Thinking Inside the Box

How Hybrid Employee Compensation Affects Talent Strategy - Sandrine Bardot

June 22, 2021 Matt Burns Season 1 Episode 81
Thinking Inside the Box
How Hybrid Employee Compensation Affects Talent Strategy - Sandrine Bardot
Show Notes Transcript

Sandrine Bardot is a truly global compensation strategist. Her experiences at the world’s largest organizations, including Microsoft, Apple & Airbus, through Europe, the Middle East & Asia, grants her a unique perspective. 

And she’s shared her perspectives; writing nearly 300 blogs at - on everything from employee performance to complex total rewards strategies. It makes her the perfect person to discuss the future of organizational compensation.

Many employees give little consideration to the broader view; focusing on their own salary, bonuses and benefits. Though in aggregate, they often represent an organization’s largest expense. Which makes its strategy and management crucial in an incredibly competitive global labour market. 

And how do things shift as work increasingly goes hybrid? Should organizations pay based on the cost of their local labour market? Or by the specific role, regardless of location? We discuss these and myriad other fascinating topics that you won’t want to miss.

Sandrine Bardot

An award-winning Compensation & Benefits expert, Sandrine Bardot boasts a 28-year career in the field of Total Rewards. She took on took on roles with increasing responsibilities in Compensation & Benefits in Microsoft, Airbus, Apple, Philips, Fiat and more, leading to positions of Global Head of Performance and Reward at Majid Al Futtaim in Dubai then Mubadala in Abu Dhabi.

Established in 2013, her company The Bardot Group offers specialised C&B consulting, training and keynote speaking services, mostly throughout the GCC, Asia and Africa.

She shares hands-on, pragmatic approaches with her clients, ensuring that the projects will have immediate impact and business value and don’t remain “an idea on the shelf”.

As part of her outreach to educate the HR community, she authors a blog, Compensation, with over 300 articles published to date inspiring HR leaders and practitioners on topics related to the Employee Value Proposition.

She is also a regular speaker at HR conferences and in-house events.


Thinking Inside the Box

Constraints drive innovation. Each week we’ll tackle the most complex issues related to work & culture.

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Matt Burns

Matt Burns is an award-winning executive, social entrepreneur and speaker. He believes in the power of community, simplicity & technology.


[00:00:00] Guest 1: [00:00:00] But I would use that actually, because it is about having a financial impact. That's where the experimental [00:00:10] experimentation should take place because you can do something different from others and support the company and the strategy by. [00:00:20] Helping the organization as an employer to position itself from its competitors,

[00:00:30] Matt: [00:00:38] strengths, strive, innovation. [00:00:40] Hey everyone. It's Matt here for another episode of thinking inside the box, the show where we discuss complex issues related to work. And culture. If you're [00:00:50] interested, checking out our other content, you can find us at bento,, wherever you find your favorite podcasts by searching, thinking inside the box.

And [00:01:00] now in virtual reality, each Thursday at 5:00 PM Pacific standard time in alt space VR. In today's episode, I chat with [00:01:10] Sandrine Bardo and award winning total rewards expert based in Dubai, her experiences and the world's largest organizations, including Microsoft, [00:01:20] apple, and Airbus throughout Europe, middle east, and Asia grants.

Her a unique perspective. And she shared her perspectives writing nearly 300 [00:01:30] blogs at compensation, on everything from employee performance to complex total rewards strategies, which makes her the perfect person to discuss the [00:01:40] future of organizational compensation, which may be a strange topic for some many employees, give little consideration to the broader view [00:01:50] instead focusing on their own salaries and bonuses and benefits though in aggregate.

Employee compensation often represents an organization's largest [00:02:00] expense, which makes it strategy and management crucial in an increase, probably competitive global labor market. To say that I think of how things are going to shift in the [00:02:10] future. As work becomes increasingly hybrid, should organizations pay their labor based on the cost of the local labor market [00:02:20] or by the specific role, regardless of its location.

We discussed these and myriad other fascinating topics that you just won't want to miss. [00:02:30] So without further ado, sensory . Sandrine Bardo. We spent a pretty good month of time before we hit the record button. Me trying to make sure that I didn't [00:02:40] mispronounce her name. I think I did. Well. You did. What do you think you did?

10 out of 10. Okay. Okay. Great. My, my French teachers in high school will be very grateful that I've managed [00:02:50] to keep some of that knowledge and learning from that time. It's really great to connect today. I've been excited for this conversation since we first met your experience is varied. It is [00:03:00] complex.

It is global. Uh, and I think as a result, we're going to have a great conversation before we get to that. I think the benefits of folks who may not know something, [00:03:10] uh, tell us a bit about yourself and your background and experiences. 

Guest 1: [00:03:12] Yeah, sure. Thank you so much. So for those who didn't get yet, I'm French.

Uh, I'm currently living in Dubai. I've [00:03:20] been based in the UAE since. Permanently when Sandy permanency since 2007, um, and I'm a total rewards or [00:03:30] performance and reward or a compensation and benefits. There's not really a settled name for our function, but, uh, that's my, uh, I've been doing convent [00:03:40] for 28 years.

I was very, very blessed in my career that I had opportunities to leave, uh, France, [00:03:50] uh, and start my first international experience was in Rome in Italy. And then I went to London, came back to France, then went to Milan, came back to [00:04:00] Paris, then went to Turin and then eventually moved. Uh, to the middle east.

So I've been going back and forth across different countries and [00:04:10] cultures and, and, uh, also working for many different companies, ranging from Airbus, uh, Phillips Microsoft. Apple, um, [00:04:20] and frost daily com. And in the, let's say in the middle east, I was very, very blessed to lead, uh, the global, uh, performance and reward [00:04:30] teams for two of the, uh, most, uh, recognized entities in the UAE.

The first one was called measured and fatigue. Math group. And I think [00:04:40] people around the world don't know the name of the company, but they know what they did. They did the mall with the ski slope in Dubai. So famous for that. And I [00:04:50] also worked my last corporate job for a silver in west fond of Abu Dhabi called Mubadala.

So that was also a, quite an interesting experience [00:05:00] before setting up my, uh, Consulting and training company in performance and reward, uh, in 2013. So just past my eighth [00:05:10] anniversary 

Matt: [00:05:11] story, and in particular, I was really impressed with the absolute sheer number of countries and cultures that you've worked in.

I'm curious, um, you've [00:05:20] had this journey now for. The better part of a couple of decades. And I'm curious that in your experiences, what you've learned, I mean, working in the UK, in the [00:05:30] UAE and France in, uh, as well, Italy, I mean a lot of different cultures. Um, I'm sure you took something away from each of those experiences.

Guest 1: [00:05:38] I hopefully I did. [00:05:40] Uh, yes. I would say that. The first one. Um, I, for me is that I can only talk [00:05:50] about me, but I think it applies to a lot of expats as well. Uh, it's about resilience and adaptation. And I think that I found out that I was a lot [00:06:00] more resilient than I thought I was. Um, You imagine life living abroad in a certain way.

And it actually is not that way. [00:06:10] Once you get there, and there are things that are easier than you anticipated and others that come out of the blue and completely [00:06:20] unexpected. And I think it's such a personal enrichment to be confronted to those, uh, to those different experiences. That for me, um, [00:06:30] I never want to go back, you know, if, if I was offered.

A job in France, you know, even in a very great company, but if it was focused only on, in, [00:06:40] on France, I would probably be bored out of my mind to be honest, because I'd miss that diversity and the [00:06:50] different ways of thinking that people have. Um, the other thing. For me, which was really good is that the companies that sent me [00:07:00] to those countries were themselves very open and diverse already.

So even though that wasn't like the [00:07:10] big thing that it is today, you know, with all this movement about diversity and inclusion and so on. I was lucky to work for employers that were, [00:07:20] uh, open-minded enough to send me to other countries, even when I didn't have previous experience, uh, to become a manager when I hadn't been a manager to become a [00:07:30] global head when I haven't been a global head before, you know, so it was very, uh, good to see that.

And I was blessed to have, and especially in the [00:07:40] UAE teams. Um,  my team of 13. We have 13 different nationalities and more or less, so many different [00:07:50] religions and cultures. It was like, great, because we were always celebrating something and learning something about one another. So that was really nice. So I, I [00:08:00] really enjoyed that.

And I, I wish for many people to have that opportunity because it opens your mind, even if you go for two, three years and then you go [00:08:10] back to your home country, you have this treasure inside of yourself that can never be taken away. So, um, I would really encourage people if they have an opportunity [00:08:20] to go, even if they're scared, So I 

Matt: [00:08:24] think it's a really good perspective and I can share from personal experience that while I haven't had a [00:08:30] number of expatriate assignments, I certainly have had a lot of international experience, whether it's through my MBA program or working with global organizations.

And I agree with you, I think each of those [00:08:40] experiences and opportunities you take something away from, and it provides you with a greater, um, Sense of, uh, the, the global stage. It provides you with more [00:08:50] confidence in your ability to handle a number of different, unique circumstances. And I ultimately think that as we move more into a globalist society, a global [00:09:00] eyes economy, But that type of experience becomes increasingly important.

I was, I was speaking with a good friend of mine, Rupert brown, a few weeks ago on the podcast soon to be released. [00:09:10] So for folks interested in more expatriate experiences, check out that episode with Rupert Rupert as well, just finish a significant stint in the UAE. He's now back in [00:09:20] his native UK. But before that he'd spent time in Singapore among other countries and.

He shared the same sentiment that you did. Something like in terms of the value that it provided [00:09:30] for him. Also his family, he has a wife and children, and they also benefited from having a global experience and living in a bunch of different cultures and learning different cultures. [00:09:40] And the one piece that he shared, which I thought was really interesting was he was lamenting the impact of the pandemic because one consequence of the pandemic that probably isn't as discussed as, [00:09:50] as the ones that hit the headlines is that w.

Part of our global economy. Part of our global society is predicated on gaining deeper understanding of other cultures, [00:10:00] of other societies, of other economies, of other industries. And in the pandemic, it's forced us all to take a very insular look, to get very nativist. If you will [00:10:10] get to get look very, um, You know, very much in a smaller scale.

And his concern was that if we don't rebound post pandemic into a [00:10:20] culture that continues to value global perspectives, we may lose some of the, of the, of the beauty and the uniqueness that we've been able to acquire over the last call it 25 years. [00:10:30] I'm curious for yourself, um, you know, in a post pandemic context, What are your thoughts about, um, the globalization aspect of your line [00:10:40] of work?

Are you, are you committed to this type of path going forward? Are you confident that this is the right path for you as you consider your career? And does your advice [00:10:50] change for anybody in a post pandemic context? I, I 

Guest 1: [00:10:52] find the point very interesting. Cause I tend to agree and we, we see it also from the economy [00:11:00] candor.

Um, I hate to use the word, but political point of view as well, where we see lots of countries are starting to be more internally focused and to be, uh, [00:11:10] externally focused. And we've seen it in, uh, in Europe with Brexit and some other countries that are a little bit tempted to, uh, you [00:11:20] know, investigate whether they should be better off without the EU and the, and so on at the same time, I will say that for me last year.

[00:11:30] Uh, was absolutely mind blowing because all of a sudden, because of the pandemic, I never had as many speaking opportunities than I [00:11:40] had, uh, before. And, uh, it was amazing to see all those people who were in the U S [00:11:50] who were in South Africa, who were in Namibia, who were in the ER, who were in India, who were in Russia.

Uh, inviting me to, to speak [00:12:00] at their events because the technology supported a different way of interacting with people from outside the country. So even though I [00:12:10] was like, everybody has stuck where I was, which was Dubai. Um, I was having interactions with what people from outside the, even the region where I [00:12:20] am than I would have before.

When, um, whenever you did a speech in, or you have to take a plane or to, you know, to, for the presentation. [00:12:30] So I think that it will be a mix of, uh, probably companies are going to be a little bit more rational and maybe not be [00:12:40] spent sending people, you know, just like. Because they can, uh, sending somebody abroad with a, for a business trip or for a, for an [00:12:50] international assignment.

But I do think that. The movement to international is there in people. So if companies are not [00:13:00] going to do it, people are still going to do it because people have been used to travel, uh, around me. I see so many people who are so frustrating that we can barely [00:13:10] travel at the moment and who can't wait, you know, to feel comfortable getting on the plane and being able to go the way they used to and so on.

And I, I [00:13:20] think that once people vote with their feet, Organizations will follow. So even if they are a little bit tempted to be a bit more cautious or. Country [00:13:30] centric. I think that the global, I mean, it's out of the box now. It's going to be very difficult to put it back in. 

Matt: [00:13:38] Yeah. Yeah. I think you raised a number of [00:13:40] really good points and I'm, I'm so glad to hear that.

One of the consequences of the pandemic was that you got more opportunities to share your knowledge. Uh, you, you bring a really. Oh [00:13:50] wide breadth of experiences and a really interesting and refreshing perspective to a topic that really hasn't evolved a lot in the time that I've spent in the corporate world.

[00:14:00] I mean, compensation has at times gotten a bad rap for being a little bit conservative in its approach in which it makes sense. And we were talking about finances and salaries, and [00:14:10] that lends itself to maybe a bit more of a conservative outlook, but the fact that we're. We as society are more open to other perspectives and bringing you to other [00:14:20] conferences and to other events, to me speaks to trying to close that gap and gain that greater understanding.

I would also share somebody in that one, the areas that I was interested in speaking with you about [00:14:30] offline was. Let's be honest in the Penn DEMEC it hasn't affected all jurisdictions. Equally. Some countries have been harder hit than others. Some [00:14:40] countries have rebounded faster than others. I've been speaking a lot with colleagues in Australia, New Zealand, the UAE, Singapore, that seemingly have had either an easier [00:14:50] path through the pandemic or have rebounded more quickly through the pandemic.

And I speak with those people because I get really interested in what they're thinking about and what [00:15:00] problems that they're trying to solve for. I look more locally here in Canada, in the United States, and many of the I speak with they're still trying to figure out vaccinations returned to office, [00:15:10] office layouts, very tactical will brick and mortar type conversations.

Um, the percentage of hybrid work of how often people will be allowed to work from home versus in the [00:15:20] office. But in the other jurisdictions that I mentioned the, you know, Asia Pacific and in, into the middle east, because they've already gone through that transition, they're thinking about different [00:15:30] problems.

And I get very curious about that as an organizational, um, you know, defacto expert in some, some ways. The way that we got connected originally was because I was [00:15:40] introduced to you from a colleague of mine in Amsterdam, as a matter of fact, and I read some of your blogs and, you know, I was really impressed with the way that you look at some of these challenges.

So [00:15:50] you know, how long you've been blogging. 

Guest 1: [00:15:51] So I started my blog, um, So in my last corporate job, I had already planned in my head that I wanted it to be my last [00:16:00] corporate job. And I wanted to set up my company thereafter. And I've always believed that you need to network before you need your network and why sell straight.

[00:16:10] But that's really true. And so I thought that I needed to, to do something to be. Found online. And I started blogging in 2010 [00:16:20] and, uh, at the time nobody in company was a blogging in the middle east. I think there are still very few people. I mean, I don't know who they are [00:16:30] in. There are some, and at the time the.

The way that you were supposed to do was to produce a lot of content. So like three articles and I was [00:16:40] writing three articles a week and the technology was not the same. It was taking me a lot of time to create the blog and was doing it by myself. And I was doing that in my, [00:16:50] in my free time. And then I stopped for awhile.

Um, I kind of, uh, kind of run out of steam for a [00:17:00] little while and I recently relaunched it in a, not really launched was very informal, but that's it blogging again with a new format, adding video. [00:17:10] Um, and I found because I've been receiving feedback from people telling me yes. And then, you know, in other parts of the world, uh, reading English is sometimes difficult.

[00:17:20] Um, English is the second or third language for most of the people in, in, in the middle Eastern, especially in the GCC where 90% of [00:17:30] the population is non national, non native. And so, um, if you were to talk, everybody understands English. Cause we talk English [00:17:40] all day long when we're in the workplace. So if you do a video or if you do a podcast, people will understand better and you might be able to reach more people.

And then I was reading that, [00:17:50] you know, video is very important and the younger generations prefer video. So I moved to offering a video format as well as the [00:18:00] written format. So the article is a. Revise the transcript of the, uh, of the audio of the video. And, um, it [00:18:10] got me completely energized again. So I've been rebranding again every week since January and, um, I don't [00:18:20] plan to stop.

So I'm very happy with above that. It's, uh, it's a great way for me to reach out to more people and share. What I hope is [00:18:30] going to inspire, uh, other HR, people and company, then people to think a little bit outside the box. You were saying that company van is [00:18:40] sometimes a little bit more conservative because it's above the money.

But I, I would use that actually, because it is about having a financial [00:18:50] impact. That's where we experiment experimentation should take place because you can do something different from others and support the [00:19:00] company and the strategy by helping, uh, the organization as an employer to position itself, um, differently from, uh, [00:19:10] from its competitors.

And, uh, I think we undervalue. How people can achieve that. Uh, there are so many ways, and we were [00:19:20] talking before the, uh, before the recording of, of the personalization of reward. And I think that is supported by, uh, by technology, but [00:19:30] has to be supported by a mindset more than anything else before it's implemented.

And so I'm trying through. What I talk about on the blog [00:19:40] to spark ideas for others to follow and try to, to do their own thing. You know, it doesn't have to be the same as what I do, but, [00:19:50] uh, to do their own things so that we have more creativity and more communication, uh, as well on, on what's going on, uh, in different [00:20:00] organizations.

Matt: [00:20:02] Hey everyone. It's Matt here, and I hope you're enjoying today's discussion before we continue. I want to make you aware of our latest [00:20:10] creative project, HR in VR, every Thursday at 5:00 PM. Pacific standard time. All connect with technology pioneers, [00:20:20] business executives from the world's most iconic brands and industry thought leaders to discuss the future of immersive technologies like virtual reality.

And their [00:20:30] impact on future workplaces. In partnership with Microsoft we're broadcasting each episode on LinkedIn live and in front of a live studio audience in [00:20:40] Altspace. Joining is easy for LinkedIn users. Simply follow my account, Matt in VR and stay tuned Thursdays at 5:00 PM. Pacific [00:20:50] standard time for the LinkedIn live stream.

Or for a truly immersive live experience, visit alt to download [00:21:00] Altspace on your Mac, PC or VR headset, and join us live in our studio audience. There you'll have a chance to ask questions, meet [00:21:10] me and our incredible guests and connect with others from the comfort of your own home. This is the future folks.

And I hope to be part of it. And I'll link the [00:21:20] details for HR in VR, along with all other relevant information in the show notes of this podcast. And now back to our discussion.

[00:21:30] Absolutely love that perspective. And it's the reason why I wanted to connect with you because I agree when there's a financial implication to [00:21:40] anything, it is an opportunity for experimentation. And I think that we allow things to be conservative because it's been a ritual for many generations, but that doesn't [00:21:50] mean it has to be that way going forward.

And I, I do want to spend more time talking about personalization of reward because I think it's an important topic. Particularly now in this new [00:22:00] hybrid world of work. And as you know, symphony, one of the areas that we collaborated on a captain on was, you know, recently I also released a top 10 trends for [00:22:10] 2021 on behalf of bento, HR, and.

The purpose of that document was really to eliminate all of the, the trends, the conversations, the [00:22:20] discussions that I've had with thousands of HR leaders over the course of the last year at conferences, you know, by way of networking in some mastermind groups that I'm part of. [00:22:30] And to surface for those that may not have the time to sift through hundreds and thousands of articles, but are curious about where the future of work has [00:22:40] going.

We pulled together this document and I'll be honest. I was, I was humbled and surprised by the response it received. I will link by that, by the way, I'll like that document in the show notes of [00:22:50] this particular podcast, for those interested in checking that out. But one area that we spoke about as you mentioned, offline, was this concept of hybrid work and personalization of personalization of reward.

[00:23:00] And in particular, we talked about this dichotomy between the cost of labor versus the cost of living and to set some context for our audience here. [00:23:10] There are organizations globally that have tried to be a bit more creative with how they're paying employees. So traditionally organizations would [00:23:20] pay employees because they would come to a physical office and they would pay them based on the local market rate because cost of living in this sense was the determining factor of [00:23:30] whether you paid somebody, a certain rate.

And that cost of living of course, would vary by jurisdiction, by city, by country. And then the pay would reflect those variances. In saying [00:23:40] that there are many organizations during the pandemic. And of course, out of the pandemic that are going to apply a different approach, which is a cost of labor approach where they essentially pay the [00:23:50] role the same, regardless of where it's based, um, which affords some significant opportunities for individuals that perhaps prefer.

Yeah. To not live in the [00:24:00] same city as the corporate office of their organization, or may prefer more of a nomadic or expatriate type of the lifestyle. Um, and as this world increasingly shuns [00:24:10] traditional borders, and as we increasingly shift to a culture of more flat organizations where we measure outputs versus inputs, uh, I'm [00:24:20] curious how you're thinking through the compensation implications of all of that.


Guest 1: [00:24:25] there are many, and I don't think that there are permanent [00:24:30] answers yet. So if you look at it, uh, Facebook has said that people can work from anywhere, but, uh, and I think that was mostly targeted [00:24:40] at their us population. Maybe not their international population, none of the articles that I've read has specified, but they did mention that if [00:24:50] somebody was relocating to another location, they might.

They might reduce the pay of that person. So like if you're moving from San Francisco to rural cancer, for [00:25:00] example, where cost of living is going to be a lot less, uh, reduce, uh, the pay. And I was in this, um, in that working [00:25:10] with the American company then, and HR people, maybe 10 days or two weeks, two weeks ago.

And we were talking about that. [00:25:20] And that may I made the comment and I said, well, those companies are all very good at saying that they are going to reduce pay, but none of them talk about the person who willingly [00:25:30] relocates from cancer to San Francisco to be closer to the headquarters. And we've increased the pay of that person.

And everybody [00:25:40] was like a bit silent. Cause cause I'm like, you have to do it both ways. I mean, if you, if the way that you're supposed to work from the cop's point of view is that you have, uh, [00:25:50] uh, compensation, which helps to guide your decision making on how you're going to design the package of priests.

So either [00:26:00] you have an, I remember listening to a podcast based think it was from WorldatWork, but I'm not sure if he wants back. Maybe it was. [00:26:10] The last summer. Um, and they were talking about, uh, some hospitals in the middle of the country who were having to pay for them nurses, the same [00:26:20] salary as the nurses in San Francisco, which, uh, on the west coast, which was for them unheard of, but because there was a shortage of skills [00:26:30] and a shortage of nurses, and it was the middle of the other huge crisis at the moment.

At that time in the U S. Um, they had to pay, uh, the same in [00:26:40] order to get, uh, or even to keep their investees. Otherwise the nurses would move, um, will become much more mobile and we'd move to New York or would move to, to the west [00:26:50] west coast. And so. I think what's going to happen is that a number of organizations are going to, [00:27:00] to work on that more on an individual basis.

Because to be honest, I personally, I'm not sure that there is such a huge number of people who have [00:27:10] actually relocated to a new place already. First of all, because I think that in the middle of a pandemic, a relocation is maybe not necessarily that easy, um, [00:27:20] Okay, because there may be not permanent relocations.

I think a lot of people may be moved temporarily. You know, some people went closer to maybe to [00:27:30] their parents to benefit from a house and a yard then if they were living in the city and so on. But I don't think. So many people have made permanent, uh, [00:27:40] decisions yet. So there will be a number of people, but there will be in many companies and in many different locations.

And so each company is probably going to see and [00:27:50] try to guess if this is the beginning of a trend for them, or if this is more like an exception that they can handle. And I think in the beginning they will make decisions that will [00:28:00] be based, not just on their compensation philosophy or their theoretical approach, but they will also think of who is that person who has moved.

What are they [00:28:10] doing? What are their skills, um, is that if that person has skews that are rare and that person is a high performer, they might have a [00:28:20] policy which would say, yeah, we will decrease your pay, but they might end up not doing it because they don't want to lose the person. So that's to the, [00:28:30] to choose the.

Advantage, uh, I would say have some in per years at the same time, the fact that, uh, companies are now [00:28:40] much more aware of that, uh, and Prius can be based, let's say pretty much anywhere or in different parts of the same country to simplify [00:28:50] opens the markets, the markets to more competition for positions.

So it could also have an effect of [00:29:00] pulling, uh, salaries down a little bit. In the longer term. I personally don't think that we are going to see huge trends on that immediately. It's going to [00:29:10] take maybe a year or two for things to settle and for organizations to really say, okay, we've had a number of cases and now we're making a decision [00:29:20] on what we will really do, um, moving forward and, and we create a new.

Um, methodology of how we are going to approach things, [00:29:30] because I think organizations will have to experiment a little bit and see what the reality for each of them is going to be 

Matt: [00:29:38] a number of really great points there. [00:29:40] I think you're right. I think a lot of organizations and frankly, employees for that matter are in bit of a holding pattern, a bit of a wait and see approach.

Um, I have talked to a number of senior organizational [00:29:50] leaders that are very much feeling that way, where they're perhaps holding onto commercial real estate. They're perhaps not making a final decision yet on hybrid work, because I think [00:30:00] that we all would agree that in whatever final state we end up in the current environment that we're operating in today, Is not typical.

This is a very atypical exception-based [00:30:10] environment. And when things do open up again and travel becomes less restrictive and things do flow more freely throughout the world that might change the question. [00:30:20] We also need to be mindful of the fact that not everybody is going to want to hop on a plane and become a digital nomad and live on a beach in Bali.

I love that idea. It's a fantastic idea. But many of the [00:30:30] senior leaders that I speak many of the senior leaders that I speak with to your earlier point, they have family considerations, they have personal commitments. So there's, there's a whole bunch of other decisions that pop into [00:30:40] that one topic as well.

That we've been discussing a lot. I host biweekly focus groups with senior HR leaders where we discuss hybrid work in the future of hybrid work. And the [00:30:50] purpose of those groups is really to eliminate. Some of the best practices that each of them are employing in service to helping other people in the room, but also to, to surface [00:31:00] questions and concerns.

And one topic that we raised about a month ago that has got a lot of traction in those focus groups is the idea of proximity bias. And, [00:31:10] you know, I still remembered an era and I know you do something in as well where the person who was most closely located. To the person who made the decisions [00:31:20] or the person who was the other, the greatest influence, provide them with significant benefits and that people who worked were removed from that individual.

So if you were a remote [00:31:30] resource or you were somebody who was located in a different city, there was this perception that you didn't get the same opportunities. You didn't get the same promotional chances. You didn't get the same compensation [00:31:40] adjustments because you know, whether we want to acknowledge this or not, but there is a bias to proximity and there is a bias too.

Seeing somebody five days a week in the same physical [00:31:50] space versus somebody that you connect with on a zoom call once or twice during the course of a week. And I know for a fact that there are professionals who would love to have a more flexible [00:32:00] lifestyle, but they're concerned that in doing so, it might stall their upward progression in their careers, and it may preclude them from opportunities for development and cool projects.

So [00:32:10] I think that this is all a much more complicated conversation, which brings us back to. Compensation being a really important catalyst and [00:32:20] driver and decision point that organizations have to make as they consider their paths going forward. 

Guest 1: [00:32:26] I'd like to make a point on this proximity bias [00:32:30] because it's true.

We all have subconscious bias, actually make some presentations on what I call the neuroscience of reward, where I talk about behavioral science and how [00:32:40] it impacts to the world of compensation and benefits and so on. Uh, I think a lot of it depends to be honest, like so many other things on the [00:32:50] quality of the, of the manager.

So let me give you a personal example when I was first hired in Microsoft. I, so my [00:33:00] boss was based in Italy and I was in Paris at the time. And in Microsoft at the time I was told, Hey, Celine, we want to hire you. So, which location would you like to [00:33:10] work out of? Would you like to be in Paris and Milan? Uh, would you like to be in Amsterdam?

Would you like to be in Montreal? There were six or seven. [00:33:20] Would you like to be outside of London? And I remember the Munich and I can't remember the final one and I could choose. It was like, yeah, we [00:33:30] don't really care. This is for European position. So wherever your base, uh, is going to be cool with us, uh, we're good with that.

And my boss had a team [00:33:40] where he had one lady reporting to him, uh, in Italy where he was, he had one guy in Germany he had, and he had me in, uh, I chose prompts at the time because [00:33:50] the, the CEO of the EMA region was in France. So I felt like it would be better for me to be there. So that's why I stayed in France at the diamond.

And immediately I [00:34:00] asked to spend six months in Italy to be with my boss to get to know him. And so that's what they did. Uh, I asked them, I said, Hey, can you send me for [00:34:10] six months to Italy? I don't expect package. Uh, it turned out that from the, from the tax point of view, it was like three months on a, on a fiscal year, spring months on the next.

[00:34:20] So it was not like. Making me having tax liability in a different country or anything. And I spent six months with him. And then after that, I was a fully remote, [00:34:30] uh, a thousand or 2000 kilometers away from my boss. And we were talking on the phone. There were a lot fewer video conferences at the time.

We're talking [00:34:40] 2003. So it was mostly audio conferences. Uh, that was the way of working. And I never felt that. I had [00:34:50] less of an opportunity than my colleague who was based in the office next door to my boss. Um, not only did I not feel it, but, uh, it actually turned out that I [00:35:00] had the opportunities, which maybe some of the other team members who were not offered at the time.

So I think if you have a manager who's well-educated [00:35:10] and who has, uh, and I'm talking educated in, in people management and not talking formal education, but somebody who's aware of how to manage people and [00:35:20] who's focused more on, uh, the work than on the location that bias can be. Not eliminated because that's never going to be, [00:35:30] uh, possible, but, uh, hugely, uh, diminished.

And I think the one thing that all companies always talk about is all [00:35:40] this effort that managers need to do. But let me be honest, except for a few organizations, even as my clients are aware, I worked in, most companies had. [00:35:50] Pretty terrible people management programs, you know, to teach people management skills, to, to line managers.

Uh, the, the first line manager is [00:36:00] so important for employee engagement. We know that, I mean, the older, all the surveys show that the most important factor for employee engagement is the quality [00:36:10] of the direct manager. And so few companies ever invest in actually. Making sure that managers have time to be managers at, I'm [00:36:20] not like individual contributors who also have a manager, your responsibilities on top, because, you know, as organizations became more flat, what we see [00:36:30] is that a lot of managers have their own workload that they have to do.

And then on top, they need to take care of the team. And I, I think that, uh, if organizations were [00:36:40] spending more time, helping managers become more. Coachees than traditional, you know, I need to sign all the [00:36:50] documents and put my stamp of approval and take my red pen and say, Hey, you made a mistake here on your piece of paper.

Um, they would have [00:37:00] so much positive outcomes in terms of productivity in terms of engagement. And, um, they might need maybe a few more people to [00:37:10] replace the work that was produced. As an individual contributor by those managers, but that's not even sure because when productivity of the team raises [00:37:20] up, you don't need it's replaced.

So I think organizations have a huge responsibility there, but no, they don't really talk about it. You know, [00:37:30] it's like, oh yeah, there will be this bias. Okay. So what are we going to do against it? And think of companies like GitHub who were fully distributed [00:37:40] from the, from the outset. Um, and who have even shared their work book, you know, where you can find their processes, their ways of working and so [00:37:50] on.

They found ways. To, to mitigate, uh, that bias. So it's not impossible. Um, it will never be [00:38:00] perfect, but, uh, it, it can be reduced greatly. I think I 

Matt: [00:38:04] completely agree with you. And I think that the concerns that I hear from folks [00:38:10] around that problem speaks to the phenomenon that you mentioned, which is that most organizations have not.

Made significant investments in their line managers, [00:38:20] both in terms of their workloads. So that you're right there. There had to have full full-time jobs. And they're asked to play supervisor for 6, 8, [00:38:30] 10, 12. I talked to somebody today who has 25 direct reports. I don't know. I don't know how you could possibly, you know, lead 25 people effectively and have a full-time job.

And so that's [00:38:40] part of it. Plus to your earlier point, we tend to advance strong individual contributors, not recognizing that the skills of leadership are very different than being a [00:38:50] very, you know, being a solid accountant or PR professional or marketer or HR professional or operator, you know, finance professional, and those two things conspire to [00:39:00] lead to what is really in a lot of cases, inadequate management.

So when I hear, I hear people saying to me that they're concerned about this going forward. It speaks to the fact that [00:39:10] we really, in a lot of cases, haven't made the progression, even in the pandemic to make the investments in our leaders to be fully effective [00:39:20] in a dispersed workforce. But that we're all just kind of limping along, hoping for things to return back to some form of normal.

And that when they do a [00:39:30] lot of the habits that showed up, frankly, before the pandemic will kind of leach back into ways of working. And I agree with you, I think there is an absolutely, um, a skillset to [00:39:40] managing people remotely. It doesn't have to be a unfavorable experience for somebody who's not co-located with their manager.

It doesn't have to be such that, uh, leaders feel that they [00:39:50] don't have the skills to be able to adequately support their employees. We can make those investments and it requires organizations to take a different look at things and to be more open to it. And companies like get [00:40:00] hub and Netflix and other organizations that have, have shown an ability to manage their organizations effectively in the space.

Have been more than generous and providing the details. It just requires HR [00:40:10] leaders and more broadly organizational leaders to look at traditional rituals and question them whether they're going to have currency going forward. And if we're being honest, [00:40:20] sensitive, and I think a lot of the things that have popped up as opportunities in the pandemic were well-known.

Prior to the pandemic, they just become illuminated because of the additional stress and pressures of [00:40:30] what's going on. But we know that there's been challenges for years with a lot of the topics that we're discussing. It's just that the, this, this pandemic has cast a very bright spotlight 

Guest 1: [00:40:38] on it. Yeah, [00:40:40] definitely.

Um, it was interesting just today. I was talking with a friend. He's working for a government. Yeah. Entity [00:40:50] and, uh, was telling me that since the pandemic and this entity, like many other government entities in the, in that part of the world, [00:41:00] How has implementing tracking systems, where they look at the number of emails that people are sending per day and the number of meetings that people [00:41:10] are attending.

And if you don't sell enough embeds, or if you have not been in enough meetings, then they are going to say that your [00:41:20] performance is not good. And I was very shocked and I told him, well, if you think about teach me, we constantly hear about this concept of the deep work, [00:41:30] which is necessary as we get into an economy, which is much more based on creativity and the aspects of our work, which cannot be [00:41:40] replaced or automated by.

Uh, replaced by a robot, whether it's an algorithm robot or a physical robot. And how can you do deep work? [00:41:50] If your performance is measured on the number of emails that you're doing, or the number of meetings that you're then attending, when can you have that space for that creativity and that deep [00:42:00] focus?

And so I think that's just a crutch to replace. The work that the manager should be doing, which is to make sure that their employees [00:42:10] are engaged and so on, but because they haven't trained their managers and they don't know how to train their managers, they put in place the tool. And he didn't tell me which tool it [00:42:20] was, but there was, um, Very famous attempt a few months ago by a very large organization, which happened to be one of my past employers to [00:42:30] implement some similar tracking.

And immediately when I was reading about it, I was like, they're thinking that activity is productivity and that's not the same [00:42:40] and this is wrong. And there was huge backlash, uh, against it. So it's going to be interesting to see. What comes out of, [00:42:50] uh, all those different ways, because some companies are moving forward, uh, saying, Hey, yes, like Twitter, for example, you can work from anywhere.

We are going to be very open. [00:43:00] Others are somewhere in between more like Facebook, you know? Yeah. You can work from anywhere, but maybe we're not going to be treating everybody in the same way. And then you have. [00:43:10] Organizations that are like the, those banks that are saying no work from home is an aberration and abomination.

Even one of the CEOs said, we want [00:43:20] everybody back in the office and we don't really care if people have to commute or if it's not right for their lives. And I think what we will see in the coming two, three years is that people will [00:43:30] vote with their seats. And we will see what people are ready to accept, but if you think about it in the us at the moment, we see a lot of articles that people are not even [00:43:40] showing up for interviews for positions in the retail, food and beverage hospitality, uh, environment, uh, because of the working conditions because of the pay [00:43:50] levels and so on, they don't even show up for the interviews and maybe it's because they use the time of dependent week when they were still allowed.

To upscale themselves and go for [00:44:00] those jobs of the future, wherever conditions are going to be better for them. And if that's the case great for them, I'm very happy. 

Matt: [00:44:06] Yeah. I, to me, I mean, I always struggled with this [00:44:10] topic because I think that. You're right. First off, if you're assessing the number of meetings people are attending and the volume of their activities, you're just measuring [00:44:20] the wrong things.

And that that's the first and foremost, I think, secondly, it really speaks to the organization's values around how much they trust their [00:44:30] leaders and how much they trust their employees. If you don't believe that somebody is effective because they weren't on a specific number of phone calls or sent a number of emails per day, [00:44:40] then you've missed the point on what really is important in an organization.

Okay. Context and I, and at the same time, I know that's the case. I've also heard of solutions where people are [00:44:50] measuring how much time you're spending in front of your computer screen. Um, as another measure to see if somebody is being productive and. Again, it goes back to this legacy thinking that presenteeism inactivity [00:45:00] inputs are, are equivalent to outputs, which we know that they're not.

We know that there are people that don't need to spend seven hours a day in front of a screen to be truly effective. They don't need to [00:45:10] spend 60 hours a week at the office to be effective. Um, but they've figured out unique ways to support and add value in perhaps non-traditional ways. Um, and [00:45:20] I think that you're right.

I think organizations are some organizations will shift. Two, um, we'll shift back to the way things were. I think in large point, we were [00:45:30] seeing that being driven by senior leaders, that let's be honest and Daneen, like for a senior leader. If you don't have the skills to manage a remote workforce. Then it [00:45:40] would, of course benefit.

You'd have all your employees back in the office. Of course. Like it's just better for you. So you're going to build a model. That's going to make your life easier. You're not going to consider [00:45:50] the needs of your other employees. In fact, you're going to demonize those needs as being entitled or out of touch with reality or not productive and not committed.

And [00:46:00] exactly. So it's like, because it's, it's a different, yeah. Mindset and a different perspective, but I hope that there are more leaders that have had to evolve their [00:46:10] thinking because of necessity that have realized that especially in a knowledge-based economy, which we're moving towards, we are in the fourth industrial revolution where you [00:46:20] can't measure somebody's value by the number of widgets they make at the end of the assembly line.

At the end of the day, that we are going to move to a model where. Outputs become far more important, [00:46:30] work becomes more asynchronous, and that we have the ability to collaborate in new and innovative ways because ultimately it will attract better talent [00:46:40] and it will, it may not have a short-term effect in some organizations in the longterm.

Are the generations of millennials and gen EDS and certainly the [00:46:50] generation after that is going to expect. And there's going to be much more comfortable and much more digitally native and therefore be open to these types of quote [00:47:00] unquote non traditional work arrangements. So. I think organizations, if they're considering the path to hybrid, now I get it.

It's not an easy switch to make from being a five days a [00:47:10] week in the office to now having a greater degree of flexibility. This is the direction that society is going. The technology now is going to allow us to support it. And there will be [00:47:20] more people requesting this with each passing day. So if nothing else building a bit of a hybrid discipline into some of the ways that you work is going to [00:47:30] soothe.

The tr the inevitable transition to the space and those companies that steadfastly stick to traditional ways. Ultimately I think are going to get left in the dust by [00:47:40] companies that can acquire better. People do better work, more innovative, more committed, more collaborative. They'll just ultimately win.

Guest 1: [00:47:48] Yeah. I, I [00:47:50] couldn't agree more. I mean, when, when I left the corporate world, I was one of the first. Independent compensation and benefits [00:48:00] consultant based in the UAE, if not the first. And it was out of. A vision that I had, [00:48:10] that more people would be like me in the future and still have their expertise, but still want to work in a different way.

And I don't know if you've come across this [00:48:20] concept of the pixelization of the workforce from Josh. But that's exactly it where you're not attached to a job or a company in order to have your [00:48:30] career. It's the succession of jobs of succession of companies, tasks, projects, uh, uh, assignments and so on. And I think, [00:48:40] um, that.

I remember three years ago, there was a survey in the UAE where 70 something percent of HR [00:48:50] managers were saying that, um, you know, flexibility and gig work a fad and that it would disappear. And I was like, oh my God, they are so [00:49:00] wrong. So, this is the way of the feature. I mean, it's already the, uh, you see a numbers around the 40 to 50% of the workforce in [00:49:10] the U S has worked, uh, in some form of, uh, flex, uh, way, uh, at some point in their, in their career with our [00:49:20] part-time, uh, you know, side, the.

Aside the job moving, moving into, be independent and so on. And as we see the impact of the hundred year [00:49:30] life, you know, the demographics where people are going to live a much older, this is also going to impact things a lot. And. Companies will have [00:49:40] to we'll have to adapt because they don't float outside of the real world.

Right. They're made of real people who, who are there and there [00:49:50] will be older people who will be in the workplace and there will be people who leave the workplace for a while and then come back. People who changed careers in the, in the middle of what [00:50:00] was previously like in my dad's time, linear career, my dad let's see how this whole career with the same employer.

You know, and, [00:50:10] uh, and, uh, uh, stayed there, stayed with them. The, the, his whole life and already was considering that when I was changing employers, that was like, for him, [00:50:20] mind blowing. So when I moved to him became independence, that's, what's really the thing for him that was like over the top. And companies [00:50:30] cannot ignore that.

I mean, they're made of people and they will not be able to, they can try to delay it. And, uh, but those who close their eyes don't make [00:50:40] it go away. And, uh, the other ones who have their eyes open and embrace the change will be going much more forward and faster than they are. And [00:50:50] then that's how organizations get, uh, in parallel and, you know, and I'm in danger of becoming obsolete.

So hopefully not too many will become [00:51:00] obsolete and the world would move 

Matt: [00:51:01] forward. What a great way to end a really awesome conversations send today. And thank you so much for your time today. For the conversation, we went a number of really [00:51:10] interesting places, and I'm super excited to continue our conversations offline.

Guest 1: [00:51:14] You too. Thank you for having me

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