Performance
26:28

Episode 12: A Great Place for All with Michael C. Bush

 

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Episode overview:

What makes a workplace a great place? Is it the benefits? Is it the managers? Is it work itself? Or is it an algorithmic combination of all of these factors and more? Companies claim to have amazing cultures and that employees are their “greatest assets.” But are they doing what it takes to create a great place for all, including the frontline?

JD sits down with Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work, to explore what it really means to be a great place for all. Michael shares data-driven insights into trust, leadership and training and the critical role these factors play in both workplace culture and financial success. He addresses the “two viruses” we are currently facing – COVID-19 and racism – and the role companies must play to promote human and social good. Michael also borrows a line from JD and shows how the best places to work put people first, employees second.

This episode shows you what it will take to get your company on a future Great Place to Work list. 


Hear more from Michael C. Bush as a featured speaker at AxoniCom LIVE – the only conference focused on the needs of the frontline. This one-of-a-kind digital experience takes place on September 28th and 29th and features insights from professionals who have led frontline-forward organizations like Disney, Southwest Airlines, Foot Locker and Kroger. These two days are guaranteed to help you prepare your frontline for whatever comes next. Grab free tickets for your entire team at axonicom.com.

Read Michael’s latest posts on the Great Place to Work Blog addressing systemic racism and social injustice.

Check out the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 2020 List, which includes a variety of frontline-forward organizations.

The 80 Percent is brought to you by Axonify. To learn how you can provide communication and training to your frontline workforce that actually works, visit axonify.com. If you have a frontline story you’d like us to explore on a future episode, let us know at podcast@axonify.com.

About the Guest(s)

Michael C. Bush

Michael C. Bush is CEO of Great Place to Work, the global research and analytics firm that produces the annual Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, the World’s Best Workplaces list, the 100 Best Workplaces for Women list, the Best Workplaces for Diversity list, and dozens of other distinguished workplace rankings around the world.

Driven by a love of business and an unwavering commitment to fair and equitable treatment, Michael joined Great Place to Work as CEO in 2015, bringing 30 years of experience leading and growing organizations. This includes serving as CEO of Tetra Tech Communications, which he grew from $40 million to $300 million in revenue. Michael is a former member of President Obama’s White House Business Council and a founding board member of the private equity seed-fund, Fund Good Jobs, which invests in small inner-city businesses.

About the Host(s)

JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect

JD is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. His practical approach integrates science, technology, storytelling and pure common sense to enable employees, improve performance and drive business results. For 20 years, JD has executed strategies for global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company.

Episode Transcript

Introduction:

You need to make sure your frontline employees are prepared for whatever comes next. So mark your calendar for September 28th and 29th for AxoniCom LIVE. The only conference focused on the needs of the frontline. This one of a kind digital experience will feature renowned keynote speakers, informative education sessions, interactive activities, and industry meetups to help you transform your business through your frontline. Grab free tickets for your whole team at axonify.com/conference

JD Dillon:

Episode 12, A great place for all. Recorded on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020. Would you mind participating in a quick reflection exercise? Okay. First close your eyes. Wait, wait, wait. If you’re listening while driving or jogging on the side of the road, you should pull over first, pull over. Okay. Ready? Okay. Now close your eyes. Think about the best job you ever had. It could be your current job or it could be something you did much earlier in your career. Got it. Okay. Now picture the best part of that job. The thing you remember most fondly. Okay. Now open your eyes. What did you picture? What was it about that job that made it a great place to work?

Voice 1:

My favorite place to work was great because of the people I was working with.

Voice 2:

It was because of the manager that I had.

Voice 3:

I got to be outside in the sunshine.

Voice 4:

Being able to use my skillset in a place that appreciates my culture and supports me as an individual.

Voice 5:

And I could always see that what I was working on really had an impact on what the business outcomes were.

Voice 6:

Because of the people and how it made me feel when I was there

Voice 7:

Before that, I was just another number. Whereas when a family got that job and was in that scenario, I was, I really felt like I was probably a part of a team and I was really making a difference.

JD Dillon:

We all bring different perspectives to the workplace. We all value different parts of the employee experience. That means there’s no one thing that makes every great workplace great. Instead it’s a combination of factors that have to be applied consistently and effectively to make work great. So has anyone cracked the code on what it means to build a great frontline culture? Is there an algorithm for employee happiness and fulfillment. Actually, Yeah. Yes, there is. To find out what data can tell us about improving the frontline experience, I sat down with Michael C. Bush.

Michael. C. Bush:

JD, happy to be here.

JD Dillon:

Michael is a global chief executive with over 25 years of experience, leading small and mid sized organizations through transformational growth.

Michael. C. Bush:

It’s all about the frontline, but at the front line, nothing happens

JD Dillon:

Driven by a love of business and an unwavering commitment to fair and equitable treatment. In 2015, Michael acquired ownership and currently serves as global CEO of great place to work headquartered in Oakland, California with operations in more than 60 countries worldwide. That means he’s responsible for the lists on which every company, including yours wants to appear. This includes Fortune’s annual list of 100 best companies to work for. The world’s best workplaces lists. The 100 best workplaces for women list. The best workplaces for diversity lists, along with dozens of other distinguished workplace rankings around the world.

Michael. C. Bush:

When I came to great place to work, it was just a great place to work, and I looked at the data and knew that there were places that were great places to work for many, but they weren’t a great place to work for all.

JD Dillon:

Michael is the author of the book, a great place to work for all. Michael is also a featured speaker at AxoniCom LIVE the only digital event focused on the needs of the frontline workforce. Coming up on September 28th and 29th. Michael knows what it takes to build a great place to work. And he’s got receipts. Here’s my conversation with Michael C. Bush.

JD Dillon:

When you think of great place to work, the company, their lists are probably what comes to mind first, but have you ever wondered, how do they create those lists?

Michael. C. Bush:

What we do is we ask employees 60 questions and we do this in 98 countries around the world with 10,000 companies a year, 2000 companies a year in the US. So a place is certified great place to work for all when the employees say it. It’s not something that you can write your way into. It comes straight from the employees.

JD Dillon:

Those 60 questions dig into some of the most important parts of the employee experience. Starting with trust.

Michael. C. Bush:

We’ve got a series of algorithms that are measuring a few things. The first is trust. A great place to work has been doing that for 30 years. Then we measure whether or not the values and the purpose of a great place to work is being experienced by the employees. We measure something, we call maximizing human potential, which is the biggest change we made, where we measure the experience between different demographic groups. So we want to make sure it’s a great place to work whether you work full time or part time. We measure whether it’s a great place to work, depending on if you’re at the top of the company as an executive or on the frontline. Depending on your gender choice or non binary choice, is it a great place to work? So we do all these comparisons and where in the gaps are small, which means it’s consistently great for everybody consistently the same for everybody. Those companies are going to do better than companies, where there are huge differences. We have a innovation index where we know what’s needed to create a great innovation experience, which we call innovation by all. We measure leadership effectiveness and we measure financial performance. So we put those things together and, uh, our algorithms determine a score comes out and we can say that place is a certified great place to work for all. And then we have our various lists that we use for rankings. That’s how one company is ranked higher than another. The algorithms make those five measurements and then come up with one overall score.

JD Dillon:

Participating in the great place to work process is a voluntary experience. And for many organizations, it can be quite eye opening.

Michael. C. Bush:

Well, most are very confident and then reality sets in. I know some of the greatest companies in the world, they all have some work to do somewhere. So it’s a humbling experience, but it makes you feel good too. There are these parts where you’re actually delivering on the employee promise and making sure that things are equitable and fair. And then there’s some areas where things aren’t going so well.

JD Dillon:

I’m on record as saying frontline managers are the most important people in the workplace. It turns out the data backs me up.

Michael. C. Bush:

The experience that a person has with their leader, determines 70% of the employee experience. You should feel that your supervisor or manager treats you with respect. Does your manager give you time off when you need it? That’s a way of showing trust. Does your manager involve you in decisions that affect your work? That’s a way to show trust. Does your manager ask you for ideas on how to improve things for you or your colleagues or the customer? That’s a way to show trust. Does your manager, listen, when you speak with an open mic, that’s a way of showing trust. Does your manager develop you and give you feedback and provide recognition? That’s a way of showing trust. We know what makes somebody feel like they’re respected and what makes somebody feel like they’re being disrespected. That’s one part. The other part is credibility. Does your leader speak to you in a way that makes you feel like your role is important in terms of the organization being successful? Fairness is the third leg of the trust stool around respect. You know, there are leaders that treat everybody with equal disrespect and people will say this leader, it’s still a great place to work because he treats everybody with equal disrespect. So fairness is super, super important, respect, credibility, and fairness from the person that you work for.

JD Dillon:

But it’s not just about managers. That’s why I never really agree with the statement. People don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. The people you work with also play a big part in creating a positive culture.

Michael. C. Bush:

Do you enjoy the people that you work with? Some people say, well, are my bosses kind of weird, but I really love the team. And so that part’s important. We measure pride, which is really care because people do great work and have pride in the place they work for and not because of the swag or the shirt. It’s the people that you work with. You feel like they care about you and you care about them. That’s what drives performance. And finally, is there a high sense of comradery, which is the team thing. People like being part of a group or a team that’s accomplishing something that they couldn’t do on their own.

JD Dillon:

A recurring theme on the 80% has been breaking free of outdated business mindsets, especially the antiquated notion that the customer is always number one.

Michael. C. Bush:

Leaders feel like they have to say publicly that the customer is number one. They feel like they have to say it. And that same leader inside the company says the employees number one. But they know sometimes customers just have to believe that they’re number one. But there is a movement now where leaders are studying to be comfortable saying it’s the employees, it’s the employees. And our belief is it’s absolutely the employees because they’re the ones who create that experience for the customer. You can talk about the customer being number one, all you want, if your employees aren’t feeling respected and cared for, and that you care about them as a person, in addition to it as an employee, the customer’s going to feel that difference. So for us, it’s clear cut. And there is a trend now where leaders are feeling comfortable actually saying it out loud.

JD Dillon:

Taking care of your employees, is just the right thing to do. But that’s not always enough to motivate budget conscious executives to make a real investment in the frontline. Turns out you don’t need to be altruistic to create a great place for all. You can do it for the financial returns too.

Michael. C. Bush:

Companies that are people first, if you look at their stock performance over the last 20 years compared to companies that are not. Companies that are people first outperformed the Russell 2000, the Russell 3000 and the S&P 500 three to one. That’s not our data. It’s publicly available, hedge funds and mutual funds run those lists. There are investors who buy our list every year. And have for 20 years and made billions of dollars. We have the data to show what happens when you put your people first. So for the person who’s doing it just for how to make the most money possible, put your people first, okay? Forgetting about, you know, being good for people and better for the world. Not everybody believes in those things. So you can grab just the capitalist notion and this absolutely pays off. If somebody is doing it through positioning, they’re going to lose because through marketing positioning, you’re not going to deliver on the promise.

Michael. C. Bush:

You’re not going to have that communication where people feel like this person really cares about me, sincerely. And I feel like I am first. It’s as simple as that someone says, look, I can’t make my shift today. I have my mother-in-law to take care of who has, uh, a lung condition. And I have to move her from point a to point B in this COVID time. And I have a kid who we thought was going to start school, but now cannot start school. What does that supervisor do? We know what that supervisor should do? Put that person first and think about what’s needed for that person. We know that. At a people first organization, that’s, what’s going to happen. In a place that’s not people first they’re going to be, you got to go to work. You have to do what you know is the right thing to do for that person to be truly people first. So it’s a real experience that employees have, and they know quickly that this is a place that’s just saying it versus a place that’s doing it. But we have all the financial data. We have a book that lays out the financial data, that this is the way to industry leading market performance.

JD Dillon:

Radical workplace changes we’ve seen over the past seven months have created yet another reason for organizations to think people first, as they evolve their businesses.

Michael. C. Bush:

Let’s say a year ago, as we were talking about the future of work, we talked about not having a call center as a physical place, that everybody went to. A hundred percent of the companies involved said that will never happen. You know, maybe 20 to 30 years from now. And so big debates discussions, it landed that that will never happen. Well, guess what had happened? It just happened in like three months, call centers, evaporated, empty people, working from home, doing that work with great companies with increases in productivity. That is just totally shocked. All that money. They were paying for that place. Now, without needing that place productivity going up. So this is what’s happened in high trust places. So if you go through that experience, how can you not realize, wow, we’re making more money now? Not that this is heaven. Cause it isn’t.

Michael. C. Bush:

But actually a business model shift has occurred. The only managers that we talk to that are longing for the past, you know, kind of, I need to see you to control you. Those are low trust leaders and they wish it would go back to that, but good luck to them because other companies have figured out that you can trust people. And matter of fact, the, our data shows people working from home now are working more hours. We’re actually telling companies, you got to make sure they take a break. They can’t be doing this video thing all day long because people are out of control with it. You got to put some things in place and require that people take a break, get out, take a walk, spend some time with their pet or their kid do the whole work break or whatever they need to do. You need to be not encouraging these things. You need to be requiring these things because mental health is deteriorating. We measure that as well. People have learned a lot about people through this. Leaders I’ve talked to who didn’t realize their employee had three kids at home until they could see them walking in the background. Then they’re like, wow. They’re seeing employees through this experience and getting in touch with their humanity. Those who like the old command control way, that group is shrinking and their businesses will too.

JD Dillon:

A great place for all requires an organization to look at the whole person and not ask people to separate their personal lives from their workplace experience. This is especially important right now. As companies show what they stand for in the fight against racism.

Michael. C. Bush:

Courageous conversations are required to take courageous actions. Courageous action is needed now. Should organizations say nothing regarding what they believe in or what they don’t believe in? Well, they have a choice. I think that if they choose not to do it, then what they’re asking employees to do is go through life with certain experiences and come to work and forget all of those things. You’re at work now. So you work here. Well, robots, that’s the thing about it. They can do it, but people can’t, people can’t, you may want it to, they can’t, they can’t ignore what they see and what they heard. It shapes them in it. And it affects them. A place that’s going to be a great place to work for all. You can bring your whole self to work. You can come to work and say, yeah, I’m a member of the LGBTQ community.

Michael. C. Bush:

And the place welcomes that. Hey, I saw a video last night of somebody getting strangled to death for eight minutes and 46 seconds. And that actually is really making it hard for me today. I understand that. I get that. If there’s anything I can do to help, you know, let me know. And, and why don’t you send me the link? Cause I didn’t know anything about that. And I’d like to take a look at it. These are the things that connect us as humans and create a place where somebody feels trusted and cared for, which drives business performance. What do leaders need to do? First, they need to speak. They need to say, look, we know these things are happening and this is what we want to try and do about it. Because we feel like our responsibility here is not only to our investors and to our owners, but we have responsibility to you. Cause we’re people first and the community that you live in and the society that you live in, we can’t pretend that these things aren’t connected. And then have some listening sessions, where you’re actually hearing and really you’re crowdsourcing from employees. What they need to know more about. What are people afraid of? You know, COVID-19 in early March from the CDC, don’t wear a mask. You only need to wear a mask if you have symptoms. Three weeks later, it was, you know what? People wore a mask in 1918. It might be a good idea to wear them now. Absolutely changed. So people learn and through learning, it modified behavior. In terms of racism, it’s the same thing. People need to come together and talk and learn. So you have to speak. You have to listen and you have to learn. And then from that crowdsourcing, you know, the actions that you need to take, that’s what really gets employees going.

Michael. C. Bush:

I’m cared for. I care more about this supermarket now. I care more about this retail store now because not only do we do what we do, we’re a force for good. You were actually making things better for people in my community, people in my family, my relatives and society at large, which really activates people because people want to be a part of something that’s making things better. This is not politics that we’re talking about. These are beliefs around. Do you believe in fair and equitable society? If you do, or don’t, we think you should let your employees know so that they can choose whether to be there or not. And you can set your expectations with them at the same time, but there are companies certainly putting their heads in the sand and not wanting employees to have these conversations, but that’s really minimizing people because every person that they say, just talk about work, you know, has parents, illnesses, kids, mortgages, rent, debt. They’re dealing with complex things every day. They can deal with this too. And they can talk about this too. It’s really minimizing people to want them to be robotic.

JD Dillon:

Training is another essential part of a great workplace, but it’s not just about making sure people can do their jobs. It really comes down to one thing.

Michael. C. Bush:

This is how you show that you respect employees. This is how you show you care and you believe in them. Because you’re investing in them. People know this psychologically that this training is happening. Not so I’ll fail. This is so I’ll be successful yeah. For the business. But me too, because I’m going to get trained. It’s something that’ll help me at company XYZ and beyond that. So it’s super, super important. So when a company takes the time to do this and do it well, all of a sudden you’re getting cared for you’re feeling respected. And one of the questions we ask, do you get the resources that you need to be successful? The answer is yes, as a result of these things. And when it’s done in a very professional way that clearly the employee can feel the thought and the time and the care that was put into it. So I can get this training on my mobile device. All the signaling is, wow, this place really cares about me and really cares about us, which builds a sense of comradery. It’s absolutely critical. And the sooner, the better, because most employees get there that first day they get walked around and then your training will start in three weeks. Or they’re not even prepared for when they get to work. Those things are disrespectful. That’s what employers don’t realize, that the person goes, ah, I know the website said, I’m part of their most valuable asset, but is this what you do for a valuable asset? So the training is critically, fundamentally important. Without it you’re not going to have a great place to work for all,

JD Dillon:

But your training won’t have the desired impact unless you can combine it with consistent expectations and continuous measurement.

Michael. C. Bush:

If you don’t measure it, good luck. You’re just relying on a bunch of soft qualitative interactions that happen thousands of times, every day, you could do all the management training you want, but if you measure it and actually find out what employees are experiencing, you can say to someone, look, you’ve clearly got an issue listening. And you’ve got a problem in listening with people who are 35 to 45 years old, for some reason. We’re going to help get you trained on that. So I just did a session earlier today with a Chris the CEO of Hilton. And we just blasted that out to I think 144,000 people. So he’s making clear from the top. And we talked about two things. The two viruses. We talked about COVID-19, the virus is eight months old and we talked about racism. The virus that is 401 years old.

Michael. C. Bush:

So that’s top to bottom in a huge place operating in over 150 countries, I believe. This is getting communicated. That’s how you do it. You make it clear. Look, this is our position on these things. And every supervisor manager, shift leader, this is what’s expected. And these are the resources that we have to help you be able to do these things. And they’ve got the numbers to know where things are going great and where they have an issue and where they need to lean a little more. Because the role of leaders is to help other leaders be great. But if you don’t measure it, I just can’t imagine how you really do it and know that you’re doing it.

JD Dillon:

Employers play an essential role in building great workplaces, but employees also have an important role to play.

Michael. C. Bush:

So everybody has to look in the mirror. And so its the employer’s job to make sure managers and supervisors are treating their employees with respect, transparency, and creating a fair and equitable environment. That’s the company’s role. So for them, they’ve got to train leaders, managers, supervisors hold them accountable, help them and develop them to do those things. The employee has to make sure that other employees have a great experience with them. Employees have to care for other employees so that they feel cared for. And in return, they’ll return it. You have to extend trust, extend care in order for it to come back. That’s the mindset that when you hire an employee, you trust them immediately and maybe they’ll do something that’ll make the trusty road, but they don’t have to earn it. If you don’t think the person is trustworthy, you shouldn’t hire them. And then in terms of teamwork, working together, listening, doing your job and helping others that are there, giving managers and supervisors and feedback, giving them feedback on what kinds of things can be done to make things better for everyone here and make things better for the customer as well. The employee has a role too. So being a great place to work for all is everyone’s responsibility. The company’s got to do their part and the person has to do their part. And hopefully that’s in balance.

JD Dillon:

Ultimately it comes down to one simple idea. If you want to create a great place for all, you have to think about people first and employees, second.

Michael. C. Bush:

People first and employees second. I love that. That’s awesome. Either way. We describe it as the concept of wellness is seeing a person in 3D that’s the care we’re talking about. You’re caring about a person’s physical health. You were doing that before COVID but with COVID, you’re certainly care about that. You’re caring about a person’s mental health. You were doing that pre COVID. And you’re certainly doing that now because everybody has been affected by that. You’re concerned about a person’s financial health. You were doing that pre COVID, but you certainly should be concerned about it. Now, as we look into 2021 and don’t know what’s in front of us. You want to think about people’s commute time and how much time they’re spending commuting. You want to know something about a person what’s really important to them in terms of their benefit plan. Not to cross a boundary line, but let all employees know we care about all of you. And so how can you care about a person and not be concerned about their financial health and not monitor to make sure they understand basic things like compounding, you know, and savings. If you care about them, you have to care about those things too. A great place to work is moving in in those directions and getting people, the tools that they need access to the information they need to be able to manage those things more effectively. And the organization is just going to benefit by any support that they provide to people which differentiates an employer, one employer versus another. Because the reason people do business with great place to work, we survey this. Number one, to keep the top talent they have. Number two, to attract more talent. That’s it. It’s not to have a culture and feel good and we want everyone happy. It’s the keep top talent, and to get more top talent so that they can fulfill the mission and the purpose of the, of the organization. That’s the reason for it. That’s the business imperative. And if you do it in a way where you put the person first, of course you’re going to get more economic benefit and you’ll get these other benefits as well as terms of being better for society and better for the world.

JD Dillon:

Thank you to Michael C. Bush for joining us on the season one finale of the 80%. You can learn more about creating a great place to work for your frontline by visiting greatplacetowork.com. If you’d like to attend Michael’s keynote session at AxoniCom LIVE on Monday, September 28th, grab your free tickets right now at axonify.com/conference. Be sure to subscribe to the 80% on your favorite podcast app, you can also find all of our episodes at axonify.com/podcast. We’ll be back in just a few weeks for the start of season two, and we already have plenty of amazing frontline forward stories lined up on topics like the rapidly approaching retail holidays, building a culture of engagement at Southwest airlines, how to lead the Disney way and the future of work. Until then be kind to the frontline.

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