This week we talked with Jeanne Meister from Future Workplace about prioritizing employee mental health and how to shift the focus from organizational needs to human needs.
– 2021 HR Senitment Survey results: view here
– How leaders can prioritize employee mental health in the workplace
– How technology plays a role in supporting employee wellbeing
– What organizations are doing to improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Thank you Jeanne, for joining us! Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour wherever you get your podcasts.
Welcome to the HR Happy Hour Show with Steve and Trish sponsored by our friends at Paychex. Today we are going to be talking with our friend Jeanne Meister about a recent survey that she’s published called the 2021 HR Sentiment Survey, which really gets to the most pressing and important priorities for HR leaders today and going into next year. And there’s some great data in that survey. And it’s gonna be exciting to talk about that Trish. But first, the question of the day for you. What is the most imaginative or fun or your go to insult if you want to insult somebody not harshly, maybe just give that little poke to the ribs? You want to kind of burn somebody a little bit? You have an insult you like?
The first thing that came to mind was bless your heart. I don’t know. Like hat little Southern kind of bless your heart. I don’t know. It’s really bad, right? So yeah. It’s the first one I thought of. How about you?
I have one Trish, I have one and here it is. I look at the person I want to insult and I’ll say, who’s that clown?
No, you don’t?
Yes. And here’s why this is the best insult because it’s a double. It’s a double jab. Because first of all, you’re calling them a clown. Right? Which is bad. And second, you’re implying that they’re not even one of the better known clowns.
Oh, my goodness, Steve.
That’s my favorite. So there you go.
Okay, well, now we know. You know, I was a big fan when I was working like in corporate of having like secret insults. Have you ever had those where you worked? Probably my biggest thing my whole team knew if I said no worries about like, if some somebody asked me to and I was no worries. That was bad. That was really bad. That was like my way of saying like, Oh, no, I’m not down with this at all. But no worries. I got you.
Okay, well, maybe our guest has an insult she likes. Well, she has a moment to think about it. Let me introduce her formerly welcome her back to the show. We’re very excited to welcome Jean Meister back to the show. Maybe our fourth appearance, something like that, I’d have to look back through the archives Jean, there’s a number of clearances you get if you get to the fifth appearance, you do win a prize. We can talk about that later. But Jeanne is the founding partner of Future Workplace an HR advisory and research firm. She’s also the best selling author of three books, including The Future Workplace Experience, The 2020 Workplace and Corporate Universities Lessons in Building a World Class Workforce. She lives down in the New York City area with her husband, daughter and two dogs. That’s cool. And according to Jeanne, I like this part, her daughter is a case study on what millennials require from their employers. She’s an avid cook, and it’s on the board of advisors. Hope I pronounce this right for that Mahaiwe center for the Performance lab and volunteers for the Columbia County Land Conservancy. Jeanne, welcome back to the show. How are you? Good to see you.
Jeanne Meister 3:21
Great to see you. This is going to be a great conversation, Steve. And soon we’ll be seeing both of you in person.
Yeah. We’re doing this of course, recording virtually. And I remember Jeanne, I think the last time either you were on the show, or we we did some other little project together. It was sort of early pandemic, as I recall.
Jeanne Meister 3:42
Right, it was.
And it’s like a year and a half later here. We still are.
Jeanne Meister 3:49
Early because it was last summer. And you were you were taking the call outside.
Yeah, that sounds like me, that’s for sure. Well, Jeanne, welcome back to the show. So great to have you. We love having you like you’re always doing some interesting things, always publishing new research, doing a lot of really cool things in the HR and HR tech space. Let’s just leave it off with a kind of simple one, the 2020 HR Sentiment Survey recently published, it’s helping really to understand what some of the priorities are for HR leaders today and basically from their mouths, right? That’s who you surveyed. And you ask them what’s important to them. I’d love for you to maybe give us some of the highlights of that survey, maybe a little bit of background if you’d like about how came together and maybe give us one or two kind of boom, these are these are big important things we learned from when we asked HR leaders what was important to them.
Jeanne Meister 4:39
Okay, thank you. A little bit about the demographics and how it came to be so the survey was actually conducted in part with future workplace members and the members of Boston University School of Business they have a group of CHROs. We embark on this array of only talking to heads of HR. So 40% of our sample was just at the CHRO level. And others were director VPS of HR and corporate learning and talent set, everyone was in the United States. And he was we were looking at what are going to be the strategic priorities for HR in the next 12 months, right. So the big headline, and we’ve done it before the 2020. So the big headline was that employee wellbeing and mental health was the number one priority with list ranked as 68% of HR later said, that was the single biggest priority, and right behind that 67%, diversity, equity and inclusion. So the big shift we’re seeing here is that HR, while they’re all continue to be focused on the organizational changes, and employee experience being one is still a big focus. I think because of what we’ve all experienced in the last, believe it or not, Steve, it’s a year and a half, not just a year, they I think HR leaders are now really looking at the life experience of their employees and the struggles they’re facing, working from home managing, home schooling, and just keeping, you know, just ensuring their own well being in the process.
You know, I find that so interesting, Jeanne, because one of the things I was looking at when I first saw the survey was sort of how those sentiments have changed and evolved even in the last year. And so it looks like there’s a little move away from more of the analytics, kind of the mechanics, the operations of an HR department or of a workforce. And even though it’s a bad reason that maybe got us to this position, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it seems like this is a more human like foundational level sort of approach to the people in our companies. Is that what you’re seeing and hearing when you’re talking to all these CHROs?
Jeanne Meister 7:30
I am Trish and and while I’m not saying that people analytics, it’s actually came in number five, right, from course. Yeah. So I’m not saying it’s no longer important. But I think, you know, leaders, business leaders and HR leaders have been moved by the moment that we’re all in. And, and I think for the first time I’m working from home has been the great equalizer, right? I mean, we’re all doing it, it’s not happening on an individual basis, it’s no longer seen as a perk. And and while productivity hasn’t been negatively impacted, we are we are seeing how difficult it is to manage everything. And importantly, the lines being so blurred between work and life. I think that’s why leaders are really focused now more than ever, on how can they nurture employee well being so that so that employees have resilience as they continue to go through of just a tremendous amount of uncertainty. And I think that’s what’s driving this focus on well being now more than ever.
Yeah, it’s definitely a response to just the last 18 months of incredibly challenging conditions, but attrition I have liked to talk about, and we’ve talked about it on this show before the employee mental health challenge and or crisis, if you’d prefer to even describe it that way. existed prior to the pandemic, it was just kind of maybe not emphasized as much or as, just because there was a lot of the HR leaders have lots of competing priorities. And, you know, Trish knows this, you can’t, you can’t do all 12 things, you just can’t they can’t all be the highest priority, right? In a year. So. But it was a problem that existed before 2020. And it’s just, it’s gotten worse. And there’s a lot of data and you cite some of it in the research here. That shows how it’s gotten worse when and now at least. It’s also good, though, that the reaction and the response from the HR leadership that you surveyed is, is now saying yeah, we’ve got to make this our really our top focus area this year.
Jeanne Meister 9:56
Yeah. And so let’s spend a moment on this mental health issue. I think that companies are now really deliberately trying to destigmatize conversations about mental illness. And as you said, Steve, it’s been an issue. It’s not like there are so many more people now depressed or you know what I think it’s now people are talking about it, leaders are talking about it. And and companies are really making deliberate efforts to, you know, have leaders to dress it in any way they can, and also train leaders on how to have these really uncomfortable and crucial conversations.
And even if you throw into just popular culture, as we record this, the Summer Olympics are still going on, they’re almost over but probably the United States most famous Olympic athlete, right, Simone Biles talked very openly about her concerns and her issues and her struggles as well as Naomi Osaka, the great tennis player and the reception to those athletes talking really openly about just struggling and they’re super successful people, much like many of the leaders that you talk to Jeanne and surveyed, they’re willing to share the stories and then the society is much more willing or open to trying to listen and empathize and support them, I guess is maybe what I’d say.
Jeanne Meister 11:32
Yeah, I was at that match Steve at the US Open with Osaka in September of 2019. And I love going to US open and you know, there’s always a moment when the winner is declared a winner and everyone stands up and cheers and, and that moment, the exact opposite happened. Naomi Osaka pulled her hat down and was in tears and there was mass chaos. And you can see from that to this spring, when she, you know, went out of the Paris Open that the last year and a half has left a really big impact on her. And these celebrities that have the courage to come forward and say mental health and mental illness is as important as having a physical illness to talk about. Right. And that’s what we definitely need more of our leaders and celebrities, you know, bringing this into the open. And I think what I think with Now, that being the number one issue, hear from HR leaders, I think, you know, HR leaders are really charged with saying, you know, what can we do to take care of our people. But the difference that I see in this year is that many of the benefits are now being added to the family. Okay, it’s no longer just the benefits directed to the individual worker that you’re employing. With I think companies and forward looking HR leaders are saying, you know, this is an interconnected system here. And what can we do to help the entire family. And, you know, we have one of the examples in the report was Hewlett Packard. And there they have a program called HP Spirit. And they were very innovative in creating new employee resource groups on mental health and well being. And they also created a network of substitute teachers to help their employees manage home schooling. Again, you know, this is their issue that their workers are dealing with, and they need to provide the resources to help them. So I think that’s also I haven’t seen that level of expanding the target audience in just that way before.
Yeah, I guess my follow up Jeanne, I’d love for you to comment a little bit. And there’s a couple of examples in the report. And you know, I’m the HR tech person, etc. You’re always a big part of HR Tech as well as Trish. But we also are seeing increased use of technology tools and solutions to help employers Yes, offer more benefits, communicate them more effectively extend access, as you talked about Jeanne, maybe to family members, etc. Is there anything you found or just either with in putting together the report or just with the companies you work with, on how maybe technology can play a role in allowing employers to support the mental health of employees a little bit more effectively.
Jeanne Meister 15:04
Yeah, well, it’s definitely, you know, the golden age of tech enabled wellbeing solutions, that we from Lyra Health to Thrive Global and Virgin Pulse, which has been around for a while, I think the newest one, there’s a really interesting new one, which is called Secure Save. And it’s an employer match for emergency savings accounts, because companies are making the connection between financial stress and mental well being. That if you’re stressed about your finances, this is sort of an added level of stress. And it impacts you tremendously at work. And, you know, there’s a shot where a growing number of people have under $1,000, saved for, for a financial emergency. So what one of the interesting things that you’re seeing, essentially 37% of Americans cannot cover a $400 emergency. So what we’ve been seeing in the past with financial programs, you know, 401K, student loan assistance, right for millennials. Now, I think companies are saying, Well, you know, what, it’s, it’s, we have to create a benefit that appeals to everybody. And and with, you know, with a student loan assistance, they put a lot of money into that for millennials as a way to attract and retain millennials. But I think they’re stepping back and they’re saying, we need a benefit for all workers and emergency savings accounts and having your employer match is a really powerful one. So it’s another Tech solution, that I think is really, you know, it’s coming out at an important time because while it’s a strong market for talent, there’s still so much uncertainty. And you know, people are looking for new jobs, have jobs, others are losing jobs.
Yeah, I want to take a pause here and thank our friends at Paychex, Trish, let’s give them a shout out. This episode of the HR Happy Hour Show is brought to you by Paychex one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement and Insurance Solutions for businesses of all sizes. Are you looking for ways to help your business thrive in 2021 and beyond? If so, be sure to view the great sessions from the first ever Paychex business conference designed to help business leaders with insights, resources, solutions and actionable takeaways to help them build a better workplace a better team and a better business. This two day virtual event was full of prominent speakers like New York Times bestseller Cy Wakeman, to the star of ABC Shark Tank Daymond John, you do not want to miss out on these great sessions. So you can visit paychex.com/thrive to see them all and definitely recommend doing that if you haven’t yet some really cool stuff from our friends at Paychex. Jeanne, okay, so we hit mental health well being you know, it’s priority number one, of course, priority number two, according to the Sentiment Survey, no surprise, right. And adding diversity, equity inclusion throughout the the organization throughout the HR function throughout the organizational culture really, just maybe just open real open questions. Yeah, I’d love for you to maybe comment on that finding and maybe even some insight on what some organizations that you’ve talked to or surveyed are doing to try to really move the needle on that.
Jeanne Meister 19:06
Well, certainly, as you said Steve, no surprise after what we have gone through not just as a country, but really the world, right. Within 2020 I think the the change here has been the trend the increased transparency and accountability that companies are placing on D&I and so they’re looking for ways to increase the number of employees that are, you know, women or Latina, a minority, but importantly, the example I used in the in the report, the 2021 HR Sentiment Survey is that companies are creating annual reports, right, just focused on their progress, what their goals are for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and what is their progress against their goals. So they’re creating a level of accountability that they really haven’t created before. And we have when we asked how many people are doing this, we have 43% of the companies surveyed that are publicly traded have set public goals for diversity, equity and inclusion and another 38 are going to be doing that in 2022. So I think they’re saying, it’s not enough to hire one Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, we’re going to go public with this. And it comes at an interesting time, which is the SEC guidelines are now requiring public companies to report human capital metrics. And one of these is their progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion. So all of these things are coming together at the same time. And companies are, you know, really taking bold steps and creating, you know, I they’ve all we’ve already had many training programs on D&I and I think the issue now is, you know, how do we go beyond the one time training program and really build a culture and, and make the case for sourcing a more diverse talent pool? I think that’s one of the really important steps for many companies.
Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned Jeanne that there is so much focus on not just the measurement, but being so public about it, and that’s a big change. Because we’ve been talking about some of these topics, I know my entire career. So you know, 20-25 years. And so I think that’s the difference, though, it’s when whenever you start measuring something, you actually then are held accountable to it. And when I think back to maybe, when I was a practitioner, or talking to other practitioners, we didn’t have all the answers. But we would try and sort of put things in place, and then there was never any follow up in terms of measurement. Can you talk maybe about some of the creative ways that companies you’re working with are approaching this from a really sort of practical hands-on standpoint? I mean, obviously, they’re publicly stating, we’re going to measure this, we’re going to do this and measure this. Are there any that are, you’re starting to see already really kind of say, here’s some successes that we’re starting to see by doing it differently?
Jeanne Meister 22:39
I think the other trend that’s really part of diversity, equity, and inclusion is the trend where a growing number of publicly traded companies are saying, you don’t no longer need a four year degree to apply for a job. If you have the right skills and capabilities and can and can do the job, then apply. And so what that’s doing is they’re tapping a whole new set of sources for talent. And that’s much more diverse. So I think it needs to start with the hiring manager, and the recruiting manager, you know, challenging each other for what what are the roles we really need? And do we need a four year degree or not? And how can we challenge ourselves to look for talent in new places? And, you know, we have companies now creating their own boot camps. I mean, that, as you know, Steve, and Trish, you know, the it boot camps have been around for a while. And now companies are creating their own, they’re saying, you know, what, we’re, we’re just gonna, we think we can either retrain the people we have in technical skills, or create our own boot camps, and attract a more diverse group of talent, so that people, you know, will apply and have the right and will ensure they have the right skills. So if I think it started, I think so much of it starts with, you know, definitely making having, you know, definitely making a commitment, which we see more companies making, um, you know, starting with recruiting, but I think the other trend that’s coming into play here is consumers and employees are expecting their company to take a public stand on societal issues. And that is, I think, for the first time that you know, I’ve been tracking this. We have seen companies now being challenged by their employees to stand up and take a stand on these big societal issues. And that’s driving the increased level of account of of transparency and the seriousness of this issue to the organization.
Yeah Jeanne, that’s great. There’s so much we can get into on this. And I have some tech stories to tell, I’ll save them for another day, just because I’ve seen a couple of really cool technical tools and this cycle for Top HR products of the year of 2021, that really can do a lot of cool things, to help organizations not just improve this talent pool for sourcing, which is very important Jeanne, and you mentioned that, but also to really understand as people move through that funnel, that recruiting funnel and the processes where people are falling out where there could be some possible adverse impact, how to understand maybe potential for adverse impact, not just in at the macro level, but hey, in New York, this is happening. But in California, something else is happening, we’re hiring engineers in a certain way. And we’re hiring salespeople in a different way. And why is that happening? So it’s really cool stuff. I don’t want to name any specific company, because I’ve seen a couple versions of this. But yeah, I think that’s really important to understand that there are just like in the mental health and well being that you talked about, there’s a lot of really cool and emerging technologies that can really help organizations better understand some of these, these issues and help them improve. Jeanne before we run out of time. If you talk about it, some in the in the HR Sentiments Report. And prior to the show we were talking about companies now many companies announcing vaccination requirements for their employees to return to offices, which is going to be a huge issue in the next couple of months, for sure. It seems like but I’d love for Jeanne, maybe to comment a little bit about as we move forward, kind of what are HR leaders thinking? How are they approaching these reopenings of offices? How are they approaching some of these thorny issues, quite frankly, around vaccinations and testing in some cases? And how to prepare for maybe longer term and extension of these working from home or hybrid arrangements that seem that they’re going to last longer than I think many of us thought?
Jeanne Meister 27:29
Yeah, well, that right, your last statement was was so true. I know that we have monthly meetings with our members and future workplace. And I’ve always asked, you know, one of the first questions is, so when what are your plans for return to the office? And back a year ago, people would answer oh, yes, we’re going back, and they would choose a month and a year. Now, we just asked that question last week. And 60% said, I don’t know. Wow, it’s so fluid. So I think the change is when we started asking this question about vaccines. Companies were very hesitant to require the vaccine for going back to the office, right. And then you saw, you know, a number of lawsuits recently where employers do have the right to ask for you to have proof of vaccination. But the really interesting thing is that the incentives that companies are offering to get vaccinated. Vanguard, the mutual fund asset manager now is offering $1,000 to their employees to get vaccinated by October, well, their date for when they are going to be welcoming employees back.
I mean, if I worked for Vanguard, I probably would get a tattoo that said Vanguard on my arm if they gave me $1,000.
Jeanne Meister 29:15
Whoa, so I think New York City where I live, just announced yesterday that you have to have proof of vaccination to go inside to eat in a restaurant or go to a gym or museum. And I think it I think what’s happening is that all of the CDC rules are just changing so fast. And this is causing increased levels of stress and anxiety. I mean, I’m sure working parents are saying to themselves, will we see another year of remote homeschooling will schools be open in the fall?
Or even worse for schools and even some still lesser extent workplaces, but will they open and then be forced to close again, right? Like, and we’ll be doing that ping pong, Trish, your kids are in high school going back and forth a few times, right between home and in school.
They did. And I have twins that are starting their senior year here in another week. And obviously, we’re, you know, wanting to have a great senior year and do all the things that you do as seniors, but also it’s also thinking about colleges, you know, are they’re looking at going away from where we live. And so that plays into it, you know, are you willing to send your child to another state? What are the rules in that state? That was the one of the main questions we’ve had, as we’ve toured, different campuses, how are you handling your response to COVID? And to vaccination, and to quarantines and all those things. So yeah, it’s completely changed the entire way we live and work in a matter of 18 months, and to Jeanne’s point, there’s no side and it’s flexible. You don’t know. Yeah, we’re dealing with uncertainty.
It’s changing so fast. I feel like we did a show with the Rebecca Ray from the Conference Board. Yeah, it could have been maybe a month ago. And I feel like that show and we talked a lot about returning to work and some of the protocols and processes and just understand, I feel like probably half of that conversation is maybe not doesn’t make sense today, based on what’s happened in a month right? But it was a good conversation. But it is moving so quickly, we will probably do three more shows on this topic, probably in the next three months, right just to stay on top of it. The vaccination thing is particularly interesting to me. And maybe we should track down an employment lawyer to come on the show and talk about that a little bit. But alright, so we only scraped the surface Jeanne, of the HR Sentiment Survey, we talk really about sort of two of the big priorities, maybe two and a half of them, there are five key priorities that are outlined in the report. And we’re gonna encourage folks to download the report and read it and we’ll put post the link in the show notes as well. But the last thing, I’d be remiss personally, if I didn’t ask you to help me, but also the HR tech community, every year at HR tech in the fall, which we’re gonna be back together and lots of us in person. You’ve got a couple sessions that you’re putting together for us, I’d love you to just give us like a minute little preview or a little teaser on what you’re planning to, to share at HR tech this fall?
Jeanne Meister 32:43
Absolutely. Well, I’m really excited. I have two sessions. One is 21 New HR Jobs of the Future. So I wrote an article with my co-author, Rob Brown. And we also created an online course where we found people that have some of these jobs, like the head of remote work, we had no idea when we wrote that article in August 20, there would be so many oh my gosh, right, or the director of well being or the director, the future of work. So we’re pulling a few of those folks together. And we’re gonna have a panel discussion about what do they actually do in their jobs? Right? These are really new HR jobs. What are some of the skills who do they report to? And are we going to and what are some of the newest of the new jobs that that we see that are going to unfold? The other one is, um, how companies are using virtual reality for soft skills. And we have three different companies and each of those companies are going to share an example of how they’re using virtual reality either to interview new potential hires, right, or to have to help employees practice making sales presentations using an avatar. So you know, I think the other big use case we’re going to talk about is using virtual reality for new hire onboarding, because you can’t go to the office when you orient your new hires. So I think we’ve done teacher workplace, quite a bit of research and, and one of the things we found is almost three quarters of HR leaders either have piloted VR or say they’re going to pilot VR for training in the next year. And it’s not surprising. I think the real question is, of all the all the training that is now moved from face to face, like soft skills and communication skills to some other online like, like virtual reality or just online. Will that stay? Will that be the new normal? And, you know, I can’t imagine there being a lot. I can’t imagine people going backwards to me in my head is going backwards. But I will say, but I think companies are now really experimenting that it’s not just online learning. It’s how can we use VR to simulate immersive learning?
Yeah, what one of the VR tech companies sent Trish and I don’t know, maybe some others as well. Sample headsets, tester headsets, I still have mine, I got to put it on again and try it. I really played with it a little bit. But the little bit that I did, and Trish, I don’t know if you ever comment a little bit I did with it. I was like, wow, this is the coolest thing ever. You know, like really cool. I had all these different courses. And I could just point and click and bring up the various courses. And some of them were soft skills, as you mentioned, and others were very like, one of them was like, aircraft mechanic tutorial, right. So they so hard skill, right? Like it’s cool, though. And it’s definitely leading edge but super cool.
Jeanne Meister 36:30
Yeah, yeah. So that’s what we’re going to be talking about. And I look forward to seeing you and welcoming lots of other folks. Absolutely.
Absolutely. Well, great stuff, Jeanne. Thanks as always for being a part of the HR Happy Hour family. Now you’re like, I think one guest appearance away from a surprise.
It’s a really nice gift too. It’s a really nice gift. Okay. It’s not like a green jacket. Like if you’re a golfer, but it’s it’s pretty nice. Yeah.
It’s equally prestigious.
Well, it’s very prestigious. Yeah.
I think only three people have won, I can’t remember. So the report is called the Future Workplace 2021 HR Sentiment Survey, Five Strategic Priorities for the Hybrid Workplace, you can go to futureworkplace.com there’ll be a link for ebooks, you can get to the survey there. I’ll also put a link in the show notes for anyone to download and read the report. It’s fantastic. Really, really good stuff, help you kind of organize your thinking about the second half of 2021 or the end of 2021 and moving forward. Jeanne Meister thanks so much once again, great to see you glad you’re well.
Jeanne Meister 37:43
Thank you so much Steve and Trish. See you in Vegas.
All right, good stuff. Trish. We thank our friends at Paychex one more time, paychex.com/thrive for all the Thrive business conference content, we recommend you check that out. And check out all our show archives, where Trish?
Wherever you get your favorite podcasts.
And go to HR HappyHour.net. So thank you for Jeanne Meister, for Trish McFarlane, my name is Steve Boese. Thank you so much for listening and we will see you next time and bye for now.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai