Talking to Jason is like getting a crash course in what employee engagement should be. He looks at it differently and sees systems and solutions instead of problems and frustrations. It’s easy to see why he’s a keynote speaker and why so many people flock to him for answers.
I think naturally because of the work I do it’s around engagement and best places to work. People always ask me, what’s the one thing we should be doing to improve engagement or create better workplaces. Everyone is looking for that silver bullet or the lever they should be pulling.
I tell them to go and talk to their employees. It’s that simple. If you want to create a great workplace for them, you have to talk to them, see what’s working and when you hear about the things they love, ensure they happen consistently, and when you hear something is broken, fix it. Work operates like any other relationship in your life. You have to have two-way feedback, and if you’re listening and taking action, chances are you’re building a pretty good workplace.
When I was running teams my frustration was always finding HR talent. I remember trying to hire a HR manager for my team and I interviewed like 20 different people with no luck. Because I was progressively minded and was running HR more like a business consultancy on the inside, I had such a tough time finding HR people that had the skills. The ones who thought strategically, understood how to navigate organizationally and were business savvy. It was really hard. I think we’ve put ourselves in a pretty big deficit in the way we’ve educated and developed HR over the years and that leads to the frustration people feel today.
Well I was trying to hire a regional HR manager. Someone who was a number two director who could oversee talent in the business from recruiting to employee experience and engagement, as well as in-house training and it was really tough finding that person. People I spoke to were so compliance orientated, so stuck in how things had been done historically and they weren’t embracing what was happening around the changing market and technology changing employee needs. I’m not your average HR guy which is why the corporate gig was tough for me. I always wanted to play at the front edge and finding people that even had an open mindset and who were hungry to learn was so difficult. The other issue is lack of influence and political skills. You can have the best idea in the world but if you can’t convince any of your leaders or managers to do it, you can’t rally for resources and support.
Ha! I remember back in the day recruiting for a high-end technology sales position, a real six figure income. I had two candidates in a row they extended an offer to but then failed the drug test. They both knew they were going to have a drug test, and they didn’t seem at all worked up about it. I will always remember the second guy just said to me, ‘different people relax in different ways.’ I’ll never forget that.
I think the dynamics of Facebook would change dramatically. We would get flooded with recruitment messages overnight. I still use email a lot, it’s still the most potent tool I have to connect to people, so I guess we’d just get creative with that. Google would probably fire up Google Prospect all over again and we’d be back on a different platform.
My approach always starts with conversation. Talk to people and find out what they’re thinking and what they’re excited about, also what hurts and the challenges they’re facing. I can then demonstrate I’ve heard them and care about them by taking quick action on some things. It starts the relationship off on a good foot.
Well there’s a huge group of people in our industry, like Charlie Judy, like Kris Dunn. They’re early adopters and the original ones of HR blogging. Other people include Dan Pink, Adam Grant and Dave Berkus. I follow them for inspiration and a path. I love the way they tell stories and inspire people to think in a different way about the work they do.
Boy there’s a whole list. I think the one that’s really gotten in our way is that people leave managers they don’t leave companies. But look, people leave companies all the time, people leave good managers all the time, people leave and people stay in spite of bad managers so I think we’ve piled all these feelings about employee engagement on the backs of middle managers and I don’t think that’s fair. Then middle managers get their ass kicked and get jaded and frustrated. I think it’s an employee’s experience at work that keeps them around or not, and that’s not a decision that happens overnight.
Another one is that a survey is a good tool for employee engagement. You don’t have to have a survey to improve engagement.
Well fundamentally the business model is a mess. It’s why I got out. When my income is solely determined on you making a particular decision, then everything I do is orientated around getting you to say yes, whether it’s in your best interests or not. At least that’s what the customers are thinking. I realised that no matter how much integrity I brought to my work, customers always second guess my motives. It’s just a crappy model, and contingent recruitment is toxic. RPOs and other types of delivery models for recruiting have risen up and I think they go a long way to changing the relationship and perception.
Well what I think is happening is there’s a fragmentation. Recruitment is breaking into two pieces. One is the marketing, advertising, client relationship part, as it should, that’s what the business is about. The other side is that we should be using technology to replace humans in the process. Largely because humans are flawed when it comes to assessing other humans and so we have technologies that can assess skill. There are companies that help you design and facilitate blind auditions on work, personality assessments, temperament assessments. Assuming that the algorithms are created in a way that’s unbiased. You might have ten white middle-aged developers in a room building an algorithm and the chances are they’re going to build one that favours those types. But as long as you build a good algorithm, then the manager’s job is to optimize talent and create an experience where the talent you get can thrive. Let the algorithms sort out who the right fit should be and then you sort it out from there. I think it’s inevitable that we will end up there.
My most recent add has probably been Trello to help organize projects and deliverables. It’s been so valuable. Recently it was my daughter’s birthday and we got her one of those gizmo gadget watches which is a phone and activity tracker and GPS, so it’s been interesting being able to communicate with her and see how she interacts with the technology. It sends me updates about different things that she’s doing so it’s been cool.
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Director • San Francisco