You can also listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.
Author and speaker Erica Keswin joins the program to discuss the importance of paying attention to the human aspects of work, and how a lack of flexibility in the workplace can ultimately hurt a company’s ability to recruit and retain talent. Discover the steps that leaders can take to help reduce employee stress levels and examples of what a human conversation would look like between a manager and employee. Erica also reveals how to help employees from marginalized groups build community and connection.
In this episode you’ll discover:
- The opportunity to create a work environment that is inspiring and inclusive (6:00)
- How lack of workplace flexibility can hurt retention (8:00)
- Creative solutions for dealing with “digital overwhelm” (15:00)
- How leaders can help reduce employee stress levels (22:00)
- How to encourage connection and collaboration in the workplace (27:00)
- What top talent are looking for in a workplace culture (31:00)
- An example of a “human conversation” at work (33:00)
- How to decide on the best method of communication (36:00)
- How to help marginalized employees build community and connection (39:00)
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
JENNIFER BROWN: Erica, welcome to The Will to Change.
ERICA: Thank you so much for having me.
JENNIFER BROWN: We met on the stage of S.H.E. Summit, which is a fabulous women’s conference in New York City. And we talked a lot about the topic that we’re going to talk about today. We had so much fun. I think we did a little photo shoot in the bathroom, actually, come to think of it. (Laughter.)
ERICA KESWIN: Right.
JENNIFER BROWN: Which is where all business happens. So, we had a fun laugh in there. Maybe we can elaborate on why that was so funny a little later.
Erica has written a book called Bring Your Human to Work. And, again, it’s one of those titles that stops me in my track because, you know, we talk so much on The Will to Change about bring your whole self to work, bring your full self to work. And we say that a lot in the context of diversity and inclusion issues, of course. Typically, we’ll be talking about being in a minority from an identity perspective and how that impacts whether and how comfortable you feel bringing your full self to work.
Erica’s book touches on that, but so much more as well in terms of the creation of belonging in the workplace, which is shifting in huge ways from generations to the way spaces are designed at work, to flex, to meeting etiquette, to the virtualization of the workplace. So, your book is really for anyone who wants to be on top of the latest and greatest companies doing the most initiative things. I want to give your book a real shout-out for accomplishing that, Erica. Thank you.
ERICA KESWIN: Thank you so much.
JENNIFER BROWN: I can’t wait to hear about all of that, but we always start The Will to Change with people’s diversity stories. And let’s start by hearing what you would like to share that is your diversity story that has led you to be so, perhaps, passionate about building these more inclusive workplaces where everyone can thrive.
ERICA KESWIN: Right. So, when I think about sharing stories, I try to share really personal ones. Again, when you talk about bringing your human to work, literally, I want to bring my human to this podcast and share a personal story that I’ve actually never shared before.
I recently – my mom fell ill and was in the hospital. I have a sister who is two years younger than I am, and then when I was in college, my mom adopted two kids who are African American and Chinese and they’re about 20 years younger than I am.
And, you know, they have been part of our family for as long as I can remember. And over the last couple of months, we’ve been in the hospital and dealing with these different things. And I was able to see and experience firsthand how she was treated in one of my adopted sisters in certain situations versus how I was treated in the hospital. And it really struck me. And even though Kiki, my sister, is more knowledgeable, she’s studying to be a nurse and had a lot more knowledge about many aspects of my mother’s care. She lived closer, she’s there more than I am, yet everybody was looking to me as the expert.
And what also struck me was having Kiki see it as well and the impact that it was having on her. One day she said, “Wow, I just had a meeting with them and they barely would give me the time of day, you show up and all of a sudden everybody is standing at attention really giving you what you need.”
I felt badly, but immediately began to think of the workplace and whether it’s conscious or unconscious bias that we bring into situations and how this happens more often than we realize.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. That’s what I study all day. It’s a pretty heavy thing to study because it’s pervasive and impacts how people feel welcomed and valued in the workplace and is directly tied to their ability to contribute and their willingness to contribute. So, I think the workplace, you and I know it’s where we spend so much of our lives. We want it to not just be a job, although for some of us that may be how work will always feel, but there is a real opportunity which you write so eloquently about and document so well with different companies from Jet Blue to Warby Parker to Microsoft. You collected pieces that have been either poorly handled or ignored about the workplace for so long. Diversity is just one of those many things. Thank you for sharing that story and for role-modeling the power of stories, too, which I know you also write about in the book, too.
Erica, I don’t even know where to start. There is so much that’s interesting. I wanted you to share, were you the beleaguered worker? Were there moments in your professional life – I know you were a management consultant for a while – managing a really intense environment? Were there moments when you were on the other side of what you’re writing about now that really lit your fire to study this, document it, and push companies to do better?
ERICA KESWIN: That’s a great question. I’ve been on both sides. On the one hand, I’ve had amazing mentors and managers and leaders. I actually talk about them in the acknowledgements of my book, two men that I worked for who really let me shine and taught me everything without any ego involved.
So, on the one hand, I’ve had really positive experiences. On the flip side, yeah, we’ve all had certain things that have happened at work where we say, “How can this happen?” or, “There must be a better way.”
One anecdote that jumps out – I won’t name the name of the firm, but when I was at one of the consulting firms that I worked for, I had had twins. I had twins later in life and was looking for some workplace flexibility. I remember one of the most senior women at the firm said to me, “You can work from home one day a week, just don’t make it on Friday so that everybody will notice.” It was almost this whisper that I had to do it while hiding. That ended up feeling really crappy and I ended up leaving.
In the chapter that touches on diversity in my book, I call it, “playing the long game,” that I believe that if you want to achieve real diversity and inclusion, and you know this better than anyone, you need to have what I call in the book “intentional work practices.” You need to have real flexibility that is intentional and overt and not this little whisper behind the corner, because it’s not going to help and then people leave and you’ll never achieve those goals. As we know, and as I’m sure many of your listeners know, that real diversity has incredible bottom-line implications.
So, we need to be overt. Those were pieces of things that I was beginning to see as I connected the dots to have the information to decide to write the book.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. And I think you give the example of if you’re leaving to go do something family related, to leave loudly. I loved that. (Laughter.)
ERICA KESWIN: That was a great story. It was a CEO from PepsiCo who runs New Zealand and Australia. That was his thing, leaving loudly. So, he’d get ready to leave at 4:00 to see his son’s baseball game, and he’s going to yell from the rafters that he’s out of there. Or when people come back from a vacation, I don’t think it’s in the book, but there’s a company in New York called Food52. I mention them a few times, but I don’t think this anecdote is in there. When they go on vacation, they actually close one week in the winter and one week in the summer. And they have a hashtag. It’s #F52SummerWeek. They’re promoting and they want everybody to opt in to post pictures of their vacation and to highlight that people are taking time off away and being flexible and managing work/life integration and all of that.
The word “intentional” just keeps coming up in my mind over and over because as cheesy as this sounds, left to our own devices, we’re often not connecting and we’re not disconnecting.
JENNIFER BROWN: Right. We’re in this weird netherworld of, well, the company says I can take parental leave, but I’m a father and none of the men that I see around me are taking leave. Even though we have the policy, I’m not going to take it. It’s fascinating to me that we watch other people’s behaviors and we take our cue not from what the stated policy is, but what other people choose or don’t choose to do. Those are the unspoken norms that we feel will harm our career if we don’t read the tea leaves correctly.
ERICA KESWIN: Right. Leaders have to model this. There’s a company called Humanyze based on Boston and Ben Waber is the CEO. He wrote an article about how at his company, they have mandatory parental leave. They don’t want it to be an issue where it’s just women who are taking leave when they have kids, and they know how great it is when a dad can bond with a newborn baby, but they take it out of the equation. And, again, it goes back to making it overt and trying to equalize the playing field.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. I loved Gavin Newsom in California had his kid running around on the stage during his acceptance speech.
ERICA KESWIN: Yes.
JENNIFER BROWN: We are starting to see a different era of parenting not being as gendered and normative. When we think of parents, we don’t just think of mothers or there’s room for single parents and all kinds of different families.
ERICA KESWIN: Or it could be that you’re leaving to take care of your elderly parent.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s caregiving.
ERICA KESWIN: You don’t even need to have kids.
JENNIFER BROWN: Absolutely.
ERICA KESWIN: We have lives outside of work. It’s funny, I just had a meeting before this podcast. Some of this is also being driven by the new generation. Millennials, gen Z, they’re going to demand these kinds of things. So it’s less about men versus women, it’s more about humans and that this is what they’re going to want in a workplace. And if company wants to be able to be an employer of choice and attract and retain top talent, this needs to be on the table.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. That’s why I love the title of your book, Bring Your Human to Work, it’s actually a great universal word for all of us and what we all share. I often say that what is being called, whether entitlement or other pejorative stereotypes of younger talent, to me it’s an ask and an expectation to be treated as a full human. In stark relief to how my generation felt about our place in the workplace, right? Being beholden to an employer, not being able to ask for what we wanted from an employer and in the workplace environment. Honestly, I’m not even sure we would have known what to ask for because we weren’t raised in that time, right?
I welcome a very awakened, young workforce who’s coming in saying, “Well, why isn’t work this way? Why isn’t all of me embraced? Why do I have to navigate these norms that feel exclusionary?” I think that’s actually adding some needed fuel to the fire of the work I’m doing at the top of the house where I’m still dealing with an older generation that’s struggling to keep up, apparently not in the companies you write about in the book, but certainly a lot of my clients.
ERICA KESWIN: No company is perfect. These are anecdotes and examples, and there are always going to be managers who do it really well and others who struggle. It’s a moving target. It’s something ongoing that we have to keep in the forefront of our mind.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s absolutely right. I love that you frame all of this in workplace sustainability. When we talk about sustainability as a word, we usually think about corporate social responsibility or resource management or factories all over the world or materials. We don’t often think about how do people sustain themselves. How does a company where we spend so much of our lives, how do we ensure people feel refreshed, energized, energetic, and feel that they can really turn off work for substantial periods of time, not just in the optics of it, but for real? Tell us about vacation utilization and creative e-mail solutions that deal with the digital overload of our lives. How are some of the companies you profiled dealing with the overwhelming amount of information coming at us and this 24/7 culture that technology has created and that we’re expected to function in?
ERICA KESWIN: Right. There is a chapter in the book called Disconnect to Reconnect. Each chapter in the book I approach as I want to share the science and stories of connection at work, so data and what the studies are showing, and then who is doing what and what’s working.
So, as a country, the U.S. has always been behind other countries in terms of how much vacation we take, which is typically not enough, versus other countries, especially in Europe, that literally will shut down in the summer.
Another trend that I talk about is companies are moving toward having unlimited vacation. And in the beginning, everybody thought that was a great idea. In reality, at many organizations, when there’s unlimited vacation, when you look at the data, employees are actually taking less vacation. There are no boundaries. How much should I take? I don’t know. Should I take any?
At the little-known secret is that many companies have unlimited vacation, it can be a tax benefit, especially if you’re a startup organization. If you only have a few people and somebody doesn’t take all of their vacation and then they leave, you have to pay them for unused vacation. But if you have unlimited vacation, you don’t. So, it’s all sort of wrapped up in unlimited vacation. A, it doesn’t always work because nobody’s modeling it, and B, it’s really better for the company than for the employees.
So, what to do about it? Part of it is modeling to ensure the guy from PepsiCo who leaves loudly, or the person that talks about their vacation to actually do it. There’s a fun anecdote from a Barri Rafferty, who is the CEO of Ketchum PR. The day that she was promoted to become the CEO of the company, she realized what day it was going to be that she was going to take over. She had a safari vacation planned with her college-age kids, who are hard to schedule as it is with all the moving parts. One of her mantras had always been, “Don’t leave a vacation day on the table.” She said to herself, “This is moment of truth.” Instead of moving the date to when she was going to become the formal CEO or hiding behind it like the woman at my company wanted me to do, she put it out there in a company-wide e-mail. She said, “Look, it’s my belief that you shouldn’t leave a vacation day on the table, this is what I’m doing. Yes, it’s my first week, but I’m going to be on this safari. This is something that’s important and we want this to be part of our culture.”
I talk about the importance of taking the values off the walls and into the halls. If this is something that’s important to you as an organization, you’ve got to do it, you need to celebrate it. You need to share it, whether that’s at an all-hands meeting, whether that’s on a Slack channel, or whether it’s on the Food52 hashtag. There are a lot of different ways.
One other example in the book is a guy from Google who shared from me – and this is another trend in many organizations, looking at using data, workplace analytics, people analytics to drive some of these values.
At Google, if you have a certain number of vacation days that are accrued and unused, you get a ping from HR saying, “Hey, Jennifer, how are you, hope all is well. Looks like you haven’t taken any vacation in a while.” It reminds you.
I just ran into a guy recently who said, “I just got another ping.” What’s funny is at Google you will continue to get a ping, a nudge you can call it, every ten days until those numbers start to drop. It’s another approach.
One last thing I would say is that you could have all the policies in the world and you can have a CEO like Barri Rafferty who believes this, but oftentimes it comes down to individual managers.
What I urge managers to do is meet with their team, talk about how, when, and where people like to work. It’s one thing talking about vacation, but what about on an average Tuesday? You go home from work, what are the expectations? Are you allowed to put your phone down? Do you have to have it next to your bed? That isn’t good for so many reasons. What are the rules of the road?
Even beyond vacation, one of the bigger areas of stress is in your average week, when and how do you need to be connected? And managers need to be having those conversations because if you don’t, there is oftentimes an assumption that you always need to be on, and then that, then, leads to people quitting and unwanted turnover.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. I love that. And we always follow what the leader does, right? And the leader often isn’t even aware of the little things they’re doing that encourage that always-on expectation, whether they expect it or not. What they do is watched.
ERICA KESWIN: Right. It’s as simple as one manager who shared with me that she met with her team, she says to her team, “Okay, everybody, this is how I work. I have three kids. When I get home from 6:30-8:30, if you need me, text me or call me, but I’m not on e-mail.” But then she went on to say even more important, especially she had a lot of young people working for her that want to have a life, want to go out on a date, want to go to the gym and be able to put their phone away if they’re at a 45-minute Soul Cycle class. She said, “I just want you to know that I happen to be a night owl, and when my kids go to bed, I typically send e-mails between 10:00 and midnight, but you don’t have to worry about them. Unless we’ve had a prior conversation where you’re working on something that’s mission critical and we’ve already discussed it, you don’t need to answer those e-mails.” Just having that conversation reduces the level of stress and, again, provides guidance in terms of how people can disconnect in order to reconnect.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. To your point earlier, making things overt. We always say, “Well, they should know that that’s okay.” But I would argue, no, how many times do we need to hear a community before it’s successfully received and believed? I just made that up. You know, we need to over communicate until people really hear it and really believe it and take it on board, change their behavior, and feel they have the permission to do that.
You know what other pieces I loved in reading the book? I think a lot about office plans and seating arrangements. There is also the virtualization of the workplace as well. I wondered as somebody who looks at workplaces and how we’re designing them for the future, are you seeing a continued acceleration of the virtualization of work overall? Or are you seeing a reorientation towards the office or perhaps towards the utilization of what we call the “third space,” which might be WeWork, Breather, spaces outside between home and office, but neither one.
I wondered also if you could tell us about some of the innovations around office architecture and design that is having an equalization effect on belonging and collaboration that you’ve seen that you talk about in the book?
ERICA KESWIN: So, first to answer your question, I would say it’s all of the above in terms of those trends. We’re only going to see more and more people working remotely, whether it’s part time, full time. That’s only going to increase. Sometimes people will say, “Well, how does that work in terms of connection and bringing your human to work?” And what I often say to that is when you have protocols around meetings and how people communicate, those protocols are even more important with remote employees and talking about how those conversations take place. We can certainly talk more about that.
I would say in terms of physical offices, we have Yahoo and IBM that went from everybody being remote to everybody coming back into the office. I would say I’m seeing a little bit of that, but not a huge, huge amount.
Again, it goes back to the word that you and I have both been using, which is about being intentional. So that when we are in the office, let’s make sure that we are all connecting in the office. You don’t want to come into the office and have nobody there.
The company that’s in the book, Food52, has something called “work from home Wednesdays.” They put some humor behind it, but they said, “We know life happens. We know that you might have to help move Aunt Bessie’s piano, but if you can, try to do it on a Wednesday.” They know that we need to take care of things outside in our life and there’s this convergence between life and work. But they also know that there are real personal and professional benefits from connecting with people in their office.
There is a correlation between bumping into people and creativity and innovation. That’s why we have those coffee conversations, the watercooler talk. Those are real things. I bumped into you at that conference and started chatting about things. Our minds were racing, and we’ve spoken a couple times since then. Now I’m on the podcast.
When you are in the office, I talk about the importance of curating those conversations and using the space to do it. It’s not as easy as saying, “Okay, everybody come into the office,” because you might have a lot of people in the office and everybody’s off in their own offices on their phones or texting into a meeting down the hall.
I guess what I’m saying, it’s less about whether you’re outside the office or inside the office, but it’s about curating those conversations and bringing people together in an intentional way.
JENNIFER BROWN: What was that company that has a lottery for seating arrangements? They have an open office plan, but they are super intentional about forcing you to work next to different people at certain junctures to build mini cohorts using data and technology. I would imagine some companies do this by hand, intentionally, to make sure they’re breaking down silos so that the product team is sitting next to the marketing team or people from the product team are next to people from the marketing team even so that there will be that cross-pollination.
Again, left to their own devices, if you aren’t intentional about this, people will go and sit in the same place, they will put their headphones on, right? You have so many interesting ways that companies are trying to engineer that in a way that causes unexpected collaboration and actually refreshes it on a regular basis. It’s not even like you can settle into a habit. As soon as you do that, they do the whole process again and you’re next to somebody else with a different group of six people that you didn’t know.
ERICA KESWIN: Right. One of the other things you made me think of that I often say is, “This is not rocket science, but it’s not easy and it takes discipline.” It takes someone saying, “I want to think about this and figure it out and get everybody on board.” To your point, you need to tell somebody something seven times for something to sink in anyway.
In a very small example, but something that really struck me recently, I was in LA where we know there is a ridiculous amount of traffic. If you are going to come into the office, it’s a real investment in time. This was at one of the big consulting firms. Oftentimes, you’re at a client site. One of the women was saying that they try to coordinate so that if you are getting in your car and driving an hour and a half to get in the office, that you do get together with colleagues, that you’re not just there by yourself. She was talking to herself out loud, but also to me, and she said, “When I do come and connect with people, I’m just happier. It makes for a much more pleasant ride home.” It goes back to this idea of good things happen when people connect. The biggest health risk facing our country today is not smoking or second-hand smoke, it’s isolation and loneliness.
Part of this comes down to we are humans and we are wired to connect. From a workplace perspective, there’s a very positive correlation between connection and performance. I would say whether that’s personal performance, health, wellness, engagement, satisfaction at work, but also the bottom line.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. Speaking of consulting, there are so many assignments that are in the past handed out. You will be working on this team. You will be working with this client. To our larger point here, the authority and the agency, the more agency you can give people, the happier they’re going to be in terms of what they’re working on an also who they’re working with and giving as much choice as possible.
Do you think when you’re in a services business, is that change really happening where there’s a lot more give and take between what works for employees and where they desire to work, what projects they want to work on, who they want to do it with? Versus the old way that work has been assigned from the top. I know the answer, but it’s that whole idea of agency and being treated like humans instead of children. That’s the big change we’re seeing here that I hope continues, obviously.
ERICA KESWIN: Especially in a tight job market. These things matter to people. There are a lot of consulting firms, there are a lot of investment banks, there are a lot of law firms. It’s hard to find great people.
Now, one of the companies in the book is called Vynamic, which is a healthcare consulting firm. I highlight that the CEO used to work at one of the big, well-known consulting firms. In consulting and many service businesses, you’re burnt out, you’re at the beck and call of your clients and can’t have any type of work/life balance, work/life integration, whatever you want to call it.
He said to himself one day, “There’s got to be a better way.” It shouldn’t have to be like this. And so he started his own healthcare consulting firm with the goal of it being one of the healthiest companies in the world. I profile him in my wellness chapter called Be Well. I do a bit of a deep dive on it because wellness at work is a fairly new concept and it’s about much more than giving everybody a Fitbit.
I was a little cynical when I started hearing some of his stories and went to visit. I remember sitting in the lunchroom. People would just stop by. Nothing was scripted, they didn’t even know I was going to be there. Dan is all about talking to his employees about what’s interesting to them from a professional development standpoint and also from a personal perspective.
I’m sitting in the conference room and a woman walked over. She had just come back to Vynamic from her second maternity leave. As an aside, she said that she could win the lottery and she’d still come back and work for the company.
JENNIFER BROWN: Wow, impressive.
ERICA KESWIN: But she shared with me that when she got back from her maternity leave, her manager sat down with her and said, “Okay, these are the projects that we have. Project A is one that really would be a stretch assignment. These are skills that you talked about wanting to gain. You might have to be on the road a little bit more, here are the pros and cons.”
This other one is probably something that you could do with your eyes closed, so not as challenging, but given that you just came back from maternity leave and you have a three-year-old toddler at home, this might be the best call. What companies out there are actually willing to have these very human conversations? They end up being good for the employee, good for the business. There’s a huge amount of attrition in consulting and some of these other service firms. Not only is it really hard to get a job at Vynamic, but nobody leaves.
To your point, it behooves companies to think about people as humans and treating them as such.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. I want to put a finer point on the difference when you are a woman in the business world. You and I talked about women in particular being ground zero for, you said, “putting ourselves last.” I was groaning with recognition. Particularly in tech with the overwhelm and the virtual workplace becoming more and more a part of our lives, folks who have never felt like they belong in the workplace, I wonder whether they’re at more risk or whether this is actually a really great time to be somebody who is “the only” on any given team. I know it’s probably both and neither, but what reflections felt important to you as you were writing this about people who work in a place where nobody else looks like them?
ERICA KESWIN: Well, goes back to this line of, “Left to our devices, we’re not connecting.” The technology is designed to suck us in, and oftentimes we will send a text or an e-mail instead of picking up the phone or instead of walking down the hall.
That can be a real problem. I can speak personally as a woman in the workplace that if I’m sitting in my office and multitasking during a conference call instead of taking the time to walk down the hall and connect with my boss or make some cross-functional or cross-organizational relationships, that’s going to hurt me. Really, it could hurt anyone, but if you are “the only,” you’re starting out at a different point. It’s even more important for you to do what I call, “Match the message to the medium.” Think about all the different ways to communicate, from instant message to text to e-mail to picking up the phone to walking down the hall to getting on a plane, and they’re all not created equal.
But what I see from a societal perspective is that we are defaulting to that technological end of the spectrum. And we need to pause and say, “Do I want to move to a new department? Do I want to make sure that my voice is heard? Do I need a new mentor? Do I want to make sure that I’m meeting people in other parts of the organization?” With technology, we feel like we’re swimming against a current. We need to force ourselves to stop, match the message to the medium, and get out of our own way. Speaking as a woman, whether you have kids or elderly parents, we tend to be caregivers by nature. On a given day, if I have a lunch break, I can sit in my office, and I have 7,000 things I could be doing whether it’s for myself, work, kids, or whatever. To move my business forward, I have got to put technology in its place and connect on the phone, on Skype, in person, getting on that plane.
The technology can help us in that regard when we’re the one and the only, but we have to match the message to the medium and make sure that the only way that we are communicating is not via technology because that will end up hurting us in the long run in my opinion.
JENNIFER BROWN: I love that point. You and I talked a bit about allies being more critical than ever. We talk a lot about allyship on our podcast and the things that those of us who are in whatever insider group we are can lead through noticing whether a talent colleague is matching the message to the medium, right? And in a way that doesn’t hurt them, but actually supports them gaining visibility or them building relationships.
When you coach, maybe this is a difference and a nuance in terms of being an ally. I’m a man and I may be coaching another younger man, maybe I’m mentoring. My advice might be very different knowing what we know about gender differences, about stereotypes in the workplace and bias. The advice is a bit different. Is there any other advice you’d have that was great for folks who’ve always been relatively unseen in the workplace? My audience is very passionate about this. How do we, in particular, navigate these times carefully and make sure that we’re not either falling away or deepening our isolation? It’s a danger when you don’t see a lot of people around you that look like you or virtually, you’re already physically separated. How do we build community when it’s really needed amongst those who don’t originally have a large community?
ERICA KESWIN: Is that the question? How do we build community?
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, with each other.
ERICA KESWIN: To me, it goes back to this idea of curating those conversations. Whether it’s within an ERG – I sometimes will say, “We used to be able to have a company happy hour,” and bring all different people together and people would connect. Now, you have a company happy hour and some people are on their phones in the corner, some people don’t come because they have an overflowing inbox. Whatever it is, we almost need to take another step to think more about the ways in which we are connecting people and the content.
There’s a company called Zendesk. Instead of having a company happy hour, they really want people to connect with each other in an organic way. I call it “turning the tables,” but they have the executives behind the bar making the drinks and half of them don’t know how to do it. It creates an environment where people can laugh and make fun of themselves. The next time someone sees an executive at the elevator, you’re much more likely to look up and say hello. It’s thinking more about how you bring together different kinds of people in the organization, but not leaving them to their own devices. In this day and age, we have to be more thoughtful and intentional about how we do it.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. I love your message. It’s all part of the larger effort to democratize the workplace, to flip the usual norms and hierarchies, and to put employees first in a real way, not just in policy, but in practice. Thank you, Erica.
I want people to find your book and know where to follow your thought leadership and your speaking, which is an active part of what you do. Where can our audience keep up with your work?
ERICA KESWIN: Sure. The book is on Amazon and anyplace where books are sold. Just Google Bring Your Human to Work. You can find out all about me and where I am and what I’m doing at www.EricaKeswin.com. I have a new Human Headlines, which is a monthly newsletter so I don’t inundate people, but it’s a monthly newsletter that highlights what I call “leaders who get it.” Who’s doing some of these really interesting and innovative things in the space?
JENNIFER BROWN: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Erica, for coming on The Will to Change.
ERICA KESWIN: It was great to chat. I can’t wait to see you soon on another panel.
JENNIFER BROWN: Indeed! Soon! Thank you.
- MLK Day Replay: Intersectional Panel on Civil Rights including Jennifer and other L’Oréal USA DEI Advisory Board Members
- Cancel Culture to Coaching Culture: Navigating DEI Conversations with Author and Professor Kenji Yoshino
- Healing the Plus-Size Customer and Employee Journey with Author and GORGEous Agency Founder Kara Richardson Whitely
- Owning Your Power: Jennifer Joins the Beyond Barriers Podcast
- Cultivating a Purpose Mindset in Next-Gen Leaders: Social Entrepreneur Aaron Hurst Returns to the Will to Change