct deposit, the ones that relied on live, paper checks? How would we get paychecks to their employees?
People base their financial lives around when they receive their paychecks. It’s absolutely crucial that people receive their paychecks when they’re told to expect them. Imagine the stress of missed mortgage payments and phone bills across an organization’s entire staff, all because of delayed payroll. That’s not a great look for anyone involved.
We weren’t going to let (admittedly quite a bit of) snow cause a delayed delivery. We couldn’t fathom putting our clients’ employees in that bind. So we did what was right. We went to the local post offices where paychecks were stalling, retrieved the paychecks we’d tried to mail, and hand-delivered checks to our clients so we could meet their crucial deadlines.
We can’t control the weather or local mail carriers. But we knew what it would mean for these employees to receive their payments late. So we did everything we could to fix the problem.
A massive snow storm, one that shuts down the city’s normal operations, is possible every winter. And any time there are reports of impending snow, ice, or sleet, we all brace ourselves, knowing what it could mean.
Fringe pay, year-end adjustments, holiday schedules, out-of-cycle bonus runs, open enrollment, tax updates, W-2s, employee maintenance—there’s so much for a payroll specialist to do at the end of the year already. So really, even without a big storm, it’s always snowing in the winter months for a Xenium payroll specialist. There are always a million tasks to juggle, and we’re always here, shoveling them along, making sure they’re complete—and on time—for our clients and their employees.
Every year, companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to increase employee engagement. But is it working? And why is it so important anyway? Dr. Bob Nelson, author of 1,001 Ways to Engage Employees, joins us to answer these questions and more. We’ll cover simple but impactful methods for increasing engagement, the areas you need to focus on the most, and new strategies for empowering your people to grow and stay engaged on their terms.
Brandon Laws: As the title of your brand new book 1001 Ways to Engage Employees suggests, you offer a ton of ideas about how to engage employees. I want to dive through some of that. We won’t be able to get through all 1001 of them. But I wanted to ask you first – how did you even start writing a book like this? How do you come up with as many ideas as you came up with?
Dr. Bob Nelson: The first “1001 Ways” book I did was 24 years ago, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and I just had a – we know recognizing people, thinking that we’re doing a good job, works.
We’ve got hundreds of studies that say you get what you reward. I focus in on, “Well, why the heck don’t people do it if it works?” and that’s actually the core question I had in my – I did my doctoral dissertation which I did a three-year study answering that one question. Why don’t people do this? And compelled me to do a resource that just is light on theory and charts and is showing people the power of a great example.
Here’s what this company did. Here’s what happened when they did it. Here are the results they got. You could probably get the same.
Brandon Laws: Yeah, it’s so powerful because there are so many simple ideas in this book. To your point, it’s not all theory. It’s actual practical ideas that don’t cost a lot of money to implement and I love that because you really connect with the reader, I think, by simplifying that message.
Dr. Bob Nelson: Yes, yes. If that idea, you open the book anywhere, here’s a usable idea. If that one doesn’t work, turn the page. So, then all of a sudden, the task is to find the ones that fit for you or you use this as a base to have your own discussion, this type of things and get something going in your department or in your company, wherever you’re trying to make a difference where people work.
Brandon Laws: So, what does it take to finish this book? I mean did you have to do hundreds, thousands of interviews with businesses or how did you like get all this data?
Dr. Bob Nelson: Well, it’s funny because you look at a book like this and it looks like, “Yeah. Well, what could be easier?” You piece together a bunch of examples. Done. But actually this – it took me about 12 years.
Brandon Laws: Oh my gosh.
Dr. Bob Nelson: Yeah. Well, I’m doing other stuff along the way. But you have an idea for a book, you can have that in three seconds and then you do a proposal and then you get people interested and so it becomes iterative. You get stuck in different parts of it or you go to sources that worked for the previous book and didn’t work for this one.
So, it’s a combination of primary sources where you go to people directly. I reach out to my clients. I reach out – I might speak to people who have ideas or I’m almost a clearinghouse for usable ideas around motivation for employees today. Then you look at secondary sources.
From magazines, from newspapers, to business journals, anything that gets down to the nitty-gritty and real-life example. Then you – what’s unique about this too is that these are likely ideas, but it’s research-based. By that I mean that the foundation for the book, the structure, the categories that are discussed are validated research as to the variables, the factors that most impact people being engaged at work. By that, I mean bringing their A-game fully motivated to their best on a daily basis.
So, actually in priority order, from the start of the book on back, it’s – what the research indicates is most significant in driving the variable of engagement, which is very big today in all organizations because the benefits are so immense that we can get right now. It has been the same for the last 20 years, which also prompted this book. The number of engaged employees in our country is about 30, 31 percent and that number has not changed in 20 years of the Gallup organization researching this topic.
So, at some point, you go, “Well, gee. We’re not doing something,” because – since we’ve moved the needle on that and in fact the other two-thirds are either disengaged or actively disengaged, almost on the border of sabotage. It’s like – so I guess I was a little frustrated that there’s – as important as the topic is, there’s not a lot of movement on helping companies do it better. Again, the power of a great idea on this specific topic. I hope it would be of great value to anyone in any industry, any size organization from a corporation to a small business, to just working with one person.
The things I talk about, the examples I share are simple and it’s the type of thing where you hear when you go, “Oh, yeah. One, I could do that and wow, what a great idea,” and then we will try it and then see if it works. If it works, then keep doing it. So, it’s that type of – it was Voltaire in the 17th century that said that, “Common sense isn’t often common practice.”
So, in many – and I take it as a compliment. People say, “The whole book is common sense.” Well, thank you. Thank you very much. Common sense but not common practice. So hopefully having this book can find someone that – it helps make it easier. If they’re looking to do something, they could flip through the book or I have management that tells me, “I take your books and I pass them around my group and I have them initial ideas like in the margin. It doesn’t mean I have to do any of them. But if I want to do something to surprise or delight someone, well then I can take the guesswork out of it.”
Brandon Laws: You earlier defined what employee engagement means and I think you put it simply. Like it’s when people bring their A-game, right? What does it look like – if everybody is bringing their A-game, what would the company, the organization culture – what would the results of the business also be like? What is the feel of if everybody brought their A-game, what does that look and feel like?
Dr. Bob Nelson: Well, it’s very exciting because it compounds upon each other. So, you’re excited and then if you get that bounced back at you from peers, from your boss then you’re even more excited, now you’re thinking about work on your commute to work, you know. You’re excited about making a difference. You’re excited about sharing your ideas, about – your ideas being used. And it just gets better and better and it’s kind of like a fever pitch. The company gets better and better.
I had – for example, I worked with one company in Connecticut where – and again, this is a simple idea and this is part of engagement, asking people for their ideas and input. OK?
What does that cost you to do that? Anyone have an idea on what we should do about this? Just doing that and doing it well, they start asking all employees to turn in two ideas a week and well, OK, that sounds like a good idea. Anyone could do that. Next week, we’re going to do that two ideas or this week.
Next week, they did it again. How many ideas can someone have? The week after that, two more ideas. Oh, you got to be kidding. This company has been doing it now 17 years. So, what happens is you develop your idea muscle. You get ideas from other people. They have meetings. Everyone brings their ideas there and so they brainstorm and so as a result, what happens when – this is just one idea by the way.
When this triggers, they end up increasing their revenues five-fold in three years just by asking people for ideas. That’s a great idea and they didn’t have a big committee to evaluate and shoot them down and say, “What gives you the idea to say what we should be doing?” None of that. They took a volunteer from the work group.
One of the people suggesting ideas and he would go over them this week and wow, that’s a great idea. Jerry, you should really do that one. Let us know if we can help you with your idea. Just give more energy to the idea that the person came up with it and now it’s being supported. You’re being thanked and well, if the person needs some resources, make that happen. Who wants to help Jerry? And off we go.
So, all of a sudden, work has a whole different meaning when you can actively engage it and you bring your best ideas, your initiatives, your energy and help other people with theirs. Now you got more teamwork going. It’s just the whole thing is upward trend. So that’s the power of that.
Now to be honest, it took a couple of tries, a couple of false starts and then they learned lessons on the way. So, for example, if you’re new at that company, for the first year, you’re only allowed to do ideas that relate to the job you’re doing. They’re not going to throw mud at the accounting department in your first month on the job.
So, you develop this maturity among people that ideas here are what we think could make things better from – here’s what we did in my last company. I did internet search. This idea looks like something that’s viable for us.
So, let people loose and let them maximize their input. That’s just a – this is just on one theme of ideas. So, you take – I remember Best Buy when they hit the recession, which kind of hammered all retail. Well, they – what they did is they sent out an email to everyone. If anyone has any ideas for how we could save money, this is a time we really need it.
Now they could have done that anytime – but now at the time of crunch time, they reached out to their employees and say, “If you got anything, give it to us.” They got 9000 ideas for how they could save money, 9000.
Brandon Laws: Unreal. Wow!
Dr. Bob Nelson: Now all those didn’t get implemented. But a lot of them did and right behind that, just thanking people for those ideas. It’s going to set the next wave of ideas and again that helped them to actually go stronger during the recession and their – one of their main competitors Circuit City, who didn’t take that approach, yeah, they actually – they got crunch time. What did they do? They did what a lot of management did. Oh, gee, we’re going to have to cut people. Ninety percent of our budget is salaries. We’re going to have to cut people and cut they did. They laid off 9000 people all throughout the organization.
Well, great, except now you’re in a store and you can’t get help. So, they end up going out of business. In the same time frame, well, their competitor took off. That’s the power of this. In just a nutshell, just in one idea. So, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve talked to people and they say, “Gee, your book helped us grow our revenues 20 percent. Your book did this, your book did that.”
I had a guy once tell me in a conference walking by and – he saw me, came over and said, “Your book saved my marriage.” I go, “What?” Well, I’m not talking about relationships and how to improve these. Oh, actually, that works in any relationship, to be considerate and do thoughtful things. So instead of giving your loved ones the dregs of what you have to offer, start treating them special. Anyway, so that’s the power of idea. That’s the power of a big book that captures ideas.
Brandon Laws: What a great illustration. I’m really curious. From your perspective, who owns employee engagement? Is it everybody? Is it HR? Is it the senior leaders? Is that like – what’s the answer if there is one?
Dr. Bob Nelson: That’s actually a very great question and actually the foreword of the book – Marshall Goldsmith wrote and he wrote it on that question. Who owns employee engagement? Because – and the – you would think that who owns it is the company because whenever they survey their employees, they ask, “Are you engaged? Do you feel valued here? Are you respected by leadership?” It makes it really easy for an employee to go, “No! No, I’m not.”
Even if you do better and say, “Keep working on it!” and then you’re never off the hook. Whereas Marshall’s foreword, he said no, who owns employee engagement is the employee. So, he said instead of asking, “Do you feel valued?” and similar type questions, Q-12 type questions from Gallup which all phrase in what I can do for you kind of thing, they should be turned around to be – to ask, “What are you doing to deserve recognition in your job? What are you doing to do your best to set clear goals? What are you doing to make clear the resources you need to do a great job?”
So, all of the onus is now – this is on the employee. Ultimately that’s where we can change things. If it’s just the same, it’s all management’s fault or upper management’s fault, then we’re never going to get anywhere.
Brandon Laws: In the research that you’ve done, what are the areas that you found hold the most significance in fluency and employee engagement? Really, this is I think the foundation for your book and maybe there’s a particular order in which you found things are more important than others. But what are some of those things?
Dr. Bob Nelson: Well, yes, and actually I’m very proud of the fact that I organized the book in priority order. The first chapter shows the most impact on influencing engagement. In fact, 56 percent of engagement comes from just doing things in the first chapter, which is on recognition. This is what the research shows, which I love because I’m kind of the godfather of recognition. So, I did my doctoral thesis on this. I did 1001 Ways to Reward Employees. I did a dummies book of a thousand – recognizing and engaging employees for dummies.
So, I’m all about how to do recognition better and here research indicated that’s the number one driver of the culture of engagement. So, hey, that would be first and foremost.
So, what does that mean? Well, again, it comes down to the easiest is also the most impactful. So, a simple thank-you for doing a good job. As simple as that is – and similar things that are feeling valued and a meaningful recognition. That could be a note. It could be from the department and staff. It could be an email. That category of things. Personal praise, electronic, written notes, public praise. It’s a really rich dimension. In fact, in my research, those four categories, personal, public, electronic and written, were what popped out as being mutually exclusive, which in statistical terms means that they don’t overlap. My initial reaction, well, how could that be? Because those are all praise. Isn’t praise one big bucket? No. Actually, it’s not. It’s such a powerful dimension that the different types of praise have different meanings to people.
Think about it. Think of the time that someone personally thanked you for something you did versus a time you got a note from somebody that thanked you. Did those resonate different with you? Did you save the note?
Think of a time that you were in front of other people. You were thanked. They each have a different – it’s like a different cylinder of the car fire and you got to fire into all of those. So that’s a big one and – but other things that are also no cost from my research are – I mentioned asking people for their ideas and suggestions. If they got a good one, allow them to pursue it. That’s autonomy, authority. Those are great forms of recognition. I trust you to do a good job. Someone gave you the authority or resources to do it because you’ve shown that you can make things happen. That’s a good one.
Not only will that happen but they’re going to be looking to do more. Communication, two-way communication is very powerful. Involving people in decisions is – again, what does that cost? Hey, I want to get everyone’s input on this decision.
Even if you say, “I’m the manager. So, I got to make the final decision. I know it will be a better one if I get your input because you’re closest to the jobs you’re doing and we got to implement this together.” So, wow, just start with the people you’re going to have to sell it to.
Again, common sense, right? But not common practice. If someone makes a mistake, this – I love this one. If someone makes a mistake, there are so many managers that see their job as managers being a super worker to find all the mistakes and fix them for everybody or maybe take the job back because I couldn’t trust you to do it to begin with.
Well, bravo, bravo. You’re the smart person in the room. They’re getting their resume ready because they can’t stand working for you. They’re not learning. They’re not growing. They’re not challenged. There are so many people. That’s the story they get at work and so don’t be the manager that reacts and jumps all over mistakes and embarrasses the person in front of the staff and – they already know they made a mistake.
So just take a breath. Take a step back and say, “You know, Tony, I’m not sure we’re doing it the same way. But what did you learn from that? That could be the best training you’ve had all year. I’m glad you made that mistake.” Wow! How would you feel if that was your boss that said that? Wow, I’m not getting my head taken off. Wow, the person had my interest and our relationship was more important than any given mistake.
Wow, that is sending a message through your behavior and that’s going to come back and serve you many, many times. You’re not working for a jerk. Now everyone goes to work for a great company and they end up leaving a bad manager. If you have a good manager that’s doing these things I’m talking about, you’ve got a great job and your life is better.
If you’ve got a poor manager that’s not doing these things, micromanaging you, finding fault, embarrasses you in front of others, upper management, makes you feel small, well, not only do you hate your job. You hate that person. You hate your job. Yeah, you take it home and your whole life is a living hell. You can’t stand your job.
Fifteen percent of the time at home – research indicates that we spend 15 percent of our time at home complaining about the boss.
Brandon Laws: That’s a troubling stat.
Dr. Bob Nelson: Isn’t it? Just flipping that. What is it? Fifteen percent – we could just as easily spend 15 percent and say, “Hi. You won’t believe what happened today. My boss, yeah, he called me in his office and he just said that, ‘I want to tell you I’ve been noticing that you’re really doing a great job. You’re working out really well.’” That’s all. He didn’t want to dump an assignment on you. He didn’t want to – that’s all just, “I really value you being on my team.” Oh my god. Who wouldn’t share that with their spouse, with their family?
Brandon Laws: Exactly. You had another example I love in the – in one of your case studies, you said like managers or even senior leaders could like..
As humans, we’re wired to connect with others and build relationships. We spend most of our time at work, so it should be no surprise that our relationships must also translate to the workplace. Companies that figure this out will end up retaining the best and brightest and end up on top of the competition.
Brandon Laws: This book is doing really well, isn’t it?
Erica Keswin: Yeah, I’m excited. I think that it’s the right time in this age where we are connected digitally. So much of the time, there is a part of all of us that is craving that connection and because we spend so much of our waking day at work, it’s a logical place to look for some of that.
Brandon Laws: I mean the title of the book jumped out at me and I think we need this book. That’s probably why you came to the conclusion to write this book, I would imagine.
Erica Keswin: Exactly, exactly. I kept hearing – one of the things that was interesting was that I was seeing and noticing these trends around technology. I think we – everybody listening to the podcast would agree that technology has changed most if not all aspects of our lives. You know, some for the good, some for not as good. But that was interesting to me. But what was even more interesting was that as the trend with the digital increase was going on, I began to see the word “human” popping up wherever I looked.
You know, I want to bring my whole self to work, design a human workplace. I kept saying to myself, A, “What does that mean?” and B, “Why is this happening now?” and the conclusion that I came to was that in many ways, it was in response to this digital revolution.
So they’re interconnected. And because the technology is not going away anytime soon – nor should it; I mean I’m a huge fan of technology – we need to better understand and be intentional about the role of the human connection in the workplace, and in life.
Brandon Laws: Yeah, there’s definitely a balance to using technology. It could definitely benefit us. But I think you – like in the intro for example, you visualized this perfectly. So you wrote that you started seeing behaviors in the workplace you hadn’t seen before. It was like more and more employees down the hall were calling into meetings. They were texting bad news to clients instead of calling them and they’re eating lunch alone at their desk while they’re wearing headphones.
So it’s like this closed off connection thing and you’re relying on technology to connect with people whereas like actually having human touch. So I imagine that’s why you decided to pull the thread on what does it mean to be human at work.
Erica Keswin: Exactly. I wanted to create a roadmap because I think many times when you talk about some of these softer issues, people don’t get down to the details on what it means and how to do it. The book provides both the science, the data behind why it’s important and then stories of people who have done it and what they’ve done, and then the impact that it has had.
Brandon Laws: Your book like really covers – I mean, the subtitle Ten Surefire Ways to Design a Workplace That’s Good for People – it really outlines the ways in which you could be more human, right? Basically, you’ve defined what it means to be human at work, through your work, and then you’ve outlined these 10 ways that anybody could implement.
They seem simple on the surface. Is that what you wanted people to take away? It’s like here are just 10 things that I’ve realized through talking with people, organizations, leaders and here’s the playbook, so to speak.
Erica Keswin: Exactly. And people will say, “Well, why 10? Do you need to do all of them?” What’s nice about the book and the concepts in the book is that you don’t need to do them all. They are actually in no particular order, that you can pick and choose from a menu of options – what makes sense for you, your company, your industry, what your employees want, your budget. Many of these things actually don’t cost much, except for chapter one.
Chapter one is called “Be Real: How to Speak in a Human Voice” and that chapter is about knowing your values and truly defining them and making sure that they are off the walls and are felt in the halls, that they’re alive because most companies have a set of values. They have something written down. But most of those companies, unfortunately, people don’t have a sense of what those values are. And they are not driving any types of behaviors or decisions within the company.
So that chapter, not only knowing your values, but then aligning everything you do to those values and empowering your employees to live them. If you can focus on that chapter and do some of the things in that chapter, it will be much easier to think about how all of these other chapters work. Because it is, I would say, one of the most important things in designing a human workplace is knowing what you stand for.
Brandon Laws: I 100% agree. I’m actually glad that was the first chapter because I think like having a value system in authenticity and transparency around who you are, what you believe in, that’s a foundation for any organization and people. They want to align with that.
Erica Keswin: It is. But I’m sure you’ve seen in your work too the mistake that a lot of companies make is that they have way too many values, 10, 12, 14 values. When you have that many values, a couple – you have a couple of challenges. Number one, you walk around your office and it’s hard to remember. I mean who’s going to remember 12 values, number one.
Number two, there are too many to be driving any specific kinds of behavior that you really need to narrow it down. So the test that I use, I call it the “fork in the road” test. When you’re at the fork in the road and you don’t know whether to turn left or right or who to hire, who to fire, do you launch this product, do you do this deal, your values should drive you.
If there are certain values that don’t, you may want to think about taking – you know, they still could be important principles in some way in your company. But they may not truly be a value of what you stand for at your core. So my rule of thumb is three to six values. Very few companies could narrow it down to three. I see many more in that four to six range but that to me is something to shoot for.
Brandon Laws: So being in the business to business world that I’m in, especially as a marketer in my profession, I think it’s funny that we treat it like business to business. Like we’re interacting – as a business, we’re interacting with another business versus a human to human interaction, which it obviously is. How could business leaders encourage employees within the organizations to be more real, so that they feel like they’re talking with real authentic people with nuances and imperfections and their values kind of show through in their interactions?
How do we encourage that inside the organization, so we can show ourselves to the outside as well?
Erica Keswin: Number one, leaders have to model it. If a leader is real and authentic and shares a side of themselves that is a little bit more human, they are setting the tone and will get the people that work for them to do it as well. So that’s the first thing and a really important piece of this.
The second is to capture people doing it and doing it well and sharing those stories. So Lyft is a company that’s in the book and they have four very clear values. One is uplift others, excusing the pun. You know, one is to create fearlessly and every month at their all-hands meeting, they tell their managers in advance to send in stories where they’ve seen people living these values.
Brandon Laws: Oh, I love that.
Erica Keswin: So they’re creating this repository of data and of stories of what people have done and that’s great. You can use that for customers. You can use that for investors. You can use that for employees, attraction and retention. But then they pick a few – they pick two stories. One from a driver, so somebody on the frontlines, in the “front office” and then somebody in the back office, who’s not a driver, and they tell the story of how someone has lived one of those values.
The stories are unbelievable. There are some great ones that I talk about in the book. There are some real tear jerkers in there. And what I say is that by collecting these stories, that’s one step. But then by sharing these stories so that other new people, when they come into the organization, can see and feel what this looks like, what these behaviors look like that are tied to the values which are so important to the culture.
It – again, excusing the pun – but it uplifts everyone versus just the one person that has found out about the story. So that storytelling is a really critical piece.
Then the final piece, which is a little – which is harder but companies are really looking at it, is to measure and evaluate leaders on some of these behaviors. What did people do? What they’re measured – you know, you do what you’re measured on doing. So that becomes an important part of the equation as well.
Brandon Laws: In chapter two you describe sustainability as being like the marshmallow test for business and I love that. I thought that was a really clever way to describe playing the long game and being a sustainable business. Can you describe what that marshmallow test is for people who don’t know that psychology test? Then describe how workplaces can be more sustainable and play the long game. Because you have a lot of good ideas in that chapter.
Erica Keswin: So playing the long game in my book focuses on how to create a culture, an organization that is first and inclusive. This goes for small companies, big companies and everything in between. The approach that I took was in addition to talking about some companies with some great diversity and inclusion strategies, I talk about why it’s important for companies to also think about what I call “intentional work practices.” What I mean by that is if companies don’t think about and create programs and policies around flexible work, parental leave, bereavement leave, there’s no way they will be able to attract and retain a diverse workforce.
The other reason why this is a great time to be thinking about this and to be in the workplace is that millennials, who will make up 25 percent of the workforce by 2025 and 50 percent by 2020, which is literally around the corner.
They’re demanding a more diverse workplace and they’re making decisions on where they want to work based on it and they want to work for companies who have these intentional work practices and think about where, when and how one can work in a more flexible way.
Then the highest level or the last level of playing the long game is what I call “enlightened supply chains” and these are companies that say, “I want to play the long game and have a diverse and inclusive organization within my own four walls. But I’m even going to expand that to the kinds of companies that I do business with,” and an amazing example and a very recent example of this was Microsoft came out with a statement about three weeks ago and said that they will only work with suppliers who provide 12 weeks of maternity and paternity leave, parental leave.
Brandon Laws: Wow.
Erica Keswin: Which – I mean that exponentially can impact how a human workplace went because you can imagine how many different suppliers a company like Microsoft works with.
Brandon Laws: I actually love that because – talk about playing the long game. Like there’s nothing more long game than bringing a child into the world and making sure that we have economic and social sustainability by raising people the right way. I like that businesses are starting to get involved in playing a role and offering maternity and paternity leave.
You mentioned one company that’s doing it really well. What are some other companies that you’ve heard of or talked to that have really put an emphasis on this paid parental leave?
Erica Keswin: What’s interesting, there are big companies like Microsoft and Airbnb is one. I mean they do something that – and I haven’t heard a lot of companies do this where when you come back from a maternity leave – you know, we all know you want to – in an ideal world, you can dip your toe in sort of slowly versus going zero to a thousand overnight when you’ve been home for a few months.
They actually let you come back 80 percent but for 100 percent pay and sort of ease your way back in and they also give you dinner to bring home for your family. Again –
Brandon Laws: Oh, that’s amazing.
Erica Keswin: You’re always thinking about this from a human perspective. On the smaller company, smaller companies are thinking about this too. There’s a company called Humanyze in Boston. Not – again, not a big company. The head is a guy named Ben Waber who wrote an article recently about maternity and paternity leave. They actually have mandatory paternity leave and that’s something that many companies have been throwing around as an idea and debating its merits because the issue is if only women take parental leave, it then becomes – it’s a woman issue. So if you’re looking to hire a man or a woman and you know that the woman is of child-bearing age and they may leave and take multiple parental leaves, that could be an issue.
They also believe – this company also believes that – you know, as you were getting to, from a societal perspective, what an amazing gift to be able to have fathers spending real time at home with their children in their first weeks of life.
Brandon Laws: Yeah. I would imagine – I mean for one, it’s a great benefit and people probably have a lot of loyalty towards organizations if they offer that. I mean you can’t get any more human than that.
They actually care about me. They want me to stay home with my newborn child for a couple of weeks or three weeks, four weeks, whatever it may be. I think that’s amazing that some people are doing that.
Erica Keswin: Really, it’s a focus and again, going back to the new generations coming into the workforce, they want this in a way. We wanted it too, the Gen-Xers. But there weren’t enough of us to move the needle and we didn’t feel like we could ask for a more human workplace. Work was work. But this generation is different.
Brandon Laws: You talk a lot in your book about technology and its impact on whether or not we could be human at work. Do you think overall that it’s helping us become more human or is it really hurting us by pulling us farther apart? Is there maybe a balance between how we’re using technology in the workplace?
Erica Keswin: I think the words “balanced technology” is tricky because it’s – there is no balance anymore.
Brandon Laws: Yeah.
Erica Keswin: My approach to it is more around what I call “finding the sweet spot” between leveraging all that’s amazing about technology, right? You and I are on technology right now. We’re going to reach tons and tons of people that are your listeners through technology. But if this is the only way that we communicated all day every day in our lives, it would not be good for us as humans and it would be not – it would not be good for either of our businesses.
So we need to think about leveraging technology but then also putting it “in its place.” The challenge with that is – you know, excusing the pun here but left to our own devices, we’re not connecting. There’s a lot of reasons for it. Some of it is that the technology is designed to suck us in and we almost can’t help ourselves.
So a lot of what I talk about with leaders and when I work with companies and I also touched on it quite a bit in the book is that we need to be disciplined. We need to be intentional and even create organizational protocols around how, when and where we’re using technology to benefit us.
So there’s a chapter in the book called “Mind Your Meetings.” We spend a lot of our days in meetings and in many cases, if we’re not intentional about how we connect, we’re missing out on a huge opportunity when we’re sitting around the table or even with Zoom or Skype. You know, something – using the technology but we’re not turning the camera on or we’re sitting in the same room and we’re texting under the table.
New year, new minimum wage rates for many states across the country, including Washington.
Effective January 1, 2019, the minimum wage rate in Washington increased from $11.50 to $12.00 per hour. Employers can pay employees under 16 years old 85% of the minimum wage ($10.20 per hour). There is no separate wage for tipped employees.
The cities of Seattle, SeaTac, and Tacoma have their own minimum wage rates. See the below chart for specific rates:
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and has not increased since July 2009.The 2016 ballot measure to increase minimum wage rates in Washington in 2019 also states that the rate will be raised again to $13.50 by 2020.
Like certain localities (cities or counties – see above chart), some companies, such as Amazon, have decided to set a minimum wage for their employees that is at a higher level than federal and state rates.
One consistent challenge we all encounter in the workplace is learning how to work with people whose personalities are different from ours. We tend to invest lots of time in understanding the communication needs and preferences of our customers and clients so that we can best serve them, but rarely do we devote the same time and effort to our communications with our coworkers.
Instead of asking our coworkers directly how they prefer to communicate, we tend to rely on trial and error communication, using their subtle cues to determine the best ways to work with and relate to them. This coded communication method can be stressful, as it requires constantly managing and resolving misunderstandings and conflicts, and as a result, it also slows us down.
But we don’t have to work with each other this way. With a little bit of time and a lot of intentionality, we can understand others’ communication styles and preferences before misunderstandings and conflicts arise. By openly talking about how we prefer to work, we can give others the recipe for how to best work with us, and we can ask what their recipes are, too.
Opening a dialogue in which we exchange our personal work styles and preferences with our coworkers has secondary benefits too; not only does this allow us to be better prepared to work with each other, it’s also a great way to develop personal relationships and earn colleagues’ trust.
Some insightful questions to ask each other include:
How would you describe your communication style?
What do you need from me so that you can do your best work?
When you have received helpful feedback in the past, how was it delivered?
What type of recognition is most meaningful to you?
We can all benefit from understanding more about the people we work with, whether we’re team members, direct reports, or managers. These conversations can allow us to bypass potential office strife, which is not only better for one-on-one relationships, but is also better for general office morale and productivity.
Watch Episode 09 of Transform Your Workplace
Transform Your Workplace 08 - The Best Way to Work with Me - YouTube
Time is precious. We only get a limited amount of it every day. So why is it so challenging for us to prioritize and effectively manage our time?
Certainly, there are better ways to be productive. To learn how to become more organized and better with time management, I talked with Bethanne Kronick, owner and CEO of Simplify Northwest, about how to prioritize tasks, get through email more efficiently, and ensure meetings are useful and productive for all involved. Here are some of our suggestions.
1. Start your morning right.
Having a plan is critical. Whether you prepare for the day ahead the night before or first thing every morning, you need to have dedicated time set aside to strategize and prioritize, Kronick says. “Ask yourself this question: What three musts do I need to get done to feel good at the end of the day? Write those things down, put them on a sticky note. Stick it on your computer. Put it in your calendar. But use that as your focus for the day.”
If you don’t have a plan, it’s a lot easier to waste time between projects figuring out what to do next. And if you’ve been procrastinating on one of those duties, knock it out first. “It feels so good to get it done, and then you can fly through the rest of the day because you’ve gotten something done that you thought was going to be horrendous.”
2. Figure out what kind of calendar and scheduling tools work for you.
Not every planning tool will work for everyone. Some people prefer to keep all their schedules digital or on paper, while others like a mix of both. The medium doesn’t matter so long as it’s something you will actually use regularly.
3. Block out time by batching similar activities together.
Set aside specific times to check and respond to email, work on longer projects, and plan your schedule. (You have to plan the planning, too!)
Kronick encourages being realistic with this, leaving blocks of time for unexpected duties and breaks and “buffer time” between meetings and other scheduled events. She says you don’t want to get to lunch and think, “I didn’t get any of those things done that I had on my calendar because I was unrealistic.”
4. If you have a say in scheduling meetings, leave some time between them.
Allow employees to debrief and collect their to-do lists and action items from one meeting before rushing off to another. And sending out agendas before meetings can help them run on time.
5. If you can work from home or somewhere else outside the office, schedule “out-of-office” time for buckling down on more time-consuming projects.
Lately, I’ve found it helpful to break some of my days in half, spending mornings in the office and afternoons working from home. That way, I can have meetings first, and people can find me for any last-minute needs. Then, I get to spend the second half of the day with my head down, working harder on projects that require my full attention. I block that at-home time off on my calendar so my colleagues know I won’t be responding to them right away during that time. It really cuts down on interruptions and distractions, and it ensures that I keep some time for my own projects. Can’t work from home? Kronick suggests finding an unused conference room in a quiet part of the office.
Listen on the Human Resources for Small Business Podcast
There are numerous strategies you could try for managing your inbox. You could set certain blocks of time—maybe two or three each day, or, in more customer-service heavy roles, one per hour—to check email, instead of refreshing it constantly. The frequency doesn’t matter so much as setting a routine so you don’t live in your inbox all day long. You can communicate this to your team and your customers to keep them aware of your schedule and manage their expectations for your responses.
7. Try to gauge whether an in-person conversation or email exchange is better for the topic at hand.
Kronick’s rule of thumb is the three-volley rule: “If an email has gone back and forth more than three times trying to get an issue resolved, it’s just so much easier to pick up the phone or go talk to somebody face to face.” Keep track of the efficiency of your conversations so you know when to walk away from your keyboard and finish the chat in person.
8. Start your email subject line with a directive.
Kronick likes to use specific terms to start email subject lines when she’s asking for something. Words like “request,” “reminder,” “FYI,” and “urgent” give the recipient a rough idea of the nature of the email. If something is time-sensitive, include that in the subject line as well. It helps people keep track of their requests.
“For example,” she says, “with one of my assistants, I might say: Request: Needing workshop materials by Friday, May 19th. My eyes go to that email quickly because I know it’s time-sensitive.”
9. Manage your time spent on social media.
Social media is a given in most workplaces nowadays, but it shouldn’t burden your day. Kronick encourages the use of timers so you know exactly when to close the tab and work on something else. She also recommends adjusting notifications on your phone so it’s not buzzing and distracting you all day long.
10. Skip the multitasking.
Instead of splitting your attention between multiple things, separate your time so you can give each task your full attention. When we multitask, Kronick says, it takes us longer to complete tasks, we’re more likely to make mistakes, and our short-term memories suffer. It seems counterintuitive, but multitasking puts stress on our brains that ultimately reduces productivity.
11. Plan personal time, too.
Whether it’s a day off, a weekend away, or a lengthy vacation, it’s important to plan time away. If we don’t put those on our calendars, Kronick says, it’s easy to forget and work straight through them. She suggests doing this with exercise and daily personal duties, too, to make yourself a priority.
12. To maximize your time and energy, you have to take care of yourself.
The truth is, you can’t really be productive if you’re overly tired or working too much. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious food, exercise, and take breaks. Be kind to yourself!
Brandon Laws: Hey, welcome back for another podcast. I am your host Brandon Laws. Hey, I’m really excited about today’s episode. It will be a very unique podcast episode today. In this discussion I have with my boss, Angela Perkins – she’s the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Xenium.
It’s a personality assessment. People use it as individuals and teams. It’s a personality assessment you can take, and I think it takes about 20, 25 minutes depending on how fast you go. In the end, you get a report that provides your personality traits. The DISC stands for D, dominance; I, influence; S, steadiness and C, conscientiousness.
There’s a bunch of other descriptors that go into each one of those. But in the end, you get a report that basically shows your tendencies internally. So are you a D for dominance and then an I? Or are you like a C and an S like I am?
Everybody is a little different and you might have a blend of a couple or maybe just dominant in one. The report will break that down for you and it will tell you what you are internally, and also how you’re perceived to the environment. In other words, how other people see you.
This personality assessment is great not only as an individual to figure out where your strengths are and where you tend to be and it’s kind of an “ah-ha” for you. What’s even better though is when you use it as a team to then see how other people are and maybe you start to draw some conclusions based on, “OK. Why do people behave the way they behave?” or “I’ve noticed – I work with them a certain way and this is why.” And I think the DISC really helps do that. It’s really a conversation starter I think and there are firms out there that are licensed to do training and coaching on the DISC model. It is a trademark model and there’s a certification process around that.
So there’s a lot of firms out there that do it. At Xenium, we have Suzi Wear on our team who is certified in DISC. So we will do this for clients as well. So today what you’re going to hear in this podcast is something unique.
Angela Perkins, as I mentioned, is my boss. We have a really good partnership on the sales and marketing side of our business. I’m the marketing leader, but marketing also goes underneath her. So we collaborate a lot on the marketing side. But she’s really the leader on the sales side. So we’ve worked together for 10 years I believe. We completed a DISC combination report, where it actually cross-compares two people and it will tell you how you’re really supposed to interact with each other. But for us, we’ve worked together for so long and figured out some of our weird tendencies.
In this podcast, we go through that report and we kind of make fun of what we know about each other and review what the report says. So you’re really going to see in this podcast or hear how a manager and an employee might interact on a report like this. Of course we were pretty casual about it because we’ve worked together for so long. But if you have a new employee or you have a new manager, this might be a really great tool to figure out a great working style relationship.
So I think you’re going to have fun with this episode. I know I did. I think Angela would say the same thing. It’s something different that we’re trying here just to kind of put it all out there. So it’s fun, it’s casual and I hope you really enjoy the episode. If you like this episode, please, we appreciate all the Apple Podcast reviews or Stitcher reviews. We’ve been getting a lot of them lately and if you would go do that, it would mean the world to us. It helps grow this podcast, which has been growing steadily for the last probably six or so months. So I really appreciate the support. Enjoy the episode.
Brandon Laws: Well, we’ve got a really special fun episode today discussing DISC. I have my boss here with me to talk about her DISC profile and we are going to cross-compare our reports and see how we work together. We know how we work together but there’s a report that DISC produces called the Quest Report that has what they believe our working styles would be. Angela, how do you feel about this?
Angela Perkins: This was so fun. I’ve got to say this was a blast. I mean how long have we worked together? In this capacity –
Brandon Laws: Seven years.
Angela Perkins: Yeah.
Brandon Laws: Probably seven or eight years.
Angela Perkins: So for the reality to sort of come at me on paper was really fun. There are some things I think we will cover in here that I’m like, “I didn’t get this.” But for the most part, it nailed us and I really had fun reading through a great tool. As a leader, definitely a great tool.
Brandon Laws: So when you get a DISC report, just as an individual, it walks through like your tendencies, your personality style, how people perceive you and how you truly are. What the combination report does is it actually takes both people’s personality styles into account and then it cross-compares and shows you what working styles should really be or how the other person may perceive you.
Angela Perkins: What complements and what might be tough for the other person. It was – again, as we go through this, this is a great tool and for us – I mean not to steal the thunder or anything but supposedly we’re opposite, which is interesting, and I think does us some favors in terms of our work together. But it was just really interesting to see that word even printed on paper.
Brandon Laws: I think what’s fun about this and why we’re going through it is this is a great tool for managers and employees who don’t really know each other’s work styles very often, their personalities, and it just – it gives them a tool and a talking point.
You and I, we know each other so well, because we’ve worked together for so long and we know each other’s weird tendencies. This just kind of like – you know, looking at this, we’re like, “Yeah, I agree with that,” or “I don’t agree with that.”
Angela Perkins: You know what I see, is, had I read this, seven or eight years ago when we first started working together in this capacity, it would have been a great tool. Now it’s fun. It’s fun for you and I to go through this and it might – who knows? Maybe it will improve something as we – but we’ve had a lot of years together already.
Brandon Laws: Yeah.
Angela Perkins: But for a new leader, imagine getting a brand new employee and you’re trying to kind of figure each other out. This is an amazing tool to work through.
Brandon Laws: Yeah. I think what we – what I got to say upfront – and I think you will agree with me on this is this is a great tool and it’s great for awareness. It’s not the end-all, be-all because somebody may not agree with it. There’s a lot of things in here about me that I’m like, “Oh my gosh. Yes, that is exactly me.” But then I’m like, “This isn’t me.”
Angela Perkins: Right, right.
Brandon Laws: I’m a little bit more flexible than that and the same with you. So again, if it’s a new manager and an employee working together and they see this profile, I think it’s a good starting point.
Angela Perkins: Agreed. I agree with that.
Brandon Laws: OK.
Angela Perkins: Yeah. Everything with moderation, right? I mean you kind of take it and you sift through some of the things. I think, in fact, even the opening of the report said that. You know, this is just one piece of it and not all attributes will be something the employee might agree with, right? So we’re going to get into that here.
Brandon Laws: Yeah. So what we’re going to do here is we’re going to go over my profile and then your profile and then we’re going to talk about each other’s tendencies and how we’re supposedly supposed to work together. And then we will go into what we actually know about each other, which will actually make it fun for the listener. So I’m a blend of C-S, which is compliance and steadiness. So basically, like just a couple of things about that, usually very reserved, task-oriented and sometimes people-oriented, which I think I am most of the time.
What they also kind of highlighted from this is that I tend to be a stable person. So you kind of like know what you’re going to get out of me. You know I’m going to be in at a certain time every day. You know I’m going to – if I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. I’m going to show up on time every day and you know I’m your rock.
Angela Perkins: Yeah, 100%.
Brandon Laws: I think I can keep your department running.
Angela Perkins: Yeah, yeah. It’s interesting the C as the cautious. They also – right? And support –
Brandon Laws: Risk-averse is the cautious part.
Angela Perkins: Sure, or just cautious. I mean risk-averse makes it sound negative, but cautious and paying attention to what risks you are willing to take and then supportive, which is that S again. So yeah, that personality style defines what I see for sure.
Brandon Laws: Well, yeah, absolutely.
Angela Perkins: Yeah.
Brandon Laws: Behavior style, I got to have my standards and routine. Harmony, this is what it says in the report. Yeah, I want to keep the peace. I want some balance and logic is also important to me. There’s also a section – I’m motivated by structure and affirmation. Those are the things to me that are so key in my personality style. Having structure is really important to me but also affirmation like you’re doing a good job or – well, you know that about me.
Angela Perkins: Absolutely. Yes. And it’s never too much for you and to kind of work together and know that you’re – hey, am I heading in the right direction? Is this where we need to be going? That affirmation is really important for sure.
Brandon Laws: Yeah, and the communication style-friendly. Like that is a very important –
Angela Perkins: Cooperative, logical, all of those words I would say and that important fit.
Brandon Laws: Yeah. The decision-making style, I had a hard time with this section of my personality style. I just – like the predictability of it and procedure I got. But just maintaining status quo to me, like it shows in this report but that’s not me at all. I like change. I welcome it.
Angela Perkins: I agree, yeah.
Brandon Laws: Yeah, OK.
Angela Perkins: And again, I think that’s important that – like what we said earlier is this is not the end-all, be-all and the report does sometimes get it wrong and it even says that in the entry of this report. It’s just one tool. What I found interesting on this section, the decision-making style, given your role, you can’t maintain status quo. So maybe in a different job, you – maybe that would be –
Brandon Laws: If somebody else is kind of dictating what I’m doing.
Angela Perkins: Sure, or you weren’t in a creative role. Like you’re a director of marketing. So maintaining status quo is unacceptable. That isn’t something that you would be able to do and be successful in this job.
Brandon Laws: I think that’s a good point. Yeah. Your focus tends to be on the rules, the accepted, the team and the logic. I agree with that part. I do – like I am a rule follower, no doubt.
Angela Perkins: I actually circled that and put “No!” with an exclamation point.
Brandon Laws: Really?
Angela Perkins: Because you don’t show up to me in that way of – because I picture the person that is really big into rules and logic and all of that to say, “No, we aren’t doing that,” and I don’t get that from you.
Brandon Laws: Yeah, no. I think you’re right, especially my role. I’m a little bit more flexible. But definitely a rule, I’m not going to break the rules.
Angela Perkins: Agreed. Now for that, let’s just talk. I mean you knew we couldn’t get through this interview without me bringing up the fact that if I’m late, let me tell you listeners, Brandon will let me know how he feels about me being late and late is five minutes late, one minute late. You should be five minutes early.
So that from your – you know, sort of knowing what to expect and you want predictability and you want standards and you want rules followed and keeping your meetings. That’s extremely important to you and I have figured that one out the hard way.
Brandon Laws: I think most people around here know that about me.
Angela Perkins: I think they do.
Brandon Laws: The listeners are probably like, “Yeah. He has talked about that in the podcast. He needs to give it up.”
Angela Perkins: Right.
Brandon Laws: OK. Your personality style. So we’re going to go through yours and then we will talk about each other’s tendencies together. So I really can’t wait to dive into yours.
Angela Perkins: Oh, you want me to talk about it?
Brandon Laws: Yeah, you talk about it. This is your show.
Angela Perkins: OK, OK. So my blend is an I-D. So I is inspiring and D is dominant. So the words that are kind of thrown out there with that definition is outgoing, people-oriented, says sometimes task-oriented, which is quite funny.
But I do – part of it is – so having an inspiring, dominant personality style. I tend to need to accomplish tasks constantly on the go.
Brandon Laws: But it’s so weird to me. So it’s counterintuitive. Sometimes task-oriented but you –
Angela Perkins: But then it says a driving need, yeah. Constantly on the go, feel guilty when you relax and others may feel this restlessness.
Brandon Laws: I wanted to ask you about some of that stuff.
Angela Perkins: Yeah.
Brandon Laws: Constantly on the go, I get that, because you do run around here. Like I’m the most important person and – I’m kidding.
Angela Perkins: That’s so awesome.
Brandon Laws: No, it’s great. But you run around from meeting to meeting and so you’re constantly on the go. This is spot-on about that. Do you feel guilty when you relax, when you are – when you have free time to think, when –?
Angela Perkins: I don’t really know what that is. So maybe. I mean maybe I don’t really – I think I just told you recently. To read a fiction book is like – that there’s guilt in that where I should be reading business books. So yeah, I mean I –
Brandon Laws: Is that the I or the D showing though? I don’t know which personality trait that is.
Angela Perkins: Maybe …
Brandon Laws: It has got to be D, right?
Angela Perkins: Maybe it’s the D. I don’t really know on that, although I will tell you in my family life, if I switched to just personal, it’s not like we’re always –
Brandon Laws: Yeah. You relax sometimes.
Angela Perkins: We relax. We go on – but I mean we go on vacation and then we have our seven little things that we’re going to do while we’re on vacation. We got to go float the river and we got to go –
Brandon Laws: Check that off the list.
Angela Perkins: Yeah, exactly. So maybe. Maybe there’s some restlessness there. It says optimism is contagious and others will be inspired to action by being around me based on this personality blend.
Brandon Laws: I could not agree more with that part. So the – I think why I love you and why other people love you, your clients love you, why the people love you, your optimism is absolutely contagious. Again, that’s the I, right?
Angela Perkins: Absolutely.
Brandon Laws: That’s like the I showing to like the environment. Like everybody sees you as the I. Not so much D but the I is showing because of your contagious attitude.
Angela Perkins: I always think it’s going to work out.
Brandon Laws: Yeah.
Angela Perkins: So –
Brandon Laws: No, that’s great. That’s good. People want to be around positive people.
Angela Perkins: Yeah. What else? It says preferred environment is people-oriented. A hundred percent agree with that. Put me in a room by myself for too long and I might lose it. Communication style is informal, responsive, free-spirited. I thought that was interesting. I don’t know if I would use the word “free-spirited” about me. But …
Brandon Laws: This whole thing, like you’re – you can be informal with like people you’re really close with. But I mean you’re super professional all the time. You’re not forceful. So I’m going to agree with that.
Angela Perkins: No, that word is interesting. Yeah.
Brandon Laws: Responsive and free-spirited. I don’t really know – I don’t know.
Angela Perkins: I suppose we can’t analyze like hey, tell me the definition of free-spirited.
Brandon Laws: Yeah.
Angela Perkins: What is that? So the decision-making style, interesting. So I am likely to interact, decide and be spontaneous, explore feelings in order to persuade others. My focus tends to be on the popular and I will self-promote that all day long. I always joke being a leader is really a stretch in some cases for a high I like me because I do like to be popular and I don’t like delivering bad news. I don’t like to be the bad guy. I want people to genuinely like me. As a leader, sometimes you don’t always have the most popular thing to deliver in terms of information or news or whatever that is.
Brandon Laws: So don’t give Angela bad news to deliver.