Talent Experience Podcast

Ep. 44 Liz Kislik - Building Company Culture in a Remote World of Work

January 20, 2022 Fuel50 / Liz Kislik Season 1 Episode 44
Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 44 Liz Kislik - Building Company Culture in a Remote World of Work
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of the Talent Experience Podcast, our guest Liz Kislik discusses some of the differences between office life and remote work and how we can create strong company cultures moving forward. Joined by host John Hollon, they dive into topics including the Great Resignation, retention, flexibility, zoom fatigue, and more!

Liz Kislik is a management consultant and executive coach, and a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review and Forbes. She specializes in developing high-performing leaders and workforces, and for 30 years has helped family-run businesses, national non-profits, and Fortune 500 companies like American Express, Girl Scouts, Staples, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and Highlights for Children, solve their thorniest problems.

Connect with Liz on LinkedIn, or her website lizkislik.com.  For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentexperiencepodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the Talent Experience Podcast!

John Hollon  00:24
Hello I'm John Hollon, and welcome to the Talent Experience Podcast. Today's guest is Liz Kislik. Liz helps organizations from the fortune 500 to national non-profits and family run businesses solve their thorniest problems she's written for the Harvard Business Review is a contributor to Forbes, and as a TEDx speaker. Liz offers surprising insights and successful techniques for the leadership, master in collaboration, conflict, talent development and customer loyalty. She does that with a combination of practical experience, true stories, and current research that inspires listeners to start making a difference right away. You can find a lot more about Liz and her work on her website, LizKislik.com. So good morning, Liz, how are you?

Liz Kislik  01:17
I'm good. John, glad to be with you!

John Hollon  01:19
Great. Let's get started. We were talking about this last week, but these are really turbulent times, as you well know. Particularly in the world of business it's been tough. And we hear a lot about the Great Resignation, how hard it is to hire people. But one thing that surprised me when we were chatting earlier was that you said that your clients aren't losing that many people. Can you expand on that a bit, and what you are seeing and hearing from business leaders that you encounter?

Liz Kislik  01:54
Sure. So, I think the Great Resignation is not applying to all sectors of the economy and all jobs equally. And it's easy to forget that when companies are looking for workers, but a lot of the companies I work with, and the people that I work with are primarily in what are sometimes called white-collar or knowledge jobs. And folks in those roles are not necessarily looking to leave if and it's a big if and it's got a lot of parts to it, but if the job is interesting, if it changes enough to keep people curious and focused if they feel well appreciated for their work, and I'm talking both compensation and recognition and attention. And now today, more than ever, for sure, if there is flexibility, so that they can work in ways that are most comfortable for them in their families, or them and their lives. And if those things are pleasant, and present, people are not so quick to go. The people who are leaving are more people who are not satisfied with some aspects of the job. And I'm very lucky that in quite a number of the organizations I work with, people are happy to be there and to do the work.

John Hollon  03:38
You know, in the organizations that you work with, do a lot of them have people working remotely or on hybrid schedules now because that's one of the things that kind of now goes hand in hand when you talk about the great resignation is that it's because a lot of these people don't want to come back to work and companies are wanting them at least on some limited schedule to come back. Are you hearing much about that?

 Liz Kislik  04:10
So, I'm going to tweak what you said just a little bit, John, cause the issue is wanting people to come back to the office. People who can work remotely have been working straight through. It's not about coming back to work for them. For them, it's really about are they willing to take on commutes again? And to not have the flexibility that when they need a little break instead of chatting with a co-worker, they might be throwing a load of laundry in. And to know that they can deal with their children's needs or their ailing relative’s needs, those kinds of things. So yes, in the companies I work with really run the gamut from pretty much all back, although with much more flexibility to work from home, if somebody needs that to formal remote schedules, the most common one I'm hearing right now is three days in the office and two days out. And then some organizations have not gone back to their physical workspace yet. And we'll see what happens with Omicron. And, and how quickly the comeback sort of forcefully permanently, even hits.

John Hollon  05:43
Well, as I told you, when we were chatting, I miss an office environment, I always saw that there was a lot of upsides to it. And it makes me just curious, you know, how do you build a company culture, if you have people who aren't in the office? I always thought that the office environment, when it's going well really drives a better culture. And when the culture is better, the business is better, the profits are better all those things work. So, there is sort of a flow of that. And I've been working from home for over 10 years. And while I do it, and there's certain parts of it that I like a lot, I really miss the camaraderie in the office that we used to have, and that you don't get anymore.

Liz Kislik  06:31
I think you put your finger on it, John, that when it's going well, being in the office drives a better culture. And it does take more thought and more planning to build and sustain a culture remotely. There are some things that lend themselves well, in this working from home period, to build in culture. Because meetings needed to be scheduled, you know, on zoom so much, for example, it became more normal, and in some cases, employees had a fairer shot at their bosses to be able to spend time with them, you get on their calendar, you schedule, as opposed to being the person who pops by all the time. So, management attention has never really been distributed evenly. Now, it's true, leaders really have to think carefully about how to make sure we're talking to each other about the important things, how to show that we care about each other when you can't pat somebody on the shoulder. One of the things that's just a funny thing, you know, most organizations have meetings, and meetings often have the meeting that happens before the meeting and the meeting that happens after the meeting. You know? And sometimes that's a good thing. And sometimes it's a bad thing. The bad parts of that, during the pandemic, and with all this remote work, some of the bad parts of that were alleviated. That kind of, we gather in the parking lot, or in the hall to talk about what happened in the meeting, that we're not ready to talk candidly about in the meeting. Some of that went away and got picked up as the next meeting and the issues we have to handle. And that puts those issues more on the table. That's actually a plus.

 John Hollon  08:44
Well, you raised a really good point, because there's been so much focus on employees and being remote do they come back, they come back on a hybrid schedule? But there hasn't been nearly as much talk about the management end of things. The challenge is to manage people remotely or who aren't around all the time. And this whole difference in schedules because I worked for bosses for years, they had to have a line of sight. If you weren't in the line of sight, they felt they had a big problem. And so now the lot more trust from managers, that needs to happen. And yet you don't hear much talk about the leadership challenges making all this stuff go.

 Liz Kislik  09:27
So you're right about that line of sight thing. There are still plenty of leaders today who feel like that, and those are the ones who are chafing more. Many of them are in the office five days a week. Some of them I will say more than five days a week, because that's the way they like to work. And as leaders, they choose how they like to work. And so, it can be tough for them when their team members don't want to come back. And some of them are quite stressed about that. For people who trusted their employees more to start, there have been really challenging things about remote work, because those leaders have to be so much more heavily scheduled to get everybody in. And I don't know about you, just the act of scheduling takes up time. That's my experience. And I think a number of leaders who do their own meeting plans suffer from that as well. And what is really hard is when you have zoom after zoom after zoom, and I certainly encourage everybody to end a half hour zoom five minutes early, and an hour zoom 10 minutes early, minimum. I really want to emphasize that minimum, so that people have a chance to get to the bathroom to get a snack to take some notes, to prep for the next meeting, all of the things that we always neglected. But now it becomes more obvious, it's very hard to catch up with yourself after you've had six zooms in a row, you can really be like a crazy person. And old days physically present, we all knew that person who was the last one into the conference room. And everybody just got used to that. But there's the chit chat is different coming into the room, settling into your chair than it is from clicking and entering a Zoom meeting. Somebody absence, when they're supposed to be there can actually be more apparent on Zoom. So, it's changed people's practices a little and some things are more stressful.

John Hollon  11:49
Well you're touching on a lot of things that have to go to the company culture. And it raises a question, is it possible to build a great culture, with so many people working remotely or in a hybrid form, or in some other different way than just simply having them come into the office every day. Has company culture suffered as a result of all of this?

Liz Kislik  12:12
So first of all, it has to be true, that you could build a great company culture even remotely, because there are so many global companies. Anyway, before all this remote stuff, and they were in different time zones, and they had to coordinate with each other. So, you know, I have the clients who get up early in the morning on the East Coast, to be ready for Asian meetings and people in California who get up early in the morning to be ready for East Coast meetings. And, you know, we've been doing this kind of thing for a while. It's not that it's so shocking. To have to figure out when those meeting times are, I think the thing that's actually going to be the trickiest is building culture for people who came into the organization during this remote period and have never met anyone in person. They don't have the memories to go from, of when we were in the break room together. They have never actually sat in somebody's office and, you know, sat together on the same side of the desk, kind of thing. And I think those folks need more attention. I think it's very important that in addition to whatever functional content has been transmitted to them, and rules and policies, that leaders and also the HR function, be in touch with them and draw them out and learn what is working for them and not working for them. And where they have questions or concerns because so much of culture, if you want a good one, is not just for leaders to behave the way they behave, but to be paying attention to their team members and what their needs are in any given moment. When employees are attended to in a fair and equitable way, with understanding of their actual work needs and responsibilities. The culture always comes along. It's lack of attention to others and focus too much on what leaders want and nothing else. That is likely whether you're in person or not to create a more fractured and less cohesive culture. 

John Hollon  14:42
Well, that brings us to something that that's been on my mind a lot and I know that you work a lot with executives and senior leadership. What advice would you give to CEO or senior leaders about the challenges they need to tackle moving ahead post pandemic, to better cope with the world of work that we're facing going into 2022, and moving down the road? Because it's changed so dramatically in the last two years. And to a certain extent, we're only making a good guess at where it's going to be in a year or two or three. So, and I'm sure a lot of people hire you thinking, maybe you've got this magic bag like Mary Poppins, his magic bag, you can pull things out of that help them to figure it out. What kind of things do get asked, and what do you say back?

Liz Kislik  15:41
So, in the general advice category, if I were going to make a blanket statement, which is really what we have the time to do here, I would say, be very curious and pay more attention than you're used to. And that is true not only for your employees, it is just as true for your customers, really trying to find out what is on people's minds today in the way they relate to your company. And what is important to them, in how your company, as an employer, or as a provider, plays a role in their lives. So specifically, in terms of employees, it is understanding enough about what goes on in people's homes and how they live, not because you interrogate them, but because you're interested, and they want to tell you. So that you can do things like scheduling at times when everybody can make meetings comfortably, and bringing people into the office, when that is safe for everybody, and when they can get the most out of being with each other and that you structure those experiences, to focus both on the big topics of how do we work together, and how do we accomplish what we mean in the world? And also, the smaller topics of which I's o we have to dot, and which T's do we have to cross and who's taking responsibility for each and every one.

John Hollon  17:14
How do they respond when you tell them that, when you tell the leadership that?

Liz Kislik  17:20
Well, I'm very lucky because I try to only work with businesses that actually care about that kind of thing. You know, their self-selection and everything, if you're lucky enough to be able to do that. And they respond pretty well. It's an encouragement to keep remembering the humans in the equation. And then we go on to talk about potentially time management and how they do that. Or what are good leading questions to ask people to get back useful answers that you can work on. Or they say, "Okay, I think I'm doing that, but I'm not getting enough of a result. So please figure out for me, what's actually going wrong." And that usually involves meeting with their people asking questions and finding out what is going wrong. And then figuring out how to bring the leaders attention to that in a positive and productive way.

John Hollon  18:25
Well, I think you hit on the key, keep remembering the humans in the equation, great words for us all. And we're coming up to the end of the podcast, it goes really quickly. But there's a question we ask everyone who comes onto the Talent Experience Podcast, because we wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have a job that they're passionate about. So, Liz, what do you love about your job and what you do?

Liz Kislik  18:53
What I really love is being able to show people things that they have not seen themselves that they recognize are true, and then they want to work on. So, it's being able to bring that outside perspective, figure out what's going on, and then explain it in a way that leaders can work with it.

John Hollon  19:17
Well, it's great to end on that note, and thank you, Liz for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us today. Your perspective, is always incredibly insightful, and we really appreciate you being here. So, thanks again.

 Liz Kislik  19:31
Oh, John, thanks so much. It was nice to talk to you.

 John Hollon  19:34
Great to talk to you too. So, for the Talent Experience Podcast, this is John Hollon. Thanks for listening!