535 – A Mid-Year, Informative 2022 Status Update with Ben Brooks from PILOT
Hosts: Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane
Guest: Ben Brooks, Founder & CEO, PILOT
This episode of At Work in America is sponsored by Paychex, one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement, and insurance solutions for businesses of all sizes. The current business and hiring environment has redefined what it takes to succeed as an HR professional, requiring HR leaders to adapt and innovate at lightning speed to help their organizations remain competitive.Download the 2022 Paychex Pulse of HR report to discover the tools and tactics your peers are using to deliver on both HR and business objectives — faster, and at scale — while still meeting the evolving needs of their employees.Visit payx.me/PHR2022 to download your copy, today.
This week, we met with Ben Brooks to get an update on PILOT, employee retention, development, experience, Allyship, and more!
– First half of 2022 update on PILOT
– Hybrid workplaces, and how to create variety where you work
– How to incorporate creative, thinking time into your busy schedule
– Creating healthy boundaries for disconnection from work
– Thoughts on returning to the workplace
– What can organizations do to support the LGBTQ community
Learn more here
Thank you, Ben, for joining the show today! Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour wherever you get your podcasts.
Welcome to At Work in America sponsored by Paychex. We welcome a wide and exceptionally impressive array of guests, business leaders, HR leaders, academics, practitioners, consultants and authors to talk about the most timely, relevant and challenging issues that are influencing the workplace today. At Work in America digs in behind the headlines and trends to the stories of real people making a difference in the world of work. And now, here are your hosts, Steve Boese, and Trish McFarlane Steed.
All right, welcome to the show. We have a great show today. But first, Trish, how are you?
I’m good. You know what, a lot is happening. I actually, I’m going to talk kids one more. This is the last time and then I’m never gonna mention it again. You ready? It was Jack’s last high school baseball game ever. Like this is it? This is it for my kids who have done like every sport under the sun. Last night was last game played at Busch Stadium here in St. Louis. He got a couple hits, made some amazing diving catches, they had the lights on they had the announcement of the walkup music, they had him on the Jumbotron for all the replays and he hit a triple. It was amazing. Like talk about wrapping up your entire high school career in sports. Like it was time. It was just about perfection. I would say.
Did you get to hand out the orange slices in the fifth inning?
No, no, I did not. You know what, what I’ve learned is that these stadiums are very strict about every single thing. Like the boys couldn’t even put on their cleats to a certain point. They couldn’t touch certain things. But one thing I found pretty interesting was the coaches did say if they wanted to bring their phones on to the field they could it was kind of at your own risk, right. But that way they were out there actually like taking selfies in between innings and stuff.
I don’t think the big leaguers bring the phones out today. When they do the whole thing.
Both teams brought their freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. And so every kid got to play which was also really cool. And we won.
Even better. All right, we have a great show today. We’re gonna welcome back friend of the show frequent guests, Ben Brooks in a second. Before we welcome Ben back to the show. I do want to thank our friends at Paychex, Trish. This episode of At Work in America is sponsored by Paychex, one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement and insurance solutions for businesses of all sizes. nearly 1/3 of us employees say their work schedule still remains unpredictable. As a result of the pandemic factor they report is having a significant effect on their overall wellbeing, causing financial stress, feeling disconnected from family and friends, etc. And this appears to be affecting younger generations the most.
To learn more about this and how you can optimize your work scheduling to help better support your employees, please visit pyx.me/schedules today, so thanks to our friends at Paychex. All right, let’s welcome back to the show, Ben Brooks. Ben was inspired by his successful CEO and executive coaching practice, he saw an opportunity to democratize executive coaching and empower employees at scale. He invested his life savings cherish that serious into founding PILOT with a mission of ensuring everyone feels powerful at work and PILOT has won many awards along the way. So, welcome back to the show. Ben Brooks, how are you?
Ben Brooks 3:49
Thrilled to be here. What a great way to start my day.
You know what, and we have looked it is your fourth triumphant return well, third triumphant return fourth visit with us right? Number five Ben Brooks is when the gifts happens. So I’m just planting the seed.
Ben Brooks 4:06
Let’s get this booked. Let’s see. I need to, I want the the metal, the pin, the sash, the merit badge.
Merit badges. I like that. Yes. Well, welcome back.
It’s great to have you back Ben. And so you listeners might recall, we started 2022 on this podcast with you as our guest, kind of kicking off the year and tearing things up for what we all expected would be a challenging and interesting year and it certainly has proven to be with even things we would have never guessed even still after two years of pandemic. Like the first half of 2022 has been kind of nuts. So let’s just start off with let’s do like a mid year update. Maybe give a little update on PILOT. I know that’s churning along fabulously but also maybe some things from your perspective you’ve seen in the first half of 2022 in in your world and in the world of work maybe a little more broadly.
Ben Brooks 4:58
Well, when I was a boy scout, we went to this camp in the Florida Keys. And we would kayak out to these islands like seven days in camp and a tent in the heat, you know, sounds it was it was rougher than it sounds in Florida Keys was sort of when you’re just out in nature and have one liter of water to bathe with every day and things, but we have a motto, you expect the unexpected, which I think is a pretty interesting tie to 2022 and 21 and 2020. And I think that there’s always been so much uncertainty, we’ll talk about some of the changes that I’ve seen sort of in the market. But on the on the personal update, I just ran a half marathon, my first ever my life. I didn’t do personal goals in 2020, or 2021, which I found was a huge bug, not a feature felt a little listless kind of expecting the unexpected was more just like resigned myself to do nothing and have no expectations or commitments. So I’ve set some goals I just was in San Diego ran Sunday morning with a friend I’ve never run more than six miles until this year. So then I got a couple 13 Plus training, run training miles in New York, and had a great run. But I’m a little if you hear me grunt a little bit, I’m still got a little bit in the tush in the legs from from my Sunday run.
So what I mean, now that you’ve done it is this something you think I want to do it again, or I want to go farther, like, I know, it’s just a day after.
Ben Brooks 6:22
I love the idea of doing something outside of my comfort zone consistently with my friends. And I’ve talked about a dear friend of mine that I did this with and we talked about, you know, one of the ways that aging accelerates tremendously is when you stop learning, learning and aging, you know, you kind of have the your aging curve goes way up as the learning curve goes down. So it may it may be running, but it could be something totally different. So I’m going to say, Well, certainly maybe on my fifth merit badge appearance, I can share what my next thing is, you know, and you know, we’ve had a great year business wise, I mean, companies are really focused a lot on their, their teams and investing in culture. And I think, you know, learning and development is always been this kind of nice thing. But I think companies are realizing it’s critical to retain that exit interviews are saying that’s one of the main reasons people are leaving no growth, the disconnection from their manager, not saying that they have a future there. Plus, there’s a skill gap to be ready for this wild Expect the unexpected world we live in to succeed in hybrid to develop relationships, you know, virtually, etc.
Ben Brooks 6:22
So, now we’ve been growing, we’ve got great customers, we learned a lot of our team’s growing got a bunch of open roles now. So I’ve had a good year. And one of the things I’ve experimented with, for myself, that’s kind of a personal and work thing together, is every quarter, I’m doing a week of remote work somewhere around the world. And so I’m kind of fusing this and like just seeing what it’s like. So I did q1 I went to Panama the country, and you know, had a great experience and Panama City and but you know, two weekends around us about 10 or 12 days there. And I just did Los Angeles for about 10 days, including the half marathon in San Diego and had a great experience and q3 is TBD about where I got a couple finalist locations, but I had to set up a whole sort of mobile office but I find that my creativity and perspective, just getting out of my home office and my routine is really, really, really bullied. And it’s sort of a way to kind of find a middle ground between time off and working that working somewhere else that I’d like to be such that I can shut off at five o’clock and take a training run to Beverly Hills or have a great Mexican dinner or go to the beach is a really nice kind of blended in between so it’s been a really fun thing that I’m really excited about as well.
I like this idea of your hybrid work, hybrid workplace right. It’s interesting that you’re doing that can you maybe talk a little bit about like what are you experiencing though now that you’re actually getting out and about and trying to work in these locations it how is it because a lot of people are still kind of right where they live they haven’t traveled they haven’t really maybe been on a plane train you know, any other place? What do you think? Because it sounds like you’ve been both within the country and outside the country is logistically. How is that working?
Ben Brooks 9:07
You know, sort of depends on people’s role. I spent a lot of time on zoom with private clients with in sales, live coaching webinars and stuff. So you know, there’s different people can do stuff out of a coffee shop, maybe I need a quiet environment with high bandwidth and good lighting and all those sorts of things. So I have a lot of I don’t know if they call it performance anxiety or logistics anxiety workability anxiety is probably the best term. So I’ve invested in you know, a mobile second monitor so I’ve got two monitors and a great laptop standard. I pack a keyboard and external they have a mobile light so I’ve got a whole thing in my carry on bag of a mobile office. It doesn’t it doesn’t weigh a lot but it wasn’t investment to get the right setup because just being on my laptop compared to being at home with my lights and my monitors and cameras and curved things and gigabit Internet is a huge change. And also having you know a background and an environment that I’m I feel good in and they In fact, that has been a big thing. But also, you know, figuring out how to not be so overscheduled that I have time to enjoy the place outside, they when I was in Panama was working extra long days. And I thought, well, maybe this is a week where I have a day that’s 80% As long so I have the time to be spontaneous. Or even just if I need to go through emails, I can do it by the pool.
Yeah, it’s sort of defeats the purpose a little bit to grow an exotic place like Panama or a fun place like LA and then spend 14 hours a day in your room or your Airbnb or hotel, whatever the case may be right, and I’m not really getting out at all, you might as well just stay at home.
Ben Brooks 10:32
Totally, totally. And I will say the difference between Panama where I don’t really know a lot of folks in LA where I know it, gazillion people. And it was a big change for me to like, manage my schedule, when everyone was saying, Oh, you’re here, let’s hang out, let’s get down. I was just, you know, and so I think also just, you know, each time I learning more about how this works, but it’s a high learning curve, but it’s also a little bit like the marathon half marathon training, it’s out of my comfort zone of being in my home office, and in a good way stretches me and has empathy for people that are on the road more, etc.
One thing that impresses me about you is you seem very busy, but not busy doing sort of meaningless work, right? You’re really busy doing meaningful work? How do you someone who is always kind of traveling and doing work? And how do you find those times, though, where you get to just think, because I think a lot about whether you’re a business owner like yourself and needing that creativity and that spark time? How do you build that in? Because I would think that would also be difficult, right? You’re talking a little bit about those meetings, and so forth, but like, what about how do you incorporate just time to think and be creative, and do your work.
Ben Brooks 11:39
We talk at PILOT, kind of three levels of thinking is when you’re on the horse in the helicopter or in the jet. And the horse is thrilling, right? immediate feedback, you can go right left, you can stop you, you really feel the work is the business owner, I’m on the horse a lot. I think a lot of us in our careers are on the horse, a lot of doing right helicopter, you see a bit more perspective, you’re agile, but you’re up a little bit higher, there’s more to manage in certain ways, like the higher stakes, right fall off a horse, you’re less likely to die than if the helicopter crashes, right? You know, the jet is a whole separate thing, right? You’re you’re really just you’re 35,000 feet, you’re you don’t do a 180 Right, in two seconds, right? It could take 10 minutes to turn the plane around, you know, use a lot of instrumentation data.
Ben Brooks 12:25
So I think part of your response to your questions, I try to get off the horse is a big thing. So some, you know, first step is getting the helicopter on occasion, you know, and just look at a couple of months. Right? Thank, you know, couple, you know, like, what’s the rest of this year look like? What’s next quarter look like? But then there’s also the jet, which is sort of like, you know, am I happy in life? What matters to me? What’s changing in the world? What am I noticing, where, where do I want things to go and I’m in survival mode of the last two years as a business owner as a person living in the you know, the epicenter of COVID, here in New York City, etc. I’ve been on the horse, probably more than I’ve been on the pony, you know, let him know that, you know, that pony is tired, but ponies in water. So So I think, you know, giving myself the permission, even on my flight yesterday, got a you know, got a big 787 Dreamliner, from LA to New York, I love a big plane.
Ben Brooks 13:13
And I just made a commitment to not to do any work on the plane, right. And I’d even turn on the screen at a big TV screen didn’t turn them it just like it isn’t reading and it’s something listen to some music, some podcasts. So some of it is like dialing back the stimulus and the commitments, because whether it’s my schedule, and my to do list and obligations, you know, or it’s our, you know, phones that were like looking at all the time, that kind of icky looking glow, we get looking at the thing all the time, just to kind of both of those things, I need to kind of create the space. I don’t know what’s going to happen in that space. But I think we’re really conditioned to not leave any sort of voids. And without kind of a clearing or a meadow. There’s no possibility.
Yeah. Do you think we’re seeing people take more of those moments? Because, I mean, I was kind of looking back at our conversation from January and even just before we jumped on, onto record this we were talking about, you know, people are more checked out from work itself. I’m starting to feel like you I find myself taking more of those moments where I feel less guilty. If I am just gonna go outside and sit on my front porch and read a book which I don’t often do, or are you are you seeing that not just with your yourself in your team, but like, even with your clients are people feeling? Maybe is disconnect is question is disconnection from work? Can it also be a good thing?
Ben Brooks 14:33
Yeah, I think you know, healthy boundaries, you know, and, you know, trade offs associated with I don’t really like the word word balance, because I think it sort of sets people up to fail. But you know, but the right sort of work life integration. And, you know, I think people are getting disconnected from work, but almost in a job bankruptcy sort of way, like being checked out, is different than having healthy boundaries and having space for oneself and so If you see a lot of people sort of declaring job bankruptcy and just saying, eff it, I’m quitting. And I think the stats, you know, I think last August or September, something like a third of Americans that quit their jobs didn’t have a job when they were quitting. So that’s a sign right that like, often that’s, that is a, you know, extreme remedy to burnout or fatigue or frustration is like, I just can’t handle it anymore. And so I think we’re more focused on kind of upstream, listening to some of those signals and giving yourself the time on the front porch to read a book or the flight to not work, or the five o’clock shut off when you’re in Panama is kind of more incremental, proactive measures, rather than the just let me just blow this out, because I can’t handle it anymore.
Yeah, I agree. One of the things that I wanted to talk to you about or ask you about really is you mentioned, you’re in New York City, right, which was a couple years ago, the epicenter of the, you know, COVID, outbreaks in the United States, just trauma at just heightened scale, and just disruption. Tragedy, quite frankly, I couldn’t imagine what it was like to be in New York City it through those months, obviously, you’ve been through that. And now we’re sort of a couple years in now New York City, among other places, but I mentioned New York City, because it’s been in the news. It’s kind of one of the epicenters of what’s happening in the workplace in lots of workplaces, which is this real tension and frustration. And I don’t know like reticence of folks who are maybe being asked to return to physical workspaces and offices, either full time or at least more frequently than they’d like to, especially for folks who you know, who have the kinds of jobs that were able to go remote.
During the pandemic, obviously, not every job could do that. And, of course, all the frontline people in the first responders, etc, etc. But for folks who, you know, we’re in banking, or finance or marketing or attack, etc, etc. We’re seeing tons and tons of tension about this. And overlaid on that as a kind of a unique New York City thing, maybe not unique, but at least more in the news is the mayor of New York City, has been just pounding his drum at the bully pulpit to try to get corporations and workers back into offices in New York City, I think, largely to try to help businesses who serve people who are coming into work in places like Manhattan and Brooklyn, etc. So I’d love for you to comment a little bit about that what’s going on in workplaces now, whether it’s from your experience, or your client experience, and what your feedback you’re getting from your clients. And maybe even on top of that, what you’re hearing just being a New York City resident as well.
Ben Brooks 17:26
We’ll start kind of close to home with New York. I mean, that one of the things I understand about New York, and politics is the biggest driver of New York politics is real estate, and commercial real estate, you know, is hurting you now and you’ve got people and look at Midtown as an example, the way that the model works in Midtown, right is it’s full of business travelers, and it’s full of office workers. And it’s also then at night full of tourists that go to Broadway and they eat out and he does other things. And that’s a really big tax driver. We have a big safety net in New York, we got you know, provide a lot of great services to our citizens and residents, a third of the city’s immigrants, etc. That requires a lot of money in real estate is a big part of funneling money. So I think the mayor’s incentives are to get people back into offices to help the business drivers of sales tax and tourism taxes and real estate taxes and all that so it can fund his budgets for the city government. Right.
Ben Brooks 18:19
And I think that’s where his some of his alignment is. I think we’re seeing you know, a lot of executives, you got folks that are some a lot of executives are older, right? And they’re you know, some are baby boomers are on the older side of x is that they didn’t ever want or consent to hybrid or remote. It happened it was a it was an arranged marriage, right? This is not something that they were like, Oh, I’m in love with this, let’s do this. And I think it was supposed to be temporary, a couple of weeks or a couple months and all that. And then the genies out of the bottle. And employees are kind of there’s two hats an employee can where they can say that what do I need personally was Ben need for his life? What does he want, which includes not having to put on pants or, you know, not having to, you know, to get on the subway, you know, or do those sorts of things. But then there’s like, what is functional is my role as a member of an organization as an employee as a part of my team? Maybe as a manager? Employees are typically not asking the latter question. They’re typically thinking in their self interest Labour’s got all the leverage, they know they get jobs elsewhere. So it’s like I don’t want to commute I don’t want to pay for parking. I don’t want to like get the wardrobe or childcare things.
Gases doubled in the last year. Yeah, totally. You know,
Ben Brooks 19:27
Eating lunch out is 25% more expensive, going to buy clothes and books that the cleaner, all of it like it makes sense, right? But you know, we’re seeing that productivity is declining in some industries, right that people in this model and I’m I founded a remote first company so I’m very for remote work to be clear. But you know, we haven’t really enabled employees and managers with the skills to fully succeed in hybrid and virtual, you know, the bar is actually higher for employees if they work virtually than if they work in person. There’s a lot that in person provides as a structure virtually plays like they don’t they don’t sound serendipitous you run into people they don’t see if their colleague is struggling, they don’t have something they can turn to for help. They’re not proactively managing relationships with someone they met in the cafeteria or went to a speaker or something like that. And I think what it sort of giga fIying a lot of white collar a knowledge worker roles, you saw gig workers, you know, drive a drive a, an Uber, or deliver some food or do something like this, overseeing it now in people and in engineering, and then product and in sales, where it’s really there’s so hear from HR heads in place, having such little connection with the employer brand, that like I do a thing, they talk about their role, or maybe their client group and the money they make, but to them, it’s a gig, they can turn off this laptop, FedEx it back, get a new one work for somebody else on the same tools.
Ben Brooks 20:48
And so I think that’s one of the challenges that I think some employers are thinking that in person will help. So there’s this poll to say, let’s all get back, let’s all get here. And then they’ll feel connected. And we can do the lunches and have the speakers and do the feedback and the mentoring. But you know, proximity and performance aren’t necessarily you know, causal, right, we can be co located and it can make no difference. And so it’s a real it’s a messy time that we’re in. And I think one of the other things is that control is an illusion. If you look at like Goldman Sachs, you know, a pretty command and control sort of organization with a lot of leverage and skin on incentives right because a high percentage of comp there’s incentive and only about half the employees returned when it was required.
Yeah, no crazy crazy.
Well, I wonder if we’re are we mis-remembering are these leaders thinking, it’s sort of like, when you talk to your parent, like Oh back in the, you know, 50s 60s, or whatever, it was a much better time, it was a more wonderful time, we all were better, we’d love each other more than whatever. I don’t know, I almost feel like when you’re describing this, I’m thinking like, it wasn’t perfect. When we were all working in a corporate office, right? Or in a workplace together, we still had all these same things. We were still talking about. disengagement, we were still talking about people who, you know, weren’t connected to the employer brand. We were spending all kinds of money on trying to develop these things and inclusion. And I don’t know, I’m not saying it’s better this way. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer, right.
But it just feels like we’re wanting to go back to something that in our head was better. But really, it might not have been better. I’d almost rather say let’s, let’s push this hybrid work so that we’re going forward in a more thoughtful way. Trying to actually meet those needs and try and you know, yes, if you’re less connected, and you don’t have those moments as a remote worker, well, what can we be doing to build instead? Maybe it’s something we don’t have yet? Do you find like, again, maybe back to your your time to be creative? Like when you’re sitting there with your team, thinking about ways, obviously, with your business to have your clients have experiences that are more connected in the hybrid or remote world? Are you are you optimistic that those things are going to be able to materialize fairly quickly? Or do you think it’s going to take a lot of us much longer to figure this out?
Ben Brooks 23:05
Yes, it’s I think I’m optimistic and pessimistic, I think, Well, I think I’m optimistic because there’s a ton of innovation and a ton of cool things with technology. I’m sort of pessimistic because humans resist change and are slow to change. And there’s not as it’s not, you know, I think there’s a lot of blogs, a barrel blind spot amongst business leaders, that this is something that we need to sort of adapt to beyond sort of like VPN, or a home office budget, I think people have like been kind of at the food, water, shelter level of, you know, actualization and hybrid and remote when a reality and be part of pilot pilot reason that people buy our product, is they want employees to come together for more than just a work meeting, for some shared experience, to deepen to create new relationships and to foster and deepen relationships to be vulnerable. You know, whenever someone leaves an organization, one of the best ways to retain people have people have close relationships. You know, Gallup did a whole study of 12 million people by having a best friend at work, they wrote a book called Vital friends. And, you know, it was like the ultimate retention hedge was the best friend at work. They talked you down, you’ve missed some, et cetera. Now, if you don’t see them, though, what is the friendship look like? Virtually? And how do you do?
Ben Brooks 24:15
That’s part of what we’re trying to figure out. But I, you know, I think that there’s just that, you know, I met a colleague in organizational development last week, and she’s, they are transgender. And they were saying, you know, they talked about the idea of, you know, this is a trans lens and said, you know, fluidity, right. It’s a big part of, you know, where’s gender, all this stuff? And they said to me, you know, I think about fluid working that this idea of two days at home and three days in the office, well, it depends. You may have a work week where you’re doing big product design, you should be in the office every day for five days, you may have another week where there’s no reason to be in at all and this arbitrary three days in doesn’t make sense out of some rigidity. Now the same time, employees also need structure, you know, sometimes flexibility devolve into volatility. If you’re waking up every day, and you don’t know if you’re gonna go into the office or not the cognitive load, the anxiety, the uncertainty, or even for people in your family or your person, or your colleagues, you imagined Sheriff at a conference, or everyone says to be there. And then Jimmy is like, oh, not there. Where’s the Zoom like you like there is none in this room has been established for like immersive AR type conferencing. That’s, that’s a hot mess, right? So there’s also I think, a level of thoughtfulness for your colleagues, and what are we expected each other, you know, find your peer or your supervisor or somebody else, and I asked you to come in. And that means you have to adjust your childcare? Are you pissed at me? Because of that isn’t there’s just some stuff around expectations and boundaries that we just are not navigating. And we’re sort of just pretending. And it’s all like happening on the calendar, and everyone has the right computer. And that’s enough. And it’s clearly not.
Yeah, it’s difficult. And it’s much more difficult than the old way where you sort of many organizations expected everybody just to show up every day. And it was the exception, right to be working from somewhere else, if you weren’t, say someone who traveled for business, and then the pandemic era, right, where everybody’s just home, and we just figured it out on the fly. And it was that there was no expectation of you being anywhere other than on your zoom calls, etc. Some organizations, some larger ones, who have the resources and are being a little more thoughtful after I know, recently, you’ve seen more, you know, Executive Director, or even C suite titles, like, you know, Director of remote working or director of hybrid working, etc, etc. They’re elevating people, whether they’re HR people and maybe their operations people into, hey, we need to appoint someone pretty senior, to lead our sort of strategic approach to what this new mechanisms and design of work is going to be otherwise, as you said, then it’s going to become more difficult because right, I couldn’t imagine getting up, you know, each morning and not really having a figured out, it’s hard to have to figure out like, you know, what shirt to wear versus might go into the office or not, you know, those kinds of things.
Ben Brooks 26:56
Totally. And I think that those roles that are being created, I think it’s important, but I mean, you think of even just a manager employee dynamic, which is probably one of hrs biggest heartburns, right? Think of a 40 year problem. How do we get middle managers to better frontline supervisors, every segment, every size of company, every industry around you, this is a core nightmare. For HR. It’s like managers and employees kind of coming together. Well, imagine when managers are not comfortable giving feedback except in their office, or in a conference room, or employees don’t really know how to run a one on one without kind of paper in front of them. And the thing or, you know, even coordinate how do we use Slack or teams, I have a colleague on our team, we have great colleagues. But now I would send this person slacks and they would get it in there like working on it. But I didn’t know.
Ben Brooks 27:44
And we had to have a micro feedback, they said, well, I need to know that like the message was received, I needed sort of a read receipt and that you’re on it. And we acknowledged that in Slack. It’s simply an emoji and we created sort of a shorthand that was like a thumbs up is like I got it, I’m working on it. That’s all I need it. But this is a person who’s 1,000 miles away from me, who’s newer at the organization, and the performance was there. But I was just getting anxious on the work ability, the interface. So all of the like fine tuning, or when someone you know, is at home now. So then they pick up their kid at 3:30 from the bus, which is very important to them, I actually need to know that rather than them kind of pretend that they’re going to sneak away. I want to protect that time for them. But they’re like, but we need to create the cultures where people say, this is super important to me, I’m gonna have to not be able to make meetings for 30 minute window every afternoon. Yeah, then I know, but employees don’t employees have always kind of like slink around trying to get away with it. Rather than say, Hey, here’s a core need, let’s plan around it and be transparent is highly more functional.
Ben Brooks 28:43
But it takes a bit more sort of, you know, a little little courage, you have to find to kind of put that out there and advocate yourself and to be clear, but then you don’t have anxiety, where the boss is calling you and you’re the school bus or the kids are screaming you’re trying to mute out think of how stressful that is, versus it being transparent, clear to be like, hey, like I’m at the school, you know, this is an emergency. I’m at the school bus, you know, this is what I do at this time. And if it is, then you can handle them. If not say they’ll say, oh, my god, I forgot. I’m so sorry. Call me when you’re back to your desk. And that’s the kind of when we talk like big structures and processes and tools. But oftentimes making hybrid work is like the emojis on Slack, or it’s the boundary around school pickups and some of those things that can make a huge difference.
Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s sort of that micro level negotiations. That has to be continuous. Right? I’ve seen a lot of people though, to who have maybe remained at their, their current employer, and maybe leadership has changed, right? And so you try getting a new leader, or I guess even if you took a new position with a leader you’re not familiar with, and they operate completely old school completely where you know, you don’t have that sort of open feeling about being able to communicate. What would you tell someone who’s maybe in that situation because I have tried to coach and counsel them myself, but I’d be curious What do you say when someone’s like, I just don’t feel like my boss is receptive to this? What can I do?
Ben Brooks 30:07
You know, if someone started a company, they were such a bigger companies that have an onboarding program, right. And the onboarding is proven to be like one of the highest amount, the highest ROI investment in all of HR, you can predict someone’s tenure performance compositions, often from the first two to three weeks of their employment, right? It’s just this this is almost like prenatal care and early education, you can just It’s this incredible thing. But we don’t have onboarding for new reporting relationships, or for lateral moves or for internal promotions. And so we have a bit of change blindness as employees, and as managers and supervisors, that when I go on if I work at Microsoft, and I quit, and then I go move to two paychecks, right, I’m like, this is a new game, I got a new boss has a new culture, I got to learn something, I’m like, great. But if I’m at Microsoft, and I go working from Sonia to Maria, am I or I’m in a lateral move, or I don’t necessarily say like, let me look at this freshly what do they need? How do they like to work?
Ben Brooks 31:10
So part of it is, employees need to really lean into the partnership, a manager is a customer, you know, a manager has a budget, the budget includes compensation and benefit dollars, or a certain number of FTEs. And they get to sort of choose who’s on their team, they have, you know, especially in larger numbers, they can swap some people out Council out transfer, you’re there, as a part of their budget to help them get something done. The definition of management fundamentally, is the achievement of results through others. You if an employee on a team, you’re one of the others, trying to help them achieve results, knowing what those things are, and then their preferences, you may find that there’s a manager, your manager has zoom fatigue, and you do too, you may actually have a lot more in common. But if you speak up and say them, say, can we do our one on ones as a call, or can we take a walk and do our one on ones, I’ll be in my neighborhood and you’re in your neighborhood, and we both get some fresh air and get some steps. And they may be totally up for it. They may not.
Ben Brooks 32:03
But that’s a part of it, the initiation and much like in a you know, a romantic relationship or a close friendship it takes to and sometimes you we always sort of assume that the person that higher status, title experience, age comp is like the paternal initiator, but we’re all adults in a workplace. So if you’ve got a thing where you want to pick up your kids, or you want to do calls, or you want to figure out you find Well, it seems like we’re doing a lot in Slack and publishes having a meeting, or want to organize, like whatever those things are, I think employees need to initiate more and suggest and propose, but also like a good salesperson they need to do discover you get a new manager. How are you feeling about your career here? How’s your relationship with your boss? You think you’re gonna be here in a year or two? Who is the best person who’s the best person who’s your right hand and your left hand and your last team? And why? What drives you nuts about people that work for you? What are your frickin pet peeves? And by the way, what what is your like your, you know, cat net? What’s the thing that you go crazy for? that you just absolutely love? You know? And it’s that asking and listening and being curious, because sometimes managers won’t even often will not think to even share any of this. Right? And so you’ve got it. This is a relationship contradiction.
In my experience. Yeah.
Ben Brooks 33:27
What would you do? If someone did have that conversation with you? Either way? How do you think what do you think that might produce or make possible?
Yeah, I think that’s great. I think that sets some, it sets a good framework, right for developing relationship and develop a good working relationship where you both can be successful, and you both are mindful of the other person on on more than just task completion level, but more on just, you know, I care enough about you and your success and your well being that I’m interested in learning how I best can work with you and vice versa. And I think that’s important. Yeah.
I’ve heard this called cross boarding, which I really love. I love that phrase. So but what you described thank you for so many examples, too, because I think if you’re a listener to this episode, you’re definitely probably frantically writing notes. Like I just was, I think that’s they’re all very practical approaches that seem I’m gonna use the word loving, but it seems very loving to your new boss, right? Your new leader, right? You’re going and you’re asking about their health and their well being and their mental capacity. And I love this idea about the whole the catnip and the pet peeves. I mean, these are all easier things to do that don’t feel quite so scary and will produce anxiety hopefully within the person who’s going to ask those questions.
Ben Brooks 34:40
It’s something we built right into product called winning with your manager. And it’s all about treating your manager like our customer. We know to treat external customers, but they’re an internal customer. You know, a manager is the gems gem cutter, right. They can affect your comp, your other opportunities, the feedback the assignments you get, they can solve problem long as they can break down barriers, so that’s got to be a very close relationship. And you know, it’s sort of like in sports, we often talk about, you know, what, what makes great coaches? Well, sometimes it’s great players. And so getting employees right, will help the manager be more successful and be better manager by having better players or better employees. And so we really have to kind of instill in employees, that this is a part of their role now, and it’s always was, but even more so kind of managing up as a part of that, etc. And the more that employees self manage, the less that they get supervised and are micromanage, which is a big driver of disengagement of disempowerment and attrition, and then employee, and then the managers can develop instead. So you’re, you know, but again, kind of it’s sort of a people get as much help as they need. And if you show that you don’t need a lot of micromanagement, then you can have higher level more strategic connection with your supervisor rather than them feeling like they’re pissing in your Cheerios.
Yeah. If you’ll indulge me and hang out, there’s a few more minutes. One more thing I wanted to ask you. And it just something I was thinking about this the other day, we’re recording this in early June, 1 week of June is we’re actually recording this, which is Pride Month. And I’m just gonna say in the US, but I think it’s pride events all over the world, but which is great. And I’m a huge supporter of Pride Month, I was wearing my pride t shirt the other day, when we did our vlog, I’m super excited about it’s important to me personally, it should be important to everybody. But here’s the thing I was, and lots of organizations and quite frankly, including our own, like have, you know, done the thing with the rainbow logo and put it on LinkedIn or Instagram, wherever you do it and send out your Yeah, we support all everyone and sending all the right saying all the right things, right? It’s pretty easy for an organization to say the right thing. It’s not hard to figure out what the right thing is to say. And it’s pretty easy to say.
But here’s my question. I’ve read some things about lots of organizations, that’s kind of all they do. And if all you’re going to do is change your your avatar or your your logo and whether it’s Pride Month, or for black lives matter or other social causes that are like, I don’t know, it seems kind of hollow and just performative. Yep. I don’t know if that’s even really a question. But a is, I love your thoughts on that and be like, if you’re going to be an organization that actually does want to do more than just kind of show support, and you think you’re done. What can you what can you do? What can you think about doing just to do a little bit more, I guess?
Ben Brooks 37:21
Yeah, you know, there’s this sort of virtue signaling that we do as individuals. And we also do it as organizations, right, that we signal we’re on the right side of this, or we support this and we value that etc. But in reality, what people say they value is often different than what they actually value and what they actually value as a function of their behaviors and their decisions. You know, Enron had the value of integrity chiseled in the marvel of their lobby in Houston. That was clearly not their actual value, right. And so I think that you know, it’s easy to have the rainbow avatar in some ways, I feel really buoyed as I’m just so everyone knows, I’m, you know, very proudly, you know, gay, one of we’re certified LGBT on business and supplier diversity, or one a few SAS businesses that are LGBT on in the country. And I’ve been involved in a lot of LGBT equality work over my career in corporate in the nonprofit space helping to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell us this is near and dear. So Steve, I’m very touched that your great ally, you’re bringing this up? I mean, talk about a great just bringing up this question is an amazing expression of ally ship and advocacy, including critical thinking around it, not just to celebrating a heritage month Black History Month, International Women’s Day, you know, API Awareness Month, but it’s like really getting into sort of the meat of it. And the term that’s used in the in our communities pink washing, that if you, you know, kind of you know, we want it we’re all pro gay in the month of June, but come July, it’s like cover up that rainbow screw that, you know, whatever. And what what are those sorts of things, and there’s just so much that we can do, but there’s a great meme I post I’m not either if you watch the show succession, it’s on HBO, but that the family owned business is waste our ROI quotes is media company is super toxic, bad corporate citizen. But the meme was a rainbow flag over their logo, right?
Ben Brooks 39:08
Just the joke of even this horrible toxic company can just like virtue signal, and I went viral and everyone sort of loved it. But in I wrote an article in HR executive magazine about this last June and I can share the link. But it was all about how HR can actually do something around LGBTQ quality. And frankly, all sorts of different functions. And it’s you know, from from recruiting from engagement, if you do engagement, figuring out or you have an HCM or HRIS system to help people self identify as LGBTQ in your system. So you can look at promotion rate data, you can look at pay equity, you can look at retention, you can look at performance, because the data can help prove it. You know, if you’re in staffing and deployment, thinking about we when I was a management consulting, we had to train our resourcing and staffing people to say, hey, if someone’s LGBTQ, you may not want to send them to Saudi Arabia for consulting which was a big growth market approach. Right? So there’s like some, some thoughtfulness.
Saudi Arabia, that’s for sure. Yeah, exactly.
Ben Brooks 40:05
If you’re having a holiday party, you know, or a company event, how do you make it was like sort of unclear if same sex partners could even go? Right? Because they use marriage. They use words like spouse even before this is before gay marriage is legal. So it’s like, like actually even can’t even have a spouse, you know, is this so there’s your benefits? Do you have you think about a lot of you know, maternity leave has been a big focus on it. Thankfully, we’re making a lot of progress. But it probably should include like paternity in general. And whether you that’s, you know, by birth by adoption, or by surrogacy, like either way for sort of growing family.
Do you think there’s been a shift to kind of moving towards, quote, unquote, parental leave, right, versus maternity or paternity, which is, of course, a good thing for lots of reasons?
Ben Brooks 40:47
So there’s whether its benefits, its internal comms, its engagement. Its l&d like the reverse mentoring, how to talk about this. I did reverse mentoring with executives, when I was in the corporate world about LGBT things. And at one point, I could tell they’re kind of dancing around some stuff. And like, it sounds like you’re really curious about the trans thing, transgender, and they were like, yes, we don’t say the wrong thing. And we have so many questions, and do people actually get surgeries, and what’s the thing and they were just they they meant well, but they were so scared to say or do anything that there’s like a sitting on the hands and being sort of polite. And we were able to get into that. And that’s a really critical thing. But you know, this is a credibly, we have a colleague that, that I won’t mention their name, but they’re in the HR tech space, someone that you won’t know that they’re moving their family, because they have a transgender member of their family in the state that’s passed some laws and they don’t feel that it’s, it’s a place that they can live anymore. It’s like they’ve lived their whole life. And they’re moving to a state that they feel can be more embracing of their child, and they’re being protected parents, and, you know, unfortunately, with remote and hybrid, their employers are, are able to support that, but it’s, but this is a tenuous time that we’re in. And so and that there’s, you know, a lot of DEI efforts were based on in person, we’re having an event, a speaker, a party. And so I think we’re seeing a lot of the momentum cool on DEI, is that we haven’t figured out how to make that, you know, inclusive cultures happen beyond just the recruiting quotas, to make it a place where people feel welcomed and celebrated.
I love your examples. And thank you for sharing them. I wonder too, like part of it was when we all started working, it wasn’t something we were feeling allowed to even ask those questions. And I’m, thank you for saying that. Sometimes, people really want to do something they just don’t know how to ask, they don’t know what to say. And again, that’s whether it’s, you know, black lives matter, or whatever, I think it’s, you use the word ally. And I would love to have you for anyone listening who doesn’t truly understand what that means. Because for me, it meant learning about using my own power or perceived power to actually pull other people in, give them some of my opportunities. Can you talk about what ally ship means to you and what your definition is, and how people can embrace that versus just sort of changing a logo? Because it’s a very different thing.
Ben Brooks 43:03
Totally, you know, Ally ship has a spectrum, right? So if you’re thinking of being an ally, you don’t have to change yourself to offense. Right, that could be part of it. Be a protester, which can be amazing civil disobedience, but it can be the smallest thing to sort of speak up in a meeting, when people are just kept referring to guys and Hey, guys, and you guys and say, you know, it’s actually not all guys here, you know, the smallest thing around language or microaggressions can be bigger thing, you know, showing up in an event, that’s a big thing. There is in person events, being there means a lot, you know, a safe spaces flag in an office, it’s like you can come to me if you’re having an issue, some people will not tell, you know, you have a breakup or a divorce, you normally share that. But if you’re LGBTQ, you might not because people don’t even know you’re with someone or it’s complicated or what’s going on, you know. So I think being sort of, and then just being curious, you know, I think that that’s a part of it, you know, that like if you think about, you know, medical, most people don’t know about preferences, medical intervention that can help people not get HIV, gay or straight. It’s a pill you can take, we literally are at the level of science. Now, if you take a pill every day, you’re essentially guaranteed to not contract HIV, regardless of like behaviors and things. Well, that’s an important thing for people to like, know about.
Ben Brooks 44:10
And to make sure people are empowered with information, no different than family planning and contraceptives for women, you know, that that’s an important thing. So that like just to get educated or where the resources are, if someone’s struggling, one of the things that’s happening in employee resource groups for LGBT, that’s a huge change from 15 or 20 years ago, is increasingly a lot of parents of LGBT employees are joining the group and will seeking from fellow colleagues Hey, I’ve got a son or a daughter younger, older, they’re in college or in high school, whatever their I don’t know what to do. I like how do I answer your question about being an ally, joining the group, you know, being around attend events, getting educated hearing the speakers reading the books, that they’re wanting to be better parents, and they’re using the company’s infrastructure to do that, which is a really beautiful thing. You know, obviously giving the causes going to galas you know, volunteering, but also just go Being that safe place that people can be and to know that they’re affirmed and accepted and included in asking about their partner asking about their weekend if they go to Provincetown or something like what’s Provincetown, like, what do you do, you know, everything you know, you know, whatever it is, and not just, you know, being reductive or assuming things or being hush hush about it, either. Because not every, you know, gay persons in drag are going to brunches or whatever people’s you know, stereotype. There’s a quite a wide spectrum.
Ben Brooks 45:25
But I think it’s that sort of curiosity. And that sort of inclusion of, you know, bring your partner, are you seeing somebody I’d love to have you come to dinner with me and my partner, fiance or whatever. It’s like those, it’s just treating people with the same decency, but it requires a level of thoughtfulness. And I think that that’s, that’s a part of it. And that’s where oftentimes, it’s the smallest thing you know, we’ll be celebrating Women’s women’s month, you go to a company that has free beer on tap, but they charge women $1 For tampons in the bathroom. Bullshit, right? Right, like, so you needed someone to speak up. And it may be that the facilities director is a man, and hasn’t thought about this in the contract or anything else. And it’s like, Hey, should we put out some like in a nice jar, or some like really like good quality, you know, tampons or anything? Like, that’s a small gesture, right? But think about what that would would signal to like to say, like that we get there. We’re not just here to provide beer. But we can actually like, we’re going to provide this we have an aspirin and band aids for everybody. Why wouldn’t we have, you know, sanitary products as well. And so it’s sometimes those little things that go a long way to say that, like, we get it.
Yeah. And I think you’re right, it’s asked people who know to and not everyone is willing to come and step up and tell you what, like, you know, they don’t they want, they don’t want to be the person to fix everything. But yeah, there’s always going to be whatever the you know, whatever the group is that you’re trying to, to be more inclusive for, who are willing to help and step up. My last question, though, Ben is you mentioned, you know, people may be coming together because they have a child or you know, a college student, this new generation coming in. As mom of kids that just graduated, they are much more apt to talk about their own sexuality, their friends, sexuality, it’s, it is that fluid sort of conversation? If you’re in a workplace where you know, the workplace culture, isn’t that fluid yet? What can we as leaders be doing to prepare our workplace? For Gen Z, who is now graduating college, they’re getting into our workplaces, right? And it could be something that drives them away from our organization without us even thinking about? What What would you say to those HR leaders or CEOs, people with with power in those positions?
Ben Brooks 47:40
Well, they, you know, ready for Gen Z, who a lot of them are already looking at millennials and saying, Man, I don’t want this hyper ambitious, like, you know, like the finances haven’t worked out for millennials, they’re all like up to their neck in debt with student loan and can’t buy a house they’re getting. So we’re already having a huge issue of making the idea of like, work attractive to Gen Z in general. And that sort of fluidity, or different lens certainly isn’t the LGBTQ realm, but in all sorts of other things, right, it’s just sort of a broader mindset that applies to many contextual domains. So I think we’ve got to continue to like innovate, to be attractive and to be open, and to get out of our comfort zones, and to get over some of our biases. And so it’s even as simple as you know, you know, in a performance calibration conversation, or recruiting conversation, we may assess people a particular way with with, you know, someone assess someone, and then they’re like, Oh, I think this person was being a little too aggressive. And I was like, well, but like that person is a black female, who have a different lens on that behavior than if it were to be a man just being an assertive leader. Right? And so part of being an ally and getting ready is even with Gen Z sort of behavior, saying, Hey, we take off the face. And part of the reason everyone hates Millennials or hated millennials is millennials. We’re not it, and I’m old mowlam, the very tail animals. But last weren’t necessarily bad. But it was the face of change, right?
Ben Brooks 49:01
Millennials grew up in their adult lives in the time of more change than we’ve ever had in human history. You know, smartphones, social media, cloud computing, social progress on a lot of different fronts. And so it wasn’t like Millennials were in charge and making all those decisions and doing all those things. This was much older investing and politics and lobbying. But Millennials represented the face of that change. And I think we have to be careful that Gen Z, that we don’t sort of punish them for our discomfort or resistance to broader societal, societal and structural change when they’re just sort of this fresh representative of a much larger macro trend. And instead look to say, Hey, how can we learn from you know, the reverse mentoring, listening more, right, giving them more responsibilities sooner, letting them take risks, you know, being more flexible and tolerant I think we need to embrace rather than resist it.
Yeah, great advice. I think if you have kids, or just any teenagers in your life or early 20s? Ask them I have mine review my work all the time to make sure there’s something I’m not saying inappropriate or missing or what perspective Am I not seeing from the lens of their generation? So yeah, reverse mentoring. Amazing, amazing idea.
You know, this is great. Ben, you’ve been super generous with your time. Once again, we appreciate that kind of your mid-year checkup and declare the patient healthy and ready for a successful second half of 2020. Yes, you got it, you’ve got a clean bill of health from me. So that should carry for something. But thank you so much. The website of course, for PILOT is pilot.coach, check them out doing fantastic work, I said, multiple award winners, great technology, great service, great people. Awesome, great story as well. Over the last few years, it’s been great to be sort of in the in the cheering section for the growth of PILOT over the years as well. So Ben Brooks, thank you so much for joining us, once again.
Ben Brooks 51:01
Highlight of my morning thanks to you both appreciate your continued support. And frankly, getting into these topics that are not the ABCs like DME Search Engine Optimization content about HR and work that you know, like this is this is meaningful. And I think I just appreciate the depth in that you’re getting to the harder nub of your issues, which we’re not going to solve this year. But let’s keep expecting the unexpected.
Yeah, I love that.
All right, Trish. Great stuff, man. Love it love when Ben comes around, and it’s good for us. We’re lucky to have him as a friend of the show.
All right. For our guest, Ben Brooks, for Trish McFarlane. Thank you, of course to our friends at Paychex. This has been At Work in America, go to HRHappyHour.net for all the network shows, subscribe, tell a friend do all the things to do. Thank you so much for listening. We will see you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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