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I think managerial systems that relied upon looking over shoulders, you know, kind of bumping into people, and “Oh yeah, I forgot I need to talk about the Jones account,”… like, that kind of stuff doesn’t work anymore, so there’s a more formal structure that’s needed.
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and Powered by Purple Ink, and with me is my dear friend and co-host Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice. Our topic today is strengthening remote teamwork.
And I really do believe given where we are in the world today, after a couple of years of combating the pandemic, a lot of organizations are… have taken remote work and made it really a constant in their future, and so they’re going to be having teams working remotely for a very long time and maybe forever. We need to figure out how to do it better.
Totally agree. So we have a guest today to help us explore this topic even further. Ed Stevens is the founder and CEO of Preciate, a social presence platform that promotes authentic connections to accelerate business, invigorate virtual experiences, and foster culture. He is deeply committed to helping others build healthier relationships and transform meetings into memorable moments with the power of technology. In his free time Ed loves going to the Dallas Stars hockey games.
Ed, we are so glad that you’re here. Can you share with us, what is the biggest pain point you see for companies that have switched to remote or hybrid working arrangements?
Well, I think that the biggest pain point is getting work done. How do you know what the procedures and processes are for things? Because you just can’t look over your shoulder and say, “Hey, how do we… who approves a new hire again?” or, you know… these kinds of things are not done, so I think managerial systems that relied upon looking over shoulders, you know, kind of bumping into people and “Oh, yeah, I forgot I need to talk to you about the Jones account,”… like, that kind of stuff doesn’t work anymore, so there’s a more formal structure that’s needed. And I think that that’s probably the… the number one thing, that how you manage remote teams is just different than how you manage an in-person team.
Right. I agree. And what is social presence, and how does that help people build healthy relationships when they can’t be together in person?
So social presence is our platform that we… gosh, I mean, we’re selling a lot of it right now. And what it does is it… it helps people to build authentic connections that accelerate business. And connections are hard to build remotely, because human engagement requires me to be present as myself, but also I need to have the agency to want to be in a conversation. So when I’m in a… let’s just take a cocktail party, classic, you know, example of socializing and building relationships. You know, what happens there? You know, people are, they walk in, they scan the room, and they do a calculation of, like, who do I want to go talk to, and why. Oh, there’s my… my brother, or oh, there’s that, you know, person I’m interested in dating. And so they… they then kind of will move over there, and they will show that person that it’s important for them to talk to them, and that person can see them coming, and so that agency is driven by the movement itself. And one of the things that our video platforms in the past haven’t had is they haven’t had the ability for users to move. So, like, in a Zoom, if there’s, like, two people, that’s okay. It’s just a one-on-one. But if you’ve got, like, 30 people in a Zoom call, or 50, or 100, or 500, in an all hands meeting, now you’re talking about… How do I network inside of the business? How do I go find those individuals who I want to thank them for helping me, I want to butter them up for a promotion, I want to ask them what’s going on with the finances of the company, I want to try to get some information? Well, how do I do that in a 50 person Zoom call? I can’t. I might be able to DM them, but that’s not natural. So in Preciate with social presence, you enter a room and you actually move around, and you can be in a room of 100 or 200 people, and that gives you the presence, real life atmosphere, and that helps people to express themselves with that movement and agency, and that creates the engagement itself.
Can you move in the middle of a meeting, like, if you want to talk to somebody, or is it only if it’s, like, a networking time? How does that work? How do you leave the room you’re in and go visit with others?
So it depends on the… on the host and how they want to run the meeting. So again, like, if I have an all hands meeting, I may set up an auditorium and tell people to sit down and watch me present, or I may have a company event where everybody’s on their feeds and we have an ice cream social. So there could be an all company meeting that is meant to be more networking-oriented, or is meant to be more content-oriented. So in the virtual world, the tool has to be able to do both. And so the host can stop people from moving during a presentation. They can push it to full screen mode, they can alternatively allow individual conversations to continue so you can whisper in someone’s ear while I’m presenting. So all of those combinations of what you would do are available in the tool, and the host has all the controls to be able to make that reality.
Wow, I love that. So how many employees does Preciate have now?
We have 18 employees.
Wow, that’s great. And…
[Laughs] Yeah, huge, I bet, from starting it. I think that’s amazing. What is your secret to attracting and retaining great people?
That’s such a good question. It’s a passion of mine. You know, my last company was in San Luis Obispo, California, and it’s a small town. Central Coast. And the labor market was pretty small, and so we worked really hard at developing talent. So I think that there’s two sides of, you know, attracting and retaining people is about finding out what they’re really, really good at, what you… what you can do during… and usually can do during the interview process, but sometimes you really learn that only after they’re at the company. So you have to be willing to… to say, “Well, gosh, I thought this person was really organized, but actually, they’re really creative. And I totally got that wrong, and so I’m going to try to pivot them into a more creative aspect of this department and see what they say.” You know, experience doesn’t matter that much to me, you know, you do have to have experience, at least, like, anchors of experience, you know, in different parts of the company so that there’s somebody who knows kind of how things should get done. But young people are capable of so much more than what they are typically given credit for. And, you know, you just watch the Olympics, and there’s, like, 15 or 18 year olds, and you know, and… and I was in the Navy, and you know, the average age on an aircraft carrier of 6,000 people is under 20 years old.
And you just think, like… you just think, like, oh, my gosh, they’re driving… this huge ship is… is… is full of people who can’t even buy a drink. And so, you know, really, you need some processes and procedures to help, you know, them understand and learn. And then you really, really have to spend the time to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. That’s probably my biggest sec… I do like to talk. That’s why I’m on a podcast. But…
[Laughs] But, you know, people want to know, why is that decision being made? And if especially if it’s unpopular, or maybe questionable. Like, why are we not giving this client what they want? Or why are we choosing this product to build over that? Or, you know, why are we choosing to hire this person instead of that person? And if you just kind of say, like, “Oh, that’s just, you know, my way or the highway,” you’re gonna lose a lot of people. Because you got to teach, you know, and so I think that’s probably… I really like teaching. I really like explaining, and that helps people to develop and grow. It’s probably been my biggest secret. Not… not… not a secret anymore.
[Laughs] You just told our entire listening audience.
Oh my gosh, take it back, edit it out.
Yeah, it’s in the world.
And Ed, what kind of practices do you use to optimize yourself for top performance?
I like to get a full night’s sleep. So unlike people who say they can sleep on, like, five, six… I can… I can operate on six hours of sleep, if needed, for extended periods of time, but I really like my full eight. I meditate. I find meditation to be really powerful for me. And you know, I gotta stay, like, above the minimum physically. You know, so like, if I start to lose energy, if I’m starting to feel sluggish, then it’s like, I got to hit the gym. You know, my personal energy will… will kind of be in proportion to my physical fitness. And I hate working out. I hate exercising.
To be honest.
But you know it’s good.
Well, I like being… I like having energy. And I like winning. I like getting good results. And so if… if I have to exercise to get there, it’s like brushing my teeth. I’ll do it.
Yeah. Well, Susan and I are both big fans of sleep as well.
I think actually, as I get older, I’ve become almost obsessed with trying to get eight hours of sleep. Or if I know I’m only going to get seven that I really rethink, like, what am I doing? How will I… how will I be high energy if I only have seven hours of sleep? So.
Yeah, and don’t underestimate the power of a good nap.
I’d say if there’s anything that’s really been amazing about working from home during the pandemic, it’s that I would just be able to slip over and take a 20… I’m a power napper, so I can take a 10 minute nap and just be, like, boom, ready to go. So I also highly recommend the power nap. There’s been a lot of really good people in history who have napped, like Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein and others. So I… I modeled myself after them.
Yeah, terrific. I love it. So I know that Preciate is a work from anywhere company. What kinds of remote management techniques have you found particularly useful for leading your teams and providing communication, keeping people feeling really engaged to get the results you need?
Focusing on the results side, rather than the social side, I would say having a process-oriented, like, task tracker… we use Jira workflows pretty actively, just as a specific example, and we’ve also used Asana in the past. Those are tools where you can kind of, like, set up a project, and here’s all the steps, and then assign the task and then watch the task get done and see who’s working on it. And that’s been a practice in engineering, software engineering for a long time. And unfortunately, I think software companies have a slight… and one of the reasons why you see so many software companies going remote is because they already have a lot of these tools in place for software building. So we just run, you know, like, for example, our marketing team has a workflow, a form you fill out if you need a marketing request like, oh, I need a piece of collateral for this customer, or I need this logo. You don’t email the person, you put it in the workflow, and then they receive it, they assign the task to one of the marketing people. When it’s done, it says it’s done. And, you know… and that way, you can kind of track how work gets done. It’s painful, especially… I’m the creative type. I do… I am not a process-driven person. But you have to then, I would say, to back that kind of thing up, you have to have process-oriented people in the company, some of the…. like Darren Murph, who’s… who’s, like, probably the, you know, the most famous remote work – at GitLab – the most famous remote work expert right now, he would say that, you know, every company should have somebody whose full time job it is… is to coordinate remote work and processes. Eighteen people, we can’t really have that, but you know, I think when we get to 100 people, we will… we will have somebody whose full time job it is just to manage those things and make sure they’re in place and keep it going. So it’s… you just… you just have to be more a little more structured, which is honestly challenging, you know, when you’re in a startup, or if you want to innovate fast, or… or if you have a creative business. It’s… it’s… it’s hard to balance that, like, need for structure with the need for creativity. I think that’s the hardest part of the remote work side of it.
Yeah. That structure is difficult for me too, because I kind of like to go with the flow and do my own thing. But I am using a project tool right now for a nonprofit group that I work with, and it really is powerful to be able to look at all the tasks out there, and I think you said it – to sort of see the magic of the task being completed and how it all comes together. And everyone can see the status of other people along the way, which is good as well.
Yeah, well, you know, whatever it takes, wherever you find the motivation to turn into that, you know, more process-oriented person, you got to try to find it. It’s, you know… you may be a creative type like me and, you know, that’s just always going to be a challenge, and you just have to realize that those kinds of activities are going to take more of your energy and… you know, anything that you’re not really natural at or really good at is just going to take more energy. That’s, you know, things that are natural add… practically give you energy, right? So, like, for me, creative work gives me energy, whereas, like, the process work drains my energy. And that gets back to a full night of sleep. You need to have… you need to have all your energy to do all the things you have to do in life that drain it.
So speaking of draining your energy, Susan and I like to talk to people about finding joy in their work and in the workspace. What do you think some people are doing, whether it be people in your own office or clients or just research you read… that people are doing with regards to remote work that might literally just suck the joy out of their work?
Well, I think trying to have complicated conversations by email is the first thing that comes to my mind.
That’s a good one.
There’s probably nothing more draining than trying to, like, craft the perfect tone for replying to someone. And, like, anytime I find myself taking a long time to draft an email, I try to just stop myself and say, no, call them.
Yes. Save yourself. Call them.
Yes, save yourself, save your time. It’s terrible. Definitely. I think that, you know, distractions are the biggest kind of problem, because no one’s really watching you. You’re not in the office, you don’t have that social pressure to kind of, like, not check your phone. Like, if you’re at the office, and you’re kind of just, like, checking your Facebook, you’re probably going to be at least aware that other people are watching you do that. But at home, no one’s watching you do that. So I think for me, at least as a pretty distractible person, meditation has been, like, the opposite of that. So if you find yourself being distracted, which I do think drains energy, to your question, you know, like, when you find yourself, like, after a day, like, God, I just didn’t get anything… You know, it was a low productivity day that really makes you feel bad about yourself. And then you can kind of identify, like, man, I was just bouncing around. Not… and I’m not talking about meditation, like, to try to reduce anxiety, or to try to… try to isolate yourself from from the world. That’s kind of like the Calm and Headspace and the anti-anxiety… that is a component of meditation, but I don’t really find that to be the solution. I think the more mindfulness sort of side of it, where you are really training your brain to pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. And typically, that meditation will be something like, close your eyes, and like, just listen to yourself breathing and just pay attention to your breath. That’s usually the entry point for that. And so you could learn how to pay attention to your breath, and not to other things that are happening. And then you can learn to pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. I don’t know if… that’s a little bit out there. But you know, that… that actually, practically speaking, it makes a big difference.
Yeah, I need to try that more often. [Laughs]
I think the key is to… is to understand the difference between that kind of like anti-anxiety type of meditation, where it’s like, oh, you’re very calm and peaceful. This is like, you know, it’s really more just about… I’m, like, more of a Sam Harris kind of… kind of guy than I am, like, a Headspace or Calm. Sam Harris is more of the training your brain to pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. And then you can catch yourself like, oh, I’m actually paying attention to the wrong thing right now, so I need to redirect myself. But it’s… it’s like, forget it. I mean, you never… I mean, maybe, like, yogis become a master of that, but a normal person is just like, forget about it.
You’re always paying attention to something you shouldn’t be.
Do you think that’s true?
I do think that’s true,
I think it’s very true. Yes.
Ed, thank you so much for coming today and talking to us. How can our listeners reach you?
Well, you can catch me at Twitter. It’s @EAStevens with a V. @EAStevens is my Twitter handle, and that’s probably the best place. You can DM me there. And then also, you know, preciate.com is where we, you know, have our stuff, you can always find me through that vehicle as well. So yeah, it’s actually been fun to talk to you. Thank you for those thoughtful questions and wish you the best.
And we will put your contact information in our show notes, as well, so people can find you. So.
JoDee, we have a listener question today. “How do you have a fairness discussion with your employees when you have a certain percentage that must work in the office full time because of the nature of their jobs, and others who can work remotely? This difference in treatment can create fairness questions and bring up issues.”
Yeah, well, you know, Susan, I’ve told my kids for years that life is not fair. [Laughs]
[Laughs] My mother said that too. Yeah.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, I get it.
It is, and… and I think it’s especially hard with this particular question, right? People who work on the front lines at a bank or at a hospital or bagging groceries or whatever the role might be, any level of the organization. It is a tough one, and it’s just not going to work for everyone. You know, I have… some of our clients have asked everyone to work in the office because they didn’t think it was fair that some could and some couldn’t. Some of our clients have a lot of people who are working every day in the office and still allow other people to work remotely. So I see all different kinds of scenarios. One thing, though, I think… I’ve read so many articles on this, that most people, not everyone, but most people really, it’s not that they really want remote work, it’s that they want the opportunity to have flexible hours. And that… that really exceeds the demand for remote work, even though they might ask for remote work, because that might give them more flexibility. But so I think one of the biggest things that organizations can do, if at all possible, is to give people more flexibility, even if they do need to be in the office, in the plant. So when that works, thinking about, you know, could people have flexible hours? Could people work four days a week? Could some people start at 6am and some people start at 9am and work later? Or whatever might make sense to still gain coverage live. Any other thoughts from you, Susan?
I totally agree with your suggestion. I think that’s probably the primary route I would go, but a couple of other ideas to think about. Perhaps looking at your total reward system, and as an organization where you’re going to invest in your bennies and your perks. Think about for your on-site employees, those that have to be there facing the customer, maybe you have on-site rewards that people who are hybrid or that are not 100% in the office aren’t eligible for. Maybe you have, like, packed dinners, that you have a caterer that packages up dinners for people that they get to pick up on their way out the door. Maybe you have some type of on-site pay premium for people that they have no other choice, they have to be there. But think about it. You’ve got a total rewards budget, and you do want to make sure that you’ve kept some type of equity or fairness to compensate those that don’t have the same kind of choice that remote workers do.
I love it. I also think it’s important that we remember that not everyone sees working remotely as a benefit. You know, there’s lots of different desires on that. I actually interviewed a lady just last week who was interviewing because she had been working remotely for two years, was not allowed to return to the office, and she missed the people. She loved her job, but she just wanted to be around more people. So, you know, you might ask some people that, to not just assume that working remotely is the best option for people.
Yeah. Thanks for the question. That question came from one of our listeners who was applying for SHRM credit and filled that in on her evaluation. So we’re always interested in hearing your questions.
In our in the news section today, in an email I received from northstarinbound.com, they said that buzzwords can be useful in the workplace, but they also wondered if employers should use them in job postings. Preply surveyed 1,500 American workers to better understand the effect that language like this can have on the application process and found that it can make a difference. So let’s review some of their key takeaways. The first one was that 70% of workers say that the use of trendy language in a job posting has influenced their decision to apply for a job. Maybe it encouraged them to apply because they liked the trendy language and maybe encouraged them not to apply because they were turned off by the trendy language.
So what they found, actually, was that 20 percent of workers decided not to apply for a job due to business-related buzzwords. Yikes, you really do want to understand that before you put in the trendy language, right.
Right. And some of those terms they found most likely to be red flags for job seekers included “rockstar,” “wears many hats,” “thick skin.”
Oh, dear. You say “thick skin,” all I think of is they’re going to be saying mean things.
Right. Me too. “Work hard, play hard,” or “schedule TBD.”
Oh dear, that TBD could be “whatever we need on a given day,” right?
Yes. I don’t know that I put any of those in a job posting, but I could tell you I’ve said every single one of those buzzwords.
[Laughs] I bet. I bet. The terms least likely to be red flags, “proactive,” “empower,” “leverage,” “perks and benefits,” and “proven track record.” So those might be words that you consider keeping in your job postings.
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