Personal and Professional Leadership for 2024

Hosted by

Steve Boese

Co-Founder of H3 HR Advisors and Program Chair, HR Technology Conference

Trish Steed

CEO and Principal Analyst, H3 HR Advisors

About this episode

Personal and Professional Leadership for 2024

Hosts: Steve Boese & Trish Steed

Guest: Ben Brooks, Founder & CEO of PILOT

Today, we met with Ben Brooks from PILOT to discuss 2024 trends and the evolving terrain of entrepreneurship, leadership, and professionalism within the remote work era. The conversation addressed the nuances of efficiency, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as well as the rising influence of artificial intelligence (AI). Beyond trends, we explored the intricate challenges and progress in cultivating DEI in the workplace. A special focus was placed on the importance of embracing neurodiversity and recognizing the potential of emerging leaders in this dynamic professional landscape.


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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. Are you ready to drive growth and tackle the challenges ahead in the new year? With insights from 600 business and HR leaders, Paychex has just released its 2024 Business Priorities Report revealing the strategies you need to succeed. Packed with insider tips on improving employee benefits to automating workflows, this report is your strategic roadmap to success. Get ahead of the game and download your copy today at Business success this year is just a click away.

Transcript follows:

Announcer 0:00
Welcome to At Work in America, sponsored by Paychex. 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 Steed.

Steve 0:27
Hi, everyone, welcome to the At Work in America podcast. I’m Steve Boese. And I’m joined by Trish Steed. How are you today?

Trish 0:33
I’m good, Steve, how are you?

Steve 0:35
I am well. I’m excited to be doing the show. Still early in the year. And this is going to be a great show. It’s one of our traditions here on the At Work in America HR Happy Hour Media Network podcast, welcoming back our longtime friend, Ben Brooks to the show here in a minute. And I’m excited for that conversation.

Trish 0:53
I am to. Ben always has so many lessons when he comes on the show because he presents such practical tips and advice about what organizational leaders can be doing. And especially this time of year, I know we usually have a sort of a mid summer check in with him as well. And so yeah, I’m looking forward to the conversation.

Steve 1:12
So you want to check that out. You want to watch it on YouTube as well. If you haven’t yet, we will be posting on YouTube and you will get to see both Trish’s dog ,one of her dogs and Ben’s new dog as well, which is exciting stuff. But let’s thank our friends at Payches. This episode of At Work in America is sponsored by Paychex, the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement and insurance solutions for businesses of all sizes. Are you ready to drive growth and tackle the challenges ahead in the new year with insights from 600 business and HR leaders? Paychex has just released its 2024 business priorities report revealing the strategies you need to succeed, with rising interest rates and inflation. Along with the struggles to keep top talent and develop leadership. It can be tough out there.

Steve 1:56
But this report reveals that a whopping 98% of companies are planning to use artificial intelligence to help tackle these issues. And that’s just the beginning. Packed with insider tips on improving employee benefits to automating workflows. This report is your strategic roadmap, where success get ahead of the game and download your copy today at Business success this year is just a click away. Good stuff. Thank you Paychex.

Steve 2:31
Trish, this is going to be fun. Let’s get on with the show. We are excited to welcome our guest and friend of the show today back with us for the end of time. We have Ben Brooks. He is the founder and CEO of PILOT, an award winning employee career development software platform. Inspired by his successful CEO and coaching practice, Ben saw an opportunity to democratize executive coaching and empower employees at scale. Ben, welcome back to the show for the eighth time. fantastic to see you. How are you?

Ben Brooks 3:06
Happy New Year. I’m loving to be here. I’ve been looking forward to this all week. And yeah, 2024 is off to a great start.

Trish 3:12
I’m so excited that you’re here, Ben and eight times I think we’d have to check. I think that’s the record right now. Anyone? Maybe Steve, we need like a special like 10 You know, anniversary when you hit the 10th episode, right?

Steve 3:28
Ben will be the first one I’m certain.

Ben Brooks 3:32
I look forward to it. So. But yeah, I’m glad. Glad to be here. Lots of talk about and the years off to a great start.

Trish 3:38
Good. Well, you know what, for those who may not be familiar with you and with PILOT, and just in general, I know you’ve had some life changes recently. So maybe just spend a couple minutes talking about who you are and what you do and all about PILOT,

Ben Brooks 3:54
Yeah, so I’m based in New York City where I’ve lived for almost 20 years I used to be in HR and the corporate side Marsh McLennan owns Mercer and was the senior vice president of HR there learned a lot about all the potential that HR can bring and all the challenges it is to be an HR to deliver on that potential. And I have a lot of empathy for the heroes that we have in the in the function and their profession. I about 10 years ago left the corporate world for a break never thought I’d be an entrepreneur but founded an executive and CEO coaching practice and pretty quickly after that founded a separate company pilot with the idea of how do we get more people to feel powerful at work. So our mission is we want everyone to feel powerful at work. So we’ll be coming up on you know, it’d be 10 years that we’ve been working on this company later this year, which is hard to believe. You all have been great supporters along the way and I and given us great visibility and encouragement and things like the pitch Fest and everything else that Steve you’re involved with the contracts and so it’s been great, but we finished in 2023 in a really good spot. One of things I’m most proud of is we have 100% customer retention.

Steve 4:59
Wow. I’ll congratulate, pretty much unheard of Ben, because of you could be the greatest software and services provider in the world, but you’re going to get some turnover, right? It just happens companies go out of business or they, they get bought out by another company, etc, etc. So 100% is remarkable. So congrats on that.

Ben Brooks 5:16
Thank you. Yeah, and we, you know, we work with big, small, nonprofit public private. So it’s a mix, and to your point, all the environmental factors that can happen, but our net revenue retention is well over 100%. So we grew a lot of those accounts and most of our competitors, and a lot of folks in the space last year 2023 was the year of efficiency, right? So a very easy way to cut costs as third party services and software and consulting and things. And so that that was a true testament to our team, and our product and our culture. And another great accomplishment, we rolled out a new set of values and operating principles for the company, that I think are gonna form a book we’re working on, but really kind of redefining Professionalism and Leadership at the every seat level, and in particular, in a remote and hybrid context. And so we’ve got a bunch of those who are actually starting to roll out to different companies, and really getting people out a very aspirational sort of, you know, catchy, you know, exciting way to redefine what it looks like to be a modern professional and a remote and hybrid era.

Ben Brooks 6:13
So, great year, we started off and then we’re off in a bunch of new customers bunch of new logos, bunch of new things and off to the races. This year with some new customers already and getting mentored by some big company, AMC Networks. We are a kickoff in our mentoring as a diverse supplier. We’re a certified LGBT owned business. And so we get mentored. And so you know, EY has been a mentor of ours. And we had to go to their big entrepreneurship summit and AMC Networks is now mentoring so we’re just really pleased with the support we get from the business community in that regard. And some life updates I did get a puppy last week.

Steve 6:48
That was it. I was just leading into this on top of that wasn’t enough bad you became a new dad if you will. A puppy very recently and that’s it and I’m not even kidding.

Trish 7:01
Show the puppy.

Ben Brooks 7:02
POP proof of puppy so this this is little Jetson, taking a nap so Jetson is a mini American Eskimo and we’ll be about 16 pounds right now he’s 11 weeks he’s about six and a half pounds.

Steve 7:18
Remarkably chill which was very chill.

Ben Brooks 7:22
We already have lessons. And he already was litter box trained and knows how to retrieve and he’s you know, but this is naptime right now. So give a puppy kiss and put him down. But if you want if you want us to follow his adventures, he’s on Instagram. Let’s Jetson is his Instagram and he’s gonna have a lot of sass. A lot of insights. A lot of things a lot, a lot of cuteness to interrupt your doom scrolling.

Trish 7:45
That is a lot of cuteness. Yes. You know what to though I have to tell you, I think that it says something about people when they are pet owners, right? It gives you insight into personality, and just how they interact with the world. And then to see it. That’s to me, that’s been my favorite part of since we started like pandemic times when people started working at home and you’re seeing not just their space, but their pets. Yes. Love that. Love it.

Ben Brooks 8:13
Yeah, remember that same, you know, bring your whole self to work from like a DEI perspective. It was like now sort of bring your work to your whole self. And you see people how they design or decorate, or you see the kids or you see I remember, we were on a call with HSBC bank. And this woman was visiting her dad in London, and they’re Indian, but her parents live in, and he’s in the background, and she’s on a call and he gets in the back of the camera and starts doing this dance and they can silly faces. And she’s mortified. And we’re like loving it. We’re like, who’s you’re actually the most fun person in the world. And so that we just started this whole relationship that we would have, he would have never been at the HSBC offices, but he was in his home. And he had some fun with it. And it was, you know, and that was like the first meeting. And our chemistry from then on was insane. Because of this human moment. Yeah.

Trish 9:02
So you know, I have a kind of follow up on that, then Ben, I know, we have other things to talk about, too. But like, so I mean, obviously, you’re coaching a lot of different people, obviously, you know, started with the executive level, and now you’re coaching kind of all through an organization. Has that helped us as you know, workers being able to have those different types of more personal connections? Or is it kind of too early to tell if that’s actually helped us in the workplace by knowing people more personally.

Ben Brooks 9:30
I mean, that if you look at sort of diplomacy, and people with the State Department and things like that, you know, one of the key things to getting along is getting to know someone better. And we talked about building a relationship and some of our traditional ways of going out for drinks or to a football game or steak dinner or those sort of things are golfing, etc. are ways to do that. But sometimes we can build a relationship just by seeing that, you know, we’ve got flowers in the background on our zoom and talking about that and how I ended up getting flowers every week and what I that’s a thing. So I think that it certainly helped. And I think in particular, for folks that maybe weren’t always at the pinnacle of like in person events, a lot of people, you know, get aren’t out of the office, they get stuck behind you have the most senior people, they’re on the private jets, or they’re in a Davos, they’re doing these things, and they’re out and about. So I think it just gives more visibility and kind of flattens the organization. When we all have the, I guess, the democratization of our rectangles here on Zoom and teams and everything else.

Steve 10:28
Yeah, then it’s still still going to be a, I think, a semi permanent, if not permanent part of the fabric of work moving forward. Right? The, the, despite all the very well publicized executives from big companies, banks, for example, have done this in financial services and some tech companies as well, trying to get everybody to come back to the workplace in person, maybe as much as five times a week. Those are the outliers really, right. And most of most of professional work is settled into a hybrid model of some fashion. Right? And so these kinds of interactions that we’re talking about, and building relationships, facilitated by some in person, but also virtually, is that just going to be how work is going forward?

Ben Brooks 11:11
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that the certain things, obviously, it’s hard to do heart surgery over zoom. No, although there is remote robotic surgeries are pretty incredible. But But nonetheless, there’s certain work that definitely needs to be done in person. But this is sort of where it’s going to be. And the other thing is that, you know, the labor market, I heard PwC, or PNC Bank, as well as EYs, chief economist, I got to hear the two of them talk last fall. And they talked about a structural change, and basically labor and on a global basis, not just us, not just knowledge worker. And essentially, they’re like, for the next 30 years, their prediction was labor is going to be tight, they said, there’s going to be more demand for labor than there is supply of people. And so ultimately, when that’s the case, labor is gonna get the talent, the employees are gonna get what they want, which is fundamentally flexibility.

Ben Brooks 12:01
And if you think a lot about inclusion, and if you do research anything around women in the workplace, you want to make a female friendly workplace provide flexibility, and whether someone’s a parent or not, like, there’s a whole host of other reasons for that. And so I think that the technology allows for the flexibility, which drives the inclusion, and all of that makes you more desirable. And so then, you know, companies are going to be forced to be competitive, rather than just what someone wants. So you know, so some, so bank executive wants everyone back, that’s fine for now. But one of the predictions I talked about late last year was around the idea that this, you know, who’s in the office, or how many days is sort of really masking the bigger structural issues around culture and workplace? And, you know, how do we collaborate in a hybrid environment. And we’re really kind of focused on sort of proximity rather than performance.

Trish 12:51
I’m so glad you mentioned that, because I think that we’ve talked a lot over the last few years about hybrid, and that has a lot of focus, and it will continue. But flexibility is just a more broad approach. Like you said, there are people that just have other reasons they need to be out of the office. And it may not be on a regular cadence it but giving your people the, I guess, trust and empowering them to make those decisions, those life decisions about how they spend their work time and where they spend their work time is bound to help you with retaining them, or even attracting them to begin with, you know, we hear from Gen Z all the time, when we’re talking with them and doing our research that that’s a big thing they want, they’re not talking about hybrid specifically, they want just flexibility and consideration solely.

Ben Brooks 13:37
I think there are important things in life. And I think, you know, it used to be that work worked was the primary dominant thing. And it was almost almost like in a room, you know, if you’re designing a room, you have the biggest piece of furniture and everything else has to work around it. You know, you have a big old couch in the living room. And then y’all where’s the table? Go? Where’s this work was that big couch? And it was like, everything had to work around it. And I think, you know, we’re thinking differently about, hey, are these pieces maybe a little bit more interchangeable and a little bit more, even in size in people’s minds to navigate with because whether it’s taking care of someone’s well being their health, you know, we talked about it, we had an internal meeting that pilot about people’s mental well being in December, you know, we think oh, the holidays, but the holidays can dredge up a lot of stuff around loss, right? estrangement, love family, like a lot of you know, my pressure.

Steve 14:28
Often that comes in with the holidays, right? If you’re putting on the best holiday and trying to get your significant person in your life or your kids that just the right presents, right, and all of that too.

Ben Brooks 14:38
Tons of pressure, tons of expectation, tons of family. So, so we talked about, you know, just our overview of our benefits, I became a Benefits Administrator again, and and we just went through like we have a really fabulous EAP program through just works that we work with their PTO and you know, we have you know, talkspace and we got Aetna actually said I will pay people out of my own pocket I will pay them every one of the company, and incentive, you know, through my personal Venmo, my personal checking account, if they went and booked an appointment with someone confidentially to work on anything, and you can work on, you know, saving money or or weight loss or nutrition or sleep or any addiction, whatever it may be.

Ben Brooks 15:16
And so, you know, I think it’s one of those things in terms of flexibility is also including taking care of ourselves. And even as simple as a weekly therapy appointment. Sometimes you can’t see a therapist on Saturday morning, you have to see a therapist at Tuesday at two o’clock. And so to be able to say, Hey, I’ve got a thing, and that thing needs to be my thing, and I can’t really move my thing, right. That’s a very important part of when we say flexibility, it may just be for one hour a week. But you have to be able to do something during quote unquote, work hours, and that can make the world of difference if someone can get the care or support that they need.

Trish 15:49
Yeah, I agree. I think now that it’s more commonplace and better accepted to even ask for that. Because I think you know, probably when we all started our careers that was less of an option to even ask for an hour to go see. seek therapy. Sorry, I have a puppy that wants to visit. He’s like, Oh, there we go. Not nearly as cute and young, but he’s 17. And he he is blind. This is Marco.

Ben Brooks 16:15
Marco. Marco is a cutie. I want to snuggle with Marco.

Trish 16:20
He’s like what’s going on? Okay. All right. So he just needs a little.

Steve 16:26
I’ll say this quickly. It is inside before we get back into talking with bed is for folks listening to this on the podcast, right? We are posting these now part of our 2024 kind of new things we’re doing Ben is we’re are posting these videos onto YouTube, which is not something we had done. So you can see Ben’s cute dog and Trish’s cute dog, if you want to see them, you can hop over to our YouTube channel and actually watch as well as listen to this podcast. So I thought I’d say that.

Ben Brooks 16:53
The fresh bouquet of flowers that was given to so if you’re not if you’re not a dog person, you’re just a flower, green thumb. There’s something for everyone. So check out the video.

Steve 17:02
Yeah, that’s awesome. Then, you mentioned quickly predictions and kind of trends and thoughts about 2024, which is one of the reasons why we always invite you back at the beginning part of the year, and somewhat to talk a little bit about kind of what the new year might have in store, in the world of work and in workplaces, etc. I know you did a whole hour on this at the end of the year. So maybe we won’t dive into everyone. But is there one or two things that came up in those conversations you had, at the end of the year that maybe are worth talking about?

Ben Brooks 17:31
Yeah, so we’ve partnered with Paychex, and another partner of yours as well, along with HR executive magazine. And you know, we’d love partnering with all those groups, and Paychex in HR, you’d asked us to kind of do a bunch of research around kind of across HR, what are the big trends, we narrowed it down to five, and I’ll go through them very, very, very quickly. One of them we already started to mention, but one is the continued focus on efficiencies, you know, Mark Zuckerberg famously called 2023, the year of efficiency. A lot of organizations made a theory of efficiency, but then CFOs have gotten a taste. And they want more, especially after a great resignation and inflation and supply chain costs. There’s a huge desire to cut costs, and there’s momentum. So your efficiency trend, one trend to the struggle over where people sit when they work, right hybrid or in person will continue. But that is sort of a false battle that masks the real culture and collaboration issues and modernizing the way we work. So there’s going to still be a tug of war. But we’re really just avoiding actually, some of the things we talked about before the third DEI is going to remain a very competitive priority. It is hype in the media cycle right now that it’s all being slashed, etc, we found a bunch of research that dei spend increased last year.

Ben Brooks 18:43
And you know, a lot of folks, you know, again, what’s changing is the messaging, because they’re having to be a little bit less, you know, you know, dei and all capital letters, but the underlying with the labor market and things like that organizations need to have labor that they can get from all pools, right. And they need to represent customers from multiple segments and global. So it’s remaining a competitive priority. And we’ve actually seen very little pullback into EI, it just is getting implemented and slightly clever, less sort of hanging a banner on the front of the building way. The fourth trend is around pushback on on HR tech expenses and investments. There’s a lot more scrutiny right? 10 years ago, everyone was buying slack on a corporate card and doing this and it was fast and loose. Procurement, finance IT security is locking down the ability to turn on little things here and there and try this. So the bar has gotten much higher for HR to try to bring in something even on a trial or proof of concept basis. And again, it ties back to the year of efficiency, but they know the easiest cost to cut is the one you never take on in the first place. And so there’s this big bouncer at the door. That’s the huge says make it’s harder for HR to innovate now, because there’s more red tape and strings. And then the fifth is AI, peak, peak peak hype cycle, extremely low delivery on promise. So we look AI is going to change the world, but we haven’t seen it yet. Right? I asked AI chat GPT for which I love and I use for a lot of great things that I’m, you know, just to give me the headcount of 10 different companies that I listed, and it couldn’t do it.

Ben Brooks 20:20
And it needed me to feed them all individually, and this and that, and I talked to some engineers, and they’re like, Yep, it’s like not able to do some like something, it’d be like a very simple thing. And so there’s a lot of the hallucinations, everything else. So especially in HR, HR is one of the last places that I think we’re gonna see AI implemented, because it’s too risky to eff up. Imagine AI doing all your payroll, and all of a sudden, some people it thinks some people are part time that are not because they were on vacation, and then their paycheck is wrong, or your employer relations and your labor compliance, or your staffing assignments, or your performance ratings or your comp structures. AI is going to not go to these sort of touch the nerve things. AI is going to go primarily to engineering, because everyone talks about marketing and content marketing, writing, blogs, marketing, people are cheap relative to engineers, when you can have engineering be more efficient on workflows and automation and concurrent programming and testing. That’s where we’re gonna see where engineers are really expensive. And they’re really scarce, right? Really hard to find really hard to keep, you’re gonna see more technology deployed in those sorts of areas. And so as it relates to HR, every, you know, you know, media company out there is AI is this and this and this almost zero CHROs. I’m talking to really care. They care about the business priorities that they have. So those are Steve, I went a little long, but those are the five big trends.

Steve 21:42
It’s great Ben. And I’m sure we can, we can link back out to the full, you know, hour long discussion were you had about diving into these trends.

Ben Brooks 21:50
We have the recording a summary, we have a takeaway tip sheet, we have a bunch of things we’d love to provide to the audience.

Steve 21:55
Absolutely. We can we can do that. And I think they’re all interesting. And that sort of lines up. Trish, I think with a lot of what we’ve heard and what we’ve done our research for for 2024 as well. I think the one maybe we could dive into a bit more here on this conversation would be kind of the subtle changes in DEI specifically right, because as you mentioned, we have seen a lot of media and a little bit of energy and push back, if you will, right on, on ways DEI really should companies really be investing in it is is it fundamentally correct? Is it is it unfair? There’s some there was some fall off from the Supreme Court decision which affected college and university admissions. Right, which was maybe about halfway through 2023. I think that went down. And and so while that that specifically that decision was about colleges and university admissions, some organizations are feeling boy, we better think about our own DNI initiatives, big and small, right? To make sure we’re not going to be the next group that’s perhaps taken even to court about these things. I’d love for you to share some thoughts around that and how you think perhaps that maybe it’s been a little bit too much hype about the pullback from DNI.

Ben Brooks 23:10
Yeah, I think that certainly there is a lot of conversations happening, right. And in particular, dei became a bit of a dis, you know, in America, at least we’re, you know, pretty divided country right now on a lot of different factors. And dei turned out being one of those things that wound up as a political talking point, you know, that, and even ESG, right, you think this inocula sort of thing that was, you know, also ESG was and everything else, and so you’ve got certain state legislatures, you know, banning, you know, books or offices of DEI, where, you know, it state colleges and universities and these things that are symbolic in nature, you know, but they, but it’s meant to be that kind of declaring war. And some of this is, you know, I think a stasis, right? If you have any sort of system in nature, things swing and you often kind of, you know, you look, you know, part of the reason you know that if you look at like, you know, Trump getting elected, Obama moves the country forward in a lot of ways, and maybe some folks felt too far right. And so part of Trump getting elected was kind of like making it making a great again, it’s kind of bringing it back to some middle ground, we’ve made a lot of progress in di right, but there’s kind of a pullback to what is this thing, so you always with change in any sort of group or system and environment. When you make a lot of progress, you’re always going to get this slide back to try to pull to some sort of stasis. And that’s not about the content of DEI. That’s just about change right in dei in the landscape. And obviously, with George Floyd’s murder, a lot of companies made a lot of public proclamations. You look at the the 2010s and the odds, but really, the 10s LGBTQ progress was like a rocket ship. In terms of the amount of things that happened. I was involved in Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, and we got marriage, all these other different things, non discrimination, but nonetheless, we’ve a lot has changed. And so if there has been some blowback and you look at the media media, we’ll talk about tech layoffs, right.

Ben Brooks 24:59
Oh my gosh, you know, Microsoft laid off, you know, 20,000 people, but the story doesn’t say in the last two years, Microsoft hired 200,000 people, and then they laid off 20. So they’re up net 180, right, that doesn’t get there, because that’s not a great headline that says, you know, Microsoft is up, you know, this manufactures gets 20,000. Again, I don’t want to minimize anyone losing a job, I’ve lost a job, it’s a sensitive thing. So I’m not minimizing the human impact of that, but is to look at the whole picture. So so and so tech company let go there had a dei doesn’t mention that they’re going to backfill them, because that person maybe wasn’t a culture fit. Or maybe it wasn’t set up to succeed, or they’re trying to change their strategy. But in general, organizations are realizing, in particular, the board of directors of public companies, if you want to get their attention, say ESG. And they know that they’re being benchmark, Dow Jones and other organizations have indices, talent development, as a part of that supplier diversity, corporate social responsibility, diversity, equity inclusion, all of that is in a metric that then is looked at by institutional investors, by analysts. And if you want to know what matters in a public company, it’s what’s on the earnings call, and the analyst briefings, the investor updates, and these things ladder up to things that matter at that level. And it’s not the performative nature of Oh, we got to make some big statement or do this or do that, that’s not changing, in fact, that need, you know, the focus on ESG is increasing at that level, what’s sometimes changing is that I’m seeing organizations that, you know, you know, said like, DEI was going to just change everything, and is a way to be so enthusiastic or sort of saying, Hey, this is an we need to embed this as a part of everything we do.

Ben Brooks 26:42
And rather than have it be so front and center, they’re saying, we should consider dei and are responsible sourcing, we should consider dei and how we assess talent and pay equity and do comp, we should consider dei and how we do marketing and multicultural marketing and target different. And so it becomes this like capability in this lens, rather than this like warrior movement, which again, some people felt excluded from some of these things. And so that’s the we’re I’m seeing, and I’d love to know, attrition in Steve, what are you seeing in the market? Because, again, I think that the news story, the DEI is dead, is just not true. It’s just a little bit less loud.

Trish 27:23
Well, I love the examples you shared, I think, you know, especially that sort of last minute, you’ve talked, really, it’s about the progress that an organization makes when you are at the point where you can have it embedded into what you’re doing. Right. I go back as far as the 90s, when it started really coming to the forefront at the beginning where it was basically a checklist, have I hired this many people, right? So you move from sort of having it be that front and center, get everybody on board? To me, it’s such a good thing, when it becomes part of just that thing that’s woven into the culture? Yes, of course, we’re going to think about it throughout every single phase of an employee lifecycle. And I don’t know, it’s almost, you know, it’s obviously better to have it front and center when you have nothing that you’re starting from, right. But to me, it’s a better step when you get to the point where it is embedded. And I think that’s, you know, I wrote down the rest of the story. I don’t know if you remember Paul Harvey, he used to be on like AM radio, right? Oh, yeah, you can even get it on a podcast. And what I always liked about that was it is the rest of the story. And and you’re right, with so many things that we hear about in the news, it is a soundbite. Other than, you know, if you’re an HR leader, your business leader, and you’re thinking about this, where where would you tell people to go to sort of help get the rest of the story, especially around Dei? Because I think sometimes that’s maybe a myths where we don’t really know where to find out some of those facts. To fact, check the headlines, do you have a site or two or just a resource or a person that you kind of go to as as an expert in that?

Ben Brooks 28:57
Well, there’s the thing, sometimes I can’t hear what you’re saying, because of how loud you’re being. And I tend to avoid people on the polls, okay. Either way, people that are like, dei is evil and awful, and want to get rid of it, or everyone, you know, we have to redo all of society and make it you know, like, restructure everything like either of those are like extremist views. So part of it is one, I keep a collection of people I follow on social media that have different views, I’m always informed, but I’m always looking, you know, you look at you know, you know, Bloomberg, for instance, Bloomberg, you know, has a certain editorial standards, certain number of factual third party citations that are numerical, per words in their Bloomberg style guidelines. So when I read a Bloomberg article, actually get a lot of data, right from something like that, or I spend more time you know, looking at like LinkedIn and some of the conversations around some of these articles because that’s kind of the the rest of the story can sometimes be like, well, you know, it’s great that you know, Axios put this piece up or the New York Times or, you know, Fox News or whatever the organization, it doesn’t matter. But here’s some additional texture, right because only so much content and 1000 words are in a three minute segment on cable. So I think part of it is also kind of getting some context in my social networks. I do think LinkedIn has been a fairly respectful place to talk about some of this, sometimes it gets a little bit polarizing. But you know, again, look at that no barking, we’re working on no barking with the buzzer, which is really good.

Ben Brooks 30:19
But you know, so but I think, you know, it’s also you got to do your own independent analysis and critical thinking, like, Does this make sense? Or if only hear it from one person who’s super fervent about it? Am I actually like, is that really who I should be believing? And you know, and again, getting a diversity of perspectives about diversity, including people that are sort of not believers, or anti, you know, I’ve tried to, you know, bring all of that in, and then kind of synthesize it myself and do my own thinking.

Trish 30:46
I love those suggestions. Thank you so much.

Steve 30:48
Yeah, Ben, thank you. And I’d say in general, I would, I’m thinking too tends to agree with this positioning as well. It’s maybe pulling back from some of the DNI initiatives as very front center, and very hyped up, if you will, if that’s the right word, or, and maybe just making them a little bit more ingrained into processes part, try to incorporate them more into just the everyday fabric of the organization, emphasize their importance, but not necessarily, maybe because certain executives, right, as you said, maybe don’t want to have to fight these battles in the media, but they will still want to continue this work, because they know it’s important for customers, for employees for communities, right. And for certainly we can be it’s a whole nother show to talk about what the newest generation of workers who are entering the workforce will tend to expect and demand from their organizations, which always happens like it happens with every generation. Right, then the younger cohort tends to be a little more open minded, a little bit more interested in some of these issues, right than perhaps older folks are so I do I do sense that as well. Like so I guess, like you said, much like with layoffs, right, because we layoffs make the news, right? We scream headlines, but yet the unemployment rate in the United States is very near it’s generational. 50 year low, right? Job openings are still quite near all time highs, right? All the things right and talk to organization after organization for organization and difficulty finding talent keeping talent, right, that’s not changed at all.

Ben Brooks 32:23
The narrative could be Oh, the economy’s in the tank. And yet, you know, the stock market’s been a frickin tear the markets at an all time high, right? Inflation is inflation is stalled gas prices are low, all this stuff, but then the narrative is like the economy’s bad, right? I think that that was where you have to like, again, do your own independent thinking and analysis, not just buy into the narrative. And I will say that the big shift and dei that’s happened, at least in my, you know, 15, or 20 years of being a part of kind of the movement, I’m definitely a pro Dei, and I’m, you know, an out CEO, or certified diverse own business, etc. But you know, it’s moved from sort of a moralistic cause that like the right thing to do, which is sort of what you got early on the adoption curve of dei was, yeah, like this from a values or morals perspective. Most of the laggards have gotten on board, because it’s a competitive necessity. To your point about, we can’t get enough talent. Well, if we seem exclusionary to women, let’s say your huge segment of talent, you’re going to be repelling, you’re not going to fill jobs, you’re not going to be able to service revenue, you’re going to have lower profits, right. So that’s where it’s become a competitive thing. Or, hey, like Biagio, one of our customers, they sell spirits and liquor, and one of the fastest growing categories is non alcoholic spirits. Yeah, they have a great product called seedlip that I love, and you know, and it’s in, it’s actually a liquor that they still like pull the liquor out of it, it’s made in England, it’s beautiful, the bottles of it.

Ben Brooks 33:47
But like, if you didn’t have a perspective of people, if you only hire people to drink, the drink alcohol, like you wouldn’t have people considering these segments. So it doesn’t always have to be race or gender, right? It can be kind of, you know, can be, you know, faith. It can be perspective, it can be background, it can be military, so it’s like, I think capital D on the diversity side, but then part of the inclusion is how do we bring up and have it not be the Antichrist to say, Should we make a alcohol free spirit at a company where spirits on the moon and no different than a car company saying, Should we make an Eevee? When we’re internal internal combustion engine, you know, you get that’s also part of it. And so part of this is back to the competitiveness, and can you make a profit or achieve whatever the shareholder responsibilities are the fiduciary responsibility organization? Can you do that in in a world where in a country where we’re going to be majority, minority demographics and 2040 and where the all of the new expansion markets are people of minority demographics? We like this is just about like, can we be successful? Not like, is this moralistically the right cause? It’s like, can we operate in this context?

Steve 34:57
Yeah we’re marching just the demographics alone, Ben. And many parts of the country in many parts of the world, certainly here are moving to the point where say diversity hiring is just hiring now, right? It’s just, it’s not diversity hiring anymore. It’s just how you have to hire to keep your organization functioning right at the level to which you need. So that’s what’s really happening. And I think smart organizations have understood that for a while. Totally. Yeah.

Trish 35:22
I like when you were sort of talking about, you know, all these things in, in relation to people in relation to the workplaces, they all ebb and flow. And when you think about the fact that human resources, we Steve and I were talking the other day, Human Resources is still relatively young as a practice, right? Um, you know, I’m 53, human resources did not exist when I was born. Right. So that’s young. And then you think about, even if we’re talking about 20 years of having any sort of focus on DEI, it’s we’re pioneers, what you’re seeing organizations do is actually be pioneers in regard to how you can have a more successful business by opening your mind and expanding who you hire. And I love the example of the, you know, sort of the non alcoholic spirits, because you’re right, I think when you really think about what’s going to help your business be better, and hire people who can help you do that, then it starts falling in place a little bit more than sort of, like that big, big focus on it, right? It’s just how do you want to be a better business and, and to be a pioneer, maybe in your industry by having really good practices around the way you hire? Period, right?

Ben Brooks 36:33
We’re tapping into some of the most tribal humanistic biases and prejudices. So we say DEI, like is this just like corporate initiative is sort of like, Oh, we’re gonna put things in the cloud, like great that, you know, digitization, it’s a trend, you know, like globally, like, but dei is getting different people from different tribes to be together. And from an evolutionary perspective, that was not like you, you figured out who was different, who was safe and who wasn’t and pattern recognition, you know. And so this is something that is activating all sorts of history and traumas and biases and beliefs. And so it’s not a simple thing, where versus saying, Hey, we’re going to make high nines, digital, or we’re going to do an engagement survey on a mobile device, right? Or we’re going to, you know, we’re going to figure out how to do you know, what pay on demand, like those things are, you can kind of get around and they’re just less sort of, you know, historically fraught, or have a lot of emotion or other things around them. So HR is doing something that really is actually a fundamentally shifting the way humans interact and behave, which is like the hardest behavior change you could imagine.

Ben Brooks 37:42
So no wonder it’s a little rocky No wonder we’re hitting some potholes and having a couple of blown out tires, like we’re on a rocky journey, but it’s one that we continue to need to go down. And we’re, I think, part of change and driving change. My friend, Robbie Hammond, he co founded the highline here in New York, which is the elevated park and you know, took him like 20 years to make that happen. Him and his co founder, Josh, he said, you know, if you want to really drive change over the long term, you have to be like the tide coming in. It’s coming. It’s slow, its steady, but God dammit, it’s coming. And so that’s how you just like to take this view of like the type. So I feel like with the DEI, the tide is gonna go in and out. It’s gonna ebb and flow with the tide is eventually going to keep coming back in and keep coming back in. I think that’s where we are.

Trish 38:28
I agree, I think into if you’re an HR listening to this, it’s about making everyone feel comfortable in the workplace, right. And that’s often when we, when we segregate each other out into different groups, it’s when we feel less comfortable, right? Because we don’t always understand where someone else is coming from. So if you create situations, and opportunities for people to come together in a comfortable way to be able to ask questions of each other and learn, then you see those companies succeeding, right, it’s where they don’t feel like they have that commonality or common common place to and again, whether that’s an electronic place, or whether it’s, it’s a physical place, right, but you have to be able to have people come and celebrate that. And I think too, you still hear it always irritated me. And I still hear it. It’s like, you know, you’ll talk to people or hear them say, Well, I like this company or this group, because it’s full of like minded people. Yeah. Oh my gosh, like, you know, but we’re still saying that in this day and age and so when you do that, that flies right in the face of Yes, but you’re also not getting diverse perspectives and learning and growing in ways that might elevate your business.

Ben Brooks 39:42
So you know, the Ford F 150. And my dad drove a bunch of those trucks over the years the number one best selling vehicle in America legendary product, their biggest growth opportunity was with women. And one of the things that they did is the tailgate when you lower that tag is heavy right old. And so you got groceries, you got this, you got whatever. And so the spring loaded the tailgate to make it less heavy for women. Well guess what it turned out, guess what less heavy tailgate was better for Guess what? Everyone, everyone have everyone. There you go. People that were older people had their hands full people with disabilities, people that were just tired after a long day at work and didn’t want to thrust their body to get an 85 pound tailgate up. And so part of this is we have to also realize that the research shows and people’s perception generally support this that after dei initiatives are implemented, all boats rise, it’s not just for the minority demographics that everyone I mean, he or she is making more money by selling, you know, seedlip, right. And the stock price of Diageo goes up, and they’ve got more things to stock to satisfy more consumers, including Gen Z, who’s not drinking hardly at all, and all this stuff. And so they can be competitive. And so everyone’s stock options go up, not just the people that benefit from Donald Coholic product, right? So part of this is it’s like you have to get out of the zero sum thing, like everyone wins with a lighter tailgate or with non alcoholic spirits or selling Tylenol PM to gay men, or whatever the DEI, like business thing is, it doesn’t hurt anyone. If you get out of the scarcity mindset.

Steve 41:10
Yeah, one of my favorite stories coming back that we heard on this show a couple of years back, just remember this, too, is we were doing a show on neurodiversity, we’d have done a number of shows on neuro diversity in the workplace. Right? We were doing one with a professor who works in a in Vanderbilt Church, the first Center for Autism studies, when he talked about we’re talking about interviewing, right? And what are some of the things companies should do or can do to help make the in job interview process a little more accessible and a little bit more opening and welcoming and give, give neurodiverse candidates a better chance to succeed? And he talked about structured interviews and sharing the questions and, you know, pacing and don’t don’t do 17 People in a panel trying to interview one person because they feel being ganged up on. And then it turns out, all those things are just good interviewing practices for everyone. Right?

Ben Brooks 42:04
That’s right, I don’t want a panel with 19 people on teams resume, it’s gonna feel like the opposite. I’m gonna feel like I’m in front of Congress, and everyone’s trying to get a soundbite in. Right. That’s a nightmare. And so I think that to your point, I mean, that’s where often what’s good for, you know, and again, we’ve often made products or services, around one use case or one demographic. And it’s often these other use cases that break the status quo. But in a way again, that’s like, that’s more flexible, right? That’s more adaptive, that’s more efficient. Those are things I think that’s the part of it where we can get excited and rally around, while our products, our products and services are better, and our experiences and our employee experience. Like why wouldn’t we do this?

Steve 42:45
Right then it’s we love having you on at the beginning of the year, for sure to help us set up for the year, but also to feel sort of good and charged up about like way things are going and I feel that way, honestly. So that’s exciting. So thank you for that. We will of course Ben you’re everywhere you’re very you’re great at sort of communicating, participating sharing, we saw your your your new puppy today, Ben, people can find you on LinkedIn, of course, which you’re pretty active on there. The website is pilot dot coach for all things pilot. So we’d encourage folks to check that out. And we’ll also get some links out to the work Ben did at the end of the year around predictions and trends for going into this year, we really only got a chance to talk in depth about one of them. But there’s four other that Ben mentioned quickly that I love. Folks get the chance to listen to that back as well. So great, great stuff, Ben, it’s so good to see you. And congratulations on the on the new dad aspect of your life as well.

Ben Brooks 43:42
Thank you. It’s great to be here. And obviously, if anyone’s looking at developing emerging leaders, that’s a big trend we’re hearing. And that’s where helping a lot of organizations are looking at succession further down in the organization, you know, people that may be in back office or corporate functional roles. You know, heaven forbid HR people get leadership development and people development for their own. And so that’s a big area of passion for me this year. And one of my personal goals is to get more emerging leaders, not the top of the house, not the most senior executives but to really develop emerging leaders because that’s the future of succession that diversifies the organizations that improves hiring that accelerates technology adoption that changes flexibility, a lot of the things we have ties back to structure and generation and different perspectives. So that’s an area that I’m really working on. So if anyone’s listening today wants to talk about you know, emerging leaders reach out to me on LinkedIn, check out Jepsen on Instagram. He’s real cute. I mean, that’s my float. No sponsors. Nothing like that. He’s just pure joy. He’s sponsoring love and puffiness.

Steve 44:40
Oh, wow. All right. Great stuff. Trish. Great stuff. Good to see you. Great to see Ben as well. That’s a great way to start the year. I’m glad we’re able to do it. Then come back and see us in next January please. And thanks again. And thanks to our friends at Paychex Of course, for all their support and they’ve been great to us with us again. In 2024, I think I might have mentioned that before, but it is true. They’re with us again this year. And we thank them for all the support. Remember to catch all the show archives at

Steve 45:09
Listen to the podcast wherever you get the podcast and hopefully if you’re on YouTube watching us and you made it to the end, congratulations. Good to see you. Maybe drop us a comment, drop us a like we’d love to see that too. So thanks so much. Again, my name is Steve Boese, for Trish Steed, for our guest, Ben Brooks. This has been At Work in America. We will see you next time. Bye for now.

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