In this episode, an inspired speaker, former HR leader turned entrepreneur, podcaster, writer and author Laurie Ruettimann discusses why we should just let people be adults, in particular why we should trust in the competency of our employees. She explores the link between employee and customer experience, and how recent years have changed the conversation around how we treat people.
Along with host John Hollon they touch on the shifts required of HR to account for the positive and negative trends we are seeing arise from the current COVID work landscape such as, maximizing employee potential, the exodus of women in the workplace, and accounting for childcare. Laurie shares what working remotely means to her, and how being able to work more efficiently means having more time for a big, bold, beautiful life.
Laurie has been recognized by CNN as one of the top five career advisers in the United States, and her work has been featured on NPR, The New Yorker, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and Vox. She frequently keynotes at events all around the world and shares her wisdom about HR, hiring trends, and technology. Her book "Betting On You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career" was published by Henry Holt & Company in January 2021. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter @lruettimann, or on her website https://laurieruettimann.com/.
For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentexperiencepodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the Talent Experience Podcast!
John Hollon 00:25
Hello, I'm John Hollon and welcome to the Talent Experience Podcast. Today's guest is Laurie Ruettimann. Laurie is a former human resources leader turned writer, entrepreneur, and speaker. CNN has recognized her as one of the top five career advisors in the United States and her work has been featured on National Public Radio, The New Yorker, USA Today the Wall Street Journal, and Vox. Her podcast, Punk Rock HR, which I think is one of the greatest titles ever for a blog or a podcast, is one of the fastest-growing management and business podcasts on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and Pandora. Laurie keynotes events all around the world and it's featured on major media websites, where she shares wisdom about HR hiring trends and technology. Her book, Betting On You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career, was published by Henry Holt and Company in January of this year. I have it on my desk and it is well worth reading, and Laurie lives with her husband and many cats in Raleigh, North Carolina. I know that's a beautiful place to live. So Lori, how are you?
Laurie Ruettimann 01:40
Well, John, I'm terrific. That intro was way too long. It reminds me to cut it back, we're like five minutes in. I'm such a narcissist, but it's great to hear.
John Hollon 01:50
You know, it's always good to let people know who it is who is on. So I am in I never know what are the most important things..
Laurie Ruettimann 02:00
You did a good job.
John Hollon 02:02
Great. Well, let's get started then. I was looking at your book, which is here on my desk, and preparing for our talk. The one thing I had not read were the quotes on the back cover by all these new york times bestselling authors praising it, and one that jumped out at me was from Suzy Welch, the widow of Jack Welch, the longtime General Electric CEO. She said that you had written a helpful and entertaining account of what it's like to run your life like a business, and that quote intrigued me because it made me wonder how can you run your professional life like a business when you work for somebody else?
Laurie Ruettimann 02:40
Well, John, I want to say that Suzy Welch is esteemed in her own right, regardless of who her husband is. She was on CNBC for many years and I tell the story with my book that, I had reached out to Suzy because I've learned so much from her throughout the years from her reporting and her storytelling. I considered her to be a de facto mentor, no matter where I worked, in what organization. I always look to Suzy Welch on how to tell a story, how to carry herself and so I reached out to her on LinkedIn and said, I want to include you in my book, talk about you and how I consider you to be a mentor no matter whether I worked in HR or marketing or as a consultant. She wrote back and said, I'd love to see the book and then volunteered to endorse it, and so I think that's a small example of how if I had just run my life like a corporate human resources manager, I would have never taken a risk. I would have never bet on myself, I would have never reached out. So I tell people, no matter who you are, where you fall on the food chain, if someone inspires you, if they motivate you to do better work, reach out and let them know. You never know where it's going to help you and where your career will land because of it. So I think that's like a weird encapsulation of what it's like to run your life like a business, you take ownership, you move when you're moved and you say hello to people who inspire you.
John Hollon 04:07
Well it's funny, I know Suzy Welch from when she was at the Harvard Business Review. She was I think the top editor there.
Laurie Ruettimann 04:16
Yeah, for many years.
John Hollon 04:17
Yeah, for like a lot of years, which is a really great job and hard to do and a prestigious magazine, and website. But you know, getting beyond her, what can managers and bosses do to encourage and help their employees run their professional life like a business? And how has the pandemic lockdown and the chaos of the last two years impacted the ability of people to manage their life in that way?
Laurie Ruettimann 04:46
Hmm, good questions. Well, you know, John, I think for a lot of years, CEOs had this understanding of their role that they were going to be the Papa figure of a company, a motivational figure and I'm using the He pronoun intentionally. It was their job to motivate people and to inspire people, every CEO, I knew for about 15 years wanted to be the next Steve Jobs. I think when you do that, when you assume that you're a parental figure, and you have wisdom to impart, number one, it's condescending, and number two, it's inaccurate. I mean, we hire people because they have competence because they come to work and want to work hard and have a work ethic. Because they're steadfast, and because at some core of their life, they used to at least believe in wellbeing. They would get up in the morning and take care of themselves, and we've gotten away from that over the years, John, when we believe that a CEO has to kind of knit all of this together and be that leadership figure. So some of the best leaders, I know, they're not leading into servant leadership, but they're certainly saying, I'm here to, you know, part the ways and to make your lives easier, but you're an adult, do your dang job. When I see that in a leader, I just want to hug them, I just want to high-five em. Let people be adults, and, you know, give people what they need to be adults, and gosh John, that is like a radical way of leadership going forward. It kind of reminds me of the leadership that my father-in-law had back in the day at the old fod company, right. You know, you believed people were adults, and you hired them to do a job and you let them have lives outside of work. Isn't that refreshing?
John Hollon 06:27
That's refreshing. Also hard to find that a lot of places.
Laurie Ruettimann 06:30
Yeah, it doesn't happen anymore, especially when people want to be Silicon Valley gurus.
John Hollon 06:34
Yeah. Well, I was also intrigued by something else I saw on your website, under important questions that asked, why is the employee experience undervalued? And it's a great question. How do you answer it?
Laurie Ruettimann 06:49
I don't have a straightforward answer. I think the employee experience is undervalued because we tend to put customers on top of employees in this weird pyramid. But at the heart of smart business is this understanding that how we treat employees translates to the customer experience. So you know, Fuel50 believes in this, a lot of organizations believe in this. If you can get your employees really excited about the work that they're doing, if you can give them budget opportunity, room to grow the ability to make mistakes, without a fear of failure, you can create the environment for a great customer experience. So I want to get to the heart of that really teaching people how to take risks, but smart risks at work, so that they can come out ahead, and if they screw up, it's not going to wipe the entire organization out.
John Hollon 07:38
Well, you know, it's funny because the employee experience we deal with that a lot at Fuel50. The employee experience now has kind of changed a great deal where it also speaks to companies and organizations, doing things to better utilize employees, and to be thinking about their career path, and how they might help like the organization, and how what they want to do and what the organization wants to do, work together and maybe more coordination is better. It's been something that's been a real change for me because as somebody who worked in managed for many years, things like succession planning, were things people talked about on the job. I had bosses talk like about them, but they almost never, ever followed them. So to hear all of this coming up now it's like wow finally, they're finally starting to think about this. Now. Have you experienced some of that in the things that you're seeing and hearing from people?
Laurie Ruettimann 08:48
Yeah, you know, COVID is really pushing a conversation around how we treat people when we have them, and how we develop them, and how we maturely respond when they want to do something else and exit. It doesn't mean they're dead to us, if down the road, they want to go back to nursing school or open up a yoga studio. It means working with people in the time we have and really maximizing their potential, maximizing their contributions and then, you know, make making sure they understand that if they want to stay and they're great performers, there's a place for them within the organization. We're going to make both a physical and an emotional commitment to them, to make sure that they can enjoy their work and contribute in a safe and interesting, and viable way. So the conversation is flipped, it's much more human and I know that's an overstated word. But you know we had this idea of workers almost as robots for many years, right? We're gonna optimize the hours worked and make them more productive. Now we recognize that if we just kind of get to the core of who they are and what they want in this world, the productivity will follow.
John Hollon 09:57
Yeah, that's a real, that's something that on one level sounds simple, but so many companies haven't focused on it. Now it's kind of refreshing to see that they are, they are doing it, and I'm sure some of it comes out of the last two years. Which has you know, been just terribly chaotic for people in just about every way possible. It's very hard on how people work and hard on how managers handle people who work. As someone who closely watches workplace trends, what are some good trends that you've seen come out of the lockdown and pandemic?
Laurie Ruettimann 10:35
Well you know John, a terrible trend was all of the women leaving the workforce, but a great trend is this conversation we're starting to have around child care, and how it's not just a woman's issue, It's an issue that's impacting our economy, we talk about all these people who have just decided to stay home as if they're at home, drinking martinis, and eating bonbons many of these individuals are women who are doing the math and are saying, you know, childcare is not affordable, and it's very sparse, and net net, I'm just going to stay home, and we're going to cut back on our spending and make do. So there's this interesting conversation happening. It's stifling economic growth, it's stifling talent gains, you can't go into a restaurant and find people to work, right. I mean, all of these challenges are happening, but I love the conversation happening around really addressing childcare. So I think that's something positive, and I'm looking for some real creativity, especially in the HR tech market to emerge from that. So we'll see, we'll see in the next couple of years.
John Hollon 11:39
Well, you know one of the things, I've seen studies that have dug into this, that say, when people work remotely when they work at home, or they work someplace else, outside the traditional office environment, they tend to work hard, harder, harder, longer. Part of that is because when you work from home, you never leave work. Again, people can hop on and off, and I've worked remotely for over 10 years now and I had to teach myself that I could go to the gym in the middle of the day and come back and I work late. In fact, I tell people that like I work with, don't worry about sending me you know, a Slack message or an email at nine o'clock at night, my time because I know it's only like four in the afternoon your time. So you know, you just sort of morph and adapt to that. But I had a lot of bosses for a lot of years, that absolutely wouldn't let you work at home because they thought that you'd be down there eating the bonbons and drink margaritas and do and doing that and not working. Unless they had a line of sight, they were not happy.
Laurie Ruettimann 12:47
Well and you know a lot of women are like, you can take that job and shove it. Also, I can't work from home with my kids in my ear all the time, so I'm going to leave the workforce and actually do a full-time job of raising my children. I think there's a real reckoning to be had even further still beyond remote work, of what do we do if we believe in family structures? And we believe that children do better in a two-parent environment? How are we going to support these parents so that they can raise the doctors of the future? The project managers of the future, right, the coders of the future? And I think that thinking about our future talent pool means thinking about childcare.
John Hollon 13:29
The number one thing that I found that I miss about an office and I worked in one much longer than I have worked at home. But the one thing that I missed is the camaraderie and the informal conversations that you have in a workplace, you're getting coffee, somebody's there that you're yakking and suddenly, something that you've been working on or some problem you've been trying to solve hits you and it's like, you start talking to them about it, and you find some way to solve it. So I worry about sort of like the cultural part. How do you build a workplace culture if a lot of people aren't working around each other? That's, that's the big struggle. I think that a lot of organizations just have a hard time getting their hands around.
Laurie Ruettimann 14:14
Really I think you're romanticizing that because I remember working in an office and people bugging me all day long and popping in my office without an appointment because I worked in human resources, right? Do you have a minute and oh, you know, you're walking to the bathroom? I'll walk with you. I'm like, you do not want to walk with me go into the bathroom. That is not a good idea. Right. So there was a lot of that going on and also a lot of travel for me. So a lot of wasted time in airports from flipping through Us Weekly magazine, because I'm just so tired. I don't want to do any work, a lot of wasted hours, loneliness on the road, missing my family. So in a lot of ways. I think some of this is romanticized and, you know, there's this idea that we can only have camaraderie if we're around these people. I don't believe that, I believe we can like people that we've never met in real life. I think, you know, Zoom has proven that and I also think there's something really beautiful about being able to work more efficiently and then having more time for a big, bold, beautiful life. That we can then bring back into the office and be in better moods, have better stories have more life experiences to draw from when we're solving problems. So I get it, you know, it's nice to kind of bump into someone and make chit-chat, but it's also nice to have more focus time and that's what I love about working from home.
John Hollon 15:34
Well, you know, I had, when I started to work from home, my kids were worried about bothering me when they came into, you know if they needed to talk to me. I was behind a closed door, I was in like an office here at home and I had to tell them in the workplace, people are popping in all the time, whether it be your cube or your office. I was in a role as kind of a senior manager, so I had to train myself that, yes, they're, they're getting in the way of me doing some work, but maybe what they have to tell me or to talk about is more important and I need to spend some time on that.
Laurie Ruettimann 16:09
For sure, your children never bother you unless they're asking for money. I think that's the rule.
John Hollon 16:16
So well, you know, finally, there is a question we ask everybody who comes on the Talent Experience Podcast because we wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have a job that they're really passionate about. So Laurie, what do you love about your job and what you do?
Laurie Ruettimann 16:33
Hmm, I love the autonomy of my job. You know, being a solo entrepreneur is really beautiful, because at the beginning of the day, I know that what's laid out in front of me is a choice. I mean, there are choices based on you know, the economy and how much money I need to earn or what I want to do in the world, but it's still my choice. That's something I wish more and more people could experience because I think their relationship to work would be a little bit different. When you choose the work you do and you're responsible for bringing in income, it really changes the nature of your experience throughout your entire life. So it's something I've grown to appreciate, it was something very challenging moving from corporate America to being a consultant and an entrepreneur, but I'm glad I did it. I don't know if I could go back, John.
John Hollon 17:20
Well, that's a good way to end things here. And you know, I miss us not meeting on the road at a conference having a margarita.
Laurie Ruettimann 17:29
John Hollon 17:30
I keep hoping that will come back sometime soon. I love your book to Betting On You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career is pretty good and I hope a lot of people will go seek it out. They can find it on Amazon, I'm sure.
Laurie Ruettimann 17:47
Yeah, local bookstores are good as well and I'll take that endorsement. It's pretty good. It's on your bookshelf on your desk, John, I'll take that's like three and a half stars.
John Hollon 17:57
Yeah, books. I'm really really interested in are front and centre on my desk. So you're there along with about sixteen Peter Drucker books.
Laurie Ruettimann 18:06
Very good company.
John Hollon 18:07
Anyway, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us. Your perspective is always incredibly insightful, and we really appreciate you being here. So thanks again.
Laurie Ruettimann 18:20
Thanks again and be safe out there.
John Hollon 18:23
Okay, so for the Talent Experience Podcast, this is John Hollon. Thanks again for listening.