6 - Buzzwords, Ugh: Part I

Just… Ugh. In an industry filled with too much jargon and not enough truth-telling… Tyson and Alexa tackle the top 6 words that really grind their gears. Say ‘strategy’ one more time, we dare you.

Release Date: TBD

[00:00:00] Host: 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 This is not a stuck-up PC compliance-based or employment law podcast about stuffy outdated HR practices.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] Alexa Baggio: We had a strict no-alcohol policy and everybody was like, "Oh, don't drink. HR is here." Meanwhile, I'm mid-crack the beer. If they were that disengaged before, they're going to be that disengaged in the office. Just be sitting at their desk looking at Facebook. They were going quiet ways to fuck off. This is the People Problems Podcast, with Alexa Baggio and Tyson Mackenzie.


What's up, Tyson?

[00:00:40] Tyson Mackenzie: Not too much, what's up with you?

[00:00:42] Alexa: Oh, just surviving all the rain in New England. It is just the wettest summer of all time, I feel like.

[00:00:50] Tyson: I was prepared for this though. I don't know if you ever read The Farmers' Almanac? It's my--

[00:00:54] Alexa: No.

[00:00:55] Tyson: My nature vibes come out. Anyway, so it warned me for this. It warned me for the rain. It said it.

[00:01:00] Alexa: Oh, yes?

[00:01:00] Tyson: I believe it. I believe it.

[00:01:01] Alexa: Are you the person that listens to podcasts about sailing weather and people reading wind patterns and stuff?

[00:01:08] Tyson: No, I just like nature and connecting to the earth, so The Farmers' Almanac is a good source of that.

[00:01:15] Alexa: There we go, you get your earthy vibes.

[00:01:16] Tyson: It comes with living out in the middle of nowhere.

[00:01:18] Alexa: Yes, there you go. All right. Awesome. It's just us today. We don't have a guest. We have a very fun topic for this episode. I know it's going to get you all riled up because it gets me all riled up. That is the buzzwords. We are going to be talking about, arguably, I'm going to say, our most hated buzzwords on this episode.

[00:01:35] Tyson: Yes, for sure.

[00:01:37] Alexa: Anything you want to say about buzzwords as a category or in general before we hop into our top five or so here?

[00:01:42] Tyson: I think we mentioned this before, but I think sometimes HR is the source of a lot of these buzzwords. Where it comes from is our desire to tiptoe around wanting to say a normal word, because we want to either make it less harsh. We don't say that we terminate someone, but we exit someone. And it's like--

[00:02:01] Alexa: Or fire, you can't fire anyone.

[00:02:03] Tyson: Oh no, but just so everyone knows behind the scenes, HR says fire all the time.

[00:02:07] Alexa: All the time.

[00:02:08] Tyson: That's the only word that I use when I'm talking to my colleagues or to my managers.

[00:02:12] Alexa: "We need to fire this person."

[00:02:13] Tyson: "We're firing you or whatever." I'll even say to my boss, "If you ever fire me, make sure you do it this way."

[00:02:18] Alexa: Just say your way.

[00:02:20] Tyson: Yes. Buzzwords, I think, are used to tippy-toe around stuff sometimes or to reinvent the wheel. We have some good ones. I think at the end, it's like, "Let's not be ambiguous here in the way that we use language and we're having a little pre-conversation about how important language can be." Let's dive in and let's see what some of these most-hated buzzwords are.

[00:02:43] Alexa: All right. In no particular order. Here we are, number one. Disrupt.

[00:02:49] Tyson: Oh, this is your favorite. This is the first thing I found out about you.

[00:02:51] Alexa: This one I literally have chills. I hate this word. Here's the thing. If I could give one comment to every buzzword that we're going to hate on today, it's that it comes from just pure overuse, and people co-opt it culturally. All of a sudden, a word like disrupt has gone from, what is really a very strong word, right? I think in the English language, disrupt, it's a very clear word. It has a very strong meaning.

It doesn't have a lot of blurred synonyms. It's been co-opted by this culture of entrepreneurship and startups. People just throw it around to equate things that they're doing, because they want them to be disruptive. Now, it's just gotten to the point where if someone says something is disruptive, I literally assume it is the opposite of disruptive. I assume they are just trying to pitch me on something that's probably crap.

[00:03:45] Tyson: It's like a hipster word. It's a language for hipsters.

[00:03:47] Alexa: I'm like, "Oh, you're Elizabeth Holmes." Yes.

[00:03:49] Tyson: Yes. yes, yes, yes.

[00:03:49] Alexa: Yes, it's like you're Elizabeth Holmes or Billy Macfarlane. I don't want to go anywhere near you. You're disrupting something.

[00:03:54] Tyson: Yes.

[00:03:55] Alexa: It makes me cringe.

[00:03:57] Tyson: Disrupt was a word that I liked early on when it came out. Like you said, it had a lot of weight when it came out. Now, it's overused in a big way, and I don't think people who use it are actually disrupting shit.

[00:04:12] Alexa: That's what I mean. I feel like there's actually so little real disruption, and the stuff that is disruptive is so fucking obvious that now that we're trying to say everything is disruptive. It's like, "No, nobody created another Uber." That was the moment. That was it. You don't have Uber for anything. It's not disruptive.

[00:04:32] Tyson: Yes, there is an organization, it's called DisruptHR actually.

[00:04:37] Alexa: Hold on, I know all about them.

[00:04:39] Tyson: You know about them? Yes.

[00:04:40] Alexa: I know all about them.

[00:04:41] Tyson: I did go to one of their conferences. It was not bad. I think the reason I liked it is because of the style in which they present which is they flip the slides, so you have to keep talking.

[00:04:50] Alexa: That is what makes a DisruptHR event. DisruptHR in every chapter is run by somebody different. You can basically buy a DisruptHR license and run the event in your area, but you have to keep that format same. It's five minutes. Every presenter gets five minutes and the slide changes every 20 seconds or something, which I actually think is great.

[00:05:11] Tyson: I love that style of presentation. That's what I really, really, really liked about that event specifically.

[00:05:17] Alexa: I don't think they're disrupting HR.

[00:05:19] Tyson: No. They're saying the same stuff that everyone else is saying.

[00:05:22] Alexa: Yes. It's usually, sponsors and it just depends who owns that chapter, if the content's going to be any good.

[00:05:27] Tyson: They're disrupting a presentation format.

[00:05:28] Alexa: Exactly. I was going to say that's-- you literally took the words out of my mouth. They're disrupting. I will say what they're disrupting in the presentation format is the long drawn out, like, "We're going to introduce the speaker from the podium. Then we're going to have some sponsor come up and tell you all about this fancy report. Our company paid a bunch of money to present to you or I wrote a book and--"

That needs to be dead forever. I'm glad they're "disrupting" that. There's no disruption happening here. It's just a different format. All right. You ready for number two?

[00:06:00] Tyson: Yes.

[00:06:01] Alexa: I think this one might be your favorite, but we'll see. By favorite, I mean the one you hate the most. [laughs] Just to be clear here. This is an opposite inversion here. Culture. Number two is culture, the big, bad C-word.

[00:06:14] Tyson: I cannot stand the word culture. I actually saw a really funny meme recently, and it was something along the lines of, we have a fast-moving fun culture. Then it showed a fun picture of a cubicle it's like, "The culture, [laughs] it was a cubicle." I just find with this word, like "Ugh."

I don't know what anybody thinks is the work culture. People just don't know what that represents. We say that there's good cultures and there's not. It's like, "What is that even talking about?" Now people are talking about the new virtual culture and building out a digital culture. It's like, "No."

[00:06:55] Alexa: Yes. Culture has been bastardized because everybody uses it to say 17 different things at once. Culture could be the relationship between humans in the office. They use culture to talk about the vibe in the office.

They use culture to talk about how like management styles and how people treat each other. They use culture to talk about the general brand of the business. I would actually argue that almost none of these things are culture. What is culture? Is the understood dynamics between teammates.

[00:07:28] Tyson: The unwritten stuff.

[00:07:30] Alexa: The way that you all collectively decided to do things together, unwritten and largely un-agreed to. It's like the unspoken, like, "Oh, nobody talks to like Bart, because Bart will yell at you, if you like say something to him." That's culture. Everybody knows, Bart's a little triggery, we don't talk to him. That's culture. It doesn't make a good culture. It's just culture.

The culture that surrounds that is like, "Nobody talks to Bart." That was the response. We're the team that knows somebody's a trigger issue. We just avoid them. We have a culture of avoidance.

[00:08:00] Tyson: I hate that people have turned this into a standard interview question. The candidate asks, "Tell me about your corporate culture?" When they ask you, "Oh, do you have any questions for us?" It's like, "Oh, tell me about your corporate culture?" Don't ask that question. Do not.

[00:08:14] Alexa: I actually hate it on the other side when people are like-- I'm like, "All right. Why here? Why do you want to work here? What's important to you?"

[00:08:20] Tyson: Because you have such a great culture?

[00:08:22] Alexa: How does this get you closer to what you want in your life and your bigger goals? I'm really looking for a place with great culture. What the fuck does that mean?

[00:08:30] Tyson: It's a cop-out.

[00:08:31] Alexa: It's also, does that mean you're just looking to work for a place that's not going to make you wear a suit and come to the office for 12 hours a day? What the fuck does that mean?

[00:08:39] Tyson: What you should say instead of, I want to work for somewhere with a good culture is you should align with whatever the goal or the mission is with the company. I believe in what you're doing here. In terms of the work goal, not the culture, not the fluffy stuff. You don't even know what you're talking about. I really don't like that.

[00:08:57] Alexa: Also, you've talked to three people on the team for 45 minutes each, how the fuck do you have any idea what our culture is? Other than maybe what Glassdoor says, if your company's big enough. I would argue if you just sit down in an interview and you go, "What's more important to me is I want to be X in 10 years and this is a really important stepping stone to get me there. I need to do the following things for three years to get my expertise or get my industry chops or whatever. This gets me further towards that goal."

I'd be like, "Fucking hire this person." Because I know exactly why they're here and it fits with where they're trying to go. I know they're going to be here for at least two or three years. "Cool. Sign me up." Assuming they're not a dick. [laughs] Culture fucking kills me and what kills me, Tyson maybe you probably hear this too, from a lot of the HR shook audiences. You get people-- I love the people that come to this industry and say, "I've seen it be broken so many times I want to get into people's office because I want to change culture or I want to affect change in culture."

I get a little sad when I hear that, because I'm like a lot of what-- there's this concept that good HR really affects culture. Culture is collective. The HR team doesn't make and break culture. A business is an organism. It's a team, and so this concept that you're going to come in and put your hands all over the culture of a business is like, "No, you're going to largely affect how people treat each other. You're going to largely affect how the business communicates back and treats its employees, and you're going to hopefully really engage managers to be better and more efficient around working with teams and making them highly functional for what you need to accomplish as a group." Right?

[00:10:32] Tyson: Right.

[00:10:32] Alexa: That's not culture fucking culture.

[00:10:34] Tyson: No. The HR team should not be confused. Having free pizza on Friday, doesn't make a good culture. Giving people a relaxed dress code isn't necessarily going to make a good culture. I do like what you said about having proper communication and those types of things and how that actually contributes to a place where people feel like they are comfortable at work and they can do good work and they can do a good job and really focus on their work. I hate, hate, hate the band-aid-approach to culture, which is like--

[00:11:07] Alexa: Culture committee?

[00:11:08] Tyson: Yes.

[00:11:09] Alexa: I said it, I'm sorry. [laughs]

[00:11:11] Tyson: Oh, something's really fucked up in this organization. I know, let's give everybody a $10 gift certificate. That's not fixing the culture. I hate, hate, hate that.

[00:11:20] Alexa: It's such an infantilization of people when people do shit like that. It's so bad.

[00:11:25] Tyson: Yes. Just create a place that's a good place to work, and to do good work. That's the point.

[00:11:31] Alexa: Do good work and have fun. That's my motto. Just fucking treat people like humans. The culture is, if you have something to say, I expect you to say it to me. I don't expect you to sugarcoat it. I don't expect you to go through four different channels. I just expect you to say it to me. That's the culture. That's culture, it's not like, "Oh, there's potato chips in the kitchen, and we get free pizza on Fridays.

[00:11:52] Tyson: You know what else even? The routes of communication as well is super important. When I'm onboarding someone, I often say this is how-- If you want to book a meeting with someone, typically here, we send a slack message first letting them know that we're going to book a meeting, and then we put the meeting in their calendar. Little nuances like that, that can be really helpful in terms of what culture around communication looks like, that sort of thing.

[00:12:15] Alexa: Yes. You have a culture of being respectful of people's time.

[00:12:17] Tyson: Right. Or little things like that. Don't call people out of the blue or little things like that. I don't know.

[00:12:23] Alexa: Don't expect something to get done if you haven't communicated a timeline and yes, exactly. That's culture. It's not fucking snacks and bagel Fridays.

[00:12:30] Tyson: No.

[00:12:31] Alexa: All right. Similar transition to another beloved buzzword/hated buzzword. Number three, my dear Tyson is transparency. [chuckles]

[00:12:44] Tyson: This one's sticking with me right now because, why the fuck do you need to know everything? First of all. I hate employees that think that they need everything to be transparent, and now you're probably going to-- Maybe you disagree with me on this and we might have to battle it out here, but--

[00:13:02] Alexa: Let's do it.

[00:13:03] Tyson: When I have people that are like, "Oh, I need to know all of the ins and outs and all of the things and the this and the that. I'm like, "No, you don't, you just have to worry about you. You don't have to worry about what all the conversations are that are happening and blah, blah, blah." People strive for pay transparency and stuff like that, and we talked about this on another call, but the problem is, even if I told someone you're getting paid at the, I don't know, 0.8 comp ratio in the range. We've decided for good measures that they're getting paid that much.

They're not going to like that. Even if I told them, "Okay, you're getting paid at a 1.1. comp ratio, just so people know the comp ratio is the comparison of the base salary that the person's getting to what the market median is. It's used a lot when we're making paid decisions, but you don't need all that information all the time. I think that it's like, people want an overload of stuff. It's distracting from again, go to work and do your goddam job. That's all you need to do.

[00:14:03] Alexa: First and foremost, I love that you think we're going to disagree and that you're stooge by that because I love a good solid disagreement. I think we don't do it in HR enough, let alone in the workplace enough, and I think people are scared of conflict. I think it's bullshit, but that's a different topic for a different day. What I hear when I hear the word trans-- I disagree with you, but all the way, disagree with you. What I hear when I hear the word transparency and when I hear shit like, "Why are you asking me all this crazy shit?"

Is information is control. Information is a form of control and humans are really bad at trying to give up control. Especially employees in big organizations who are trying to maneuver things, in largely huge frameworks that are very hard to maneuver outside of the provided guidelines. You work with per 10,000-person employer, it's very hard to cheat the fucking system. It's a system you just fall into it.

When I hear transparency, I hear people are asking for information so that they can try to control a situation, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I think there is a fine line between asking, being entitled to information, which I think is what you are explaining, where someone is like, you owe me an answer to this because you're "transparent" which I call bullshit on. I don't owe you shit as an employer, to be fair. Let's all remember that this is not sunrises and daisies here, guys. You get paid to work.

Two, on the other side of that, if I were to ask you my manager or my employer, or my CEO, a very honest question about a real thing. I expect you to answer that in a way that is helpful, understood, not full of shit, answer. I think what's happened is corporate culture let's call it 20 years ago at this point was very much this big, bad message down from the top. People, it's like how Enron happened, right? Everybody just kept lying to each other.

Then all of a sudden, the thing blew up. I think there was this immediate shift of like, "All right. We're not working for the man anymore. We're going to tell the man what we want. We're the masses. You can't keep controlling these messages that aren't true." The pendulum swung the other way because humans are simple, and we went transparency, transparency, transparency, transparency. Transparency is great in theory if you just take the actual meaning of the word, but really what you're trying to accomplish with transparency is understanding and context for decisions.

[00:16:29] Tyson: Yes.

[00:16:29] Alexa: Which is like, I don't owe you cert, I don't owe you transparency on what your colleagues make. I don't owe you transparency on our cash position right now. I don't owe you transparency on why we may have fired someone in the C-suite. What I do owe you is enough information to feel confident in my ability to keep making decisions and what is affecting you.

[00:16:49] Tyson: Right. Your ability to do your job.

[00:16:50] Alexa: If I can't answer those questions exactly. If I can't answer those questions, then you raise the transparency flag at me. You wave it in my face, and you say, "This isn't cool. Something's going on here. You're lying to me, or you're being shady." If it's about things that are above your purview or things that are big decisions that are way outside of your pay scale, nobody owes you that. Good companies will find a way to communicate it to you in a way that makes you feel good about the company's decisions and lets you keep doing your job. That's transparency.

[00:17:18] Tyson: There's a fine line. We have to do it often in HR whether you're talking to an employee or to a manager when it comes to transparency and stuff. My act, honestly, my approach is always to be slightly more-- sometimes I tell a little bit more information than I probably should, especially if I'm working with the manager because a lot of that goes into like building credibility with the business.

If I know something's coming down the pipe, and we're planning, and I'm like, "Look, we're not really communicating this yet. Just as an FYI, before we start doing X, Y is coming down the pipeline." Again, that's not broadly spoken about yet, but let's consider that when we're planning. That transparency.

[00:17:55] Alexa: Right. Before you take this decision that affects you in a vacuum please know there are bigger things at play here.

[00:18:00] Tyson: Right. Even--

[00:18:01] Alexa: Other dynamics.

[00:18:02] Tyson: With going back to the pay conversations and stuff. I often will try to-- I will try to tell as much as I can, but oftentimes you need to understand how pay decisions are made and stuff like that. To be able to understand a number. Everyone's going back to this comp ratio thing. This is top of my mind right now. It's a hot topic, but oh, we should tell everybody what their comp ratio is.

The problem is that people don't know what to do with that information. People in HR, I would know my comp ratio, but the thing is I know what went into that. If I'm sitting there thinking, my comp ratio is 0.85. I know why it's lower. I can make sense of that. If people don't, then it becomes too emotional.

[00:18:42] Alexa: They're just mad about it not being 100, and then it's emotional, and then it's distracting.

[00:18:45] Tyson: Right.

[00:18:46] Alexa: Really what we need is we, oh man, we got to do a whole episode on comp because the way you get caught and all this like glass ceiling share, this is just a cluster fuck. Anyway, in some way transparency helps that. Not in this exactly to your original point, not in this, I am entitled to know everything I ask about. That's not transparency, [00:19:07] Tyson: Agreed.

[00:19:08] Alexa: That's a form of control, and that's just fucking obnoxious. Quite honestly, to your point, if you're asking for the wrong data, it's just going to make it worse. It's not going to help you to know all these things if you don't have the appropriate context. Because if I said to you, "Hey, your comp ratio is 85% or whatever." You're like, "Oh fuck, why is it so low? You're like, "The piece of information you're missing is that the average here is 72 or whatever." You could be like, "Oh, mine's bad. Why is it bad?" It's actually not bad. You're above the curve.

[00:19:33] Tyson: Right.

[00:19:34] Alexa: You wouldn't know that. Because that's not the question you fucking asked.

[00:19:36] Tyson: Exactly. I also think one last point on transparency, we also have to understand that executives, the C-suite etcetera.

[00:19:45] Alexa: I hate this word.

[00:19:46] Tyson: What? C-suite?

[00:19:47] Alexa: No, they hate the word transparency.

[00:19:49] Tyson: I also just want to say that they have the right to make decisions that they want to make based on the information that they have access to and what's best for the company and they don't have to explain that to people. If you don't like it, "Ugh. Sorry, get off the wagon." Because it's just tricky I don't know. Yes, I just hate when people are like, "Oh, I don't agree with this decision and blah, blah, blah and you should give us more information and blah, blah, blah." It's like, "Well, maybe this isn't the right place for you."

[00:20:22] Alexa: You're like, the information I gave you and the way that we did this, then maybe it's just not-- maybe you should self-select out. I think it's really funny because I would venture to guess to wrap the transparency conversation. I would venture to guess that this word comes up more in very specific situations I think so I just heard and I hear this story time and time and time again is that someone quits or gets fired.

Usually quits and the company waits to tell everybody that it's happening by the time the company says something about it, the cat's already out of the fucking bag. Because that employee told a friend, they work with told a colleague, told a colleague, they went to happy hour. It came out, somebody got drunk and the manager finds out. Then a week later, when you've decided, it's time to sit everybody down and be like, "So and so is leaving us."

Everybody's like, "Why did it take you this long? This feels shady. What really happened here?" That's exactly the situation where I go, "You just fucked up the information flow." It's not that you're not being transparent, but now I'm questioning what other shit you're waiting a week to tell me. Then all of a sudden everybody's like, "We need to be more transparent." I always hear the T-word when that shit happens.

Again, we can talk about firing and letting go and all of those things in another episode. I specifically think this buzzword comes up the most when somebody does some shit like that that makes everybody go, "Why would I trust you? You waited two weeks to tell me and the message I got from you was a little different than I got from the horse's mouth." There's room there for it to fester and that's never good.

[00:22:02] Tyson: For sure and I think on a final note on that dealing with transparency around exits and terminations and stuff, all you need to know is that the person's no longer there. You don't need to know the reasons why. Consider if it was you and you got fired, you don't want everyone knowing all your freaking dirty details. I hate when people think that they should have transparency into why someone got fired.

[00:22:23] Alexa: Look sometimes it's, they were just underperforming, and sometimes it's like, "No, no something fucked up happened. I'm not allowed to tell you about."

[00:22:30] Tyson: Right. It's just for the dignity of the person who's leaving but it shouldn't be a situation where you go to reach out to that person and they're deactivated and slack. That sucks, that really sucks.

[00:22:40] Alexa: Yes. I always think that the employee should be the one to lead how it gets communicated that's to get my conversation [crosstalk]. All right. Moving on. Number four. Are you ready for this? This one really ramping it up here. I'm saving the best two for last year, maybe three. Number four, engagement.

[00:23:00] Tyson: It's the new satisfaction and that used to like--

[00:23:04] Alexa: This engagement feels where culture was five years ago.

[00:23:08] Tyson: You used to do employment satisfaction surveys, now it's employee engagement surveys. I'm associating the word engagement with the-- I'll pause here. [laughs] While I'm thinking of engagement and this word, I'm thinking about the surveys that we do and how we measure engagement based on whatever consultant that you're using at the time deems to contribute to engagement--

[00:23:31] Alexa: Whatever the latest engagement.

[00:23:32] Tyson: Yes, whatever the latest definition of engagement is and I think we've talked enough about how much I hate surveys, but.

[00:23:39] Alexa: Have we, I don't know I really hate surveys also, but surveys is not a buzzword.

[00:23:43] Tyson: No, if we're looking at this then engagement surveys, they're shit and they don't really give people a lot of information because if you truly are disengaged A, you probably didn't do the survey B you probably lied on the survey. C maybe you were honest on the survey and that's great. Sure fine but it just doesn't really lead to anything and engagement surveys have no measurable outcomes like, "Yes okay we got 50% of people are engaged."

[00:24:13] Alexa: Multibillion-dollar industry at this point.

[00:24:15] Tyson: We spend hours talking about action plans to keep people more engaged. Then you do the survey next year. You literally forget about the action plan, do the survey next year and the results are lower. You went down in engagement after all that. Honestly, if you catch someone on a good or bad day when the survey launches, you could get something completely different.

Something, maybe you just had a really good conversation with your boss, and all of a sudden your engagement resolved glowing. My career is taking off. I feel so good about everything, but if you had something, one little thing go wrong and you're feeling a little bit jaded at the time survey is shit because I've done that before. I've given shitty survey results because I'm just having a shitty day and one shitty thing happens so fuck you, survey.

[00:25:04] Alexa: Besides survey bias which is just a whole-- again, whole episode [chuckles] but my first question is always engaged with what? What the fuck are we talking about here? Am I engaged with my manager? Am I engaged with my work? Am I engaged with my peers? Am I engaged with the larger mission of the company? Am I physically engaged in the office, communicating with other humans in a physical space? Am I digitally engaged? What the fuck engaged with what?

[00:25:34] Tyson: Sometimes the surveys will ask about all those things,

[00:25:37] Alexa: All those things, but what are we solving for here? When I hear engagement, I hear, "I need a way as the HR team to tell the broader world, namely my bosses that people like working here and they're engaged in their work." It's like, what does that mean?

[00:25:57] Tyson: Are they performing? Is it equal to better performance?

[00:26:01] Alexa: Yes. Does it equal better performance? Does it equal longevity as an employee? Does it equal-

[00:26:06] Tyson: more creativity?

[00:26:08] Alexa: Yes. Does it better stronger team performance? What boats are these tides lifting?

[00:26:12] Tyson: Consultants would tell you all those things.

[00:26:14] Alexa: They'll have some framework that costs $800 an hour to tell you about it. Again, this is one of those, it's culture. When it's really broken, you talk about it, but otherwise, it should just be a given and there are going to be parts of this, that ebb and flow. What happens in this industry and it's so, unfortunately, the plight, I think of HR because they're so good at fucking kitchen sink for everything that is not an obvious track within an organization. All of a sudden they're like, "Oh, now we're in charge of engagement too."

I'm like, "Wait a minute. How are you going to track engagement when you've got 400 managers managing 1,600 employees across 8 different verticals, all with different job descriptions, different kinds of work? Like, what? This one it's my head against a brick wall even though I know nobody can see this. This one just kills me because we've spent so much time and money talking about engagement in the last 5 years probably 10.

People writing books on engagement. It's the cheekiest fucking word in this industry and it is meaningless. It doesn't actually mean anything. It's like, what are you solving for here?

[00:27:24] Tyson: There is nothing worse than when you know we do. Let's say we do the engagement survey and then the managers come and look to HR and say, "What do you think the problems are here?" You are the problem, honestly because if you don't know, you should not need a damn survey to know what's wrong.

[00:27:42] Alexa: It's like a culture fucking committee. By the time you have a culture committee it's done, it's too late. Light that ship on fire and get a fucking new one. You have to start over at that point. When you're this worried about engagement, it's also a distraction. We're getting really low scores on our engagement surveys. It's like, okay, but are your employees' fucking performing in their tasks?

How do the managers feel about that? Is the manager reporting back to you that their "engagement" is hurting performance? I'm a manager. In theory, I've found a good balance to work with my team already and "engagement" is not an issue. When I hear engagement, I'm like, "Employer, you just got the wrong people in the wrong roles."

[00:28:22] Tyson: That actually is happening. I'm hearing a lot of, I think some of the big four companies are starting to abolish engagement surveys. That might not be right but they're changing them in a way that it's not about doing a survey. It's more about they make mandatory quarterly meetings between manager and employee thing, where they're talking about things like career development and growth and those types of things.

If we just erase the survey entirely and managers put aside, even just quarterly, a good solid conversation that would probably hit the nail on the head because almost always people are going to say in their surveys that they're not getting promoted. They're not getting paid enough. They're not getting enough growth. It's always the same thing.

[00:28:59] Alexa: You're all not this complicated. We talked about this in one of our last episodes. I think it was with Dom Merrit who's a rockstar. People are not this complicated. It's just not that hard. If I like who I work for, I like what I'm doing, I feel valued both in compensation and in social reward, I'm going to be engaged. I'm going to do work I like with people, I like for a cost of my time that tells me I'm valuable.

It's not more complicated than that. If people are disengaged just because they don't like their managers, they don't like the work or you're underpaying them and so you're telling them they're that you don't value them. In which case I'm just all day begrudgingly like, "I'll fuck off on Facebook because these people don't care about me." The fact that they don't care about me, they just don't pay me well enough for my time. They don't think I'm that valuable. Why would I pay attention here?

[00:29:47] Tyson: I actually want to double down on this because I have been saying this and I think I get a lot of hate for it. A lot of people say it's the leadership's responsibility to make sure that people are engaged. I actually think it's the individual who needs to. If you don't like what you're doing, all those things that you just said. Leave, leave.

[00:30:03] Alexa: Talk to your manager. This is the thing. Everything in HR culture, I feel like, has given HR a complex. That is HR's fault and it's not. They've taken all the agency out of the employee and out of the manager and out of the C-suite quite honestly. I think that's the biggest issue to say, "Oh, well, our HR team does a terrible job. The engagement here is low."

No, what the fuck does that mean? It means you have a bunch of bad managers, a bunch of people in the wrong roles, and you're probably underpaying or under-investing in the experience for employees. Everybody except HR is probably in charge of that. Yes, it kills me. All right, I'm moving us on to our next one because I feel like we can keep talking about this forever. This one also makes my blood boil. There's a Family Guy episode where Peter gets stuck on the term, Grinds my gears.

[00:30:49] Tyson: Oh, yes.

[00:30:50] Alexa: This one really grinds me.

[00:30:50] Tyson: I say that I actually say that.

[00:30:53] Alexa: That feels like a very Canadian phrase. Yes, it really grinds my gears.

[00:30:57] Tyson: [laughs] I totally say that.

[00:30:58] Alexa: I just say things like, "I fucking hate this," because I'm not smart enough to sugarcoat it. Our fifth term here, our fifth buzzword Tyson, is future of work.

[00:31:06] Tyson: Wait, give us the context behind this one? In what context would this be used?

[00:31:10] Alexa: That's why I fucking hate this phrase because it needs context.

[00:31:13] Tyson: [laughs] I know.

[00:31:15] Alexa: You hear every buzzword in every HR event in the last three years has had a keynote speaker, the future of work.

[00:31:24] Tyson: It's like the slogan of the conference.

[00:31:26] Alexa: What the fuck does that mean? Then now you get it. Now we're talking about future of work as if we're talking about what does work look like Post-COVID? It's been co-opted to mean that. Then you've got some people talk about it from performance management. What the fuck is future of work?

[00:31:44] Tyson: The way that I've heard this is I think I went to an HR-- Pretty much all of the HR PA conferences in the last five years.

[00:31:52] Alexa: Yes, it's always the headline.

[00:31:53] Tyson: It's always the future of work and literally they just have all these people come in and talk about AI and how AI is going to take over all the jobs in HR. [laughs] It's so good at the HR conference.

[00:32:05] Alexa: Fucking kills me.

[00:32:06] Tyson: I'm like come on.

[00:32:07] Alexa: Future of work. I'm like, "Guys, we've spent the last three to five years of the HR conference circuit talking about the future of work. The reality is when COVID hit, it was still a fucking mystery to you how people were going to work with WiFi and a laptop.

[00:32:23] Tyson: That's so true. Working from home.

[00:32:25] Alexa: There's no future. The whole profession is trying to get out of the past. There is no future to talk about and if we are talking about it, are we talking about robots or are we talking about what work looks like when we have a universal basic income? What the fuck does this mean? A bad marketer in and around this industry fucking loves that phrase because it sounds important and strategic, but it means absolutely fucking nothing.

It means nothing. Oh my God, I literally want to start an Instagram account just like future of work and all it does is snapshot all the fucking places that you see the term future of work and it means nothing. It means absolutely nothing. That's really my whole die drive on this. I just fucking hate future of work. It's meaningless.

[00:33:07] Tyson: Yes, I agree.

[00:33:09] Alexa: All right. I'll move us to our last one then because I know this is an important one for some listeners who really want us to talk about this one. The last one is strategic. Strategy. I strategically put this one last.

[00:33:23] Tyson: The thing is this is like every-- This is a big thing for HR. HR is trying to move from being the admin personnel to a strategic partner. That's how we hear this word a lot. To have strategic HR. I think actually when I was in college I took a course called Strategic HR. Anyways, I still don't know what it is, to be totally honest. I don't think anyone knows because I've been asking my entire career what the fuck is strategic HR?

People still don't know. Yes, some people are going to say you understand the business and you can provide people solutions to push the business forward. I'm pretty sure that was my LinkedIn slogan for a while. The problem is people don't understand because then you hear, oh, I don't want to do all this paper-pushing or I don't want to do the administrative work. I'm like, "Why don't you make the administrative work strategic then?"

People are like, "What does that mean?" I'm like, "Look if someone asks me to make a change in a workday." Let's say they're like, "Hey, can you change my lead to be someone else or the leadership reporting." A lot of the administrative work that people do in HR is just paper-pushing type stuff. Then why couldn't you have made that a strategic conversation? Push a little hard, don't just go into workday and make the change.

Hey, have you considered the following, do a performance review before you transfer them? Is this person a good performer? Does it make sense that we're transferring them right now? Are you going to be backfilling this role? How are we going to backfill this role? Should they be involved in back filling the role? There's so much more to the conversation. [crosstalk]

[00:34:54] Alexa: How does the balance of your team look overall?

[00:34:56] Tyson: How are we going to communicate this? Is this aligned with their career path? What is the purpose of this change? That's why I'm like, people are always-- it just bothers me when people in HR complain about the administrative tasks like that. I'm like, "Maybe you're just an administrative HR because you clearly don't know what strategic means."

[00:35:12] Alexa: Shots fired.

[00:35:14] Tyson: If you are working in HR right now and you feel as though you're only doing administrative work, it probably means you're too shady at your job.

[00:35:20] Alexa: No, it just means you have a shady job at a shady corporation. Again, back to my very first comment on this podcast was like maybe we just need to make HR an admin function and make people a totally separate function. That's a different conversation.

[00:35:33] Tyson: True.

[00:35:34] Alexa: I think you can make it strategic. I think this word gets bastardized for a couple of reasons. One, when I hear anyone outside of HR say, "Oh, I want to be in strategy." I'm like, "That just means you want to think and talk for a living, you don't actually want to do." That's what I hear. I hear like, oh, you want to be a fucking consultant? Cool. You want to have big dick energy and throw ideas around and get paid for them and not actually do any work.

That's my personal bias towards this word in general. Then I think of this industry and I think again with fucking everything we've made it this all-or-nothing conversation. It's all about employee engagement or HR's got to be all strategic. It's like, "No, no, no, no, no." Just like you don't need a soccer team of all forwards. You have to be able to both identify on the map the north star and also turn the boat two degrees at a time with six different ORs. You have to be able to put all those mechanics together to keep an organization moving and growing and changing positively.

Being strategic is one piece of that, and it is usually the thinking and the stuff that goes into higher-level thinking. The bigger roles on your team or the higher-ups tend to be the people that get to do this thinking for a living. We were talking about leveling on a previous episode, before you sit down and you say, "Okay, we're going to level set everybody in the organization." Someone has to step into that conversation and say before we go changing everybody's comp structure. Before we pull levels out of thin air, what are we trying to accomplish with this?

What are the performance drivers? What's the implication of doing this? What's the pros? What's the cons? Where are we trying to get in 10 years? Does this help get us there? That's higher level thinking that is strategic. It's almost design-worthy thinking. That's usually the stuff that C-suite and higher titles are earning, but it's not everything they do. It's not the only thing they do. You still have to implement it. You still have to be tactical. I agree, 90% of HR should not be all this administrative bullshit and I actually think the robots will help us there.

[00:37:38] Tyson: Yes, 100%.

[00:37:39] Alexa: In the future of work, but yes I just think this gets bastardized because it's like, "I hate doing--" you're right. It's very binary. I hate being administrative so I want to be strategic. It's like, "No." The irony of saying that is you're just not being strategic about how you're thinking [laughs] about that.

[00:37:54] Tyson: That's exactly. People are just sitting there waiting for the strategic work to come.

[00:37:58] Alexa: For the strategry to fall out of the sky.

[00:38:00] Tyson: Right. If you really think about the word strategic, it would be exactly what you said, zoom--

[00:38:05] Alexa: Pieces on a chess board.

[00:38:09] Tyson: Zoomed out, so first we're going to determine that our strategy is X from a business perspective. Then you've got the HR like VPs and like the HR executives coming in to say, okay, in order to achieve the business strategy, we're going to need this type of comp strategy. This type of learning and development strategy, this type of recruitment strategy. It is like a really big picture and you do have to zoom out and see it from a holistic perspective I think, to really understand strategy.

I think about the game of risk, it's like all the movements of pieces and stuff like that. I don't think I've ever even actually played that game, but what I imagine the game of risk to be like it's zoomed out. I don't know, when you're thinking about your day-to-day, if you feel as though your work is too administrative, you should really start thinking zoomed out a little bit more. Again, like, don't just sit there and wait for strategic work to come because if you're that person, you probably don't know what strategic work is.

[00:39:01] Alexa: Exactly, I missed out on that pun intended. Amazing, Tyson I'm exhausted by these buzzwords. Nobody can see it, but I'm blushing really hard, I'm sweating, I'm like really worked up over here.

[00:39:15] Tyson: I know, and we had 100 more, I reached out on HR ship to be like, what are your most hated buzzwords? We got a ton and I feel like we can have this conversation forever. Maybe buzzwords 2.0, we--

[00:39:27] Alexa: Oh yes. This is definitely a continuing series because there's eight of them here, and I'm like, "Oh, I really want to talk about acumen and synergy." Those are also pretty fucking terrible. Wellness fucking kills me. Oh my God. All right. Suffice to say, just be more intentional with your words, be more intentional about the things that you're working on and cut through the fucking bullshit because engaging transparently in the future of work culture is not going to get you fucking anywhere.

It might be disruptive and strategic, but it won't get you fucking anywhere with a bunch of humans. Anything else you want to say, Tyson?

[00:40:04] Tyson: No. I think that wraps it up.

[00:40:06] Alexa: 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 @peopleproblemspod on all things social.

[00:40:22] [END OF AUDIO]

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