How to Never Lose an Employee Again With Joey Coleman

Joey Coleman 10:07

Absolutely. I mean, one of the things I tried to do in all of my work, John is to think as evergreen as possible to write about first principles to write about things that will work, regardless of whether you’re a product business, or a service business and online business, or an offline or a hybrid, domestic or international, small, medium, or large. And you’re right, I started working on this book and doing the research and speaking about it and thinking about it before COVID. And I actually signed the deal with my publisher to do the book before then. And when COVID Suddenly geared up, I reached out, I said, Guys, we have to pump the brakes here, because my instinct is telling me that the world of work as we know it is about to change. And, you know, at the risk of sounding, you know, egotistical oppression to that I think many people were having that realization at the same time, not just me. And boy, did we ever, I would posit that the landscape shift we have seen in the world of work since COVID, during COVID. And then in you know, the year and a half ish since then, is the greatest shift in workplace environment. And in the world of work and employees that we’ve seen on planet Earth ever.

John Corcoran 11:22

I mean, we so many, and you and I were just talking beforehand about the changes since the last time we spoke. And, you know, you move from Colorado to Iowa, and then to Minnesota, you know, that that’s geographic, that’s one of the big changes is that so many people now either can work from wherever or they, they’ve made major life changes so that they want to, they decided that they’re going to move somewhere else. Because of the experience. We’ve all been through

Joey Coleman 11:51

100%. And I think John, the nuance in there, at least for me is not only have they realized that they could move and work remotely or work from a different geography. But the employers have realized this too. And while many of the employers are not as excited about this shift as the employees, the genies out of the bottle, like you’re not getting back in, and I was just involved in a conversation last week with a bunch of CEOs that were talking about their and I’m quoting directly, their return to work mandates of getting people to come back to the office, I was like, Hey, guys, just if I may, and I say guys, because it was all guys, right? This was all mostly 60 Plus males, who were kind of advocating the sun, I said, a couple of things we want to consider about our nomenclature: number one return to work. These people have been working this whole time. Like I know, you might have a skewed nobody’s been on vacation. These people have been working and a mandate. Is that really the way we want to approach this? Because I think we’ve gotten, you know, at the risk of getting me riled up and you know, alienating any of the listeners, I think we’ve gotten to this point where we’ve got a certain subset of society that’s like, I want it to get back to the way it was the good old days. And I’m like, the good old days weren’t that good. They weren’t that great. Like, there weren’t a lot of people back in 2019 that were going off, can’t wait to go into the office today. I mean, there were some, that was not the majority of workers. So what makes you think in 2023, they’re going to be super excited to be back in the office, especially because most organizations haven’t taken any steps to make it more appealing to be in the office than it is to be at home. One of the most staggering stats I came across when working on the book is, it is estimated that over 30% of Americans were super commuters before COVID. And a super commuter is defined as someone who travels more than 90 minutes to work. That’s crazy going from work night, like what did this just think about the days that we have given back to employees by allowing them to work from home, and all the research shows working from home or working remotely? better productivity, better efficiency, higher levels of engagement, even if that means Oh yeah, they’re also doing the laundry and other stuff, better financial standing, more work-life balance. People as a general feel better about work when they don’t have to spend a significant portion of their day in the car or on mass transit commuting to the office

John Corcoran 14:39

so that let me be a devil’s advocate here because I’m sure you got pushback from this group of old white men that you were talking to a man and some of them were like Yeah, yeah, yeah, but Joey you know, my business is unique. We need to have people in the office for XYZ reason my company we’re fully remote so I can I get it. I mean, I love it actually. and I see the engagement with our team. They’re happy to be working from their hometown. They’re happy to have the flexibility. But but for those who pushed back and said, for XYZ reason, we need to have people in the office, what did you say to them?

Joey Coleman 15:15

Well, John, I’m still waiting for an XYZ reason that’s based on data. I’ve heard lots of XYZ reasons that are based on emotion. And I don’t mean to denigrate emotion, that’s an important thing we want to take into consideration. But so many of them were like, well, because our people just aren’t as engaged. And I’m like, Okay, what evidence do you have of that? Well, they’re not, like, great. So, I’m a recovering attorney. And as I know you are in my world is if you want to advocate for a position, I will believe your position more if you can bring some evidence to the table, surveys, proof points, any type of data, you’ve been tracking any type of evidence that might indicate that this position you’re advocating is based in reality, not based in emotion. And suddenly it gets real quiet. Nobody wants to have those conversations. So are there certain things here’s, here’s the counterbalance to all of this. Do I think it’s enough to let everybody stay at home and never interact with their co-workers and their colleagues? Again? No, don’t Please don’t misunderstand me, or anybody who’s joining us for the conversation today. What I am saying is, we don’t need to be in the office every single day. And if we are going to be in the office, we should have a reason for being in the office, other than for the senior leadership team, to be able to look out across a room of cubicles and go all these people work for me, right? There needs to be something there. And I hear people say, Oh, well, collaboration is so much better in the office than it is in when people are at home. What’s your data, because the research actually shows that there’s a significant percentage of your employees that feel more comfortable sharing their perspective, or sharing their ideas in a remote setting than went on, you know, in the boardroom with the same other people. Yeah, the collaboration that has occurred asynchronously, because of online and being able to chase the sun in different time zones, ends up being significantly better than this idea of fixed collaboration of we’re going to have a meeting in conference room, see for an hour with a whiteboard. And we’ll come out with our vision for next year. It’s like I understand the appeal of having people physically around each other. But the research seems to show that it’s just as valuable, if not more, to acknowledge what the employees want, and give them what they need in their lives, to increase their engagement and increase their connection to work.

John Corcoran 17:41

Yeah, it’s fascinating. I do want to ask you about this idea of the first 100 days that you’ve applied to the concept of employees. You’re a big fan of giving people a great first day and first week and first month and all that kind of stuff. So to talk a bit about how you apply these principles to the employees experience when they start with a new organization.

Joey Coleman 18:05

Well, John, the first thing I like to do is just ask leaders to think about how much time are you spending onboarding your employees currently, let’s just start there. Because in most organizations, what they’re actually doing is orientation, not onboarding. So orientation is things like, Hey, this is where we work. And this is where you go for lunch. And if you have to go the bathroom, here’s where the bathrooms are. And if there’s a fire, here’s where the fire extinguisher is. You know, the interesting thing about that is you get that same type of a briefing, if you went on a cruise, right? Hey, telling, here’s, here’s what your stations, the bathroom, here’s your masters, right? Onboarding is a much more systemic, much more robust and designed way to bring people into your organizational operations and culture. So I defined onboarding as inviting in new employees using a managed structured series of contacts that are designed to create a warm, welcoming experience. It’s an invitation, it’s not a training. It’s a managed, structured series of contacts and interactions that happen over the course of weeks and months, not, hey, we’ve got a big agenda for day one. And then guess what, on day two, just go do the job. It’s like, we can’t expect if you want your people to stay for years, you have to be willing to train them for longer than hours. Okay, like it’s that simple. And so I would be willing to bet that everybody listening, if I were to say who in your company is responsible for day one of a new employees experience? There’d be a lot of your listeners and viewers who would say, Oh, that would be Jane. That would be one that would be Elisa, whoever it is great. Who’s responsible for day two? And day four and day 12 and a 13 and a 79. When we start to Think about the longer investment of making someone feel part of our culture, making sure they understand their roles, their responsibilities, the requirements of their job, their relationships, they’re responsible for managing, it’s a lot more of an amorphous answer, where we’re really just kind of pushing employees into the deep end, deep end of our pool and saying, Hey, good luck swimming, you’ve swum before, just figure it out, not really an effective way to get the results we want.

John Corcoran 20:25

Yeah. Now, one of the things I love about the book is that you didn’t just stick to the big case studies, because it’s very easy to say like, well, Apple does this and Google does that. You actually picked case studies from all over the globe, different continents, and different-sized companies, too. So I want to give you an opportunity to just kind of like, you know, pick out any of the examples of some of these companies that are doing it? 

Joey Coleman 20:51

Well, yeah. Well, at the at the risk of kind of, once again, referring back to our former legal days, John, you know, my theory is, whenever someone reads a book, right, I know, at least I have this experience. When I read a business book, one of the things that the skeptical mind does is say, Well, sure that work for that case study, but they’re different than me, they have more money, they have more people, they have a bigger footprint there in tech, I’m in manufacturing, we come up with all of these reasons why this example of how we could do it won’t fit to us isn’t, you know, in our world isn’t going to be able to be applied. And so what I started the book out with is a chart that shows all of the 50 Plus case studies in the book. And you’re right, we have a case study from all seven continents, I think I may be the first business book in the history of the world to have a case study from all seven continents. I’m not sure, folks that Guinness if you’re listening and want to have a conversation, I’d be thrilled to we haven’t been able to figure this out, although we’ve done a lot of research, trying to find it. But over 50% of the case studies in the book are from companies with less than 100 employees. And the reason for that is because over 90% of the companies on the planet have less than 100 employees. So I wanted to at least have a contextualization of the conversation that somebody could say, oh, well, that book is that, you know, example is kind of similar to me. So maybe it’ll be okay. And maybe I’ll be able to apply some of those things. As far as the specific example, one that I think is worth considering, right out of the blocks is a company called Well-Oiled Operations. Now their name alone kind of implies that we should not be pay attention to

John Corcoran 22:28

Setting the bar high. 

Joey Coleman 22:30

Yeah, exactly. We’re like, Alright, let’s see if we can. But what I love about what they do is it speaks directly to the number one reason employees leave. Now, John, if I were to ask you, or any of the listeners or the typical business leader, why do employees leave? What do you think the most common answer I would hear is? Why do you think employees are quitting? Why are they leaving?

John Corcoran 22:53

I think I’ve, I’ve read that it oftentimes has to do with who they report to and manager,

Joey Coleman 22:59

Right, their experience, right? Their experience with the direct person they work you. You’re absolutely right. As a general rule, that’s kind of the number two biggest reason, right, what I hear a lot is more money, well, they’re gonna get paid more money somewhere else. So they quit, and they went to there. That is also a reason why people leave. But it’s only about 9%. The number one reason that employees quit, is they don’t see a clear career path forward for them in your organization. They’re like, Hey, I’m doing a good job. But how am I going to be promoted? What’s the next job? Where’s my growth model in this organization? And what I love about what Well-Oiled Operations does is they address that head-on, they’ve got about 15 employees. So anybody listening, this is a small company, about 15 employees. And every year, the CEO, Stacy Tuschl, gets the whole team together for the annual retreat. Now a lot of companies do that they get everybody together for any annual meeting. And she presents the vision of where the company is going back here, and kind of what their three-year goals are, again, fairly common for businesses, especially by the time you’re up to about 15 or 20 employees, you’re starting to think a little more strategically, it’s not just putting out fires, and do we have enough money to keep in business, there’s a little more of a vision to it. But when she does something really unique that I think every business owner listening, every team leader listening could apply in your business with less than an hour of work, and no dollars of implementation is to come up with a future org chart. So what she does is she creates the organizational chart for the company, as she envisions it three years from now. Now, many of those roles, they don’t have anyone currently working in that role, and they’re not going to have anyone currently working in that role for another year or two, or maybe even three, but she maps it out visually, and she shares it with the whole team. And then what she says is, by the way, if you see a position that you’re interested in? Come let your direct manager know, come let me know. Because we want to start making sure you have the skills and the training and the understanding to be able to take over that role in three years or two years or a year, whenever it’s ready. This changes the conversation dramatically. Now, we’re not having a conversation about well, will I get a raise next quarter, we’re having a conversation with an employee that says, I want to be a product manager in three years, great. Let’s build out your skills so that we can instead of going in looking for someone to promote from within? And have you run that division?

John Corcoran 25:39

Yes, it’s fascinating, such a great idea. I know we’re, my my eyes on the clock. I know we’re almost out of time. Any other kind of trends that you’re seeing in employee retention, that’s, that’s working well, these days, or that, that you kind of got your eye on.

Joey Coleman 25:54

The big thing that I think is, has always worked in employee retention, but is becoming more and more important, I think, with each passing month, if not year, is that we really need to acknowledge that our employees are human beings. I think for all too often, or for far too long. Rather, many businesses have seen their human resources or their human capital, as cogs in a machine instead of human beings. And because they’re humans, we need to acknowledge their personal as much as we acknowledge their professional. Now, I know this is potentially irritating, some of the folks listening are like Joey, I don’t want to have to deal with all their personal stuff, and I get it. But where the trend is going, globally, is that the companies that will be the employer of choice in the future, are the ones that are willing to acknowledge what is going on in their employees lives between 5pm and 9am. As much as they want to focus on what’s going on in their life between 9am and 5pm. So obviously, what I mean by that is, what’s their home life? Like? What are their personal goals? What’s their relationship with their spouse, their significant other, their parents, their children, their neighbors? Like, what their hobbies? Where do they like to go on vacation? What do they like to do for fun? All of these types of conversations and considerations are things that the best employers are factoring into their communications with their people, and figuring out ways to support and encourage that. Because the more you let your employees bring their humanity to work, the more you celebrate what makes them unique as a human, the more they’re able to bring the best version of themselves to your enterprise, which leads to better productivity, better efficiency, better success, better growth, better visioning for your business, as well as their personal life.

John Corcoran 27:51

So, so follow-up question on that. So where does the employee draw the employer draw the line on that I recall recently was reading about someone who were experiencing a situation where they had a great employee, but the employee spouse had an addiction issue. And it was starting to affect that employee’s work, the employer was felt very guilty about wanting to support their employee, but they weren’t quite sure how to do it. Maybe this is a, you know, an outside type of scenario or an unusual type of scenario, but but I’m sure that many employers would kind of think Well, geez, if I open that door, if I, if I engage with them, or if I’m talking to employees about their personal life, you know, what’s my what are my obligations? And how do I know where I should step in and where I shouldn’t?

Joey Coleman 28:44

Yeah, and let’s, let’s be clear, what are my obligations as an employer? What are my obligations legally? What are my obligations as a human, we could put any number of modifiers on that sentence. And the answer might be slightly different or significantly different. Where I think we should start is recognizing that our employees have things going on in their lives, that have the potential to impact how they perform, quote, unquote, at work, how they perform in their jobs. And if we start to see things that are happening in their personal life impacting their professional life, there’s an opportunity to get curious, before we get critical to ask them, Hey, what’s going on? You just don’t seem yourself, you just don’t seem like you’re bringing your usual high level of performance and focus and attention to the table. Often, opening that door is enough to have the employee feel like there’s a little bit of a pressure release that they can at least share what’s going on in their life. And then we can maybe support them or not in varying degrees. One thing that I will say is I think many employers and again, check with legal counsel on this, but I’d be willing to have a conversation with your legal counsel. Given the answer that’s different than what I’m about to share. Many employers think that Well, John, if I talk to this employee, and they want to bring up their spouse’s addiction problems, and we figure out ways that we can support them with this, then that means I have to go to all of my employees and say, Do you have a spouse with an addiction problem? No, you don’t know, you absolutely don’t need to do that, at least in any jurisdiction I’m aware of. Right. So I think the question is less about this fear of, well, if I do it for you, I have to do it for everyone. And more about how can you meet each person where they’re at the 20 Somethings who’s single who’s fresh out of college, who’s working for your business, is dealing with very different issues in their personal life, then the 54 year old with four kids and a mortgage that he’s dealing with, and neither of them are good or bad, it’s just we need to acknowledge they have different wants different needs, different desires, different challenges in their personal life, and wherever we can kind of meet them where they’re at. Those employees will value the relationship more.

John Corcoran 31:04

It’s interesting how frequently this can come up. This literally came up in our company recently, where we had a team member who said, kind of suddenly, that they couldn’t work for us anymore. They had to leave. And I had a conversation with one of our team members, a manager who I said, Well, we should find out what’s going on, is there a way that we can help Ken is there some way that we can support them in some way that will allow them to continue to put food on the table for their family by continuing to work while also meeting whatever their needs are? And and I got a little bit of pushback from from that manager who said, Oh, I don’t feel like we should pry, you know, or I don’t want to get stepped over the line. So I think there’s sometimes that kind of tension where people are like, well, I don’t want to you know, there’s there’s some kind of boundary that I can’t cross.

Joey Coleman 31:57

Yeah. And I think let’s be clear, there are boundaries that you not only should cross socially, but you shouldn’t cross legally, right? You can’t say to the person who you’re interviewing, hey, do you plan to have children in the future? You know, there are rules against this, but we want to do, I think what your example speaks to John, and this is not a criticism of either you or the manager, but digging into these topics in a time of crisis, or in a time of forced urgency, like the employee saying, Hey, I’m not gonna be able to do this anymore. If we can have these conversations earlier, if we can create a culture earlier that explores, hey, so tell me something that’s really awesome about your life outside of work. And that’s it not like, Hey, are you in a relationship? Or do you have kids just what’s something about your personal life that you’re really excited about right now. And maybe when you bring everybody in for a meeting on Monday, and you kind of have your kickoff meeting for the week, start by going around the room and saying, Hey, what’s one thing you did this weekend? That lit you up? What’s one thing that you did this weekend that made you smile? What’s one thing you did this weekend that you think other people in the room might want to consider doing next weekend? And now you’re having a conversation about who are you as a human, so that when we do rise to the level of something going on in someone’s personal life, where they’re like, Oh, this is going to make it so that I can’t work for you anymore? Lots of times, if we get curious in those situations, again, instead of getting critical, they might say, we had a situation recently, with a company I advised where they had a similar thing, a longtime client, or a longtime employee came to them and said, I need to quit. And they were like, Oh, my gosh, this is out of the blue, what? What’s going on? Help us help us understand. And they said, my mom’s gotten sick. And I need to go stay with her for a couple months while she recovers. And they’re like, Okay, so what do you mean, they’re like, well, I need to move across the country to go live with her. So I won’t be able to come to the office anymore. And they’re like, Well, would you be willing to work remotely? And the employer was like, is that even an option? Like, we could make it an option, if that’s helpful. And the employees like, Oh, my God, that’d be amazing. I’d love to keep working for you. There’s, there’s nothing wrong with the work it’s that I have this other responsibility that I need to handle. And in that moment, the CEO came to me and said, Joey, I would have thought that would be something they logically came to, and they would have come with that request, instead of come with quitting. And what I tried to explain to the leader is especially when it comes to entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs are constantly wondering why the rest of the world doesn’t see the world the way they do. This is the nature of being human and it is exacerbated with entrepreneurs. If you are a business owner or a business leader, you are in the rarefied air of the kind of person that sees the world that way doesn’t mean your employees can’t see it that way. It just means that’s all often not their opening volley or their usual default. And so we almost might want to think of it as a different language like translate a little translated into their words, hey, I’m really good at solving problems. If you’d be willing to share some of the problems you’re dealing with, I might be able to find a solution that will allow both of us to achieve what we want you to solve the thing you’re dealing with in your personal life, and me to keep you as a valued member of our team, because we love what you do. Yeah. Yes, it’s often just about having the conversation.

John Corcoran 35:29

No, that’s so well said and that’s exactly what I was thinking and in our situation, because we’ve had other team members where same things come up where they didn’t realize that there could be some flexibility and you know, and they, they felt like they had to leave and we’ve been able to work things out. So that’s that’s such great advice. Joey, Never Lose an Employee Again: The Simple Path to Remarkable Retention is the book’s name. Where can people go to connect with you and learn more about you?

Joey Coleman 35:54

So the best place to find the book is anywhere you love books. You know the book is in hardcover for if you’d like to write in the margins, there’s a Kindle and Nook version if you’d like to ebook highlight, and if you’ve liked the sound of my voice in our conversation today, I narrate the audiobook, so I’m happy to read the book to you. The best place to find me online is, that’s Joey, like a baby kangaroo or a five year old, Coleman, like the camping equipment, but no relation. You’ll find information about my books, my speaking my workshops, everything there. And I just want to say thanks again for having me on the show. And thanks to everybody who was listening in, I hope you left with at least one or two ideas you can apply in your interactions with your team to hopefully create even more remarkable experiences for them.

John Corcoran 36:42

Thanks so much. Thanks, John.

Outro 36:47

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