Transcript: How to Engage Remote Employees

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Mitch Simon 0:10
Welcome to another episode of team anywhere where CEOs, leaders and experts at building teams, companies, organizations, and amazing cultures

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 0:22
share how to lead from anywhere in the world. I’m your co host on the east coast.

Mitch Simon 0:26
juden Bianca Mathis, and I’m your co host on the West Coast, Mitch Simon. And we invite you to join us team anywhere.

On today’s podcast we interview and Maltese director of people insights at quantum workplace quantum workplace provides the data and insights to the best places to work. The contest that honors superior organizations, where voices are heard cultures are thriving and employees are engaged on the podcast and shares a recent survey on 1.2 million employees contrasting engagement scores from q2 2019. With q2 2020. You will be surprised by the results. The outcomes give us a great insight into how employees will forever choose their employee years, what employees expectations will be for experiencing a higher level of care, transparency, and clarity finally answers a great experience at quantum workplace where their CEO figured out how to have a socially distant barbecue for all of its employees.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 1:39
This is Jenny Bianco math is with my colleague, Mitch Simon from Team anywhere. And we are excited today to have an multis from quantum. And I’m sure many of you out there are familiar with quantum in one way or another, either through their marvelous presence on LinkedIn, through their many surveys and studies. And you may have even submitted to be one of the top companies to work for, which is exactly what quantum is all about. Welcome, man.

Anne Maltese 2:17
Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 2:20
Excellent. So why don’t we just kick off with you telling us a little bit about yourself? And what’s quantum doing during these times? Yeah,

Anne Maltese 2:30
I’ll start first with quantum workplace. So we are a software company that provides employee engagement and performance solutions. And ultimately, we’re trying to help employees, teams and businesses grow and succeed. So I have the pleasure of leading our Insights Team at quantum workplace, and that’s our subject matter experts, and a researcher. And we’re really focused on helping organizations succeed. We work directly with customers, but we also work hard to really scale our advice. So that way, it lives inside of our product, it lives inside of our content and our resources. So we have been helping organizations for close to two decades. And of course, most recently, really helping organizations navigate through the pandemic. Absolutely, absolutely. So given that, um, what kind of survey efforts is quantum specifically been involved in over the past six months? What kind of requests are you getting from organizations, we’ve seen pulse surveys really explode during this time, they have been common, I would say, in the past several years, organizations have really tried to figure out how pulse surveys fit inside of their employee listening approach. But really, with COVID, hitting the United States hard beginning in March, we saw organizations really lean into them. So short surveys, at the very beginning of the pandemic, we were seeing work from home readiness surveys go out where organizations were wanting to know if employees had the materials and the equipment they needed to be successful at home, or really, what did working from home look like? What barriers were in place, or what challenges were employees having that organization could could try to solve quickly. And we also saw poll surveys going to essential employees as well, really trying to make sure that they felt supported. And if they had any suggestions around better safety protocols, those could be put in place. And those have really continued or organizations have been wanting to check in and see how employees are doing. But during this time, we also saw the annual engagement survey really continue to have a place a lot of organizations still using that as kind of that bigger listening mechanism to understand what’s going well and maybe challenges that are exist inside of the workplace right now.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 4:57
Excellent. and educate me You get the data, you if it’s a special request to give it back to the organization, what’s the norm? Best case scenario? What do they do with that data?

Anne Maltese 5:12
Yeah, I think that it’s a great question. I think that these pulse surveys and engagement surveys have really kind of shifted the mindset of a lot of leaders. Before an employee survey sometimes felt like you were getting scores, it almost felt like you were getting a grade and there was more of a reflection on the past. And now, I think more and more leaders have the mindset that employee surveys really provide you with feedback that you need to help navigate you forward. And so I think that’s why we’re seeing such a reliance on listening to employees, and especially through surveys right now is because it’s giving us critical insight into how we can continue to navigate forward as a business. Right, right.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 5:56
One more question in that vein, what is your belief, what’s quantum is belief, if any, maybe you just leave this totally up to the organization of sharing that feedback with the organization?

Anne Maltese 6:11
Absolutely. I think that’s critical. Listening is just one side of the communication process. And so we need to share back what we’re hearing both the good and the bad. So that way employees really feel like they were heard. And this can be empowering managers with their team’s feedback. So they know how to take kind of specialized action, because their team’s feedback might look different from another team’s, but I think in general employees are kind of owed a little sense of what was shared in their surveys.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 6:47
Right? I always found that hilarious. Well, we can’t show them the data, hey, they’re the ones who filled it up.

Anne Maltese 6:53
Exactly. Their feedback exists, whether we measure it or not. And so because we took the time to measure it, I think it’s really critical that we report back, not just what we heard, but also the action that we can be taking, whether that’s leader action and manager action, or everybody in the organization that feels part of this process.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 7:13
Totally. Well, let’s get into it a little bit. I’m sure you’re finding a lot of trends these days. What kind of takeaways Can you share with us that could influence leaders and practitioners who are listening about moving their cultures on at this point in time with remote work?

Anne Maltese 7:33
Yeah, I’d say there’s two big trends we’re sharing. There’s a lot of trends, but I’ll narrow it down to two. First, we are also the survey behind the Best Places to Work contests throughout the country. And so earlier this year, in the May timeframe, we studied about 1.2 million employee responses. And this was all from over 14,500 organizations, where we were putting a lot of attention on what things look like from March to May of 2020, compared to the prior year, but also some of the trends that we were seeing prior to that as well. And really, we’ve seen engagement always be pretty stable. Maybe some ticks up and some tick downs over time, but in general stable year to year. But since the restrictions that were put in place in the pandemic, so people working from home and things of that nature, we actually saw employee engagement spike. And this was surprising for a lot of people. And some people might dismiss this as a pandemic effects. Are our employees really just appreciative that they have a job right now? Are we just thankful for our paychecks. But when we really look at the specific survey items that most are increasing most on favourability, we’re seeing things like effective communication. We’re seeing things like trust in leaders, the organization and the culture, caring about my well being. And so I think those allow us to not just call this a pandemic effect. But in fact, a lot of the efforts that organizations and the readers are having to make during the pandemic are effectively impacting employees. And so it’s been interesting, even as we read employee comments, when we look at topics like communication coming from leaders, it’s almost like Finally, I’ve been waiting to hear from you. And you’ve really had to step up your game to connect with me during the pandemic. But this is the type of communication that is effective. And so I think there’s a lot of lessons learned for organizations right now, where we might be doing things specific to the pandemic, that could be carried over post pandemic and really be impactful for employee engagement. So I think that’s the first trend. The second I would say like it or not a lot of people Employees are liking working from home. And I think that’s something that organizations are going to have to address and figure out what it looks like for them moving forward, that doesn’t necessarily mean that people never come into the office, they just may want more flexibility and when they do. And so right now, employees are working from home during a pandemic. So I think any of the challenges that we’re facing, we have to kind of keep that lens in mind, this isn’t normal working from home. But there’s enough of the benefit that employees are seeing whether it’s flexibility, whether it’s the ability to just kind of be heads down and focus that employees really seem to appreciate. And so again, I think that that’s going to be a future trend that a lot of organizations are going to have to think through.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 10:44
That’s fabulous. That’s right, what is it? What does it mean, now the pandemic is over. But now, we’re all still working out here. That is a lovely point that I hadn’t really concentrated on. Well,

Mitch Simon 10:58
yes, Mitch, I wanted maybe without jumping, I’m just wondering, so the, the, the clients that you have, who are who are looking at the data? Are they sitting with the data and just saying, Oh, wow. Or are they sitting with the data and saying, Oh, my gosh, we’re gonna need to plan differently for the future, given this data? versus like, okay, that’s kind of interesting. And you know, when everybody comes back to work, then everything will just be better, because we’ll just be better communicators.

Anne Maltese 11:32
Yeah, probably a mixture of both, depending on kind of who the leader is, and so many organizations invest in their culture. And so I think it’s giving some leaders pause to say, How do I protect that culture and keep it alive when we’re remote, but they’re willing to think through that. But we also have other organizations that we partner with that were already planning, maybe a more robust work from home plan in their organization. And so this is kind of accelerating that. And again, they’re really thinking about this time as Okay, let’s lessons learn here. Let’s figure out what’s working, what’s not working yet. But I think organizations that really want to go back to the way that things were, I would anticipate might face more turnover, just because we need to acknowledge what’s going on right now. We need to acknowledge how people are feeling and what they’re wanting. And while the labor market may not allow a lot of flexibility and where people can work. by that. I mean, it may be difficult to get a job right now. But when things shift, I think employees are really going to be looking for as humans, where’s the best fit for them to really balance what they want as humans, as well as a workplace where they can really contribute and thrive, but in their own way.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 12:56
Oh, wow. That is cool. Absolutely. We’re getting the workers are getting educated to during this process. Yeah, yeah. Well, my interest was really piqued when I saw a series of articles coming out through quantum on the link between engagement and performance. And again, though, that link was is being highlighted because of the pandemic. Could you speak to that a little bit, please?

Anne Maltese 13:28
Yeah. So quantum workplace partnered with Harvard Business Review analytic services, and did a lot of this great research that you’re you’re mentioning, and it basically confirms what a lot of us who are maybe there was engagement believers knew for a long time. And that, essentially, employees who are highly engaged are stronger performers, and they’re more productive. So there is that intrinsic link between employee engagement and employee performance. But as we did more of this research, we also found that a lot of organizations currently kind of treat those as two different silos, or almost two different vacuums. And so really, this research is highlighting the fact that these are intrinsically combined, you really should be thinking about your employee engagement efforts, and how that you’re and how you’re going to impact employee performance, but also how you’re going to approach your employee performance management system to impact employee engagement. And I think that’s really important right now, during the pandemic, because we all need business success, right? Every organization I shouldn’t say every organization, there’s a lot of organizations that are challenged right now in a way that they never have been before. And so we need employees to be as productive and as no high performing as possible. And the means to that is at least partially through employee engagement. And then if we want to engage the employee Who are really delighting our customers being innovative, giving us their best ideas going above and beyond, we really need to be designing performance management approaches that allow for that.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 15:11
Which then, of course, leads me to a logical next question, which I thought was the most fascinating findings of the study is, what are those linkages? Like people say we measure employee engagement, you know, what is that on a scale from one to six? You all are going deeper? And looking at? What are the emerging factors that say, if you ha, are high on these four or five things, that usually means high engagement?

Anne Maltese 15:44
Yeah, so we really believe that measuring employee engagement is more than just happiness. It’s more than just satisfaction. And it’s more than the NPS, I know a lot of organizations use an NPS question to measure customer satisfaction. But that’s not a robust enough measure for employee engagement. And so if we’re asking things like whether employees have clear goals and accountabilities, whether they’re getting feedback from their manager regularly, whether there’s a focus on their development, some of the fundamentals in that employee engagement survey, as well as other things that we might capture, we are really trying to make sure that they feel engaged with their work, they feel engaged with their team, and that they feel engaged with our organization, kind of all three of those, we oftentimes describe it as three legs of a stool, and we want all three of those to be strong and steady in order for us to really describe employees as being highly engaged. And it’s those factors, those things that are part of their day to day experience, like having clear goals, like having a manager that’s really positioned as a coach, and having a team that they can count on those types of things that really influence their engagement.

Mitch Simon 17:00
And so you said the three things are engaged in their work in their organization? And what was the third team? Yes.

Anne Maltese 17:07
Yeah. So the team that you are part of, do you really feel like your peers are committed to the organization success? Do you really feel like you’re kind of all in it together? In the concept of teams is probably changing for some organizations. Even prior to the pandemic, we see a lot of fluid teams these days, a lot of teams that might be temporary. And right now, of course, with so many people still working from home, those teams are just physically separated or team members rather. But we know that that’s still important to employee engagement, regardless of whether it’s a traditional definition of a team or not.

Mitch Simon 17:49
In your research, are you finding that there you’re finding higher levels of engagement on all three levels of team work and organization?

Anne Maltese 17:59
Correct. So we are seeing, I believe the stat is 73% of those organizations, when I mentioned a studying over 14,000 organizations, 73% are saying overall higher engagement, both through or not both, but rather through organization, team and work engagement.

Mitch Simon 18:20
So this is and this is blowing my mind, right? Yeah. Because and I guess, Jenny, you saw this already. But what you’re what it’s basically saying is if you really want to engage your workers at work, don’t bring them to work. It’s really, it just goes against everything that that we’ve thought about. So tell me more about that. And,

Anne Maltese 18:42
well, I think it’s more so how we’re engaging them right now that we can learn from in the future. And so it’s not the fact that people are simply at home. But it’s the fact that we are really going to new lengths to try to make them feel connected to their organization. And that leaders are really having to try new tactics to really show that they care about their employees. They’re trying to be transparent with the business and really inspire employees. Managers are having to do different things to make sure that they feel like they know what each of their team members is going through right now. I know personally, I have team members that have kids at home, that are doing remote learning, and they’re literally dropping off from an executive presentation and trying to get their little ones on their next zoom class. And so really understanding what are people’s lives look like right now. So I think those efforts are what are making employee engagement increased right now? Probably not so much just where we’re working, but the efforts that are going into making work from home a success.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 19:51
Oh, God, that it’s almost like taking niches question and your answer. Concentrate on those things. three legs, and do the more mindfully like now I’m going to have an interaction with my team. And I’m going to clarify, Hey, remember, this is the goal. And then or I’m going to clarify. Now how are we working together? What tool? Are we using everyone feeling they’re good. Whereas before, those things were just assumed kosher right down the hall.

Anne Maltese 20:25
Yeah, it’s been interesting, even with my own team, that I lead, just trying to make sure everyone has crystal clear clarity on what’s most important. And even breaking it down week to week, because things might change. I think when we were first working from home and first helping organizations, I think a lot of people look to us and said, What’s the playbook here, we didn’t have the playbook, we were trying to write the playbook. And so what our priorities were then have really shifted over time. So kind of breaking down those priorities more on a week by week basis. The other thing I’ve noticed for my team, and it’s been interesting, we meet at least once per week in a zoom video call. So we get to see each other’s faces. But we’re really just kind of diving into a meeting agenda, going through all of our priorities. And I kept hearing in my one on ones from each of my team members, I just really missed my team, I miss our team a lot. And it was so interesting, because I realized that we weren’t allowing enough time just for conversation. And I know that might sound trivial to some people that are really hyper focused on productivity, and what that means. But I think we have to remember that we used to all work together, and you were able to look to your left or look to your right, depending on what your office setup was, and just catch up with people. And we need to be allowing time for that right now. So that people really feel like I’m part of a team of people. And hopefully, I enjoy working with them. And I care about them. And it’s not just all business right now. And I think if we don’t allow enough time for just team conversation and checking in with one another, as people were really doing a disservice to our employees, and in turn, how that impacts their engagement and their performance.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 22:16
Nice. Thank thanks for your own story that, that that’s beautiful. So given all of this, and you mentioned a few here and there already, what do you see going forward? What do you think the date is going to show? What kind of trends might we you know, are you suspecting even?

Anne Maltese 22:38
Yeah, a few trends, I think a lot of organizations have already realized this. And I realized that I’m coming from an employee engagement performance software provider. But I think digital performance management is the way moving forward. And that doesn’t mean that we’re not having conversations with people, it doesn’t mean that there’s not a personal connection. But it means that goals are online, and that we can connect our goals kind of align them to the business goals. So that way, there’s complete transparency. As an employee, I can see what my most important priorities are. And as a manager, I can see what progress my team members or my team in my organization are making. I’m not having to kind of micromanage how work is getting done, I’m just able to see the progress that’s being made. And again, that type of digital performance management can also allow other tools to make for a more effective one on ones, recognition, feedback, all those things that we still need to take place, we just have digital tools to better support them. So we’ve really seen our own customers that have adopted digital performance, quite frankly, fare a little bit better through all of this than those that were scrambling to try to figure out what employees were working on. I always make the joke that, you know, there’s maybe some mistrust to say, are they really just watching Tiger King, that was early in the pandemic, I know that they the Netflix trends have changed since then. But really having that that line of sight is important. Another trend is that we’ve heard a lot of organizations already rethinking what their office space is going to look like. Maybe allowing the office to be designed more in a way where you go there for collaboration. And if you’re wanting that heads down work time, if you’re wanting that focus time, go ahead and stay home. And so I think when we hear leaders think about their real estate costs, and what that means for the business, that office might still be valuable, it might just serve a different purpose moving forward. And then I think the final two things kind of go hand in hand. If we can truly hire from anywhere because we are supporting remote work. That means that we can have hopefully a more diverse workforce. It doesn’t just have us hire within maybe our market. So a lot of organizations that have potentially been challenged previously, to hire more diversity could do that. But that’s a diversity side of the coin. The other side is inclusion. And so we’re also hearing some organizations really rethink their onboarding process, their performance management process, even what culture looks like. So we can think about inclusion. Even if inclusion is virtual, which I think makes it a little bit more challenging, you have to be much more intentional with that.

Mitch Simon 25:41
We’d like to take this brief interruption to thank our sponsors and they get back to our program. We’d like to thank Marymount University, Arlington, Virginia School of Business and Technology, innovative solutions upskilling for what’s next oyster organizational development dedicated to higher performance, business success and leveraging teams at oyster And we jungo a strategic people process consulting firm at we Joe And the other employers that are not the best places to work can

Anne Maltese 26:16
have the gap. Is the gap getting wider? Is that the question? Yeah, you know, it’s a good question. What we know is who we partner with and who we have the ability to, quote, measure. And I would certainly say that we are seeing engagement increase in the organizations that we’re partnering with, that may not be the case for every organization, I would say the difference that I would suspect are those that are what I call really talent minded. The ones that really know that the recipe for business success is at least a lot in their employees. It may depend on your product, it may depend on how you advertise a product or a service, but your employees are key to that success. And those that really invest in their employees, whether it’s their performance, their engagement, making them feel like they’re a valued part of their culture. Those definitely seem to be succeeding right now. And while I can’t necessarily speak to those that aren’t focused there, have it’s a suspect that that gap is widening.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 27:26
Fabulous. Well, and your quest your answers to our questions have been phenomenal. Mitch, any final words?

Mitch Simon 27:37
I just want to talk to an all day actually,

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 27:40
I know.

Mitch Simon 27:42
Seems like no, our podcast is really devoted to a lot of the research that you guys are finding. And in so I want to have her back on the pot, Jimmy, oh, no, I have it back. as follows these these trends,

Anne Maltese 27:57
this is fun. This is super fun. They could also do this podcast if they knew how to talk because they get to hear me talk to organizations all day long. So I love love love talking about this. And I think it’s so important to help leaders. And again, we’re going through something that we really haven’t gone through before. And this podcast gives me a venue other than just chatting with my husband. So I’m sure he appreciates it too.

Mitch Simon 28:34
Great. Man, I want to ask a personal question, which is for you personally, and you being at the center of the expertise around this? What is your company doing for you? That is having you feel more engaged with the work that you’re doing?

Anne Maltese 28:51
Ah, I love that. Do we practice what we preach. And I’m pleased to say that quantum workplace really does. Beginning at the start of the pandemic, our CEO, Greg, use slack. So we use slack internally for messaging. He was actually posting a daily message at the end of the day. And sometimes it was about our business. Sometimes it was about the COVID numbers where we have employees. And sometimes you could tell maybe he was reaching a little bit he might not have had a new thing to share. But he would tell us about his family. He would tell us about his son who was graduating from high school, and what was that what that was like, not having school at the end of the year, and really allowing us to empathize with one another and really being authentic. And so he continued that for months and months and months. And it was wildly popular for employees. So I think really just having that connection was a critical piece. And he was also using that to make sure that we were aligned on the things that were most important to quantum workplace at that time. I think also I mentioned this, I’m doing it with my own team. And I know other teams inside of quantum are doing this really just making sure that our one on ones aren’t just focused on performance. That’s important. I know we already talked about that earlier in the podcast, but really making sure we’re taking the time to check in with our people. And really just making sure that we understand what their day to day looks like, and how we can be helping them through this time. But I will say, quantum workplace is known for being quirky, we kind of take pride in that. And so we’ve also tried to do some fun things throughout as well. So around Memorial Day, we actually had a socially distance drive thru cookout winner, our CEO grilled I don’t know, tons and tons of hotdogs. And basically, the drive thru window was open from like 11am to 1pm. And so we all had an opportunity to drive through masks on socially distance, kind of pick up a meal, take it home, take pictures of you kind of eating your hotdogs. So little things like that, I think actually really make a huge difference. And so that was one of my highlights of the year so far, just because just because we’re all in a little bit of a different environment doesn’t mean that we stop being who we are kind of as a culture and as a company.

Mitch Simon 31:16
Okay, we’ve got one more question. One more shot, go for it. All three of us are are having this conversation because we we believe so much in the the meaning the significance and the power that a great workplace will have on you as an individual, and how that influence will impact your family and the community in the world. What are you most hopeful for? After having seen and shared and really dug into this data that people are more engaged at this point? What are you most hopeful for for work moving forward?

Anne Maltese 31:53
Yeah. Great question. Short term, I think when there’s so much uncertainty around us, and whether we’re talking about the pandemic, or politics, or kind of the state of our country, where can be one place that you can turn to where there is some certainty, and there is hopefully some good leadership. And there is just kind of that motivation, and that team dynamics, with your team that you really feel like you enjoy being part of. So if you are not certain about anything else in your life, you can be certain that work can be a great place for you. So I think that’s short term, also long term, I think long term it is, I have hope that we can really thrive as humans. The other topic we touched on today, but didn’t dive into a lot is diversity, equity and inclusion. And that’s another huge topic that organizations are thinking through right now. and rightfully so. And if anything about time, we’re all unique human beings, we all have something different to offer, whether it is our demographics, or just who we are as people. And I think workplaces really getting to know their people and trying to create environments where you can bring your total self to work, and you can really thrive and be a top performer and feel like you can belong. And so I think, again, this notion that Oh gosh, we are all humans, we need to take care of each other that that pivot that we had to do in March and send everybody home to be safe, actually has a lot of long term implications when we really continue to remember that our people are humans, and we want them to be successful. And the more successful they are, the more successful our businesses can be to

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 33:43
Wow, what a note to end on. That is fabulous. And thank you are definitely glad to have you again.

Anne Maltese 33:52
That would be fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Ginnie Bianca-Mathis 33:56
Thanks and And that wraps up this episode of team anywhere.

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