Why every company must make well-being a priority
Across the Pond- Marketing Transformed
36. Why Every Company Should Make Well-Being a Priority
This topic, for us, is inspiring and so we’re going to continue to build on things we talked about in a prior episode. Last week, we shared the realisation of this big reset that’s happening, and it’s going to set us in a new direction, we just have to face that new reality. For example, if you’re a parent right now, it’s probably the first time in history, in industrialised society where you’re expected to be a parent, an educator and a professional - all at the same time, and you’re raising a family and doing that simultaneously. So, we know things are different and they’re going to continue to be that way. Simply put, the shift is here to stay.
The percentage of remote work will increase and we’re seeing more and more companies actually just declare whether they’re just going to do that permanently or do that for longer. We as individuals and teams really have to adapt to changes that are going on in the environment and how we stand out, how we connect us in the workplace and get our points across and give and receive recognition. And another thing that we talked about last week was how we actually do adapt is critical. Because employees, customers and consumers basically, are all voting right now with their feet and making significant choices and different choices to what we’ve done in the past.
So, in this show, we’re going to break things down into the key areas that are going to shape this new future. We’re going to spend more time on practical steps and actions you can apply. And you can apply these in your company culture, how you lead, who to hire now and think about how you plan in the new future.
Yeah, Sam, I mean, the interesting thing is that it’s already happening in a way isn’t it? We’re already having to plan for the new future. There’s a phrase, crossing the Rubicon, which is Caesar making a move and attacking Rome, looking at the point that there was no way back after that, something that was unprecedented. And I think the same will now happen with workspaces, and I think we need to appreciate what that will mean.
Twitter announced that everyone can work from home forever. Google announced that everyone can work from home until the end of the year and then we’ll see. We’re really starting to reimagine work, so, as you say, let’s get down to the practicalities of what that means. It’s going to affect culture, group work, creativity, disciplinaries, recruitment, creating inspiration, what rewards look like - the list is endless, really. So, let's start with the current crisis and the current situation we find ourselves in and think about that in a post pandemic world.
If we think back to that CEO we were talking about last week, new in and managing a business in lockdown or the junior manager trying to make a mark, I think the real question is how you tackle that? You have to break the mould, you have to get away from that out of sight out of mind situation, sort out your own multi-channel contact strategy for a start, and we’ll talk a bit more about that later on. You can’t spend all day on Zoom call after Zoom call, I think everyone feels the exact same way at the moment. So, I think, disperse communication strategy will be the only way to survive, but when you can effectively get more people in a room, most of the time the question is, should you? So, I’ve been on Zoom calls with maybe fifty/sixty/seventy people and you think ‘wow, that’s tying up a lot of people’s time’ and I think people just think ‘yeah let’s open it up to everyone because now, we don’t need to think about our physical space, we can just get everyone on board’.
Well-being I think, is also part of this as well. I think it’s going to be the name of the game, I think that’s financial well-being, as well as customer well-being, as well as employee well-being, and you can’t just think about business numbers as that won’t work anymore. One of those stakeholder groups that I’ve just mentioned, will vote with their feet, as you said, if you don’t take it seriously.
Yeah, so, as you’re teeing up nicely, we’re going to go through a few of them. So, as you listen to this show, you probably want to start typing or get your pens ready, because we’re going to cover off some key areas that we think are critical. Leadership, the workforce of the future. We’re going to talk about culture, think about recruiting and staffing, when do you physically meet and how do you do that? Thinking about future planning and contingency planning.
Perspectives on Leadership
Ok. So, in terms of crisis, we covered it a week ago or two ago, about the need for compassion, but no, that key characteristic is strong leaders need to prioritise their goals and it’s about clarity, communication and understanding. So, let’s get down to our action points list as well, Sam. It’s not about setting out a menu of priorities which all amount to being equal, you have to be clear. Second action point - lead with empathy. This is not black and white, it’s about including the team in decision making, but being clear who makes the final decision. Point three there, communicate it but focus has to be on understanding. The emphasis has to be on what the listener takes in, especially in a situation that’s volatile and unpredictable.
I read somewhere about the ten by ten by ten rule. In terms of, say something ten times in ten different ways for people to retain ten percent. It sounds a bit depressing, in a way, but I think the important point is making sure that you’re concentrating on what is the message and how it’s going to be retained. Next point, slightly contradictory in a way, but it was fascinating, I was reading that the Queen said, about the monarchy ‘if it’s not seen it will be forgotten’ and the same applies to leadership. You’ve got to be present. And that requires a multi-channel contact strategy, I think it’s no coincidence that this time now, we’ve seen in the UK more of the Queen, in terms of state broadcasts than we probably did the previous year.
Another important point, which we covered before, so we won’t dwell on it too much this time, show empathy, collect and spread the stories, find your own stories within the organisation and share them. Again, really important stories inspire. Not something that we will spend much time on this week, we’ve clearly covered that in many of the podcasts before, but important aspects of leadership there, I think, Sam.
Yeah. Let’s keep going. Let’s add to the leadership, leading on that, a reason for a purpose, for us, is a high priority. So, I’m going to build on that list, not duplicate things. As a leader, as an organisation, certainly focus on trust and avoid surveillance. It’s definitely a call out to the employers which actually are using tracking devices and software to just keep an eye on their employees. You’ve really got to trust and treat them as adults and create that environment where that’s an expectation that they’re doing the right thing, versus some sort of invigilation approach. So, that for me is definitely a key one to start off.
When you’re thinking about this as an organisation, as a leadership team, maybe you’re a smaller business, you don’t have a team, you are your team, think about a back to work team or a back to work plan. For larger organisations, it’s going to be a cross-functional group, you’re going to have digital health, IT, other functions, architecture, design, just have a team that you can look at, point to as responsible for leading you back to work.
Then think about also, in terms of how you lead, which are the critical skills, and which are the critical roles? And you need to redefine what critical skills mean in this world, and what are the critical roles? So, it’s not going back to the old playbook and starting there, but you’re actually going to start to think about the path to this new future, and the skills and the types of people and the leadership qualities that they need.
The other thing I would add to this list is designing your organisation and leading from a perspective of resilience versus efficiency and getting it done. For a lot of organisations, they’ve been very focused on cutting costs and thinking about how you can get the most out of people, but now, you’re going to be spending more time building people up, developing people and growing them. And then, on leadership, I would also look externally into your customers, your consumers and your stakeholders. Think about the brand or services that really help you discover new opportunities. Be externally focused as much as you are internally focused.
Ok. Good points there, Sam. I think we need to be realistic that there’s going to be a period of adjustment but at the same time there’s a huge workforce that will be in a prime position to take advantage here. The armies of people already working from home, the tech communities used to working on collaborative software. This isn’t all just a brave new world and no doubt there’s a lot of people sat in their home offices saying ‘well, I’ve been doing this for years!’.
So, if we think about culture, I think an important point is around learning from our elders. There was a report by Egon Zehnder that looked at how people reacted in a crisis. There was a leader in charge during the SARS outbreak that said one of the most important things that they did was to make sure that they worked closer with younger members of the team who had less experience in how to deal with a crisis and work out how that was going. So, I think that the idea of a buddy system is important.
People First Approach
Second thing, be responsive, put people first. We’ve said it before but it’s worth restating. And conveying that trust. Again, in the same interview with Egon Zehnder a leader gave his opinion that during a crisis you have to focus on the physical safety of your people first and worry about collateral damage and the PNL next, as that is the most important asset in a business. And that, I think is also an interesting thing where it applies equally to family businesses as well as it does for conglomerates.
I was reading something that was in the Harvard Business Review, about HBR how multi-generational families benefit from a long memory where the history of the company has seen many crisis’ whether that’s recession or whatever, and that can actually act as a beacon of hope when you think about how generations have dealt with this before. So, we’ll be able to deal with it as well. One sort of famous family business had a motto where it said ‘it depends not just on doing the things right but doing the right things’. And that was a motto that they used, and that really rings true to a lot of what we said before, actually.
Similarly, on one recent video call, the chair of a prominent family who was in their fourth generation, so, this is a family business that has been going through many, many different situations said ‘our priorities right now are principled and clear, the health of our people come first, we need to hope for the best but plan for the worst’. We must ensure that our cash reserves are adequate, we must support the most vulnerable both internally and externally, we must be agile in our decision making, we can’t take anything for granted and we mustn’t forget that crisis brings opportunity. And I thought, that pretty much sums up everything that we’ve been saying over the last few weeks, as well.
Yeah, and I’ll build on that. There’s a theme that I could take from that, it’s the idea of humanisation of workers, of employees, of your stakeholders, versus dehumanisation and just keeping that to the forefront. Throughout this experience, it’s how you treat your employees, the culture you create to support them and how you help foster and facilitate partnerships and connectedness.
There’s a recent example of AirbNB in the US laid off twenty five percent of it’s staff and a lot of plaudits again. We’ve talked about Airbnb before, and how transparent they were, and nothing was leaked because they made it very transparent, they were very open and they were generous to US standards, in terms of the benefits. But it was very much about ensuring the culture that what they are inspiring for is how they treat people in this environment. There’s also a cultural shift that goes for the values and the hearts and the minds of the organisation, how you actually reward and recognise people and doing it in an inclusive way.
Now, there’s more opportunity to be more employee centric. When you’re rewarding or recognising employees, it’s true that what they value might just be some way to support them, be it, a dog walker for example, or perhaps, when times are appropriate, to have someone to clean their home. What do they actually value that really helps them thrive? Helps reward and recognise them? So, it’s not the standard fifty-dollar or seventy-five-dollar, one-hundred-dollar gift certificate, do something and design it with all employees in mind. Especially now, most of them are remote, what is going to help them? The other thing is, just continue to build a culture that supports people's physical and mental health. And again, in the current environment it's ever more important, but it was true beforehand, how do we support people? How they are able to thrive, and what resources and support policies and practices are in place.
I think, you’re going to look externally and you need to invest more time and effort in consumer behaviour, customer behaviours. What are the sites that are emerging? How can you tap into them? Are people more or less bored? And are they frustrated? Lonely, restless? How do you support the consumers out there? And how they behave over time, and make sure you’re designing and building your products and experiences. But also, you’re going to build a culture that’s going to create, I believe, a top tier of employers.
So, the companies now, people are going to be judging them, and this culture stuff, how you treat people and how you operate and how you actually live into it is going to be a driver of whether you accept a role within a company in the future. So, you’ve got to think about the mid and long-term impact of what you do and how you do it, because people are going to be leaving or joining based on what they know and have seen during this difficult time.
I think, a bit of a close down on culture there and I’ll move onto how you recruit and staff, and again, it kind of just builds on what we talked about before. For me, in the space of recruiting, hiring, bringing people on board, one very pragmatic step is to start with the lists, the sauces, the candidates that have been laid off or let go or downsized, whatever the expression is. Especially in the marketing field there’s been a huge impact on data and analytics, customer focused people product, marketers. I mentioned Airbnb but there’s an Air Alumni list where it’s a huge list of people who have been affected and it's a starting point for people to tap into.
Uber, again, another company that has had some significant losses of people, in terms of reducing their workforce. Start with known lists, public lists, where you can actually support people who are in immediate need and focus on Reid Hoffman who was a founder of LinkedIn, who is actually promoting that heavily. There’s other platforms, work reducers and other platforms that help media agencies and media buyers. Again, a lot of people are starting to really support and offer their networks and infrastructure.
Another thing which is really practical for staff and recruiting is as a recruiter or employer and potential person looking, think about the questions you ask and the questions you are being asked. You're probably now going to get questions about how you handled it; what did you do, during the pandemic? What did you learn about yourself? So, just be prepared to tell the stories, the real stories that are relevant to you and also to the organisation, and how that is going to be important going forward. I think more vulnerability will be needed in these stories, because you can’t really gloss over the impact it had. So, those are a couple of things I would think about from the recruiting side, Chris.
Yeah, good. Do you know what? I was researching around recruitment if you’re a remote only business and at disciplinaries, the bottom line is pretty much the same. Of course, you’re doing it over video, but you might have to stimulate a few different reactions. Like, for example, if you’re looking at disciplinaries it’s important to make sure that someone’s not on a public computer and they’ve got privacy, and you probably have to ask about that, rather than actually observe it. But the process is the same. I think it comes back to the point that a lot of organisations have been doing this for many years, so it may be new to some of us but there’s some pretty standard practice out there and it’s not that much different really.
The Physical Workspace
It’s a bit tricky to have a holistic view on the physical space. But we are seeing data, surveys and research saying that people working from home right now, are more likely to experience stress and be more likely to be experiencing anxiety, especially in the current climate. Yes, that will improve in the future but we’ve really got to ensure we think about how we design for interaction. It’s hard to talk purely about physical, because there’s going to be a digital, remote component. So, this human connection could be resolved by thinking about this concept of peer coaching, and how you scale human connection. Peer coaching isn’t mentorship. It’s this idea of colleagues helping each other, to help find their own answers to the challenges they’re working through and so, you can really design your organisation and make it part of how you interact. Yes, you can do that in person, but the technology can help you do that.
The other thing about it is to just be mindful and proactive and purposeful. So, you’re going to continue to communicate and network and build community and host events. Again, you can do that in the digital space, but think about how you are going to continue to do that in face to face events. But don’t only advocate that until the next time you could go to a conference or meet up physically.
So, be doing that community building, to be creating that connection and using the technology and platforms in the digital world, as well as emulating that in the physical world. Now going forward in the future I see the opportunity, whenever you design a conference, event or interaction; there’s offline and online components absolutely baked in from the start. So, people can do that pre, during and post, it’s not one or the other, it’s a blended approach.
Yeah, good point. It's interesting, isn’t it? I suspect, for some people, there’ll be no use for offices at all, going forward. I mean, you certainly wouldn’t want to be in the commercial real estate business at the moment, I don’t think. However, the need for physical contact still remains. So, you still need to think about how people can attend work for meetings or training sessions that cannot be done virtually. How did they do that regular check in with their bosses or managers?
But what I do expect though, is much more hygiene factors. Excuse my pun there. Whether its office buildings, conferences, doors are going to be automatic instead of push and pull handles to avoid germs, you’re going to find that offices are going to get rid of crowded open-plan designs, again, that will sort of come out, I think. Ventilation systems, we covered before, and then just sort of straight forward hygiene policies are going to be in place and much more of a fore of what we’ve been talking about there. And I imagine that even sick leave policies are going to be much, much more stringent, to avoid people coming into offices in any shape or form, there’s going to be a bit of a halo effect there, isn’t it? Even past Covid, I would see.
So, this is my action point list on this section, Sam. Start putting more money, not less into the physical environment, but recognise that this may refer to your employees home environment as well as what we would have seen in their work environment. Just one point, the office chair, if I’ve learnt anything over this last period of time is the value of an office chair. And you looked at it on the balance sheet going, my god, are we paying that much for office chairs? Compared to my dining room table chair that I’ve been using, that would be an absolute god send now.
Yeah, great points there, Chris. And as we’re trying to build this all together, the last point I would make on that, especially if you’re a marketer or in that creative advertising, marketing, innovation space is ensure that you have some resources. Fight like anything to retain resources to look to the future.
In terms of planning and strategy. You have to not have all your resources focused on the now, you have to have one percent, three percent, five percent, some time, resource, effort, thinking about future planning and the long-term nature of your business. That does mean looking seven to ten years into the future and how that impacts the world, the markets, the consumers and the products you produce, and guess what? That foresight would have given you some potential of the current environment happening and how you might adapt and adjust to it. So, you’ve got to continue to do that.
And when you’re thinking about foresight, there’s such great discipline out there, there’s lots of research and books and thought leaders out there that talk about the discipline of foresight or the discipline of futurism. And really, you’ve got to be focused on what are the areas which aren’t going to be fads or clichés, they’re going to be areas and signals that are going to be growth opportunities, major changes in the marketplace. And so, spend time, effort and resources on the future, foresight a key component. Remember that this sudden change, might actually happen again. I was doing some research and there’s a quote about ‘we have momentum behind us right now, so we need to capitalise on that while we can, but you’re capitalising on today because you’re also looking into the future’.
I would say, actually think about creating powerful content, get your visitors excited about your brand, your product, and your proposition. Think about blogs and webinars and seminars and especially if you’re a food and drink brand, any other brand can do that. So, creating content, publishing content and executing that is again, something that is external focused, providing a service but also thinking ahead, and to create demand to create engagement in you, your brand, your organisation and what you offer and how you do that.
Yeah, excellent points. And I think that just before we close out, one other thing that does strike me about all of this is, again, we like to bring this back to the junior marketing execs who are starting out as well as the CEOs, it’s about adaptability here. It’s making sure that you're conscious of your environment, conscious of what you want to achieve and what environment you want to work on but also being adaptable as well. That’s being comfortable in your home environment as out and about in a work environment. You know, it's going to change for all of us in some shape or form, but better I think.
Today’s Three Key Takeaways
Yeah, Chris, this week’s episode is really, really tricky to just land on three things. So, I’m going to cheat a little bit and start off by saying:
It’s all about communication. We talked about the ten by ten by ten which was you have to say something, communicate something ten times, in ten different ways to only land ten percent of it, so communication is key.
Having a plan or having a team in place. Now, for a smaller organisation you’re more likely to have a plan, the larger organisations you can have a cross functional team, but that’s all about the leadership in place to ensure the plan or the team are successful.
I would say it's about being able to reprioritise, to really be mindful about your blind spots and your biases and be open to engaging with other people, because you don’t necessarily have all the answers. Those for me, are the three key things to take away from this show.
Yeah, great stuff there Sam. I think you did well summarising that in three. I like to set you a nice challenge. So, episode 37 - we’re going to be looking at sustainable marketing. I want to look at that in two ways, Sam. I want to look at what’s ethical and what’s actually sustainable. You know, we think back to the 2008 world crash and the lessons that were learnt there, and the companies that are still going strong coming out of that. As well as what the new future looks like. It’s going to be a good episode, Sam.