Strategies for Workplace and Personal Success in 2022, featuring PILOT

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

Episode 513 – Strategies for Workplace and Personal Success in 2022

Hosts: Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane

Guest: Ben Brooks, CEO & Founder, PILOT

This episode of the HR Happy Hour is brought to you by Paychex, one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement, and software solutions for businesses of all sizes. 

Financial capital has long been established as a key driver of business performance, but today, business leaders are increasingly recognizing the importance of their human capital in driving success. Download Paychex’s latest guide to discover why breaking down the silos between HR and finance can result in better business strategy and growth, as well as 14 simple HR metrics your teams should be tracking, and why. 

To download the e-book, visit  

This week, we met with Ben Brooks to talk about retention development, employee experience, and trying to fight burnout during the pandemic.

– Background of PILOT

– Importance of disconnecting from time to time to prevent burnout

– Creating employee connection in the remote or hybrid workplace

– Performance management strategies for the future

– How to give managers the support they need


Thank you, Ben, for joining the show today!  Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour wherever you get your podcasts.

Transcript follows:

Steve 0:28
Welcome to the HR Happy Hour Show with Steve and Trish, sponsored by our friends at Paychex. Trish, it’s an exciting show for us today. It’s our first actual recording of the new year. And we’re welcoming back a frequent guest, one of our favorite guests. Quite honestly one of our most popular guests that we have on the HR Happy Hour Show every year, Ben Brooks from PILOT. We’re gonna be talking about retention development, employee experience, maybe a little bit about resilience too and trying to fight burnout right as we head into year three of the pandemic. But before we get into that with Ben and welcome him, Trish I have a question for you, real simple one. Over the holiday break I took some time off and played a few games right, did the board game thing a little bit? Trish, what game would you say you have spent the most hours playing?

Trish 1:15
That is such a tough question. And board games, right? Like physical games, not video games?

Steve 1:20
Interpret it any way you will Trish. This is not a graded quiz.

Trish 1:25
I feel like Battleship and I’m going to name a couple of games. Battleship and Othello. Have you played Othello?

Steve 1:32
I have. I love Battleship. I actually own Battleship in my house today.

Trish 1:40
I do too. And I make my almost grown children play it with me occasionally. And also Connect Four. I’m really really good, like I can win and beat anybody.

Steve 1:51
You’re on the games. I’m going easy for me. I’m going Scrabble all the way. I love Scrabble. I’m playing it like on the app, right? It’s the only game I’ll ever play on the phone. But cool. Good stuff. We will ask Ben, let’s welcome him to the show. We are very excited once again, to welcome our special guest, Ben Brooks. He’s the founder and CEO of PILOT. Inspired by his successful CEO and executive coaching practice, Ben saw an opportunity to democratize executive coaching and empower employees at scale. He invested his life savings and expanding the company with a mission of ensuring everyone feels powerful at work. PILOT was named the number one HR Tech startup to watch in 2020. And HR Executive Magazine has named him one of the Top 100 Influencers in HR and technology in 2019, and 21, I suspect and 22 as well, I think. Welcome back Ben to the show. Ben, how are you?

Ben Brooks 2:52
I’m great, lovely to be here. This is a great way to start my year. And I’m pumped to know that I’m your first guest of the year.

Steve 2:57
First guest of the year. We actually talked with you on this show about a year ago in January of 2021. So we thought it fitting to kind of kick off the new year with you again, sort of like we did last year. Ben do you want to weigh in on the game question? Are you a game player? Or do you have a game you you you sort of enjoy?

Ben Brooks 3:14
Yes, a bunch. games are fun. And you know, like I used to play old school Nintendo as a kid, but I loved you know, it’s funny, when you ask the question, I thought about the game, believe it or not, and I kid you not. It’s called Careers. Oh, how did we know that that was going to go. It was this game that my mom, I think got it at a garage sale or something. But it was all about how you would make different career choices. And it would involve you know, how much money you’d make or how satisfied or the meaning of the work and I loved that optimization. I also love the game of Life. I loved the cars and the day of reckoning and the you know, the kids and the pegs. And I love that because there was both those games are optimization games, and Life and Careers and work and businesses success is optimization, you’re making trade offs, you know, is a one of my exes once said to me, you can have it all, just not all at once. And I thought it was a profound, you know, thing and, and I think that that’s what I really liked about those games is there’s some strategy and some trade offs, which can be painful. But there’s also again, sometimes you play the long game where you know, you see some other players in games like that. They’ll go for something right away this quite tempting, but you sort of know that you’re you know, it’s a tortoise and hare thing and you’re the tortoise but you’re going to pop up at the end and I won.

Ben Brooks 3:16
That’s pretty awesome. I’ll have to look up that game, Careers. I’ve not heard about that one. That’s cool. I dig that. Ben, before we get into the conversation, like maybe just you’d like to give us a couple minutes on what’s been happening at PILOT, maybe kind of a update of 2021 I’m sure like many other organizations, you and your team went through plenty of challenges and certainly with the clients you’re working with and the coaching that you’re delivering helping people get through a lot of challenges themselves in 2021. Maybe give us a little recap or reset of what’s been happening at PILOT?

Ben Brooks 5:12
A wild year for everybody is someone just this I saw an expert described, we’re all in the same storm, but in different boats. And I think the boat for PILOT or maybe the airplane, better metaphor, you know, 2020 was a wild year to 2021. And we were remote first company since our founding. So our learning curve in remote has been not much of a curve has been pretty flat. And frankly, you know, remote, a pure remote is far easier and cleaner than hybrid. In our experience, hybrid is often the worst of both worlds, in my view, and it’s going to be a real mess for employers, we’re helping them figure that out. But you know, from a team dynamics and inclusion, we’ve done a lot of fun virtual painting events, and trivia game show things, all sorts of stuff to bring people together. But from a business perspective, a lot of our customers are very focused on how do we retain people with the labor market being insane? How do you know most employee engagement in DEI, things are focused employee experience is focused on an in person, three dimensional experience. And when everyone’s on a Lenovo laptop, working on Microsoft Teams and Outlook, it’s a commodified 2d experience. And so that’s been a big thing they’ve been focused on. And then, you know, as you mentioned, Steve will talk more about is kind of that burnout and uncertainty. It’s weighing on people. And so you know, for us as a company, we grew significantly, we actually close more business in q4 then q1, two, three combined, which is amazing.

Ben Brooks 6:43
And mostly from our large customers like Nestle and IHS market and Diageo and MetLife big customers that we’ve worked with for quite some time and love working with we won an award for the future of work in DEI innovation, because companies are really needing to show rather than tell their commitment to DEI, it’s very easy for executives to put out a statement We value diversity and inclusion. But it’s another bit the employees are sort of like, well show me. And so part of that is how do we cultivate internal pipelines? Because there’s a lot of focus on recruiting. But what about people that are already at organizations? People say, Are you missing me here, where’s my opportunity to have a future here. And if they don’t, they flip that switch on LinkedIn and the recruiters that are coming in, right? So that’s an employee’s have a lot of power. And so that’s really for the last year and a year or so we’ve been focused on and really codifying, we had a pretty cool new aspect of the PILOT product, which is this, you know, it’s a six month developmental program. Groups of employees inside of an organization go through it together. When people do things together, they have better outcomes, you train for a marathon, you raise money for charity, you get sober, you do it together, it’s better. So we have a peer community that’s a part of that, that supportive, employees do reflection every week, which in these crazy times, getting to focus on oneself, focus on the future to pull up is so important. We bring managers and employees together, which is so critical because they’re more disconnected than ever. And we have managers give employees feedback about the future, not the past about who they could become who the Trish or Steve 2.0 looks like in the year ahead.

Ben Brooks 8:18
And then we support that, Steve, to your point with group coaching. And so we bring in coaches, hosts and producers for these really dynamic group coaching sessions that are live. They’re also recorded in the component that we added that were two components as this is executive firesides because we realized that we need to bring executives in and give employees access in particular and remote. There’s no town halls, there’s no skip levels, there’s no special meetings that employees get to see some of the top brass so we’re bringing them into the pilot experience with these fireside chats, something that happens at big companies, you know, Oracle and big companies of the world. You have these off sites at a golf course in Scottsdale on the top people are on the stage and the overstuffed chair. We’re duplicating that in our product but when it’s involving board members and executives investors is very very cool. And then the measurement and management because one of the things they charge struggles with as a pain point is it’s great to buy things it’s a nightmare to roll them out and get people to use them and then prove that they work and show the ROI. So we’ve really invested in that experience for our champions and program managers that our customers and so it’s been a year I mean it was exhausting I was worn out. I gave a job offer on Christmas Eve, a new Head of Customer Success, I called her and I said hey if you’re busy you know this doesn’t affect your chances just call me after the holidays but she called me back 15 minutes later and said if I were you I’d want a job offer on Christmas Eve too. So I’m giving you one so up until that was a great story. Yeah, let’s do it work was Christmas Eve and she said this is the best Christmas present. And we have a tradition we typically courier a bottle of champagne to anybody with the offer letter within an hour. That’s kind of the standard we have just want to celebrate and have the family. So it was a really nice way to cap off the year and then I totally disconnected because I do much better then. I’m not much of, there’s separators and integrators who think of Thanksgiving. There’s the people that keep their food really separate on the plate, and that people can have a big mash. I’m the separate guy, I’m like a bento box. And so I do better with when I’m just completely off. So I disconnected and I need to model that for my team and for our customers as well that it is okay to disconnect and to take time off. Even if my 5g cell phone and cloud services work anywhere in the world, it doesn’t mean that I’m always on. How’s that for a quick recap?

Steve 10:30
No, it’s great. I mean, I think you guys are, it’s interesting, because with, one of the things that I want to talk about is just how people are kind of an organization’s right are managing to kind of sustained, sustained energy, sustained positivity kind of keep going, as we head into year three, and so far in 2022, some of the news and society’s not been great, right, we have got another wave of COVID going around, lots of things being canceled as we speak today, some big school districts around at least in the United States are announcing plans to shift to remote. And just I you know, I’d love to talk then your perspective on both from your own personal view, right? You said you disconnected fully over the holidays, but also with the organizations you’re working with? What are some of the things that you’re seeing and doing that, that can be helpful to kind of just not allowing ourselves in our organizations to feel like really just weighted down by just three or three of what we’re heading into?

Ben Brooks 11:28
It’s a great question and one to your point that I’ve been grappling with personally, and I can speak to kind of my personal experience, as well as what I see the marketplace and customers in the economy dealing with, I can tell you, as much as it’s wonderful to be the founder and CEO of my own business, it’s a heavy burden, and very challenging. And so, you know, at the end of the year, I mean, I was at one of my lowest burnout points of my entire career in q4, despite the success of the business being so great, right, they were sort of unrelated things. And so part of it, you know, for me was like a clean disconnect, getting some help with stuff, you know, and hiring some people take care of some things and saying no to more things. But one of the things I spent a lot of time on the break was thinking about the future, because what I realized is I really haven’t set personal goals and you know, have business goals or financial goals, or hiring goals and product goals. What about Ben goals? What about the things that matter to me, and, and I set them usually every year, but the last two years, they you know, that after 2020, they went out the window, and the goal was essentially survive, right? Don’t die of COVID. I mean, literally, I live in New York City on Manhattan, I hear sirens running every day and amuse, you know, Armageddon like situation in the spring of 2020. And then, you know, and so and then 2021 was so bewildering, I think, where we were, you know, January 1, and we’re going to have a peaceful transition of power and insurrection, and this and that, and everything else that happened, the economy and the COVID, and vaccines.

Ben Brooks 12:58
And so one of the things I’ve done is disconnected, like, really, I think we’ve got created really sloppy habits, about some separation from work in because we never, we never none of us were really trained for hybrid or remote work. And because the technology now works anywhere, there’s like this assumption that we’re the machine that works anywhere at any time, and it just doesn’t, it’s not sustainable. And then, you know, to focus on goals. So I actually wrote out I have an accountability, partner, fellow founder, I meet with every month, the first Monday of the month, we have an evening chat and a glass of wine over zoom. And we write down our goals. And we talked about pretty much everything but work, because work for us is really locked. Like it’s figured out, we got structures around it. But what about our happiness or well being our satisfaction? And it’s a question that income, my lowest burnout work with therapist every week, which is a very important routine for me is to go and have that time. My therapist is very good. He’s challenges me. And he says, simply, I want you to think about one question over the break, what needs to change? He said specifically, what do you need to change? You can’t change and have the pandemic over? Right? That’s outside of my control, right? I can’t change a lot of things. I can’t change this crappy, great weather in New York in the winter, right? I can’t change that.

Ben Brooks 14:14
But what can I change actually wrote a pretty big list about you know, using my phone less at night and getting better sleep and having some transitions after work, taking a walk, you know, around the block and having some sort of transition and, you know, connecting you’re reaching out and calling friends more often and all those you know, positive mental content diet, you know, getting less wrapped up into all the crap that served me in terms of news feeds and things and more being intentional about things that I’m passionate about or interested in or they make me feel good. So that’s on the personal side, Steve, that I’m kind of seeing I think our customers, we’re seeing that they’re really struggling to have employees feel connected to work. Yeah, to their miming. If they’ve hired people in the last two years, many of them have never shook the hand of their supervisor. Yeah, they’ve never been to a facility. I mean, they their employee experience was a FedEx box showing up with a laptop. And they sign up for the same tools. They’re using it their last employer, how different is this? You know, they’ve they often have not had social events or done other things like that. So they’re really thinking in a way that I think the hope was, we all hoped, remember the beginning of the pandemic, it was like, well, this will be over by Easter, you know, that was the sum. I mean, like weeks.

Steve 15:27
Yeah, I was like, two weeks, I’ll be home for two weeks. Everything be cool after that.

Ben Brooks 15:31
And so I think employers are now realizing that they need to plan for this and not be like temp. And we’ve kind of had wishful thinking the whole time. Oh, we’ll be back in the office before you know it. Think about the amount of cycles HR is wasted on a return to office plans. Testing and mandates and vaccines and all of this right?

Steve 15:53
It was a huge wave of the tech companies diving into build those apps or put them on tablets that you can mount to the wall to check in and control the number of employees who are going to be assigned to get on the elevator at one time, right? Here’s your elevator. It’s like riding a Fastpass at Disney World. Here’s your elevator time slot.

Ben Brooks 16:13
Here’s what I reserved this and can you know, and who can be in the conference room and is there I did, I went to a conference space, and there’s a conference room. But there’s Plexiglas between each person. It reminded me of an internet cafe in like 2001, or something. And when I was studying abroad in Spain or something like that, so I think employers are really having to grapple with and they don’t always have a lot of answers. And we’re helping them obviously, with the PILOT product, because we have an answer in that regard. But it’s not the only answer. But they’re really needing to reshape the employee experience. And part of the burnout for managers. And there’s a lot of research around women in particular, McKinsey and Lean In, did some research. Women are carrying and managers are carrying an even greater emotional labor burden. Because the well being of employees, you know, there’s been some separation go to the office, you kind of don’t always know what’s happening outside the office. But you know, when the office has come in to the employee, that, you know, we’re seeing that managers are like, holy cow, um, you know, people are getting divorced, and they’re having health concerns, and I’m hearing about child care things, and they got this and they got economic stuff, and their living situation, and all of it natural disasters, all of it. And so all of it is really, really challenging. And so it’s really the skills I mean, you know, employees are not equipped to work remote and virtual, to nearly the units, because it’s really a different game. And managers are not equipped to manage in a crisis situation, and virtual and remote.

Ben Brooks 16:28
So they’re really investing a lot in developments and an employee experience that gets back to the fundamentals, because so much of employee experience is was been like bullshit soup, you know, with just, you know, I mean, it’s just like, you know, it was what we called engagement 10 years ago, right, which was like, Oh, you got a taco truck. Awesome. That’s engagement, you know, oh, you’ve got, you know, like a beer fountain that’s engaging, you know, like, I mean, it could be engaging for, you know, a window, but, but really, they’re getting back to the fundamentals, which, you know, if you’re talking to a family member, or friend or a loved one at the dinner table, they ask you a question often, how was work? How was work today? Simple question, we all get asked this question. And the things that affect the answer to that, typically are not the taco truck or the beer phone, except maybe the day that you had the tacos, maybe if that’s mentioned, the answers are around, do I feel connected with my, you know, colleagues, that I know what I was supposed to work on? Were the expectations clear? was I given praise or appreciation? Was it an environment I feel like I was valued or respected or heard, but feel connected? Do I know what it takes to be successful? These are the less sexy, but fundamental things and we did a webinar with paychecks actually, pilot and paychecks did a webinar together. And we talked about the employee experience. 80% of it is the employee manager relationship. And anyone HR knows, right? People join organizations, and they leave managers who said that for 30 years, and yet we’ve got keep getting away from it. And because it’s hard to affect that relationship, but to win the battle in the war for talent and the great resignation, people are largely not leaving great managers. And when they have great relationships, whatever perk or thing the people have across the road, is far less compelling. Because you know, most employees have never had good managers. And when they have a good one, they know it.

Trish 19:30
You know, I’m making notes like crazy. Ben, I could ask you a million questions, but just something you just said, really resonates. Because even when you think about companies, you’ve left for whatever reason, right? Whether it was layoffs or just time to move on or better opportunities, whatever. Those managers who were great remain in your life, I would imagine like for me, I still have them. I still can go to them for coaching. I still go to them. So it’s not even about being within those four walls with them. And I think that when you were talking and Steve was talking about sort of all the preparation that companies have been doing these last, you know, 24 plus months. To me, it kind of strikes me that those are all about separation. It’s all about how we separate people while trying to bring them back together. And I think that is just wasted energy, really, I mean, I get that there’s an element of safety. Once we all do return, you have to have a little bit of that. But instead of focusing so much on that, I wish they would be focusing more on how do managers maintain the connections, because when you just listed off that laundry list of things that people want from a good leader, or a good manager, that is not different if whether I’m sitting at my desk at my employment place of employment in the workplace, or whether I’m working at my desk at home, I still want those same core functional things from my leader, to make me feel like I matter, like I belong. So have you? I mean, are you seeing companies? I got a ton of clients I know, but obviously some some large ones, too. But are there certain ones that are really just kind of standing out in terms of maybe approaches to that specific aspect? Like what are you seeing being successful with some of your clients in terms of realizing that that connection shouldn’t be different? Just because someone’s at home? Or are you?

Ben Brooks 21:21
I mean, there’s so much energy, which is great. And I think it’s makes me think of James Carville, the political strategist in the 90s. He said economy’s stupid. In for me, it’s the manager, stupid, it’s relationships, stupid. I mean, that’s what we’re talking about. We’re like, all this other stuff, and blah, blah, blah. And it’s this fundamental thing of humans are related creatures, it is in our biology, in our, in our evolution, to be connected with one another. And so, you know, organizations that are getting this, right, you know, that you think there’s a lot of organization’s had wellness days in the last year that have forced wellness days, you know, some organizations did that. And then had senior executive meetings on those days, which talk about a toxic message, you know, but if you’ve had a quarter of disconnection from a manager, feeling isolated, not know where you stand, not feeling engaged, your wellness days, that you’re probably going to do interviews somewhere else. So some of these things that have been tried, I’m not against wellness days. And then frankly, there is something really wonderful about company wide shutdowns, whether it’s for a day or a week, because it’s actually operationally much easier to have a whole thing shut down often than have one person out is, you know, critical. So a lot of things. I’m not against that as a concept. But the organizations that are really working on this are upskilling, and setting standards and expectations for these people they’re measuring. And they’re making sure you know, managers have been reticent with the great resignation, to give feedback. But talk about unintended consequences. employees think Well, I’m not growing, so I’m out of here, where’s the manager doesn’t like a feedback, because they don’t want to push them out. But by not giving them the feedback, it is pushing them out. So you know, it’s more frequent communication. It’s better quality future focus feedback. You know, it’s bringing people together even virtually for non meeting things. So if you’re like, Oh, we’re together all the time, we’re in zoom and death by zoom. And people haven’t really figured out asynchronous work and all of that. And there’s a flexibility which pisses people off when they need it most. When schools are closing, this happens, you got to go get a test because your neighbor exposed you and all this stuff. But oftentimes, it’s to say, what is that we’re missing out on the baby shower, the happy hour, the celebration of the new big deal, the company closed the milestone of somebody that what, you know, the 10 year, you know, anniversary? How do we celebrate?

Steve 23:47
I’d like to throw in like the retirement party for someone around a long time, say and had a great career and we’re celebrating them as they leave? Right? That was always a kind of a cool thing in that colocated kind of setting.

Ben Brooks 24:01
And we’re not having as much of that, but yet we can. It requires some ingenuity. Right? It requires some things I had a milestone birthday this fall. And my team, God love them. They’re great. They just just the most incredible, diverse magnanimous team. You know, I had a one on one with my executive assistant. And it was weird because it was just like, let’s we do calls, like, Let’s do zoom. And then I was in the waiting room like, what’s this waiting? Because internally, and then they’re like, surprise screen, and then they had pulled together videos from my friends around the world and my family and put together this montage. And it was the best part of my birthday, frankly, was this moment? And you know, we’re remote for as long as we wouldn’t have an alternative to do it in person, but there was a thoughtfulness. It took some effort, right. But I think that when we talk a lot about you know, empathy and emotional intelligence and compassion and connectedness, you know, sometimes to talk about it very much about ourselves that we need, which is important. Right. And as a coach, it’s super important. But we also need to kind of extend and consider others, the milestones that they’re having, or also the challenges, you know, people have been getting divorced. People have had, you know, people die in their lives and for COVID and non COVID, right, all these other things, how are we celebrating? So I’m just, you know, using our best instance.

Ben Brooks 25:21
But you know, sometimes we have a resistance like, oh, well, normally we’d have a lunch, we can’t have a lunch. You could, we’ve had some of our customers, you have virtual lunches, and they send everyone a GrubHub gift card. And everyone gets to order food and they all get on and they we help facilitate a thing are we have some fun are we celebrate. So I think some of the companies that are doing the best job of that are really leaning into the classics, of what works with the creativity of how to do it virtually. And so it’s not that we need to think of some bold, oh my gosh, ever a retirement party people frickin love telling stories, roasting somebody a little bit, you know, you know, wishing them well, we can still do that, you know, and figuring out other organizations are doing stuff like, you know, go to Central Park in New York in the summer and have a picnic and do some things that are, you know, good in that regard. And also, I think smaller, intimate things, because sometimes people are like, Oh, we’re we’re connected, we have a town hall Well, less connected, it feels less, you know, whereas again, using Breakout Rooms and zoom, one of the things we do with pilots, we we have group coaching, whether we do breakout rooms of three people talking to each other. It is the highest rated part of pilot is employees just talking to each other. That’s it and and yet, you think we’ll gather to talk to each other anytime today, they got tools to coming up probably five different tools at their company to do that. Why don’t you know, but we’re hosting it, we set the tone, we help good good topic for the space, the energy, we curate the people. So there is something like hosting the party that happens. That’s a really magical, those are some of the things that I’m seeing organizations do now there’s cool thing I one of our first consultant ever to help with pilot was on CNBC last night, I’m so proud of the music, co founder of a company that they’re, they’re giving Botox to employees. It’s like it, and that’s getting people into the office, you know, a couple of hours to do it on site in the office.

Steve 27:11
I hope they’re not sending it to their homes!

Trish 27:13

Ben Brooks 27:17
But you know, there’s some things that they’re there, or they’ll have they’ll host a certain you know, a speaker, or they’ll have certain kind of food or certain fun thing that they will do. That isn’t draw right to kind of like, what do you get people to do. And you know, food and beverage is one of the biggest draws of you know, it’s amazing what people even really rich people will do for food or beverage. So that’s another thing that can work. But I think it’s again, it’s this sort of communal piece that’s beyond because everyone’s like perform what are our goals? And what how do we cascade this are the KPIs are all very important. But so much of work is relational and social. And we choose to do things whether we like people or not, or if we feel safe with them, if we respect them, if we know them, you think about the, you know, the three of us have known each other a while. And if I had to I don’t know, reschedule today or something, you probably would cut me some slack, because we know unlike each other, right, and I would communicate with you in a level of transparency, what’s going on with me. Whereas if we had never had time in Chicago, in Vegas, in New York and the other places that we’ve spent some time, probably like, Who’s this jerk? Isn’t respect our time. So the same behavior is looked at through a totally different prism, if you don’t have what’s often called a background of relatedness?

Steve 28:34
Yeah, there’s just a personal it hit home an anecdote, because Trish will know this, too. There have been a few times over the years doing this podcast for a long time where someone has pitched us really hard to come on the show that we don’t even know and we booked that person and then they reschedule like on the day before or right before and I get enraged, but and it’s because I don’t know them and you know that we don’t have that we don’t have that background or that basis or that that relationship. Then you mentioned our friends that Paychex earlier I want to take a pause Trish, and then right now we thank them. They of course are the sponsor and supporter of the HR Happy Hour Show. Paychex is one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement, and insurance solutions for businesses of all sizes. Financial capital has long been established as the key driver of business performance. Today, business leaders are increasingly recognizing the importance of their human capital and driving success. Download paychecks latest guide to discover why breaking down the silos between HR and finance can result in better business strategy and growth, as well as 14 Simple HR metrics your team should be tracking and why. To download this eBook, please visit and thanks, of course, to our friends and Paychex. I saw you mentioned CNBC too Ben. I saw our friend Marty Moochie from Paychex on CNBC the other morning as well so good stuff for them. And, boy, real aside Trish, I’m going to be writing about payroll next month in HR Executive.

Trish 30:02
Oh, that’s my favorite.

Steve 30:03
I know it is cool though, you can help employees with payroll and payroll solutions more than you think they are, I’ll just throw that out there as well as my teaser.

Trish 30:14
It’s very strategic, I will say really good benefits extremely strategic part of the business, if you’re doing it right.

Ben Brooks 30:22
They get a capital E employment that includes not just W2, but contractors and vendors and the broader piece. You’ve got people that work with PILOT for example, that you know, that are, you know, I’m 1099, or they’re different companies or vendors. And we do surveys we like, you know, what do you like about working here and everything else? One of the top three things every single time is you pay us on time you handle it, we do the invoicing for them, we send them the oh, here’s what you did, we did. Because why, because we get, we have control over the quality, right, it’s less work for us, it’s consistent, it’s a great experience for them, they have no admin to do so. And we pay on time, every time with, you know, a great experience for them and technology and all that. It seems like such table stakes, but they’re like you’re the only we work all these big companies or else, the bigger the company, the worse they are at paying people in particular, if you’re not an employee and talk about a way to store it, we know affiliate relationship, right is you got you know, these these jerks and finance, frankly, that are put erroneous payment terms and don’t set up the people in the AP team to or the outsource it and this and that. And then all of a sudden, it’s like supposed to be 30 days, and it’s 90 or whatever. And when you’re worried about money, think about your engagement when you don’t feel like what’s the point of doing work if you’re not going to get paid. That’s like the basics. So that’s the thing, I mean, talk about it, you know, keeping people engaged and things like that, make sure that they’re getting paid in particular outside of the WTO realm, because that’s where it’s so sloppy, and messy and variable. And I will tell you, I know all sorts of talented freelancers and consultants that are increasingly unwilling to work with Fortune 500 companies, like they think that they’re the big bad wolf and all this, they are jerks, because we can’t get paid. And we get paid. I do better work. So that you know, you think about engagement, payroll, they come right together.

Trish 32:16
Absolutely. I was gonna ask if you could maybe, you know, we’re talking about a lot of different things here. And things thinking about what could be really impactful for people as they go into this new year and things? Maybe they’re not doing or haven’t tried yet. Can you just share a little bit more? You’ve mentioned it a couple times here on this, this giving feedback about the future? And, you know, to me, like the only thing I think in my career, I even think that might be a little bit like that as like a stay interview. Can you maybe talk about how that’s different than a stay interview that maybe people have tried? I’m sure that’s not even widely adopted. But what does that mean? What does that look like? Because that was just a really different approach, I think and in building that future connection, as well. So could you tell us a little bit about that?

Ben Brooks 33:02
There’s a couple nice cars. What’s your favorite car?

Trish 33:06
My favorite car is a BMW, Z4.

Ben Brooks 33:11
So the Z4. So the difference right is most performance management, talent management development, you’re in that Z4, but you’re looking through the rectangle that is the rearview mirror. And so most of it is, hey, it’s the end of the year, or it’s even the next calendar year. And it’s January, February, and we’re talking about 2021. And we’re talking about Trish in March, you know, you were delayed on that report, or this presentation didn’t go as well, or we missed the numbers for summer. And so we’re in the rearview mirror, talking about the past. So I’m giving you feedback, legitimate critical feedback, right? What can you do about the past nothing, right. And it often leaves the employee disempowered, even though employee say they want feedback, which by the way, there’s three reasons people when they ask for feedback, they often want actually recognition. Or they want confirmation of status, where they stand in sometimes they want critical developmental feedback about how to get better. So it’s really good to slow down when people say they want feedback and say, well tell me a little bit more about what you’re looking for before you dive in. But in the Z4, the future, feedback gets through the windshield, which is a much bigger field of view, which is about where you’re going not where you were, which is something employees get excited about, rather than disempowered about.

Ben Brooks 34:26
And so you’re talking about what’s possible, what is Steve 2.0 look like? So I’m saying Trish, in the year ahead, you know, you did some great work with with partnerships and clients last year Trish, but what I really see is expanding those relationships where the average partnership is double the initial size that we had last year. And I see you being able to do that by really getting better at discovery and finding out the strategic things, really setting expectations around what other people paying what the market rates are, and really throwing in a lot of extra value and getting that quick close. So I’m getting you excited in this example, looking through this windshield, about doubling the size of the average partnership that you might close this year, which is something you can do something about. And oftentimes in doing that, I really suggest you almost give an aspirational name to the development objective, right? Because something we talked about such sterile, almost like the government or something kind of ways where we’re like, you know, attention to detail or something. Or what if I said, Trish, I want you to be meticulous, or I want you to be, you know, flawless or something. And again, we don’t wanna probably have perfection be the example but if it was something about this, there was, like, you know, is beast mode, and that inspires you, or something like that, we’re going to talk about that, we’re going to be like, we’re going to move from going for fish to going for whales, and you’re going to be a whale hunter. And it’s like, let’s talk about whaling. And then all of a sudden, we kind of have this code name and this game, and it’s fun, right? When you think about what works with kids, right? If you want kids to learn, you have to make it fun. Right, adults aren’t that different than kids. Then it’s less shameful or defensive of like, Oh, am I going to get my bonus? Or am I going to be a three, rather than a four and bundle, you know, all of the stuff that people have all this resistance, and then they feel bad, and they want to fight against it or sandbag it. And instead, it’s saying, Hey, you’re at level seven in the video game, here’s what level eight looks like. And I’ve got the pathway for you to crack through the ceiling, so you can get to the next level of the game.

Trish 36:29
Thank you so much for sharing that. That’s so insightful. And I think just the way that you are, I don’t know, just the the analogies you give, it’s so nice to be able to connect that to an actual business action, which is sometimes I think, where a lot of us miss the mark, because we’re using the old terminology, we’re not making it fun. We’re not making it creative or something personal. I love that idea of having a very personal kind of a code word system, like you’re saying that’s really something people can gravitate to.

Steve 36:58
I always was really turned off or uninspired in my past when I was in corporate roles where you felt like, you know, take some competency out of some catalogue, right? That was very sterile and didn’t really have say, necessarily direct connection or could certainly couldn’t be inspiring, who who’s inspired by attention, duty attention to detail, right? Your example, Ben, but you could be inspired by you know. The flawlessness thing or whatever, you know, just a different way of phrasing and makes it a little bit more personal makes it a little bit more. I don’t know, yeah, fun. I think that’s right.

Ben Brooks 37:33
If it’s stellar work, it’s like, oh, this is this, I want to do stellar work, I want to create stellar work product. And that inspires me. And again, you get into this part of knowing people in the background or relatedness that if I know for instance, that Trish loves Japanese food, and she goes to Japan every other year, and she’s obsessed with it, I might say, you know, the meticulousness and Omakase a restaurant, you know. And we say, like, I want you to bring kind of like Japanese sushi mastery to your work. And all of a sudden, I’m connecting it to something that matters to you already connect. We’re already talking about your car. So you’re already in something you like, right? Something that brings you joy and affinity. That’s where the personalization of some of these conversations rather than what Steve, you’re talking about the catalog of like, click here, move over. That’s where like the AI side of all this stuff, I think it’s total crap. Because there’s the AI is never going to figure out how to do this stuff in our lifetimes. Like, this is nuanced, complex, personalized things.

Steve 38:28
Yeah. Then we go for a long time, we have been talking a while I want want one last thing from me, though, just I know, it’s probably going to be hard to give a quick answer to this. But I’d love just maybe give me your one or two kind of top things to think about. We’ve discussed and you’ve written about this, and you’ve talked about how the 80% of the employee experience really is that manager employee relationship. I do feel like organizationally, we put a lot of pressure on managers, and often don’t give them tools, resources, support right to be successful on their side of this relationship. Just with that said, you can disagree or agree with me if you want, but what would be the one or two things you’d advise our listeners to say? What can we do to really give the managers the support that they need? Being that they’re so critical in helping shape these experiences?

Ben Brooks 39:15
I mean, talk about the million dollar question. That’s a brilliant question, I’m gonna give you a maybe slightly surprising answer. Okay. Have better employees. Interesting. So we you’re exactly right, we 40 years of Management Consulting has been the middle managers and how do we make managers better and everyone talk about, you know, the punching bag, you know, senior exec are frickin managers or frontline, or there’s, you know, there’s a lot of that. There’s more tools and development, we can get managers for sure. But supervisors are usually usually only 15 to 20% of total headcount for spans and layers are efficient, right? What about the other 85% of headcount, what is their part to play? So what we think about at PILOT is how does the initiative meet the manager halfway, because it really is a partnership. When you get out of the subordinate kind of power dynamics where it’s kind of almost paternal in nature, which people frickin hate, right? And you make it a partnership, say actually employee, you got to pull for the feedback employee, you’ve got to initiate the one on one employee, you’ve got to know your managers goals, employ you got to clarify the expectations of your work, you’ve got to ask for help when you need it.

Ben Brooks 40:27
You’ve got to advocate for yourself, you’ve got to get your needs met, you’ve got to set your boundaries. You’ve got to manage your work life integration and balance, that’s the totally unexploited I mean that in the best way of the term, you know, kind of you know that that is the the juiciest fruit, the ripest giant, you know, ruby red grapefruit that is ready for the squeeze is better employees. Because what they do is it creates a groundswell and an updraft, and it puts pressure on managers to up their game. Yeah, because when the employees are coming, correct, and they’re showing up, and they’re being assertive, and they’re being clear, and essentially being more self managed, and self directed, which is ultimately future work, you want to sum it down to a term self managed, self directed, that is the future work, right? Crap changes all the time, you got to be a critical thinker, simple things are gonna be automated, outsource robotics, etc. Future work is you got to be self directed and self manage. Let’s help employees do that. Because it’ll naturally force upstream. The managers to be better. Yeah, I love your thoughts on that, Steve.

Steve 41:27
No, I love it. Yeah, certainly. As someone who’s managed, someone who’s coached, right, and in different settings, like, they always say in sports, right, the the best cut what’s one, something that’s similar across like the very best coaches in the sport, oh, they happen to have the best players like, I’d be pretty good coach, if Larry Bird was on my team, say in basketball, or LeBron James is on my team that make me look really good as a coach. That’s a very simplistic way analogy. But I do think it’s an apt one, for sure. And I love the idea of kind of that that pressure in that kind of upward pressure to say, hey, you know, we’ve got hungry employees hungry, to develop, to learn to grow, to succeed, to have their best, best experience at work. So you’ve got to, you know, step up and help them help support them in those roles. I love it. Now.

Ben Brooks 42:12
The bonus I’ll just add is then employees in the part of doing that, realize their manager is not their only source of resource inside of an organization. In the military, they called a single point of failure, where there’s only one place you go for something, yeah, we don’t want a manager to be a single point of failure, people could get feedback from, I don’t know anybody else at an organization, a customer or a vendor or cross functional teammates, you know, anybody accustom or anything like that. And so you start to have employees reduce the density or reliance on the manager for everything, or even to HR and their business partner for everything. And they start to do more self service and they start to be more self directed. And they try googling it. First, they look on the internet, they ask a colleague, etc, you know, before and it reduces their dependence and increases their agency and self sufficiency.

Steve 43:01
Good stuff, Ben, we could go on for a long time, we probably here’s what we should do. Maybe instead of doing like the annual check in with Ben in January, we’ve done the last couple years maybe do like a do a half yearly, you know, kind of let’s see how the world’s looking you know, maybe June or July and see see what the things we talked about today how things have kind of played out over the over the the prior six months, I think it’d be pretty interesting.

Ben Brooks 43:25
I’m up for quarterly if you want.

Steve 43:27
You could take over hosting the show.

Ben Brooks 43:32
I’ll be a guest host. Those are big shoes to fill.

Trish 43:37
I think I’m gonna leave my job, I want to work for you, Ben. Okay. All this great feedback, and for future feedback, and I’m gonna feel amazing.

Ben Brooks 43:45
We’re hiring. So come to PILOT.

Steve 43:48
And you know, if you do get hired Trish, you’ll get that bottle of champagne sent right over we learned, which is pretty exciting.

Ben Brooks 43:55
Exactly. The good stuff, you know.

Steve 43:58
It’s so great to see you again. Glad that you’re well, glad that PILOT’s turning on all cylinders through another year. So And you can find Ben on Twitter on LinkedIn, of course, right? You’re out there. You’re very active, just awesome.

Ben Brooks 44:18
Very active. And I love connecting people on LinkedIn. So please don’t feel like shy some people are very like, I don’t know him, just add me send me a connection request. I’m gonna approve it right. And then I share a lot of content. I read a column every month and we share a lot of value added things and so let’s connect because then I can connect you to the resources and all sorts of people create a lot of comments and things that I post and people meet one another and stuff. So let’s spread the network for everybody.

Steve 44:42
Absolutely good stuff. All right. Great to see you, man. Thank you so much. Trish. Good to see you. Happy New Year.

Trish 44:48
Happy New Year.

Steve 44:50
It’s been great. So thanks, everybody for listening to the HR Happy Hour Show. Thanks to our friends at Paychex, of course, for all their support and continued support into 2020. To check all the show archives at and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. For Ben Brooks, for Trish McFarlane, my name is Steve Boese, thanks so much for listening. We will see you next time. Bye for now.

Transcribed by

Leave a Comment

Subscribe today

Pick your favorite way to listen to the HR Happy Hour Media Network

Talk to us

If you want to know more about any aspect of HR Happy Hour Media Network, or if you want to find out more about a show topic, then get in touch.