February 22, 2022

This is why your Employees should come first

Today, I interviewed Donna Cutting and have unofficially proclaimed her my emotional support human because of her cheery, positive vibes. We discussed employment branding, the great resignation and how to put employees first. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and think you will too. - JS
employer branding
The past two years have been extraordinary in the world of work. Due to the pandemic and now this post-Covid world, a lot of workers are trying to find themselves. I think that's why this phenomenon of The Great Resignation is taking place. In this atmosphere, I've been told that the best thing a company can do is instill a sense of purpose in their team. If that's true, what would you say are the benefits of defining purpose for your team? How do you define your team's purpose - and use it in practice?
A growing trend in the world of work is "location-agnostic pay" where people are paid the same salary no matter where they are in the world. I know several companies are offering this to be competitive. It makes me wonder, what is the best way to insure fair compensation? 
Many companies have moved to a WFH (work from home) model when the pandemic hit and although the trend now seems to be a hybrid office (some days at home/some days at the office), new management challenges are surfacing. People who work from home may be more favored because of the close interaction causing remote workers to feel less valued. Do you have any suggestions on how companies can keep remote teams connected? Should remote workers be handled differently than those who regularly come into the office? And how can companies encourage diversity and inclusion in these situations?
We spend so much of our lives at work. According to the website - ReviseSociology, we will spend 92,120 hours in our lifetime at work; assuming you work full time from age 18 to 67. That's a lot of time to spend with people you may or may not like. I would think a little bit of kindness at work would make those years feel more rewarding. Can you offer any tips on how companies can cultivate kindness and compassion at work?
 Donna Cutting, CSP is the Founder and CEO of Red-Carpet Learning Worldwide and works with mission-driven leaders to help them create cultures of happy, engaged people who deliver exceptional service. She’s the author of three published books including “The Celebrity Experience: Insider Secrets to Red Carpet Customer Service, (Wiley, 2008)”, “501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers (Career Press, 2015)” and her most recent book, “Employees First! Inspire, Engage, and Focus on the HEART of Your Organization (Career Press, 2022)”
She’s been named one of the Top 30 Global Gurus in Customer Service and Organizational Culture for several consecutive years and has been featured or published in a variety of media including The Black News Channel, CEO World, Thrive Global, Addicted2Success, SUCCESS Magazine, Forbes.com, McKnights, Investor’s Business Daily, ABC’s America This Morning, and more. She’s worked with companies in a variety of fields including senior living, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, call centers, financial services, and more.
Donna works from her office in Asheville, North Carolina unless she’s on the “Red Carpet Roadtrip,” traveling throughout the United States with her husband Jim and their two rescue dogs Moxie and Tonks. Visit her website at www.redcarpetlearning.com. 




Proactive Talent (Ad) (1s):
This episode of TribePod is brought to you by Proactive Talent, your one-stop solution for attracting, hiring, and retaining talent.

Jim Stroud (13s):
TribePod listeners, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, or good night, whichever applies to you at this moment. Today, you're in for a treat. I am interviewing Donna Cutting. Who was that? Well, she is the founder and CEO of Red Carpet Learning Worldwide, and she works with mission-driven leaders to help them create cultures of happy, engaged people who deliver exceptional service. She's also the author of three published books, including The Celebrity Experience, Insider Secrets to Red Carpet, Customer Service, 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers, and her most recent book, Employees First: Inspire, Engage, and Focus on the HEART of Your Organization.

Jim Stroud (1m 5s):
Donna works from her office in Asheville, North Carolina unless she's on the Red Carpet Roadtrip traveling throughout the United States with her husband, Jim, and their two rescue dogs, Moxie and Tonks. Well, she is quite an interesting person, and I think you will be endeared with her as much as I was when I spoke to her. You'll find out what I mean right after this special message

Proactive Talent (Ad) (1m 31s):
Recruitment marketing, as compared to maybe employer branding, is all about getting your message and your story in front of the right audience. It's a lot to manage and what Proactive Talent does for our clients is we help centralize so you have one partner, one vendor to help you manage all those relationships. Not only that, we help you track the effectiveness of every media dollar you spend on hiring so that you know, in real-time, that you're getting the greatest ROI for your marketing investment to attract great talent to your company. We help our clients with recruitment marketing in a couple of ways.

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Proactive Talent (Ad) (2m 52s):
That's really significant. It's showing that wherever the leverage is, great technology, programmatic, and we're also flexible and scalable. We're platform agnostic. We're always going to use whatever the greatest and latest technology is, whatever the best platforms are to help create efficiencies in your media purchasing so that you're always on the cutting edge.

Jim Stroud (3m 16s):
For more information on Proactive Talent, visit them online at ProactiveTalent.com or click the link in the podcast description. Hello, thank you for joining us. How are you?

Donna Cutting (3m 30s):
I'm doing well. Thank you. It's so good to be here.

Jim Stroud (3m 33s):
It's positive energy, I love that. Tell us who are you and what do you do?

Donna Cutting (3m 40s):
Sure. My name is Donna Cutting. I'm the founder and CEO of Red Carpet Learning Worldwide. We work with organizations to help them create cultures of happy people for Red Carpet customer service, and I have a new book coming out. It's called Employees First: Inspire, Engage, and Focus on the HEART of Your Organization.

Jim Stroud (4m 8s):
Author, author. Well, is your book out now or are we getting you before the crowd forms a line?

Donna Cutting (4m 14s):
Depending on when this podcast drops. It's available for pre-order now, and then if you're listening to this after April 1st, 2022, then it's available anywhere books are sold.

Jim Stroud (4m 27s):
Very cool. Very cool. Well, so many questions for you. Let me dive right in The past two years have been extraordinary in the world of work. I don't want to say unprecedented because everybody says that. I'll just say extraordinary due to the pandemic, and now the post COVID world. A lot of workers are trying to find themselves. They're going in their meditations and they're thinking, "What am I doing with my life?" I think that's really fueling the great resignation, which is taking place right now. People are just saying, "Why am I doing this?" They're just leaving their jobs on mass, looking for other opportunities. In this atmosphere, I've been told that the best thing a company can do is instill a sense of purpose in their team.

Jim Stroud (5m 14s):
If that's true, then I would ask you. What would you say are the benefits of defining the purpose of a team?

Donna Cutting (5m 22s):
Yes. Oh, I love this. I think you hit the nail on the head that, one of the largest factors that are fueling the great resignation is that we're going through this collective values readjustment, where many of us are, like you say, figuring out what really matters to us. One of the results of that is that people are looking for more meaning and purpose in their work. The benefit of an organization really looking at like how do we tap into what it is we really do that's bigger than just the widgets that we sell or the puppets that we make?

Donna Cutting (6m 14s):
How are we serving the world in some way that when you do that, you give people a cause to real your entire team can rally around? When you have that, when they feel like they're contributing to something that's bigger than themselves, whether it's through the work that you do or that you're aligning yourself with some social cause or both, when you give people that sense that they're contributing to something in the world that's bigger than themselves, they're making a difference, that's when you're going to grow a really cohesive team with the same goal in mind.

Donna Cutting (6m 58s):
Then, the world is your oyster when you have that.

Jim Stroud (7m 1s):
Can you give me an example of that? I know somebody is listening, they're thinking, "Well, we make widgets. Big whoop. Can I make that into some grand purpose?

Donna Cutting (7m 13s):
It's so interesting. This sounds like I'm deviating a little bit, but I'm going somewhere with this. Yesterday, I was doing a mindful eating exercise.

Jim Stroud (7m 26s):
Mindful eating.

Donna Cutting (7m 27s):
Mindful eating and the instructor had us eating an almond and taking like 10 minutes to do it. One of the things he had us do was think about all of the people, like the sunshine, the rain, the farmers, the people that package that food, the people that shipped it. You could do that in reverse with almost anything, right? What is the joy that you are giving somebody with your widget? How are you making their lives easier? Because it is easier. Health care, obviously, is so easy to show a purpose, but for some organizations, you might think, "What's our purpose beyond making this one thing?

Donna Cutting (8m 17s):
What's the end result? How is this making someone's life better? How is it making someone's life easier?" Then I'll go back to how also are you, as an organization, aligning yourself with something, whether it's sustainable living, whether it's being a world where we're welcoming to everyone. Whatever that cause is, you can also go in that direction. Align yourself with a cause so that your employees can volunteers so that you're supporting it financially, whatever. That can also be attractive to future employees.

Jim Stroud (8m 58s):
Interesting. As you're saying it, I was thinking about a commercial. I don't know if it's Good Year, Good Rich, or one of these tire companies, but their slogan is "There's a lot riding on our tires." I always thought that was such a clever marketing slogan, because instead of saying, "I manufacture tires," you can say, "I safeguard the lives of families on the road," or something like that.

Donna Cutting (9m 24s):
Bingo. That's exactly it. Then the key is to reinforce that message over and over and over again and connect the dots between what somebody does in your organization every single day and the life of those people out on the road. You do that through telling stories, sharing the stories and the examples of the customer, like sharing the applause, the celebration, the thank you's that you get with your team every single day, and reinforcing how they're making a difference for people.

Jim Stroud (10m 10s):
I'm going to keep in mind that almond example and just eating the almond and thinking about everything that plays into that. I'm relating that almond thing to the tire thing so I'm thinking if I'm on the factory line, I can think about all the lives of people who got home safely that day or all the people who got out of the snow that day. It's because of me. They may never know my name, but I'm the guy that helped get them home a little bit safer.

Donna Cutting (10m 37s):
Yes. You know what, just listening to you, I'm thinking, "What a great way to start every day." If that's a conversation that every team leader had with their employees on the line that day. "We're going to get out on the floor. We're going to make the best tires that we can because I want you to think about all of these people and their lives are depending on you." I would feel fired up and also how it feel like I had a great responsibility to make the best tire I could.

Jim Stroud (11m 11s):
Definitely, definitely. Good chat, good chat. Let me switch gears a little bit. Now, there's a growing trend in the world of work. It's this phrase called location-agnostic pay, which sounds so fancy. Basically, it means people are paid the same salary no matter where they are in the world. If someone pays you a dollar in Singapore to do something, it's a dollar in the United States. I know several companies who are offering this to be competitive, right? It makes me wonder, is this a thing of location-agnostic pay, getting paid the same no matter where you are in the world, is that the best way to ensure fair compensation?

Donna Cutting (11m 54s):
I'm going to be completely transparent with you right now because there's a whole chapter in the book about compensation, but I start the chapter by saying I'm not the best person. That is not my area of expertise. What I did with the book was I brought in different models and showed what different people were doing. Also, there are experts in compensation that have some things to say, and they share their thoughts, but here's my response. Not being an expert specifically in compensation, but I just think, in general, we have this thing going on in our world where it's this or that.

Donna Cutting (12m 40s):
That black or white thinking, right? "This is the right way. This is the wrong way." What if there were lots of right ways, right? What if we worked with our team members to figure out something that's going to be attractive for the best people for your organization. I'll tell you buffer.com, so they're a scheduling company for social media. I use them. all my social media is scheduled for a month out using buffer.com. They use just the opposite.

Donna Cutting (13m 21s):
They have a very transparent formula and their salaries are benchmarked against I think like the San Francisco market or something, but then they have the cost of living multiplier, depending on where people live. Employees can move through different steps and different levels to get pay increases. It's all out there on their website. Everybody, in fact, everybody's salary at buffer is available for the general public to see. What their key is complete transparency.

Donna Cutting (13m 60s):
People come in and they know exactly what they're going to start making and how they can make more money in the company as they continue in that company. There's another experimental model in Brazil from this young entrepreneur who owns a company called Symbiosis Ventures. He is trying this thing where co-workers actually score each other. They get a base pay, but their compensation can increase depending on how their co-workers score each other on certain criteria.

Donna Cutting (14m 43s):
It's still in an experimental phase, but I think that's a really interesting way of looking at it. The compensation conversation is not going away, obviously, and I think we have to stop saying, "It doesn't matter what we pay people because we have a great culture." It's not either/or. It's both those things, but I think there's room for several different models. In my humble opinion, not being an expert, but I think there's room. It just depends on what's going to be attractive to the right people for your company.

Jim Stroud (15m 21s):
I liked that. I liked that you are breaking people out of the prison of two ideas. Like you said, people think it's either one way or another and there are so many different alternatives out there. I'll throw one more strategy out there because I just became aware of this just the other day. There is a strategy that some, and usually this is in the retail kind of space or warehouse space, where bonuses are paid based on the results that the team produces. Everyone gets the same salary, but if team A can move more boxes and get more trucks loaded faster than team B, then they get most of the bonus.

Jim Stroud (16m 4s):
It's not about what the individual is able to achieve. It's what the team can achieve. If the team meets or exceeds a certain goal, then the entire team gets the bonus. It's definitely more than one way to compensate people, right?

Donna Cutting (16m 20s):
What an interesting way to, to get a team to learn how to work well together to get the best of this, right? I love that.

Jim Stroud (16m 30s):
Yes. Almost like a game show kind of thing.

Donna Cutting (16m 33s):

Jim Stroud (16m 34s):
I like what you said about the cost of living stipend being added there. I wonder if some companies would consider an additional stipend around home office use because you're using more electricity, you're buying your own printing paper, that kind of thing. Also, in a way, companies are subletting people's homes because their homes are their virtual offices in a sense. I think that way, because here at Proactive Talent, we have such a benefit where you get a certain amount of money because you work from home and there are additional expenses because of that so just throwing it out for the home team.

Jim Stroud (17m 16s):
Let me switch gears again. Now, many companies have moved to a work-from-home model when the pandemic hit. Although the trend now seems to be a hybrid office where some people work-at-home or work so many days at home, and then some of the days at the office, new management challenges are surfacing. People who work from home may be more favored with management because they're up close and personal and they get that personal interaction. Some remote workers may feel like the ignored stepchild, less valued.

Jim Stroud (17m 58s):
Do you have any suggestions on how companies can keep remote teams connected and keep that family feeling going on?

Donna Cutting (18m 6s):
Yes. It's going to be so interesting, right? Even writing this book, it was so daunting being in this time of extreme change, right? We don't even know right now how all of that is going to pan out, but I'm with you. Some organizations favor remote employees because they're saving them money, and then others are saying, "We're not going to pay you as much for working at home because we want you in the office." It's going to be really interesting, but I think you absolutely can have a strong culture even with a hybrid workplace.

Donna Cutting (18m 50s):
It just really begins with intention, right? Looking out, what is your overall intention? You want to peep keep people connected. You want to keep them in the loop. You want to have opportunities for them to get to know each other. Actually, one of the really interesting things about remote working is that, sometimes, silos break down so much easier because we're using these online tools like slack. We have all of this asynchronistic communication going on because you can have people all over the world.

Donna Cutting (19m 39s):
You have to have information available to everybody. That doesn't always happen in the workplace, but it's happening more and more in the remote workplace. think it's a matter of studying really intentionally, starting with the idea of keeping people connected. Galactic Fed actually is a growth marketing organization and they're completely remote so they're all over the world. They rarely have meetings. Maybe once a quarter, they'll have a meeting or a couple of meetings for updates and things like that, but they will do things like partner people up just for the sense of getting to know each other.

Donna Cutting (20m 30s):
You could do that with a remote worker and an in-person worker just to have intentional conversation dates so they get to know each other a little bit better. That actually may be buffer.com that does that, but Galactic Fed will have like icebreakers that they do online. I think people have the answer to this question. I just think that it's the end result. Our intention is we want to keep people connected. We want to make sure everybody gets the information. Instead of fighting this trend now, it's asking the right questions.

Donna Cutting (21m 13s):
How do we do that? How do we connect people? Where do we have to put information? When do we have to get people in the same room together, regardless of where they work on a day-to-day basis?

Jim Stroud (21m 27s):
Definitely, definitely a language you said there. It all starts with the right questions, the right intentionality because if you don't even have that at the heart of it, you're not going to do a lot of things. I'm curious too because there's been a lot of emphasis on diversity and inclusion these days. Equity is a popular word, pink bantered around a lot. How do you think companies can encourage diversity and inclusion in these types of situations?

Donna Cutting (21m 54s):
Well, it's interesting because from what I'm hearing, there are a lot of people like people of color, people in the LGBTQ plus space, that might be labeled as the diversity bucket so to speak that actually prefer working remotely because, they're - and again, this is what I'm hearing, it's not my personal experience - not feeling subjected to daily microaggressions, whether they're intentional or not intentional, not having to answer certain questions.

Donna Cutting (22m 35s):
They feel more equality, actually, at least again, this is what I'm hearing. I think, again, it goes back to that idea of intention. When we go back to Galactic Fed, this really cool company, they have people all over the world. One of the things that they do is they celebrate, I don't know, they said it was like dozens and dozens of holidays every year. These are two United States-based people, born and raised in the United States, who say "We now know holidays we didn't even know existed,"

Donna Cutting (23m 17s):
because they've been very intentional about bringing holidays into their culture because they have people all over the place. I think it's the same with every aspect of diversity and it's the same whether you're in the workplace. Looking at the language in your organization, looking at the pictures on your website, and even deeper like having the deep that need to be had so that people can edit their stories a little bit. We all come into this world with different stories based on our own personal experiences.

Donna Cutting (24m 0s):
We're never going to a hundred percent agree, right?

Jim Stroud (24m 4s):
Sure, it's human nature.

Donna Cutting (24m 7s):
Yes, it's human nature. I don't even know that that's a good outcome that everybody agrees with each other, but we can have a deeper understanding. Talent Plus is another organization that works based in Nebraska, but when the pandemic hit, they all went virtual. When George Floyd was murdered, they started having conversations around diversity. I think they meet on a monthly basis and they'll have guest speakers. They had a couple of mixed race who came in and talked about what they face every day, - positives, negatives.

Donna Cutting (24m 49s):
Then people could ask questions and be honest. Then they had another time and they'll study things. They'll study Martin Luther King Jr, his speeches, and another time where the focus was on what's it like to find that someone you love is in the LGBTQ community and sharing those experiences. I think you have to have a strong culture, to begin with, to be able to have those conversations, but those are the deep conversations I think that eventually are needed in order for us to have more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces, regardless of whether they're remote, in person, or a hybrid.

Jim Stroud (25m 38s):
Wow. Great insight there. Finally, I feel like we can talk forever, but one more. Maybe we throw one more curveball at you. Okay, so we spend so much of our lives at work. Now, according to this website, Revise Sociology, we will spend 92,120 hours in our lifetime at work, assuming you work full time from 18 to 67. Now, that's a lot of time to spend with people you may or may not like. I would think a little bit of kindness at work would make those years feel more rewarding.

Jim Stroud (26m 20s):
My question for you is can you offer any tips on how companies can cultivate kindness and compassion at work?

Donna Cutting (26m 29s):
Yes, I love that question. I think that you alluded to this. The challenge is we're human beings, very imperfect human beings. I think one of the things we try to do is just put a band aid on things and not really understand that working with other humans is a complicated thing because we all come in with our baggage, right? One thing I will say is right away that companies have to understand the deep trauma that we have all been through over the last couple of years. Just that in and of itself, I think is having an impact on empathy, kindness, and respect because we're all stressed out.

Donna Cutting (27m 14s):
One of the first things is to start normalizing the conversation around a need for emotional health support. That's something I think we all need on some level, especially after what we've been through in the last two years, and some industries more than others, but all of us really. Then, to me, it starts with slowing down and really listening. I think if organizations developed their leaders, to start with, on these three or four things.

Donna Cutting (27m 57s):
Number one is how to really deeply listen to what people are saying without getting defensive, without jumping in with a solution. How to get curious without getting defensive? What empathy looks like and sounds like? Then even defining what respect looks like because a lot of times we'll throw these buzzwords out like, "We've got to give respect in the workplace," but nobody's really taken the time to say, "Well, what does respect look like in our workplace?"

Donna Cutting (28m 42s):
Defining that and then giving your leaders the space to have conversations, to practice those skills, because then they can be role models for everyone else in the workplace as well.

Jim Stroud (28m 56s):
Wow. Wow. Wow. Well, I think I have one more accolade to add to your repertoire - Donna Cutting, Emotional Support Human. Add that to your list of accomplishments there. How can someone get in contact with you if they have more questions for you? Also, remind us again about your book that's coming out.

Donna Cutting (29m 21s):
Yes. Thank you for asking, and this has been such a pleasure. My website is RedCarpetLearning.com. I'm on all of the social, like LinkedIn, Instagram, and all of that. My book, Employees First: Inspire, Engage and Focus on the HEART of Your organization comes out April 1st, 2022. It's available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Hudson Booksellers, Porchlight books, your local independent bookstore, anywhere books are sold.

Jim Stroud (29m 57s):
Great, great. I'll look forward to seeing it on the bestseller list in the near future. Thanks for being here.

Donna Cutting (30m 4s):
<inaudible> to God's ears, right?

Jim Stroud (30m 8s):
Thanks again for all the positive vibes that we receive from you and thanks again for being our emotional support human. You are appreciated. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. A thousand times, thank you for listening and subscribing to our podcast. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please send them to us. You can reach us at TribePod@ProactiveTalent.com. We look forward to hearing from you.


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