Employee engagement: Dominance vs Empathy- Jason Lauritsen [Interview]

Sneha Moorthy
I
19
min read
Employee engagement: Dominance vs Empathy- Jason Lauritsen [Interview]
Employee engagement: Dominance vs Empathy- Jason Lauritsen [Interview]

About Jason Lauritsen

Jason Lauritsen is a keynote speaker, author, and consultant. His main interests include employee engagement, workplace culture, talent management, leadership, and many more. He has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits. We are extremely happy and honored to have him on our interview series today.

Employee engagement: Dominance vs Empathy- Jason Lauritsen [Interview]

Vanessa Rose

We have the pleasure of welcoming Jason Lauritsen today to our interview series. I’m Vanessa Rose from the peopleHum team. Let’s begin with just a quick intro of peopleHum -  peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.

Vanessa

Welcome Jason, we’re thrilled to have you.

Jason 

Hey Vanessa, thanks for having me. 

Vanessa

The first question I had for you Jason, was 

Why is employee experience so important as a focus area? 

Jason

Well, I think that's a really broad question and an important one, but I think, at least through my lens, the way I think of experiences is that it's important in a couple of ways, it's important because the experience is ultimately what attracts and retains an employee, right? It's the day today, the moments, the interactions we have that engage us to our work.

And so the experience is where it all begins. And the reason experience is so important is that experience is something that we can create, that we can shape as organizations, as leaders. And that's what I am most excited about when we have conversations about employee experience.

And I'm excited that employee experience has become a bigger topic over the last couple of years because in the last 30 years or so we've been talking about employee engagement. Employee engagement is really important, and we have ways to measure it, and we talk about it a lot. But engagement is an outcome.

It's kind of like measuring profit, you know, in terms of financial outcomes in an organization, profit is an outcome measure, and knowing how much profit you have or knowing that you care about profit doesn't necessarily help you get more of it. And that's why I think experience is really powerful because experience represents what we can do, what we can create in order to generate more engagement, to get the thing that we want. 

"Experience is really powerful because experience represents what we can do, what we can create in order to generate more engagement, to get the thing that we want."

We need to generate a better experience. And so I'm really optimistic about the work that's being done around experience. I'm really optimistic about the progress and the conversations that are happening around employee experience because it helps, I think, guide us to a more actionable future in terms of it helps us as leaders, as organizations understand what we should be doing or where maybe our levels are or what we should, where we should focus. And so that's why I think it's a really important conversation to be having right now

For sure, it's something that people can relate to, they understand it. We have experiences with our friends and our families, we have experiences in our personal life. On some level, at least we relate to experience and so it becomes a much more tangible real conversation when we're talking about what is your experience at work as people, people can talk about that and they understand that, and that becomes a lot more meaningful and tangible for the employee and the manager to have a conversation.

You know, it's weird or abstract to say, 'What can I do to engage you more?' A lot of times if you're my employee, it's hard to even answer that question. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but if you say, 'What could we do so that you would have a better experience at work every day?' that becomes something that we can actually have a really productive conversation about that we can then take some action about. So that's why you know, it's definitely good conversation to have.

Vanessa

How do you think the experience will change after the crisis, how relevant it will be?

Jason

I don't think the importance of experience will necessarily change or diminish at all, if anything, it will be just as important. We're all still having experiences of work, instead of having an experience sitting in person, we're having an experience sitting and having a conversation like this over video. So it's still an experience that's being created and experiences being had by the employees and the managers and leaders and everybody else.

I think the thing to be really thoughtful about right now is what kind of experience are you creating, how are you treating people, how are you showing up for people as organizations, as leaders in this time right now when as an employee, I have all sorts of needs and challenges and fears that I didn't have before in this moment of time, what kind of experience are you creating for me and how are you supporting me through this experience?

"The thing to be really thoughtful about right now is how are you showing up for people as organizations, as leaders in this time right now when as an employee, I have all sorts of needs and challenges and fears that I didn't have before in this moment of time."

I think that will have a lingering effect, and it will certainly have an effect on emerging from this, do we have more trust or less trust, do we have more cooperation or less cooperation or loyalty. So I think that's how it will shift. I think this is going to have a lasting impact over time.

Vanessa

Yeah, now it's time that organizations actually, you know, prove their promises. 

Jason

Yes, they have to. Absolutely. 

Vanessa

So where do you think, can organizations start, in order to build stronger employee engagement and commitment to the organization’s culture and values?

Jason

So there's a lot of different places, I guess it depends on where you are. But what I would say in general, is what I have experienced is that most organizations, when they're committing to wanting greater engagement or wanting to build a better culture, the first thing that has to be done is you have to get really clear about what those things mean.

So I see so many organizations that will say, Well, we're building, we're investing in our culture or we want to improve engagement. But if I say okay, well, what does that mean? What does employee engagement mean at your organization and you'll get something very broad, and very generic, like we want people to be working harder and working better and sticking around or whatever it is.

But they don't specifically define what engagement means here or what our culture is. We're building a better culture, but what exactly is it? Define it for me, and so, that work is really hard. The reason most organizations skip over it is, it's hard to articulate those things because you have to make choices, you have to commit those choices to words, and then you have to share those with people. And then there's natural accountability in that.

So if I say that our culture is about, integrity and taking care of people, and I put that down in writing and I share that with all of our employees, then our employees, they're going to expect to feel like they're being taken care of and so it creates this sort of expectation or this accountability and that commitment, and so it's hard work it really forces you to get really disciplined about those things.

And so I think that's why a lot of times organizations want to skip over, right. We're busy. We got a lot of other things going on. So we'll jump past the definition, the hard work of articulating our intentions and trying to go straight to the action. And, in which case, you may end up getting lucky and improving engagement or ending up with a decent culture. But it may not be the one that you intended in the first place. It may end up being okay, but it may not be exactly what you wanted. And so I think the first step is really getting clear on the definition.

"A lot of times organizations jump past the definition, the hard work of articulating their intentions and trying to go straight to the action. And, in which case, you may end up getting lucky and improving engagement or ending up with a decent culture. But it may not be the one that you intended in the first place."

Vanessa

Yes, that makes sense. 

And what are some of the areas that organizations need to focus on to create a differentiated experience?

Jason

Well, I think I think it starts with definition, understanding what it is we're intending to create. So as an organization like, what kind of employer are we going to be, how are we going to treat people, what kind of work environment experience are we intending to create and committing to that, writing that down in a way that people can respond to, so you have new employees, you can share that with them, you can share that with leaders on here's how you should be creating an experience or showing up in your conversations with people.

But I also think then the next step is really, this is a design question that you're asking, and I think in HR often we haven't really invested in design in the way that I think we need to and understanding that experience won't just happen if we don't do anything, but we can actually very intentionally design it. 

"Experience won't just happen if we don't do anything, but we can actually very intentionally design it."

And one of the first steps of design is really to understand your audience. Let's understand who you are designing for what their needs are, what their challenges are, what their interests and dreams and aspirations are.

And so if I have a clarity of intention about what kind of organization I want to create, the next step, then if I want to really differentiate and make it work, is I got to go get to know my people. I have to really understand who my people are, who are the people that I want to attract, what do they need, what do they care about, what are they looking for in a work experience?

And then I can start having some conversations about the kinds of things we actually do. What kinds of workplaces, what kinds of work experiences, do we even need a workplace, what kind of technology, what kind of training and development, what kind of leadership philosophy. All of those things can come out of that.

But you have to be clear about what you are trying to accomplish, and then who are you needing to accomplish it with or wanting to accomplish it with, then you can start putting the pieces together, you can make and form decisions about that. But that's where it starts. If you want to really make a unique and differentiated experience.

Vanessa

Yes, I mean experience as a word is so overused now but it's actually a whole organization that actually contributes to it

Jason

Yeah, absolutely 

Vanessa

So employee retention and talent acquisition still remain a challenge for even the top organizations. What is your opinion on the best strategies for organizations to solve it?

Jason

Well, So here's what I would say, like one of the things that I talk about often a lot is that if you look at the research that we have, if you look at the data we have about employee engagement and employee satisfaction and employee sentiment, all of that, one of the things that emerge from that is that you'll see very clearly that the things that matter the most to employees when it comes to being engaged or you're really having a good experience at work, that results in them performing better and sticking around and that sort of thing, it boils down to things like feeling valued at work, knowing that someone cares about me, being respected and trusted.

You know those are the kinds of things that you see and they bubble up at the top of all this research I mean, it doesn't matter whose research, you see the same kinds of things. And what that suggests, if you look at that is that those are relational constructs, those describe things that exist in a relationship just like in our personal relationships, our best personal relationships, we want the same kinds of things.

We want to feel trusted and valued and cared for and respected and all that same kind of thing. Work for employees is very relational. One of the things I say frequently over and over is actually work is a relationship for employees.

"Work is a relationship for employees. They want the same things from work that they want from any other important relationship in their lives."

When you think about it that way, they want the same things from work that they want from any other important relationship in their lives. And if that's the case, then the way that we design it, the way that we approach this needs to be like the way we would approach any important relationship. And so when we think about retention, we think about talent acquisition, those are relational terms.

Retention is about how do I foster a long term relationship, and we know that there are things like we need to be, we need quality conversation and communication, we need to be checking in with each other, we need to be taking feedback and we need to be improving and growing together, we need to be committed to some similar ideals and some similar values, we need to be creating a sense of acceptance and belonging, we need to be expressing appreciation.

All of these things, we know, are the ways that we foster long term relationships. And so the same is true at work. And this is what engagement data tells us too. If we want to keep people, we have to foster a sense of a really positive relationship, and the more we do that, the more people will stick around.”

And by the way, the more we do that, the more attractive we look to future potential mates. So from a talent acquisition perspective, if we're doing a great job of fostering relationships with our people and we do all of these things right, we're going to be a very attractive mate for future potential employee talent, right? They're gonna want to be in a relationship with us.

And then if we start treating even our candidates the same way that we do our employees, it's not gonna be hard to convince people to come to work for us. It'll be on us to select the right people to come to work because we've become a place that people want to be in a relationship with, and so that's where I think it really starts. If we want to solve that long term problem, we've got to really reshape work to work more like a relationship than you know, the way that we've historically treated it is more like a contractual exchange where I give you money and you give me work. And that's the end of it.

Vanessa

So what role do you think leaders play in creating a culture of learning innovative and a resilient organization?

Jason

Well, leaders are critical. It depends on which leader you're talking about or what level of leader you're talking about. But I think we know from decades of research that if we're talking about your immediate leader, your manager, your supervisor, your relationship with that person has an enormous impact on how you feel about work. Now can that be overcome? It can, in some cases maybe not in other cases, but certainly, that relationship often, if you're in a traditional working relationship and your supervisor is the 1 to 1 kind of relationship, that person in your relationship there has an enormous impact on how you feel about it.

So how that manager and supervisor shows up in that relationship is really important in terms of how they make you feel valued, if they respect you and trust you and make you feel appreciated and included, chances are that's gonna translate to your overall feeling about work So good Manager relationship can have a huge impact.

The leaders at the top of the organization obviously set the tone, they set the example for the entire organization. So I think, a front line manager can mitigate the effect for a short term of bad leadership or a leader that doesn't get it at the top of the organization. But if you want it to be part of your culture, if you want to get this right culturally then the leaders at the top of the organization have to get it and live it and preach it and put it into how the organization does things in order for it to last or to become the sort of sustainable over a longer period of time.

Vanessa

That is so true, 

Younger employees are shifting the definition of leadership. So how do you think, are they doing that, and why are they doing that?

Jason

You know, that's an interesting question because I don't know that I've seen the research, maybe that suggests that there's a huge shift from young people's viewing or defining leadership differently. I think they may have experienced different things.

Or I think one of the things that I have seen to be very different in younger employees or younger members of the workforce is they're more likely to give voice to their expectations, they're more likely to be willing to engage you in a conversation directly or provide feedback if you're falling short of their expectations, I think you're more likely to get called out on inauthenticity if you're not living, or acting in inconsistency with your values.

I think that will get called out by your younger employees, where for whatever reason, the older employees are less likely to do that. I don't know if it's because they're jaded or just because of a different model. But I don't know if it's much about different expectations so much as it is.

The expectation is just that we're not going to tolerate bad leadership as willingly, I guess maybe as older generations. I don't know if that's the case. I'm not sure I know, but I think that's maybe where it's coming from is, there's just more of an expectation of transparency and authenticity and leadership that maybe there has been in the past.

Vanessa

Maybe they have opinions and they want to be heard too.

Jason

Yeah, I think that's true. And I would say that I don't know if that is necessarily different about this generation, my guess is, or at least my experience has been, that I think the younger generation has less tolerance or less patience for not being hurt. I don't know if that's by nature of our work environment, you know, we've had a pretty decent economy over the course of the last period of years, we've got a lot of more options about how you can work and where you can work and you can go be a freelancer, you can be a contractor, you could be an employee.

There's a lot of things. I don't know if it's the confidence in the ability to do work and find work that has less patience for not being heard, that's a curiosity. I don't know what the answer to that is, but you're right, that could be part of it. I think there's an expectation of my voice being heard, but also just not gonna tolerate bad leaders.

I think that's good, both those things are really good, really positive effects on the workplace because neither of those two things should be allowed not to happen. We should be hearing people's voices and we should have high expectations for our leaders and hold those that aren't living up to that expectation accountable. I think it's a good thing.

"We should be hearing people's voices and we should have high expectations for our leaders and hold those that aren't living up to that expectation accountable."

Vanessa

Do you have any last thoughts you’d like to leave our audience with? 

Jason

As we travel through this crisis right now, as we navigate through this massive disruption, the thing that I am thinking about more and more is that we are at the precipice, I think of an opportunity to make enormous positive changes in how work happens and how work gets done.

I've been loving talking about the future of work, I study the future of work. I write about the future of work, a fair amount. But like we're at a moment in time where leaders and HR professionals have an opportunity to really have an impact in changing the trajectory of what work looks like for the next decade and that moments is right now because the rules have changed, defenses are down, we've been disrupted, leaders minds are completely open to new ways of doing things.

And now is our opportunity to step in and find those ways to introduce new things to be trying new things and then make them work now so that when we come out of this that we've got a whole set of new possibilities and practices in place.

"We're at a moment in time where leaders and HR professionals have an opportunity to really have an impact in changing the trajectory of what work looks like for the next decade and that moments is right now because the rules have changed, defenses are down, we've been disrupted, leaders minds are completely open to new ways of doing things."

So I hope that people will be bold and take chances and experiment right now because we will never have an opportunity, or at least we won't have another opportunity like this in the near future. So I think I hope we all take advantage of it. 

Vanessa

These are some really nice thoughts, thank you so much for agreeing to talk to us. I really appreciate your time and sharing your views with us.

Jason

Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. 

We hope you got some great insights from this blog. Its now time to apply it. Get started with peopleHum for free today. No credit card needed.

We hope you got some great insights from this blog. Its now time to apply it. Get started with peopleHum for free today. No credit card needed.

Tags
employeeengagement
employee
empathy
2020
HR
interviews
HRblog

Blog > Latest Articles

No Search results found

About peopleHum

PeopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work.

Get Started Free
Follow us on