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[EP 13 TRANSCRIPT] How to increase employee engagement in 2020]

EPISODE 13 – How to increase employee engagement in 2020

[00:00:00] Welcome to the All-in manager podcast. I’m your host Ali. You’re in the right place. If you want to become a better boss today


[00:00:12] Folks I’ve been spending a lot of time this week, going through some  really interesting data and research on how employees are really feeling in the workplace. If you’re an employee, if you’re a manager right now, this one’s for you. I do come bearing bad news unfortunately. I got to tell you folks, the [00:00:30] picture that I’m getting reading and really studying this data is not pretty.


[00:00:35]There’s a lot of numbers I’m going to throw your way. So hopefully you can keep up. What I’ll do is I’ll share the data that I’m referencing in the show notes. So you have access to it as well.

[00:00:47] So before we start to talk about specific data, I want to share three overarching findings that the data is  clear on :

[00:00:56] The first insight we’re seeing is that managers need [00:01:00] more help than they’re getting right now. Managers are struggling across the board. And  this seems to be getting worse as time goes by.

[00:01:09] The second insight is also pretty depressing. The trust gap between employers and employees seems to be widening as this pandemic rages on. And then the third insight isn’t great, either. 

[00:01:28] The third insight talks [00:01:30] about the fact that burnout and exhaustion is real. However, burnout and exhaustion is not  impacting the workforce equally.

[00:01:42] There are certain segments of the workforce that are getting targeted a little more than some other sectors. So lets talk a little bit about that  as well. 

[00:01:54] So let’s dive into the first insight, which is the fact that managers [00:02:00] need help.  I’m going to be referencing  a McKinsey report that just dropped two weeks back.

[00:02:06] And what the report is showing is there is a big disconnect between what companies are telling their managers to do and what managers are actually doing. So here’s some data, 73% of the companies that were surveyed  asked their managers to check in weekly with their direct reports to make sure [00:02:30] that work was manageable.

[00:02:33] However, only 39% of the employees have reported that their managers actually checked in with them. Let me repeat this 73% of the companies asked their managers to check in with their direct reports to make sure work is manageable or whether they needed something. However, Only 39% of the employees said [00:03:00] that my manager checked in, but me.

[00:03:02] So there’s a big disconnect. There’s a big gap between what companies want their managers to do and what managers are actually doing.  In the same vein 68% of the companies surveyed also asked their managers to check in weekly with their direct reports to inquire about their mental wellbeing. However, only 37% of employees have reported that their manager has [00:03:30] actually asked them about their mental wellbeing.

[00:03:34] Again, big disconnect, less than 40% of the managers are actually checking in on the wellbeing and workload of their people. Now,  if I saw this data say pre COVID, I would have been disappointed, but the 40%, I think is abysmal, but I’ve would have been like, okay. About 40 to 50 to 60 is, is almost the average, unfortunately, but man, during a [00:04:00] pandemic we need to do better.

[00:04:02] Managers need to do better. I would love to see this data in the eighties. Or in the nineties. So the question is,  how do we really get better? How do we support our managers so they can start doing these weekly check ins.  number one, I think employers  need to get a little more intentional with  training.

[00:04:23] And when I talk about training, I’m not just talking about training their managers on how they can be doing one [00:04:30] on ones. I think that’s incredibly important. But employers also need to train managers on why they should be doing one-on-ones. What is the importance behind connecting individually with their direct reports?

[00:04:44]The second point in my opinion is equally, if not more important, in addition to training is that leaders should be modeling this behavior.

[00:04:55] You know, just saying something is important, but I want to see [00:05:00] leaders actually. Walk the walk. I want leaders to start doing one-on-ones with their direct reports. So who’s listening right now. I would love for you to start meeting with your SVPs, your chief operating officer home ever on a one on one basis.

[00:05:17] So other people in your organization start to take notes as well. I think leaders do a good job  of. Talking about this, but they don’t do a great job at [00:05:30] times of modeling their behavior. 

[00:05:33] I think one-on-one, they’re extremely important if you’re a long time listener of mine, you know, you’ve probably heard of. Couple of my podcasts, specifically talking about them, importance of one on ones.

[00:05:45] I link in the show notes, but if you’re not doing one on ones right now, the data is crystal clear on the importance of doing these specific meetings. So my hope is you started doing one-on-one. If you’re struggling  to do a [00:06:00] one-on-one check out the podcast or  reach out to me

[00:06:02]the second insight talks about the fact that the trust gap seems to be widening between employer and employee. So this time I’m going to be referencing a different study. This is IBM and Oxford.

[00:06:16] they interviewed 3,400 leaders and more than 50,000 employees and the data is actually scary. So. 74% of employers believe that [00:06:30] they are doing a good job, helping their teams learn the skills to work  or to cope with COBIT 74% of the employers are saying that they’re doing that. However, only 38% of employees agree with that statement.

[00:06:48] That’s crazy  80 per cent of the employers are saying that they believe the organization is supporting the physical and emotional health outfits workforce. But when you ask the same question to [00:07:00] employees, only 46% of the employees agree that the organization is supporting the physical and emotional health of its workforce.

[00:07:09] Another stat, which is pretty alarming is  that 86% of the organization believes that it’s providing clear guidelines and expectations for how the organization will work. During 20, 20, 86% of the employers feel that they’re doing a good job of explaining guidelines to their people. [00:07:30] However, only 51% of employees agree with this statement.

[00:07:34] So it’s pretty clear that employees and employers are not aligned on these critical initiatives. So how do we get better? Well, leaders need to double down on the clarity of their communication, not just the [00:08:00] frequency of their communication. See it matters if you repeat your message, but what is the point?

[00:08:07] If your message is not clear? So you want to start to double down, especially HR departments need to start doubling down on the clarity off the message. Here’s another thing. And this is specifically if you’re an HR leader. Employee HR needs to clarify what types of benefits [00:08:30] are available for or to their employees.

[00:08:34] Almost 50% of employees don’t know what is  available to them as part of their benefits packet. So again, this could be an employee issue. Absolutely. An employee might not have read up on what is available to them. However  I want to put the onus on HR a little bit. Your HR needs to [00:09:00] communicate this message in an interesting and any compelling manner.

[00:09:07] I’ve been talking to a couple of HR leaders and what they’re doing is they are creating virtual office hours where you can just log into zoom at a particular time. And you can ask any question you want to, I know of another startup,  which has created a Slack channel for benefits, where.

[00:09:26] HR is  available and people can Slack in their [00:09:30] questions and HR can either answer them on Slack or they can jump on an individual call so that this person’s privacy is  protected. So there are a lot of ways in which we can align. On the messaging. I keep telling leaders. It doesn’t matter if you’ve said it once a lot of leaders telling me, Hey man, I’ve communicated.

[00:09:54] I had a meeting or I emailed, you gotta keep [00:10:00] reading and forcing the message, but you gotta reinforce the message in a clear and in a compelling. Fashion reinforcement is incredibly important, but what’s the point. If you’re reinforcing more confusion, so get better on the frequency, but try to emphasize on the clarity, half the content as best as possible.

[00:10:26] Okay. So the third insight is about burnout and exhaustion. [00:10:30] And what the data is telling us is that burnout and exhaustion is rampant right now. However, it’s also not impacting everyone equally. So let me share some of the data  , this data is coming courtesy of McKinsey and McKinsey asked  a number of companies and employees, this question.

[00:10:46] And here’s the question in the last few months, which of the. Following, have you consistently felt at work? Let me repeat the question in the last few months, which of the following have you [00:11:00] consistently felt at work and here at word, the options?  one is I felt excluded. The second one is I was pressured to work more.

[00:11:09] Third is I’m burned out. The fourth is I am exhausted. Okay. So.  the number one response that popped up is exhausted. And the number two response that popped up is I am burnt out.  , not surprising data here, burnout and exhaustion is something that all of [00:11:30] us are feeling. However, would the data also shed some light on was that senior level women and black women.

[00:11:38] Are experiencing the highest amount of burnout and the highest amount of exhaustion. Which begs the question, huh? How do we start to combat this burnout and this exhaustion? So I have three opinions here that I want to share with  you. Number one,  companies need to [00:12:00] start giving more wellness days  for its employees.

[00:12:03] And when I talk about a wellness day, I mean, giving a Friday off  for people to recuperate or giving a Monday off for people to just recharge their batteries. I’m hearing of a lot of companies that are starting to do that. A lot of  startups are saying, Hey, we’re going to start giving  every other Friday off or one Friday, a month off.

[00:12:23] However, I think companies need to do a. Better job for the companies that are giving wellness [00:12:30] days. That’s amazing  I am really happy to hear that, but the companies that are not doing it at this point, I would love for more companies to start doing this as well. The other thing companies need to do again is train their managers.

[00:12:44] Yours do help their employees  with. Prioritizing their projects, folks, the data is crystal clear here. When managers help their employees prioritize projects, everyone does [00:13:00] better. We are exhausted and veer burnt out because. You know, there’s a lot of political unrest. There’s a lot of social unrest.

[00:13:09] Obviously we’re going through a pen day. I make be still have so much on our plate as far as work is concerned. And I think that’s a lever, which is a little flexible than all other things that are going around. I think managers. Can help take some pressure off their employees [00:13:30]  as far as workloads are concerned.

[00:13:31] Now I know it’s not easy. I, I hear you. It is not easy to take projects off someone’s plate, but it is worth a try. So I’m encouraging managers to get their employees to at least have a conversation around  priorities. I think having the conversation  is a good signal to start moving in the right direction.

[00:13:57] The other thing companies need to start doing, and some [00:14:00] companies that are already doing this by the way is they need to start adjusting their goals and OKR, what was possible pre COVID might not be attainable in this climate. I think companies need to start realizing that. And when I say some of these goals might be unattainable, I am in no way implying that we are giving up on these goals.

[00:14:27] I’m not saying to give up on goals. What I’m [00:14:30] saying is we might need to defer some these goals if possible  so that we are in the right frame of mind. Mine to attack these projects,  we’ll have to slow down so we can speed up. We need to help our employees catch their breath literally and figuratively.

[00:14:52] So I really think companies need to start looking into their own KRS and they need to start adjusting. Some of their [00:15:00] OKR is here. So employees feel a little relieved in the process. So the big three findings, I know not a lot of great news here, but you know, there’s not a whole lot of doom and gloom as well.

[00:15:16] I’ve been advising a lot of the leaders that these problems are serious, but they’re not insurmountable. but one thing is for certain, these problems are not going to go away [00:15:30] anytime soon, if we don’t have the willingness or the ability take action, we have to start taking action.

[00:15:39] Action could mean training our managers, action could mean leading by example or action could mean just starting to have authentic conversations with our employees. and doing a good job of listening to them. Sometimes you don’t even have to do a lot. Sometimes all our employees want is [00:16:00] someone who can listen to what it is that they’re going through.

[00:16:05] I’m going to share the visuals in the show notes. So you can see  the data for yourself, a link to the McKinsey report as well. And if you want, you can share that. With your leaders, I’ve highlighted the rule for you. It’s a really long report.

[00:16:23] It’s 60 pages, but I’ve highlighted the report for you. So, so you have that and if you’re a leader or I would [00:16:30] strongly encourage you to encourage you to read the report. And if you’re not, I would still encourage you to read the report and, or shared the report with, You know, the head of HR or video your video manager?

[00:16:43] Well, that’s all we have for today. Folks, if you like this podcast, please subscribe on iTunes. Or if you’re on Spotify, follow me on Spotify. You’ll find this podcast and all. Podcast apps.  when you subscribe on iTunes or if you follow me on Spotify, [00:17:00] it helps other managers, like you find this valuable content,  until next time, see ya.

[Exercise] Shrinking the gap between thinking and saying.

I hate that feeling when I’m frustrated with someone and I can’t get myself to clearly communicate my feelings.

This is a major reason why managers are stressed out all the time. The gap between what they’re thinking and saying (or not saying) is a shadow that keeps following them around.

I routinely hear something like this from managers:

  • “My direct report is missing deadlines, and I don’t know how to tell her.”
  • “Jake always takes all the credit. I wish he’d stop.”
  • “My boss ignores me in our staff meetings. I don’t know how to tell him.”

So how do we get better at productively shrinking the gap between our thoughts and words?

Introducing the Left-Hand Column Exercise (developed by Harvard and MIT professors)

1. Pick an important conversation you’ve recently had.

2. Draw a line down the center of a sheet of paper.

3. In the right column, reconstruct the conversation to the best of your ability – e.g., I said this, then he said this, then I said this, etc.

4. In the left column, write down what you were thinking and feeling at the moment that each thing was being said.

5. Review both columns

Here’s an example:

No alt text provided for this image

Once you’ve done the exercise. Try answering the following:

  1. Are there differences between your external dialogue and internal thoughts & feelings?
  2. Do you find yourself holding back with people who have more authority than you? (or everyone?)
  3. Since you’re holding back your words, what type of signals is your body language giving?
  4. What’s the reason for holding back. Is it a) fear b) confidence c) or are you protecting their feelings?
  5. What’s the worse that can happen if you communicated what you were thinking?
  6. What’s the cost of not communicating?

Productively closing the gap between what we’re thinking and what we’re saying makes for richer conversation and a definite increase in trust (and sometimes vulnerability).

Supercharge your teams with this framework

I’m really excited about the feedback tool I’m sharing today.

Most leaders and teams are leaving good money on the table by not exchanging feedback.

When teams rapidly exchange feedback, magic happens:

✅  Teams improve faster.

✅ Your employees will learn to trust each other more.

✅ Teams feel more confident to innovate.

Introducing the IL/IW/WI framework

I first learned about the “I Like, I Wish, What If” framework from the Stanford d. school. This is a popular technique for teams to exchange rapid feedback without stepping on anyone’s toes.

How does the IL/IW/WI work?

Let’s assume your team’s struggling to engage clients during a QBR.

Step 0: Schedule a feedback session with your team.

👉 Purpose: Share candid feedback on how the QBR went and ideas for improvement.

Step 1 goal: Individuals start by sharing what they liked about the presentation. (The order is important)

  • I liked how we allocated more time for the Q&A section.”
  • “I liked our clock management. We didn’t go over.”
  • “I liked how we engaged the SVP from the start.”

Step 2 goal: Individuals share one thing they wish could’ve been done differently.

  • I wish we had better timelines for our roll-out section.”
  • I wish we had better answers for the CMO.”
  • I wish we had smoother transitions between sections.”

Step 3 goal: Individuals share a “what if” to recommend areas of improvement.

  • What if we did a dry-run next time?”
  • What if we tried fewer slides, more demo?”
  • What if we worked together on building the agenda?”

Step 4 goal: Step back and analyze the full picture together.

As a leader, I want you to facilitate the session by getting curious:

  • Jim, what did you like about our engagement with the SVP?”
  • “Pam, how can we make our timelines better next time?”
  • “Dwight, tell me more about the new format you’re suggesting.”


  • Listen, observe, and ask questions.
  • Thank people for their courage.
  • Rinse and repeat.


  • Blame and shame.
  • Nitpick in this session.


[I like] motivates your employees.

Adding the phrase “I like” at the start of your feedback gives it more weight. Just saying “I like” intentionally will make your feedback meaningful to the listener.

When everyone shares what they like, team morale goes up.

[I wish] makes feedback digestible without the heartburn. ​

Adding the phrase “I wish” at the start of your feedback makes it safe for the giver and receiver.

It’s a great way for teams to share constructive feedback in a pleasant way. The focus is on learning together, not blame and shame.

[What if] will open up possibilities you didn’t know existed.

The phrase “What if” teaches your teams the courage to look into the future and build their risk-taking muscle. Progress can’t be made if teams don’t have the ability to future-focus.

Without a system of rapid feedback, most teams will remain stuck.

I hope you try this exercise. Let me know how it goes.


How to coach your employees to prioritize

Its no surprise, we’re working longer hours, and our stress levels are on the rise.

Now more than ever, your employees need your help.

Today’s video will show you step by step how you can help your employees prioritize their projects and get back on track.

​Also, according to research, successful employees strongly agree with the following statements:

✅ My manager helps me set work priorities.

✅ My manager helps me set performance goals.

I know you’re busy; however, spending 15 minutes with your employee helping them prioritize can make all the difference.

I’d love to know how this exercise goes.

Keep leading.


PS: ICYMI – Here’s a podcast on 3 time-tested tactics to manage a remote team.

3 coaching experiments to increase performance

We’re in the 6th month of WFH, and some teams are starting to feel the pain. (FYI – I’m constantly hearing about motivation issues)

How’s your team doing?

According to new research. The pandemic workday is a different beast:

  • We’re working 48 minutes longer.
  • We’re attending more meetings with more people.
  • And, we’re sending (and receiving) more email.
  • [UPSIDE] – The additional meetings are shorter.

As a leader, you need to keep experimenting with different solutions to see how you can help your team sustain forward momentum. Today I’m sharing three that work well.

Experiment #1: Offer to reprioritize

Successful employees strongly agree with the following statements:

My manager helps me set work priorities ✅
My manager helps me set performance goals ✅

We have years of data that proves employees whose managers help them set priorities and goals are more productive.

​I encourage you to meet with your employee and go through their priorities not in a micro-managey way but in a “Lets-look-at-it-together-way can be cathartic.

Experiment #2: Offer more control

One effective motivation strategy is giving your employees more autonomy and control over their day. Experimenting with simple questions like the following will go a long way.

  • Does our current 1:1 time still work?
  • What would you like to change about your current work schedule?
  • Are there any projects you need me to step out?

Agency over our lives is a powerful drug. When our bosses step up and give us more autonomy – we get a boost of motivation.

BTW – Please keep doing your 1:1s with your managers. The following data is showing 1:1s are decreasing the time employees are spending at work (Increased efficiency)

Experiment #3: Optimize for quick wins

If your employee is struggling, try giving them tasks that come with quick wins. You’ll be surprised how a word of encouragement and praise can get them going again. If you see something good, say something good.

Encouragement remains undefeated in the workplace.

Your employees want help and coaching more than ever before. These experiments are worth your time. You have nothing to lose.

Good luck,

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