One of the “other duties asked of you” is to crush our 3rd episode with April House - CAO of San Diego Workforce Partnership - we discuss avoiding unions through fair treatment, leveling corrections, reskilling, minimum wage and avoiding scope creep, title creep, and all the creeps in this one, kids.
Release Date: JUNE 29, 2022
[00:00:00] Speaker 1: Warning, this podcast is about the realities of working in people operations. This is not a stuck-up PC compliance-based or employment law podcast about stuffy outdated HR practices. Shit will get real here and we assume no responsibility.
[00:00:16] Speaker 2: We had a strict no alcohol policy, and everybody was like, "Oh, don't drink, HR is here". Meanwhile, I'm like mid crack for beer, and so why are we enabling you by being like, "Oh, we'll make HR the bad person in the room and we'll let them fire for you." That's cheap bullshit. The thoughts of being in a large room with other people just gives me so much anxiety. I have become like a [unintelligible 00:00:37] If they're that disengaged before, they're going to be that disengaged at the office, just be sitting at their desk looking at Facebook, they're going to find ways to [beep] off.
[00:00:45] Speaker 1: This is the People Problems podcast with Alexa Baggio and Tyson McKenzie.
[00:00:52] Alexa Baggio: All right. Awesome. Well, let's jump into our first segment here, which is pops in the news.
[00:01:06] Alexa: We are going to do pops in the news this week on my buddy, Elon Musk, who is a tried and true figure in all things controversial. He's my favorite unintentional troll, but Business Insider did a big medium post on him recently that apparently I believe an email or something leaked of his for many months ago. As people know, he's the CEO of multiple companies. He's got Tesla, he's got SpaceX, he's got Neuralink. I actually believe he also has a solar company. The guy does a lot. He's very productive. If this email gets leaked, that's like Elon's rules of the road. The headline of the article is actually, these are eight strict workplace rules Elon Musk makes Tesla employees follow.
[00:01:48] Tyson McKenzie: This is like a Cosmopolitan, something you'd read in Cosmo.
[00:01:51] Alexa: Right, yes. It reads like that because I'm going to read them to you. I'm not going to lie. I don't disagree with most of them, but then they wrap the article up and it's like, yes, but he's still ridiculous and he sucks though, which is just funny because I feel like they do that with everything that's these kind of articles. It's like a CEO actually has some clear concise rules that let people work collaboratively together but then we have to make sure we shit on them right at the end.
Here's the eight things I want to get your quick thoughts on these eight as I go through them. First one is large format meetings waste people's time. Like town halls, like big ridiculous. Let's hear from every CEO and every executive about what's going on. He thinks they're a total waste of time. Number two, meetings should be infrequent unless a matter is urgent. The guy's not into having meetings for no reason. There's no standing meetings, no weekly meetings. He's like, unless this is urgent, we don't need to meet about it.
[00:02:48] Tyson: So far so good.
[00:02:49] Alexa: Okay, all right. I'll take silence as agreement. Number three, if you don't need to be in a meeting, leave. This might be my favorite one, where it's just like it's--
[00:02:59] Tyson: I can start doing this now.
[00:03:01] Alexa: Just sign off now.
[00:03:04] Tyson: Tyson has left me.
[00:03:06] Alexa: I just wish there was a way to do it without having to stop and be like, guys, I don't think I need to be here, because then everybody's like, oh yes, sorry. It's like, oh, [crosstalk]
[00:03:14] Tyson: It's so easy. It's so easy in the virtual world. You just click hang up. You're just gone, you don't have to explain yourself.
[00:03:20] Alexa: You just drop a little note in the chat, you just drop a little, guys, there's no reason for me to be here, [unintelligible 00:03:26]. I'm a big fan of this one.
[00:03:22] Tyson: You just, "I got to go." Then you don't have to face people. It's so much harder to leave an in-person meeting.
[00:03:31] Alexa: Yes. There's so many meetings. People use meetings all wrong. Number four, avoid confusing jargon. I love this one.
[00:03:41] Tyson: I love that because HR is usually the source of confusing jargon. Let's-
[00:03:46] Alexa: That's fair.
[00:03:46] Tyson: -take note of this, everybody.
[00:03:47] Alexa: What's your favorite HR jargon? I just feel like there's so many buzzwords, but we're going to do a whole episode on that.
[00:03:54] Tyson: Let's do a whole episode on that.
[00:03:56] Alexa: Whole episode on buzzwords. Let me read this one because I actually think it's pretty good. It says, "Don't use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software, or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don't want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla," is what he said in the email, which I love because first of all, these guys build big, complicated stuff. It's also really hard to train people in and out of a trade if you have to learn a whole another lingo to understand what it is.
[00:04:22] Tyson: Acronyms are a problem. Acronym is like when you do letters, right?
[00:04:25] Alexa: Yes.
[00:04:26] Tyson: Acronyms are a huge issue in companies. I worked for a company and we actually did have a glossary of acronyms.
[00:04:34] Alexa: Oh, wow. That's a red flag.
[00:04:35] Tyson: That's not right.
[00:04:37] Alexa: Glossaries are a red flag. I always find it fascinating when you talk to someone who just works in a totally different industry than you. My sister used to work at a logistics company and you'd hear her talk about their company and just there'd be so many words that came out of her mouth that I would be like, I don't really understand what you're talking about or who you're talking about, but I guess at your company, that's the jargon for the person you work for and the process you work on. It was like listening to German. Frustrating.
[00:05:05] Tyson: Yes, it goes both ways though, too. I find a lot of new wave companies are trying to be like, "Oh, we don't use company jargon." Then they use buzzwords like up the ying-yang and you can't understand them. I'm like, "Why don't we call a budget a budget? Why do we have to call it something else? No one knows what you're talking about."
[00:05:23] Alexa: Yes. Makes makes consultants feel important, though.
[00:05:26] Tyson: True.
[00:05:27] Alexa: All right. Next one. Don't let hierarchical structures make things less efficient.
[00:05:32] Tyson: I would love to see how that happens. Hold on, I would love to see if that happens.
[00:05:35] Alexa: Communication should travel via the shortest path. That's the general idea here.
[00:05:39] Tyson: You mean if I want to talk to Elon, I wouldn't have to talk to like 17 of his executive assistants to get to him?
[00:05:44] Alexa: No, in fact, you should walk straight up to him. At the end of this article, I'm going to tell you why that's a bad idea.
[00:05:50] Tyson: All right.
[00:05:50] Alexa: Yes, his whole idea is like, there's no chain of command, just say what you mean to who you want to say it to.
[00:05:55] Tyson: All right, that would be great if it works.
[00:05:56] Alexa: Which parlays into the next one, which is if you need to get in touch with someone, do so directly. Don't talk to the VP who talks to another VP who talks to another director who-- Same idea, just be direct, go talk to people.
[00:06:09] Tyson: Again, I would love to see that happen. I've never seen that happen.
[00:06:13] Alexa: Maybe you should go work at Tesla.
[00:06:14] Tyson: Maybe, honestly, you won.
[00:06:16] Alexa: Want to get someone from their people [unintelligible 00:06:17] on here. See if this holds up. All right, last couple. Don't waste time following silly rules. Easier said than done. They sort of say pick common sense as a guideline. If following a "company rule" is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change.
[00:06:36] Tyson: I also want to start doing this effective immediately.
[00:06:38] Alexa: Yes. I love this because it's like it's plain English. People can actually use this. This is not such a hard and fast rule that you're going to break it all the time. It's like if it's ridiculous enough to be a Dilbert cartoon, change the rule.
[00:06:52] Tyson: You know what, though? I was told early on in my career that if people had common sense, I wouldn't have a job.
[00:06:57] Alexa: Oh, that I feel like we should talk about that. We should unpack that maybe a little later in this episode, I'd like that.
[00:07:03] Tyson: For sure. For sure.
[00:07:04] Alexa: We have a rule here at PERKS, which is just don't be an asshole, which people seem to really like, it's just a pretty good rule. It's not our only sort of cultural guideline, but it's mostly just like, don't be an asshole. We're just trying to keep things flexible, and we trust you to be an adult. Don't waste time on silly rules. All right, last one. Don't leak to the press under any circumstances, which is just such a Elon rule, because he steps in the press stuff all the time.
[00:07:32] Tyson: It is par for the course. I think a lot of companies that are publicly traded have similar rules. I've seen that in many of the companies I've worked for as well, just that you don't-- nobody talks to media. Yes.
[00:07:44] Alexa: Yes, I know it's gotten very popular to all of a sudden, you'll get a big company that blows up like Away suitcases, right? Or there's been a couple recently. What was that? That Spanx competitor, I think was called Thinx or something where all of a sudden, the employees just implode and they just start shitting on the CEO and releasing Slack messages and just horrible internal stuff. It's all bad. To be fair, I'm not defending any of those people.
It's also not okay to just throw your NDA out the window and be like, "Cool, I'm just going to spread all the internal communication from my horrible last disgruntled year here with the press." I think that's gotten a little too commonplace, which is rough and Elon is not a fan because he's not. Then to wrap this up, the best part of his article is that it ends with the comment that Musk is known to be ruthless.
He's so prone to firing sprees that Tesla employees were told not to walk past his desk in case it jeopardized their career, which came out in a WIRED magazine episode in 2008. They say it was overly dramatic and sensationalized, which I believe. It is funny that it always seems the double-edged sword to these various clear, concise, rigid rules that tend to be very trendy to get this kind of press almost always seem to be backed up by like, "But the guy who's doing this is also an asshole," so [chuckles] it's not perfect, right? It's like Mark Zuckerberg's move fast and break things turned out not to be an awesome model for a lot of reasons. Also, he sucks.
[00:09:12] Tyson: This was annoying for me because I was reading this article thinking like, "Yes, I want to go work for Elon," [chuckles] like, "Elon call me, honestly," but then I don't understand this as well. I think it maybe just comes with being a genius. I don't know.
[00:09:25] Alexa: Yes, I mean, he's, first of all, self-proclaimed on the spectrum. Also, I have some family members and friends who've worked at SpaceX, his other companies and while he is eccentric and intense, I have not heard anything this bad, like you just walked by his desk and he fires you.
[00:09:41] Tyson: Me neither. This is very Amazonian. This is not Tesla. This is not Elon.
[00:09:45] Alexa: Yes, I think this is just the misinterpretation of an eccentric human.
[00:09:50] Tyson: I would accept that from Jeff Bezos.
[00:09:52] Alexa: Yes, [chuckles] or maybe Tim Cook based on our last couple of episodes. You can work remotely sometimes but not really. Only when we say. All right, moving on. We are going to go ahead and introduce our guest. Our guest today is April House. She is the Chief Administrative Officer at the San Diego Workforce Partnership. She had dreams of being a ballroom dancer that she pursued out of high school, but since she needed to eat, she went onto the Navy and had a career as a nurse and ultimately wound up as an executive in the healthcare and nonprofit spaces. Very excited to talk to her about what she does today and she claims that she still does not know what she wants to do when she grows up. Welcome, April.
[00:10:28] April House: Thank you. Thank you, Alexa and Tyson. Happy to be here.
[00:10:31] Alexa: How're you doing?
[00:10:31] April: Excellent.
[00:10:32] Alexa: Any thoughts on crazy man Elon?
[00:10:34] April: Oh, you know what? I was with you up until the last part, but I can get down with that virtual meeting, but the return to office will just completely ruin that, leave the meeting if you're not needed there, because turn the camera off and we're gone.
[00:10:48] Alexa: Yes, it's a really good argument for why maybe all meetings should be standing meetings so you can just leave.
[00:10:53] April: Exactly. No need for [crosstalk]
[00:10:56] Alexa: Sitting's bad for you and I can just leave.
[00:10:57] April: Yes. Why are you leaving? I'm not needed here, but if we're all standing and we just exit if we're not needed--
[00:11:03] Alexa: Exactly.
[00:11:04] Tyson: It's so empowering.
[00:11:05] Alexa: Exactly.
[00:11:07] Tyson: It's so empowering though if you can-
[00:11:07] Alexa: It would be nice.
[00:11:07] Tyson: -just leave. Can you just leave? I don't think it's possible.
[00:11:12] April: Then what if somebody gets confused and you, wait a minute, you were actually needed here. At least we thought you were.
[00:11:18] Alexa: That's what I mean. What if they were really just waiting to the part where they needed you, but then I feel like maybe you should just communicate upfront why everybody's in the meeting? Like, "Hey, here's why I asked you to be here, what I'm hoping you'll contribute."
[00:11:30] Tyson: I think oftentimes, people who work in whether it be like people, operations, HR realm, they're just happy to be there. I might not contribute a damn thing. If I get invited to the leadership table, you can bet your ass I'm going to be staying there the whole time.
[00:11:44] Alexa: Are you the person that wants to get invited to parties but they don't actually ever go?
[00:11:49] Tyson: Yes.
[00:11:50] Alexa: Do you have any friends like that? They get mad when you don't invite them, but then you invite them and they never show up.
[00:11:56] April: For sure.
[00:11:57] Alexa: I hate those people.
[00:11:58] April: I might be one of those people, but I'll keep that to myself.
[00:12:02] Tyson: I love a canceled plan.
[00:12:04] April: Right?
[00:12:05] Alexa: It's different to cancel. It's another thing to be like the dodgy one that never says they're coming or not coming and never shows up. Those are different.
[00:12:11] Tyson: Oh, no. No, no, no. That can't be me. I'm way too OCD for that. I need everything to be in-- I'm very particular with my schedule.
[00:12:20] Alexa: All right. Learn something new about Tyson every episode.
[00:12:23] Tyson: Yes.
[00:12:23] Alexa: Very particular.
[00:12:25] Tyson: April, tell us what ballroom dancing has in common with people operations.
[00:12:31] April: Oh, wow. Ballroom dancing is--
[00:12:34] Alexa: What kind of ballroom dancing?
[00:12:36] April: I was doing all types of Latin dancing, traditional waltz and all that. I actually wanted to be a professional, competitive ballroom dancer and so what it has to do with people. What it has to do with HR is I took a job out of high school that paid me in lessons. That taught me a lot about legal HR, what we can and can't do, but--
[00:13:01] Alexa: Comp in kind.
[00:13:03] Tyson: I think you can do that in the United States though. Can't you?
[00:13:06] April: It depends on where you are. It depends.
[00:13:08] Alexa: That's the answer for everything in the United States. It depends what state you're in.
[00:13:14] April: Exactly. Otherwise, guiding people through tough things where you think who's leading is not leading, I think, is the epitome of HR and people and culture. Who's leading here? You are, people in culture, HR. That same semblance is exactly how it is in ballroom dancing where it's traditionally male-led. Believe me, the woman is leading through a lot of the dances as well. With organizations who's leading, a lot of people throw up their hands and abdicate to HR. That's a similarity.
[00:13:51] Alexa: They mentioned that. Tell us a little bit about how you got into the people space, April.
[00:13:55] April: Well, I didn't know I was in it at first, I don't know how you all arrived to it. Working with a nursing and healthcare and going through a couple of mergers and acquisitions required a mean to lead up the organizational development, talent strategy, job design work, and a couple of healthcare organizations. Then finally, I had a really good friend who started a company that was in HR consulting and staffing and said, you know, what you're doing is essentially a part of HR, this organizational development.
I was like, oh, thanks for that name because I had no idea it was a collateral duty. It was that line that said all other duties as assigned, and so got into recruiting organizational development from there, graduated to another organization where I had to do that for all the programs that I owned within healthcare, ultimately came to the Workforce Partnership and took ownership of the entire HR end-to-end system. It's been great ever since. We work on providing career opportunities, training, and job placement for our county within San Diego and Southern California, so making sure that all of the workforce is prepared for the opportunities that are out there.
[00:15:07] Alexa: That's awesome. You guys are a nonprofit, I assume, yes?
[00:15:09] April: Right. Exactly.
[00:15:11] Alexa: Very cool. Tell us a little bit about, it's a weird workforce right now. We just came out of a pandemic. What are the big things that your organization's focused on preparing people for?
[00:15:20] April: We're preparing right now. I'm sure y'all have heard that a lot of people haven't been returning to work while they've been reskilling for other work. We found that our demographic has changed greatly, where typically we were working with people who are entry level. It's a lot of those mid-careers who have decided you know what, maybe what I was doing, I want to do something different, and they pursue something within technology, healthcare, energy spaces. We see the demographic of those who are seeking career change, whereas before if you were comfortable, you typically stayed comfortable.
I think the pandemic disrupted people so much that they're willing to challenge what it is that they've always done by trying something new. We've seen our population serve change drastically just based upon how their life has changed and what they've seen going forward and how they want to live. We talk about returning to the office and I think a lot of people are rethinking, what does that mean? What do I want to return to? Is it the same way, same thing, or same way, or is it something different?
[00:16:20] Alexa: That's awesome. This is a really hot topic around here, especially in-- Tyson, I don't know about up north across the border, but in the States, reskilling is a huge conversation. There's all this talk about in elections and stuff. Obviously, the oil industry gets a lot of hype around. We can't be coal mining and oil fracking forever. We should train people in renewable energy. We should train people in wind turbine work and all that stuff.
I'm curious, April, if you have any good examples of people who really have reskilled into newer age or just more technical careers because I feel like we talk about it a lot but the actual work of doing that is awesome to hear people making mid-career jumps, especially after a pandemic. I think that's one of the silver linings, is that people went, oh, I survived a pandemic. I can just rescale. It's cool. I can learn new things. I can do other things. I'd love to hear some examples of real career jumps and maybe some of what it's taught you.
[00:17:11] April: Where we see the biggest career changes are for those fields that it doesn't take a long time to get into to learn. We've seen people go from administrative fields into cybersecurity, for example. That's a field that's really super hot right now with everything that you hear in the news with breaches that I think along with emergency management, people didn't think they needed probably two years ago. Like, oh, we don't need emergency management, nor cybersecurity. Then all of a sudden, bring us all of that.
We've seen people across sectors to leave behind where they may have been laid off or furloughed. They'll pursue or have pursued an 18-month program in cybersecurity and then slide into something that is a comparable pay but is much more in line with what they wanted for themselves.
[00:17:58] Alexa: Has probably sustainable options in the future and will remain relevant.
[00:18:03] Tyson: That's so interesting, just this post-pandemic movement. There's definitely, I think, a bit of a post-pandemic Exodus out of a lot of companies. I didn't even actually think about upskilling or learning something new is being a source of that. People have just had the time to really think about, is this really the right thing? Maybe someone who would've never changed their career before, like you said if they get furloughed laid off, then now's the time to figure it out. We had nothing but time. I find that really interesting that that's the result. We haven't seen that. We do see a lot of people jumping ship, but not for different skill sets. I haven't seen a lot of that yet. It's super interesting.
[00:18:43] Alexa: It's interesting because everyone's talking about how it's a really hard hiring market right now and you hear all these headlines about, oh, restaurant workers, every restaurant in Boston is hiring waitstaff right now and they can't find bartenders. The airline industry just went through a whole flummox this past week because they're understaffed. They cut a bunch of flights.
I think about that, I'm like, okay, I could understand how it's really hard to pull people back into low-wage jobs when for a similar maybe amount of hustle and a little change, maybe they could find something else they like doing more. It's totally different to think about the people who really are doing this because the other option was so bad or not the people that have the luxury of switching and thinking about career changes.
That's nice. The people in the middle who are like, I can't justify this environment long enough. It is worth me taking up to-- you just mentioned an 18-month program, April. I'll be curious what the average is for you guys. I would've assumed it's probably more. I think that might be a misunderstood barrier, but it's fascinating to think of the people that are like, no, no, no, no. This is bad enough that I'm going to take a mid-career break. I'm going to figure out how to feed my family and I'm just going to switch the game. I'm done. That's one of the things I talk about all the time, is if your employer branding, your employer experience is bad enough that people won't come back in an environment where there's basically no job security, you are doing something wrong. It is time to revisit.
[00:20:13] Tyson: April, what's the age demographics? I'm curious if it's mostly millennials that have done this or if it's different generations.
[00:20:20] April: It's completely swung to typically, where we find those choosing middle-career decisions is usually about Gen X. That is the sweet spot of folks, just like Alexa was saying, that make that decision to do I want to go back to two-hour commutes, being there all day, loss of productivity when the environment can't be flexible? Now, of course, we don't want to go to 100% office or 100% remote, but somewhere in the middle. It's usually those folks that have found some piece in that middle and realized that when they return, it won't be to that if they could return at all.
Folks that are within that Gen X, late boomer, early early millennial have made the decision to, let me reskill and do something different at this point in time because I think right now, it's kind of the bend that the pandemic has put in the employment market and our economy. It's almost recognizable like this little-- I think everybody is expecting some sort of outcome from this shift. Like, "Explain to me what happened in your career." "Oh, the pandemic." It's just a leverage point to where, let me do it now as opposed to later.
[00:21:34] Alexa: Going to be like, when you see that random year in someone's resume, they're like, "What happened there?" You're like, "Okay, this has to be a divorce."
[00:21:40] Tyson: It's 2020. No, but it's interesting in Canada, what the issue that we're having, and Alexa, you mentioned, going back to low-wage jobs, the issue that we're having is that there's actually still much government assistance to people who aren't working that there's no incentive to go back to work. That's one conversation that's happening.
[00:21:58] Alexa: Yes, we struggled with [crosstalk]
[00:22:00] Tyson: Hearing about whether it be like waitstaff or something like that, they're actually moving to areas that are open. In Ontario, we still don't really have restaurants. You can have maybe like three people on a patio. All the people, like the sommeliers and stuff, have moved to either Quebec where it's more open or to the States or to actually down south.
That's another huge issue with that, but no, April, that's really interesting that it's not even like you think you expect millennials and younger to be jumping around jobs and changing careers all the time. It's interesting that this was such a push for people that they are reskilling like that. Have you guys changed your strategy? Have you reconsidered how we can make this more whether it be flexible or a better hybrid approach or anything like that? Is the type of work just not able to have that flexibility?
[00:22:49] April: I think one thing that we do is work with businesses in order to help and assist with what does reopening look like. Some industries don't lend themselves to that level of flexibility, especially for essential workers, but others can and I think there's still the notion of if I can't see you, then how do I know work is happening?
[00:23:12] Alexa: Kills me, shit kills me. It's 2021, folks. Like I said, I can sit my ass in a chair and scroll Facebook in your office just as well as I can at home. I'm just being serious. I've had many employees do it where I'm like, you're not engaged here. It has nothing to do with the fact that we're in the office or not [crosstalk]
[00:23:30] April: Sitting there applying for jobs.
[00:23:31] Alexa: Yes, or just scrolling fucking Facebook. Like, come on.
[00:23:35] April: Well, think about it. When you go to the office, I know when I go to-- I'm not back the office yet, but when I would go to the office, the first at least 90 minutes is me bullshitting around, I'm going to go sit myself down, I'm going to lose something, I'm going to go back to the car, I'm going to get coffee, I'm going to run into 10 people, and then finally I got there at 8:30. About 10:45, 11 o'clock I've actually started working which I'll do about two, three hours, distract myself again.
[00:23:57] Alexa: You walk to the kitchen and like find a way to walk, wait 45 minutes. I mean, if you want to, you will do that stuff. It's also like how you can tell when an employee is looking to leave, is you're like, oh, they started taking like an hour and a half long lunch breaks. There's a lot of "dentist appointments" on the calendar.
[00:24:13] Tyson: You definitely do work a lot more when you're at home though.
[00:24:16] Alexa: Oh, for sure.
[00:24:17] Tyson: I am like an ambitious worker.
[00:24:18] Alexa: That's the argument against working from home.
[00:24:21] Tyson: Yes, because I feel like we've talked about this before, but I can't stop working, I feel like, when I'm at home. You're sitting around waiting for your day to start. Let's say it's at 8:00 AM and I'm sitting on the couch watching the Real Housewives and responding to Slack messages. Then, it's noon, oh, I should probably relocate myself. I sit downstairs at the breakfast bar and eat my lunch and respond to Slack messages. Normally, if you're in an office, you just don't do that, but I'm sitting here with my cat. What else is there to do, right?
[00:24:52] Alexa: Yes, I mean, that's the argument against it, right? I was remote before it was trendy, and I used to preach the gospel but I would always say I go from being alone in my apartment all day, I can get more work done in eight hours at home than I probably can in three or four days at the office. I've done both and I've been in an environment, especially startup environments where you're just like if one more person taps me on the shoulder and asked me a question, I'm going to fucking scream.
I can't get anything done around here. I get both sides of the argument but by the end of the day, and thank God we record these podcasts in the afternoon, I am either so exhausted from talking to people that I'm like, "I'm going to go sit at a restaurant by myself or turn on some show I've never seen and not talk for the rest of the evening or the exact opposite run."
I've been so heads down on work for the last five hours. Thank God I have a dog who forces me to take her out every couple of hours. Otherwise, there are days where I would literally sit for like 8 to 12 straight hours. I pick my head up at 6:30 and I go, "Oh my God, I need to meet someone for a drink. Get me out of this house." It's all balance or finding the balance for you based on the kind of work you do but it's so curious, April, do you see that a lot of this is motivated by the location of work?
People are just like, "I don't want to go back to an office," or do you think it's a combination of, "I didn't really like the work. I think there's more longevity in something else, or something else would make me happier, or be better for my family." Maybe I'd even be curious to hear your thoughts on this. Maybe there's more potential salary upside in some of these reskilling positions.
[00:26:23] April: I think the salary has the opportunity for salary and then just the responsibility that I think that some folks had taken on. The ability to refocus and be more singularly minded, where we found pre-pandemic, some of the jobs that people had exploded or expanded beyond their scope were a couple of the things that we noticed but it was just about finding that what's important to me. Is it more important to achieve and climb a ladder or can I realize a balanced type of success with being a person outside of work that has needs and a quality life?
[00:27:02] Alexa: You know being a person, April
[00:27:04] April: [crosstalk] right? [laughs]
[00:27:05] Alexa: No, especially not on Amazon, which we've talked of.
[00:27:10] April: Or can I find some sort of balance between both? Can I have a good job, a good career that provides for my well-being, and then also I can be who I want to be with time to do it outside of work? The flexibility to do it from where I'd like to do it is very interesting. We fielded a survey regarding returning to the office. It is quite interesting how people use the office.
It was less about the work or getting it done, it was more or less about a space to socialize. That's where most people found they got their socialization from. Meanwhile, I'm like, Alexa, I could sit in my bedroom with a 10-foot commute [laughs] and be here perfectly fine, but it's finding that balance between what works for some people and what works for others who need that more collaborative spirit, the ability to go and tap somebody on the shoulder versus those that appreciate that. If I can be head down for eight hours and get what I need done done, then that works.
[00:28:11] Alexa: Which is also why the world is going back to a version of this like a hybrid, not going right back to the office. The other thing I think people forget about and I bet it plays into the work you guys do, April, is the cost of living when you work from home drastically drops. Even if your employer is paying for some of this stuff, it's still a headache, it's still a cost, it's still out of your pocket and being reimbursed.
I mean, it's dollars in your gas tank, it's hours in the car, it's all the health implications of this, the health implications of all the stress of sitting in traffic for-- I think I read before the pandemic, I was sort of preaching this fire no premonition, I promise. I think I was reading something like the average commute, at least in the States, was 59 minutes one way.
You just spend like two hours of your day sitting in traffic, which we all know how great everybody is in traffic, right? You're either a Zen master not paying any attention everyone talking at you or you're the asshole that's doing the honking, and so your blood pressure's probably up but you're not paying for off for food in the city or in town. You're not spending money at bars afterwards to go meet up with your colleagues or [crosstalk] on your way home.
[00:29:16] Tyson: You can live outside of a city too, right?
[00:29:19] Alexa: Yes, you can cook a chicken while you're in a meeting.
[00:29:21] Tyson: Yes, but even for me, I moved from living in downtown Toronto to the middle of nowhere and I could have never bought a house in Toronto. It's like our hottest market.
[00:29:31] Alexa: I was going to yell at you doing that because Toronto was fire but--
[00:29:34] Tyson: No. Toronto's great, but you can't afford to live. Most normal people can't afford to live there. Being able to buy a house was a luxury now that I was able to have being remote.
[00:29:45] Alexa: Yes, I'm sure that's-- does that play in, April? [crosstalk]
[00:29:48] April: Exactly. You can move to a much cheaper-- I mean here in San Diego, you can buy sunshine anywhere in California, along any coast or major cities is super expensive. If you can hightail it about two hours away, like you're saying, and not have a commute, absolutely, that's a perk.
[00:30:04] Alexa: Yes. Don't kill me for this, but I want to double-click on California as a state to be an employer in and I want to get your thoughts on maybe what some of the benefits are of the things that California does and maybe some of the more ridiculous things that you think hinder, especially if you're doing placement and training and all those things.
California is, I think, in some categories considered incredibly liberal and incredibly worker-protective and I think in other circles would probably be called basically a huge pain-in-the-ass to work in. [laughs] If you're an employer, you're like, "Oh my God, the hurdles in California." I would love to hear your unadulterated pros and cons of the California system, April.
[00:30:43] April: For sure being an employee, I've heard you all talk about, I really want to create a space and a culture for people to come and work and do their best work. California's amazing at that. The lead policies of protections that are in place, I feel like California leads the way in that sense. However, if you ever need to dismiss someone, terminate somebody, it's just a nightmare. We're a so-called at-will state, but good luck, honestly.
[00:31:15] Alexa: It's at your will if you have the willpower to stick through the California system and let somebody go.
[00:31:19] April: Exactly.
[00:31:20] Alexa: That's what they do in California.
[00:31:22] April: There could be any number of reason that something can be construed in such a way that a termination was not lawful, so termination in California, I find to be a very time-consuming, very document-intensive process. That would be one of the major things that I would say. Otherwise, I think it's very favorable for employees and favorable if we're changing the culture of people and culture of HR to be one of supportive of organizations that want to create a culture of that.
Minus that termination issue, I think a lot of what California has done is favorable for those types of employers. We really want to create a culture where we walk the talk. We want to provide you with adequate days off. We want to provide you with the environment that you can come to work, be the most productive, and make sure that you're able to do that. I would say California did that really well in the policies.
[00:32:23] Alexa: Tyson, you got any California biases?
[00:32:25] Tyson: No. I just want to know more about the US from that comment. Typically, in the US, it's by state, right? Employment laws by state. Do you guys dictate things like how many days off that you'd legally have to give people a year and stuff like that? Is that what's dictated at the state level?
[00:32:44] April: How many sick hours [unintelligible 00:32:45]
[00:32:46] Tyson: Yes, yes. It's an administrative question, but I'm curious.
[00:32:49] April: Yes, yes, how many sick hours one gets, what FTE you are, how much pay you are dependent upon the level of FTE, what are the tests?
[00:32:57] Alexa: What constitutes FTE? How many hours are you considered full-time? How much are you required to get if you work a certain-- yes.
[00:33:04] Tyson: We're the same.
[00:33:06] Alexa: We just have 50 annoying variations, 51 to 52 annoying variations of general stuff.
[00:33:12] Tyson: Ours is by province as well. Our problem province is Quebec where it's kind of the same idea, like it's almost impossible to ever have to fire someone. In Ontario, it's a lot easier. We basically just can't fire you for an illegal reason, of course, so if it's a prohibited ground or anything like that, but it's kind of the same idea where it's by province. Interesting.
[00:33:32] Alexa: Yes. This stuff gets so touchy, though. It's one of the reasons. I'm glad you brought it up, April, because I do think people sometimes lose sight of the fact that the spirit of a lot of the stuff that California does with the idea of being the supporter of the workers, it's like people always talk about certain states that are tenant-friendly. It's really hard to kick somebody out of an apartment in New York.
You can't jack the rent up and they're very tenant-friendly cities and so there's this idea of, and maybe we can make this a thing, like, a worker-friendly state or a worker-friendly city, which would be a more positive spin on this than what you hear as the big company version of this, which is like, "Oh my God, it's a pain in the ass to run a business in California."
Look, I get it. I'm a business owner. There are things that make things more expensive and in some instances, you see employers leaving California because they're just like, "I cannot justify this cost." Those are all more binary issues, but then you hear about these things like Uber where you're like, "Well, maybe this business model just doesn't work in a state where they support workers' rights."
You can't run a business based on a non-living wage in the state of California. Therefore, your business model is not sound, right? I feel like states like California where they've really pushed things in one direction or other states that maybe are so loose it's the other way, like probably the places where Amazon is operating these days or will be in the future when they run out of workers, you see these fringe gray areas pop up that you're like, "Ah ah, keep workers."
[00:34:57] Tyson: You have to have a good base. You have a good base to prevent unionization. I know unions aren't as big of a thing in the US as they are in Canada, but I'm happy that for a lot of our employment law, it's good. I think our minimum wage is like $15 an hour. Now, that's in Canadian dollars. Don't get too excited.
[00:35:17] Alexa: Yes, that's like $11 in the US, but--
[00:35:19] Tyson: It's like Monopoly money, but still--
[00:35:22] Alexa: You're 30% off.
[00:35:24] Tyson: Exactly. We have a decent base to hopefully prevent unionization. Again, it's a lot more common in Canada than it is in the US. I know in the US, it's very anti--
[00:35:33] Alexa: I don't know, maybe you guys deal with a bunch of union populations depending on the work you guys are scaling for, but the problem with unions in the United States-- and look, we run large-scale events. I deal with unions every year, and I understand why people hate them because they can be incredibly inefficient and they can create these protected bubbles where--
[00:35:57] Tyson: Monsters?
[00:35:58] Alexa: What's that?
[00:35:59] Tyson: I said they can create monsters.
[00:36:01] Alexa: Monsters, yes, where I'm paying somebody almost $200 an hour to take eight hours to hang a sign on the wall, and that's a real example. That's not an exaggeration, and that's why business owners go, "I can't justify paying for that, it's very wasteful," but because--
[00:36:16] Tyson: If they're not working out, you can't get rid of them.
[00:36:18] Alexa: You can't. You can't fire them. Now certain states like Massachusetts have created all these union laws where you've got to pick the veteran union guys first for jobs. They walk in at eight o'clock in the morning, they know they're going to be guaranteed an eight-hour shift, all they have to do is pretend to work for eight hours and they get to go home.
The craziest part of it is you would think that a rational person would go, "Okay. If all I have to do is set this event up today, I'm going to do it as fast as possible because they've guaranteed me eight hours of pay. So if I do it in four, I'd go home and crack a beer for four more hours, and I only work half a day. I get paid for half a day." That's not how it actually works. Humans are irrational.
They take all eight hours and they do one-eighth of the work and then people like me want to scream. I understand it. Then the bigger issue is yes, it creates these inefficiencies, but because, in the States, we breed them into these little mafias, so the rules-- and in theory, what a union is supposed to be effectively an employee membership group. You are supposed to be getting support and lobbying to executives, you're supposed to be getting health care benefits, peer mentorship, legal representation, all these things, in theory, you want anyway as an employee.
It's just represented through the union because the employer screwed up and didn't take care of it for you, in my humble opinion. We've totally co-opted the use of unions in this country and that's why they're such a hot-button issue. In theory, unions are great. Also, I'm a big believer that if you just take care of your people, you shouldn't need a union.
[00:37:48] April: Yes, that's true. I think Tyson brought up a really good point as far as the minimum wage. With the pandemic, we spoke about our demographic shift to more Gen X, more early-millennial, late-boomer, but with the younger population though, I think they're able to hold out a little bit longer and hold employers' feet to the fire for livable wages.
We're at $13-$14 an hour here in San Diego. Where we consider actually livable at the workforce is more like $17-18 an hour living here, so they're able to hold on. We see notices for employers paying sign-on bonuses, "Oh, I'll pay you $20 an hour," and it's like, "Why did this have to happen in order for you to realize, to cut into your margin a bit and pay a livable wage?" It's ridiculous, you always could have done it.
[00:38:35] Alexa: Yes, it's so ridiculous. If I could be a fly on the wall in all the conversations that I know happen where a CFO and a CEO are arguing with someone on the people team about how expensive it's going to be the up a wage, or how expensive it's going to be to improve living wages for salaried employees, whatever, and just reverse the conversation for one second and be like, "Guys, I want to be very clear that we are arguing about the difference between someone making $31,000 a year and $35,000 a year," I'm trying not to use too many F-bombs on this podcast, but fuck off.
This cannot be how we address these conversations. It has to be more like, "Well, let's talk about what it's like to live in a city like Boston or New York or Toronto, or San Diego or LA on $35,000 a year. What are we talking about here?"
[00:39:33] Tyson: These kids all live at home. I feel like maybe--
[00:39:35] Alexa: They're looking at a line item, they're not thinking about people. The lift you're going to get from a loyalty perspective, from an appreciation perspective, from an employer brand to the public perspective by just making those decisions-- you can't make them all the time, can't make them every year, can't make them for every population. Everybody wants to get a raise all the time. I get that that's not sustainable as a business owner, but the negligible difference to a company who's got hundreds of employees, maybe thousands of employees, maybe at the 30-35-- we have borderline poverty-level wages. To go $4,000--
[00:40:11] Tyson: They'll tell you, "It's not our strategy to retain these people." That's what I've heard before.
[00:40:15] Alexa: The Jeff Bezos shit.
[00:40:17] Tyson: Right, exactly. The strategy here is not that we're retaining these people and that turnover isn't costly. That's what they're saying.
[00:40:24] Alexa: How do you justify that turnover isn't costly? Everyone else adjusted--
[00:40:26] Tyson: No, that's what they think because sometimes it's just like a plug-and-play type role that's making minimum wage maybe and their idea is like, "Hey, we don't care about retention because we'll just find someone else." We were talking last week about Amazon and how they have so much turnover at Amazon that they're running out of potential people.
[00:40:49] Alexa: They have a 150% turnover.
[00:40:52] April: Damn. That's also [unintelligible 00:40:54].
[00:40:56] Alexa: That's for their New York warehouses.
[00:40:56] Tyson: It's a profitable-- it's crazy. I'm not saying that's right, but that's I think the way that they would try to justify not increasing wages.
[00:41:06] April: That's a holdover from "Oh, these jobs are for teenagers, for the high school" and people are living at these wages, supporting the families. It's just crazy. Overseeing both now, [unintelligible 00:41:19] people in culture and also finance. I know a lot of organizations shy away from, and this is part of our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, it was compensation analysis. Really looking at where the stratifications were, were there any disparities in our pay, and equalizing them. We're a small organization, we're just under a hundred staff, but for us to equalize our employees, it was about $45,000 to do, to your point. What does it take to bring that up to make sure--
[00:41:51] Alexa: That's probably less than one person's wage per year.
[00:41:54] April: Exactly.
[00:41:55] Alexa: If you just [unintelligible 00:41:56] everybody out and make it livable.
[00:41:56] Tyson: It's insane.
[00:41:58] April: That's all it was. If that's hard for these-- like you were mentioning, you had a couple of thousands, several thousand employees, you phase that in over several years, but they don't want to do that shit because we can't. Wait a minute, but I see the balance sheet. I know that you can, so what's really the rationale behind it? Why don't we want to do this?
[00:42:16] Alexa: April, you have the luxury of being the person in charge of people who also understands the books and I think this is one of those-- maybe it's because you're at a smaller organization, but also it sounds like you just have a bit of a multifaceted background. I have personally spoken to many people in this profession who don't know what a balance sheet is, who don't know how a cash flow statement works, who fundamentally cannot make these arguments because they haven't been given the skills to say, "Let me run that argument by you, CFO, in a different way. Let's talk about how we're wasting--"
[00:42:49] Tyson: Again, April just did it, right? Saying, "Oh, we can phase this in," coming up with a strategy like that--
[00:42:57] Alexa: Or before we freak out at the executive meeting or the board meeting about how we're going to level up the comp and make everybody equal, everybody is freaking out, it's going to be a super expensive project, it's $45,000. It was less than an employee's salary. Why didn't we just do this before? If you come to the table with numbers and you can bridge the gap, which we talk about a lot on People Problems, between this executive team's fears and budgets and all of those things, and translate it back to what the actual implication is on a people team, I would argue you made a $45,000 change that probably got you hundreds of thousands of dollars in value.
More loyalty, better respect from your team. Now you've probably got levels that are more accurate where people know exactly where they stand in the ranks, when they can move up, it's all equal. You don't have any wage disparities between workers doing the same thing, there's no glass ceiling, blah, blah, blah. That's hundreds of thousands of dollars of value. It's got to be.
[00:43:53] Tyson: April, going back to that comment, you were saying that it was going to cost $45,000, so wait, this was a real thing that actually happened?
[00:44:00] April: Right. This is real, we just did it.
[00:44:01] Tyson: It doesn't cost $45,000? Then what? How did you then approach that with executives or leadership making that decision, and was it well received or no?
[00:44:10] April: It was well received. Then it came back to the executive team. Ultimately, the question was, do we want to make sure that our people are internally equitable and equitable to the external market? Because we're the same as a non-profit, and I think non-profits rest on this far too much, like, "We can't pay as much as a for-profit." That's bullshit in my opinion.
[00:44:40] Alexa: I hate that bullshit too.
[00:44:40] April: It's relevant, but what can you do? We have good benefits. The total rewards package, I think, is excellent, but really people want to be paid in their pocket. How do we make sure that we can get as close as possible? Doing that analysis, they were more than open to that because of the work that the team produces, the knowledge that we have on the team, the tacit knowledge that we would lose by losing these folks to the for-profit industry, we want to keep them in-house and be able to attract folks.
[00:45:09] Alexa: How did you get to the step before this? I think this is something that I hear people talk and worry about a lot or that they struggle with their own organizations, just like I can't understand why this isn't happening. How did you get to the point, April, where you knew you needed to take this on, and that you were like, "Okay, it's time to just do the analysis. I'm going to go make the argument for why we should do this"? Was it anecdotal feedback? Was it, my least favorite thing, surveys? How did you get to the point where you're like, "This needs to be addressed"?
[00:45:38] April: A couple of things. One was our-- I've been on board for just over a year. When we went through the previous merit cycle, there were people that were using the merit process to do promotions, and within that, exposed that we had some folks that were at levels that were making far less than those who had just joined the organizations, like market equity. They had been there so long, we had looked at it, and they were really far behind. We corrected that immediately.
Then as we came back through the year around to the merit cycle, we noticed that there were so many jobs that had scope creep. What they were brought in to do, they were not doing it anymore. They were complaining like, "I need a raise", and your boss is like, "For what?" It's like, "Well, hang on--"
[00:46:22] Alexa: Scope creep is the silent killer of happiness at an office.
[00:46:26] April: Exactly. [chuckles]
[00:46:27] Alexa: Literally is the silent killer of employee sentiment.
[00:46:31] April: Exactly.
[00:46:32] Tyson: Wait, what did you say at the beginning? It's that and any other duties asked of you. That's when scope creep happens.
[00:46:38] April: Exactly. All of a sudden, in your boss's head, that's your job description, but in yours, you never clarified that.
[00:46:44] Alexa: Anything else I can come up with and ask you to do with a straight face.
[00:46:46] Tyson: And anything else assigned to you.
[00:46:48] April: Exactly, exactly. We corrected that, looked at the job descriptions, looked at the classifications, the leveling, and then came up with-- and it wasn't-- $45,000, we were lucky, was not a lot of money. "Hey, we can do the right thing for people. We can keep them happy," which is really important to us, the employee experience because we really want to be a place that people choose to work with and stay with and then presenting those numbers too. Even I think what made it palatable, even though it was super small, was presenting options. I think if we go, like you said, Alexa, if you understand the finances and the balance sheets, and you're able to go in with a couple of recommendations, it's always helpful. If we can't do plan A, what about B, C, or D?
[00:47:33] Alexa: Right, or, "Hey, we want to take this $45,000 and put it here, but I found somewhere else I can save it on, a benefit nobody's using or a marketing budget that we're not using," or whatever it is. Not to pull a Joe Biden "Taxes are going to pay for it because I'm going to hike them" style argument, but it's got to come from somewhere if it's not just readily available.
[00:47:54] April: Exactly. I have been at those organizations where HR and people and culture was just safely tucked under finance. It never quite bubbled up to like, "Hey, we need to do this."
[00:48:06] Alexa: I have to back up from the mic. That shit frustrates me so hard. If your HR team is working for your finance team, get the fuck out. Just fucking abort, just get the fuck out. It's just a bad arrangement, don't take that job. I don't care if you want to work in People Ops like your life depends on it-
[00:48:25] April: I don't do that.
[00:48:26] Alexa: -don't work for an organization where the people team is under the CFO. You are never going to get anything done. There should be positive tension there, they should not be the same team. I won't yell about it anymore, but that one gets me fired up.
I'm so glad you bring this up, April, because I think this is one of those topics that I think people on an individual basis get very frustrated about. Why can't I get a raise? Why doesn't my boss understand? Why this? Why this? What they're not seeing is that while your boss has autonomy on an individual budget level potentially, if a group hasn't done leveling or hasn't done some of these comp strategies or they start to get out of whack, you start to create these instances where the whole system gets unstable. Then it takes one bad Glassdoor review where this person's like, "I make $30,000 under market. Don't work here," and you're up F Creek.
[00:49:19] Tyson: Or Blind. Have you heard of Blind? I just discovered Blind. It's like Glassdoor, but it's totally anonymous. People just go on [crosstalk] there and they shit-talk their companies. Not a lot of companies are on there yet because it's pretty new. It's pretty tech-focused, but it's insane.
[00:49:33] Alexa: Jesus fucking Christ. This is not what the world needs.
[00:49:36] Tyson: The shit that you would see on there. No, it's not. It's like--
[00:49:40] Alexa: It shouldn't be called Blind. It should be called Disgruntled. [chuckles] Maybe we'll make that a segment. We'll just read people's Blind comments.
[00:49:48] Tyson: It's brutal, but I think the point was for people to be able to go on and share very detailed salary information. They're going on there and they're like--
[00:49:56] Alexa: How do you verify it?
[00:49:59] Tyson: People are anonymous, so they're just saying, "Oh, I am a Level A, and I make this amount of money. I am a woman," or whatever. It's pretty intense. People are shameless on there and sharing as much information as they can. I don't know, what are the rules in California that--
[00:50:12] Alexa: That's the 8chan of the employer community. That cannot be anything positive.
[00:50:19] Tyson: It's brutal.
[00:50:20] Alexa: They're verifiable.
[00:50:21] Tyson: What are the rules in California about sharing salary information? How does that work? Any rules?
[00:50:27] April: We cannot stop transparency, so our employees can share all they would like to. That's ultimately what we want to get to. If they're going to share, let's share first. Let's get our levels together--
[00:50:36] Alexa: Exactly.
[00:50:38] Tyson: Because they're going to share.
[00:50:38] Alexa: That's such an obvious-- thank you for saying that, April, because this is something I try to tell companies all the time, which is like, "Don't let them do it first, just get ahead of it." That's all you got to do. People can Google the average salary for a X level manager in this state for this kind of work, and if they find out that they're meaningfully off, and they start bitching about it on the internet, it's going to cost you a lot more than $45,000 to fix that problem.
[00:51:05] Tyson: The problem is though, there are still so many personal factors to pay that you can't say, "Oh, we're the same level," or like, "How do you do it at your company? We're at the same level," and someone makes, let's say, 105 versus 120. There could be real good personal reasons as to why that person's getting paid more than you.
[00:51:22] Alexa: That's why all of this stuff is done in bands and rages, but employees, they don't see this stuff.
[00:51:27] Tyson: They don't see that, which is why it's problematic.
[00:51:29] Alexa: They don't see any of this conversation, which is April and Tyson and we just had a whole course on this in our community, where it's like this project of taking an entire group of hundreds of people and being like, "Let's map out every single role and responsibility across every piece of the organization and put them in these neat little salary vans, so everybody's on roughly the same level," is a big fucking project. It's hard to do, and you've got to move some people up and some people down. Obviously, if you're going to move somebody down, if you're going to dock their pay, you might as well just let them go because they're going to leave.
[00:52:07] Tyson: The problem is most companies have those bands, but the bands span like $100,000. It's like, "Come on."
[00:52:12] Alexa: Band creep? [laughs]
[00:52:15] Tyson: Exactly. The thing is, sometimes people just don't like the answer that that person is getting paid more than you because they're fucking better than you. I don't know. Sorry, I'm just going to put that onto the universe.
[00:52:26] Alexa: No. I love this shit because this is the shit nobody says. Sometimes, you as the people team or you and the manager have to be like, "No, this person has three more years of experience than you in a better market, doing higher-end projects, X, Y, Z."
[00:52:39] Tyson: They're doing better work. This person's getting paid more because they're doing better work.
[00:52:44] April: That's going to get real better. People just don't understand that because when you take them through their job description like, "Tell me how--" not wanting to completely divulge another employee, but like, "Are you certified here? Tell me about your education there. What did you do before here?" "Oh, I'm brand new in this." "Well, tell me how you deserve the same pay. It's not all equal." For sure.
[00:53:05] Alexa: Here's the problem, especially in today's environment, and I don't want to step on fucking grenades here, but it's very easy to play the victim now. It's very easy to be like, "Oh, but I'm a woman and he's not." It's like, "No, his work is just better than my work is. He just does better. He's been here longer. He does more. He knows more." More certifications and development, like you said, April. It's like, how do you navigate that ship?
[00:53:29] Tyson: The next-gen is not going to be able to understand that. I'm actually very concerned about the next generation. I don't know if you've seen this video.
[00:53:37] Alexa: Little commies. [chuckles]
[00:53:39] Tyson: You know the video of the two bonobo monkeys, and one of them gets a grape and one of them gets a cucumber as the reward?
[00:53:46] Alexa: Let me guess, the one that gets the cucumber is pissed?
[00:53:48] Tyson: He gets pissed and he throws the cucumber. He's like, "What the hell? I'm doing the same job and I'm getting a cucumber, and my buddy over here is getting a grape. I want the fucking grape." Everybody has to watch that. It's like a compensation bonobo monkey video. Most people watch it in their comp class, but--
[00:54:01] Alexa: This makes me wonder. This is not a perfect correlation. I'm not going to Joe Rogan this or anything, but Sebastian Junger wrote this book called Tribe about how humans basically only function really at really high levels of these 150 group pods, basically. All the dynamics are perfect for how we've evolved and all these various things, shit like monkeys that they've studied, and whatever. It's a fascinating book, but it's awesome, highly recommend for anyone in this space.
The reason I bring it up is it makes me think like, is the more progressive way to do this in smaller groups so that you get away from band creep and scope creep, and all these things? To your point, Tyson, when you have 10,000 employees and the band is a $120,000 swing, is this really a comparable strategy? I don't know.
[00:54:50] Tyson: That's the strategy. That's the way the comp is going.
[00:54:52] Alexa: Just open up the band, so we don't offend anybody.
[00:54:54] Tyson: That's the way that comp is going, compensation strategies are going, is they want less bands or less grouping. I've been at companies where they've said, "Okay, if you are this specific thing, then you fall in this specific band," and they have lots of bands for all the different types of work, but now the idea is to start collapsing those and that's the latest-- [crosstalk]
[00:55:15] Alexa: It's like the department stores versus boutiques, just the comp version.
[00:55:18] Tyson: Yes. It's just the latest trend, I think, in comp, as they're trying to collapse and simplify bands and ranges and stuff, but I don't know.
[00:55:27] April: Yes. I did when I [unintelligible 00:55:29], it's super important, I think, Alexa, if it wasn't heard when you said it, to say it again. If none of those factors are at play, you are on par and you have a boss that's advocating for you, there's so much shit that goes into getting anybody a recompensation analysis, any type of anything beyond HR, CFO, executive teams, there's so much. So a [unintelligible 00:55:53], but--
[00:55:53] Alexa: Then you people got to remember, like, we also had to make an offer that was competitive to win this person. You don't know what they were making before. You are competing in the market as an employer, not only with "market," but also just the predecessor of the employee. It's really hard to get competitive talent if somebody before them was paying really well because that's a factor. It's not like you can be like, "Oh, I'll hire you for 150 grand, and then I'll adjust you to 120 next year." That's not how it works.
[00:56:24] Tyson: It doesn't work the other way either. That's super important. You can't say, "Oh, I'm going to hire you at 120 and bring you to 150 a year later." I think that-
[00:56:31] Alexa: Oh, people do that shit all the time.
[00:56:32] Tyson: -so many managers do that. They promise increases and promotions and stuff.
[00:56:36] April: The worst.
[00:56:36] Tyson: It's like, "Look, your merit increase is going to be 2%. So we're going to-"
[00:56:39] April: That's who I hate.
[00:56:40] Tyson: "-bring you in--" Yes. Bring you in right when you hire me and--
[00:56:43] Alexa: Wait, I want to hear more about who April hates. These are my favorite conversations. I hate the person who says, "I'm going to promote you in the next six months if you come here," almost as much as I hate the person who promotes you in title and not in salary because it happens all the time especially with junior and mid-level employees. I hear it constantly. I'm like, "Just get out because all they did was just tell you that they value you less. They value your time less. That's literally what they just told you. You should take that as a resume incentive, an incentive to get your shit together, clean up your resume, and get out there." They're like, "No, no. They said they'll catch up on the next cycle." I'm like, "Yes. Okay."
[00:57:22] April: We just talked about the bullshit they have to go through. You're not going to catch up.
[00:57:26] Alexa: What else do you hate, April? [crosstalk] Oh, go ahead, Tyson.
[00:57:29] Tyson: I was going to say like, if you get a pay increase, you should thank your HR person because the shit that HR has to go through to get those pay increases for people, it's actually shocking.
[00:57:40] Alexa: Yes. I think people forget when your manager's asking for an approval, so is every other manager-
[00:57:46] Tyson: Exactly.
[00:57:47] Alexa: -which is, again, the clusterfuck behind the scenes nobody thinks about. They're just like, "My boss is a jerk. They won't promote me." It's a bigger machine you're dealing with. There's a lot of tentacles to this crap.
[00:57:59] April: Yes. Who else do I hate?
[00:58:00] Alexa: All right, April. What else do you hate?
[00:58:02] April: I would have to say Tyson's question about what I think of millennials is when they come in-- I'm just noticing I'm on the early end of millennials. So Gen Z is starting to work now and they want to know immediately when they're going to be promoted, and it's like, "You haven't produced anything yet. This is literally--"
[00:58:16] Alexa: You don't know anything yet.
[00:58:22] April: Yes. What's the pathway? We can create opportunity, but I think that's the one thing-- I hate that so much. "What does my promotion pathway look like?" "What have you done?"
[00:58:33] Alexa: Right. How about you learn how to do more than make copies? Start there.
[00:58:36] April: Yes. Show me the one--
[00:58:38] Alexa: I think we have to go-- that's a good one. I think we have to go back to, "This is the reason people fucking hate millennials in this industry." It's like, "Oh, these entitled little bastards." I'm a millennial. I can say that. I think it's one of these things that gets away from us because what we're conflating is people want personal development. Okay, great. Cool. You want to move up? You want to achieve things. I fucking love that. Oh, you want to get promoted? Awesome.
Let's make sure that we tie that to an understanding that in order to get promoted here, you have to add value to the organization. It is not just about you and your promotion. It is not just about the things that you want to do. What's that?
[00:59:16] Tyson: You have to know how to get promoted. You have to know what those expectations are. I'm a millennial as well, also wondering how to get a promotion. It's like, if there's no clear guidelines or expectations or anything like that, it makes it really--
[00:59:28] Alexa: People can't perform if they don't know what is expected of them.
[00:59:30] April: True.
[00:59:31] Tyson: 100%. The problem with the market right now is anybody could leave their company and take a huge pay increase, and probably a promotion. It's very easy to jump companies and get big pay bumps. [crosstalk]
[00:59:44] April: [unintelligible 00:59:44] The bosses that want to offer you all the money you deserved when you quit, then they want to keep you.
[00:59:54] Tyson: Are you for or against a counter offer when somebody quits?
[00:59:59] April: You know what? I'm actually for it. If it's somebody, if--
[01:00:03] Alexa: Might as well try, right? Go out swinging.
[01:00:08] Tyson: But it's like when you're in a relationship and the person wants to take a break, like, do you ever recover from that? If someone says, "I want to leave you," do you ever recover?
[01:00:16] Alexa: I think yes. Think about all the times people break up and get back together. It's the same general idea. It just wasn't a mutual break.
[01:00:22] April: Did you really value me? Did you really love me anyway?
[01:00:25] Alexa: Yes.
[01:00:26] Tyson: Did you ever really love me?
[01:00:27] Alexa: Sometimes you got to let it go, April.
[01:00:29] April: That's true.
[01:00:29] Alexa: Sometimes you got to let it go.
[01:00:30] April: That's true.
[01:00:30] Alexa: Yes.
[01:00:31] April: Sometimes I'll try to honor the-- like, "Okay, let's try to do something," but other times it's like if you're-- usually it's those that are looking to move on and I think sometimes they have to, and I hate to say it, but sometimes the nature of non-profits, people will. They gain valuable skills, they're able to, and those are, to me, success stories. "Awesome. We got to train you up. You learn valuable skills here. You got an offer that's a hundred thousand over what we can ever pay you. I could show you the budget. We cannot match that."
[01:01:01] Alexa: Yes. I would take that as like, "I did my job. I just made you a rock star."
[01:01:07] April: Yes, exactly.
[01:01:07] Alexa: Sucks for me, but great for you.
[01:01:08] April: The ambiguity, for sure, we do have to take out of it. If you don't know how to be promoted, you don't know what your key performance indicators are, what you're being measured against, or anything like that, then we can't leave them about their flailing, but for sure, defining for them what that looks like.
[01:01:26] Alexa: Yes. I think that gets lost in translation a lot, and a lot of people flail, and that's how you get stuff like scope creep and all these other terrible things. Creep, the creep. I like it. All right, guys, I'm going to move us to our last segment here, which is our People Problems where we talk about a real people problem. Something from either our days or our lives or a listener or somebody asks a question. I believe this week, Tyson has a question for us.
[01:02:02] Tyson: I do. Okay. This is something that comes up a lot, and I know it's a hot topic right now, especially given the pandemic. How do you performance manage someone who is having some issue performance-wise that has also talked to you or confided in you that they have a mental health issue? It's performance is layered with mental health.
[01:02:25] Alexa: April, she gave you a softball. [laughs] It's a great question. It's a phenomenal question.
[01:02:32] April: I would say, were we aware of the mental health issue before the performance issue, and have they been accommodating for the--
[01:02:39] Tyson: That's such an [unintelligible 01:02:39] answer. Did we document the performance issue?
[01:02:44] Alexa: Do we have proof?
[01:02:45] April: What does the timeline look like?
[01:02:46] Alexa: In writing.
[01:02:52] Tyson: You're definitely from California. Sorry, I interrupted you.
[01:02:58] Alexa: Yes, go ahead. April, do you have other thoughts or just a very diplomatic process-oriented question about--
[01:03:04] April: I would say, you have to tackle both. Just like Alexa said, you're going to be here. You're going to have to add value. However, we, as an organization, depended upon what is current with this person, be it some derivative-- we've had to extend a lot of grace to our staff during the pandemic because things have arisen and that's expected, to evaluate whether the mental health issue is contributing to the performance issue, or are they separate and distinct?
Then from there evaluating if the two can be separated with accommodation and a performance improvement plan, and we work towards a better day and a better outcome is where I would start just depending upon, again, the occurrence of the timeline, is this ongoing, is it severe issues that are impacting the work? What types of-- is it leave? Did we bring you back to the office, and maybe you would do with some flex time in between, whatever that may look like, but that's where my starting points would be. Are the two a factor of each other? How do we accommodate? How do we then get performance improvement through a plan and then go from there?
[01:04:16] Alexa: All right. Follow on the question. I'm just going to piss everybody off that's listening to this, but it's important. Oftentimes I find that people in HR professionals will say, "Well, we have to come up with a standard policy for how to deal with this." The answer, April, from what I'm hearing, is it fucking depends and it's on a case-by-case basis, but the problem becomes when you've got this person over here on a hybrid schedule.
The manager's worked out something, it's like a really good working relationship for that employee in that particular situation, and this person over here is like, "Well, I see that person getting a break or a hybrid solution or whatever because something's going on with them and there's something going on with me, and you're treating me differently.
[01:05:03] Tyson: You sound like a union.
[01:05:07] Alexa: Touché. Fair, I didn't mention that the second employee of this example was from a union. He's been hanging a sign for eight hours. He's very tired. It's driving him crazy. No, but this is the problem. This is the cycle. People say-- and good people, people say, "No, we got to deal with this on a case-by-case basis, we're going to look at all the factors, got to look at what's fair, we got to look at what we could stand by. If this came out in the press, we're looking what's equitable, we got to treat this person with compassion, but also fairness and reality for what the business needs."
Those are always in play, and they're always in different stages of play with every one of these situations. Then people go, "I can't fucking deal with this on so many snowflake scenarios, we need to just come up with a policy," and when you throw the policy gauntlet down, shit gets messy. My question would be, how do you manage the fucking P-word, precedent, setting precedent? Because that terrifies everybody in this industry. Precedent, but maintain compassion and a transparent workforce where there are going to be some employees that have different situations, and that's okay.
[01:06:17] April: Yes, I think that goes to manager training. I think really we do need the policy to set the boundaries, the box, but then within that box, how does your scenario differ? Just like we talked about, "Why is my pay different from there?" Well, your disability or accommodation you need is probably different from theirs. Is your job the same?
Where I find it gets sticky is when you have different managers doing different things in a loosey-goosey scenario where there is literally no training. This manager here says I have to come in every day, it doesn't matter what's wrong with me. This one over here, I see this person, their manager lets them do this. I think we need to have the same policy as far as how things are evaluated and how they have accommodated that process. Also, demonstration of disability because some folks are really all over the place. Once you've got the box, then let's talk about the individual. Then at least the situations are evaluated the same way, but no two situations are the same and that's just--
[01:07:16] Alexa: That's a good way to put it. I like that. Two situations are evaluated the same way, but no two situations--
[01:07:20] April: They're not the same.
[01:07:21] Tyson: Yes, I like that because you do need that policy in a sense of like how we respond to situations like this.
[01:07:28] Alexa: Right. Who is involved? Who do we--
[01:07:30] Tyson: Yes, who is involved? What type of-- I don't know how it is in the States, but we would always get physician documentation stating not what the disability is, but what the limitations would be to work. Then we would then apply accommodation. Anyway, then how to deal with the performance issue separately.
One thing that I've been really liking to do in these situations-- not liking it because it's shitty work, but one thing that has worked well is actually having two different people dealing with each of the situation. If you could have one person who's dealing with the accommodation side of things, and maybe that is the person who's in-- maybe you have a combination specialist or something like that. Then the performance situation is being dealt with separately, whether it's maybe the HR person partnering with the manager. Manager [unintelligible 01:08:16], of course, but HR there to help. I like separating the two because then it can helpfully help with--
[01:08:25] Tyson: Church and state.
[01:08:26] Alexa: Yes.
[01:08:28] Tyson: Yes. That's good. I like that. All right, April, how can people get in touch with you if they want to tell you how much they like you or learn more about your organization?
[01:08:35] Alexa: Awesome. Well, you can learn more about my organization at workforce.org. Welcome to talk to any businesses, organizations out there that are interested, consulting on the work you're doing to create a more equitable and cultured environment within your organization. You can also find me on LinkedIn or Twitter at April [unintelligible 01:08:53].
[01:08:55] Alexa: Awesome. Thanks so much for being here.
[01:08:56] Tyson: Thank you so much, April.
[01:08:57] April: Great. Thank you all.
[01:08:59] Alexa: You're so welcome. This episode was executive produced by me, Alexa Baggio, with audio production by Ellie Brigida of Clear Harmonies. Our intro music was also done by the wonderful Ellie Brigida of Clear Harmonies. You can find more information about us and future episodes at peopleproblemspod.com or follow us at PeopleProblemsPod on all things social.
[01:09:14] [END OF AUDIO]